I was out of town for a few days. And while I was gone, this happened:
And then everyone came unglued.
I know I'm a little late to be weighing in (sorry -- couldn't resist) on this topic, but I have something important to say:
Kang didn't do anything wrong, so everyone should quit bellyaching about it. I'd tell you to leave her alone but judging from her appearance I trust she can take care of herself. Kang is a volunteer fitness instructor who is passionate about her work. Her mission is to help people overcome obstacles and get in shape. That is something for which she should be applauded, not chastised.
When I go looking for a hair stylist or a cosmetic salesperson, I don't pick someone who looks like she is overcompensating for not being allowed to play dress-up as a child on one end of the spectrum, or someone who looks she doesn't care at all about her appearance beyond an occasional shower, on the other. I pick someone whose hair or makeup looks better than mine. I want someone who looks like she knows what she's doing because I want to benefit from her experience and expertise. In fact, that's what I'm paying for.
The same logic applies when I pick a personal trainer. I choose someone whose appearance tells me she is religious about fitness. And because I'm a grownup, I understand that just as going to a stylist whose hair looks like Heather Locklear's doesn't mean I'll walk out of the salon with perfect blonde tresses, hiring a trainer who is completely cut doesn't mean I'm going to have a body like hers after I crush it at the gym for an hour.
There are all kinds of variables that affect your physique separate and apart from going to the gym. Variables like basic body style, diet, level of physical activity involved in one's day job, as well as lifestyle choices like intake levels of television and red wine. And that was the entire point of Kang's post.
Yes, factors like genetics and economics (among others) make it easier for some. And if you are working three jobs and have five kids, everyone understands you don't have a lot of free time for jumping jacks and crunches. But one's priorities also play a huge role, which is precisely what Kang was challenging us to think about. If you choose to watch America's Next Top Model over knocking out a few sets of lunges and pushups, that's your prerogative. Your priorities don't make you a bad person; but asking you to be honest about them doesn't make Kang a bad person, either.
Anti-smoking and anti-texting while driving ads are known to pack a punch. No one claims they hit below the belt because they make people who smoke or text while driving feel bad about themselves. We don't label as unfair an ad that features a guy whose texting and driving caused a crash that killed three kids just because not everyone who texts and drives will cause a fatal wreck. We don't deem unfair an ad showing someone who had to have a tracheotomy as a result of cancer caused by smoking simply because not all smokers will meet with the same fate. These ads are designed to drive home the connection between personal behavior and consequences. Kang's photo had the same objective -- only rather than depicting the negative consequences of not prioritizing fitness, she highlighted the positive results that are possible when you do. How is that wrong?
Kang's Facebook photo wasn't fat shaming. She asked a legitimate question about priorities on her Facebook page. We cannot become so coddling as a society that we vilify someone who asks us to give some honest thought to the connection between our choices and our health.
As between Kang and her critics, Kang is a much better friend to those who struggle with weight. Declaring off limits questions such as the one she posed hurts rather than helps the very people her critics claim they want to protect. Not asking these types of questions might spare hurt feelings now, but asking them could avoid a whole host of health problems later.
I'd rather have a friend who is willing to risk a few popularity points by bringing up an important topic even though I might not want to talk about it than one who constantly tries to protect my feelings at the expense of my well-being. So, thank you, Maria Kang, for having the guts to act like a real friend. And now if you'll excuse me, I'm headed to the gym.
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