You’ve probably seen this picture floating around the internet in the past few days. Maria Kang is a former fitness competitor and has three kids. What she’s pointing out with this picture, that she made herself and posted to her Facebook page, is that she’s had three kids and still maintains a muscular and slim physique. She caught a load of flack for ‘fat shaming’, and has since issued one of those pseudo-apologies where you say sorry but then reiterate and back up what you said in the first place.
That’s not what I’m here to rant about, though. What I’m here to rant about are some of the responses I’m seeing that are falling into the same thoughtless traps of exclusion, waxing lyrical about excuses and dedication and all that motivational nonsense, appearing profound and dedicated and good while forgetting one big, big thing – for some overweight people, there are no excuses, only reasons.
I posted this on a friend’s G+ status recently (click here to read the original post and see what I was responding to), and it’s relevant to my point;
I’m currently overweight (or rather, over my ideal weight) and unhappy with how I look. I’m not unhappy with how I look because of what I think other people are seeing. I’m unhappy with what I’M seeing. In this instance, ‘be happy with yourself even if you’re bigger’ is not something I can personally get on board with. I’m overweight because of hormone issues that were beyond my control. I feel like I’m living in a body that is not mine. I still FEEL thin. When I close my eyes I can easily imagine that I’m still 110lb (at 5’1). When I open my eyes and see my actual size, I feel like I’ve been stuffed inside a skinsuit. I empathise, utterly and completely, with the pose this woman is in in the picture. She may not be clawing at herself or covering herself up because she thinks she’s fat or because she’s not conforming to some svelte catwalk role-model; she may be doing it because she has no control over it and knows that it’s not how she’s supposed to be. In that light, there is nothing at all wrong with this image. What’s wrong is with the way it’s interpreted.
And now read this;
Caitlin has Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and problems with her thyroid gland. Let me pull a relevant quote from the article;
I don’t generally view my body size as positive or negative — it simply is. I eat right (most of the time) and I exercise (an inordinate amount), but it does little, thanks to a struggle with polycystic ovarian syndrome and a failing thyroid gland. I’m strong, I’m flexible and my doctor assures me my health is good, but the fact remains: I’m larger than someone my height should be.
“I eat right (most of the time) and I exercise (an inordinate amount)”
If the message of the original picture is ‘what’s your excuse for not exercising’, well, she doesn’t need one – she DOES exercise and she IS healthy.
If the message of the comments I’m seeing, like ‘if you put the hard work in and stop making excuses – you can have a great body, despite all that life throws at you‘ * is that all you need to do is work hard – well, she IS working hard (and why is ‘great body’ so important, why are you connecting ‘great body’ to ‘being healthy’ and oh I think you forgot to add ‘what I personally consider a’ before ‘great body’).
So what now? What’s YOUR excuse for sweepingly assuming that there’s a simple solution for everyone who’s overweight and that is just to ‘stop making excuses’?
I think it’s ignorance. And in keeping with my point, ignorance isn’t an excuse either. There is no excuse to not consider other people before you speak.
* – Part of an actual Facebook status deriding people taking issue with Kang’s photo and message, along with “The jealous and bitter are quick to make excuses and try pulling others down…”