31 Days – The Real Problem With Maria Kang


Maria-Kang Edited to add a disclaimer on 10/22: I find no issue with women taking care of themselves and making their health a priority, nor do I take issue with women in general wearing a bikini at the beach, as some have noted. My issue is that by putting her body on display in such a public way, it puts emphasis on fitness for the sake of a killer body. That is my issue with this photo. For those who see this as some sort of insecurity on my part, or as an attack on women, let me say that we as women should be able to have critical thoughts. I fail to see how disagreeing with the means of her message, NOT THE MESSAGE ITSELF, is attacking her. I’m simply adding my perspective to the discussion.

This isn’t what I was planning to write about today, but because friends and news sites and blogs keep posting about this subject, asking what we all think about the photo, I figured I might as well weigh in.  Because you know I usually always have an opinion on things.  And coming from a person who does regularly work out and who eats very nutritiously, I’m figuring my point of view won’t be seen as coming from guilt or defensiveness.

When I first saw this photo and read just a few of the thousands of comments attached to it, I’ll admit that my knee jerk reaction was to agree with those who said that the only ones who take issue and offense at it are those who are suffering from some sort of “guilt” (whatever that may be).  The whole notion of, if it bothers you, then that’s your own issue. For some reason though that gut reaction didn’t sit well with me.

But then I read that she was a recovering  bulimic.  And then I started thinking.  The bulimia gave me reason to pause because it immediately triggered a thought that Ms. Kang’s relationship with food, fitness and overall health may be slightly unhealthy.  Yes, of course people can recover from bulimia and other eating disorders, but it just made me wonder if she had swapped one obsessive behavior for another, one that is more socially acceptable and praised.  And I say obsession because she has admitted that her workout routine involves hitting the gym 5-6 times a week for at least an hour a day, and she is a self-proclaimed fitness enthusiast.  To get a body like this, you have to be utterly devoted to your routine, almost to the point of obsession.  Believe me, when I looked like this, and weighed less than 130 pounds, it took obsessive determination to get me there.

Perhaps I’m over thinking this and she has a perfectly reasonable, healthy fitness routine that is no cause for concern.

But here’s my real problem with this photo; it makes the focus of healthy living for the sake of a hot body, not for the sake of just being healthy.

By posing in that skimpy outfit, she takes the focus off of healthy eating habits, a reasonable and sensible fitness routine, and a balanced full life, and turns all eyes on that amazing, killer body of hers. It tells us to forget what true healthy living is, because really what it all comes down to is getting the body you’ve always wanted.

Not to mention that here we go again with the over-sexualization of women for no good reason at all.

I have no doubt that her intentions were to inspire and I don’t even take issue with her wording really. But when she posed in that teeny tiny outfit, she lost all credibility in my eyes. Because in the end, what she’s really telling us all is to be healthy, be physically active, so you can look like this.

We have a major food and fitness problem in the United States, that is inarguable. But true change is only going to happen when people see fitness and nutrition as approachable, achievable and within their reach, and for more than just achieving a perceived ideal body image. It’s not going to happen by showing off photos of hot bodied women whose physiques are utterly lust-worthy and highly unachievable without some Herculean effort.

Work out and eat right so you can keep up with your kids (or grand kids), to improve your quality of life, to live a longer life, not to get flat abs and a great butt.

A for effort Maria Kang. D for execution.

What do you think? Am I too, over-thinking this? Or is her photo inspiring the wrong thing?

Andrea is the founder of For The Love Of, a lifestyle blog dedicated to approachable, modern living. She writes about style, her love of DIY, and living a healthier life through wholesome, nutritious cooking. She is also a regular contributor at Babble. Get in touch: Facebook, Twitter You can find Andrea on Instagram @andreavhowe and @gwynethmademedoit

  • I swear you’ve totally read my mind on this!! The photo rubbed me the wrong way immediately and it wasn’t because of her message it was because of what she was wearing. I immediately wondered why she had to wear such a skimpy outfit to get her message across.

