Ms. Fit Magazine: Finally, Feminist Body-Positive Fitness and Wellness

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Confession: I have a subscription to Self magazine. It was free, using up my girlfriend’s frequent flyer miles or something. Regardless, every month, I read it cover to cover. And I hate it.

In every magazine, there are secrets to “Drop 10 Pounds and keep it off!” that make me believe the magazines are perpetuating an unhealthy image instead of actually having good, quality body and health advice. It’s gotten to the point where I feel like maybe reading this is making me a bad feminist. Shouldn’t these magazines focus on body-positivity? They’re written by women for women, aren’t they?

Well, thankfully, there’s now a solution to my problem. Enter: Ms. Fit Magazine. Not only is this the most clever name for a feminist body and wellness website, but it’s actually exactly what I wanted from those fitness magazines on my coffee table. It’s written by feminist, queer-friendly, body-positive women who don’t take themselves too seriously.

Kathie, the creator of Ms. Fit Magazine, told Autostraddle that she was inspired to create the ‘zine because

fitness and wellness were becoming more central to my life, and to the lives of a lot of people I knew, but very little of the content of mainstream women’s fitness media was relevant in any way to our experiences, worldviews, or motivations. Honestly, with very few exceptions I think the mainstream fitness media is a bunch of fluffy, body-shaming, heteronormative recycled crap that does more harm than good.

This sounds familiar, right? A look around the site will tell you that Ms. Fit is for intelligent women who have an interest in fitness and health but don’t need Self or Women’s Fitness telling them how to look good for an imaginary mate. Ms. Fit skips the unhealthy stereotypical articles and instead features intelligent, body-positive observations or stories. There are articles on how much the Presidential Fitness Test sucks (seriously, it sucked so bad), how the systems in your body work and how to keep them super healthy, recipes, even an “Ask Saerah: The Feminist Sex Lady” column. I also learned how to legitimately get period stains out of my sheets. Seriously, it’s everything you want a body and wellness ‘zine to have.

When I asked Kathie if creating a body-positive magazine was a conscious effort, she said,

Body-positivity is extremely important to Ms. Fit. In a way, I think it is at the very heart of what we want to do differently. Health and wellness are about a lot more than the size of your waist or how cut your abs are. A key tactic of misogyny is to make women hate themselves so they don’t recognize how much strength and power they have.  One of the ways this happens is by establishing these demented ideas of what women should look like and then tell them that their human value is intrinsically linked to how closely they adhere to that model. Ms. Fit calls bullsh*t on that.

We want our readers to decide for themselves what it means for them to be healthy and well. Maybe it means you run marathons or do Pilates, or maybe it means you are an activist for environmental justice or reproductive rights. Maybe you’re trying to live organically, or in a socially responsible way. Maybe you are still struggling with loving and accept yourself for who you are, or are learning how to not harm yourself. A feminist definition of fitness embraces all of these realities as part of the wellness path.

Mic drop.

Go check out Ms. Fit Magazine. It’s inspiring, intelligent, positive and queer-inclusive. I’m off to recycle all of those Selfs.

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Hansen is the DIY & Food Editor of Autostraddle.com and likes to spend most days making and cooking and writing. She is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Colorado State University in her free time.

Hansen has written 186 articles for us.

72 Comments

  1. Thumb up 14

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    I was flying this summer and thinking a lot about bulking up – adding muscle to my slight frame in a healthy way. Every “fitness/ health” magazine on the airport news stands at several airports — they were ALL about how to lose weight, as if that is THE ONLY way to be healthy or fit. There was far more variety in the men’s fitness mags, but I’m not a man and my body responds differently and and and… I was honestly incredibly frustrated and pissed. Women’s health is a spectrum and should be empowering, rather than sticking to that old model of ‘be stick skinny, no curves’ or you’ll never get a man to marry you and save you from the misery of being a single woman. Ahhh. Thrilled there is a magazine like this out there. (And I’m not so sure all the cheese and beer-fueled calories I added this summer were the best way to bulk up, but don’t you dare accuse me of losing my booty.)

