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News & Insight

Controversial Facebook Photo Sparks Debate and Haters For Fitness Mom

By Hanssie on October 15th 2013

What’s Your Excuse?” the headline reads, under a photo of a gorgeous woman, clothed in nothing but a sports bra and booty shorts, showing off an incredibly toned body. At her feet are her three young children, ages 8 months to three years.

Maria-Kang And so began a firestorm of controversy.

After posting the now viral photo on Facebook, Maria Kang, a 32 year old California mom, has received over 16,000 comments of both support and outrage. Rants from insulted bloggers pepper the internet, accusing her of being a bad mom for focusing on her body instead of raising her kids, being a ‘bully’, being a poor role model, perpetuating the unreasonable expectations society places on women and for “fat shaming” those that don’t have the perfect size 2 body. Yet, others find her an inspiration.

Kang, owns two businesses, started a non profit fitness organization, is a former fitness competitor and beauty queen as well as a recovering bulimic. Kang’s blog is intended to motivate and inspire people with her own personal stories and insights.

“I wanted to inspire people,” she explains, adding that the “What’s your excuse?” part was simply a borrowed, popular phrase that’s been used in various “fitspiration” campaigns. “I wanted to say, ‘I know you think you don’t have time if you have kids. But if I can do it, you can do it, too.’”

Kang gets up at 5:30 every morning to run, she eats healthily, raises three boys, takes care of a husband that is unable to work due to a traumatic brain injury, volunteers her time teaching Mommy fit classes and after school programs, all the while finding time to workout twice a day. After reporting the image on her website, she attached what she admits is a “non-apology:”

“I’m sorry you took an image and resonated with it in such a negative way. I won’t go into details that I struggled with my genetics, had an eating disorder, work full time owning two businesses, have no nanny, am not naturally skinny and do not work as a personal trainer,” she wrote, in part. “What I WILL say is this. What you interpret is not MY fault. It’s yours. The first step in owning your life, your body and your destiny is to OWN the thoughts that come out of your own head. I didn’t create them. You created them. So if you want to continue ‘hating’ this image, get used to hating many other things for the rest of your life.”


Is this another case of “haters” who resent the success of others? I think ‘we’ in the photography industry are no strangers to criticism and negativity on content that we’ve posted. Many people see the need to ‘share’ their opinions on anything and everything and feel that is their prerogative. Yet, those same people fail to see that in their comments and outrage (usually of the snarky nature), they are perpetuating the negativity that swirls around us and brings the industry down as a whole. Why must certain people feel the need to spread hatred and anger, completely disregarding the feelings and intentions of others?

[SLR Lounge REWIND: How Haters are Destroying the Photography Industry]

Kang has been directly attacked, being called a bad mother and a bad person. And for what? Being proud of her body and her accomplishments? For trying to inspire people to work out? Could she have posted a tagline that was more delicate, humble and politically correct? Sure she could have. If she posted that photo with a tag line like, ” You Can Do It!” would we be having this discussion? No. Very likely, the photo would’ve gotten a few likes and disappeared in the vapid abyss of social media. The purpose of this image for Maria Kang was to inspire, but the ultimate intention was to promote her website and business. I am not going to fault her for that. I’m certainly not going to question her abilities of motherhood based on one photo of her and her kids.

On a side note, as for the issue of perpetuating society’s unreasonable expectations for our young women about their bodies? In my opinion, as a mom of a daughter, I ultimately have the responsibility and privilege to teach my 8 year about how to cultivate a healthy body image. Sure, she sees the magazine covers of nearly anorexic Photoshop models airbrushed to perfection, but she also has not only been taught about eating healthy foods and exercising to feel great, she sees it as an example in my life. It is my duty as the parent to teach my daughter about her self worth. She wants to emulate me, not some model on a magazine cover.

If I had a body like Maria Kang, you can bet I’d flaunt it all over social media. MY EXCUSE, Maria Kang, is because I can’t say no to that chocolate cake and I hate running. So, I’ll embrace my stretch marks, my post baby belly pooch, the little patches of cellulite and be inspired for your perseverance and dedication to work hard to look like that after having three kids.

This article has unintentionally turned into mini rant, but I am curious to know how you interpret Maria Kang’s photo? Is it inspirational? Is it insulting? I also would love to hear your thoughts about haters in the industry in general. Feel free to comment below. Haters, I also welcome your opinion.

(Via @Yahoo/Image Via @Mike Byerly)

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Cristỉña Gàbriella

    Her body is inspiring! And I have the same slim body, but I don’t have kids just yet. I expect to be just the same if I work hard to exercise and be careful with that chocolate cake and other ”goodies” that are not making any good to the body.

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  2. Richard

    I’m not sure some of you read the article and skipped straight to the comments. There are 24hrs in a day, no one has more or less than that. It’s how you spend those 24hrs that makes the difference.

    One of the most important lessons you can teach your children is healthy eating and taking the time to look after yourself. Especially in today’s society, with Xbox and Playstation. To make it work she gets up while everyone is asleep and trains… Great use of her time… No?

    I come from the ultimate in lazy parents, I fight against the instinct that comes from years of being shown how to live in sloth and do the absolute minimum to get by. This woman is a role model. I can only imagine how different my life would be if she was who I spent my childhood looking up to.

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  3. Ed Matthews

    She’s damn hot though!

    Why does everyone want to find an excuse to be offended these days? Crazy.

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  4. Ed Matthews

    She’s damn got though!

    Why does everyone want to find an excuse to be offended these days? Crazy.

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  5. linda colleran

    I would of been inspired a mom myself, but the words she used is why moms took to an offense. If she said Yes you can! or I did it for my kids! all moms would of listened and been inspired its the ego that spoke here not the heart.

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  6. Kurtz Orpia

    Haters will be haters, first of all Maria looks very good for 3 kids. I find her inspiring, she reminds me of my wife, we just had our baby were both full time and i do photography on the side, but she finds a way to be fit, i feel bad about all this people hating cos they are just making themselves look bad.

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  7. Crystal

    I am one of those moms who think “Wow, way to go girl!” but a part of me also thinks “Dang biotch, why you got to make us moms feel so low by posting that photo?!”. Yes I think most likely it’s a feeling of jealously, wishing I had a body like that after having kids! Honestly, what threw me off was the wording of her headline. I think it’s offended a lot of people because in my opinion, saying what’s your excuse means that we’re lazy if we don’t exercise and if we don’t eat healthy. Does that make any sense? I personal never had an issue exercising but eating healthy is another thing. It takes a lot of time, prep, and even money to eat clean and I am just one of those moms who don’t cook homemade meals and because I never really liked cooking in the first place. So I guess that’s my excuse for not looking the way Maria does. All women are different, and in my opinion, as long as you are healthy and happy and your kids are happy and healthy then this photo shouldn’t matter. I personally am following Bikini Body Mommy Challenge on Facebook and Briana Christine, the owner of is a true testiment that hard work does pay off. She is also a mom of three, but I think more women can and will relate to her than they can with Maria Kang. Briana lost over 100 lbs in a year after giving birth to her last child. Anyone reading this should go check her out! She is amazing!

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  8. Robert

    Her discipline is commendable, but something just doesn’t feel right in the photo: from the pose it’s hard to believe that she is the mom of those children. It looks a little bit fake. She is too preoccupied with her pose. Any mom would touch somehow their children with the hands in a photo. Just a small “psychoanalytical” observation.

    Anyway, without knowing her life and her family you can’t tell if she’s taking care properly for the children or husband, or not.

    It’s good to be healthy, it’s good to have a toned body, but what’s bad is to make this your single main purpose in life. I don’t know if it’s the case here, but she gave some hints.

    “If I had a body like Maria Kang, you can bet I’d flaunt it all over social media. ”

    Why?? Why people have this desire to show themselves semi-naked in public?

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  9. I

    Having a health/fitness blog, I find nothing offensive about the words or photo. It’s a very popular tag to put on photos of people who are fitspirations. Some people, like myself, are motivated by a more of a tough love approach. Others need a different kind of encouragement. And if fitness is not your thing, and your health isn’t something you focus on, who cares? It’s your body and you have full control over what you do with it. That being said, skip over photos that offend you. It’s not worth the time/emotion spent.

    I think her response was accurate and well-said. There is no reason to hate on success, especially someone who is trying to encourage other people to have a healthy and fit lifestyle. I think that would be sending her children a good message ie: eating healthy, taking care of your body etc. she sounds like an amazing woman all round. It’s too bad people feel that they have to spread their unhappiness on to others.

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  10. Elle

    If she can work two jobs, take care of kids and a husband, volunteer, and still look like that – more power to her! Am I offend by her headline? Honestly yes but maybe it’s actually that I’m jealous and not so much offended.

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    • Hanssie

      I’m totally jealous…haha. <----said as I am shoving cheese and crackers in my mouth.

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  11. Mary

    Brilliant marketing strategy She’s not trying to please everyone and with all the free PR she’s reached her targeted audience

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  12. chrissie

    I think its great! I am a mother, and work two jobs and still have time to go to the gym. I hear a lot of moms complaining about their weight. But I will not be one that complains and does nothing. I take this picture as inspiration.

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  13. Kris

    The tagline bothers me because of the inherent suggestion that her decisions about life should be emulated by others and, if they don’t do what she’s doing, they’re merely making excuses for themselves in not living up to her standards and choices. Inspiring and showing how someone can have seemingly contradictory things in life is far different from accepting that others don’t make the same choices we make. I’m not offended by it. I wouldn’t call it fat shaming. I wouldn’t call it inspiring either. She’s a beautiful woman with 3 adorable kids, which is about all I can tell from that photo. I don’t know how much she neglects her family to work out. I don’t know how much debt she has or what sort of income it takes to support her family and lifestyle. I don’t know what sort of wife she is. I don’t know what insecurities and hangups she has about her body. I don’t know anything of her values or character. I don’t know if she loves her children. I’m not inspired to buy what she’s selling if that’s merely a thin, toned body that bore 3 children, not unless that’s my primary goal in life.

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  14. Chad E Currie

    I have seen this image floating around the internet and have even shared this image myself a few times. I love the fact that this woman not only wants to be healthy, stay healthy, but also raise her children to do the same, and it is not easy to do in a country that is so accepting of unhealthy living. As some of my very successful business owning friends would say, “haters are going to hate.” People who are unwilling to become successful are always going to try and find a way to bring down those who do not accept living a mediocre life. Good job Maria!

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  15. Dave

    It’s inspirational to those who are working to look as good as she does because there is proof that it can be done.

    It’s insulting to those who are motivated only to complain, and brother there are a ton of those folks around these days.

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  16. Andrea

    You are right, a less controversial and the picture wouldn’t have gotten as much attentions as it has. The reason for the picture is to promote a business, so she reached her goal.
    Power to her that she is able to exercise twice a day. That’s the reason why she is able to achieve such a body. On the other hand, I am wondering how she handles three kids and a sick husband at the same time. If only one of the kids gets up at 3 a.m. crying, is she still able to go do her routine? Who is taking care of the kids while she is working out. (Since she has a husband with “traumatic brain injury” and no nanny, I am wondering if he is able to handle three kids that age.)
    Anyway, good for her success. She surely deserves it. And while she is right that we generate our own thoughts and she has no reason to apologize for them, she should also consider what an impact such a statement has one women.
    There are many woman who struggle with postpartum depression. They certainly don’t choose to have that, but it’s there. Image like these, plus tag line, surely don’t help them to feel inspired and awesome but rather the opposite. Some women might feel inspired, but it seems most will feel rather bad about themselves. (Personally, I am not a morning person, so getting up at 5:30 a.m. is a no go.)
    Besides all that though, the general idea of women, what they should look like, feel like, and be able to do at the same time, is rather outrageous these days. Any which way a woman leans towards (stay at home mom, go to work mom), there is always some backlash towards her. I’d like to see a society who is not so judgmental about mother’s decision in general.

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    • antonio

      yeah, believe it or not some mothers actually have to work full time, before coming home to be full time moms. Her cutesy little tagline basically poops all over the hardworking employed mothers.

      Also weight loss or gain can depend on a whole lot of medical/genetic issues.

      It would be like Paris Hilton laughing at you for being poor and then saying “sorry if you got your feelings hurt.”

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  17. cristina

    it just seems that the wording made all of the difference. this is a sticky subject (busy/uncompromising lifestyle and working out/eating healthy/etc) but the words themselves and the history of the “tone” in the fitspiration campaigns (sometimes making “thigh gap” and some elements of “fat shaming”) makes it kinda on the negative side of starting a controversy. I think what she said in explanation did a better job (more clear too) of what she MEANT: “I know you think you don’t have time if you have kids. But if I can do it, you can do it, too.” The last lines would have been perfect and not stepped on peoples toes (whether they chose for it to do that, or not) re: her last statement basically saying haters gonna hate, so just keep playing your game the way you want to live it.

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    • john

      Reaction: Lovely mom; good image; great message – succinct and to the point.
      I have no doubt that the negative comments become proportionally more venomous with the commenter’s dress size; they “resent the success of others,” as the author posits above.

      One of the most valuable skills in life is the growth and maintenance of a thick skin. Get over it and get on with it.

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    • antonio


      nope, I am a man with no dress size. I work out 3-4 times a week and have a muscular build.

      I would never feel the need to post some self-serving BS photo like Ms. Kang did that makes others feel bad.

      Maria Kang has a history of serious body issues. Before she was a fitness model, she was bulimic. Now she posts antagonistic BS. She obviously has a whole host of mental issues and is very much obsessed with how she looks.

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    • GioPhoto


      Apparently it doesn’t matter whether you are fit or overweight, there will always be haters.
      Unlike you Antonio, I am not fit, I’m actually bit overweight, and I applaud that she has achieved what she has and is trying to inspire others to join her triumph.
      I feel quite sorry to those who feel offended by either the photo or the headline. Like the editor said, short and to the point, she diverted traffic to her business.

      The point is that those who are inspired by her story will more than likely make the changes in their lives and be healthier.

      Those who aren’t inspired well…won’t.

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    • GioPhoto


      Yes I agree sir.

      A thick skin and a healthy positive attitude will get you through hard times and see the hidden opportunities.

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  18. Sharleen Kaiser

    I’ve been watching both the negative and positive comments build up about this picture over the past few months. I don’t understand why people are so offended by it. I believe that Maria has a very busy life but she sticks to her goals just as we all should. She may be achieving better results than the average person but she’s also putting in more than the average person. For the people saying she puts in so much time at the gym and isn’t paying attention to her kids, maybe you should follow the rest of her accounts where she is shown with her kids more than anything else. She doesn’t just leave them behind so she can go to the gym, she’s obviously a loving mother and wife with a wonderful family. Let the haters hate, we all have them.

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    • antonio

      It is not the photo itself, but the antagonistic headline that has upset many.

      She has chosen to devote her life to being a fitness model. That is HER choice and not everyone follows her path.

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