Why don't you look like Maria Kang?

Why don't you look like Maria Kang?

Why don’t you look like Maria Kang? I think this is what a lot of people took away from the photo fitness model and businesswoman, Maria Kang, posted to Facebook yesterday. In the photo with Kang were her three children, the youngest eight months old. Kang, 32, looks the image of magazine-quality perfection. By all accounts, her career and livelihood revolve around fitness. She takes care of her body presumably because she wants to looks good/feel healthy, and from a business perspective, because it bodes well for her work.

What’s Your Excuse?
I think this question is at the crux of what everyone is up in arms about. First let me say that Kang has every right to post whatever she pleases on Facebook. She’s a mother and a fitness model. Does it really come as a shock that she’s posing with her three children wearing a two piece? She looks great. The kids look adorable. They all match. And, after looking at her Facebook page, it’s not uncharacteristic for Kang to post pictures with her children.

Fitness is the lifeblood of Kang’s career. She works at her body very hard because, well, that’s her job. She’s committed and to that I say good for you, Maria. She’s a lean person, but has a toned, muscular physique. Her body itself should not be construed as anything negative. She’s proud of herself, reaping what she sowed and letting us know about it.

The question, “What’s your excuse?” makes me roll my eyes a little. Ok, a lot. It’s a message that allows people to either relate or detach…and could have been positioned in a much, much better way. That said, I doubt Kang expected to get this much of a response to the photo. My guess is this picture was intended to reach the people who follow her, most of whom are also interested in fitness.

I’ve been working in the fitness industry since 1998. Taking care of my body and making sure I eat right are two of my top priorities. When I see a question like “What’s your excuse?” it’s motivating to me. However, as a personal trainer and fitness coach who has worked with hundreds of other men and women who do not share the same career or personal goals, the question itself is bullshit.

A lot of people have legit excuses. Careers, school, divorce, lack of resources, health problems, etc., are all reasons why someone wouldn’t be able to take care of themselves are good as they should, much less workout religiously. I believe we can all take better care of our bodies, but not everyone  can look just like Kang. On the flip side, there are many people who have overcome obstacles and have successfully used fitness as the path to guide them. These people are constantly a source of motivation and inspiration for me and millions of others.

I like the picture Kang posted, but if we took the words “What’s your excuse?” out of it, it would have been far less inflammatory. Knowing a little bit of her backstory, I look at the picture of Kang and see a woman who made a career in fitness after overcoming an eating disorder. Adding the words “What’s your excuse?” completely changes the intent and tone of the message.

Without the words “What’s your excuse?”, it could be interpreted as “Look how healthy I am today.” But with those three words, it’s a little more like “Look how great my body is. Why don’t you look like me?” Granted, this photo was blown way out of proportion, I’m a little surprised Kang wasn’t more sensitive to the struggles of eating disorders that she herself once dealt with. She should be proud of herself for overcoming her disease, but she should also know that millions of other women are struggling with eating disorders right now.

Moving in a better direction
It’s no secret that most people would love to have a leaner, healthier body. It’s also no secret that people eat too much and don’t exercise as much as they should. There are also plenty of the-dog-ate-my-homework style excuses. The job of any professional in the fitness industry is to lift people, lead by example and make people feel good about themselves. The better people feel about themselves, the healthier their bodies will be. The worse people feel about themselves, the less likely it is they’ll take care of their body. I have no reason to believe Kang doesn’t care about her audience, nor do I think it was her intention to make anyone feel bad or get (incredibly) angry. She just paired a phrase that many found to be cocky, not motivating, with an image that is inconceivable to most. The combination was resulted in this love/hate firestorm.

Traci is a nationally recognized health and fitness expert who has been featured on The TODAY Show and Dr. Oz. Traci is available for corporate speaking events and wellness coaching, as well as private training. Contact Traci here.

Eat healthy. Exercise right. It’s good for you. 
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