  • you nailed it. it’s not about being “hot” it’s about being healthy. healthy to be a good employee, a good parent, a good spouse, a good person… not about wearing teensy spandex so you can boast at your next high school reunion about how dang hot you are and how everyone is so not.

  • Erin Redmond says:

    100% agree with everything you wrote. I wasn’t offended by the picture and didn’t think twice about it until others and the news stations were obsessing about it. I myself exercise to be strong and healthy for my kids and to live longer. I don’t have a goal weight that is unattainable and def don’t care to be obsessive to get to my smallest weight when I was 25. I want to enjoy life too. 🙂 In the end I do think her intentions were good, to let others know that you can make time for exercise and lead a healthy lifestyle. but who knows. I like your way of showing others how to eat healthy better, thats more motivation to me then seeing another woman showing off her “hot body”.

  • Naomi says:

    YES! Thank you for making that point. I used to look like this before I had my first child then 65 pounds later I’ve been trying to get back to looking like this and have gotten very discouraged. It’s only been lately that I’ve refoucused on just being healthy. While I think Ms. Kang is admirable I think you make an excellent point.

  • I have nothing to add because I completely agree with you. Well said.

  • Rachel Reeves says:

    I agree with your opinion on a whole but I also think that this issue is a easy target when there are so many other issues, much like this, that should get equal attack, however they are more socially acceptable and less of a hot-button topic for the ladies. Simply because of the inherent self-image issues many of us deal with and our inborn competitive/sinful nature, woman are so prone to jump on this topic and let the less intimidating forms of self-promotion {and perhaps unhealthy addictions} get the back burner {not saying you do this in particular, simply the promotion of this picture got me thinking}. In the end, It’s all to garner the same thing: praise and acclamation from others, for something that reflects back on US and our self worth. Whether that be having a perfectly decorated house, a noted college degree, a esteemed career, a perfectly selected wardrobe. a zillion followers on our blog or what have you. It’s all surface and self-praise and we all do it in our own way-myself included….and this is what we need to be on alert for and each be trying to fight against. I find that so hard, personally, in a society that is all about self-promotion and letting others know about the life you are living. It’s hard to push back against, you know?
    This is just another example of how our world has a focus on the exterior instead of the real person-a world that refuses to see the inherent and interior beauty of people that God created will always resort to judgment of the outside….whether it be the body, the house, the outfit, the marriage, the children, the intelligence, the awards.

    It makes me think of the Bible verse:
    “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

    Thank you for bringing this article up, Andrea-it gives us all something to think about!!

  • Ellie Shea says:

    I totally agree. The focus should be on achieving health and harmony in your life, not looking like this. Look: I could work out more; I know that. But I also know that I am not willing to do the work to get THAT kind of body. And you know what, that’s okay. I’m happy, healthy and the perfect weight for my height. Admittedly I have saddle bags, but I’m under strict instructions by a certain man in my life to keep them! 😉

  • Kristin says:

    Agreed. I hate the judgment that mamas put on one another and I think the messaging was all off here. Instead of being inspirational it came off as out of touch.

  • Julia says:

    I don’t think Mariah has done anything wrong, as long as what she is conveying is genuine achievement and fulfillment through a personal goal. For her, this may mean maintaining a specific aesthetic ideal…so good for her! ..whatever floats you boat, why scrutinize? Everyone aspires to beauty in some way, shape or form, and we can all scrutinize each other’s values and motivation all day long. But why bother?

    I think there’s a positive message to be gained from this… she has a goal and a passion of her own that extends beyond serving her children…she MAKES time to take care of herself and prioritize herself in her own way which probably has great physical and emotional benefits. …what a great reminder for us all…just to prioritize ourselves every so often.

  • Sarah says:

    I agree with Julia. The woman in the picture is proud of her hard work and dedication and she should be! To each their own. She needs not to critized.

  • mary beth says:

    Best review on this I’ve seen. I, too, thought something didn’t sit right, but couldn’t nail what it was till you opened my eyes with this post. I, too, work out regularly, am mostly vegetarian, and emphasize health BIG in our house. You nailed this post. Sharing now….