    • Thumb up 1

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      I do weight training a couple of times a week. I do have a good muscle structure but I need more definition and I need to lose some weight for that but what I noticed is weight training actually makes you curvier. How? Squats for example work your butt muscles so your butt actually gets bigger. Someone should tell that to straight women who get plastic surgery on their butts to make them bigger. I do wish my butt was half its current size but I can’t give up squats because they work the whole body. Everyone should check out stumptuous.com by the way.

    • Thumb up 0

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      Especially if you’re interested in adding muscle tone and bulk, consider following Fit and Feminist at http://www.fitandfeminist.com – Caitlin is a distance runner, triathelete, and a SERIOUS weightlifter. She shares your disdain for the ways that we’re encouraged to always be smaller and has good links to exercises and ideas for women looking to take weightlifting beyond what social standards suggest we do.

      (She’s also rad and a friend of mine).

    • Thumb up 14

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      I’m taken aback by this comment.. there’s nothing positive about Adele’s weight? It’s her’s, for starters. She’s also a model of confidence for people who can identify with her. I don’t know why you’ve singled out Adele here, but there’s good in everyone’s weight, regardless of what that weight is.

      I think you’ve also implied a direct correlation between body-positivity and lack of health. Self-acceptance love and all the other things body-positivity can entail are not exclusive of health/fitness. And even if they were, why is it a bad thing for people to feel good about themselves in a world where, women and queer women especially, face a system telling them they shouldn’t feel good?

      • Thumb up 7

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        Yeah, I’m learning more and more that weight =/= health or fitness. I have lost weight since I went abroad this semester, but a lot of it has been muscle and I’m completely out of shape. In contrast, there are a lot of people with “high” BMIs who eat really healthily and exercise often (and probably don’t drink as much whiskey as I do.) But you know what? Even people who are unhealthy don’t deserve to be shamed or treated like less than human. Being body-positive doesn’t mean “don’t ever eat healthy or exercise or even try to get in shape,” it just means that you can love your body and be confident no matter what shape or size you are. It’s a counter-movement to society telling women that their bodies have to conform to an unrealistic (white Western cis thin) beauty ideal.

          • Thumb up 6

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            this is just not true… The US is one of the privileged countries where thin is a weird aspiration, linked to warped ideas about self-control and achievement, rather than a frequent indicator of poverty like in most of the rest of the world.
            Also BMI has repeatedly been debunked as too clunky and outdated a measurement for true health. India is a good example of a country with millions of thin and low BMI people with Diabetes. Our Puritanical obsessions in US/Western Europe/Antipodes have very little to do with actual health and much more to do with aesthetics, which has grown from the advertising culture driven by companies set to make a profit from any disquiet with our own bodies.
            Diet foods, regimes, fitness crazes, fitness clothing, fashion, beauty industries (i could go on) – are sold to us like old-fashioned relics for penance, behaviour learned through various religious heritages.
            The problem isn’t simply about what people eat, but it’s about what people are sold, theoretically, aesthetically and restrictively, at the whim of huge food monopolies, none of whom has any interest whatsoever in our health.

          • Thumb up 1

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            @Paris How do you stay healthy? I’m always trying to learn from other people how they balance work/school, downtime and their healthy. Do you have any resources you’d be willing to share? (Thanks for the stumptous link upthread!)

          • Thumb up 7

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            No response place available, but I just have to say one more thing re: Paris’s statement “if you follow those rules you can’t get fat.”

            UNTRUE. The two first examples that come to mind as to how someone could gain weight, especially women, are hypothyroidism and PCOS. Not to mention other less common syndromes, often hormone based disorders. Everyone is different, what keeps you at a weight you are happy with may not keep someone else at the same weight. And such syndromes can be hard both to diagnose and treat.

