I’ve been asked about this picture probably a dozen times over the last few days.
You see, there are two camps here. There is the camp that is highly offended and pissed off that Maria Kang would be so “judgmental” and “fat-shaming” and there is the camp that applauds her for her hard work and dedication to her health and her body.
So what’s my take on it?
Which side do I fall upon?
Do I agree with Maria Kang or the thousands of women who dislike her because of this photo?
The answer is: it’s not as simple as taking one side or another. Here are my thoughts.
I actually just wrote an article about “fitspo” posters (fitspo = fitspirational) for SparkPeople.com. It’s not published yet, but I will link it here when it is.
First and foremost, in no way whatsoever do I believe that her intention is fat shaming. She obviously has an incredible work ethic and amazing genetics to go along with it. And I truly believe that she had good intentions when posting this picture. She wanted to show other Moms what is possible when you work hard and train consistently (while probably looking for some positive attention for herself, which is fine! Positive attention for your hard work feels great!)
My issue is this: in my experience, as you can see by the uproar, the women that this motivates, typically don’t need the motivation. They are already fit/healthy/lean/living the lifestyle. While the women it infuriates (i.e. the ones who aren’t taking care of themselves or living a healthy lifestyle) are the ones who could use the motivation/inspiration/nudge to work out and take care of themselves, which is what the picture was intended for.
If they were already living that lifestyle, they wouldn’t feel so upset/offended/attacked/lesser-than.
(ADDENDUM: ^^^^^^^ This is a very general statement, and it’s been my experience that the ones who have been angered by this picture are the ones struggling to find the time to work out and take care of themselves. However, there are plenty of women who DO take care of themselves who have been upset as well, simply because the message is, “You SHOULD be able to look like this,” when in actuality, not everyone CAN achieve that look, so matter how hard they try. I discuss this a lot in the following 3 articles: HERE, HERE, & HERE.)
I think if Maria had gone about this a different way (instead of simply blasting “WHAT’S YOUR EXCUSE?!”) and she had the opportunity to tell her story (which is obviously hard, because it’s just a picture), she could reach a lot more women who do need motivation and inspiration. If she talked about her struggles, and overcoming them, which she is clearly doing, women would absolutely love her, instead of being angry at her.
First and foremost, women seek to be understood. If you can validate a woman’s feelings first, your message will be infinitely more effective in the long-run. If Maria’s picture had a quote at the bottom that said:
“I know what it’s like to be a working mother with no nanny, and it’s hard, but you know what? You can do it! I believe in you! Let me show you how!“
She would probably be a hero to mothers everywhere instead of the villain she is being painted to be. Every good communicator knows that it’s all about the delivery. That’s why communication is 90-something % body language and tone, and less than 10% what you actually say.
So while I don’t blame Maria or think that her intentions are bad, I do think that if she truly wants to get her message across to the women who need her message the most, there is a much more effective way to do it, that will resonate with women instead of making them angry.
What do you think? Am I on-point or totally off-base? I would love to hear your thoughts!