If you watch the news or occasionally browse the Yahoo News feed, you’re probably aware of this news story, but in case you don’t fall into either of those categories, here’s the deal in a nut shell:

ABCNEWS.COM – Taryn Brumfitt says having a near-perfect body is not all it’s cracked up to be.

TarynnBrumfitt        via Australian Mom Lashes Back at the ‘Fit Mom’MariaKang



Thank you, ABC, for wrapping this up nice and neat for me.  You saved me a lot of time in hunting down both stories individually since I didn’t bookmark either article as they appeared and read through them.

Now, I have to start off with a confession.  I had a completely different mindset going into this piece.  Based on the two articles, their corresponding comments and my own experiences with weight and body image, I was ready to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, I guess) with a pretty solid and objective argument.  But there was a little part of me that said, “Are you sure?  Are you sure you have all the information?”

It didn’t take long for that small part to grow in conviction and convince me that I couldn’t take on this particular topic–with all of its mainstream media and viral internet coverage–without a thorough understanding of the topic and what exactly was said on either side.  Just to be safe.

Far be it from me to imply that coverage of either sort could be slanted or incomplete or anything.

I’m so glad that I listened to my instincts because in going to both sources and reading each lady’s words, I feel like the story was  sensationalized to get the exact reactions that were received.  I believe my point is still valid–and I plan to try to articulate it–but I definitely am feeling much more sympathetic to one side and know which blog I will be following in the future.

When Maria Kang posted her picture with that point blank question, I had a mixed reaction.  My first feeling was one of inadequacy–like many of the followers on Facebook and the internet at large.  I mean, really?  Have you see the picture?  How could any woman look at it and not take stock of how she looks to see if she measures up?  It’s what we do.  But there was also an immediate feeling of conviction, and it didn’t feel good.  What was my excuse?

See, I immediately got what Ms. Kang was trying to get at: What is your excuse ...for not being healthy?  I never read it as many seemed to take it: What is your excuse…for not looking as fabulous as I do?  Because if you don’t look as fabulous as I do, you must be lazy and unmotivated. 

Well certainly if that is how you approach it, the resulting reaction makes perfect sense.  People talked (or cursed or were hateful or generally used speech that is unacceptable) about chronic health issues, wanting to spend more time with their kids and spouses and feeling like it was more important to live and enjoy their lives instead of slaving away in a gym.  If you feel attacked, you are going to defend yourself.

In that spirit, Tarryn Brumfitt took a surprising and unconventional stand for that campaign and put herself out there in an effort to help woman love their bodies–no matter it’s shape or size.   A cause I do believe in strongly–which is a post for another time.

Many of the comments in response to Ms. Brumfitt’s photo shoot were just as mean and hateful and unacceptable.  I read comments admonishing Americans to stop being lazy (to that commenter, please make sure to read articles before commenting.  Ms. Brumfitt is from Australia.), numerous comments telling her to cover up because “I just ate,” and “that’s just nasty,” that being fit doesn’t make women bad mothers and one that Ms. Brumfitt is tired of hearing: “You’re promoting obesity.”

Each woman is very passionate in her belief.  All of their commenters equally passionate in their objections and defenses.  Who is right?

In my opinion, they both are.

We do live in a culture that idolizes a certain, unrealistic kind of beauty, leaving everyone that doesn’t meet it scrambling to find ways to do so, and leaving those that physically can’t to feel incapable of ever being beautiful.  So yes, I agree with Ms. Brumfitt in her message that we need to love our bodies and be kind to ourselves.  Every woman is beautiful in some way, and there are other things that are more important than the pursuit of society’s definition of physical beauty.

But, Ms. Kang poses a valid question for us as that very same society.  As a country, we are facing an epidemic of obesity.  More of us are overweight and suffering from health problems at younger and younger ages.  What is our excuse for that?  In our quest to find acceptance for all body types, have we unconsciously fostered an environment in which we can’t take a hard, unpleasantly critical look at ourselves and be truly honest?

In browsing through the websites and reading the thoughts and feelings of both women, I feel that at the core of their messages, they have the same point: Be healthy.  Be a role model for your kids.  Enjoy your life and be the best mother you can be.  What I think we can all do a better job of–on both sides–is not judging people for how they get there.  Because both sides are full of equally fabulous women.

So how do we take away the important stuff and merge both camps together?  We ask ourselves first, “Am I healthy?”  Notice what I asked.  Not, “Do I have a six pack?” or “Do I look cute in skimpy attire?” or “Does some random stranger that passes me on the street think I look hot?”

Am I healthy?

Do I make more healthy choices than unhealthy ones?  Do I keep up with the recommended health screenings that are appropriate for my age?  Do I go to my physician and have them say, “You’re doing great; see you next year.”?  Yes?  Then you are fabulous; who cares how you get there?

For Maria Kang, it means eating a very clean diet and carving out 30 -6o minutes for time at the gym and an intensive work out everyday.   For Ms. Brumfitt, that means sometimes enjoying a cookie with her drink while having sensible meals at other times and exercising in non-traditional ways while taking care of her family.   Both ways are completely acceptable.  Neither woman is a bad mother for her approach.

Next, we need to ask ourselves, “Am I happy?”  Am I living the life I imagined for myself?  For people of faith, am I living in God’s will?  Do I have people in my life that love me, support me and tell me I’m beautiful?  Do I feel content overall?  Yes?  Then you’re fabulous.  I pray that many blessings  continue to be yours.

Ladies, we have a unique place in this life.  We tend to be everything to everyone.  We’re wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, caretakers, accountants, chefs, maids, carpool drivers, PTA leaders, Sunday School teachers…we wear a lot of hats and there are that many more people waiting to weigh in on how we’re doing at wearing all of them.  Instead of tearing each other down, we need to stick together and support each other.  We should assume someone has the best of intentions until they show us that they don’t.

That means if someone asks us a tough question, yes; we should take an honest look at the answer.  That means that after doing so, we should be able to say, “OK.  Your point is taken.  Here’s my perspective,” and not have an all out war break out.  That means that we should be able to–at times–agree to disagree and part as friends.

That means remembering that we’re all fabulous!