Maria Kang: Tough love or fat shaming?

by Kim on October 15, 2013

Yesterday, when I was supposed to be studying NASM stuff but ended up fooling around on Facebook instead (aka a very typical study session), this picture popped up in my feed:

whatsyourexcuse

Woah. Say what?

Maria Kang is a blogger, business owner, and mom of 3 little dudes, each born a year apart. (She gave birth in 2009, 2010, and 2011!)

And now she looks like that.

Well—obviously, the picture is touched up a little. Here’s how she really looked that day (that is: still really dang good).

Since posting the picture, Kang has gotten tooooons of negative backlash. She’s been called a bully. A fat-shamer. Obnoxious and fake. And worst of all: a bad mom.

And, of course, people have poured themselves into picking her apart: her life, her background, her genetics, her habits—anything that makes her situation different from theirs, and therefore gets them off the hook for not looking like she does.

In case you can’t already tell where I stand on this…I say MAJOR ups to her. She’s saying something the rest of the world is too scared to say. Having kids IS a good excuse, sure, but it’s still just an excuse.

Some of us have to work harder to look a certain way—and some of us have to work a-lot-a-lot harder to look that way. And sometimes it’s frustrating to watch people (APPEAR TO) work much less hard for much better results. But how are we going to teach our kids that whole “life ain’t fair” thing if we can’t accept it ourselves?

Life ain’t fair! So now what?

I know there’s a little voice in so many heads saying, “Well, I could never look like that, sooo…yeah.” And that’s it. They just accept that.

Well, I’m here to say (Profoundness Time!): that voice is a jerk.

I’d be willing to bet that a majority of the mom population—hell, the general population—underestimates how they could actually look (and by extension, feel) if they were up for putting the work in. Like, if they could step into the Hypothetical Body Generator and punch in things like “clean diet” and “regular, moderate exercise,” and “great sleep,” I bet they’d be shocked at the results. (How awesome would it be to hit that “no sugar cravings” button??)

Also, moms: we really need to stop trying to make the argument that working out goes on the back burner because “the kids come first.” Yes, we feel guilty when we leave our families to go work out, but guilt does NOT mean selfishness. Guilt does NOT mean what you’re doing is wrong. (In this case, I mean…when you’re shopping online at 2 AM with a big bowl of ice cream, that might be legit. Just saying.)

And maybe your kid could use a break from you anyway, am I right?? (<—Mason wanted me to add that for some reason?)

Haha. But seriously…

Taking care of Mom IS putting the kids first, because kids benefit from having a mom who’s energized, patient, empowered, happy, motivated, and role-model-worthy. And I believe that all those things can come directly from a healthy lifestyle.

(P.S. I realize that some moms take this to the opposite extreme, and over-exercise/restrict in the name of getting their pre-baby bods back. I understand that this is a big part of the reason society has been shushed on this issue. As with so many other things in life, it’s a case where too little and too much are both bad. Which means that no advice—including this blog post—is going to be perfectly applicable to everyone. Sucks, right?)

In response to all the negativity, Kang eventually posted an apology (which was really a non-apology). Here’s a summary (you can read the whole thing on her Facebook page):

“I’m sorry you took an image and resonated with it in such a negative way…What you interpret is not MY fault. It’s YOURS.

“The first step in owning your life, your body and your destiny is to OWN the thoughts that come out of your own head. I didn’t create them. You created them.

“So if you want to continue ‘hating’ this image, get used to hating many other things for the rest of your life. You can either blame, complain or obtain a new level of thought by challenging the negative words that come out of your own brain.”

For more on Maria Kang, you can read her FAQs here.

What do you think? Good wake-up call or unfair fat shaming?

What would you say to Kang’s haters?

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex @ Alex Runs For Food October 16, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Kang rocks!!! The first thought that popped into my head when I saw the pic was wow she’s awesome. Jealousy can make people say such cruel things!! I think that photo is great motivation!! I have no kids so if she can do it with three I can do it with zero.
Now how about that no naughty food cravings button?
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ErikaMC October 16, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I don’t think the picture is bad at all but maybe the heading “what’s your excuse” because as you said – we all have them but there is no such thing. There are no excuses so a different heading may have been a better choice. I love her apology though – she is spot on. It’s not her fault other people feel negative!

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Katie @ Daily Cup of Kate October 16, 2013 at 1:14 pm

I saw this on the news and both my fiance and I said, “whats the big deal?” So she looks amazing after three kids…she obviously worked for it. I think she definitely meant to inspire people, not cause a big stir. I say, good for her!
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Kim October 16, 2013 at 1:11 pm

I think that there are going to be “haters” no matter what. She works hard and I think she looks amazing. I have never had that kind of will power with a strict diet and don’t even expect to look like her.
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Ali October 16, 2013 at 11:54 am

I think “good for her.” It is better for the whole family to have a healthy mom that takes time for herself too. It teaches the kids valuable lessons too. I do, however, think maybe her words were a little harsh, but I give her a big thumbs up!
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Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries October 16, 2013 at 10:13 am

Hmmm. I have mixed feelings on this. On one hand, I think that she’s right to an extent. Just because you’re suddenly a mom doesn’t mean that your health and activity levels should be pushed to the side. I think NOT pouring your entire self/world into your kids is actually healthy. However, I feel like the way she portrayed her “message” was a little too in your face. Very interesting discussion!
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Kim October 16, 2013 at 11:04 am

Well said! I personally think her heart was in the right place, and that she truly meant to inspire not shame. But I agree: if her approach comes off as an attack, people are going to feel defensive, and the message will be lost. I wonder what the feedback would be if the caption was “You can do it too!” or something more positive?

When I saw the picture, all I saw was “just because you have kids doesn’t mean you can’t look great.” I didn’t see “you should look exactly like this” or “you’re a failure if you don’t have great abs 8 months postpartum.” That’s what’s so tricky about this–everyone’s coming from a different place, and interpreting this differently. And as we know, postpartum self-image is a very, very, very sensitive thing!

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Katie October 16, 2013 at 9:47 am

Uff Da. This is a hard one. I think her attitude is very “in your face.” And everyone has different priorities. Where it hurts is… I work out, but I don’t look like that, does that mean I’m a failure? I don’t really want to be considered a failure.
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Kim October 16, 2013 at 11:19 am

I hear you. I don’t look like that either! And I don’t think either of us is a failure! :) I’m guessing it’s more her insanely strict diet habits than anything she’s doing in the gym, though.

I do like the tough love approach, in general–a la Biggest Loser–maybe just because I respond well to it personally. But I agree that it doesn’t work if it triggers defensiveness/self-loathing rather than inspiration/motivation.

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Katie @ running4cupcakes October 16, 2013 at 8:09 am

This is an interesting discussion. On the one hand, I take a little offense to the picture, because I work hard both working and working out but yet I don’t look like that. On the other hand, I agree that working out makes you a better mother (and person in general), and so I am in support of her posting this pic. I also find her response very interesting. . . she is basically telling people that it is their issue not hers, which is partially true. . . again, interesting discussion. ;)

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Kim October 16, 2013 at 9:42 am

Oh, great point. I think the biggest factor is that she’s really strict about her diet (it seems). Working out can only get you so far. Which adds another interesting element to the conversation…when we see that picture, do we see diet or exercise?

I liked her response, for the most part. It’s true that people are going to interpret this differently based on where they’re coming from. The question is, how much are people’s reactions tied to/indicative of their specific internal conflicts?

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