Magazine Mavens Talk Health and Fitness

As summer approaches, many people are rekindling their desire to get in shape. Editors from the magazines More, Men's Fitness and Heart and Soul discuss ideas and tips from their recent issues.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is Tell Me More from NPR News.

It's time for our monthly visit with the Magazine Mavens, editors of some of our favorite magazines. Just in time for summer, their June issues are devoted to health and fitness. Lucky for us because we wanted to kick off a deep look at health and fitness issues on this program this summer. So joining us are Cary Barbor, health editor of More magazine, Roy Johnson, editor-in-chief of Men's Fitness magazine, and Yanick Rice Lamb, editorial director of Heart and Soul magazine. Welcome to the program, all of you. Thank you.

Ms. CARY BARBOR (Health Editor, More Magazine): Hello. Thank you for having us.

Mr. ROY JOHNSON (Editor-in-Chief, Men's Fitness Magazine): Thanks for having us.

Ms. YANICK RICE LAMB (Editorial Director, Heart and Soul Magazine): Thanks.

MARTIN: Kerry start - let's start with you. Tell us more about, More.

Ms. BARBOR: More is a magazine that is geared to over 40. And we take a look at how a lot of women in that age group want to reinvent themselves. They are sort of looking at a new phase of life. And we like to address, especially in the health section, how we can best take care of ourselves and best have the energy for what is the next chapter.

MARTIN: Yanick, tell us about Heart and Soul. Who is it for? Who do you focus on?

Ms. RICE LAMB: Heart and Soul magazine is targeted to African-American women who are the leaders of health in their families. And our tagline is healthy, wealthy wives, so we try to help women and their families keep their lives balanced, physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially.

MARITN: And Roy Johnson, editor-in-chief of Men's Fitness. It's nice to have you back with us. You've visited with us before when we talked about issues like steroids. So it's nice to, you know, focus on something a little bit on the up side.

Mr. JOHNSON: To a degree this fits right in because our mandate and our tagline is "How the best man wins." And we try to provide men with the tools they need to achieve their peak performance in every aspect of their lives. And for us that begins with a sound body. And of course that means fitness, nutrition. And also when you have that fit body and sound mind, it helps you do better in the workplace, it helps you do better in your relationships. And so we just want to create fit, sound, healthy men.

MARTIN: You've got a feature this month called, "The 25 Fittest Guys in America." Can I give away who is number one?

Mr. JOHNSON: Absolutely.

MARTIN: Tiger Woods.

Mr. JOHNSON: Will I get any argument from you on that?

MARTIN: Yeah. I could argue. But I'm just curious, why did you pick these guys? And it is a very interesting range of guys, I have to say.

Mr. JOHNSON: We define fitness in a relatively broad term. Certainly it begins with a sound body. But we also recognize men who not just look good but who do something with that, and who strive for the optimum level of performance in whatever their passion is. And it's hard to argue that Tiger Woods has not achieved his peak performance in whatever it is he has tackled in life. Certainly, he's dominating golf. But he's also wealthy, so he's making smart business decisions. He's got the great-looking wife.

MARTIN: OK.

Mr. JOHNSON: Now he's got the kid.

MARTIN: OK, this is where we have to beat you up.

Mr. JOHNSON: So, as far as we are concerned, he is the fittest guy in America. End of discussion. Period. No questions asked.

MARTIN: Ladies, help me out here, OK. Now, we recognize his contributions to his sport, but - and I recognize this magazine isn't for us - but because he's got a banging-hot wife, what does that have to do with being fit? Excuse me? Excuse me?

Mr. JOHNSON: Fitness is a multiplicity of things, Michel. And it certainly doesn't hurt. And when you offer, hey, if he had not been fit, he wouldn't have the banging-hot wife.

MARTIN: Cary, get him in the elevator, OK. Just help me out here. Cary, on your cover you have a women who many people will recognize from the Indiana Jones movies, Karen Allen. And speaking of your theme of transformation, I had no idea that in addition to her life as a movie star, she also has this whole other life as a knitwear entrepreneur? That's interesting.

