Open Letter to Maria Kang. ~ Saralyn Ward

Via Saralyn Wardon Oct 28, 2013

{photo: via mariakang.com}

Editor’s note: welcome to elephant.

To me, the photo in question seems inspiring. But that’s my experience, no more. We can all welcome all thoughtful points of view without boycotting diverse experiences and welcoming only those similar to our own life experience.

In this Fox/MSNBC society, we have to remember to “like” pages or communities that challenge our views. My dad is Republican, my mom is liberal, and I love them both! ~ Waylon.

PS: want to read another amazing article? Relephant: To My Post-Partum Self: Things I Wish I’d Known. And, To My Post-Partum Self: Things I Wish I’d Known.

 

Dear Maria,

I’ve seen your “What’s Your Excuse?” photo all over the news and Facebook today and it got me thinking.

A lot.

So, I’ve decided to get some things off my chest. What good is a blog if you can’t air your thoughts, right? Well, I’m here to weigh in (terrible puns aside).

First, congratulations! Getting back in shape after having a kid is no joke. I am learning this now. I, too, am a 32-year old fitness professional and I am six-months postpartum.

For one, witnessing our bodies go through unprecedented changes to spawn a child and then experiencing the recovery process is equally humbling, fascinating and awe-inspiring. Couple these crazy changes in our physical bodies with a crazy lack of sleep and free time and I commend anyone and everyone who is able to fit in a workout—six pack or not. But the fact that you do have amazing abs after three kids is fantastic.

I know how hard you’ve worked to get there.

Now here’s where it gets a little dicey for me. When I first saw your “No Excuses” photo, these are the thoughts that immediately went through my head:

Wow, she looks great.

Wait, how old is her youngest?!

Wait, why is she doing the Sexy Straddle over that child?

“What’s your excuse?” (Ugh. Cue Mommy guilt)

I’m only six months out. Still have two more months to look like that. (Cue unhealthy comparison)

Why am I feeling guilty? Good lord, I’m sore from my last workout and I’m already planning how to get one in today.

Actually, on second thought, I’m not really making excuses. I am making time. I am getting healthy. I am losing weight. I’ve lost almost 3/4 of the baby weight already!

But still, I don’t look like this yet.

I wonder if she’s nursing?

I wonder if she works full time?

She probably doesn’t eat. Yeah, they said she used to be bulimic. She probably doesn’t eat.

I wonder how long she works out each day? What does she do with three kids while she works out?

Is this a professional photo? Yep. Definitely Photoshopped. She’s probably a model anyway.

Well. She probably just has a (insert appropriate superlative here) life than me.

For the love of God, I’m now looking for excuses why I don’t look this way?! I’m one of the full-time-working, no-sleep-getting, boobs-out-all-the-time-moms that is actually working out consistently!

Was this meant to be inspirational?

So, as you can see, that tagline really got to me. I imagine this train of thoughts is not that far off from what a lot of other moms felt when they read, “What’s Your Excuse?” …even if they aren’t making any.

But, I was nothing if I wasn’t intrigued. So I went to your Facebook page. I went to your website.

What I found actually inspired me.

I found your fitness evolution page and learned that you aren’t all that different from me: a fitness enthusiast who, despite continual exercise through pregnancy, still gained 35 pounds (for me it was more like 38, but who’s counting). A wife. A mom. A woman with a social conscience. A blogger who tries to keep it somewhat honest and real.

I found your FAQs page and realized you, too, had struggled with breastfeeding. You actually have stretch marks.

You also have the confidence to post photos of what you looked like right after giving birth, muffin top and all. And you sometimes still indulge in a doughnut.

These are the facts that inspire me. It’s not your photoshopped photo. It’s certainly not the “What’s Your Excuse?” tagline.

It’s not the hot-mom status that you’ve been granted—in fact, the same media that crowned you queen of the MILFs is also the media that has plastered your “No Excuses” photo everywhere, taking it out of context, offering you up for dissection by people who are sitting on their couches, more comfortable judging others than finding out the truth.

But I want to ask you a favor. Please, can we maybe alter that motto a little?

I get it, I do.

I understand your well-intentioned point. But here’s the deal: the last thing any of us mommies need is a second helping of guilt or shame. What we desperately need is a dose of encouragement and truth. Like I said in an earlier post: “There are too many people giving too much advice and too many women feeling too badly about themselves.”

Please, for God’s sake, let’s support one another. We are all passionate about our children. We all want the best for them. We are all doing our best for them. Our choices may be different, but our motivation is the same.

What works for one will not work for another. Please, be forgiving of yourselves. Please, be compassionate to others. Please, stop telling each other they aren’t doing it right. All we can do is all we can do.

If all of us, as mamas, come together and support one another, think of the mountains we could move. The choices you make aside—formula or breastfeeding, cereal or vegetables, cloth or disposable, daycare or stay-at-home—our children look to us to lay the groundwork for their perspective on the world.

We directly have the power to make a cultural shift. If we begin by tearing others down, what example are we setting? Let’s welcome everyone to the table.

