Last Thursday, I wrote a blog in response to Maria Kang's extremely polarizing "What's your excuse?" Facebook post. This was an image that had some people defending it as "inspirational" and others calling it disrespectful and downright nasty towards other moms. As I explained in my blog, I was not a fan of the image or the message behind it.
I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to debate this issue with "Fit Mom" herself the day after my article was published, on Fox News with Geraldo Rivera, and it was an interesting experience. To be honest, five minutes and 29 seconds was not nearly enough time to explain with the clarity needed exactly why her image had hit such a nerve with people and how it is perpetuating a myth about health and fitness that is blurring the line between looking fit and actually being fit.
What do Olympic athletes, Liesel Jones, Hollie Avila, Rebecca Adlington and Zoe Smith have in common (aside from the skill and ability needed to compete at the Olympic games)? They were all ridiculed and insulted by mainstream and social media about their weight. It's as if we're constantly confusing physical fitness with physical appearance and in a way, the Fit Mom photo was an extension of that.
My problem isn't with Maria as a person. I don't believe that she was intentionally trying to hurt anyone, and there's a very good chance that she had no idea how this image would add major fuel to the already blazing fire of contempt in a society that glorifies the skinniest bodies and demonizes pretty much everything else.
What I do take issue with is the fact that the image she describes as intending to be inspirational and motivational to other moms has actually created a platform to judge them from and an opportunity for other people to jump in with their own judgement and biased opinions.
My article and T.V. segment resulted in some critics leaving a few aggressive, if not particularly articulate, comments that prove this point.Most of the negativity focused on three opinions:
A) I'm fat
B) I'm teaching kids to be fat
C) Fat people SHOULD be ashamed of themselves
While I actually find it interesting to hear all kinds of opinions; the good and the bad, there was one particular comment that was just plain ugly.
One charming fellow wrote," This blond chick is a ass! Maybe that fat kid shoving his finger down his throat isn't a bad thing!"
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the problem. There are too many people who would rather be sick and skinny (and see our kids be sick and skinny), than healthy at a size that may not be considered Victoria Secret-worthy. When did skinny always become synonymous with healthy and why do other people get to decide what we should look like?
- Advocating balance and moderation when it comes to food and exercise is not encouraging obesity.
- Telling moms that they don't need to have flat stomachs and sculpted arms to be fit is not encouraging obesity.
- Telling people that they are no more or less deserving of love and respect from themselves or other people regardless of what they weigh is not encouraging obesity.
Do you know what does encourage obesity?
Shame lowers our self-esteem and tells us we don't deserve to be happy. We can't lose weight in order to like ourselves, we need to like ourselves in order to lose weight. It's when we respect ourselves that we believe we deserve to be healthy and will take the necessary steps to do so.
Yes, obesity is a rising problem in our society, but so are eating disorders, and it helps no one to try to solve one problem by creating a different one.
Why is being inundated with ONE image of fitness so dangerous? It's simple. Kids are destroying their bodies in an effort to achieve the kind of physique they just aren't capable of and that needs to stop. I put my own life at risk more times than I can count by letting society's warped concept of fitness make me start listening to what the scale said and stop listening to what my body needed.
My battle with body image started when I was 17 years old, but now kids barely out of preschool are learning to hate their bodies while middle-schoolers are comparing their thigh gaps and measuring their self-worth in pounds.
Ask Taylor, age 6, who refused to wear her snowsuit to school because she thought it made her look fat.
Ask Melissa, 11, who doesn't want to go to gym class because she thinks her thighs are too big.
Ask Jasmine, age 10, who says that seeing only skinny people on TV makes her feel very, very fat.
We need to stop humiliating people to be skinny and start encouraging them to be HEALTHY, at the size that works best for them.
Can't we show them a little diversity? Do we want truly healthy kids or just skinny ones?
We all know that moms need to be good role models for their kids, but being a good role model doesn't mean being able to fit into your skinny jeans 10 minutes after giving birth or constantly depriving yourself of foods you love because they contain more calories than you think you deserve. If we want our kids to grow up respecting themselves and their bodies, we need to show them how it's done by being kind to ourselves.
It's fine to be proud of a body that's fully toned and super lean, but it's also fine to be proud of a body that isn't. Imagine how amazing our lives could be if we stopped judging ourselves for who we aren't and start appreciating ourselves for the unique individuals that we are.