So, I don’t know if you’ve heard, or even if you care, but a few weeks ago, Oxygen Magazine declared bankruptcy.
For those of you who never bought into the message that Oxygen and its sister magazine Clean Eating was selling, here’s a brief breakdown of what you’d find in the magazine:
- Updates on the latest research into supplements and fitness protocols with accompanying recommendations for purchasing said supplements or a two week workout plan for trying said fitness protocol
- Fat burning/muscle building supplement ads
- Pictures of impossibly thin and muscled women lifting heavy weight
- “Strong is the new skinny” messages (underlying message: skinny is weak, thin is strong–and here’s the pictures of a woman with a 6-pack to prove it)
- “Tough love” (ie get off your fat ass and work out or else you’re worthless)
- Eat more protein (in small 200-300 calorie meals 6 times a day or else your muscles will fall off, and also we’ll tell you to eat healthy fats, but not too many or you’ll get fat too so stick with egg whites and protein powder when you can…)
- Lifting heavy is better than cardio (but here’s a week’s worth of fat-burning cardio routines so you can keep cutting weight)
- Success stories and up-and-coming fitness model wannabes for your inspiration
- Updates (with photos and commentary) on major fitness/figure/physique/bikini competitions
- Plenty of fitspirational pictures and sayings, perfect for vision boards and self-flagellation
Oxygen was more than a magazine though–it was a way of life. My favorite day of any given month was the day my copy of Oxygen showed up in the mail.
It was the validation for getting in the weight room, for being proud of my strength, for working toward my personal training certification. It was also the validation for my obsessive orthorexia, my fear of getting “fat” and losing strength, my exercise addiction, and my belief that health could be defined by aesthetics.
Oxygen made me yearn to be a part of the community of women who lift hard, lift heavy, and then parade around on stage in glittery bikinis for the approval of a group of judges.
I’m not sad about this sudden (although not unexpected, given the death of Robert Kennedy, head of the magazine’s publishing agency) end to the Oxygen empire. That said, I think that Tosca Reno and Robert Kennedy did do a great job building a community and inspiring women to stop thinking that age, overweight, or inexperience can or should stand in the way of finding fitness. I think they did a fantastic job of mobilizing a strong community of women who care about health and nutrition.
But, at the same time, I saw the damage that the message could do. I lived the damage. I internalized every admonishment to get off my ass and go work my glutes. I’ve followed the blogs of women whose metabolisms were ruined by excessive dieting, inspired by fitness model dreams. I’ve seen the fitspo boards on Pinterest littered with photos of Tosca and the tough love message. I read posts by friends on Facebook who have been brainwashed to believe that life is little more than keeping track of your macronutrient breakdown and doing fasted cardio.
And for that, I’m not sorry to see Oxygen go. Say what you will about the tragedy of the death of the publishing industry, but maybe, at least in Oxygen’s case it’s a sign that it’s time for a shift. That it’s time for us to stop buying the message–literally and figuratively–that our health is determined by our looks.
If you were a reader of Oxygen Magazine, I’d love to know your thoughts. Were you sold on the Oxygen lifestyle? How do you feel about the magazine closing its doors?