One Woman’s Controversial Quest to Inspire

A fitness message we can all gain something valuable from.

An English author once noted – If it matters, it produces controversy. Maria Kang, a California fitness enthusiast and mom to three, has created a firestorm with a recent photo that has gone viral and blowing through social media. In the photo (above), Kang is positioned above her three young boys, proudly sporting her toned and defined–mommy of three body–covered only by two pieces of micro-candy workout attire.

So far, so good, right? Where’s the controversy? Inserted above the photo, Maria poses the bold, rather in-your-face question, “What’s Your Excuse?” Those three words are the heart of the controversy and have sparked an impassioned debate among armies of moms and others; on Facebook alone, more than 12,000 comments have been posted under the image. Many commenters support Kang’s style and delivery, while many others are outraged, calling her message everything from “bullying” to “fat-shaming.”

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In her defense, Kang is unapologetic and has stated that shaming other moms or women was never the goal. She views the image and its message as motivational and intended to inspire other women to advance their fitness goals.

While many view controversy as something to be sidestepped, we at Skinny Ms., feel that we occasionally have a responsibility to weigh-in on topics that relate directly to our message, so that there is no ambiguity about where we stand.

Kang may very well have had the best of intentions in putting her fitness message before the world, and we can admire the hard work she clearly puts in to maintain a level of fitness that is often challenging for busy moms. However, in our pursuit of inspiring women to reach their fitness and esteem goals, we have learned that we need to be very careful about the words we choose in delivering our message. Words that are intended to motivate can just as easily alienate.

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With this being said, some of us may be wired in such a way that words, like Kang’s, will motivate us to take positive action. On the other hand, there are also many among us who will feel damaged, ashamed, or knocked-down by such words. We, at Skinny Ms., feel strongly that any message that aims to inspire should never run the risk of alienating any of those who it seeks to motivate. We believe that attempting to inspire with harsh words is unnecessary when you can inspire so many more with words that are both motivating and uplifting all at once.

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Our message at Skinny Ms. is unchanged from the 1st day of our journey: love health, love fitness, but above all else, love yourself!

Join the conversation below! We’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this topic.

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The SkinnyMs. team believes that all people, regardless of age, size, and fitness level, have the power to transform their lives — they just need the resources to do so. The SkinnyMs. method promotes healthy living through a combination of clean eating and regular exercise. We offer everything you need to be successful.

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  1. My children are grown but I work with new moms all the time as a CLC with a local non-profit in a beautiful town in Florida offering all kinds of health advantages. I didn't take time to work out and get back in shape when my three were little. I have fraternal twin sons who were born under complicated circumstances when I was over 30 and my daughter was born when they were just 18 months old. My husband was in the Air Force, a wonderful father but working and away much of the time. We were usually stationed far from family and trusting friends, and overseas at times. Taking a lot of time away from your children for things other than a job wasn't considered rational and I always felt guilty about taking time away, especially since I was already taking time to complete my schooling… so I maintained an overweight status instead. And yes, now I'm trying to catch up and get in shape at a much older age. Excuses, maybe, but they are facts and actually, I do wish I had been more inclined to think about health and exercise back then… just a bit of Ms. Kang's mindset would have spared me years of weight stress now. So I do appreciate and encourage the moms I work with to not feel guilty and do take that time for exercise if possible… it IS very important. So on seeing beautiful Ms. Kang, my thought would simply be good job! But because of the implied challenge in her message to the general population of mothers, along with my own personal experience, and the sessions I have with the many new moms I counsel and talk with while they are going through all the hormonal changes of motherhood, I would be inclined to challenge her… really, who is taking care of those children while she is doing all she needs to do to get that gorgeous body? She obviously does more than a simple fitness plan and they are not around her legs and in her arms while she is working out to that degree, it's just not real. Not to mention everything else motherhood entails. I am sure, just by looking at her, she's a can-do, go-getter, and quite sure she manages a lot but, for real, how much back-up does she have? And can every woman look like her? Some could, but can most? She is a fitness model and I wouldn't be surprised to hear of her trying to break into the fitness world in some way, if not already, so could it be that her motivation is not just about health benefits? (And from simple curiosity and knowing of other fitness models… is that photo enhanced?) Is she is purely sharing for other's sake with no self promotion intended? Then she could and should have gone a different route. Now, just to be clear … I do not begrudge her anything and will give her credit when she says that she is truly trying to be inspiring. I get that and hope many are inspired instead of deflated because they aren't meeting the bar. She's healthy and those beautiful boys have a mom who can more than keep up with them… that's awesome! She's pursuing something she loves and believes in and is one of many different women portraying the many different glories of motherhood… bravo! But asking women to compare themselves with this picture as if all women have the same possibilities, advantages, and/or circumstances… well, it's like apples and oranges. This is not the way to teach or encourage, Maria… find another way. As for the rest of us, let's get on with it… comparisons, of this sort, are rarely fair or advantageous. Give her her due but move on and don't get sucked into the ongoing mental attack that's already given way too much leeway.

  2. I think its great to be motivating but at the same time empathy and understanding of other situations is also good to be aware of. I would also guess that her bounce back is due to a lot of hard work but also very genetic. I worked out a lot after my son was born and ate low calorie, healthy but my skin & muscle tone never bounced back to look like that.

  3. I find that photo incredibly motivating! I'm working off the last 30 lbs of baby weight from when I had my daughter 7 months ago. Instead of looking at the photo and feeling ashamed or becoming defensive, I think "Wow, what IS my excuse?". Yes I have a child and I work full time but I think I can take 1 hour a day to complete a tough workout and take one hour a week to plan healthier meals for my family. It's important to my husband and I to establish a healthy lifestyle for our daughter, especially in this age of unhealthiness and obesity. But I totally understand that while the "in-your-face' approach may work for me, it definitely does NOT work for everyone!

  4. I have to say that Ms. Kang has made quite an accomplishment and of which she should be very proud! I would flaunt it too if I was in her shoes, therefore, what I am about to say is not against her, just an explanation as to why women should not get caught up in the image, and especially NOT make comparisons. The words "what's your excuse' is a little in your face and can be hurtful. We are all women of different backgrounds and different life situations. I know some women without kids and at their best fitness would not look like that. For most of us, it's just plain unrealistic. I agree with Cindy also that who is taking care of the children while she is taking care of her body? Also, we do not know if she has a higher income and can afford healthier foods, or works part-time and can commit more time to fitness. Also, let's be honest, every image in the media is altered in some way, whether it be photoshop or a simple change in lighting. I don't want Ms. Kang to not be proud of her accomplishment! I just don't want other women to put themselves down or strain themselves to reach this goal.

  5. I would love to know what her circumstances are. There are lots of "excuses" like not having money for specific food or even food, or a gym membership or childcare to workout (yes, I know that you can workout with a gym but you do not get muscle mass like that without weights) or a personal trainer or to get the education to learn how to workout and eat or even to buy a magazine to get workouts. Someone could look at her and ask what her "excuses" are for spending so much time on herself and not on her family, children or husband. We can all be negative to one another, but what good does that do.
    We should support one another not try and make other feel bad. Why not put " I can do it and so can you!" and then her website. She is getting what she wants out of this -attention- to "sell" her website. I just wish she had found a better way to do it.

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