          • Thumb up 13

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            “not to mention race issue here is quite irrelevant.” hahahahahah okay. You go on thinking that whiteness is not prized in Western society as being “more beautiful” than dark skin.

            “Why would you love your body if you’re 200 pounds?” Because it’s your body and it does a lot of fantastic things like keep you alive and allow you to feel and think and experience the world.

            Honestly I’m not going to bother debating with you because you have proven yourself in other threads to be incredibly transphobic, sex-negative, and binarist, not to mention the incendiary type who seems to derive pleasure in starting comment wars. So if you’re going to think that fat people deserve to be dehumanized instead of treated with respect, fine. It’s your shitty opinion and you clearly have no interest in doing anything but arguing.

          • Thumb up 4

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            You can’t extrapolate ‘rules’ for every other woman in the world based on only *your* experience of it.
            Whether or not I personally believe I am healthy is utterly unrelated to making degrading remarks about someone else, no matter who they are.

        • Thumb up 5

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          BMI is complete crap. My body structure is such that when I lost a lot of weight (food allergies, I couldn’t figure out what to eat) and actually hit the “healthy” BMI range, people were concerned that I looked too thin. Also people consistently assume that I weight 20-25 lbs less than I actually do.

          I’m fine and feel healthier a little bit above the “healthy” BMI level because of heavy bone and muscle structure. BMI was meant to be a “hack” to estimate obesity across a society, not to be used person to person. Telling people that they can’t be healthy unless they’re at a pretty arbitrary weight is dangerous.

          http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106268439&sc=fb&cc=fp

          • Thumb up 0

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            I’m the same way. My BMI is just over that 25 “overweight” cutoff (with a totally normal body fat %age), but I’m consistently assumed to be 20-25 lbs less than I am. The only time I’ve ever been less than a BMI of like 23 was when I had a raging eating disorder, and I legitimately had other patients in treatment pissed at me because we looked the same (super sick), but my BMI put me at a “healthy” weight while they were technically “underweight” and had to gain weight while I didn’t. It took years of recovery before I realized that no matter how much I work out, eat healthy, etc… my weight’s not going to be some arbitrarily determined “healthy” number without chopping off a limb. BMI’s bullshit.

    • Thumb up 8

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      the more i read about health at every size, the more i like it. we may be fed food loaded with processed junk, but we’re sold just as much complete nonsense based on the idea that fat = bad. many of the health problems we attribute to fat have no scientific basis and may, in fact, be caused be the social stigma attached to weight.

    • Thumb up 7

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      Your weight is your business. Everyone else’s weight is their business. I am horrified at your attitude and I really think you should reconsider your words. Only Adele and her doctor know anything about her health– and it’s only her business. MOST IMPORTANTLY: whether someone is healthy or unhealthy actually does not matter at all, whether it has to do with their weight or anything else. Everyone has a personal relationship with their own body and your body-shaming has no place here.

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            Yes I read that and I wonder what part of “don’t eat crap food and get some exercise” was found so offensive by the moderators.

          • Thumb up 13

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            That would likely fall under “body-shaming or body-snarking or negative assessments of a woman’s physical appearance.” The woman in this case being Adele, who gets plenty of shit for the mainstream media already.

          • Thumb up 7

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            @Paris. Simply stating that being very overweight can be unhealthy is quite different from saying that there’s nothing positive about an overweight body. If you are above your healthy weight (which is different for everyone), that is no reason not to love your body. When you love yourself you learn to treat yourself better – if you listen to your body and eat and move ways that makes you feel good(and, of course, attend to other health needs), you will eventually reach the weight that’s right for you – which may be significantly bigger or smaller than what’s considered “normal”. This is a process though, and no matter where you are along the journey you ought to treat yourself with the love and respect that everyone deserves.

