This time four years ago I was working as a journalist, writing features which I'd usually pitch to women's weeklies. This involved a great deal of looking at said women's weeklies. All of them. I was not the person I am today - in fact I was a big fan of Grazia magazine and the way it blended current events-related stories with decent fashion pages. Back then the magazine hadn't been around for too long and there was such a buzz around it.
I don't buy Grazia any more because although I do still like its fashion pages, I can only look at so many pages on anti-ageing treatments, cosmetic surgery and selfish first world problems before I want to smash things. And don't we all get sick of magazines in general during the summer months, with their back to back features on swimwear, tanning and 'getting the perfect beach body'?
I happened to be in town this afternoon, however - and found myself browsing magazines. Just for a change, Grazia had a picture of Jennifer Aniston on the cover, apparently as part of a feature on how celebrities get in shape for the summer. I had time to kill and decided to have a quick flick through the magazine: first stop the fashion section. Swimwear. And so I eventually ended up looking at this piece on how Jen and all the rest of them get their 'bikini bodies'.
Business as usual - lean protein, squats, leafy greens, exercise balls. Nothing that you haven't read a hundred times before. And then the paragraph about Kate Bosworth caught my eye. It read something like (I'm remembering this as accurately as I can):
"Kate's a fan of mini meals. She eats what she wants but stops after three bites if it's fattening."
Oh and she does an hour of cardio six times a week and an hour of weights five times a week, apparently. It's good to know. For a moment I'm going to return to that bit about 'mini meals' though. Is this for real?! Lean protein and squats I can can deal with. Those 'diet plans' that plenty of other magazines feature every week where you get to eat small and very healthy but essentially nice-tasting meals? I'm not down with the sort of culture and obsessions they promote but at least, you know, you get to eat a whole meal. So does Kate only order three bites' worth of food? Does she throw away the rest? Did Grazia just make this crap up because it sounded like something a celebrity would do?
Actually I don't care that much. It makes me more angry that magazines continue to promote obsessive and unhealthy relationships with food as something we should consider if we want a 'better' body. They told us exactly how to go about the 'baby food diet' - yep, you really do get to eat baby food. Straight out of those little jars. Then there was the one where you eat nothing but some vile mixture of maple syrup and cayenne pepper. But only eating three bites of stuff if it contains certain things? That sounds like unhelpful behaviour to me.
I know that it was being used as an example of how a famous person 'stays thin' and that readers are supposed to see it all as faintly ridiculous. I know it wasn't saying 'you should totes do the mini-meals diet this summer!'. But seriously, is this the relationship with our bodies that we're supposed to aspire to? They can as many features on the terrible consequences of eating disorders and as many pieces on 'loving yourself as you are' as they want. At the end of the day though, Kate Bosworth's only ever eating three bites of something and she's got a fabulous body, which is what matters.