If you are not aware of "Fit Mom," I'm not totally surprised. The Maria Kang story is the very latest in the depressing behaviour of fitness enthusiasts, a growing army of men and women who believe that working out and staying in shape is the absolute most fascinating conversation you can ever have. Obvious irony of my article aside, I found myself very taken with this particular story.
Allow me to catch you up to speed. A mother of three recently launched a campaign and subsequent self-marketing phenomena that focused on an image of her looking fabulous with her three young children, a slogan reading, "What's your excuse?" in the background. Some people didn't take well to that. Her fitness practices as well as her abilities as a parent came into question, prompting a few mildly interesting discussions about how important it is to look like a bombshell.
Naturally, I didn't care. I quickly forgot about Maria Kang until a story popped up on my Facebook newsfeed. Apparently, the creator of a lingerie line geared towards women size 12 and up had Kang's Facebook page shut down for something that has been dubbed, "Fat shaming." Kang objected to the images of happy, confident women in their undergarments because they were "obese," perpetuating the idea that it is OK in our society to be "fat."
The seed of rage was planted in the pit of my stomach, but it didn't sprout until Kang's view of the human body culminated in one, awesome statement. Kang claimed that "A lot of people can just tell; that person is not healthy." Essentially, she is dictating that the size of a person's body is indicative of the level of their health. At this point, my stomach was housing a rage plant, its blossoms poking out of the lining and seeping into my blood.
In a world ravaged by the constant threat of war, economic turmoil, environmental crisis, rising poverty rates, famine, and natural disaster, the topics of working out and looking really good are by far the most integral (note the sarcasm). However, I couldn't help but become a little entangled in the "Fit Mom" fiasco. Fitness fanatics have always irritated me, but this story hit me on a more personal level.
Gradually, my rage subsided and I uncovered a more useful way to release my frustrations; this forum. In the spirit of the "open letter" craze, I present to you my open letter to Maria Kang. I hope that she finds this, and that it finds her well.
First and foremost, let me congratulate you on all of your hard work. I can only imagine how difficult it is to achieve that sort of body after having three children. Physically and mentally, it must be an incredible strain, and you are to be commended on the achievement of your goals, shallow as I may consider them to be. If anything, no one can say that you aren't dedicated.
I will admit, I am not a fan of fitness modeling or competitions. I have personally found no use for them. Although I am an advocate of healthy living and an active lifestyle, I find that the images in these competitions and magazines project a false image to the general public when talking about what it is to be "healthy." I'm sure you already know all about this, so I digress.
I didn't have any emotion towards your conversation about health and fitness until you were speaking about obesity. Though you may not have said it directly, you have basically stated that you are able to tell how healthy a person is by looking at them, insinuating that anyone "fat" is immediately unhealthy. This made me laugh and rage at the same time, and I'd like to explain why.
I have always been naturally slender. I was born small, grew up a size 0, and am still a size 0 today. Some people hate me for it, but this is how I have always been and I can no better control my body's metabolism than anyone else can. I am grateful for it, and have made a personal promise to not look down on others for the natural mechanics of their own bodies. Never judge a book by its cover, right?
Despite my natural metabolism, I do work out often. I go to the gym twice a week and do yoga three times a week. I eat relatively well, never smoke, and never consume alcohol. I take good care of my skin and even work out my spiritual muscles through meditation. Without even knowing any of this, the average person would look at me and think that I am the picture of perfect health. I'm sure that you would agree if you met me face-to-face.
Last year, I was diagnosed with a genetic and hereditary blood disease that has the power to shut down my major organs. Despite my desire to keep active, my joints crack from the early symptoms of arthritis, I experience frequent dizziness and disorientation, and am in the doctor's office at least once a month. It took one family doctor, one hematologist, a team of nurses, a therapist, and a nutritionist to get my disease under control. No one could tell by looking at me that anything was wrong with me and if it weren't for all of the side effects, I wouldn't have been able to either.
I have friends that are slender, and I have friends that are curvy. I have friends who you would consider to be overweight. The truth of the situation is that every single one of them is in better health than I am. Not a single one of them has had to go to the hospital so often, nor go through the insane amounts of medical tests that I have. They all live normal lives, visiting their doctors once per year for a physical or a check up when they're feeling under the weather. The irony of it all is one that you have missed in your pro-fitness rampage -- I appear to be the fittest of them all. And I'm not.
I am not asking you to stop being proud of your accomplishments, and I'm certainly not asking you to stop talking about staying fit and healthy. I'm only asking you to think before you speak. I am living proof that health goes beyond the surface of the skin, and I can't be the only one out there. There are thousands of full-figured women who have strong, healthy organs that would put yours and mine to shame. They could probably outlive us both.
I don't agree with the superficial aspects of your outreach, but that is your journey. You are good at what you do and you should continue doing it if it fills you with purpose. But please, take some responsibility for your actions. Stop taking the shallow route and use your influence as a way to inspire instead of shame. The media is watching you, so you have power and I sincerely hope that you will use it responsibly. Beauty is only skin deep in our culture, and you know what, Maria? It really shouldn't be.
Thank You, God Speed, and Great Abs.
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