The Problem I Have With ‘The Pornographication Of Fitness’

Today I have one of those post where it was hard to hit the publish button. I was/am hesitant to share my thoughts, however clearly, I took a breath, held it and hit the Publish button after all.

I think this is my first RANT post ever… I think.

Perhaps you’ve seen this article floating around the blogosphere…

The Pornographication Of Fitness Needs To Stop

It was published just a week ago on Huffington Post and as of yesterday it has received over 100,000 Facebook shares.

The Unachievable Body

It’s a great piece, and to be honest deserves those likes.

If you’re a long time reader of Lifting Revolution then you know I hate how the media portrays women, making us feel as if we’re chasing after a body that is unobtainable.

Leading us to have emotions of self hate and poor confidence.

Because the bodies that are all over the media absolutely are unobtainable and unrealistic.

Seriously… even the women who’s picture was taken… even their bodies don’t look like what’s in the magazine.

And that’s the point of the article.

It also goes on to stress that exercise shouldn’t be about going after this dream body, but more about being fit and healthy.

Extremely important piece of advice if you ask me.

Study after study shows that regardless of body weight, if you’re fit then you will likely have a longer, healthier life.

Go Team Exercise!

But here’s the issue I have.

In fact, I couldn’t help but to read it without my eyes rolling and give a “yea, okay” from time to time.


Because did you see who wrote it?

Tosca Reno.

Who’s Writing About Pornography In The Fitness World?


Tosca Reno is an amazing inspiration to women… a fitness competitor, model, author of countless healthy living books (11 to be exact) and truly a force to be reckoned with in the fitness industry.

As a lady in her 50s, she sets the bar high.

Really high.

But I can’t help but to think her words are simply (slightly hypocritical) words.

She probably does believe in the message.

I’m sure of it.

However, because she own’s Tosca Reno Media Inc. (Which used to be called Robert Kennedy Publishing Inc. which is now bankrupt. Tosca Reno Media Inc. now holds Oxygen Magazine, Clean Eating Magazine, and The Eat Clean Diet – her great book – so these properties can continue living.)

…she is in a position where she (of course her not directly) “pornify’s” women on magazine covers. I.E. Oxygen Magazine.

Oxygen Magazine Covers

However, let’s step into her shoes:

  • You have a magazine that you need to sell to increase readership… so you can sell more advertising… so you can ultimately continue to print the magazine.
  • It’s proven sex sells. Women’s bodies sell both to men… and to women (men’s bodies… not so much).
  • So naturally you use photoshopped women on your magazine cover under perfect light… brush up their skin… get rid of the cellulite and wrinkles… and now you have something to sell.
  • It’s like the market may force her hand… even though she may hate it.

It’s a pretty popular topic right now.

And because of it’s high emotional impact, especially in todays fitness world where we really are inundated with fitness “porn”… it makes sense she wrote about it.

I just wish she attacked it from a different perspective.

(Think about it… her business just went through all this change less than 2 months ago… it needs a media boost! Does this mean her article is disingenuous?)

  • How can someone that has been on the cover of Oxygen magazine 8 times…
  • How can the wife of the late magazine publisher, Robert Kennedy (who is responsible for such magazines like MuscleMag & Oxygen)…
  • How can the self proclaimed fitness competitor (who not to long ago came out or retirement to compete again)…

…truly believe the words in this article?

Who Is “US”?

In the article she wrote…

“Yet most of us can’t identify with what we are looking at because we don’t believe ordinary us could ever be them.”

I love that she is trying to identify with the reader by using the word “us”. It’s important to bond and connect to your reader.

We’re a sisterhood, we understand one another, right?

Not so fast.

Does anyone else feel as if this statement is equivalent to a man who says “we’re having a baby?” Trying to relate, really wanting to be able to… but it just can’t happen.


Because Tosca is one of the dream bodies on and inside the magazines. The ultimate success transformation story.

