Monday, October 28, 2013

Thoughts on the "What's your excuse?" photo

I've seen a lot of discussion about Maria Kang's photo and the pros and cons of it, and wanted to share some thoughts. For those who don't know, the super fit mom of 3 posted a photo of herself in a sport bra and shorts with her young children that says, "What's your excuse?"

I'll admit, the caption on the photo gets to me. As a commenter on another blog pointed out to me, I do not know her personally at all so I cannot and should not assume anything about her. I can only say that "What's your excuse?" comes off sounding judgmental to me with the judgement directed at moms in particular.

And the commenter is absolutely right. I should not judge her either. I don't know her story or what prompted her to post what she did.

But here is what I do know: 

1. I personally do not feel "What's your excuse?' is inspirational. Regardless of its intention, I think it sounds accusatory. I think it is likely to make people who may need inspiration the most just shut down and feel defensive. I think what people hear is not "You can get fit too!" they hear "Why don't you look like me?"even if that's not what she meant to portray.

2. I wish she would have had more of a rallying cry, something like "If I can get fit, so can you!" or "A fit mom's tips for anyone to get healthy," or "It's possible to be a mom and get healthy too!" Because she really does seem to have a great success story.

3. Maybe some people haven't thought about fitness in a long time. But maybe for others, they think about it a lot but are struggling with things like:
  • Postpartum or other depression.
  • A child or spouse with health issues. 
  • An unsupportive spouse or marital problems. 
  • A dying parent. 
  • A special needs child. 
  • Crohn's, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or any number of disorders. 
  • Being a single mom. 
  • A disability or caring for a loved one with a disability. 
Now, I am NOT saying people who experience these things are not fit or can't become fit, because of course they can and are. But perhaps for some of them (and I was once a new mom with PPD and my physical health took a back seat for awhile) "fit" or someone else's idea of "fit" just isn't on the radar right now. Or maybe they are physically and emotionally drained in a way we cannot imagine.

I just wish she would have considered those people before asking about excuses. 

4. Weight loss and fitness are HARD. I lost 30 pounds twice in my life and it was not easy. What is like for someone who has 100 to lose? Or has health issues I don't have? I don't know. Maybe it's harder for some people than others. Her statement seems to suggest a level playing field and it's just as easy for anyone.

And a person can be perfectly healthy and still not look like her.  How she looks is not the definition of fit or healthy. I think it's different for everyone.

5. I cannot understand why she is surprised at the backlash. She chose to put her statement out in a very public way, a very personal way and on an inflammatory topic.

6. I have to admit, her push has been successful. People all over (myself included, ha!) are talking about her and her message, and about fitness in general. Now the fitness part truly is a good thing. For all I know it will truly motivate somebody looking for a push of one kind or another.

But I wonder if there was an opportunity missed had she chosen to present her message in a different way, a way that seemed more supportive and encouraging, and less judgmental? There's enough guilt and shame in our broken world. Anything that adds to it - intended or not - makes me sad.

I don't know. It seems as though we have a deep division in our society based on body size, fitness and health. I don't know what the answer is but I think her message highlighted it.

What do you think of her photo and message?

45 comments:

  1. I saw this on Bethenny and I guess I can see both sides. I dont know if she meant for it to be an insult, but her comment does sound like she's insulting people. Maybe she's just trying to motivate all moms to get in shape.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't imagine that was ever her intent, just it came off that way to a lot of people. I guess that's the danger when you put something personal "out there."

      Delete
  2. I'm with you, the "What's your excuse" is not motivating. Her crappy non-apology is what was the most offensive though. Such a conceited snot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't read too terribly much about her response, but what I did read sounded as though she really thought people were being too sensitive. She said this: "So if you want to continue 'hating' this image, get used to hating many other things for the rest of your life." I don't hate the image, I don't actually care about that part of it at all. I don't like what seems like judgement cuz I think there's too much of it anyway.

      Delete
  3. Good morning Steph. I appreciate your comments. As to what my thoughts are on the subject, I think that as a nation we are divided in a great many areas. I think that we have forgotten how to understand another persons point of view and accept it for what it is. It seems that judgement always rears it's ugly head and respect for another persons point of view goes out the window. Perhaps she didn't express it in the best way, as you said, but perhaps many people didn't receive it in the best way either.

    Yes, many people have issues that may prevent them from being in the best physical shape for them. Also, you are so right, that the best physical shape for some of us may not look anything like what she looks like. We were all created uniquely. My best is not going to look like your best. If folks can use her 'intent' to make a difference in their life then that is a good thing.

    In this day of messages being able to go instantly around the world, I think that at times much damage is done in the process. As the singer said, "What the world needs now is love".