I’m ready to change the dialogue.

I’m ready to help women realize that every body is different.

When we focus on the perfect, idealized end result, we fail to recognize the truth: that you woke up at 5am to work out despite the fact that your little one woke you every hour before that.

The fact that your skinny jeans still didn’t button until four or five (or more?) months out. The fact that last night you were just too damn tired. You decided you could only muster ten pushups on the living room floor and called it a workout and yet tomorrow is another day.

Fitness, especially as a mom, is a journey. One that is not consistent, nor always progressing.

Sometimes there are setbacks and sometimes there are plateaus. No two people are exactly alike, but we can all strive for and achieve our best versions of ourselves. This is the truth. And yes, This is the inspiration.

I’m starting today, by posting pictures of my six-month postpartum body. I took these in my hallway this morning. I hadn’t shaved my legs. I hadn’t even showered. The photos sure as hell are not photoshopped.

But, this is my truth.

This is where I am, today. I don’t have any excuses. And I have a few more pounds to lose before I’ll be comfortable. It might take me 10 months, a year, or even longer to get my body where I want it. But it will happen.

MariaKanghoneymoon2

A before photo—Our Honeymoon

MariaKangprego

37 to 38 weeks pregnant

MariaKang6months2

6months2

MariaKang6months3

Six months postpartum

I am guessing, based on what I read on your Facebook page and website, that you actually are a pretty inspiring person and that you got the short end of the stick with all the negative comments you are getting. I’m sorry—haters will hate.

I hope they do a little more research and look you up before they dismiss you and yet, I hope you will join me in changing the message we are sending to moms everywhere.

Instead of focusing on what they aren’t doing right, let’s focus on ways to help them do what they can.

It’s not enough to say “I did it, so can you!”

As fitness professionals, we need to show them how. Let’s be honest. Let’s give our vulnerabilities and our weaknesses as much air time as our victories.

Let’s be real people.

Let’s celebrate the journey.

Crossing the finish line is so much sweeter when you can look back at how far you’ve come.

Thank you for sparking this dialogue and blessings to you and your beautiful family.

In health,

Saralyn

Like elephant Family on Facebook.

Assistant Ed: Steph Richard/Ed: Sara Crolick

{Maria Kang photo: via mariakang.com; other photos: via Saralyn Ward}

About Saralyn Ward

Saralyn Ward is a movement educator, biomechanics nut and wellness advocate, realigning and rebalancing the masses, one body at a time. After graduating from Penn State with a degree in Dance and Kinesiology, Saralyn moved to New York, NY to study the Pilates method. She was fully certified by STOTT Pilates in 2004 and by Pilates Academy International two years later. Meanwhile, she taught various group fitness and dance classes around the New York metro area. Simultaneously, Saralyn was licensed as an Instructor Trainer for Pilates Academy International and began mentoring new instructors in the Pilates method. After teaching at PAl’s certification headquarters for two years, she moved to Boulder, CO to open a satellite certification center. Saralyn has starred in several fitness DVDs, including Reebok’s Total Body Toning Kit and the SELF DVD series. She has contributed to publications such as Dance Spirit, Pilates Style and FitPro magazines. She’s also provided Pilates content for Gaiam.com, and presented at the LOHAS conference. In 2010, she began partnering with Dr. Shay Bess, spinal surgeon and scoliosis specialist, to research the use of Pilates as preventative and pre-operative care for patients with severe spinal conditions. An advocate of lifelong learning, Saralyn recently completed her personal training certification. Her teaching is designed to inspire and empower people of all ages, ability levels and physical conditions. By refining and strengthening their movement patterns, Saralyn helps her clients live a full, balanced and pain-free life. Currently, Saralyn enjoys educating group fitness instructors around the world as an educator and the Project Manager for MyGroupFit, the newest FitPro North America brand. When she’s not hard at work, Saralyn enjoys travelling, hiking, skiing, cooking, dancing and taking in live music with her husband Tommy. They welcomed their first child, a girl, in April of 2013. You can connect to Saralyn on Facebook and WordPress.

35,519 views

Appreciate this article? Support indie media!

(We use super-secure PayPal - but don't worry - you don't need an account with PayPal.)

Elephriends - Mindful Partners

190x1902-EJ-clothing

73 Responses to “Open Letter to Maria Kang. ~ Saralyn Ward”

  1. Carol says:

    Saralyn, you are and look amazing! Both before, during and after your pregnancy!

  2. When I first saw your heading of this post being an open letter I have to admit I was apprehensive.

    You see I know Maria Kang. I own a network for WAHMs (The Work at Home Mums Network) and I have been in dialogue back and forth with Maria to arrange to interview her for the network members. This was before the media got hold of this photo and offered her up to the masses like a sacrificial lamb.

    I first found Maria whilst searching for inspirational women to interview, and when I saw this photo of her I thought it was awesome. I totally resonated with it and thought "Hell yeah! This is my kinda mom!"