  • Jules says:

    YES, Andrea. YES.

    Sarah, I’m not sure if you’re saying Andrea is criticizing Mariah or if you’re saying everyone in general is criticizing Mariah, but here are my thoughts. I don’t think Andrea is criticizing her. On the contrary, she’s pointing out that while she may have a commendable message (be healthy, workout, prioritize your health), she’s doing it in a way that is critical of others who are not like her. You do not need abdominal muscles as well defined as hers are to be healthy enough to live to 100 years of age. Like Rachel said, her focus has moved past the internal and settled on the external. That’s fine (there are far more harmful, illegal pleasures) but Mariah should refrain from shaming the populace into believing they’ve failed if they don’t share those aspirations.

    Most people and news outlets in general? Totally criticizing Mariah. Badly, too. It’s unfair and hypocritical.

    I’m very much aware of what my body can and can not do, and for me to look like Mariah I would have to be in full-blown eating disorder mode with a dash of compulsive exercise mixed in just for fun. So my excuse, ironically enough, is that I want to stay healthy and sane. 🙂

  • Stefanie says:

    I love your commentary re: this photo…sums it up perfectly!

  • sara says:

    I agree–I also felt like there was something off about this photo, and this post definitely links into a lot of it for me. Being super thin and sexy is actually NOT the same thing as being healthy – she may or may not be healthy (it’s impossible to tell from one photo). Certainly eating disorders can get one to lose weight, but that’s not HEALTHY. And, someone could be really healthy in terms of eating healthy food and getting exercise and still never look like that photo – and you know what, that’s okay! That’s awesome, in fact! Because being healthy is not about being skinny, it’s about so much more.

    I personally also took offense at the phrase “What’s your excuse?” Well, first of all, plenty of people do have legit ‘excuses’ if you want to call it that for not having a body like hers. And second of all, poor health is NOT a moral failing, period. Some people have health problems that were contributed to in some way by their own actions, which is something we can approach from a public health perspective but certainly doesn’t make them BAD PEOPLE. And plenty of people have health problems that are just random bad luck! Want to tell me kids with childhood cancer did something ‘wrong’ that made them get sick? Lots of people have poor health for a LOT of reasons — they do not need an ‘excuse’ for being ill, and so I hate hate hate all the moralizing language around health issues, as if one can attain perfect health merely by being a good person and eating right and exercising. These are all good things to do! But they are not a guarantee of good health, and bad health is not a marker of a ‘bad person’ or ‘weak person’ as so much of the dieting and exercise these days implies.

  • Bailey K. says:

    I completely disagree. As a therapist, as well as a recovered bulimic, I see her “obsession” of workouts (as you put it) as a positive coping mechanism, since bulimia usually stems from other issues anyway. If you have have body issues, a therapist will tell you to try to deal with it in a healthy way, like working out (positive coping mechanism), instead of bulimia (negative coping mechanism). And that’s what she’s doing. Exercising 5-6 times per week is not excessive, and not considered bulimic.

    Also, if you had been a fan of her fb page previously, you would know that she doesn’t just live healthy for the sake of the body. Obviously, that photo is to catch attention. And it worked.

    And, to me, I saw the “What’s your excuse?” as speaking to women like her. A typical mom with a few kids. To me, she was not talking to the the people that have other other reasons for not getting in shape (debilitating illness, death in the family, loss of a job, caregiver of parents, etc).

    About the over-sexualization of women? Well, yes, I agree with that. But I’m sure most women who have had a problem with this have either worn a bikini at some point in their life or at least wish that they could. Again, not all, but most. So, to me, that’s not the issue here.

    The picture was a challenge to people following her. The people following her were for a reason – to be inspired to get in shape! So, this was her encouragement for them (her current fans) to do so. The people already following her weren’t the people offended by this photo.

