Why Health Magazines Are Harmful

When I was in high school, I was a self-proclaimed health expert. I was also anorexic.

It doesn’t make sense that someone would take health advice from an unqualified person who was objectively very unhealthy. But a lot of people did. My soccer coach even asked me to make a nutrition guide for our team during preseason training. There were a lot of things that were messed up about that situation, but I think the most terrifying thing was that the “health” advice I was sharing with my friends, classmates, and teammates was the exact information I was getting devouring from blogs, websites, and magazine articles written by dietitians, scientists, and doctors.

I still remember one article in particular that I read in a women’s health magazine that was all about breakfast. The journalist interviewed a panel of healthcare providers about what they ate for breakfast (and what they recommended people eat) to stay trim and healthy or whatever. [Eyeroll…] It was complete with recipes, and catchy headlines like “What the dietitian eats for breakfast,” and “What the doctor eats for breakfast.” So, what did they *supposedly* eat?

The dietitian’s recipe was a breakfast smoothie consisting of 1 cup of skim milk blended with 1 cup of frozen blueberries.

The doctor’s recipe was a slice of whole grain toast with 1 teaspoon of almond butter. A teaspoon!!!!!

The scientist recommended 6 oz of Greek yogurt with 1/4 cup of berries.

Perhaps someone reading that might not think twice. Smoothies, yogurt, and toast are common breakfast foods, and I’m sure the idea behind the article was to provide inspiration for meal ideas. I mean, I would hope that’s what the intent was. But regardless of any good intentions, the article was extremely, extremely harmful. As a young, active, fifteen-year-old, I followed those “breakfast” recipes to a tee. I followed those lunch recipes to a tee. I followed those dinner recipes to a tee. Calorie-for-calorie, I counted, measured, and weighed the skim milk and blueberries to make that smoothie, and I still remember the feeling of triumph I felt when I made it all the way from that tiny breakfast to my tiny lunch without eating something more.

Did I mention, I was anorexic?

Literally, the meal plans I was following when I was in the depths of a life-threatening eating disorder were direct recommendations by dietitians and doctors, written out line-by-line and calorie-by-calorie in a women’s health magazine.

For a little context and comparison (not that any two people’s meals should look alike, anyways), the breakfasts I eat nowadays consist of all three of those breakfasts combined, and then some. Seriously. Yesterday for breakfast, I had a smoothie with blueberries, milk, greek yogurt, a frozen banana, and a huge handful of spinach. Alongside the smoothie, I also ate a piece of toast with way, way, way more than a teaspoon of peanut butter! Like, at least six times more.

When I put peanut butter on my toast, I don’t measure it, but I know from my eating disorder past that it’s more than even the 2 tablespoon “serving size” listed on the jar. When I eat banana bread for breakfast, I put butter on it, and eat something with protein on the side. When I eat scrambled eggs, I make at least three, and always, always, always eat them with a handful of cheese mixed in. I always eat carbs with my meals. I always eat fat with my meals. I always eat more than than a measly 150 calorie smoothie for breakfast because, I’m sorry, starving yourself just isn’t healthy.

Some actual, real breakfasts that I actually, really ate, that actually, really fueled my body, that I have shared on my blog:

I have posted about breakfast quite a bit before (check out this post), and I still maintain that it’s the most important meal of the day–especially for women. The production of hormones is highest in the morning, which means we need to start our day with protein, fat, and carbs if we have any hope of our bodies functioning properly. Even if we don’t feel hungry, skipping meals creates a stress response, stress responses create inflammation, and inflammation can lead to everything from weight gain, to infertility, to autoimmune reactions.

So, the moral of this story is not only that breakfast is important, but that it’s a bad, bad, bad idea to get nutrition or medical advice from magazines. They don’t have your health and well-being in mind when they write.


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