Tag Archives: controversy

The Controversy Over Fit Moms

Whether you love ’em or love to hate ’em, there’s little doubt that a big splash has been made in the blogosphere and on social media by self-professed “fit moms.” The cliche image of a fit mom is that of a woman stripped down to her sports bra, wearing tight-fitting spandex, working out while her little ones run around her, sit on top of her, and tag-along as she does her errands and chores. Why the fuss over these healthy mamas? What is it about them that’s so alluring, intimidating and inspiring all at once?


Here’s the truth about “fit moms”…they’re NORMAL. Yes, I promise. They are.

They’re normal women who are trying their best, through controversial posts and all, to inspire other women to improve their health. And even though their posts might look picture *perfect* their lives most certainly are not, and neither are their bodies, regardless of the glam poses they strike while they flash their six-packs. Every mom, dare I say every WOMAN, is imperfect, even when striving to appear the opposite way.

There are thousands of Instagram celebrities who strut their hot stuff while manipulating their body angles to look their best, deleting all the flawed and REAL trial runs before selecting the most flattering video or picture for a post. This is all phony, it’s true. BUT, I will also say that *most* of these women (although certainly not all) are trying to figure out how to inspire others. The problem is that not every woman is positively influenced by these images.

As a fitness professional, even I can feel intimidated and shamed by these posts when I’m having a bad day. Or even a good one. I can feel self-conscious, wondering if I should be working out harder even though I have vowed not to overdo it on exercise during years of my life where childbearing and a healthy balance for my body are essential. But then I take a step back and ask myself what these feelings say about ME instead of “THEM.”



The thing is…in our society, and particularly in all forms of media, image is glorified. Obviously. But when I ask myself who I am without my image, and without the typical titles of wife, mom, daughter, fitness professional, writer, UVA and Georgetown graduate, and lover of interior design, I come up with something more authentic. When I strip away the materialistic, the aesthetics, and the titles, I’m so much more. And so are you.

I’m a spiritual being. I’m positive energy. I’m a woman who pours out her heart to strangers because it seems better to connect than disconnect. I’m a listening ear because I believe everyone has a story to tell. I’m a believer in God, even when there are a thousand reasons to doubt and buy into all the lies this world tells me about who I am and who I should be. I’m a hopeless romantic because I believe wholeheartedly in love itself rising above all things. I’m a constant giver-to-others who has been learning to return some of that love to herself….by reminding myself who I am, not relying on the world to do it for me.



When we only look at the surface of fit mom posts we see the following…

Amy Updike

A fit mom who competes in beauty/fitness pro competitions, baring her sculpted, bikini-clad body before judges to be pitted against other ripped and lean women.

When we look deeper and listen we see…

A woman who desired to live a healthy lifestyle through fitness competitions and who was faced with feelings of stress when she began competing with “deflated” boobs post-breastfeeding her first child. Amy explains that her chest wasn’t just flat but wrinkled too, making it impossible to “push up” anything in her bikini competitions. Amy states that she actually liked her athletic-looking body (flat chest and all) and enjoyed the freedom of lifting weights without her chest in the way, but felt pressured by her competitions to take action. She decided to get implants and underwent multiple surgeries that caused complications and ongoing pain. Amy finally decided to “explant” and tell her network about the news. Amy explains in a video confessional that she knew the implants were for shallow reasons but she thought it would make her feel a little better about herself. See…even people who win bikini competitions can be self-conscious at times.

Sia Cooper

A mom of two whose Instagram following is gigantic and who is sought-after for endorsements. Sia’s beach life and abs are swoon-worthy but there’s more to the story…

When we look deeper and listen we see…

Sia is a woman who has overcome a tough childhood and a mother telling her that she was never good or pretty enough. She is a woman who has suffered from body dysmorphia, depression and gender disappointment. She is a woman of grit who is trying to prop up others through honesty and humility. And yes, maybe a little oversharing, but when you have 630K+ followers…that’s what they demand. So they can’t complain! Plus, oversharing the bare truth is where we find meaning and empathy.

Maria Kang

Mom of three boys, Maria was slammed for posing for a picture in a sports bra alongside her sons as babies/toddlers (3 yrs, 2 yrs, 8 months), with a caption over the photo saying “What’s Your Excuse?” To some people, the photo appears intimidating and arrogant, until you learn more…

When we look deeper and listen we see…

Maria has suffered from depression and bulimia, and was filled with fear when she was unemployed, lacking health insurance and pregnant with her first child out of wedlock. She experienced all the feelings you would imagine for a woman in this position, but as she started pushing forward and hoping a little harder, her fear gave way to perseverance. And a self-created mini empire for fitness fanatics. 



