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Inspirational or Insulting? Fit Mom Maria Kang’s Controversial Facebook Photo

Written on October 22, 2013 at 11:46 am , by

Not going to lie, we’re pretty envious of those abs! Photo Credit: Facebook/Maria Kang

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

It’s not what you say, but how you say it. Maria Kang, a California fitness enthusiast and mother of three little boys, learned this lesson the hard way with the social mediascape’s recent outpour of commentary revolving around her Facebook profile picture.

The former pageant queen and fitness model originally posted the photo last year but decided to reintroduce it as her profile picture once she realized it was receiving so much attention. The photo was taken a mere eight months after her third son was born, and we have to admit—she looks pretty phenomenal. The image itself is pretty harmless, depicting Kang and her sculpted abs alongside her three children. However, the words plastered across the top of it, “What’s your excuse?” did not sit well with a quite a few viewers.

While some liked it and felt motivated to stick to their fitness goals, others felt outraged and accused Kang of bullying, fat-shaming women and choosing to focus more on herself than her three children. On September 25, she posted a non-apology for people who interpreted the image in a negative way and explained how blaming her for others’ perceptions does not accomplish anything.

While Kang tried to call on ladies everywhere to make fitness a priority in their lives, her phrasing and photo choice created two polarized reactions—inspired or offended—rather than uniting women with the important message. She considered herself an average woman, but the problem is that she is far from average as she comes from such a competitive fitness background. She tried to provide a relatable image to inspire women, but she opted for a professionally shot photograph of her posed in skimpy workout apparel rather than a real-life, fit candid like this. She chose to ask a provoking question, “What’s your excuse?” rather than share a motivational mantra like, “You can do it, too.” With a different turn of phrase and more realistic image, Kang could have come across far more real, genuine and positive. What do you think?

Now you tell us: Do you find the image more motivating or offensive?

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  • yolanda

    I think it’s inspirational. I’m nothing close to a mom, just a full-time college student. I find it difficult trying to fit in time to exercise between class and all the homework and studying. I feel like if a mother of three little ones can prioritize her time, I can find ways to prioritize mine.

  • Meghan

    The photo and caption comes across a little on the judgemental side. She can encourage moms to be healthy and fit without flaunting her body and making people feel like if they don’t look like her they must be making excuses. As a mother of three who eats healthy, runs and works out, but has stretch marks and a herniated belly button from my pregnancies , no amount of workouts would make me look like Maria.

  • kia_r

    The image is what it is. She has most likely worked her butt off and/or started off very slim to have those results. She should be proud of her body. In parenthood people have all kinds of internalized issues that manifest and have people getting angry in a defensive way. I think there is currently no mindful middle ground in pop culture about post-partum fitness and most women are thrown to the proverbial wolves with the best choices of what to do with their bodies in lieu of evidence-based wellness support. I am almost 7-months post-partum, do not look like this, and am not offended. My body is fine for where it is – you go Maria. As long as you are fulfilled in your post-partum world, then rock on with your healthy self!

  • victoria

    people really really need to get over themselves. if you are offended by this, you are probably one of the lazy people who sits behind their computer all day complaining rather than going to the gym. sad life.

  • Alicia Woodbury

    I personally feel motivated by it. Being someone who has struggled with my weight my entire life, I take zero offense to it. Yes, in some instances, weight may be a medical issue, however, an issue that CAN be addressed in some way shape or form. It is all in how someone chooses to or not. I finally woke up and did something about my weight…i WAS making excuses, so no, I am not at all offended by her choice to do something about how she felt about herself after having three kids. If someone has an issue with the choice she made, that is on THEM, not HER. :o )

  • victoria

    its called jealousy

  • Jen Funky Mama

    I don’t have time to go to the gym now im a working Mum to a 13 month old boy. (said whilst scrolling through facebook and scoffing apple crumble and custard!!) SHE’S ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!! I am just lazy and find excuses, but then complain to myself when I look in the mirror and attempt to fit back into my jeans. Of course it’s the bakerys fault that my diet NEVER starts on Monday. GOOD FOR HER FOR BEING PROUD! Inspired me to start my diet tomorrow hahaha

  • Deena

    I think its great. People need to not be so offended when it comes to fitness and people who look good! She obviously works hard at being a mom and working out. Much props to her! There are people with excuses and there are people who make it happen–She made it happen. Go girl!

  • colleen

    she looks great!! & anybody can look that like if they really tried & wanted it.

  • Fitmyway

    I am 6 1/2 years post-partum and a fitness instructor working out 2 hrs plus a day 5 days a week and don’t look nearly this good. I may be a bit jealous however, we are who we are, even with a good diet and lots of hard work results vary. If someone finds the headline offensive thats on them and may want to take a good look at themselves and the decisions they are making. She is proud of her body and achievements and wants to share, I say great more power to her.

