Most people who cause a media stir don’t wait for months to answer critics, but Maria Kang did. Last October she reacted to something that had happened a year before. Eight months after giving birth, Kang posted on Facebook a picture of herself with the youngest child and her other two little boys, ages 2 and 3. She was in great shape, and the photo caption read, “What’s your excuse?”
In response, 18,000 comments accumulated, most of them positive. In fact, the “No-Excuse Mom” has inspired countless women to follow her lead. But some have accused the Sacramento mother and “fitness guru” of bullying and fat-shaming, and a few even went so far as to demand an apology for injury to the feelings of women who have not managed to recover their pre-pregnancy figures. Last fall, after due consideration, Kang reposted the family portrait that had inspired the anger, with a reply:
I never called you fat, I never said that you were a bad mother, I never said what’s your excuse for not looking like me, I never said anything like that.
Kang told ABC News that in the past she had been on an unhealthy track during a four-year struggle with bulimia. She adjusted her lifestyle to include regular workouts and sensible eating habits, and advises parents to “Be healthy because you love your child.”
Martial artist and podcast host Joe Rogan opined that a woman celebrating her thinness does not equal fat-shaming, and delved into the psychological reasons why some people stare at and make remarks about obese individuals they encounter in everyday life. In his view, no one is trying to shame anyone, but like other members of the animal kingdom, people can’t help reacting on a visceral level to the recognition of danger. Consciously or unconsciously, he said, a person feels threatened and thinks:
‘I could do that. I’d better not do that. I don’t want to do that. That guy’s gonna die.’
If you see someone that’s super unhealthy coughing and smoking a cigarette, that feeling is not cigarette-smoking-shaming. That feeling is, you’re recognizing that someone is doing something incredibly unhealthy and that possibility exists for you too…. They don’t like the way [fat] looks on you because they’re scared of it being on them.
Rogan’s guest, Dave Asprey — who has his own podcast, “Bulletproof Executive” — said that he feels a lot of compassion for the overweight and added:
It kind of upsets me when I see fat people who are feeling guilty and fighting with all their willpower on these cravings, but they’re doing it wrong. But they don’t know that they’re doing it wrong, so they feel guilty and they get caught in all this emotional stuff, and it’s unnecessary.
Rogan, a practitioner and proponent of sheer willpower, asks what makes a person go out of their way to seek a better way, change their diet, and make the difficult commitment to start working out. (If he doesn’t know the answer, who does?)
Dr. Pretlow makes an excellent point about willpower, which is that it goes out the window when addiction comes in the door. Being helpless against the lure of a substance is the very definition of addiction.
When the Huffington Post got together with Harvard University, the resulting video discussion suggests that blaming people for lack of willpower is wrong, because of the toxic food environment in which so many foods are deliberately engineered to be addictive.
No matter what the cause of their obesity, to be fat-shamed is always rough on the young. For some kids, the unhappiness is not limited to school, and home is no refuge. According to a report from Yale University’s Rudd Center, victimization by family members has been reported by 47% of overweight girls and 34% of overweight boys.
When parents tease and stigmatize, of course that translates to siblings and other relatives as permission to harass the overweight child. Why on earth would family members, who are supposed to provide emotional support, be so cruel? Weight bias, a more clinical term for fat-shaming, has serious consequences, like causing psychological debilitation that leads to even more obesity.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “’What’s your excuse’ post from toned mom of 3 Maria Kang sparks anger,” ABCLocal.go.com, 10/17/13
Source: “Joe Rogan Destroys Fat logic,” YouTube.com, 11/05/13
Source: “Why Do We Overeat? Harvard Researchers Address Obesity And The Toxic Food Environment,” HuffingtonPost.com, 09/13/13
Source: “Clinical Implications of Obesity Stigma,” YaleRuddCenter.org, 06/27/13
Image by ABC News