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Fitness guru Kang an internet bully?

Maria Kang and her October 2013 No Excuse campaign poster looming in the background at the CBS Broadcast Center.
Maria Kang and her October 2013 No Excuse campaign poster looming in the background at the CBS Broadcast Center.
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

The social media criticism against Sacramento fitness expert Maria Kang’s motives behind her image of goddess-like beauty has triggered controversy once again after having raised a prior issue in October 2013 with a Facebook post of one of her photos. The latest issue resulted on Tuesday March 4th from response to her campaign poster for her No Excuse Mom movement, a program aimed to encourage physical fitness for moms. Facebook users’ down comments have ranged from accusations of the image of her seemingly perfect body being photo-shopped to her use of these photos as conceited, boastful, and even bullying to women who aren’t as fit as her. On top of these, there are even social media rumors that she neglects her children in order to work out to keep her “perfect” figure. While there may or may not be some truth to these comments, Maria Kang’s social media presence has shown her to be much more a community-oriented guide of humanitarian efforts than a conceited bully.

The image of Ms. Kang’s “perfect” body in her latest campaign photo is not intended for intimidation. The photo does appear to be, at least partly, made up by photo editing software since the image is much too technically precise to be a real photo of Kang. But what is more important is the very message that the campaign poster as a whole is trying to convey, which is “What’s your excuse?” as its slogan asks and so is implying that any woman, mother or non-mother, can have a fit body.

The poster conveys Kang in a skimpy green and neon purple work-out outfit with arrows pointing from various parts of her body to captions indicating the lifestyle she lives both outside of physical fitness and within. Some of these captions indicate her as a mother of three, having no luxuries such as a “nanny or chef”, and that she “works 8hr+ days”. One of the captions even goes as far as indicating stretch marks in a part of her abdomen, one of the few “flaws” the image reveals and, therefore, that probably wasn’t photo-shopped or touched up.

One of the arrows points to a list of values that Kang practices that can be used to achieve any goal, and so are universal values for all humanity and not just for vain physical attraction. One of these are even “faith”, in which Kang’s is Catholic yet she posts on her Facebook page encouraging words of wisdom by sages of other religions such as Gandhi, the Dalai Lama as well as Martin Luther King and so is open-minded to other people’s beliefs.

On the post of her campaign poster, Kang clarifies her message and debunks the myths against her by referring people to a link to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page of her website. There she answers such questions as “Do you work?” To this she responds saying that she is self-employed running two residential care homes for the elderly and that “caring for elders in their last living years is an honor and another passion of mine. Residents are much like family . . . .” Besides running her “latest project”, the No Excuse Mom movement, she also founded the non-profit Fitness Without Borders which develops fitness programs for children, “primarily . . . in underprivileged neighborhoods . . . .” Another myth she debunks is the one accusing her of neglecting time with her kids. To this she explains how she fits in her workout time not just while caring for her three kids but also while she spends time with them such as going to the park with them and working out while they play. She further debunks the myth of her reason for posting photos of herself which many believe create “unrealistic expectations for mothers.” She explains that her intention is not to say people should look like her but to ask mothers what their excuse for not keeping fit is, hence her latest campaign poster’s slogan--“What’s your excuse?”. She even goes as far as admitting that not all of her success in physical health has been due to her efforts alone. She doesn’t even limit the credit to other people’s efforts but acknowledges her success as being the result of praying to “a higher source”.

While many of Maria Kang’s internet and mass media photos of herself may be touched up, her latest for her “No Excuse” fitness campaign is not to mislead with the image but to motivate out- of-shape moms and encourage them to work out and that they are capable of doing so. Can we honestly say that a woman who has demonstrated charity and duty to family, community and even society worldwide is trying to bully women who aren’t as fit as she is? Feel free to leave your comments in the comments box.

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