    You see I am a mum of four kids under the age of seven. I am a dedicated yogi and have chiselled six pack abs. This is not because I have forced myself to get on my yoga mat, or do 100 sit-ups before breakfast. It is because I LOVE yoga, and I make time for it every week. It's as much a part of my life as eating is. Or sleeping. Or breathing.

    So it never occurred to me that so many women would be highly offended my Maria's question "What's your excuse?"

    I never questioned her intent.

    My assumption was that women would read it and say "Hells yeah, what IS my Goddamn excuse? I'm inspired! I'm going to make time to be fitter because it's important to me."

    And herein, I believe, lies the problem with society, and especially women.

    Many of us don't have a good sense of self. We don't know deeply (and to our core), what is important to us.

    If we did know this, and we were at cause with our choices, we wouldn't feel the need to persecute Maria or take offence at the questions she asks.

    We would say "I'm choosing not to look like that because there are other things that are more important to me right now."

    But of course, these aren't the women I believe that Maria was targeting. I believe she was targeting the women like me. The women who WANT a proverbial kick up the butt. Who are MOTIVATED by someone saying "What's your excuse?"

    It's just a pity that people can't filter the media like they filter their water: let the good stuff through that serves us, and let everything else fall away.

    Thank you for putting your point across gently and lovingly. I'm sorry that we women are so hard on ourselves.

    I don't think Maria's intent was to "tear down others". I think it was to inspire them. She certainly inspired me.

    • melinchile says:

      I think intent does not matter as much as the effect. I think how people feel as a result of the ad is more important than what it was "intended" to do.

    • saralynward says:

      Thank you for reading Kim, and thank you for your thoughtful and poignant response. I agree with much of what you've said, and never did I think that Maria's intent was to tear others down. Quite the opposite, actually. But, what I was trying to say was that many people would find her journey more inspiring than the actual end result. I'm one of those people. I find it more inspiring that she – and many other moms I know – MAKE the time because being healthy IS in fact a priority. I find it inspiring to hear about how she does that, and that sometimes, spending time with her babies is actually more important that spending more time on thet treadmill. Even still, many people won't ever look like Maria, or myself for that matter. And not because they are making excuses.

      I also think you bring up another wonderful point – that we are all motivated differently. As a Pilates instructor I see this first hand – some clients need to be gently encouraged while either are more driven by a take-no-prisoners attitude. As a teacher or trainerr, it is absolutely to recognize what motivates your clients and adapt your teaching style.

      (splitting into two comments for legnth :) )

    • Jamie D says:

      In many ways I agree with you. As women, we should be proud of what we accomplish. But honestly that caption fuels what many women, in fact, often do…they flaunt themselves and do so at the shaming of women who do not look like them. The more inspiring and motivating message would be of encouragement and support. Perhaps, it is just a quickly posted caption – I don't know this woman's journey. But it is not unusual for many to respond they way they have. It's fantastic that she has done what she has… and perhaps she has been a "sacrificial lamb" at the hands of others. I'm not sure of the facts. But as women, we need to taut support and not guilt. Many women, no matter how hard they work, will never look like that based on genetics. I personally wouldn't want to look like her… I'm a woman with curves and hips and a chest… and I'm healthy…but that's me. No matter how beautiful (or not) I may be…I simply would not throw it in the face of others. We need to show more compassion and connection rather than separation and taunting….IMHO. Peace.

    • saralynward says:

      Part 2 of my response…

      But in the case of a very public message, I would hope we would all try our best to convey messages based in inclusion rather than exclusion. Therein lies my disappointment with the way this message was conveyed. By saying "What's your Excuse?" it implies that if you don't look like Maria, you are doing something wrong. Even just altering the title slightly to say something like "No Excuses." is way more motivating in my opinion, and way less accusatory. The reality is, a lot of people were alienated by that tagline… which is a shame, because as I said in my article, Maria seems like quite a lovely, inspiring person. I don't think she realized the weight of her words. By alienating others, we inadvertantly claim that we are better in some way, even if that is NOT the intent – as I am sure it wasn't.

      I, too, am sorry we are all so hard on ourselves. I hope that by the time my daughter is old enough to read and understand this thread, I'll have figured out how to encourage her to be strong, healthy, fit, and make time for herself… all while being compassionate for those around her. Thanks for your reply Kim – healthy discussion is good for all of us!

    • Suzie says:

      I hear what you're saying, Kim, that Maria is an inspiration to you–and we can all use some inspiration! But when I hear "what's your excuse," no matter what the issue or statement is, what I hear within this context is something like "you need to look like me, and if you don't, then something must be wrong with you." When we need an excuse, its because we've committed an error, or have a special "reason" why we need to be allowed out of a situation (like sick leave from work–which isn't always allowed!) until we can get back to a place of okay-ness and return to where we "should" be. For me, it would have been even more inspiring for Maria's caption to be one of support instead of comparison, but I know that our society isn't focused that way. And when I hear about what Maria's "intended" message was meant to portray, I believe that what we intend to express and what we actually express can be vastly different things, especially if we're not really conscious of what we're presenting. When we communicate from a place of compassion, our words will reflect this choice. But in advertising, I understand that instigating people (and women, in this case–and men's ideas of women too) to want something that they lack (through their own fault) is part of the culture and continues to be the underlying message. When we say that a person can "choose" whether or not to look like Maria, this is totally false. There is only one Maria, and only she can look as she is. If the message was "Your body is beautiful, just as it is," then maybe this "kick up the butt" motivation would more positively benefit women into love and self acceptance, which is the only truly positive source of motivation, not because we feel guilty, judged, or defective for looking as we do instead of looking like Maria. When we're motivated to punish ourselves into being like someone else, then we fail to accept our beauty and worth as it is right now. And if we have goals to improve our health, then we should do so for internally motivated reasons. …When are we going to change this?