Ms. BARBOR: That's right.

MARTIN: Why did you choose her for the cover?

Ms. BARBOR: Well, she has this great movie coming out, as you mentioned, the Indiana Jones movie. And she's someone who really embodies the More woman in that she has had one career, and she sort of got to a point where she thought, well, what's next? Maybe, you know, I'm not going in the direction I want to with this career, so what else do I want to do? And she opened up, as you mentioned, she opened up this knitwear store, and she has a whole other career going. So she's on two parallel tracks at this point, and she's in the great hit movie now. So she's a real inspiration to us about, sort of, you know, fulfilling one's potential.

MARTIN: Yanick, on the cover of your June-July issue, you feature actress Vanessa Williams who starred in the television series "Soul Food." Why did you choose her?

Ms. RICE LANB: Vanessa's 45, and she's had two children. And a lot of women are always grappling with trying to get back in shape after they've had a baby. And she looks fabulous. We saw the pictures of her before we said let's put her on the cover. And she also tries to keep her life balanced, and she eats well, and she mixes it up in terms of her fitness regimen.

MARTIN: One of the things that intrigued me about her though, she's vegan, which means that she doesn't eat any animal-based products, and she does have a very interesting fitness routine. But I'm wondering if - and also Cary, this is a question for you too - sometimes there's a struggle here. Because I notice it when Oprah has talked about her weight, which has been an ongoing issue for her, sometimes the viewers say, you know, this has nothing to do with me. You have a trainer, you have a nutritionist, you have a personal chef, your lifestyle has nothing to do with me. How can you be an inspiration to me? Somebody like Vanessa, you know what I mean, who's a Hollywood star and has access to all of these resources. What do you say to folks who might feel that way?

Ms. RICE LAMB: Well, that's one of the reasons why we try to mix it up with a lot of real women. We feature the readers in our magazine a lot, particularly in the My Body section. We also have a cover model contest as well where we feature a reader. So we're hearing - and we also tell our own stories too, the staff. So to see that they're all real women, sometimes we backslide, we're struggling with the same things they're struggling with. We're trying to balance parenting, single life, you know, work, whatever it is. And so we share what works for us, and our readers share what works for them.

MARTIN: Cary, what about you?

Ms. BARBOR: That's right. We do the same thing. We feature a lot of women in More, also. And in this June issue, in fact, you'll see we have our model search. And these are all real women. They're not professional models. And you'll see they are looking great, and they don't necessarily have a chef and a trainer and all those things. But it's like the challenges are the same for everyone. At the end of the day, Oprah may have all those things, but she has to do the work herself, and so do all of us as readers and all of us as staffers on the magazine. So we like to feature real women and just talk about what the challenges are, and show people what can be done, you know, if you put your mind to it.

Mr. JOHNSON: Michel, that's something that we also recognize at Men's Fitness. Our most-read page is called Success Story, and it features a regular guy who overcame whatever challenges he had in his life to get fitter. And we've had men who've overcome illness, who've overcome injuries. But some, like the guy who was featured this month, you know, he just woke up one morning and his young daughter said, daddy, you're fat. He just decided that he was no longer going to be that daddy and found the motivation to begin to change his life through diet and exercise.

So the core of everyone's experience is developing the motivation to control what you can control in your life, and that is what you put in your body and what you do with your body. There are a lot of things we can't control. But I think the one thing we all have is if you make this decision, you can improve yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, this is Tell Me More from NPR News and I'm speaking with Cary Barbor of More, Yanick Rice Lamb of Heart & Soul, and Roy Johnson of Men's Fitness magazine. And we're talking about health and fitness featured in their magazines this month. I noticed that, Yanick, your magazine is geared particularly toward the African-American women, but the other magazines are so-called general market. A lot of ethnic diversity. In fact one of my favorite features in More is "the First After 40," featuring people who have done something, you know, hard after 40. And there's one women named Christine Yi(ph) who's 59, who was in a regatta of a dragon boat race in Alameda, California, and oh, man, it just - A, it looks like super fun.

