I’m at my mom’s house and as I was piling the toys the kids had dragged out back into the closet, I stumbled upon a major blast from the past:


It’s this binder, with tabs: Fashion, Boys, Friends & Family, Skin Care & Makeup, Hair, Beauty … you get the drift.  If you ever read YM Magazine, you know the kinds of topics it covers.

As I recall, I got a packet of helpful inserts each month.  As I also recall, I freaking loved this thing.  I pored over every insert, took every quiz …

(At this point I have to digress.  Because evidently I took the “What Kind of Guy is Your Type?” quiz.  You know, in 1987.  When I was 13.  So what kind of guy is my type?


You gravitate toward popular boys who know what’s in and what’s not.  Your crush is probably the life of the party and the envy of the less self-confident guys.  He’s a trendsetter and he likes to go wild at parties.  He’s always ready for a good time.

I must digress and add this in, because if you are one of my blog readers who knows my husband, you are likely rolling on the floor at this point.  If you are one of my blog readers who doesn’t know my husband, suffice it to say he has never been one to go wild at parties.)

… and tried every makeup and fashion tip they offered.

These were the 80s, folks, when fashion tips for teens included pics like this:


(That was for the insert about “Dressing Up.”)

and helpful drawings marking hot trends like this:



As I flipped through the pages and trotted down memory lane, I stumbled upon the section on Fitness.  I thought it would offer a good chuckle, and it did.


Bonus points for anyone who can articulate why this drives me batty.  Besides the leggings, of course.

But then I flipped to “Your Loss” with the pictures of a scale on it, and I knew I was in for a little righteous indignation.

If your doctor has advised you to shed some pounds, but you don’t want to follow a strict food regimen, here are some tactics that can help you on your way to a slimmer figure.

They promise “16 tried and true ways to help you stick to a food plan” (is that all that different from a “strict food regimen?”) that “(are) so easy and painless that you won’t even have to think twice about them before they become part of your daily life!”

So, what are these fabulous methods you will want to incorporate into your daily life?

Well, there are the little “tricks” that can transform eating into a compulsive ritual for your average tween:

  • Eat exactly what you’ve always been eating but cut all your portions in half.
  • Sip a tall glass of water or unsweetened iced tea after every third bite during a meal.
  • During a meal, put your fork down and pause after every third bite.

(What’s with that third bite, anyhow?)

Then, there are the ones that prove girls just cannot be trusted to make wise decisions about their food intake without some sort of discipline practice:

  • When you’re served a large portion in a restaurant, push half aside and pepper it heavily.  That way you’ll avoid temptation to eat it.
  • In a little notebook, write down everything you eat and refer to it frequently.  The embarrassment of having to look at a written record might make you reconsider munching that extra muffin.

And then there are the fabulous ones that play on teenagers’ worst fears about how they must look to others:

  • Try to eat in front of a mirror so you can watch the size of your bites and the speed of your eating.  What you see might surprise you.
  • Tape a picture of a model in a bikini to your refrigerator for incentive.  Or tape a picture of your favorite rock star.  He’ll deter you from stuffing your face.

(I mean, because what man would actually want to see a woman eat?)

(BTW, Ted would totally not want to see a woman eat.)

The final “tip” urges you to “reward yourself with a gift – a nonfood item – for every pound!”

(Bubble gum pink and black striped leggings for everyone!)

I’ve been down on my peer group a lot lately.  I’ve been really frustrated after outings with friends where conversation seems to predominately involve such riveting topics as workout regimens, low-cal treats, body measurements, diets, and the latest superfood.  I walk away wondering why I didn’t hear about any great books, fabulous movies, funny things little kids said, or commentary on current events.

I feel like women in my age bracket have become so obsessed with their bodies that we have handed over our power and vibrancy to the food and fitness marketers.

Finding this old copy of Teen Works reminded me of how deeply ingrained the values of deprivation, dieting, and discipline around food and exercise are.  We have literally been trained to think this way since before puberty.

So, I plan to be a little more forgiving to my peers when they go on and on about their diets.  But, at the same time, I plan to be a little more aggressive dissecting social norms in this space.  Because god help me if I ever see my girls reading “tips” like the ones above.

(But seriously, did we ever really think this was fabulous?)


(Teen Works was published in 1987 by Field Publications and was authored by Ruth Lerner Perle.  It featured a Board of Advisors that included physicians from multiple disciplines as well as experts in the fields of fashion and beauty.)


4 Responses to “Dieting, Deprivation & 1987”

  1. […] Yesterday, I explained my recent epiphany that we women of Gen X never had a prayer to be anything b…  We were exposed to lessons in dieting, deprivation and self-flagellation when it comes to food and eating early in our maturation process. […]

  2. […] friend who reads the blog shot me a note about yesterday’s and Tuesday’s posts.  She wondered what our kids would be saying in 25 years about the awful mistakes we made […]

  3. on 12 Jun 2013 at 1:42 pmKelly Cummins

    I meant to submit a comment when you posted this article, but life is crazy busy right now. I remember “tips” like these from my Seventeen and Teen magazine days. On a positive note, I would have been totally clueless about periods and the like without the help of such magazines, as my sweet Korean mother’s “talk” was “You know what to do?”.

  4. on 12 Jun 2013 at 1:47 pmKristine Rudolph

    Love it! I think a lot of moms relied on literature. 😉

    Actually, I was with my mom when this posted and we talked about how we both still had our little pamphlets on “Becoming a Young Woman.”

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