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The present study examines seasonal and temporal patterns in food-related content of two UK magazines for young women focusing on food types, cooking and weight loss.
Content analysis of magazines from three time blocks between 1999 and 2011.
Ninety-seven magazines yielding 590 advertisements and 148 articles.
Cluster analysis of type of food advertising produced three clusters of magazines, which reflected recognised food behaviours of young women: vegetarianism, convenience eating and weight control. The first cluster of magazines was associated with Christmas and Millennium time periods, with advertising of alcohol, coffee, cheese, vegetarian meat substitutes and weight-loss pills. Recipes were prominent in article content and tended to be for cakes/desserts, luxury meals and party food. The second cluster was associated with summer months and 2010 issues. There was little advertising for conventional foods in cluster 2, but strong representation of diet plans and foods for weight loss. Weight-loss messages in articles focused on short-term aesthetic goals, emphasising speedy weight loss without giving up nice foods or exercising. Cluster 3 magazines were associated with post-New Year and 2005 periods. Food advertising was for everyday foods and convenience products, with fewer weight-loss products than other clusters; conversely, article content had a greater prevalence of weight-loss messages.
The cyclical nature of magazine content – indulgence and excess encouraged at Christmas, restraint recommended post-New Year and severe dieting advocated in the summer months – endorses yo-yo dieting behaviour and may not be conducive to public health.
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