Photo by: Maria Kang

I Kind Of Hate Maria Kang, But She Got Me Thinking

by JD of "Honest Mom"
Photo by: Maria Kang

I won’t lie. I saw this picture while I was eating leftover birthday cake. And man, did it make me feel like crap.

I’m 15 pounds overweight right now. The heaviest I’ve ever been. And I feel endless guilt about it. I detest how I feel. I hate that my clothes are too tight.

I need to lose weight because I feel horrible about how I look and that’s no way to live. I’ve been going to sleep at night, wishing I had figured out a way to exercise that day, dozing off with guilt weighing me down.

So yeah. You could say that I’ve been in my head about my crummy body image issues.

Then I saw Maria Kang staring at me from Facebook as I snacked on cake, asking what my excuse is for not looking like her.

I felt a wave of anger and guilt seeing her super-fit body and big smile. What’s your excuse? Really, lady? REALLY? I felt like she was taunting me, saying, I have these three little kids and I’m still hot! Why aren’t you, you lazy fattie?

I know I felt this way because I feel guilty about carrying around extra weight. I have my own body issues. I understand that’s MY problem, and it’s something I’m working on.

But here’s the thing: Beyond the initial, visceral reaction many had, Maria’s in-your-face photo angered lots of women on so many levels – including me. And I think the fury boils down to this: With this picture, Maria is perpetuating the belief in our society that if you don’t look like her, it’s due to your lack of willpower.

It adds to the constant messages from internet, TV, magazines, and so forth that if we can’t reach a (likely unattainable) goal of looking like a fitness model, we are failures who are making excuses for ourselves.

The idea that if we just tried harder, we could look like her, is complete crap for most American mothers, given the hectic, stressful lives we lead. It burns me that the media perpetuates this stereotype of what beautiful and fit is – and Maria Kang is just adding to the pressure by stirring the pot with her loaded question.

What about all the women who work out and have a great level of fitness, but will NEVER look like Maria? Do they need an excuse that they aren’t a size 4 with a six-pack? I think not.

I am not going to dedicate every minute of the little free time I have to exercising. So I am not going to be super-fit. (Even if I was super-fit, I wouldn’t look like Maria. My separated stomach muscles and stretch marks guarantee it!)

This is not an excuse. It’s not because of a lack of willpower. It’s a choice.

Because I choose to do other things. I have other priorities right now. And being super-fit isn’t one of them.

I am a working mom of young children, and I make other choices every day that do not include constantly exercising – because the other stuff is simply more important to me.

After work, childcare, household stuff, errands, and so forth, I have about two hours to myself each day, from 8pm – 10pm. In these hours I choose to write, play around on social media, hang with the Hubs, or read. I try to be asleep at 10:30pm and wake up at 6:30am so I can shower before the day begins.

But you know how it goes: A lot of nights I end up not spending any time on myself, and I’m instead answering emails, online shopping for gifts, planning my 4yo’s birthday party, returning phone calls, etc.

So you see the difficulty in fitting in even a little exercise – something I don’t even want to do. I really don’t enjoy it. At all. It’s another have-to on my long list of have-tos. And I cherish my tiny amount of time to do what I want to do. I need that time to remain sane.

Yet I know I have to exercise again. I feel crummy. I don’t look how I want to look. My clothes are too tight and I’m not about to spend precious dollars on a size-bigger wardrobe. So I’m doing what I need to do.

Today I got up and ran for 20 minutes. It was a small step in the right direction. But it meant cutting something else out (sleep), and I’m exhausted and short-tempered today.

Maria Kang makes it seem that choosing to work out is a simple decision for any mom out there. But we all know that in reality, life’s choices are not that simple. And looking like her is even less simple.

I’m going to lose weight because I need to. I’m going to try harder to be fit because I need to. I’m going to find a balance of me-time and fitness time that works because I need to.

But when I lose weight and get more fit, I’m not going to look like Maria. And honestly? I’m going to be just fine with that, no matter what Maria or anyone else thinks.

How do you feel about the six pack abs seen ‘round the world? Does it make you feel bad? Are you supportive of her stance? Do you think it’s a problem with our image-obsessed culture?

JD Bailey is an author, blogger, and the creator of HonestMom.com, where she writes about raising her young daughters, being a working mom, and managing her depression. With real candor and a good dose of humor, JD blogs to connect with other moms and create a space for women to both vent and laugh. When she’s not writing or mom-ing, you can find JD on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Google+.

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