When it comes to women’s mental and physical health, Laura Thomas doesn’t hold back. The registered nutritionist has built her personal brand on empowering women and isn’t afraid to take down entities that can negatively impact them — women’s magazines included.
On Nov. 11, Thomas shared two covers of a U.K. Women’s Health magazine to her Instagram page: the cover as it was published and an updated version with all the magazine’s cover headlines replaced with her own.
She replaced “Get lean in 2018” with “You are awesome as you are. Don’t go on a diet!” “Beauty rules to transform your skin” became “F**k your patriarchal beauty standards” and “Sculpt killer abs” became “Move because it feels good in your body and head. Don’t kill yourself just to get visible abs,” among others.
The original your-body-needs-improvement messaging is what women who read these mags have seen their entire lives, but Thomas has had enough.
“Earlier this afternoon I ran into a shop and was STUNNED by this ludicrous @womenshealthuk cover,” she wrote in the caption. “This cover is the EPITOME of diet culture. This is, of course, their yearly ‘transform’ issue, which promises to ‘shed kilos, strip fat, and build muscle’. But remember, going on a diet may transform your body (temporarily, diets don’t work long-term), but it’s not a cure for low self-esteem, it doesn’t help you cultivate body acceptance or good body image, and it can lead you down the path of disordered eating.”
She went on to explain that diet culture is dangerous because it promises that changing your body will make life better, when that isn’t necessarily the case. As Thomas put it, “even Beyoncé sh*ts.”
“No amount of controlling your body will make you happy, and you still have to get up and go to work when you reach your target,” she continued.
The Scotland native, who now lives in London, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that when she started her nutrition practice almost three years ago, she noticed people were struggling more with their relationship to food than with food itself. When she saw the magazine while waiting in line for stamps, she thought she’d have some fun setting the record straight.
In her post she called out diets (“diets don’t solve problems”), abs (“But guys. YOU ALREADY HAVE ABS, they do an awesome job supporting your lower back and internal organs”), and explained that from her perspective, the magazine doesn’t care about health as much as their messaging tears down confidence and preys on insecurities.
“This disordered eating is driven largely by irresponsible media, Instagram hashtags like #fitspo and #eatreal, and unqualified people giving bad advice on social media,” she says. “The types of shame- and guilt-inducing messages that are often portrayed in women’s magazines can lead to over-exercise and disordered eating, preoccupation with body and food, and low self-esteem.”
Instagram and Twitter users (where she also shared the updated cover) either liked her post or retweeted her message over 30,000 times, many supporting her BS filter.
Hey @UKWomensHealth your magazine cover had very little to do with actual health & everything to do with promoting over exercise & disordered eating, so I fixed it for you – you’re welcome. pic.twitter.com/izice1PQgL
— Laura Thomas, Ph.D. (@laurathomasphd) December 11, 2017
“Thank you Laura for highlighting the ridiculous, dangerous nature of this nonsense,” one commenter wrote. “Eat because we eat, move because we can move, live, love, be alive. Everything else is a distraction of total BS proportions.”
Thomas, who is registered with the Association for Nutrition and specializes in Intuitive Eating as well as the Health at Every Size nondiet approach, explained that this doesn’t mean people can’t care about health — she certainly does — but they should base their health on facts and prioritize their mental health in the process.
“My job is to support people’s health through evidence-based practices like nutrition, joyful (and therefore sustainable) movement, sleep, stress management, and alcohol and tobacco reduction,” she says. “Preoccupation and obsession with our physical appearance isn’t healthy, and complete elimination of food groups has been linked to binge eating disorder and other unintended consequences. Nutrition isn’t all or nothing and neither is activity and they should never feel punitive either. “
Thomas isn’t surprised at the positive response to her post, though, and believe more people are growing tired of covers like the one she shared.
“People are getting clued up on body positivity, self-acceptance, and nondiet approaches to health and don’t want to be held up to unrealistic body standards that they didn’t agree to,” she says.
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