The Vagenda

How Going Cold Turkey on Cosmo Stopped Me Feeling Fat, Ugly & Anxious All the Time

I have been clean for 6 months. It has been a painful struggle and temptations to yield are everywhere. Every newsagent. Every supermarket. I can even get it for free at the hairdresser’s. 
I have an addiction to woman’s magazines. 
Perhaps addiction is a bit strong. I wasn’t about to sell a kidney if I thought I couldn’t find out what Glamour had decreed what ‘Hey, it’s OK’ to do this month (FYI Glamour Eds: learn these ten words and negate any need for this crappy feature. ‘Is it illegal or unkind? No? Then It’s OK’), but I DID religiously buy them every month. and I sucked up every squealing, breathless, bilious word. 
It started innocently enough – I would pick up the new Cosmo during the month, maybe Glamour as well, but only if I thought of it. I never actively sought them out but I’d be in the newsagents and I’d skim the headlines and suddenly realise that I didn’t have ANY of this season’s must-have scarves (15-page special inside!), I had NEVER experienced an A-Spot orgasm and holy shit, I don’t even know what BB cream is (actually I still don’t know – is it cream for babies? Is it made by babies? Is it made FROM babies?) so of course I had to find all out this immediately. 
I read about two magazines a month on average, and I was living with a bunch of girls so they would buy some, I would buy some, they would be left around the sitting room so I could browse through them there if I felt like it, which I usually did.
Then about two years ago shit got heavy. I started travelling a lot for work and spending tons of time waiting around in airports, sitting in taxis and taking long tedious flights early in the morning and late at night. I began a routine of getting to the airport and buying a magazine every single time I had a flight (which was often), choosing between Cosmo, Glamour, Marie Claire, Elle, Stellar (Ireland’s answer to Cosmopolitan) and Company if I was really stuck. But because of the rate I was going through the magazines, they weren’t coming out quickly enough for me. I had them all read halfway through the month and then what the hell was I supposed to do? I had a 3-hour flight to sit through and goddammit, I was not reading the in-flight magazine or god fucking forbid buying a newspaper.
So I went even further beyond the wall and started buying Grazia magazine. And More! (RIP) And then when I had read those I bought Closer and Reveal. It was like graduating from a glass of wine in the evening to keeping a bottle of vodka in my handbag. There were more of them, they were cheaper and they came out weekly so I could get a new hit whenever I wanted. They were like the condensed versions of the awful parts of the monthlies – all the nastiness and bitchiness I could ever want. 
I’m not really sure when I realised that it was getting out of hand. It might have been when I stumped up €8 in a German airport just to get the last month’s issue of Cosmo to read on the plane (the same issue I had bought and read 6 weeks previously). Or when I tried to drink cider vinegar every night because one of the weeklies said it would help aid weight loss (they didn’t mention it also tastes like…well, disgusting fucking vinegar strangely enough.)
Apart from the bizarre food habits I’d adopted and the massive strain on my finances (a lot of my magazines were being bought at hideously inflated prices from foreign airports) I also realised that I was starting to feel a bit sad and anxious all the time. I was worrying far more about my weight than I ever did before and about my appearance in general. I had always been pretty low maintenance before but if I put on any weight I felt like everyone was acutely aware of it and judging me about it. If I wore out the same dress a few nights in a row it was the same – I was sure the rest of my friends were looking at me and sniggering at my limited wardrobe. God forbid I be ‘tagged in the same look twice’. 
None of this was true, but my world view was nothing if now skewed. After reading a number of vicious take-downs of women’s magazines (hat-tip to this site), I decided that one of my New Year’s resolutions would be to go cold turkey on all women’s mags(my other one was to go to the dentist once this year. Fortunately there’s still 4 months left in 2013)
It hasn’t been easy. The internet has, honestly, been my saviour. With my iPhone in hand, no amount of airport boredom can defeat me, as I can read all the hilarious, interesting and touching articles I can get my hands on, not only on here but on other sites such as Libertine, Jezebel, BitchMedia, and My kindle also does the job during the aforementioned tedious flights and is stocked to its electronic brim with enough books to keep me going until teleportation is invented (thus removing my need for flying ever ever again). I tried reading my boyfriend’s copies of the Economist magazine for a brief period (approx. 7 minutes) but I gave up when I realised that being able to use the sentence ‘Well in this weeks Economist I read…’ was not worth the pain of actually reading this weeks Economist.
I’ve been 99% successful, apart from at the hairdressers’ when they hand a magazine to me and I flick through it for a few seconds without thinking before flinging it back at the poor bewildered stylist. I will still read the Style magazine that comes with the Sunday Times because, hey, it’s free anyway and Mrs Mills make me rofl. Plus I’m not a tit: if one my friends tries to show me something they’ve read in one, I won’t throw it back in her face and scream that I have forsaken those wicked words (‘You temptress!’)
But I do think going cold turkey has worked. I don’t feel niggly and anxious any more when I step on the scales and it’s a bit more than last time. And I know my friends aren’t judging me when I wear my new orange dress out three nights in a row (which I will do because fuck it, I look hot). 
I have no plans to go back to my old ways but never say never. I hope that maybe someday the women’s magazine’s market will change and Cosmo et al will decide to update their approach and deem women to be intelligent human beings instead of insecure money-spending machines. And that Reveal and Closer will write articles about an actress’ latest film instead of her waistline. If that actually happens, then this is one New Year’s Resolution I’m happy to break. 