    Great post Steph.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Truly, we are a divided country. It makes me sad, but not much I can do but teach my boy what I think is important and live how I feel is right. It really does seem to be hard for people to understand one another's point of view. Was it always that way or have we become more disconnected? I do hope the discussion leads to positive things somewhere along the line. I guess we can all remember to really think about what we put "out there." Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment.

      Delete
  4. I completely agree with all of your points! Just changing her "What's your excuse?" caption would have made a huge difference. Getting in shape is hard and many excuses people have are legitimate. She is getting lots of publicity!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cindy, she sure is. She was very successful in that regard! And maybe it is good people are discussing it in such an open, public way, I don't know. Yes, I do wish she would have made it a rallying cry.

      Delete
  5. I keep seeing & hearing about this and I guess I just think "to each his own". I workout 6 days a week, but lord knows I don't have a body like she does. I can see how people are offended by her, though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm in the best shape of my life for me and feel great, but nothing like her! And that's okay with me!

      Delete
  6. I have to say I completely agree with you - I would love to be super fit but my health doesn't allow it. Sometimes it's not an excuse but reality that means you cannot do some of the thing you would love it. x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! I like what you said, sometimes it's not an excuse it is just a reality.And fit or healthy doesn't mean being just like someone else. It has a different picture for every person.

      Delete
  7. I don't like Whats your excuse either. I try to stay fit, but I don't always have time for it. I must say though. Yoga works out great for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd love to try yoga! I did once years ago and loved it. No one teaching it in my town of less than 1000, ha! I'd have to find a class in a city nearby.

      Delete
  8. I think her photo and the information presented by her was misleading. She is a fitness competitor/model. She didn't just give birth 8 months before the photo was taken after a lifetime of being 'average' with a moderate fitness level. Yes, giving birth is an amazing feat in itself and shouldn't be taken lightly as I well know, but achieving that body fat percentage afterwards will be a different journey for someone who became pregnant at 15% bf as compared to someone who was 25% bf or higher. This is what bothers me about that photo, especially since she included her children's ages.
    This photo puts fitness into an unreal light. Sure someone could drop a significant amount of body fat in 8 months, but not all mothers are motivated to do so for the obvious reasons-fatigue, stress, or just taking some time to enjoy their child.
    As I stated in my Soapbox, I feel by posting her photo, she is using her body and the standard for fitness and health. Let's remember that's just HER very narcissistic opinion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Missy, that's a great point. It was misleading. She's not your "average" mom. It's her business, her job, what she is paid to do. She's an expert. Most people aren't, or at least I know I'm not. Also good point about the 8 months. For some people, that quick of a change might be harmful too depending on where they are starting from.

      Delete
  9. A lot of people can be offended if they choose to be. For me it was OK. I have had a terrible accident requiring multiple abdominal surgeries and that was my excuse. But the fact is I can still get up and move and I don't do enough of it. There are others who can't or shouldn't and that is OK too but this is the internet age where everyone who has an opinion can post it for everyone to see so I have learned to grow a thick skin.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A thick skin is always a good idea, Craig, you're right. The internet has opened up a whole new platform for people to say just whatever they want with a click.

      Delete
  10. I have a very open mind and if she wants to promote herslef like that, it is cool with me

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cyndie, you know, as a promotional tool it has probably been very successful. I think she's gotten a lot of attention and probably as many supporters as those who don't like it. As a fitness instructor that surely is good advertising.

      Delete
  11. The headline on the image, "What's your excuse?" is not universally motivating, but was that her purpose when she posted the image? Also, her readers -fitness enthusiasts- will view the image quite differently then a non-fitness enthusiast. So it might be motivational to her readers even though it's not to someone else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know, I don't know. Maybe it was never meant to go viral but did like things do sometimes and take on a life of their own. And you're right, a lot depends on a person's perspective. I guess someone LOOKING for motivation like this would be different than a person who was just going along and BAM there it was.

      Delete
  12. I see how it is a controversial topic. I thing her first quote was to encourage people. Yes, it may not be in the most tactful way.

    It also shows that her priority is being fit. Kuddos, to her. I agree with you Stephanie, we all have something that may get in the way. Mine personally, I have put over 40 hours into my soap business and blogging. I personally want to have my own business. My wellness is not my top priority. I know I have some catching up to do. I do well on other things in life that others don't do well on. I'm okay with me. I think that is the most important thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, she clearly has worked really hard and that is great. I think people became upset when it appeared - maybe not intended but appeared - that she was saying they should want to do the same thing as her. But as you say, what really truly matters is where we are at in our life. How we (and our families) feel about ourselves and our health.

