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cleo magazine: not for this fat chick


I’ve mentioned before that I don’t read print magazines much anymore. Nowadays, I will usually only read if I’m bored, or if I’m at the airport and need to kill time. There’s too much in “women’s” magazines that raise my blood pressure and I like to keep it low. Caffeine addiction already does the damage, I don’t need more.

But I recently came across a cool article in Cleo magazine because a friend was featured in it and she linked it on her Instagram. I was impressed with the interview and the positive spin it put on plus sized fashion. The women interviewed each got a good say and it was thoughtful and colourful.

However, I turned right back around to unimpressed with Cleo magazine when I saw this article on the Mumbrella site.

The author discusses signing up to be involved in Cleo’s Twelve Week Body Challenge – where the mag asks readers to write in and send in pictures. They then pick the readers who “struggle” with their weight and involve them in getting fit with a personal trainer in their area, and teach them how to eat properly by meeting with a nutritionist. They also get to have a photo shoot before and after the challenge. At the after, they get all frocked up, hair and makeup, the works.

The author was contacted by Cleo’s entertainment writer and told she was picked for the challenge. She was happy.

Until.

Firstly, her “before” photograph. They wanted her to look like she was deeply unhappy and hated herself. They put her in clothes that were far too tight for her –I presume in order to show off her body’s “wrongness”. The photographer and the writer gave her ludicrous diet tips and critiqued her body.

But then it began to go wrong.

The personal trainer that was picked for her said she was too far away for him to get to (even though they were supposed to pick personal trainers in her area). He said he was only available twice a week. That was not long enough for the body challenge, so when the author contacted Cleo to ask, she … got dumped. They’d decided to go with another challenger who had more trainers willing to train her more often.

Cleo’s editor responded in the comment section of the Mumbrella article that the author was not willing to travel to the city to meet the personal trainer … which was not her area. And that they were simply on a deadline and the twice a week commitments would not be enough. She said that they had asked the author to ring back, but the author never did.

OK, fair enough. Print deadlines are worked out far in advance and in order to get a good story, photographs and body difference, they would probably need to go with someone who was able to show an obvious body change. It’s all about what sells after all, and apparently we love reading about the weight loss journey.

But the author is entitled to feel cheated and upset. It’s a huge thing, putting yourself and your body out there. You’re making yourself vulnerable. It doesn’t feel very body positive and supportive to me. The author wasn’t buoyed by this experience, she was sunk. I’m not exactly surprised, but I am disappointed.

I’ve always had a bit of an issue with the “week challenges” anyway. I feel, for some of them, they start out too quickly, too fast and people either decide it’s too much or it’s not sustainable. I’ve always been a big promoter of finding some form of exercise you love and doing it because it’s fun, not because it’s punishment (this is provided you are able to exercise and want to exercise). Some people, of course, might find these challenges fun and aren’t using exercise as a form of punishment. Good for them. But, I worry about the others like the author. I feel she says it best:

This is a magazine that prides itself on making women feel good.For what Cleo is supposed to represent, I am shocked and furious that they would do this to someone. My expectations were raised. I was made to feel like I would look and feel so much better after the challenge. In truth, I felt better before I ever applied for the thing. Cleo has lost a reader.


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