8 thoughts on “How Going Cold Turkey on Cosmo Stopped Me Feeling Fat, Ugly & Anxious All the Time

  1. Great article, couldn’t agree more. I lost interest in Cosmo when I found this website and I don’t miss it at all. Well, I miss the handsome menfolk posing in their pants but that’s about it. Thinking about it, I feel really good about myself for the first time in a long time. I’m not worrying about my podgy tummy (which actually looks cute), cellulite, frizzy hair (I’ve owned and rocked that look since my teens); my complexion (my skin looks like it’s supposed to, human fucking skin), and shed loads of other things. For makeup and fashion looks I go on Tumblr, which is where I found Vagenda. Magazines like Cosmo sell you problems as well the solutions, it’s despicable when you think about it.

  2. Same here. I used to read Cosmo more than the others (I’ve never been into celebrity gossip stuff), and afterwards I’d get that post-McDonalds feeling. It was good at the time, but then I’d feel guilty, bloated and bad about myself.

    Having quit, I’ve now got a more sensible approach to my body (it does all those awesome things bodies are supposed to do, like think, eat, drink, ambulate, laugh, have sex). It could probably use a bit more exercise and some more veg, but now I’m saying that from an ‘I’d like my body to last me til I’m old’ point of view, rather than ‘OMG Cosmo says I’m fat/ugly/useless’ point of view. Funnily enough, I feel less bad about the odd McDonalds now I’ve given up on such magazines!

  3. I must say this an extremely interesting article, with some very good points. However, you may consider me a cosmo addict; but cosmo was the magazine to help me come to terms with the facts of my body (esspecially the look of my vagina – I know your all thinking now I have a scary bat cave…) maybe I could have realised this though other means, but I perceived cosmo though my own opinions not as a thing telling me how I should look (I have never been able to apply this vision to heat magazine..) I’ve never thought I was useless or fat because of cosmo, often it’s made me happier about my appearance and helped me orgasm better!

    There, my ode to cosmo.

    The only thing I really dislike is the ‘page 3′ type men page.

  4. sixteen magazine or summat like that, teen mags, and then cosmo etc made me hate my body and feel lesser, made me feel bored, made me scared about all these sexual positions i was supposed to be able to understand…

    my mum’s “ladies magazines” made me scared about leaving the house because he mags spoke of affairs, rapists, incest, tumors, surgery mishaps, cancer, assault in taxis, comas, people having affairs one someone who had cancer, was dealing with rape or was in a coma or …. you get the idea.

    So… no thanks magazines.

  5. We are so glad to hear that you like Libertine magazine. It’s for the reasons that you mention in your piece that we started the mag in the first place – we wanted to create a magazine that appeals to women’s interests and celebrates them. Our aim is to improve the media’s image of women and we hope to lead by example by only including positive imaging and inspiring stories.