      Delete
  13. I do think the photo is misleading. I do agree that people are quick to blame others. I have health issues and I do what I can to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I think everyone has a right to live their lives they best way they can. I honestly won't give her any of my energy to be outraged.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's probably the best way to go about it :) It just seems to illustrate an underlying division, people thinking other people should be one way or another. But maybe that's just a product of the internet and so much information and opinions "out there."

      Delete
  14. If you say ANYTHING in public, someone will disagree with you. It matters not what it is, but honestly I tend to avoid drama and controversy so I really have kind of ignored all of this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are always two sides :) Maybe more! I'm not sure why this one caught my attention more, it just kind of surprised me I guess.

      Delete
  15. I can see both sides of this one. She is obviously a success story and looks great, but for people like my daughter who was bone thin and then has gained 40 pounds because of a chronic illness, this is disheartening.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pam, yes, people with a story like your daughter's are the ones I think of when I see this. Medications can also cause weigh gain that is really hard to combat. But, I guess we all see motivation in a different way.

      Delete
  16. Maybe that motivates some but I think more moms agree that we are not a number one priority so we tend to not spend hours in the gym to look like that. Would we like to look that amazing after having children, I know I would but at what cost? I feel it would take away from my kids.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The balance would be hard. If it's a part of your job, that's one thing, but for most people it's not.

      Delete
  17. The picture is what got me more than anything else. I don't know why a person has to be practically naked to show they are fit. So I really didn't want to look at the post anymore! If she could have had a different picture, I would have read more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's so true! Why not a normal exercise outfit? I guess this showed more of her definition, but again, to me, it sets up a goal most people could not meet.

      Delete
  18. My opinion is that we all have something we are passionate about. I am not passionate about fitness, but I am about organizing. I could do the same type of photo about organizing, and a bunch of people would be agitated with me, too LOL I think that's true for anyone! Go for what you're passionate about, and don't worry about the haters :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's true :) People don't understand my love of bugs and why I make Brady be nice to them. I guess it's all about perspective. But you know, it's what we're passionate about that makes us unique. And not everyone will have your same level of passion for a certain thing and that's okay too. When someone thinks everyone should do things just like them, then it gets frustrating to me.

      Delete
  19. I think in her warped mind she thought this was inspirational. But it wasn't. She was wrong and she should apologize.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Her apology wasn't really an apology but I don't think she believed she had anything to apologize for.

      Delete
  20. Thinking from different point of view is very important before people make any statement in front of many people. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I planned on blogging about this today! lol... so, I waited to read your post after I wrote mine. What she says doesn't bother me. I take it as, "What's your excuse for not working out" vs. "What's your excuse for not looking like me?" I think most of us can come up with the time to work out- but a lot of us don't, me included, and I'm a self professed fitness enthusiast. Some days, I just don't want to, or care, lol. I think some people have gotten off the path and have said some really cruel things about this woman, when she posted the photo on her personal FB page, from what I've read. I think people need to do the best they are able to, for them, and be happy with who they are, again, for themselves. Don't ever feel the need to compare yourself to someone else. I really appreciated your take on this, even though it was so different from my own.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I enjoyed your post as well. I like to learn from other people's point of view. I don't have all the answers, but I get a more clear picture when I can see both sides :)

      Delete
  22. Thanks for writing about this. I once wrote an article called 'When Your Motivational Poster Hurts Me' for the very same reason. The poster said something to the effect that it was better to work out than to suffer the pain of being overweight. Well people, there are a lot of us overweight people working out!
    I work out and I eat properly and I still remain overweight.
    My doctor says all my blood work and tests are perfect, I could not be any healthier. Yet there I am overweight. So, what is my excuse?
    The bottom line is that this hurts those of us who do work out and eat right but will never look this fitness model and professional athlete.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Health and fitness is different for every person, I still believe that. What shape it takes for one person will not be the shape it takes for Maria Kang or anyone else. I think trying to make it a one-fits-all is an approach that will backfire. And like others have said, that is her JOB so she works at it more than most of us will have a chance. Doesn't mean we can't be healthy, but it is not a part of our 9 to 5 especially if you're in an office! I still think she missed the boat if she was trying to motivate.

      Delete
  23. I've read quite a few things on this and have even seen the picture. But let me just say this as a marketing/PR person. What is getting her the most attention? The negative "What's Your Excuse" or a happy "You can do it!". I really don't know that she would have gotten as much attention if she put "You can do it!" on there. She may be saying that she doesn't understand the backlash but I wouldn't be surprised if the whole thing is just a well thought out marketing ploy. I didn't know who Maria Kang was a week ago. I do now.

    With that being said, I don't think body bashing is a good way to make your point.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right, she has certainly got a ton of attention! Probably in the end it has worked out well for her business.

      Delete

I truly enjoy your comments and love to interact. Be sure to check the "notify me" box below to see new comments and replies to your comment! Thank you!

Popular Posts