  • Hanneke

    In answer to her question (what’s your excuse) I’m inclined to say: I don’t need one. I am healthy and happy with how I look, even if I don’t look like that. My problem with this statement is that it perpetuates the idea that women need to look a certain way, and if they don’t they are lazy and make excuses. Maybe I could look like that if I worked out more than I do, but I choose not to, because there are other things I prefer spending my time on. And I think that’s ok and not something I need to feel guilty about.

  • Nightsun94

    There is nothing wrong with the photo by itself and yes she should be proud of her accomplishment. The statement “What’s your excuse” gives the impression that ALL women should like she does, which is impossible. We all have different body types and some even with daily exercise and a healthy diet will never achieve what she has. Despite the fact I live with two conditions that cause chronic pain, I do workout and eat very healthy. I’ve been trying to get into better shape now for several years with little success. Honestly seeing this photo with the catch phrase does not inspire me. I think the phrase, “You can do it too!” would have been far more inspiring.

  • shadesofgrass

    I think that she looks amazing – and huge kudos to her for working hard to achieve her physical fitness goals. I don’t want to take anything away from what she has accomplished. I think it is terrible when people cannot be happy for each others successes. However, to answer the author’s question, I would say that this is not an inspiring image. It doesn’t make me feel like she is attempting to support other women or show them that they can achieve fitness results with hard work. I don’t find it offensive – that seems like an overreaction. But it doesn’t motivate me to want to emulate her, because I don’t want to knock other people down. It seems like she is mocking anyone who doesn’t make fitness their first and foremost goal. I wish it was presented differently so that I was inspired by her image and progress. Changing the text to something more supportive would likely be all that it would take to make this image very inspiring to me.

  • Demi Cafe

    I think it’s so wonderful that this woman is in amazing shape after 3 children. I have several friends, Mom’s of 3, that are in this same boat and are in killer shape. However, I think wording is so important. I don’t think you can avoid at least SOMEONE getting offended, that’s just life. Someone will ALWAYS disagree. However, this, to me, is offensive. Her attire, her professional are NOT offensive to me. But the caption is. I find that you get more bees with honey and although arguably there are always those that are motivated by the “get-it-together” attitude, most people are looking to be encouraged, not shamed. And yes, you can always argue that no one can MAKE you feel one way or the other, which is TRUE. You CHOOSE to be offended or not to be. However, if her motive is truly to inspire, rather than to boast about what she has been able to do with 3 kids, her words were poorly chosen. I give all credit to people who get in shape – even those that have lots of help i.e. trainers, personal chefs, babysitters, etc. B/c the bottom line is they are the ones that still have to do the actual work!! But, to reach and motivate the masses, this was a poor choice of words.

  • Demi Cafe

    Oh and I workout 2 hours a day 5 days a week and eat a very clean diet. No jealousy here I KNOW how hard it is to get in shape and take care of yourself. I just think, going back to the question asked “Is this offensive” that it IS if this woman is trying to motivate a lot of people. If she doesn’t care who she motivates, then no, its not, bc some people are motivated by shame.

  • minigirl0717

    NIce job momma! You look great! And if folks can’t see that this was meant to be motivational, then their mindset is just sadly in a different place.

  • Karyn

    She mentions in another interview that she, one, not naturally thin and, two, does in fact work hard for those results. She gets up at 5 a.m. to exercise, owns and runs two businesses (homes for the aging I believe) and also has a husband who was disabled in Afgsnistan and can no longer work. Your article very curiously left this information out and seems very negative and biased. State all of the facts next time so that people can give a real opinion. As far as Maria goes, good for her! People, stop being lazy or don’t complain.

  • Abi

    I don’t see anything wrong with this image trust me it takes dedication hard work and discipline to get your body like that especially after children. She’s an inspiration. I use pictures like these to get my mommy friends motivated when I push them hard at the gym and they want to quit on me. There’s another girl I know who had twins and has a 6 pack now. Anyone can do it it’s just the excuses get in the way. It’s a lifestyle change you make if you want to make it work for you not a two week or one month change then back to old habits it has to be constant and consistent. I hope I look like her after baby. You go girl!!!

  • Sarya

    When I saw this and read the mantra she used, I actually thought she meant that her reasons for being so super fit were her children, as in that they are her motivation. I believed she was wanting to set them a good example as well as inspire others to think of their health and fitness.
    I clearly did not understand this immediately but at the same time you could turn it round and think of it that way, which actually makes it a very positive statement and good motivation.

