|California mom Maria Kang stirred a firestorm of controversy with this Facebook photo, showing her fit body, her three young kids and her question: "What's your excuse?" (Supplied) |
She’s been called a “bad mom” and a “fat-shaming bully.”
But Maria Kang — the fit mother of three whose “What’s your excuse?” Facebook photo has ignited an online firestorm — says she’s just extremely passionate about health and fitness.
And what hasn’t been sufficiently considered in all of the knee-jerk hysteria since the pic went viral in the past few weeks is that there’s a compelling reason behind her commitment to keeping fit: Kang’s own mom has suffered through a series of debilitating lifestyle-related health problems.
“She’s still alive and she’s still struggling. She’s 52, but she has the body of a 70-year-old.”
Her mom’s failing health has left an indelible mark on Kang.
There’s more than a hint of anger in her voice as the 32-year-old fitness buff recalls her wedding day: Kang’s mom went into septic shock several hours before the ceremony and was admitted to the ER.
“It’s supposed to be the best day of your life and then you hear that your mother has gone septic … I was crying up until the ceremony,” she says. “Only my dad walked me down the aisle. He left after that. I had to deal with the entire day crying, not knowing if my mom was going to live or not.”
The painful day is one of many heartbreaking memories etched on Kang’s psyche that drive her to be a fit and healthy mother and wife.
“The reason I’m so passionate about what I say and do is because of my mom. Imagine a child growing up with a mother who struggles with her weight, makes a ton of excuses and it’s mainly because of her lifestyle and not because of her genetics,” she explains.
“Imagine that. That’s why I speak so strongly about this issue.”
Kang, a former cheerleader and beauty pageant winner, admits to waging her own lifelong battle of the bulge. In fact, she struggled with bulimia between the ages of 23 and 27, “binging and purging three times a day, five times a week for four years straight.”
So for Kang, currently 125 pounds at five-foot-four, health and fitness is intensely personal.
And when she reposted the now-famous “What’s your excuse?” photo of herself on Sept. 25 (she had originally posted it a year earlier) wearing a sports bra and matching micro shorts, and kneeling behind her three young sons, she was simply hoping to inspire other moms.
Instead, Kang has become the international poster girl for fat-shaming after the post went viral this time around.
Tens of thousands of couch-surfing haters on Facebook have come out of the woodwork to admonish her for her perceived cruelty.
“It’s a challenging question (What’s your excuse?), but I didn’t feel like it was a really harsh statement mainly because you see that statement everywhere. It’s very common,” explains the owner of two residential elderly care facilities, who pumps iron and does cardio 30-60 minutes a day, three to five times a week.
“I think this is a controversy because there’s a lot of people who are overweight and they’ve got a lot of excuses. I asked the question and the excuses came out.”
Kang, who has garnered worldwide media attention and has watched her Facebook page views soar past one million, is admittedly surprised by the online personal attacks against her.
“I never thought people would attack my motherhood and say I am a bad mother and that I neglect my children and that’s the reason why I look like I do,” she says. “That’s really harsh.”
But the response hasn’t been entirely negative. The post has received more than 245,000 Facebook “likes,” and supporters have contacted her from around the globe — including South America, Europe, Australia and Africa.
“It’s amazing how much this photo has made an impact on the world. I’m kinda living in a surreal environment right now because it’s crazy to see my words and my apology, which I stand 100% behind, on online sites,” she says.
“But a lot of people are getting it. That’s the most important thing. A mother will say, ‘I am overweight and I will never look like you, but you have inspired me to get up and work out this morning and make my health a priority.’ And that’s all that matters to me.”
I’m sorry you took an image and resonated with it in such a negative way. I won’t go into details that I struggled with my genetics, had an eating disorder, work full time owning two businesses, have no nanny, am not naturally skinny and do not work as a personal trainer. I won’t even mention how I didn’t give into cravings for ice cream, french fries or chocolate while pregnant or use my growing belly as an excuse to be inactive.
What I WILL say is this. What you interpret is not MY fault. It’s yours. The first step in owning your life, your body and your destiny is to OWN the thoughts that come out of your own head. I didn’t create them. You created them. So if you want to continue ‘hating’ this image, get used to hating many other things for the rest of your life. You can either blame, complain or obtain a new level of thought by challenging the negative words that come out of your own brain.
With that said, obesity and those who struggle with health-related diseases is literally a ‘bigger’ issue than this photo. Maybe it’s time we stop tip-toeing around people’s feelings and get to the point. So what’s your Excuse?
— Maria Kang
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