Maria Kang is health activist and a fitness promoter, and she is very passionate about her work. It is her desire to see a positive change in the world that has seen her and her values become a controversial subject for many people online and has divided opinions everywhere. Her ‘What’s Your Excuse?’ pictures sent the internet into a frenzy; some people attacked her for it, whilst others praised her. As a personal role model of mine, I set out to interview her on the controversy, the passion, the goal and the future.
Firstly, with all the recent controversy that’s surrounded you and your movement in the past few years, how do you feel about those who condemn you as a ‘fat-shamer’ or a bully?
I think they have no inkling of what the definition of a fat-shamer or a bully is. I am a health advocate, a fitness philanthropist and a passionate woman who has become strengthened by a past eating disorder, being overweight and birthing 3 boys all born one year apart.
What do you think of the ‘body acceptance’ campaigns that are sweeping the western world, particularly in the USA and the UK?
We should always accept and love our bodies and it’s time we recognise there are various sizes and shapes in this world outside of the small frames we are used to seeing in the media. The only thing I take issue with is when we glorify obesity and say it’s okay.
Do you ever feel like you’re fighting a losing battle when huge media outlets take your positive message and twist it into something else?
In order to be in the public spotlight you have to accept that the media will sensationalise stories in order to make a profit. While it’s not nice feeling like the bad guy and being constantly misunderstood (and wrongly quoted), I think the majority of the public knows that I’m not a fat-shamer. I’m someone who truly cares about our future and puts action behind words.
Here in the UK, Victoria Beckham has recently launched her new clothing line and only stocks up to a size 14 (US size 10) yet only keeps size 10 clothing (US size 6) on the shop floor. She has been attacked in a similar way that you were for celebrating a smaller physique. Do you feel that, as a whole, people’s attitudes towards body weight are shifting more towards complacency, rather than to strive to change for a healthier body, lifestyle and future?
I don’t think it’s fair for people to demand clothing brands to carry all sizes. I can go into any plus size store and not find my size available, so it’s really a double standard. Do I think there is more complacency? Sure. I think as humans we are always fighting complacency in all areas of our life; relationships, work, exercise. It’s much easier to take the easier rather than the harder route, and right now being healthy is a hard route. There’s a lot of misguided information, bad diets, processed foods and a general public that is not taking our health issues and growing obesity issues seriously.
I read what you wrote about ‘sexy’ fitness models and how you don’t want to be seen as one of them. Do you think that the fitness industry is leaning more towards the sexy side of photo shoots now?
There has always been too much sex in the fitness industry. This is not something new. In order for you to rise as a ‘fitness celebrity’ you want to build your fan base of women, but most especially men. While this is the easy way to fame, it’s not the best way in the long run. I know personally too many fitness models who have lost their sense of self and personal respect because they became disconnected from their personal values. When you are seen as just a body and not a full human being with a body, mind and spirit, you lose.
Starting a fitness journey can be a daunting thought for some. What would your advice be to someone who is starting up, especially in a world like ours where it is so easy to lose focus on an end goal?
Create a long term goal and break it up into short term goals. Start small and set an achievable and realistic workout and food regimen. Do not drop your calories too quickly, start by cutting portion sizes. Take a selfie for progress and find other ways to measure yourself outside of stepping on the scale (like testing your body fat, body measurements, fastest mile, etc).
Some people don’t like gyms for various reasons; they’re too expensive, the atmosphere might be intimidating, or nerves might take over. What would your advice be to anti-gym people who still want to make a change?
Buy a workout DVD. Run outside. Get educated about the machines in a gym (so you feel more confident) or workout with a friend.
At the other end of the spectrum, some people get discouraged when they plateau in their transformations and don’t feel like they are seeing any improvements. Have you ever been in this situation and if so, how did you overcome it?
I’ve been through so many plateaus (I’m in one right now) and the only way to overcome it is to shock your body and do something different. I always tell people that in whatever exercise you are doing, give yourself ‘3 more’… whether it’s 3 more push-ups, 3 more minutes (of running) or 30 more seconds (in holding a plank position). You have to push past breaking points in order to continue seeing results.
Everyone has that one exercise that they never look forward to doing in their routine, burpees and squats tend to be repeat offenders (my personal one is push-ups) Do you have one?
Yes. I hate squats.
Do you work out with your children to make sure they get enough exercise, or do they get their exercise via school programmes and classes?
My children are very young and are very active. They attend my No Excuse Mom workout every week and run around the park and sometimes perform exercises alongside me, but they are very rambunctious little guys who get probably too much exercise as they don’t have video games, we don’t watch a lot of TV and they don’t own an iPad.
The No Excuse Mom group has been very successful, you must be very proud of everyone involved?
I’m humbled by all the local leaders, regionals and everyone in our online groups who have put in time and effort to make this positive movement possible. I feel like it was tough putting myself out there and being attacked by the media, but in that moment my energy resonated with so many others who are kind-hearted, hardworking and passionate about bettering themselves and other people in their community.
You seem to be a very spiritual person. Has this helped you to work towards the life you have now, or has it been a welcome side-effect?
I’ve always been spiritual. I struggled with life questions at a very young age. I was severely bullied in my teens and was challenged in my college and work environments. I always found that prayer helped me through so much adversity simply by staying grateful for the little I thought I had in that moment and remaining positive that God created this challenge for a reason (and too dig deeper to find that reason).
If you could say something in a neutral environment to people who have read both praise of and attacks on you regarding your opinions on fitness and acceptance, what would you say?
Success begins with a choice. If you feel challenged by your current environment or past struggles, know that right now you can choose to not allow any of that to effect you. You can become whoever you desire to be, but first you must make a choice.
You’re a role model to so many people out there, who have been your role models in your life?
My mother and father are great role models. They met in New Zealand and moved to San Francisco without a lot of money. They worked hard and raised us to be kind, loving, respectful and dutiful children, spouses, workers and community servants.
And finally, you’ve already accomplished so much and made a difference in so many people’s lives, but after reading your blogs and posts, I know there must be more in the pipeline for you, so what’s next for you?
I have a book, The No More Excuses Diet, releasing in March 2015. We have a lot of upcoming events for our No Excuse Mom groups including a virtual race, a NEM cook book and a new 2015 Fit Mom Swimsuit calendar. We are also expanding our brand to No Excuse Dads and No Excuse Women. My hope is to partner with larger companies, raise more money and build a sustainable organisation.
To find out more about Maria, please watch this video.