  • Jeimy

    I agree I do think is offensive!!! I’m a mom too, I have a four old girl and a five month old boy both with c-sections. Her life might be easy, she might have people that help or she takes them to a daycare, who knows. She doesn’t inspire me at all, she upsets me because she is throwing it at our faces. I try to go to the gym to take zumba and my baby cries the whole time I’m gone!! I love to workout but it is hard when you don’t have any help just your husband sometimes and you got to deal with everything throughout the day such as preschool, groceries shopping , cooking cleaning, dealing with a crying baby and when the night comes and they go to bed, you’re beat up !!!! So she’s not in my shoes!! I’m always reading and looking for ways to be better, I don’t need her to tell me that I’m not “PERFECT” like her.

  • Nulimitz

    The comments and mostly very positive from this article, but again there
    are the few that want to complain and turn this into a ridiculous
    comment that’s bullying, belittling and that she must have goddess like
    genes because no one can achieve that level of fitness. What’s your
    excuse not to workout? What’s your excuse to work out ? We all have our
    reasons. Don’t make this into a bigger issue than it is. If you don’t
    work out, good for you. If you do, and can find the time to do it
    consistently good for you too. If you are getting offended, then look
    the other way. Watch Oprah, or Soap Operas or anything on TV for that
    matter. I am sure you wont see one single, scantily clad woman in a
    commercial or on a TV Show all day. Raise your fist at the media for how
    women are portrayed and leave this one comment go.

  • ann

    VERY motivational! I think she should flaunt that body. She obviously worked Damn hard for it. Obviously we all have different bodies, and no 2 will look alike. I think maybe the point is we have no excuse to not take care of ourselves, not that we should all look exactly like this. That motherhood is not an excuse to let yourself go. And she sure as hell isn’t a bad mother for taking the time to care for herself.

  • Unique

    Everyone’s bodies, schedules and life are different. Some people may makes excuses, sometimes it is just the way one’s life is. Good for her that she can work that hard and look that good. Not everyone can, no matter how hard they try – that is not an excuse, but reality.

  • Nikkal N Feyrouz

    I find this pic and the message AWESOME!!! Rock those abs Mama!!!

  • Heisenberg

    Having a healthy lifestyle is a personal choice and I seriously do not need anyone to tell me what to do. So she keep her fitness to herself and stop asking other people about their excuses.

  • Sassy

    It’s just an image. It doesn’t say anything about the kind of mother she is, wife, friend, how content she is in her own company. It doesn’t say alot really. Other than she’s got a slim body – she may lean towards it naturally anyway. The advert would have worked much better if she had shown herself running or exercising so that the judgement is not on looks. It’s possible to get that body if you are slim by doing a little exercise and dieting. It doesn’t necessarily show she is very fit or strong. There are strong and fit women who are bigger. It’s just a fairly unimaginative uninspired predictable kind of advert I think. Nike are further ahead at this stage!

  • Sassy

    It also doesn’t say that she even spends time with those kids. Maybe she has an array of Nannies and is a satellite parent? It’s kind of silly.

  • Sookhooa Kishan

    perfection is not a gift….u have to own it…u have to work hard for it….she deserve it..

  • Leighanne Alvis

    YOU GO GIRL, Awesome Job ! It is a shame that people have negative things to say about her, we all know she had to work hard to have a body that FIT and she should be proud of her accomplishment not ashamed in any way….Those who made negative comments should take a good long look in the mirror and remember GOD don’t like ugly!

  • anne

    not at all! she inspires me a lot to love myself more…thank you! :)

  • dowings

    Don’t see a problem with it at all. She’s worked hard, she should be proud. Some people just have “really thin skin” or very insecure for that to bother them.

  • Beth

    Motivating, people are stupid and probably jealous.

  • Deputy Mom

    HaHa. I have to laugh. “a healthy lifestyle is a personal choice”. Well so is a LAZY lifestyle. Nobody is TELLING ANYBODY what to do. The very hard working woman in the article simply asked a question. And while I know we are currently living in what used to be called a free country where WE ALL have the right to practice Freedom of Speech, why is it okay for some people to feel that they have the “right” to say, “don’t tell me what to do” but others don’t have the “right” to simply ask a general question to the general public. PEOPLE GET OFF YOUR HIGH HORSE AND START TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN ACTIONS. Good, like the woman in the article, or bad…. like the woman in the comment titled Heisenberg. My personal stance? I am just a few months away from 50yrs. old and I’ve just lost 40lbs. I’m a single mother, police officer for 23 years and looking forward to competing in my first fitness competition in a few months. THAT IS MY CHOICE! Keep up the good work Maria Kang!!!!!

  • A.

    She didn’t say she is perfect. She didn’t say your’e not perfect. She didn’t say it would be easy. And it’s probably not easy for her. Then again maybe it is. But this has more to do with you then her. It is hard to make time to work out with babies and children, i feel your pain. But don’t give up, it does get easier. But don’t be angry at a women you’ve never met simply becasue she is fit. That’s silly. Stay the course, you’ll get there.

