Stop Fit Shaming!

The Internet was all aflutter this week with controversy about Fit Mom Maria Kang who posted a photo of herself looking toned and fit with her 3 young boys and the tag line “What’s your excuse?” Of course, the photo went viral and then the criticism started pouring in, calling her a bully and saying she was ‘fat shaming.’ She made the rounds on the talk show circuit to defend herself and explain that she wasn’t attacking anyone with her photo—she was showing off her hard work.

She’s in the fitness industry, she’s supposed to be the picture of fitness. The photo was intended to be inspirational fodder for her social media followers. Now, I don’t know Maria Kang, but I’m pretty sure the intention of the photo was something along the lines of “Hey I’m a busy lady with these three crazy rapscallions to raise, but I’ve taken charge of my goals and my fitness and worked hard to get in shape. I could easily say that ‘I don’t have time’ or ‘I’m too tired’ but I work out despite of these challenges and you can, too!” While rational folks looked at the picture and either thought “Good for her!” or didn’t think anything at all, some people looked at the photo and heard “Hey fat fatty, you need to look like this because you’re a fat fatty, especially you over there new mom with the jiggly belly. You have no excuse–I popped out 3 kids. Now drop the donut, fatty.”

Everyone talks about “fat shaming,” but what about “fit shaming.” There’s no doubt that women have to deal with a lot of pressure and criticism about their bodies during pregnancy and after the baby is born. As soon as the baby comes, women are under immense pressure to get back into those skinny jeans right away. Yes, it’s wrong that we expect women to snap back right away. However, we also shouldn’t also shame the women who do snap back within a year of having a baby (or even sooner).

Women who were fit before they were pregnant and maintained some semblance of a fitness routine during pregnancy will try to maintain that routine once the baby arrives. However, their motivation is more than losing baby weight. For these women, fitness is part of their lifestyle.  Exercise keeps them sane and keeps them connected to the person they were before they had the baby. Exercise has become a habit for them. They will find the time to exercise whether it means getting up at the crack of dawn to go for a run while everyone’s asleep or doing a few push-ups while the baby’s in tummy time. Or perhaps they have a great partner or babysitter who watches the kids while they go to the gym or off on a 50 mile bike ride. Personal time is precious when you’re a parent, whether you use your time for a much-needed pedicure or you go for a long run.

Women like Maria should be praised. She’s kicking ass and showing her boys that it’s possible to lead a healthy lifestyle and be a great parent. She’s showing them that fitness is important and it’s fun; it doesn’t have to go by the wayside when babies arrive.  She’s an example of the habits and attitude that lead to a long and healthy life. Yes she has great abs, especially for someone with an 8 month old (when the photo was taken), but she’s not shy about explaining the hard work that went into getting those abs. And she’s not saying that all women should look like that. There are lots of women–myself included–who exercise and eat right and don’t have a six pack. But that’s not the point.  She is an example that you can continue to exercise and maintain your healthy lifestyle even after you pop out a few sprogs.

Bullying isn’t okay. Bullying fat people isn’t okay, and neither is bullying fit people. Unfortunately, our culture has developed a weird relationship with fitness. While we aspire to have a toned physique, we tear down anyone with one, particularly women and especially mothers. “Oh, she must be a horrible a mom if she’s that vain to spend more time on her body than with her kids” or “I could look like that, too, but I choose to enjoy my food/spend time raising my kids” or “We could all look like that if we had her genes” or the faux concern of “She must have an eating disorder/need therapy” or some other snide remark.

Just stop. Enough already. Moms who are fit shouldn’t be attacked for showing off a bit.  Don’t criticize someone who’s busted her ass to get her body back—that just makes you look like a dick.

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