    • Cathy says:

      Completely agree with Bailey K. And there is nothing crazy or obsessive about hitting the gym for an hour, 5-6 days a week. That’s just taking care of yourself. I found the Maria Kang picture inspiring and nothing less. I don’t understand all the flack she got, other than it struck a nerve with other women’s insecurities. And as to the whole “cover that up” argument that she is wearing too skimpy an outfit…really? It just looks like a bikini. She was trying to demonstrate visually what regular workouts and eating right can do. I don’t see how this is overly sexualizing women at all.

      Bottom line: it was inspiring. Probably 99% of us should be getting more exercise than we do.

      • Andrea says:

        okay, can I just ask, why do we as women automatically jump to the insecurity thing? It struck a nerve with me, on both sides. As I said, initially I agreed that the message was purely inspirational and not done to shame anyone, but after some thought I came up with a different viewpoint. Just because it struck a nerve does not mean I’m insecure, nor does it automatically mean others are insecure. Some people are way insecure and overtly sensitive about their bodies and weight issues, and unduly attacked her for their issues, but that is not the case with all of us.

        • Cathy says:

          I think if we are *really* secure with our answer to her question of “what’s your excuse?” then we don’t take issue with her post in the first place. We laugh it off and know full well that our excuse is xyz excuse and that we’re good with it. Maybe it’s not an excuse but an “I don’t care to look like that. It’s not important to me.” And that’s okay too. But picking her apart, explaining away her hard work at the gym as being “obsessive” or part of an eating disorder or an overly narcissistic personality or that she has per priorities in the wrong place sounds judgmental. THAT (the judgment) usually comes from a place of not being comfortable with the answer to her question. She makes us squirm a little, which was her intent, I think.

  • Jasi says:

    I don’t see a problem with her outfit. I’ve seen less and worn less at the beach. Non-issue entirely. If this upsets you please stay away from mass media this week entirely as it’s plastered with Nikki’s pasties and Kim’s backside.

    But really, if ever there was a way to brand oneself as insecure, please, by all means attack a woman working hard on her goals. Slam her outfit, discuss her sexuality, dig into her past, definitely talk about her parenting. It makes our own lives better right? Knocking down another woman?

    • Rachel Reeves says:

      First of all, ouch. If you were aiming that comment directly at Andrea, that was a bit harsh, don’t you think?

      Secondly, Andrea wasn’t attacking Ms. King. She was merely questioning motives and judging the situation at face value which is something you and I and every other human being do each and every day. Our entire day is made up of judgement calls and if we call all of those “attacking”, well then, we are ALL waging war. Most of the time it’s vital-it’s called discernment.
      If and when celebrities and public images toss out three word advertisements that are meant to entice conversation, it should be assumed by them and everyone else, that people are going to draw conclusions and not all will meet up or agree. That shouldn’t be labeled as attacking, necessarily.

      I suppose that we live in a culture where it’s completely normal to visit the beach {and apparently some awards shows} in skimpy outfits/bathing suits and maybe I’m the last woman standing that thinks like this, but “WHY”? Why do we feel the need, as woman, to show our female empowerment by wearing so little? If we all REALLY stop and think about it, would we answer the door in our underwear? Of course not! But as soon as anyone is by a large body of water, it’s like, “Look at my boobies!”.
      What is this saying about our culture and our need, especially as woman, to garner attention from anyone/everyone? What does it say to a 9 year old little girl, when a mom struts in a two piece bathing suit and yet she is only allowed to wear a one-piece because we are afraid that she might be over-sexualized? What about the MOM being over-sexualized? Why don’t we think like that more?
      Much like I said in my comment above {and yes I’m coming from a decidedly Christian perspective so I get most people will think I’m a bit extreme} I think the underlying question is where is the need to have focus placed on our outward shell coming from?
      What is the need?
      What is the motive?

      From personal experience, I recently lost almost 60 pounds and I finally DO have washboard abs. I have shared my journey with thousands of people and not once did I have to post a picture in anything but a short sleeved t-shirt and a long pair of cotton pants. I was still able to endorse healthy eating, a healthful lifestyle and inspiring others towards movement…while being modest.

