Team Seventeen! Seventeen Magazines Inadvertent Endorsement of Disordered Eating Behaviours.

*trigger warning*** this post contains information on disordered eating practices. Please do not read if you are easily triggered.

The Blogosphere – or rather, the tumblrsphere is up in arms over Seventeen Magazines endorsement of a popular blogger on the site as an example of healthy living. Why you ask? Well, it isn’t that she ISNT healthy – it is some rather questionable diet tips she has on her page which are leaving people – especially those in the disordered community – a little worried for the health of impressionable pre-teen and teenage girls. Now, before I go any further with this post I would like to state a few things. I am not attacking this blogger. I am not accusing her of being disordered. I am not accusing her of encouraging eating disorders. I know this has been happening and it is rightfully upsetting her. Her weight loss journey has been incredible. However, there are a few questionable habits on her page – such as what seems to be incredibly low calorie meals, and also eating and hunger curbing techniques. So my issue is with Seventeens endorsement of this blogger as a bastion of Healthy Living . I applaud Seventeen for using a real life girl for their purposes, however feel they could have chosen better. But. Let’s look at Seventeen shall we?

Seventeen Magazines key demographic is girls aged between 12 and 19, with the median age being 16 and a half. The magazine’s circulation is approximately 2 million in the United States, though they boast a readership of over 13 million – male and female. The primary editorial content is fashion based, with beauty coming in close second. This supports the magazines main aim to market consumer products such as clothing, footwear and beauty – so it is in the magazines best interest to also market healthy lifestyles – which it does, though it only makes up 10% of the editorial content – despite Seventeen claiming that this is one of its primary focuses.  The magazine’s website supports the marketed editorial content, featuring articles and quizzes on boys, celebrities, fashion and beauty. The focus on a primarily heterosexual love life, is supported by beauty articles to impress the boys – ensuring that appearance and romantic affection are explicitly linked. This focus on appearance works to also foster a feeling of inadequacy and alienation in a lot of teenage girls – which Seventeen Magazine would be well aware of.

Like all female focused magazines, Seventeen is starting the New Year with a New You challenge – which ushers in a Glee star, a personal trainer, and some real girl bloggers as motivation for Team Seventeen. Seventeen Magazine clearly has influence over its readers, and therefore, one would think they have an ethical duty to provide the best nutritional and health advice, as they claim they do. So why are they endorsing a blogger for Team Seventeen whose tips for weight loss include some which those of us in the disordered community know a little too well. One of my biggest concerns was reading the tip that one shouldn’t eat after 6pm, or before 9am. I agree that eating at night can be a bad thing for some people – however, one should eat breakfast in the morning within an hour of waking up – so if you wake up at 6, and wait until 9am – that is too long.  Closing the kitchen for the evening is a great idea for people prone to binge eating (if this is a behaviour they want to curb), however if you haven’t had your recommended daily calorie intake (which should NOT go under 1200 calories. In fact, it really shouldn’t go under 1500), then it doesn’t matter what time of day you eat, as long as you get those calories in.  Another tip she endorses is a favourite among the disordered community – replacing meals/ snacks with coffee/ tea/ or water – caffeine being the preferred. Suggesting that people drink beverages throughout the day to stay full is quite simply negligent. It would be better to have a handful of almonds, blueberries, or even a couple of small pickles. Cutting out un-necessary calories by avoiding condiments is another. Though, for me, the most troubling is the suggestion that one should keep sugar free gum on hand at all times to chew instead of snacking. Tic tacs were my favourite. (again, I want to say this blogger is NOT eating disordered, and does not endorse disorders, but I am concerned about her promotion of some disordered behaviours – as I would be of any other person promoting similar behaviours in this situation). Seventeen Magazine is letting down its readers by promoting this sort of behaviour. It is actively suggesting that replacing food with drinks and gum is acceptable behaviour, as well as suggesting if you are not thin, then you are NOT ok.

Seventeen Magazine – who again, boast a readership of over 13 million – should never have decided to endorse this particular blogger. Many of her diet tips are those favoured by people who have disordered eating practices, which can lead to girls with actual disorders feeling validated. I feel the magazine failed to do enough research when choosing the popular blogger, and are failing to provide mindful health advice to their audience as a result.

Now, I must disclose I have never read a Seventeen, but it looks similar to Dolly or Girlfriend, which I did read when I was younger!.

Again, I want to re-iterate, this is not an attack on the blogger, but a questioning of Seventeen Magazines actions,  and I have spent days writing this post and thinking on it to make sure I got it right.

Update – The blogger has disappeared from the Team 17 Blog.

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