By now, we've all seen the fitspiration mom of the year who "unknowingly" unleashed all kinds of fat shaming rage across the world. The family photo of her toned body with her three children asks "Whats your excuse?"; perpetuating the ever-present belief that anyone who doesn't currently have a Pinterest-worthy body is this way because they lack willpower.
Rightfully so, Fatvocates roared back, and Maria Kang pulled a Mike Jeffries by saying she was sorry that everyone took it the wrong way, that any negative interpretation was the reader's fault, and that she wasn't responsible for public insecurity. While I do agree that we should own our reactions, I'm going to hold Maria responsible for her privileged move disguised as inspiration. What her boastful image suggests is an ignorant and, quite frankly, worn out accusation that couldn't be more misinformed.
As someone who has spent the last couple of years researching, exploring, and writing about the true causes behind our frightening obesity crisis (OH NO!) I roll my eyes in Maria's general direction. Not because of her toned abs (she's fucking gorgeous) but because of her arrogance. Because she asked, I'm happy to answer, and perhaps someday she (and the rest of those convinced that fatties are little more than potato chip hoarding embarrassments) will see that its not as simple as everyone wants to believe.
My excuse is that I am one of the 95 per cent of women who were not born into the body represented in American media. And we're not talking about the 'Well, if you just tried harder you COULD' kind of body discrepancy here. The majority of us have figures that will never become what Maria's can because of genetics. I spent a summer in the gym for hours every day while following a restrictive diet and yes, I was smaller than I am now... but my body was nowhere near what we're told to be. And I'm okay with that! FIVE PERCENT of women have the body we're taught to aspire to, guys. Can I emphasize GENETICS? My genetics also gifted me PCOS which stops me from easily shedding what weight I do have. Stop pretending the world is equal opportunity, Society. It makes you look silly.
My excuse is that I was raised in a religion that wanted my body to be invisible. There is something about being told your entire life that you should be ashamed of your body (especially in the sexual sense) that will fuck you up for life. Because of this, I subconsciously created a body that wouldn't attract attention. So yeah, that happened.
My excuse is that I lived in an emotionally abusive household where I had no control. My father liked to call the shots whenever he could, and when you're a child, that's all the time. His emotions were almost always unchecked and I had very little input over what my world consisted of, SO I would eat to control at least one thing in my life. The only thing I could, really.
My excuse is that I hate being at the gym. I've been taught for so long that I have a moral obligation to run on that treadmill but I have a visceral reaction every time someone comes close to suggesting that I attend the gym. Before, when I did go to work out, I felt so ostracized and ashamed that I never wanted to return. It was emotional torture. So, no, I don't feel like I have access to weight machines and ellipticals like Maria wants me to. Instead, I ride my bike to work and go to dance classes. This doesn't have the same effect on my body, but I'm OK with that!
My excuse is that I've self-sabotaged relationships intentionally. Hearkening back to my religious suppression and invalidating environment, I have somehow tried to make myself as unlovable as I feel. I've created this self-fulfilling prophecy that no one will ever see me as a sexy woman and ensured this by furthering my body shape into one that the world tells us is undesirable. I've found out later in life that there are plenty of people who firmly believe I'm a babe, but part of the reason I look the way I do is because I never believed that this would be the case.
My excuse it that the majority of my life I grew up in a lower class home. Not only is cheap food mostly filler, but when there was an influx of sustenance, I celebrated by eating it ALL. OK, maybe not all, but a lot. Again it comes down to control.
My excuse is that instead of doing Meth, I ate cookies. Time to drop some "I'm a mental health professional" knowledge on ya. See, I have this brain disorder where all the chemicals are fucked up on a fundamental level and it makes it hard to cope with difficult things like life. Again. Genetics. Almost 110 per cent of the time when an imbalance exists, it must be countered by something else to ensure survival. Additionally 110 per cent of the time it's not diagnosed, the brain finds a way to take care of itself when chemicals and medication aren't available. Could be booze. Could be cigarettes. Could be compulsive shopping, coke, or overeating. I chose the latter, and for me it really is the least harmful. My brain does not produce enough chemicals to keep me balanced and so while I went un-diagnosed and untreated... well, I ate to self medicate. Kind of like drinking and drugs only more frowned upon. Go figure.
My excuse is that I care more about feeling good than "looking good." I'd rather eat healthy and move when I want, whatever that looks like for me. Not only do I hate the gym, but I am also more concerned with feeling awesome than shaping into what others think it should be. Too bad, so sad, World. You're not my priority. My fulfilling life is.
My excuse is that I just don't feel the need for an excuse. In my daily life, I don't feel the need to defend, justify, or explain my body to anyone. I don't feel the need to have all strangers approve of me, all Pintrest-ers admire me, or all potentials lovers attracted to me. I write to give others a voice and I allow my body to be what it is. I've learned to love it as so. This probably stops me from dieting and spending five hours at the gym every day, but you know what I'm doing instead? AWESOME SHIT THAT IS CHANGING THE WORLD. And I'm OK with that!
The world, like Maria Kang, asks me daily for my excuse for "letting myself go," but I know better than to apologize. I understand the history behind why we hate ourselves and that it's a brilliant business plan. I understand how connected our bodies and minds are and how much our mental health influences our physique. I understand that economic inequality is a bully that we like to ignore. I understand the subtle complexities that comprise who we are and that they cannot be explained within a book, much less a blog post. And certainly not in a body-shaming photo.
The only thing Mrs. Kang was right about is that our self-esteem issues are our own. No one else can change the way we view ourselves, but the solution to self loathing is not conforming to idealistic standards. You can look like a supermodel and still hate your body. The solution has nothing to do with body shape, but rather the acceptance that our weight is a complex subject and ultimately our bodies are perfect no matter our size. Trust me on this one.
I fully realize that there is nothing wrong with my body, and there is nothing wrong with hers. I am perfect; she is perfect, and when the end goal is happiness... the importance of body shape fades away, doesn't it?