          • Thumb up 12

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            @Paris

            Actually not baseless. Autostraddle supports on-going conversations where we can talk to each other in a respectful manner. There’s no way we’re all going to agree on everything, so as long as the debates are open-minded, we’re more than happy to host. The one thing we don’t support is body-snarking in any form. There is never a need to tear anyone down. They are not you. You are not them. You are not their doctor.

            From our Comment policy.
            “But we do not allow hate speech or slurs of any kind (ethnic, gendered, based on sexual orientation, trans* status, etc.), ad hominem attacks aimed at our writers or readers or any type of body-shaming or body-snarking or negative assessments of a woman’s physical appearance (this means ALL women).”

            So you are welcome to stay and talk about how we can get away from crap food or educate your fellow readers on weight training (which I am quite interested in), but please be respectful of our policies if you do!

          • Thumb up 1

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            Perhaps the comment policy here should read “We remove or edit comments where the poster disagrees with our authors’ opinions or states uncomfortable facts.” That would be more honest, at least.

          • Thumb up 13

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            “Honest” – sure, use that word when you’re skewing the truth. Shaming is an attack, not merely “disagreeing opinions”. Neither you nor anyone has a right to shame people for their bodies and their personhood. That is a pretty fundamental concept around AS.

          • Thumb up 24

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            Fact: The removed comment was fat shaming.

            Fact: Policing the female body and encouraging self-hatred regarding one’s supposed failure to live up to a fantasy ideal, rather than exploring the range of ways in which bodies can be both healthy and beautiful, is a cornerstone of the patriarchy and a powerful tool in the oppression of women.

            Fact: There is mounting scientific evidence that the association between weight and ill health has been wildly overestimated, and that we should be focusing on educating people about achieving a genuinely healthy lifestyle without seeking to measure their healthfulness in pounds.

            Fact: Many of the behaviours encouraged by those concern trolling about making ‘fat’ people healthier are extremely unhealthy, and are in actual fact almost identical to those actions and thoughts which afflict sufferers of anorexia and bulimia. Both of these conditions are, incidentally, massively underdiagnosed precisely because of fat shaming culture that considers unhealthy behaviour desirable.

            Not a fact: People whom the OP judges to be overweight must be grossly unhealthy and should be ashamed to leave the house. This is what is known colloquially as total panshite.

            Definitely a fact: Autostraddle makes no secret of its philosophy. It is clearly set out in the comment policy section of the site, linked above. To make this a safe place for all who engage in girl on girl culture, many things are banned – transphobia, biphobia, racism, etc. It is not censorship to ask you to respect the rules of a safe space, particularly as (I presume) no army of lesbian commandos has broken into your home to arrest you for daring to utter your ‘radical’ ideas. Please keep in mind that freedom of speech does not extend solely to you, nor does it entitle you to make harmful and triggering statements within a place that sets out to provide a haven from the pernicious attitudes found offline. No one here would attempt to stop you from engaging in a productive conversation. But equally, if you disagree with those who advocate body positivity, you do not need to come to these articles and argue about this fundamental tenet. We have had these arguments before. We know where we stand. Believe me, you are not the first person we have heard suggest fat is bad!

          • Thumb up 13

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            Yes, this!

            NB. I’m almost tempted to make a deliberately offensive comment simply on the off-chance that an army of lesbian commandos does come to my apartment and, er, well… ahem.

          • Thumb up 8

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            I feel like we need to just, dunno, flyer bomb the entire country with pamphlets that simply read:

            Censorship is when a government limits the free expression of its citizens. When a blog doesn’t want to keep your comments up, that’s not censorship, because that blog is not the damn government. You are free to go make those comments elsewhere in this great big free country of ours.

            (I’m writing in a US-centric way as I do not have sufficient knowledge about free speech issues in other countries to be more inclusive)

  2. Thumb up 3

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    In no way attacking the magazine or even the author of this piece but wouldn’t it be nice to have a piece of working class queer people’s issues on International Labor Day? I’m probably jumping the gun here but I’m just kind of saddened that none of the feminist news sources I’ve looked at have posted anything about working class folks. It seems symptomatic of a terrible dearth of class analysis amongst feminists.