  3. caro says:

    Hey, your post partum pics look like normal me :) and I've never given birth. I thought you were beautiful in all of them, esp the one where you're 37 weeks pregnant. YOU inspire me!

  4. Zoe says:

    Awesome. Way to be real and encouraging.

  5. Robin says:

    You are beautiful !

  6. Celeste says:

    Fantastic article!!! So much compassion and love!

  7. Sheryl says:

    There's nothing wrong with gaining 35 pounds, it's a healthy amount to gain.

    • saralynward says:

      Yes, I agree there's nothing wrong with it – though my doctor had advised me to gain 25-30. Despite doing all the "right" things, my body was going to do what my body was going to do.

  8. Jacqui Patterson says:

    I love this. Thanks for telling the truth and bring realistic about the struggle as a mother and trying to fit it all in. It is not easy by no means. I often see women that look like a stick and have several children and wonder how they do it. I have to remind myself that everyone’s body is different and some of us have to work a little harder and may struggle with other things that the everyday life throws our way. I could go on and on but I thank you for putting yourself out there. It let me know that others struggle with things that I too struggle with.

    Jacqui Welch Patterson

    • saralynward says:

      Thank you! We must try to remember that it's impossible to do it all…. all we can do is prioritize. So much easier said than done!!

  9. Melissa says:

    Thank you!!! This is so well-put and SO TRUE. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 2 and a half years post partum myself, I suffered through two years of guilt before I realized that I need to be kind to myself. I too am a fitness instructor and I know I'm in great shape even thought my body has changed. The shame is horrible and unnecessary. Good for a woman who springs back into pre-baby shape after a few months, but that is not the norm. Many of us take on a new, beautiful shape.

    • Annina says:

      I love that, Melissa! "Many of us take on a new, beautiful shape." How right you are!

    • saralynward says:

      I, too, love that comment. A new beautiful shape. A new version of who we are as people. I for one know I'm a better person now than I ever have been – motherhood has put so many things into perspective. Thank you!

  10. parentwin says:

    Hey! So I do NOT want to spam your awesome article (I'm hoping there's moderation.) If there is, could you check out this body positive tumblr project we're doing, and maybe consider submitting, or letting your followers know about it? We're totally grassroots and all submission-based, so I'm trying to get the word out about this positive acceptance message! Thank you, and your piece on this was brilliant. <3
    http://dontneedanexcuse.tumblr.com/

  11. Tara says:

    What a very thoughtful post and comments here after! I truly enjoyed reading the thought process, and I really am impressed with women who reclaim their pre-pregnancy bodies back so quickly. I am with Caro–you look beautiful, Saralyn! I think Kim made a good point in recognizing that some women can respect the idea of spending x amount of hours a day or week to try to get fit, but who also say, my priorities have changed, and you know, I can't make that much time for working out anymore. It is fine to be committed to the idea of getting that six-pack back, and if fitness is your livelihood, then there are even more reasons to want that body back. But the truth is, some women's bodies may never return to that pre-pregnancy state. They may work very hard at it, but sometimes, things really just change in our bodies, our stomachs, our muscles. It does happen. And to accept that is hard, but it's the age old sacrifice that women go through to have children. Sometimes the sacrifice is short lived, and sometimes it's for the rest of your life. And if you do strive to get that body back, you will be making sacrifices in a different sense. You may be blessed to have babysitters, a partner who doesn't work 12+ hours a day and who can help you with children, you may be blessed to have a child who takes good naps, goes to bed early, sleeps through the night, who can entertain him or herself. But you may also have a more challenging route, of being a single parent, or having a partner who is traveling most of the time for work, you may not have a babysitter or family near by, you may have a colicky baby, your baby may not sleep much during the day or at night, your child may not know how to play by him/herself, you may not have a cleaning person, etc etc etc. You have to make choices and sacrifices for the things you want the most in these situations. What things you decide to sacrifice for other things varies person to person. It is a huge huge balancing act. I think mostly, you just have to look at what makes you happy, and go with that. Be healthy for the sake of being healthy. And most importantly, and the hardest of all perhaps, is just to be happy with the decisions (and sacrifices) we make. If you give something up for a certain period of time (be that your creative pursuits, working out, gardening, whatever you do) because you have small children and you can't make the time for those other things, just try to be happy with that, appreciate the moments you have with that cute little child (because they truly are very very fleeting), and figure, you'll get back to those other things if they really are important to you. And usually, you do get back to them. But a child is…entirely life changing, especially at first, and that is ok to acknowledge.

