During a recent trip to Woolworths, I spotted this magazine. “The Healthy Mummy.” The front page of the magazine features a line up of women - presumably mothers - in pink underwear.
I was struck by the indignity of it all. Alongside the heading “118+ kilos gone” women are once again, undressed and exposed in the public space, lined up for public scrutiny. A reminder that our appearance and how we look naked is of paramount importance. A reminder that women exist to be looked at and our bodies are a “project” requiring constant work.
And this is promoted under the guise of “health.” A closer look at the “Healthy Mummy” reveals this is nothing more than a weight loss program. The magazine is linked to a website selling subscription based diet products. In this context “health” is a euphemism for “thin.” The message that “health” is inextricably linked to physical appearance and being “thin” is false and therefore harmful to women's health.
It is often believed that eating disorders are a disorder affecting adolescent girls, but according to NEDC, these disorders are increasingly diagnosed in older women, “with incidence and severity similar to that in female adolescents and young adults."
Sarah McMahon is a psychologist and director of Body Matters, a clinic providing counselling and treatment for eating and dieting disorders, body image issues and problematic exercise. She is also a co-founder of Collective Shout. Sarah had this to say about the "Healthy Mummy":
Weight and health are not synonymous and promoting them as such is not only naive, it is also extremely dangerous. Particularly for new mothers who are at increased risk of developing eating disorders. Just because someone has lost weight does not mean they have become "healthier". We also cannot assume the weight loss has occurred in a "healthy" way. Finally, we cannot assume there are not other consequences from pursuing weight loss- such as increasing risk of disordered eating, other mental health issues and increased likelihood of transgenerational eating issues.
"Shedding weight for good" is a perilous play on words. Firstly, we know diets don't work. Science tells us these women haven't shed their weight forever. "Shedding weight for good" carries another meaning- associating weight loss with morality. This fuels thin privilege and fat shaming, both of which we know are unhealthy for individuals and society at large.
This magazine and others like it, are exploiting women who may already be vulnerable to body image anxiety after child birth. Diet companies sexually objectifying women and flogging 28 day weight loss programs to new mothers have no business including the word "health" in their title. We're #NotBuyingIt