  3. Thumb up 7

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    I am really really excited for this magazine. Along with the problems other people have mentioned with most fitness magazines obsessively focusing on losing weight (which I especially hate as someone who used to struggle with an ED), it always makes me feel erased and invalidated when the “love + sex” portions of women’s fitness magazines only mention heterosexual sex. So it’s doubly fantastic to hear about a magazine that’s both body- and queer-positive. I haven’t checked it out yet but I’m hoping they take a holistic approach to health that also addresses mental wellness. (And naturally I hope it is trans* inclusive as well!)

  4. Thumb up 4

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    As someone who writes about nutrition, health, wellness and fitness for a living, I’m super stoked about this magazine! I spend so long debating whether or not to take a commission where I have to write about low-carb this, gluten-free that, top tips to cheat your body into eating less. gah! Sometimes I take them so I can pay rent – but I always sneak in some body positivity for free, messing with gender pronouns and debunking meat=protein myths wherever I can. Sometimes it feels futile so now I have my sights set on Ms.Fit Mag as a potential market! Woop!

  5. Thumb up 5

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    Oh also re: getting period stains out, oxi clean or SALT. Years of endometriosis have taught me these glorious tips. And definitely cold water until you get it all washed out because heat helps set protein stains. Their tips were good but these will also work pretty well for stains that are set in.

  6. Thumb up 2

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    This is so exciting! I used to have a subscription to Self as well, and it was so disappointing when the magazine descended into a series of questionable dieting tips instead of actual fitness information.

    Also — if this kind of body positive & feminist fitness writing is your thing, you should also check out http://fitandfeminist.wordpress.com/ — “because it takes strong women to smash the patriarchy”.

  7. Thumb up 4

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    I was going to come down here and write something like, “I’m not sure that I’m into fitness, exactly, but I can definitely get behind a magazine that explains how to wash out period stains.” Because I think most magazines would NEVER print something that practical albeit not-really-that-sexy.

    Then I saw the comment battle and was sad.

    Then I decided I wanted to comment anyway. So I did.

  8. Thumb up 1

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    I am in love with this magazine now! Thanks for posting. I’ve just spent an hour on their website learning about SO MANY RELEVANT THINGS (and regretting washing my sheets in warm water).
    It’s great reading a magazine that makes me feel better about myself instead of worse.

  9. Thumb up 3

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    Yay! I did a quick perusal, and I’m looking forward to having time to check more articles out (and future articles). Thanks for the heads up!

    Personally, I was at my thinnest when I just sat around like a loaf and didn’t eat anything. I’m sure that’s not healthy AT ALL, but it was way easier for me than eating healthy and exercising. So like a lot of other people said, I get super bummed when I try to find ways to get healthy in women’s magazines because they just make me feel like I need to do whatever it takes to get that “bikini-ready body,” which makes me go back to starving myself and not exercising because I know that works way faster for me than anything else.

    Also, I am very happy to read about how to get period stains out of sheets. And I’ll have to try the salt (thanks Marika) because I’m currently out of oxi-clean, which is what I normally use.

    • Thumb up 0

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      I hear you, aly. The only time, after the age of maybe 15, that I was considered to be an “ideal weight” (whatever the hell THAT means) was when I had an eating disorder. My hair fell out and fingernails split, but damnit, I was skinny! And everyone made sure to constantly tell me how much better I looked. It took a long time to reach a point where I could do things like go to the gym without being there for 5 hours, so it’s awesome to find something like this that encourages healthy eating and exercise for their own sake and not for the sole purpose of weighing less. All that, “lose five pounds and look good in a bikini!” is super triggering. Also, I’m really more of a board shorts kind of gal.

