This morning, a friend of mine sent me what's now become the infamous photo of fitness trainer and uber lean and toned mother of three, Maria Kang. I don't think it's Maria's picture that has gotten her so much attention, but the message that accompanied it. The picture shows Maria in all of her buff bodied glory, posing with her kids while the heading asks, "What's your excuse?"
The question comes from Ms. Kang's pride in how she's been able to achieve such a fit looking physique while still managing to take care of her children and her belief that if she can be this successful than why the heck aren't we all?
A lot of people find this image offensive, shaming and judgemental, while others find it inspiring and think that those of us who are disturbed by it are the ones who are being judgemental. The reason I felt compelled to write about this isn't because I'm judging her, it's because I WAS her. I was a hard bodied, fit looking mother of two and it's because I've been there that I am so frustrated by the myth it represents.
Just a few years ago, I started working with a trainer who told me he could help me look like the fitness models that grace the covers of fitness magazines and I jumped at the chance. In just a few months, I was as lean and muscular as I could possibly get and I achieved this level of fitness while also raising my children without the help of a nanny or any outside help. Am I proud of this? Not. One. Bit.
I will openly admit that I do not look like that anymore. I am definitely softer and rounder than I used to be and while I don't feel that any excuses are required, I'll answer Michelle's question anyway:
What's my excuse? Here are just a few:
1) I no longer want to go days without enough sleep so I can get to the 24 hour gym before my kids wake up and start their day.
2) I no longer want to over-train and under-eat in an effort to lose the "baby tummy" that housed my children for nine months.
3) I no longer want to spend more time thinking about how my body looks than what my children need. (which was a healthy mom, not a super skinny one)
4) I no longer want to fool myself into believing that I'm setting a good example for my children when I'm actually just giving them a lesson in weight and exercise obsession.
5) I want to stop perpetuating the myth that the skinniest bodies are always the healthiest and the most muscular ones are always the strongest.
6) I want to show my children that living a healthy lifestyle is something we do because it makes our bodies work well, not look "hot."
Our society has a warped concept of fitness. We honestly think that we can always tell how healthy someone is by how they look and we are absolutely wrong. When I looked the fittest, I was by far the sickest. I'm not saying that Ms. Kang is unhealthy, but I'm also not going to assume that her lifestyle is one that should be emulated by everybody else and quite frankly, neither should she. I'm not bothered by the fact that she posted that picture of herself; I'm bothered by the way she did it. If she wants to be proud of her body, she has every right to do so, what she doesn't have the right to do, is assume that the rest of us want to be just like her and are just too lazy to make it happen.
Finally, to all of her supporters who think that anybody who has a problem with the image is probably fat and jealous, I say this:
Truly fit bodies can come in many shapes and sizes and there are those of us who are perfectly happy to sacrifice flat stomachs and tiny waists for lives with balance and moderation where we can eat, drink and play without worrying about each and every calorie or gram of fat. Life is just too damn short to spend it worrying about how our bodies live up to your expectations.
Thanks, but no thanks.