    • saralynward says:

      "go with [what makes you happy]. Be healthy for the sake of being healthy." YES YES YES!! And agree, it's all about priorities – someone mentioned to me that she makes time for volunteering instead of working out because that is a bigger priority to her. Who can argue with that? And it hardly qualifies as an excuse in the negative sense. Thanks for your beautiful response!

  12. Mimi says:

    If I had looked like you six months post partum, I would have been very happy. My youngest is about to to six and I'm still working on myself daily. It's a life long journey. I've reached my ideal weight, however, it has not come at all easily. My metabolism works so differently since childbirth, so my regime is unbelievably strict (5-6 hot yoga classes per week), daily juicing, no carbs, no gluten or dairy, small portions, etc. If I did this when my metabolism was faster (pre-pregnancy), I can't imagine how thin I would have been – might have even been considered anorexic. So, you're right to highlight that everyone is different, and while the woman pictured in the ad might be your goal, for many, as you are now is their goal. I found it helpful to appreciate my body for providing life and sustenance via breast milk as a way to reintegrate mind body and spirit post birth. For a long time, I had felt betrayed by my body. While I still place myself under ridiculous scrutiny, I focus on being the best mum I can be. I want my children to grow up thinking they had the best mum for them. I have friends who talk about their mums in this way and I don't think any of these mums looked like supermodels. Interestingly, despite dropping 25 kilos over a period of 4-5 years, neither one of my sons even noticed. When I was at my heaviest, my husband was only upset because I didn't feel happy with myself – he actually said he'd rather I weigh more and be happy, than weigh less and be unhappy. Good man. After reaching my goal of 55-56 kilos, I was quite shocked at how my mind was quick to find other parts of me to criticise. I look forward to growing older and wiser and finding a better balance between self care and self perception. I've seen women older than me reach this point and I find it beautifully inspiring, but for now, I accept I'm still a little vain.

    • saralynward says:

      Wouldn't it be wonderful if a) all partners/husbands were like yours (and mine, thankfully!), and b) the focus was on being a good mom more than what our postpartum bodies looked like? Here's to hoping we will get there one day. Thanks for reading.

  13. Maria says:

    I Love how open and honest you are in this article. You are beautiful and an inspiration.

  14. Holly says:

    You post is so similar to how I felt when I saw it. I love the picture. She looks beautiful and happy. The tag line stuck with me as well. And then I read comments under the Facebook picture the first time it was posted on my timeline. I couldn’t believe how judgmental some others were about this beautiful mother! Thank you for illustrating your point without tearing another down. Your pictures look amazing as well!

    Love and light

    • saralynward says:

      Thank you! Yes – I wouldn't be practicing what I preached if I shamed her. There is definitely a way to offer constructive criticism, disagree and engage in dialogue with respect. No one is all bad or all good. We all make less-than-perfect choices at times. And as they say, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

  15. saralynward says:

    I'll take a look! Thanks for reading and your kind words :)

  16. Tracie says:

    I have a dream of one day living in a world where we don't feel compelled to focus on women's bodies…either their awesomeness or lack thereof.

  17. Somehow, "There were no excuses for ME!" does not provoke in the way,

    "What'$ YOUR Excu$e?" does.

    Follow the money … always …

    For my part, I prefer a business that would sell to me (were I a mom) that was not built on superlatives or deceptions …

  18. msannomalley says:

    It's been a long time since I was post-partum, but I think for me, it's not the picture but the caption. I can see how someone, who is tired, sore, in such hormonal flux and depressed (I had postpartum depression) would see that and react negatively to it. I'd probably have the same reaction as those who did react so negatively.

    Those words do put people on the defensive. I could list several reasons I would not be in shape like the person in the picture. Perhaps the outrage would not be as great as it has if the wording on the caption was different.

  19. Nancy says:

    First, Saralyn, let me say that you're beautiful and you look wonderful the way you are now.

    Second, you nailed it on the head. It's the words, "What's Your Excuse," not the photo. And I would have ignored the photo the first time I saw it if someone I knew hadn't commented on it. And then I read her non-apology. I get it that her supporters are saying that she is trying to be an inspiration, but her title on her photo and her written response to criticism of it don't exactly give anyone an warm, fuzzy inspirational feeling.

    I am constantly outdoors with my two boys, snow-camping, canoe camping, backpacking, hiking, skiing… I love to take photos and post them to Facebook all the time. As a single mother working full time as a veterinarian and running my own practice, I find time to do these things because they are my passion. I feel this is a very healthy lifestyle for my kids. I am way heavier than I could be but I'm extremely healthy and I can climb three Adirondack High Peaks and hike 20 miles in a weekend. Anyway, the point I have to make is not about my weight, it is about "What's Your Excuse." If I post a collage of my trips with the boys and entitle it, "We Had Fun!" people will react positively. Some people might even be inspired to do more outdoors activities with their children. But how would people react if I posted all of those photos with the title, "What's YOUR Excuse?" Now, suddenly, people have evaluate and defend their own priorities and their own passions. I don't see that as inspirational.

