When fitness advocate and blogger Maria Kang posed in gym gear alongside her three young sons in 2013, with the words ‘What’s your excuse?’ plastered above her head, she quickly became a divisive figure.
To some, the 36-year-old was a “true inspiration,” who motivated them to make healthier choices despite the demands of motherhood. To others, Kang’s ‘no excuses’ attitude was tantamount to fat-shaming and bullying.
In response to the substantial criticisms levelled against her, Kang posted a Facebook status telling her followers she was “sorry you took an image and resonated with it in such a negative way.”
“What you interpret is not MY fault. It’s Yours,” she wrote. “Maybe it’s time we stop tip-toeing around people’s feelings and get to the point. So What’s Your Excuse?”
She then took issue with the idea of curvy women appearing in advertising campaigns, writing that she was “annoyed” by “news stories about how overweight, nearly obese women should be proud of their bodies.”
This enraged a lot of people, who, you know, think you’re entitled to be proud of and respect your body regardless of your size, given that women ≠ their bodies, and bodies ≠ health, etc.
But now, the Californian mum has experienced the unthinkable: life happened, and she’s put on 10 pounds (about 4.5kg).
In a recent Instagram post, where Kang is pictured in her bikini, she explains “I usually have several rituals before I do a photoshoot.”
“HOWEVER – in the last several months I’ve been over-traveling, over-stressed and over “it” as I’m undergoing many life challenges and changes,” she continued.
“It’s been over a year since I could get in front of a professional camera because I never felt ‘ready enough’. There were constantly events, children, stress and even some depression, that prevented me from following through on my quarterly goals.
“Despite how ‘unready’ I felt, I thought about all the women I encourage to be proud of how far they’ve come and to celebrate their body at every stage of progression. I am in no way out of shape, but I am definitely and admittedly hard on myself because I rarely see extra skin, cellulite, muscles or a size greater than a 2 on a magazine cover.”
It would seem Kang has discovered first hand the “excuses” or “reasons” many people have for not keeping perfectly in shape.
Speaking to People magazine, she said “I’ve gained 10 lbs. since my ‘What’s Your Excuse’ photo and I’m not hiding from that fact. I want to empower others to step in front of the camera and be unapologetic, thankful and proud of where they are today.
“Beauty is in our minds and is reflected in the eyes of the people who truly love you. It doesn’t matter if you are skinny, fit, overweight or obese, if you don’t live in gratitude, you will never see what you truly have and who you truly are.”
Oh. That’s literally the complete opposite to what she was saying a few years ago.
But to me, the most problematic part of the idea ‘There’s no excuse to not be in shape’ is that you shouldn’t need an excuse to look the way you do.
The fact that Kang feels the need to cite several reasons why she’s put on a few kilos is actually quite troubling. You don’t owe it to anyone to look a certain way. It’s your body, it’s your life – you don’t need to justify it.
“Today (and every day) I’m clawing my way back to me,” she continues, before describing herself as “someone who has relentlessly spoke (sic) a positive message about prioritizing health and celebrating yourself wherever you stand in this journey.”
I’m not sure this ‘journey’ discourse is particularly helpful to women. If we’re always striving to be better and better, and never accepting who we are today, surely that takes it’s toll?
Kang suggests that one’s body is always a work in progress, and that you’re only your true self when you look the way you’d ideally like to look.
But you are you – today, tomorrow, and the next day. And you don’t, ever, need an excuse for that.