Mr. JOHNSON: You haven't entered that race, Michel? You haven't yet prepared yourself for that?

MARTIN: No. I didn't even know there was one. But A, the boats look fabulous. But she's - the first paragraph says "paddling through that first regatta, my body burned, I could barely catch my breath." And I thought, yeah, that's me. Yeah. Yeah, that would be me. But I did want to ask you, Cary, about the whole question of diversity of body type. I mean this is a big issue in ethnic communities who feel that sometimes the media does not recognize and appreciate the diversity of body types that are represented in these ethnic communities. And sometimes people feel that it's kind of a subtle putdown that they're putting up a certain image as being the only one that's OK to have. How do you grapple with that question?

Ms. BARBOR: Well, we like to feature a lot of real women in our magazine, as I mentioned before. And you can see in our model search winners, that there is a whole range of body types. And we feature a More marathon every year. We just had it in Central Park this month. And you know, all shapes and sizes are coming across that finish line. And it's the same way in our magazine. We really try to make an effort to - particularly because we are gearing ourselves to the over-40 women, we know that everyone isn't, you know, 22 and weighing 103. So we feel like there's beauty in every kind of body type. As long as you're healthy, you know, it's good with us. So we really make a very strong effort to show a diverse range of body types.

MARTIN: Yanick, talk to me about how you address this issue. Of course this is a big issue in the African-American community because on the one hand obesity is so prevalent. On the other hand a lot of African-American women feel that the, sort of, mainstream media diminishes their best qualities. And so on the one hand you don't want to validate being overweight. On the other hand you do want to celebrate the diversity within the community. How do you grapple with this issue in choosing which images to present?

Ms. RICE LAMB: We focus on the fitness aspect and that you can be healthy at a variety of sizes. And a lot of the women we feature in the magazine do that, and we show how they've accomplished that. And we have women of different body types, also different skin tones, different hair textures, all the different ranges that we come in.

MARTIN: And, Roy, not to jack you up again, but the Ultimate Fighter's Workout? Come on, man! He's got a picture of these guys beating each other bloody. Now again, I know it's not for me. What are you trying to say here?

Mr. JOHNSON: Well, let me first address the challenge that you first spoke about. And for us it's less about body type, but about recognizing that now more and more men of varying ages are trying to stay fit. So we try to feature men not just in their twenties, but in their forties, and in some cases even older. So while we don't have the body type issue, we do have the fact that more and more men in their forties and fifties are doing more than our fathers did to stay in shape and be as fit as we can be.

MARTIN: Could I stop you right there though? And I don't want to make you speak for all men. You're saying that you don't have the body type issue. Is that really true? Do men not obsess over this in the way that women do?

Mr. JOHNSON: No. No. No. In terms of varying body types and different sizes.

MARTIN: No. I mean, but you know what I'm saying in men feeling that unless they look a certain way, they're not celebrated by the culture.

Mr. JOHNSON: Not to the degree that we have to recognize that you can be fit at a different size. So that is not as much of an issue for us. At least that is not what we've discovered in our research, and we don't get that feedback from our readers. But I do want to address the mixed martial arts phenomenon. I don't know if you have been following sports lately, but the UFC is the most popular growing sport in America.

And mixed martial arts fighters, because they have to rely on a different set of disciplines in order to succeed - they're not just boxers, they're not just Tae Kwon Do, they're not just trying to throw a ball or hit a ball or run - they have to be fit from a cardiovascular standpoint, they have to have abdomens that are hard as rock so that they can withstand punishment. So, many people believe that at least the elite among mixed martial artists are the fittest athletes on the planet because they have to be so diverse in their fitness. So more and more of our readers want to know, how do these guys get fit?

MARTIN: This other series in the magazine this month, "the Superhero Workout, Develop the Body of your Favorite Comic Book Superhero." I'm sorry, I don't think I'd be attracted to a green monster. I don't know.