    • Especially so as I live in New York City, am older; and am quite the urbanite … my schedule allows me no access to the wide open spaces… (and I'm missing my old, Colorado days just a little) …

      You didn't have to paint the picture quite that way … but anyone could see your point in a second …

      And why Maria Kang's approach is so wrong on so many levels …

  20. Candy says:

    Thanks so much for your honesty and thoughtfulness. After my first was born, I never wanted to believe the 9 months on / 9 months off concept but it was very true for my body both times. You will get it back one day when the time is right! I am still not my pre-preg self but I feel pretty good about where I am today and the amazing kids I have. Again, thanks for sharing. From one mom to another.

  21. elissascott says:

    I was looking forward to more of a fierce feminist approach in this article.
    Loving and gentle, yes, however I wanted more. Like how western society (women especially) are conditioned and honed to work on the outside so much, as a pedigree of our worth. Please read mine:
    http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/08/a-body-man

    I agree with the sex straddle BTW!!! Until you mentioned it, I couldn't pinpoint what exactly was tweaking my vibe. Pretty lascivious in a subtle sense, hey? Because women are put on the planet to be sex objects (even for toddlers…)
    M.I.L.F. is not a proud title to be crowned. I raised three sons whom I would date. They're not allowed to use the word "Hot" as an adjective for a lady. They would be embarrassed at the pool (me in my bikini), when other teens would say this to them about me…
    Hot = Fuck-able.
    So please guys, come up with a more creative and honouring adjective for the female gender.
    My daughter was also taught not to dangle her pinky toe off the curb for a guy who treated her as a sex object or thing. If he doesn't swim across shark-infested waters to bring you a lemonade, you don't just throw your cat at him.
    As for me, I still get carded. As a yoga messenger and completely immature (which keeps me youthful), I eat what I want, when I want and drink beer like a sailor. Enjoy your life. As much as I can appreciate the work and dedication this lady's meat-suit requires to look like this, I'm more interested in her brain, her conversation, her ability to change the world. One ab at a time…

    • saralynward says:

      I read your blog, Elissa, and so appreciate your voice. We need more of that. You've definitely made me think about my word choices, and for that I am thankful. I can only be who I am…. my voice won't be like yours because that's not my style. But I recognize all that you say and hold it close at heart. Maybe someday our paths will cross. I'd love to have a conversation with you over a few beers… like drunken sailors.

  22. H.S. says:

    As someone who could use a fitness professional to guide my workouts, because I'm multiply disabled and need to make sure I don't injure myself, I would never, ever go to Ms. Kang or someone like her to get assistance, because I know I would feel judged for what I can't do. When you feel judged, you turn away from that activity.

    • Ving says:

      Not necessarily… when i feel judged i ensure i kick a particular amount of ass at something. Even if i cant (physically) the ass kicking is in my awesome effort :) Feeling negatively judged or having people not think i am capable of something really lights the fire for me. We are all so different its so interesting to read these comments.

    • saralynward says:

      I agree that sometimes words and actions meant to be motivational can have the reverse affect when presented in an alienating way. I believe that to create lasting change, we should strive to inspire people to make that change from within. We all go about that differently. I wish you all the best in health and happiness!

  23. Thank you for writing this. I too saw that picture and felt some type of funny way. I'm still trying to bounce back from childbirth and I'm finally accepting that people's genetic make-ups are different, we distribute (and burn) fat in different ways and I can't compare myself to anyone else in the world. I won't allow myself to be "shamed" into thinking that I'm doing something wrong or not doing enough to get a sunken stomach and visible hip bones.
    And yes, my "baby" is 13 years old now (HA!) By his 14th birthday, I will stop trying to "bounce back" and will try harder to bound forward with my "new normal" body.

  24. Sue says:

    This is the most thoughtful commentary I've read yet about this whole issue. I too was not offended by her picture or tagline – but I work out a lot (and have my whole life) and purposely seek out fitness-inspirational blogs, magazines, etc. On the other hand, I can see why a full-time working mother who has just gone back to work, is pumping 3-4x a day and is exhausted, and is already feeling guilty for leaving her child at daycare or with a nanny (been there, all of it), would not find "What's your excuse" the most inspirational. I think she was really vilified by the media because it's what they do to get polarize people and get them riled up. I got so tired of seeing the image and commentary about it that I tuned out, but reading your essay inspired me to also check out Maria's blog and find out what she's all about.

  25. Kristin says:

    Saying 'you look great' to a new mom does not connect with how that mom is feeling – most of us don’t feel great about our bodies postpartum so just saying we look great when we're not at our best perpetuates a society that DOES focus on what a women looks like instead of how she feels.

    We need conscious scripts that when said make connections and support. Ask how mom is feeling and let her tell you what's going on. Listen instead of thinking ‘forcing’ the outcome (as if saying ‘you look great’ is going to switch any women's thoughts into positive body image).