  • Heather Fearneyhough

    I really do not understand why this photo has caused such a sudden outrage?! It’s crazy!

    I have been following Maria’s page from the very beginning. When I first “liked” her page she only had 1,000 likes. AND.. Guess what? Her now “controversial ” photo was still there, and nobody ever had a problem with it!

    I seriously have no idea who started this uproar.. BUT I will say this. Jealously is an ugly disease & nothing good comes from it!

    Some of you are hating on Maria like you don’t have the same 24 hours that she does!

    If your whining about her photo your simply finding reasons to justify your own personal excuses.

    Your excuses are invalid! If you want it bad enough there is ALWAYS a way!

    So STOP complaining about being fat & get up off your butt’s & do something about it!

    When you finally decide that you are sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.. EXCUSES will no longer be in your vocabulary!

    It’s either excuses are solutions people!!

    It really is as simple as that!

    P.S I use to weigh 254 lbs &
    Wore a size 20. I lost 136 lbs all on my own! I never went to a gym, I worked out in my living room everyday.

    What’s your excuse?

    -Heather Fearneyhough
    @ http://www.facebook.com/HeatherFITspiration

  • Michelle Sangervasio

    if we are being honest … i think she looks awesome and that’s great (and I think for some of those who are making such a stink about this .. it’s more about envy and jealousy, etc) .. but for myself .. I am 45 with two daughters 20 and 16 .. and I am a yo yo exerciser .. when I make time to do it and do it right while also watching what I eat … I look good or at least healthy .. I am not obese.. I stand 5’2″ and weigh in at around 112 pounds right now …. when life gets to me I really don’t stick to eating well (or eating enough) and I sort of just stop exercising because I’m exhausted with no motivation … stress hits me hard … however, being the age that I am and currently have not been exercising or really eating properly, I see my body changing badly and quickly. I find that it is much harder to keep myself looking good and fit at this age and then when I get myself to that point if I do not do it consistently the body changes and changes so so fast unlike when I was younger like Ms. Kang.. last year I was toned and fit and felt so much better about my body .. this year life has put a wrench in it .. or maybe I should say I allowed life to do that … I think that there are so many factors .. especially with women .. I am now struggling once agian to get myself back in shape enough that I can look in the mirror and not cringe at what I see … looking like Ms. Kang takes a lot of hard work, discipline, time, help and support from others (how else could she find time to work out so much if someone was not helping her with those babies – unfortunately some of us don’t have that kind of support or help – not that mine are babies) it also takes money … eating well is not cheap, a gym membership is not cheap, or getting a PT is definitely not cheap – I also believe that when you are younger regardless if you had 3 babies or 1 baby – when you are younger you bounce back much more quickly – once you start exercising and eating right ..the results usually come quicker … so there are so many variations here … health should really be the main concern more than physical appearance … exercise for health, eat right for health … not to look like Ms. Kang – and if you do end up looking like her … then more power to you …

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  • Lazy Dude

    I once saw this sensei yeling at his students and I didn’t understand at that time that he was just making use of a teaching tool and by no means he was mad at his students. Until someone reminds you that you are lazy and you are just wasting your potential you will not see it. But then again you might get mad that there are no simple answers to your problems.

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  • Ifam

    offensive only to the lazy and obese population of the …. ;)

  • Annie

    I think Americans are too damned sensitive and need to see more things like this. Obesity is not “curvy” or attractive… there’s a reason its called “morbid.” It’s unhealthy and it’s deadly. That’s not “Fat Shaming” it’s reality. MOST people, not all, but most can be a healthy weight with a little effort and I think she’s right to call attention to that. Besides, if all you want to do is whine about being fat without changing, why subscribe to a fitness blog?

  • pditty

    I am astounded that maria has to defend what is SCIENCE. IF you have too much weight on your body, it puts pressure on your frame, and the stored fat also stores many toxins in your body. our bodies were not designed to be 50 or more pounds overweight as this is added stress to our bodies. she is not saying you have to be cut and six pack abs to look good, she is suggesting a healthier living environment where we use our bodies more since being sedentary is not a healthy way to live. get up and get your ass out there and do something. I was never a sports person but at age 30, I had a friend inspire me to run, and workout, and I haven’t stopped since then (15 yrs). The best part about Maria is that she is talking about how women are trying to normalize being that overweight, Once again humans were not designed to pile on all that weight. I am 20 pounds overweight but I am working hard by changing to a whole foods diet where i am not starving myself and working out. I am not trying to look like a model, I just want to be healthy!! for more inspiration, watch FAT SICK AND NEARLY DEAD DOCUMENTARY, its amazing to see these guys get healthy!!

  • christine

    I think that Maria is very attractive and its great she is in good shape. Its very sad that she has photo shopped the wrinkles away. Her statement would have been better made natural