How Women’s Running Mag Made A Bold Statement About Body Image With This Cover

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Forget everything you know about fitness magazines, a new era is upon us! Thanks to Women’s Running magazine who decided to put plus size model Erica Schenk on the cover of their August issue, we are hopeful that this will spark widespread change amongst other fitness publications.

It’s not just an issue that plagues women, men too are subjected to highly photoshopped and seemingly unattainable images of men with chiseled jaws and rock hard abs touting a simple workout routine that claims will make any man look like them. So enough of that, we want to see more diverse realistic bodies showing that health and fitness doesn’t just have one size!

“Women of all sizes deserve to be praised for good health and have a presence in the media. Some women believe that since they have curves they can’t run or shouldn’t run. Running is for every body anytime,” Erica told Women’s Running.

An editor told Huffpost Women that the choice to put Erica front and center wasn’t hard, and it turns out they didn’t even know they were breaking ground by featuring what could be the first plus size model on the cover of a fitness mag.

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“Our decision to put Erica on the cover was an easy one. We realized: ‘Wow, we think we’re the only running magazine or women’s fitness magazine for that matter to feature a woman with curves on the cover. That’s crazy!’ It shows how far the media world has to go in terms of inclusiveness and we’re excited to be a small part of that movement,” said Editor-In-Chief Jessie Sebor.

Erica had no idea she was going to be on the cover when she did her shoot, but told E! news she was stunned at how massive the reaction ended up being. Once she got used to it, she was glad for the empowering message it would send to other women.

“I love how the image shows a thick-thighed woman who is proud of her body. I’m not wearing loose-fitting clothes, to say the least. At first it made me a bit uncomfortable but then I had to realize I can’t help other women accept who they are without doing the same for myself,” she said.

“I’m over the moon that all these people see me and can relate. I hope I make an impact in women’s body acceptance. I”ve had so much positive feedback. I can feel the masses begging for more. They want to be able to relate to the struggles, success, and celebration of people just like them,” she added.

Erica is a California girl who has plans to study at Pepperdine University, is signed to Wilhelmina models, and counts Aussie plus size model Robyn Lawley as one of her role models. She says the industry is changing with more and more women speaking powerful messages of positivity into everyday women’s lives.

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“Many companies are making money off women’s insecurities. With diets, workouts, pills, surgeries, and everything else we forget to love ourselves and our so called flaws. Real change takes generations. I am so proud that I am here not only to witness but to help with the effort towards body acceptance,” she said.

The idea of Erica and other women like her being a role model is nothing to take lightly. In fact we still need many more, because although there is a healthy new trend of diverse bodies infiltrating mainstream fashion, it is still not necessarily the “norm”.

In a recent appearance on Bear Gryll’s show ‘Running Wild with Bear Grylls’, actress Kate Winslet who has spoken often and loudly about her struggles with her weight admitted that she didn’t grow up with women she could turn to for encouragement.

“When I grew up, I never heard positive reinforcement about body image from any female in my life – I only heard negatives. That’s very damaging, because then you’re programmed as a young woman to immediately scrutinize yourself and how you look,” she said.

She’s certainly not alone in that sentiment. In fact there are generations of women who could’ve greatly benefited from the empowering trend happening in media and fashion today. But it’s still very much an uphill battle, as a new study published by the British Journal of Psychology claims the body positive movement happening in adults isn’t trickling down to the younger girls and boys.

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Researchers followed more than 6,000 U.K. 8-year-olds into their early teens and found that 5% of girls and 3% of boys were dissatisfied with their bodies as early as 8 years old. Yikes! And it didn’t end there. By age 14, about 2 in 5 girls in the study started dieting, and 8% reported binge eating, while 12% of 14-year-old boys had dieted, and 3.5% binge ate on occasion.

One of the main triggers discovered amongst young girls was media pressure to look a certain way. No surprises there at all. It’s one of the reasons why as parents, families, friends and community members we can play an active part in a child’s life by making a conscious effort not to focus on their outward appearance only when we give them compliments. Instead of “you look so pretty!” something like “you are so talented!”.

Another survey out of the UK focusing on body image undertaken by My Voucher Codes found that 60% of 18-24 year old women feel pressure to attain a “perfect beach body”, and that they would go to drastic measures to attain this, rather than accept their bodies the way they are.

“What is shocking is the surgery women would consider having to get a beach body. There is so much pressure on women to have the perfect body, I can understand why some women resort to such extremes to get it,” said Mark Pearson, founder of My Voucher Codes.

It seems literally no one is immune from the dreaded body image curse, not just every day women and celebrities, but also athletes. The annual ESPN Body Issue has become an instrumental publication issue drawing attention to the different ways healthy and fit should be seen. The varying body shapes and sizes amongst the elite athletes featured reiterate that health and beauty is not just one size fits all.

In a recent interview with People magazine, Boston University Powerlifter Molly Kelly says she struggled with disordered eating for a long time when she was young and became obsessed with trying to get thin. It wasn’t until she starting lifting that she learned to accept her body for the way it was, and now loves being strong and muscular.

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“I think that there’s something about being muscular that gives me a certain sort of power of taking up space in a room – making you feel like you can take up space in life, at work, in any circumstance. It’s amazing, and I’d really like to help other women feel that way too,” she said.

The main lesson she learned which she wants to impart is not to let external values rule your self-image.

“Do not let your weight define you. Do not let the size of your clothes define you. Do not let how much weight you lift define you. Define yourself. Love yourself.”

Body image issues may be something that we all have had experience with, but we also deal with it differently. It’s important to hear celebrities like Kate Winslet be candid about her struggles, and elite athletes share their journey in an industry so reliant on their bodies. Unless we want to see younger and younger children grow up with low self-esteem as the norm, we need to see the media take responsibility and be willing to show an array of body sizes, and us as consumers make conscious decisions about where we turn to feel good about ourselves.

Take a look at a short profile video on Molly Kelly below where she talks about her strength and accepting her body image:

 

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