    If you hear negative body talk, ask why she feels that way. Ask what is it she thinks would help get her to feel better… this is support/interaction. Offer to walk together or meet in the park for a quick sun salutation. If she just needs accountability – send text at the end of the day.

    • saralynward says:

      Yes, and to a certain extent, the words 'you look great' become less meaningful after awhile of hearing it. You are right, those words don't really get to the root of what new moms feel. I would much rather hear "you are a great mom" than "you look great." Any day.

  26. Kristin says:

    Listening to what people say about your body – it quickly becomes apparent that our body image comes from within – we are controlling how we feel about our own bodies. I say this because we are often much harder on ourselves than others are.
    Hearing how others saw me and knowing i was eating junk and could not hold poses as before babies allowed me to accept that i was the one not happy with my body (or my choices).
    I want to be stronger, eating for nourishment, and MY self-image needed to change or my habits needed to take me to a stronger, healthier self.
    I decided not to accept that other's thought i was doing good, looking good – i wanted to embody it – FEEL good, strong, healthy…

    i did find Kang's image encouraging – like it CAN be done! There’s hope! I also love Saralyn's suggestions on flipping the scripts.

    I don’t accept that a defensive response to anything is more than an opportunity to look inside and ask some questions.

  27. Annina says:

    Thank you for such a thoughtful article. You are a beautiful woman – now as a mother more than ever.

    I have 2 kids, I am naturally thin and tall. I enjoy moderate exercise – primarily yoga. What was my "excuse" for not bouncing back into shape after baby???

    First of all, as a society, we need to stop equating a rock-hard "perfect" body as the ultimate attainable thing. How about just being healthy, having a healthy BMI, eating well, and exercising. Why doesn't anyone talk about the subtle permanent changes that women's bodies go through after children. Stretch marks, loose skin, a slightly wider ribcage or hips, etc. Bodies change! This unreasonable goal just feeds the unattainable "ladies, you can have it all" mentality. What about "you can have what's best for you?" Does anyone else think that 8 months is a little quick to whip oneself back into shape?? Perhaps not healthy, and certainly not healthy for everyone!

    After the birth of my second child I had debilitating PPD, it was dead winter in MN,I had breastfeeding issues, I had a baby that didn't sleep more than 2-3 hours at a time around the clock, I had a five year old that was probably not ready for kindergarten. I.was.exhausted.

    As mamas, we need to stick together, build each other up, and stop judging! Way to go, Maria! You're in great shape, even if you are posing in a bit of a creepy way with the kids. But let's not judge another mom's journey until we've walked a mile in her mismatched Danskos. No joke, I was so sleep deprived when my daughter was an infant, that I left the house in 2 different clogs. Needless to say, getting back into shape was not a priority. Staying alive was.

    Shaming isn't motivating – at least not for me. If this picture had a positive and encouraging caption, Maria would be presenting an image that more mamas could relate to. However long it takes you to get your body wherever you want it to be is great.

    • saralynward says:

      I love this. Every month my little one ages, I think to myself, Thank God! We are both still alive! No joke :) thank you for sharing your experience.

  28. katie says:

    Anyone who is or was an athlete would be offended by Maria kangs caption. If you ever played a real sport you would get it. What if she was an Olympic swimmer or skier w 3 kids. Would you still be projecting your insecurities into the meaning of her words?

    • saralynward says:

      I appreciate your feedback, though I have to respectfully disagree with you. First, I did play "real sports". And I was a dancer for 25 years, in pre-professional ballet and modern programs, and danced in New York after college. I understand mental toughness, discipline and competitiveness. I also understand compassion and vulnerability. And I understand that none of those aforementioned qualities are mutually exclusive. Thanks for reading.

  29. We need more role models like this one:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rosalyn-fung/fitnes

    Seriously!

  30. mmmk says:

    Saralyn, she probably doesnt drink milk. Dont drink milk or eat ice cream. Cheese and butter okay better organic or rbst free. Sour cream, yogurt (greek!) and cottage cheese i supose?(dunno dont really eat it) are all okay , low fat preferred by far and organic if at all possible.
    You're welcome :-)
    p.s. i personally prefer coconut almond blend as sub. cooks everything better than milk. Probably not better for baking? But for anyone who bakes im sure thats an obvious answer to that question.

    • saralynward says:

      I have to say, your comment makes me laugh. I don't drink milk at all, nor do I eat much dairy. Didn't work well with breastfeeding. And also, your comment implies that I am trying to look like Maria, which kind of misses the point I was making. My point is: I want to look like my best version of myself. Thanks for the tip though.

  31. guest says:

    Saralyn you kick ass!! The world needs more people like you; real, honest, not instantly judgmental, inspiring, and fyi, you look amazing!

  32. Lori says:

    It is funny how we all interpreted this photo, and her words, in different ways, and hence it is a great conversation starter, right? I actually really love her photo and find it inspiring. Why shouldn't she be proud? I am sure she worked hard for that body and yes, I feel jealous. I am sure I am not the only one! I think one of our downfalls as women is our competitive nature, and instead of supporting and being happy for someone we get jealous and mad and turn it around on them. Let's just be happy for a woman who has worked her butt off (literally) and is trying to motivate others to do the same.