Mr. JOHNSON: You know, we like to have some fun. I mean look, we've very serious about fitness. There are a lot of different ways to get there. And occasionally we want to just have workouts that feature different body types. What we did with that workout is to show different superheroes. And you got Wolverine and his forearms, and you get the speed of Flash, and show you how to develop that different aspect of your fitness. It's just a different and fun way to show how to develop certain parts of your body. Come on, you know, relax, have a little fun. It's not all serious.

MARTIN: OK. OK. I want to ask each of you, and I know this is going to be hard because it's kind of like picking among your children, but I'd like to ask each of you, what was your favorite article this month? Cary, you want to start?

Ms. BARBOR: Yeah. I really got a kick out of this one that we called "the Champagne and Caviar Cure" that talks about how you shouldn't save your best food for a special occasion, because the chances are the better the food the better it is for you. So things like champagne with lots of antioxidants. And the pages are really beautiful in the story. And again it's a playful approach to nutrition, you know, that you need the things that are in caviar so don't save it, you know, don't keep your best coffee back in the freezer under a mound of ice, like, you should be drinking it every day. So this was a really fun story and something with some real nutritional value too.

MARTIN: There was an interesting tip in there about the whole designer salt thing, and I thought, oh, come on! But then I read it and, you know, you're actually inclined to use less of it.

Ms. BARBOR: That's right. The really flavorful salts, you tend to use less of. So that's better for you too. Plus it tastes better.

MARTIN: Yanick, what's your favorite article in this month's Heart & Soul.

Ms. RICE LAMB: It's like trying to pick your favorite children.

MARTIN: I know.

Ms. RICE LAMB: But I'm going to say "Revive Your Creative Spirit: Nine Things to Bring your Art Back," because I think a lot of times women tend to put some of their favorite things on the backburner. And this has kind of encouraged me to pick up the things that you've always like to do. Things you liked to do in childhood or when you were in college, and incorporate them back into your life.

MARTIN: I love the piece you did about Connie Payton who's the widow of football great Walter Payton, and how she's carrying on his legacy. I thought that was fascinating because that's a name I hadn't heard in a while. And I thought it was wonderful that you went back and reminded everybody of what he stood for and what she's trying to do to carry on his legacy. I thought that was neat. Roy Johnson, what was your favorite article this month?

Mr. JOHNSON: Michel, I know that you'll embrace this decision. And as editor-in-chief, you often have to make difficult decisions every month. So when I've had to help our photo editors decide which image of Gabrielle Union to choose for the magazine, and when you had to go through dozens of photos from St. Lucia looking at swimsuit fashion and the scantily-clad model, that was another difficult, difficult story for us to do.

But I'll say my favorite story is "Build the Ultimate Sandwich." It is a one-page story that gives just about everybody what you need to know in order to build the best sandwich you can build. And it seems very simple. It seems like it's something you should already know, but I've had more people comment on this page and say, you know what? I learned something on this page. I learned something I didn't know. And the next time I create my sandwich I'm going to follow these instructions. So it's sometimes not the biggest stories, it's not the ones you spent the most time on, but it's the ones that provide the best information for the most people.

MARTIN: OK. You have such a hard job, Roy. Looking at pictures of Gabrielle Union and...

Mr. JOHNSON: And as Yanick will tell you, I've been training all my life to do this. I feel very prepared.

MARTIN: Building sandwiches and looking at pretty women?

Mr. JOHNSON: Somebody's got to do it, Michel.

MARTIN: And that would be you. Good man. Roy Johnson is editor-in-chief of Men's Fitness magazine. Cary Barbor is health editor for More Magazine. They both joined us from our studios in New York. Yanick Rice Lamb is editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. She was here in Washington. I thank you all so much.

Ms. RICE LAMB: Thank you.

Ms. BARBOR: Thank you.

Mr. JOHNSON: Thank you.

MARTIN: And we're going to leave you with some music to burn calories to.

(Soundbite of song "Sex Machine")

Mr. JAMES BROWN: (Singing) One, two, three, four. Get up. Get on up. Get up. Get on up. Stay on the scene. Get on up. Like a sex machine. Get up.

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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