What do you feel when you see this picture?
Inspired? Jealous? Angry? Impressed?
When this picture of Maria Kang went viral there was an online uproar, with women calling her everything from unusual to unrealistic to downright degrading to women. The general consensus was, how very shallow, and how very unfair to expect other women to achieve the same results in terms of losing the baby weight and getting in shape. That she was flaunting the already media-pushed ideal that new Mums should become glamorous Goddesses no sooner have they unpacked the hospital bag.
On the other hand she received almost an equal amount of praise and admiration for her no-excuses-allowed commitment to looking after herself and taking some pride in her appearance when it is all too easy to let yourself live in tracksuits and wash your hair once a fortnight, and only because you can no longer get a comb through it, if you’ve remembered you own a comb. We are told often that to feel good you need to take care of yourself, so the only thing she can be accused of is following this advice, if perhaps a little more thoroughly than the rest of us.
But in reality, we’re not all the same. We have different lifestyles, different numbers of children to look after; some with more childcare or home help than others; some have husbands or partners present and actively involved, some not; some women go back to full time work, some don’t; some women have lots of money, some are on a tight budget. All these factors are going to affect what a Mum can fit into her life in terms of cooking meals and especially healthy eating. We can’t all be expected to be perfect all of the time. Whilst healthy eating and being active doesn’t necessarily require time, effort or money, it doesn’t mean we all have to look like fitness models.
The media and medical establishments have changed their tune as well. Where once we were told to embrace all shapes and sizes, the ‘national obesity crisis’ has got us back on the ‘must look and perform like Jessica Ennis or else I’m a failure’ wagon. How did they figure going to extremes in the other direction was going to help? It hasn’t worked anyway – Britain as a whole is still getting fatter. Typical human nature – reactive rather than proactive. Bombast us with fear in the hope we’ll spend our money on gym memberships and fad diet systems, rather than adjust our lifestyles to give permanent changes.
When I see a super-fit athlete or svelte underwear model in a magazine, I don’t think negatively of her – I know what she’s done to achieve that and that it’s not just down to good genes. And I will always make my own health and wellbeing a priority as well as taking pride in my appearance. But I have to accept that I have other commitments too; writing blogs like this for you all to read for one thing, and like most women, I choose to make my family a priority, which I wouldn’t change for the world, but it means no, I can’t do two hours lifting weights every day, and yes, I sometimes eat leftover Weetabix :).
I do what I do for me and me only, and I feel great about doing something for me – we Mums should really do more of that. It’s up to you what you do for you, but make sure it IS just for you and not because you’re trying to live up to someone else’s expectations. Be the best YOU can be, and if you want to progress, be better than who YOU used to be. It doesn’t matter what anyone else does. Just ask your kids if you’re not sure – who would they rather have as a Mum, you, who tucks them up in bed and cuddles their nightmares away, or someone else with better abs.