    Also, everyone has a different version of their idea of health, and for women who are completely happy with where they are, that is their idea of health. I have a 9 month old and have worked hard to get my body back because for me, health is the most important thing. I want to feel like I am the best I can be when I am with her. I want to be able to lift her high ten times if she wants, run when she is running, and carry her without tiring, when she weighs 30 pounds. For me, I want to be strong for her. Strength means strength as a mom and as a woman and for me, it translates to internal strength as well. I just feel more confident when I am proud of ourself and feeling strong (physically and mentally).
    Great dialogue here, and let's all try to support each other in our journey to health!

  33. editorstet says:

    Thank you for this. This is the one response I've seen to this photo that takes into account the context of it all: her life, our society, the larger implications of the line and the reaction to it in general. I found this thoughtful and inspiring, and you articulated many of the reactions I had to this as well, the idea that the dialogue must change in particular. Thanks for not railing or praising, but giving an honest and well thought out look at what this says in a larger context. You've helped make this a dialogue, and it's one that, in my opinion, is much needed.

    • saralynward says:

      Thank you so much. You response humbles me – that was exactly what I wanted to come from this: an open, fair, real dialogue.

  34. @jennyjenjen says:

    If the message had been something like "You can achieve this, too" instead of "What's your excuse?", even us non-mom, don't-have-a-lot-of-excuses fatties could probably be inspired. But she chose to go with "What's your excuse?", thereby making us all look like we're making excuses for bodies some of us struggle with constantly.

    For the record I'm sure she is a great person and it is really amazing what she has been able to achieve. I do think though, however, that it alienates more than it inspires.

  35. Marilyn says:

    When did fitness and health become such competitive, confrontational exploits? When someone stood to make a buck on it! As long as society keeps women worried about their appearances, postpartum and otherwise, then men will be calling the shots as ladies endlessly compare themselves to one another. Don't nobody pay attention to the guy behind the curtain!

  36. Ailmentridden says:

    I found this response via a link in the comments on a news article about this.. I was reading something else and was curious about the headline.

    I’m not a mom. I run a rescue , I’m a college student(3/4 time currently) , and a person with multiple illnesses/diseases. I originally gained weight when put on 2 medications as a teenager, only to find out several years later I was misdiagnosed, but by that time, I had fibromyalgia and a whole slew of other physical issues.

    I know losing weight will help, although it won’t be solved. I don’t snack, eat fairly healthy (veggies, chicken ) although I do have a couple things I’m adjusting.

    The problem is essentially explained by this http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/wpress/articles

    To live my life, I use up all my spoons. In fact, most days I run out before half the things I need to do are done.

    Why would I be offended by her caption?

    Simply put, because women (and men) DO react that way towards people with weight issues!

    The one day I’ve stopped at McDonald’s in a month and got a chicken sandwich because I’ve been running all day and need to have something to eat… People look at you and yes even comment ‘do you really think you need to be here! ”

    The days when I’ve worked so hard, I’m having muscle cramps so bad that my boyfriend has to bend my body parts back into their correct positions to relax the muscle because the cramps have tightened up so much I can’t do it myself… And I HAVE to shop, so I get into one of the motorized scooters and hear people comment that I’m just fat and lazy…

    The day my friend went to subway to” splurge” as a reward for losing 30 lbs in 2 months. A 6″ turkey on wheat, no cheese, lettuce Tomatoes mayo and onions.. The girl making her sandwich asked if she was SURE she didn’t want light mayo, TWICE, and kept arguing with her to add spinach to her sub!

    Things like this happen ALL THE TIME.

    Look at Facebook, Craigslist, forums or anywhere online and people judge and belittle FAT people without knowing anything about them. People deciding who you are and what you are capable of without even knowing your name.

    The reason some folks took the ‘what’s your excuse’ caption as a snotty judgmental statement is because people DO actually think this way and it’s a lot more than you probably believe.

    Yes, as fat people, most of us, despite what they may say in their faux confident voice, hate ourselves… But whether it started this way and the world reinforces it, or vice versa, it’s the chicken and the egg

    The women who took this negatively weren’t simply projecting their own feelings, the voices we’ve heard all our fathood sound just the same as this woman’s caption.

    I don’t know her, she could be one of the people who silently or not so silently judge others for what she perceives as their shortcomings, without any real knowledge.. Or it could all be innocent, honestly we will never know because we aren’t inside her head.

    It’s not about moms or non moms as someone said. It’s about stopping even our silent voices from assuming we have any right to even have an opinion on someone else’s body.

    Sorry so long, I just felt like everyone was accusing those who were offended as some inferior ‘fatties who’s real problem is with themselves’ (actual quote, from an adult WOMAN, with daughters btw, on another site) I really wanted to try to explain how it is on this side of the aisle…

Leave a Reply