      I suppose my push back against our culture is not against Ms. King personally but that in this world so much emphasis is put on the outside of someone, rather than what is important-WHO they are. WHO Christ created them to be and their spirit and what that contributes to the human race.

      None of us need to dress skimpy to convey and share the best parts of ourselves.

  • Kati says:

    Good post. I agree for the most part–except that I do think the wording is part of the problem. It’s not inspiring other women, it’s shaming them. “What, you mean you can’t have 3 babies and a six pack? You’re not enough.”

  • Andrea says:

    I will say it again in case I wasn’t clear, the issue I have with the photo is that she puts the focus on healthy living for the sake of a killer body, not for the sake of healthy living. Whether she meant to or not, that is what she is doing. She could have conveyed how fit she was in a more appropriate outfit that most women could actually work out in, because even with my small boobies, that bra ain’t doing a thing to actually give me comfort and support during a workout. And for those who think I am attacking her, we women are allowed to have critical thoughts. Just because I don’t agree with her doesn’t mean I’m woman bashing for goodness sake! Nor does it mean I’m insecure. I feel good, I look good and I don’t need to blast my body online to convey that.

  • amber says:

    ok so here’s my two cents. I respect your opinion on the matter and see your point. Completely. I think the “problem” with the photo is the word excuse. That’s what gets women up in arms. Suddenly everyone is justifying their own healthy pursuits (on whatever level that may be) by talking about this one woman. I have to say I was more motivated than offended, but that’s just me. I think the word excuse brings up so many feelings and issues that people(particularly women) get their panties all in a bunch over. I didn’t read her FB page nor do I know anything about her as a person. And honestly I don’t really care. She’s clearly NOT working out in that outfit and if she is – kudos to her. Not everyone wants to look like that nor should they. It’s just not feasible given we all have different body types etc but I kind of feel like the photo was more of a challenge than a put down of sorts. Basically – if I can do it with three kids so can you. No different (to me) than encouraging people to eat better. It’s bascially saying we can all do it. We just have to make it a priority. Now how she does it or her methods may seem questionable or excessive to some. I don’t know. After the baby I worked out like a crazy person because I WANTED to and it made ME feel good. I liked the way it felt (also because that I could control but that is a whole other postpartum issue). Anywho- is it wrong to challenge one another to be our very best? Is it crazy excessive to work out 5-6 time a week for an hour? Meh. Debatable. If you have the time, go for it. I personally couldn’t because I’d get bored but if that’s her “thing” then do you girlfriend.
    What I do find interesting is that everyone is now turning this on YOU as if you are doing something to her or putting her down in some way. This is what is more harmful/hurtful than the photo. Why do we all have to push our issues on others for giving an opinion? I don’t get it.
    Also – working out and being healthy is great. It doesn’t have to involve having rock hard abs or a butt that won’t quit, but if that’s what ends up happening, well I’m not mad at that either.
    I could go on and on about MY workout and how I feel about it all but really – this is just a well written post by a real mama(you) who is using her platform to state an opinion. Isn’t that the point of blogging?
    End rant.

    • Andrea says:

      Oh Amber, I did also mean to convey that last night, but I was trying to keep this post from getting too verbose, as I sometimes tend to do! If eating healthy and working out gives you a killer body, than all the better and hooray! But! That should not be your main motivator for working out and eating well, because as I had written before in the post I linked to above, you probably won’t ever be satisfied, or you may end up being really self-absorbed. I will say that even with my moderate exercise routine and eating very nutritiously, I have lost some poundage and I will say, my arms and legs are looking pretty good. But I am seeing that as a great perk and side benefit of all this stuff I’m doing, not the primary reason 🙂

    • Andrea says:

      Oh, and also meant to say, working out for us mommas is a great way to relieve stress and sure, a 5-6 days a week workout routine is not necessarily obsessive. That is the only thing I’ve written above that I would probably take back. If you have great child care or your kids are in school and that’s your thing, then go for it. If working out that many times consistently each week doesn’t put a burden on your family and kids and makes you a better momma, then I support that. Exercise is a great stress relief and boost endorphins. I was bringing up as a question in relation to her bulimia recovery and pondering if the two were inter-related. That was a judgement on my part that is irrelevant, as I don’t know this woman personally and what her recovery and overall routine looks like. I’m just saying though, we all may know a girl or two who can get obsessive about working out…

