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Body image

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?

Hot Topic Tuesday: Do You Size Up Others at the Gym?

Written on November 20, 2012 at 9:18 am , by

Do you team up with—or size up—fellow gym-goers? (Photo by Sarah Kehoe)

What’s your first thought when you step foot in a gym? Perhaps you make a mental note to refill your water bottle. Or maybe you’re selecting what playlist will be your soundtrack today.

According to one recent study, many young women think about the other women in the room—in particular, their size. College undergrads were more likely to use a piece of equipment near a fit woman when she was wearing baggy clothing and padding to appear larger compared to when that same woman was wearing fitted apparel without padding. Researchers believe that body image-conscious young women might feel more comfortable and fitter when compared to their less athletic-looking neighbor.

We like to focus on our own goals, abilities and accomplishments, and think of others at the gym as potential workout buddies! No matter what shape or size you—or they—are, the greatest feeling is when you improve upon your personal best. But we want to hear from you…

Now tell us: Are you in your own world the minute you step foot in the gym, or do you size up those who are exercising nearby? Can you “judge a book by its cover” in terms of fitness anyway?

More from FITNESS:

Body Confidence Tips from Olympic Weight Lifter Sarah Robles

Written on August 1, 2012 at 10:27 am , by

Sarah Robles Olympic Weightlifter

Photo by Mitchell Haaseth / NBC Olympics.

“Faster, Higher, Stronger.” “Faster, Higher, Sarah Robles.” Because if you want a synonym for “stronger,” look no farther than the 23 year-old U.S. weightlifter.

It’s not just that she’s technically the strongest woman in our country—Robles will compete for her place on the international podium on August 5th—but it’s the other challenges that have shown the world just how mentally tough this girl is. In the weeks leading up the Games, many of us learned about her financial struggles…and were thrilled to see the online community cheer her on.

But no amount of money, medals, or media attention changes the fact that the 5’10”, 275-pound, 23 year-old has had to overcome a few body issues. On behalf of every woman in America, I’m just gonna go ahead and say that’s where I think her most enduring, admirable strength truly lies. Here, a few questions and answers with the Olympian.

FITNESS: How did your life change when you began accepting your shape and body type?

SARAH ROBLES: My life changed for the better when I decided to be okay with who I am. I knew I wasn’t going to change, nor really could do much about it anyway. I cared more about being the best athlete. It didn’t matter what my body looked like, it mattered more to me how it performed.

FITNESS: What are your best confidence-boosting tips for other women?

SARAH ROBLES: First, stop caring about what other people think. They probably aren’t thinking what you think they are, and most likely, you’ll never see them again.

Next, surround yourself with positive people. Negativity is sticky. It sticks to you and is hard to get rid of. Once you do (find those positive people), you will feel clean, happy, and free!

Lastly, do things you really love or try new things. You never know what you can be good at unless you try. When you learn new skills or further develop the ones you have, you will be more confident.

FITNESS: Which athletes or celebrities do you relate to the most? On a related note, who are your role models? Read more

Girl Power: Baring It All With a Sports Bra Challenge

Written on August 1, 2011 at 4:29 pm , by

Samantha (right) smiles and spins right before the big reveal. (Photo courtesy of SoulCycle)

Samantha, right, smiles and spins right before the big reveal. (Photo courtesy of SoulCycle)

I admit it: One of my biggest fears has always been working out in only a sports bra. Even in the locker room, I often head to a private bathroom before hitting the showers, or I throw a towel around me as quickly as possible. There’s just something intimidating about letting everything remain open to the public, free to be judged. Because no matter how hard you work, sometimes insecurity creeps in and clouds your mind.

Turns out I’m not the only one who feels this way. Jenny Gaither, a rockin’ spin instructor at SoulCycle, voiced the very same fears. To overcome this mental obstacle, she announced that she would host a Sports Bra Challenge in which all riders would wear only their sports bra for the duration of her spin class on Friday.

I was sold the second I heard about it. What better way to overcome my fear than to do it with a big group of ladies working their butts off (literally) in a sweaty spin class? Oh yeah, by enlisting the help of Biggest Loser season 11 winner Olivia Ward and her sister, runner-up Hannah Curlee. The two jumped on board immediately, blogging and tweeting about it all over the Internet. Talk about inspiration!

How did the class turn out? Continue reading for all of the details.

Read more

Boost Your Swimsuit Confidence

Written on July 1, 2011 at 12:10 pm , by

Swimsuit Cover Up Girl

Photo courtesy of SparkPeople

Summer might be in full-swing, but we know how daunting bathing suit season can still be. Follow these easy ideas so that you can feel more comfortable baring it all on the beach:

  1. Shop for the bathing suit that fits your body well. Swimsuit technology has dramatically improved, allowing you to accentuate your most likable features and minimize those you are the most self-conscious about. There are loads of two-piece suits available which let you purchase a different size for your top and bottom. If you are lucky enough to have a bathing suit specialty shop in your area, skip the department store and head there. The sales personnel will be well trained in helping you find the best fitting and most pleasing suit.
  2. Buy a suit you love, not just one you think makes you “look thinner.” Rather than black, pick a color or pattern that makes you happy, and shows off your eyes and skin color.
  3. Choose a cover-up that fits beautifully. Hiding behind a big tank will make you feel frumpy and actually make you look larger. There are wonderful wraps, swim skirts and dresses that you will enjoy wearing.
  4. Have fun with accessories. Purchase fabulous sunglasses and a colorful floppy hat to shield you from the sun’s rays. These will draw attention to your face, not your body. If you love fun jewelry, don’t be afraid to wear it to the beach or pool. Inexpensive colorful, waterproof watches are all over the stores these days.
  5. Pay attention to your grooming. A great summer haircut, manicures, pedicures, leg waxing, faux tans, and waterproof make-up will make you feel better and put together.

Don’t let worries of how you look in a swimsuit spoil your summer fun. We are at our best when we are engaged in experiences that make us happy. Feel the warmth of the sun (but don’t forget your sunscreen!), bask in the coolness of the ocean or pool, relax in the comfort of family and friends around you, and be grateful that the lazy days of summer have finally come around again!

Read more from Spark People’s Certified Wellness Coach, Ellen G. Goldman!

More from Spark People:

Body Image Boosters from Reality TV Psychotherapist Stacy Kaiser

Written on February 28, 2011 at 5:35 pm , by

How do you feel about what you see in the mirror? (Image by Stephanie Rausser)

Who among us hasn’t spent a few too many minutes scrutinizing our bodies in the mirror? Or spent an excessive amount of time in the gym because a beach day or class reunion is on the horizon and we don’t look “good enough” yet?

We all want to look our best, but it’s so easy for normal, healthy attention on appearance to turn into a body image issue that can impact many other areas of your life. So we turned to psychotherapist, lifestyle coach and author Stacy Kaiser, who you may have seen counseling contestants on the reality shows DietTribe and Celebrity Fit Club, to share her tips to get over body hang-ups.

Can you pinpoint the main influences on someone’s body image?

Two main factors play a role:

  1. Your upbringing: family, peers and community. Were they active, supporting and encouraging?
  2. Your personal belief system: values, beliefs and desires. What is most important for you and your happiness levels?

Read more