Maria Kang is not your wake-up call

Maria “what’s your excuse?” Kang has hit the news again. This time she’s sharing an airbrushed image of herself showing off toned thighs and a flat stomach, along with slogans such as “limited sleep”, “no nanny” and “works 8hr+ days”. The message behind it: “If I can look like this, you can too.”

The response has been divided. How can it not be when she is making a comment on two very touchy subjects, motherhood and our bodies? So is she an inspiration? Or is she fat-shaming?

When I first saw the original “what’s your excuse” image in October, I found it pretty revolting. Actually, I was livid … until I questioned why was I feeling so defensive about it. Maybe she did have a point. What was my excuse? I’m now pregnant with my second child, but even between pregnancies I didn’t look like that.

My initial response stemmed from an insecurity that if I was a toned size-eight my life would be more enjoyable. Perhaps a lot of women felt that way, and that’s why the reactions to her have been so strong. Who doesn’t want to be fit, especially when we have little ones to take care of? I want to be active with my kids, to live a robust life where they don’t have to worry about me.

When I had planned to start trying for my second baby I sheepishly confessed to my GP, “I haven’t lost all my pregnancy weight and I’ve heard this could cause complications with the baby if I fall pregnant again.” It was as if I wanted her to say, “Stop being so selfish and lose those five kilos. Can’t you think about your children and how your weight effects them?” Instead, she considered my question and then did her job. She weighed me, took blood and urine samples, tested my blood pressure and checked I was up to date with my immunisations. Once she had all the data she needed she gave me the go-ahead to get cracking. It turns out that as a size 12 with lots of wobbly bits I was still healthy. My guilt vanished and it turned out that body acceptance made me feel pretty bloody happy.

But let’s assume for a moment that Maria Kang is being genuine when she says that she’s not purposely being controversial, and that her goal with these campaigns is to encourage mothers to be healthy. Maybe she really does believe that being harsh is the only way to help women find happiness.

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I think we need to bear in mind that while Maria Kang might think she knows what is best for us, her ideas on health and happiness are going to be biased.

Maria Kang is a recovering bulimic. On her website she talks about her fears of becoming overweight like her own mother. We can never really know how happy or mentally healthy Kang is. And just like we don’t know everything about her, she knows nothing about you and your circumstances. If you want (or need) to improve your lifestyle, Maria Kang isn’t the wake-up call that you need. Neither is your mother or your friend or your partner. The only person that should be allowed to encourage you into losing weight is a healthcare professional – and, more importantly, one you trust.

It took me years to find a GP I can rely on. She also oversees all my son’s check-ups. When she says he doesn’t need antibiotics, I believe her. When she says he does need them, I go out and buy them. If I entrust this woman with my son’s health, why wouldn’t I believe her when she says I’m a good weight?

It would be near impossible for Maria Kang to not bring her own baggage into how she feels about women’s bodies – and we shouldn’t expect any more from her, because that’s not her job. She is not a doctor or a psychologist, and unfortunately, does not hold the key to our happiness. Which is why I can confidently say, if she asked me what my excuse is, I would reply, “My doctor”. And even a hot mama with a washboard stomach is going to struggle with a decent argument against that.

Published in Essential Kids on Mar 10, 2014

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