She can identify with the perfection within the pages.

She has participated in the creation of these “perfect” female bodies that are unattainable.

She is a propigator of the “pornification” of fitness… even if she doesn’t enjoy doing it.

Her job is exactly what she is speaking out against.



Feeling Dirty

I love that she doesn’t hide the fact that she was a fitness competitor… though she makes it seem as if it were years and years ago when in fact just 2 years ago she was training.

She talks about a time when she was standing around in a barely there suit, feeling “scandalous” and realizing that there is more to this whole fitness thing than parading around in an itty bitty bikini to show off toned muscles.

(And let’s not even get into how figure competitors train with the “substances” and extreme dieting techniques used to get their bodies ready for show day and/or photography day.)

Why this time?

What suddenly changed that this time she felt dirty?

Again, I can’t help but think that this story is here to help her boost talk about herself (branding) and help her sell more magazines.

Here’s how this could work in my opinion.

Being In A Position To Change Things


Again, let me restate that I admire Tosca.

I think her dedication to healthy living is huge and undeniable.

She’s made herself extremely successful and when I first started in this business, she was one of my role models. She was even one of my very first interviews!

Super nice lady… but I never looked up to her for being an “every day woman”. To me, she was and still is a symbol for extremely hard work, and dream bodies.

If I was to do another figure competition, I would look to Tosca for help….

If I am looking for inspiration to simply be the fittest, healthiest person I can be… hell no, she’s not who comes to mind.

It’s kind of like cooking… if you’re looking for healthy whole food recipes you go to Jaime Oliver, not Paula Dean!

But I digress….

Take A Stand And Do Something Different


Let’s talk about what would make me take this article a little more seriously:

If she put action towards her words.

Let’s see some every day women, not half-naked ladies and pages and pages of supplements and split bodybuilding routines going from cover to cover.

You might be thinking… what power does she have to do that?

A lot… I hope!

Now that she has taken over her late husband’s publication she is in a position to CHANGE THE WAY MEDIA DEPICTS WOMEN… to a point.

(Granted her magazine is about figure competitions… but it’s read by millions of real, regular women too! BTW I hate saying regular.)

Heck, I would love to see just 1 issue of a magazine showing images of everyday women, doing workouts based on getting fit instead of getting ready for a show.

I don’t see this happening. Do you?

Flip through the pages of any of her magazines and what do you see?

Photo after photo after photo of touched up, toned, perfect women in scantily clad attire. Page after page of thermogenic fat burners and toning powder ads.


Because that’s who Tosca’s readership is.

And that’s fine.

My Point Is Simply This…

Perhaps when it comes to being the “everyday” woman and wanting to see women depicted more classy and wholesome, always talk the talk and walk the walk.

Tosca, you’re an amazing, strong, professional woman making a huge impact on the bodybuilding and figure competitive world… but to the “everyday” woman, perhaps you should find a new angle to try and connect?

I will leave with this…

I take Tosca a lot more seriously than if this had been written by the folks at BodyRock. The leaders of truly making fitness porn.

I don’t know…

These are just my thoughts. And I would love to hear yours.

Again, I still love the overall message of the article, I just feel it would have been more powerful if it had been written a bit more honestly.

However, this is my blog home, so please keep comments tasteful.

I Struggle Too:

Dan and I purchase stock photography of fitness women that look “perfect”. So you maybe say I commit the same “pornification” of fitness. You know, on some levels, you’re right. I can’t deny it.

Heck I too was in a figure competition and I too did those crazy dangerous things to get my body ready.

Recently on my training site, Fit Women’s Weekly… here on Lifting Revolution… and on the Facebook Page…

Dan and I are using only our own photos. We are going to try and completely eliminate stock photography.

One last admission so I can be transparent:

We don’t Photoshop. We are learning to use Lightroom so we can make lighting better… but we will not every do skin touchups or anything like that. That’s a promise!


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