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      Honestly, even though it’s now just a blog archive, Shapely Prose is still one of my go-tos for encountering real body positivity in action. Perfect example: the “28 days to a bikini mind” post:
      http://kateharding.net/2008/05/20/guest-post-28-days-to-a-bikini-mind/

      And I’m pretty sure (correct me if I’m wrong, people of AS) but Kate Harding was one of the first to popularize the mantra “there’s no wrong way to have a body” which has been a real comfort to me. And it’s so. Damn. True. There is absolutely, no WRONG way to have a body. Bodies are bodies: they don’t indicate worth as a person, talent, skill, capability – and yet we attach so many value judgments to them. But bodies are just bodies.

      And dammit, there’s no wrong way to have a body.

        • Thumb up 3

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          She’s so wonderful and well-spoken. She and Melissa McEwan of Shakesville constantly amaze me, with how they just continually do and say intelligent, positive things to make this world a better place. I hit burn out really quickly with all of the ickiness in the world and they give a voice to it every day that doesn’t devolve into screaming “You all suck and I’m taking my toys and going home!” which is generally how I feel at the end of most days.

          And and AND: Kate Harding has a new book coming out in February 2014 about rape culture. She has a tumblr up in anticipation of said book, but I can’t find the link right now.

  10. Thumb up 1

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    This! Love this! I’m so sick of seeing magazines that seem to equate weight with health and beauty with a certain body type. No one is built the same way and women should be able to be free to figure out what works for us and what makes us feel good about ourselves, both when it comes to exercise and diet. It took me a long time to get to the point where I felt that I was eating for my health rather than my appearance and I started to enjoy exploring and cooking new foods that helped me feel more energised and healthy. Health and beauty really do come from the inside out and everyone should be encouraged to love their bodies, no matter what they look like.

    On another note, I’m a big fan of weight training in combination with short burst cardio (that might just be because I play rugby and I hate long distance running) but it’s not really because it made me lose weight. In fact, I feel so much better now weighing over what my “healthy” BMI told me… I’m so happy that there are ‘zines out there that won’t tell me to lose 10 pounds or more to feel happy about my body!

  11. Thumb up 7

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    I’m so incredibly excited about Ms. Fit and super-proud to be a contributor. The body-shaming, fat-hating and ingrained sexism of the fitness industry is toxic and exhausting. As a queer feminist athlete, it’s so refreshing to find a place that knows that there can be empowerment and joy in the body’s movement, power and potential.
    Ms. Fit understands wellness as encompassing many aspects of our lives beyond what fits in mainstream publications. It’s an overtly feminist, anti-racist, trans* inclusive, body-positive space. And it’s snarky and fun. Kind of like Autostraddle, but sweatier.

  12. Thumb up 3

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    “Confession: I have a subscription to Self magazine. It was free, using up my girlfriend’s frequent flyer miles or something. Regardless, every month, I read it cover to cover. And I hate it.”

    omg hansen, this is an accurate description of how i felt about fitness magazines (and i used to read ALLLLL of them, every month, even Shape which airbrushes itself to death) for so long!!! then i read this and was like, i have to stop. but i still read women’s health sometimes. because i steal it from the gym. but also i realized that seriously every month i would rip out this or that page about this or that exercise i could do at home! in! just! ten! minutes! every! day! and then never actually do it. and that they said the SAME THING over and over. like if you read it for a year, you never need to read it again.

    ANYHOW i’m really excited about this website, i really like it already and thank you for writing about it hansen!

    • Thumb up 0

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      Ha, I have that same file of never-done exercises. Someone finally explained to me that ALL Rodale titles do the exact same thing. I used to subscribe to Prevention because it’s small and secret-agenty, but dio mio, repetitivo. Hard habit to break.

  13. Thumb up 0

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    All those magazines are guilt-trips to buy shit so you’ll feel better about yourself.

    Thanks for letting me know about Ms. Fits. It’s nice to see health and fitness magazines that focus on health and fitness, rather than shades of lip stick and weird chemical hair treatments.

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