By Kelly Tansor, Copy Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Maria Kang, a fitness blogger and working mother of three, recently posted a photo showing her in a sports bra and shorts along with her three sons with the caption “What’s Your Excuse?” In the photo, it is obvious that she stays active despite being a parent. Some find this inspiring – others find it insulting.
The photo was used to advertise her blog at mariakang.com in which she discusses everything from fitness to family. She also openly discusses her struggles with an eating disorder, her mother’s poor health (she had diabetes, heart disease, and kidney failure), her previous corporate job, and her ups-and-downs with her family, most notably her father. She also offers great advice to those looking to be more fit and healthy – from what foods to eat to what exercises to use.
This photo, however, did not get the attention she had intended. Many people claim this is “fat-shaming,” a phenomenon in which people – mostly girls – purposely make others feel ashamed of their body weight. I think the word “fat-shaming” gets tossed around so much these days that we have forgotten what it really means. Fat-shaming is when you put others down for their weight. Kang, on the other hand, offers health and exercise advice on her blog at mariakang.com for those who want to stay in shape while juggling life’s many tasks – which is not fat-shaming. She is not advocating that women be stick-thin; just healthy. In fact, if you look at the photo more closely, you can see that the photo is more than just her looking skinny – her muscles are very toned and defined, something I think more women these days should aspire to have. She has a bright smile that says she is proud of her body, and not everyone in this day and age can say the same of their own bodies.
Kang offered this apology after the controversy. It’s the classic “I’m sorry you feel that way, but I regret nothing” sort of apology. Then again, in my opinion, she shouldn’t feel sorry. Many people interpreted this the wrong way, and that is not entirely her fault – how people interpret something is out of our control. She never flat-out called anyone fat or lazy, as many people claim she did. Having said that, I think she would have gotten a better reaction had she used a different caption for the photo, such as, “You can look this great, too” or, “Even working mothers can look this good.”
Kang also addressed much of the backlash she received here under the “What’s Your Excuse?” tab. In this she cleared up many of the incorrect assumptions that have been made, such as the image was photoshopped, she doesn’t have stretchmarks, those are not her kids, and she is a bad mom for working out. She also explains how she manages to stay fit on top of working two jobs, caring for the elderly, and, of course, having a husband and three kids.
Maria Kang is saying something that many fitness enthusiasts, like myself, are too afraid to ask: What’s your excuse? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met many people who have legitimate excuses for not working out – they are disabled, they are going through chemo, there is something medically wrong with them preventing them from physical activity, etc. However, when I hear excuses like I’m too busy, I’m too tired or, my favorite, I just don’t feel like it, that bothers me. Working out does not have to take up a lot of your time – 30 to 60 minutes a few days a week is fine. You can run with your kids, take a walk during your lunch break, lift free weights here and there throughout the day, and even do a few quick workouts while watching TV. I have two jobs on top school, and I still make time to go to the gym 2-3 times a week. Even my mother, a breast cancer survivor and mother of 4, still finds time to work out. At my gym I’ve seen people as young as 16 and as old as 70 working out. Working out actually gives you more energy when you do it consistently enough, so being too tired (to me, anyway) does not seem like a good enough excuse. On top of that, working out is a great stress-reliever and confidence-booster. I tell this to people and they do not believe me at first, but once you start exercising regularly, you see a huge difference in yourself physically and mentally.
In my eyes, Kang is not trying to put people down for not looking like her. Instead, she is being just the kick in the ass some of us need to get off our couches and do something healthy for ourselves. The caption “What’s Your Excuse” seems to me like more of a challenge than a put-down. Sure, she could have worded it differently, but in my experience, everyone will interpret whatever you say differently, and there is nothing you can do about it, and Kang is no exception. Hopefully this inspires a movement of men and women alike putting their “tired” and “busy” excuses aside and make their health a priority.