By: Tracie Knabe Snowder, KSL
ELK GROVE, Calif. - The woman known around the Internet as “Hot Facebook Mom” who stirred up outrage and support in October for her first “What's Your Excuse?” motivational poster for moms who don't make time to exercise talks about her latest campaign and why she doesn't think it's controversial.
Maria Kang, a freelance writer, fitness blogger and director of a nonprofit fitness organization, first made headlines in October of last year when she posted a photo to Facebook of herself wearing workout clothes that showed a fit and toned figure with her three young boys surrounding her. The caption “What's Your Excuse?” along with the boys' ages, 3 years, 2 years and 8 months, were included in the picture.
The Internet collectively went into an uproar
as the photo went viral. Kang's popularity exploded, but much of the feedback she received was negative.
“I feel like all the backlash was worth it,” Kang told Yahoo
. “I feel like my original image and message sparked an international dialogue that woke people up and made them question their excuses. I've always stood my ground that my intention was to inspire - and I have - and it's exciting.”
Besides the negative attention, she also received messages of support from women who were inspired by her message. An Ohio mother of one, Lori Ann Hare, contacted Kang to tell her she was going to start a Facebook group called the No Excuse Mom Challenge.
Instead of starting a small Facebook group, the women teamed up to create a movement.
With the help of Hare, Kang parlayed her popularity into a fitness movement called the “No Excuse Mom Movement.”
Kang calls it a "grass-roots movement of moms everywhere" who are making their health a priority.
The movement officially launched in January, and Kang said they already have more than 700 local groups in 24 countries, and it's still growing. When Kang sat down to create a campaign for her new movement, she knew she wanted to do another poster that could inspire women to work out.
“What's interesting is when I create campaigns, I really don't think it will go viral or create an uproar,” Kang said. “This recent picture and my last picture were all beautiful images, in my mind. I knew they were powerful photos that made a strong statement, but I never think it's going to create as much conversation as it does.”
Kang left her children out of the picture this time because of the criticism she received in October. Her new poster is just a picture of herself, again in workout clothes that show off her washboard abs, with phrases that define her life: “Works 8hr+ days, limited sleep, no nanny or chef, not a trainer or fitness model, gave birth to sons in 2009, 2010 & 2011.” The poster also points out her stretch marks and emphasizes “strong not skinny.”
Her new photo again went viral, and again, Kang was bombarded with negative feedback. She took to Instagram to defend the new poster.
“I don't get it. #DrPhil and #jillianmichaels always say, "What's your excuse?" In fact #thebiggestloser had a whole season based on "no excuses," so why does a 'nobody' like myself get underneath people's skin? Is it because I'm not sponsored by #weightwatchers or #jennycraig ? Does my CAN DO ATTITUDE break people's personal reality that being healthy can't be done?" she wrote on Instagram
. "I posted this image on my FB page and people were offended (again). I'm not even selling ANYTHING. I'm promoting a #noexcusemom movement. I want moms to feel empowered, supported and motivated. I'm not trying to get rich, get sponsored and have people just gawk at my toned physique."
Kang also spoke to her local news station to defend the picture against its critics. While she admits that the lighting was manipulated in Photoshop, she said the rest of the image is the real deal.
"It is absolutely the real me," Kang told ABC News 10
. "What we've become accustomed to are images where they've taken inches off a person, and they look longer and taller … if there's any (Photoshopping), it's lighting. But you're not going to see my waist getting thinner or my legs getting thinner.”
Kang emphasized that not only do moms need to make health a priority for themselves, but to also be a good example of health to their kids who are influenced daily by their parents' decisions.
“I think in order to raise a healthy child, you need to be a healthy parent. Children learn from example. I don't have to wonder if unhealthy moms create negative effect in their children because studies have already proven it,” Kang explained. “A recent Stanford study last year noted that the biggest factor in increasing a child's risk of being overweight is being raised by an obese parent.”
While her tactics might seem a bit aggressive and in-your-face to some, Hare told Yahoo that it was refreshing to see a new fitness motivation. She echos Kang in wanting to be a good example for her daughter.
“I and so many others are hungry for change. No Excuse Mom is the answer for this,” Hare told Yahoo
. “We've recognized that living an unhealthy lifestyle and not taking time for health is not only detrimental for us, it's reflecting on our children's lives. My own family has many health-related problems, and I really want to be a good example for my daughter.”
Regardless of motivation, sometimes moms are just too busy and tired to squeeze in a workout. Kang offered some advice to those that are having trouble with time and energy.
"It's not easy - I know because I'm a mom also to three young boys," she said. "But their health is absolutely worth it and the first thing they need to do is make a choice. Make a choice that you will be healthy and begin prioritizing your life."
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