    • amber says:

      totally agree Andrea. Being aspirational is one thing (six pack abs) the reality is whole other can of worms (crying baby, love of french fries) which is why I enjoy your posts on clean eating and the like. I think it’s very approachable in getting inspired and I have been to make better changes. And if a benefit of healthy eating is weight loss well that’s just awesome sauce. People are missing the point – just be healthy. that’s the end goal.

      but we all know (at least those of us who are looking a little more deeply into it) that people like to talk about other people who ar

  • Kate says:

    Here are my thoughts (irony noted):

    I think that sometimes we just need to say “eh” and move on. Granted, I didn’t see this picture before this post on your Facebook page. Granted, I tend to lean toward the whole “ostrich in the sand” side when it comes to news. Granted, I think most of us could list off at least two or three “excuses” for not looking like that and I have my own body image issues to deal with but at the end of the day…

    My issue is more with the whole reaction train: why do we have this need to weigh in on everything? Miley, Martha, this school shooting, that badly timed advert, a stupid picture on the front of Time. I’m not saying you shouldn’t share your two cents (you’re a blogger and I read you for a reason) but sometimes I think these things gain traction or stay longer simply because we are carrying them on instead of just walking away and not playing into the crazy (and in my opinion that “advertisement” is crazy and crazy making). Maybe then all these stupid things could be like the witch who dissolves simply because no one believes in her anymore. I think these things just deserve our silence.

  • anna says:

    To Maria Kang…
    My excuse is that I work and I am going to school to get my Master’s. I have three children which two of them are in school. I have a husband who leaves work at 4:30 am and gets home at 7:00 pm. I am up at 5:00 am getting ready for work, getting my kids ready for school, packing lunches and trying to finish the last of my dishes or laundry before I leave the house. My children leave the house very well-groomed…hair pulled out of faces and combed. When I get home, I make dinner, get kids homework done, get kids in the bath and in bed at a decent hour, clean up dinner, wash another load of laundry and then do my homework…and sports were NOT even included in this list…or doesn’t include all the extra chores that I do if someone or something gets off “my” schedule…like having a child with the flu or a child who had an accident or a child who decided to color all over their clothes, etc. I have never been to bed before 11 pm. Reality is…many women have the same excuse as I do!

    I find it a little harsh that Mrs. Kang used the words: “What’s your excuse?”…that’s what PISSED me OFF!

  • What if the inspiration was changed from being healthy in spite of our families to being healthy FOR our families? That would require a different photo, though…

  • Jen says:

    The problem with that image and “promotion” is that often times, fitness models who have “shredded” look are often in very restrictive diet that are unhealthy, overexercising and DEHYDRATING themselves to bring out those “abs”.

    In today’s aesthetic, it looks good, but clinically, it is not a sustainable lifestyle and many FORMER fitness models and enthusiasts have written about this themselves.

    Again, who is she to claim to be promoting health when the way to get that “shredded” look especially on women, is psychologically and physiologically UNHEALTHY?

    Why is it that these “fitness models/enthusiasts” are implying that the only way to get fit is to hit the gym or do “gym” routines when doing household chores regularly is like exercising regularly, either?

    Maria Kang is not about functional fitness, it’s about aesthetics fitness and many a times, aesthetic fitness is a way to camouflage an eating disorder or a way to one!

    By the way, she mentioned about rising obesity but never mentions the horrifying and increasing trend of anorexia and BD in teenage boys?! Anorexia and Bulemia are the most deadly mental disorder yet she does not seem to advocate to help prevent these but rather focus on “look at me, I’m hot by today’s standard”

    Yes to FUNCTIONAL FITNESS. No to aesthetic fitness (THINSPO IN SPORTSBRA)

    And there is such a thing as overexercising just as much as there is overeating!

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *