Are You Quick to Judge?

I’m sure you’ve heard about the fitness enthusiast mom from California who posted a photo to her website and Facebook page that features her decked out in tiny exercise duds, showing off her incredibly toned body. She’s posing with her three young children, and the tagline reads, “What’s Your Excuse?”

The photo has gone viral in the last couple of weeks, with more than 20 million views and prompting more than 30,000 comments – and resulting in some pretty heated online conversations.

MariaKangWhatsYourExcuseAlthough Maria Kang has received many cheers and words of support for her dedication to her health, it’s the negative comments calling her a bully and accusing her of “fat shaming” that are making news.

Initially when I read the damning comments, I began to lash out and judge those writing in, but then realized, I was judging them for judging. Well, that’s just hypocritical. So I sat with my thoughts and feelings about it, especially given my health journey over the last year, and can now see both sides of this “controversy”.

Had I seen this photo more than a year ago, I may have had a defensive reaction, too, because I wasn’t making my health a priority, and I wouldn’t have liked the mirror Maria was holding up for me. I may have judged her as narcissistic and made excuses for why she can make her health a priority but I can’t.

Now, 12 months into my health and fitness journey, I read the message in the photo as a “Come to Jesus” moment. This woman has three young children and still finds time to make her health a priority. Rock on, sister!

Why are we so quick to discount her success? And to discount it immediately without learning her full story (that includes, by the way, a history with bulimia, owning two business, running a non-profit offering FREE exercise classes for moms, growing up with a mother who was very sick due to her eating and lack-of-exercise habits, etc, etc).

A quick, charged reaction to anything is a sign that something more is going on there for you, and it most likely has nothing to do with the person or situation to which you’re reacting.  Take this comment, for example:

“You are part of the body shaming problem that is going on in North America and other parts of the world.”

I completely agree that there is a body-shaming problem in the world, however, no one can make you feel shame but you. In fact, no one can make you feel anything without your permission. It is we, ourselves, who are shaming our own bodies, and therefore are easily affected by magazine covers and others’ comments, and are quick to read into messages through our personal lenses.

Or this comment: “You are a bully with a super inflated sense of your own self.” 

There’s a good chance that Maria’s photo is a mirror for this commenter, forcing her to face the truth of her deflated sense of self.

Then came the “kids” excuses:

“Yeah, maybe if I could afford a personal trainer and a nanny, I could have a body like that, but as it is I’m still doughy because I, you know, spend time with my children instead of in a gym.”

By giving all the credit of Maria’s success to a personal trainer and nanny (both of whom don’t exist, by the way) and to a presumed neglect of her children, this commenter is allowing herself to not take ownership for her own life, whether in relation to exercise and health, or elsewhere.

“Those precious little things [her kids] need their mommy more than they need you to have glamour muscles.”

“How dare you shame mothers who have given up and made huge sacrifices for their kids, for not “looking right” to you? How dare you be cruel to women who have gone through everything for their babies?”

This is an area where mothers can easily give themselves a pass for not taking good care of themselves, emotionally or physically. “Well, my kids…” Yes, your kids – they need you to be healthy. They need you to be happy. They need you to take care of yourself. Show them the life you want for them by living it yourself. Martyrdom does not rear healthy, happy children.

If you say you want to make a change, but then don’t do anything to make that happen, then you’re making excuses. Believe me. I did for a long time, and sometimes, still do. What’s important is to dig underneath the excuses to see what the real resistance is about. What is the payout to not making the change you say you want to make?

My payouts a year ago included:

  • Being able to stuff down and ignore difficult emotions
  • Feeling safer with my suit of armor protecting my vulnerability (or so I thought)
  • Not having to give up my comfort foods
  • Not having to look at the sources of what was really going on
  • Being able to stay in denial about my health
  • And so on…

Do you see how it’s our own limiting beliefs that cause us to overreact most times?

Maria is also getting shit for “bragging” and “flaunting”. I say, brag away, girl! If you’re uncomfortable with her “bragging,” then the issue points to a belief you hold about bragging. There’s a good chance you were taught to not boast and brag (many of us were), but we take that to a point of never acknowledging ourselves for our accomplishments. I don’t believe Maria posted that photo to get accolades from others. Her willingness to post it speaks to a level of self-acknowledgement and pride that many of us don’t allow ourselves to express or even feel.

When we see others who have something we want and we discount them for it, we’re essentially telling the universe to please not bestow the same fortune onto us. By judging others, we are limiting our own possibilities. Instead, celebrate others’ accomplishments – genuinely – and you’ll feel a whole lot better about yourself, and you’ll welcome in your own successes.

Please join this important conversation! What was your reaction to this photo? Good, bad, or indifferent – no judgment here. What do you think your reaction says about you and where you’re at on your spiritual journey? What beliefs do you hold that impact your reaction to the photo? Share in the comments section below.

15 replies
  1. Debbie
    Debbie says:

    Bravo Kerri for tackling this one! It’s a huge topic and a great piece. Thank you for writing it and sharing your views. I hadn’t seen or heard of Maria Kang, but I love the photo! My excuse is I don’t have time, I am too tired, I am too lazy, I love sugar too much, I’ll deprive myself of treats, once I start I have to keep going to maintain, I can’t afford it…and on and on.

    However, I am taking small steps (thanks to your guidance) and I am back at a dance class once a week. I love it. Not only moving and stretching my body, but the class dynamic; learning something new and making great friendships.

    I’d like to take a close look at my diet next! I love my body enough to treat it kinder.

    Thank you Kerri. I think you are amazing. A great coach who lives what she teaches. Dx

    • Kerri
      Kerri says:

      Thanks for joining the conversation, Debbie. While at first it angered me to read people’s reaction, it then saddened me. I want, for those people, to feel fulfilled and happy in their respective lives, so much so that they don’t need to knock someone else down to feel ok. It’s a heated conversation for sure!

  2. Wanda(Miami)
    Wanda(Miami) says:

    I love your take on this one. I am a mother as well and even though I workout 5 times a week, I don’t look like Maria but I am very happy with the way she looks and they way I look. For me is all about being happy for other people success and use that as an encouragement for my own. Have a bless day!!!

    • Kari Elisabeth Dahl
      Kari Elisabeth Dahl says:

      Hi! Thank you for your nice spin on the topic! Haven’t seen the photo before, but my reaction was: “- How cool!” 🙂
      And I’m really glad to discover that I reacted like that 🙂 Not to long ago I would definitely had another and more defensive reaction. I believe strongly that this is related to where I’m at in my spiritual journey and I’m grateful for your reminder! Thank you 😀

      • Kerri
        Kerri says:

        Beautiful, Kari! I love how you put it that your reaction highlighted for you where you’re at on your journey. That’s what I’m talking about! 🙂

    • Kerri
      Kerri says:

      Amen, Wanda! You being happy with the way you look is what it’s all about, because that means you are speaking kindly to yourself and loving up your inner child. That’s what fosters peace in our world. Congrats!

  3. Cyndy
    Cyndy says:

    Kerri, this was spot-ON. Thank you for having the courage to put these thoughts (echoed by so many of us!) out to the Universe.

    • Kerri
      Kerri says:

      Thanks for writing, Cyndy. I know there are plenty of people who don’t feel the way I do about this, and I welcome them to chime in as well. This is an open forum with no judgment!

  4. Robin
    Robin says:

    I shared your wonderful post on my public profile and am hoping it will help someone! What I’m finding to be the most striking is the number of people who don’t want to move beyond Maria’s photo and caption. They have so many struggles and experience so much pain that they will take any opportunity to talk about it. They want to share and be heard and acknowledged. It doesn’t matter to them what the intent of the author was or what any other perspectives are. All I can do is sit back and listen.

    • Kerri
      Kerri says:

      Thanks for sharing the post and joining the convo, Robin! That’s a good point regarding people staying focused on the photo and tagline as if choosing to stay rooted in their frustration and pain — another indication that they’re not ready to make a change, which, again is ok so long as they acknowledge it as such.

  5. Jamie
    Jamie says:

    What a great piece Kerri! Thank you for sharing this and sharing your journey as well. This photo definitely was a hot button for so many it seems. I didn’t really have much of reaction aside from cool for her…. then all the nasty stuff started pouring through. I did have a reaction to that and your piece has made me aware to the fact that I was judging those who were judging. Now I really see how our own perceptions can really affect how we react to things. Thanks again for tackling this.

    • Kerri
      Kerri says:

      Totally agree, Jamie — every single reaction we experience in life is due to our perception about the situation. Doesn’t it just feel better in your body to celebrate someone’s success instead of berate them for it?!

  6. Lisa Johnson
    Lisa Johnson says:


    I also judged, but judged the people with negative responses as being jealous of her success. I think being a Mom of 3 and making your health a priority as well as to take care of those 3 babies is awesome. She will be a be a happier Mom. I personally love the photo.

    • Kerri
      Kerri says:

      Yup, I was judging them, too, Lisa, then realized what I was doing. Then I was able to meet the commenters where they are — not ready to see their part in their own unhappiness and I could find compassion for them instead of judgment. Serves me and them better. And yeah, you know first-hand, how much a mom who takes care of herself is a much better mom!

  7. Tracye
    Tracye says:

    This was a nicely written article and I agree with several points, I think Maria could have worded her poster different but I think whatever is happening now is what she intended to happen. I’ve read her blog and about her life and she is like millions of other women in the world with a lot on their plate and too little time. If she found a way to get into shape after having 3 kids, good for her. I have friends who have done the same. What I don’t have are friends that throw it in the faces of others because they understand that their lives are not everyone else’ lives and that their journey is different than everyone else’.

    Her intention was not to motivate people into being healthy. I don’t see that anywhere in her poster. Her intention was to show the world that she has three kids and she STILL has time to get that body. That, was her intention. It’s loud and clear. Had she had concerns about the obesity problems in the world and of overweight people, she would have approached it differently but this way gets her instant attention for her outward appearance which, is fine but if the sky is blue, don’t tell me it’s green.

    Everyone’s journey to self love is different. Some get there quicker than others, some never even open the gate and everyone’s journey needs to be respected.

    No one can shame you…really.

    Again, this comes back to self love and we live in a society that has told us since the beginning of media how we should aspire to look and act and feel and if your parents aren’t teaching you your self worth, because it should start as a child then the battle to self love is a long one so you telling people that no one can shame you but you is like saying what’s your excuse.

    People make up excuses. It’s human nature. We are here to learn and to explore and to embrace the differences in one another. Taunting someone because they are fat and/or out of shape when you are in shape is just the lowest of the low. Not everyone wants to even look like that but of course, everyone should look like that and work out and be in shape to look cute. Right?

    There are so many other fitness trainers out there that have more compassion for the fitness path than Maria shows. They understand the pain and the self-doubt that goes along feeling unworthy because that’s the crux of the issue for a lot of overweight people that and they weren’t taught how to eat the right foods or they don’t have access to better nutrition.

    Lack of understanding on her part is why Maria got so much negative attention because her words, were negative. She made it a competition so of course those who felt like she was putting her vanity on display and pointing fingers when she really didn’t have to came at her with that same intensity.

    There are ways of getting your point across without pissing people off. Maria seems like a strong woman and I doubt she would want people throwing their success in her face. Who wants that? No one wants that.

    So she is being judged for judging others that, is the irony and it just cracks me up because she doesn’t see it that way but that is, what is happening.

    You’re always going to have people that aren’t on your train but it’s all in the way you say things that, and your intention. Intention, is key.


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