You see…just like Maria Kang’s burning question, “What’s Your Excuse?” all of these fit moms are confessing to be filled with the same excuses, fears and challenges as the rest of us are, yet they find a way to harness their self-doubt and become proactive for their health. None of them has a perfect life or perfect body. Heck, I’m sure many of them battle old demons regarding their body images, but they still try. They still try to find “healthy” in the middle of their snot-smeared, toddler-tantrum, sunrise-to-sunset days.

When I ask myself if I’m a “fit mom” I guess the answer is yes. I may not have a million followers…or even feel entirely comfortable with social media, to be honest…but I’m proactive about taking care of my health, in and out of the gym. So yea, in addition to being a fitness professional, I’m also a fit mom, a tired mom, a reaching-for-a-glass-of-red mom, a bath-time-singing mom, a trying-hard-to-work-hard mom, and a NORMAL mom. Just like ALL of us. Toned abs or not. And the sooner we lift each other up, instead of size each other up, the faster we all rise.


Yours in health and wellness,


Fitness Advertising; Naughty or Nice?

The fitness industry often campaigns ads that meet “fitspo” criteria; images of women who are extremely thin, usually in just their underwear or sports bra, alongside a caption that is supposed to motivate consumers to work harder to achieve the same “ideal.”

Although there are many studies which suggest that women feel deflated by images like these, they must manage to entice them, right? Otherwise, companies wouldn’t be using sexy advertising images to their advantage. To test this assumption firsthand, I conducted a “social experiment” in digital advertising by placing one empowering image and one sexy image on a popular women’s fitness site. I couldn’t believe the shocking results!

fitness ads

The images above are the ones I used to test women’s engagement (i.e. click-through) with the ads. I had a feeling the traffic would be a little higher for the image on the right, but when it was 243% higher, I was dumbfounded. I thought certainly the image on the right might be provocative to men, but to women too? Did it allure them because of intrigue/curiosity, desire to look attractive, disgust, or what? I can’t say that I will ever have the full answers.

With all the attention the underwear ad gained over the image of a woman looking strong, it made me step back and contemplate my strategy for reaching a wider blog audience. Man, it was tempting to think about turning up the heat and plastering intriguing images left and right on the web, but I knew that in the end, that’s not the brand image I want to represent. I don’t want to get attention by falling in line with the thousands of other fitness professionals who post pictures of their midriffs to Instagram. No, I want to hold a higher, more professional, and classy standard. Here’s why…

There are a lot of women like Sheena Lyonnais, a woman who was 26 years old and trying to get in shape for her upcoming birthday. She started looking for inspiration on Tumblr and, of course, found herself fixating on “fitspo” or “fitspiration” images. She had good intentions for herself, but when you’re caught up in comparing your body to others, it’s sure to be a slippery slope.

Check out the #fitspo images (below) that I recently found on Twitter. You can see how the line between inspiring and unhealthy/dangerous can get hazy with some of these images.

controversial fitspo 2


It wasn’t too long before Sheena, who had the best of intentions at the outset, found herself relying emotionally on running and would eat only 1,000 calories a day. She admits that she wasn’t at the point of a full-blown eating disorder, but that she was on a precarious and unhealthy path. Just one bit of proof that exercising more and eating less does not always lead to success, health or happiness.

I understand where Sheena is coming from in her struggles. I had a similar experience when I was first formally learning about fitness and nutrition in undergrad at The University of Virginia. I became so particular about trying to do things a certain way with exercise and food, to be as “perfect” at it as possible, and wound up becoming somewhat malnourished during training for a marathon. I became severely ill towards the end of my training. It took a few weeks for me to fully recover after the marathon since my immune system had been trashed.

It’s this sensitive situation between disorder and health that a lot of women find themselves in – struggling to maintain control over their lifestyles while constantly coming across images like this tweet (below). Oy. “Marry” your workouts?!

controversial fitspo

There are plenty of women out there who find these images inspiring and they push harder because of them; however, the majority of women feel judged and ashamed as a result of them. It’s not okay to shake a finger at someone over not having rock hard abs, just as it’s not cool to “fit shame” and assume that because someone is extremely healthy looking that they are doing something extreme.

It’s really a personal decision. It’s YOUR decision whether or not you buy into this fitspo and sexy advertising/marketing. I won’t judge you either way! What’s important to realize is how the images impact you, and only you, emotionally. If they feel suffocating then by all means, stop the vicious cycle. Unfollow people on social media and avoid websites that you know make you feel less than worthy. You’re never going to reach a place of being healthy and happy with low confidence. Build that up first, perhaps even while hitting the gym here and there, and the rest will fall in line.

On the flipside, if you don’t mind these images then go for it, but proceed with caution. You never know when a good thing can become a bad thing.

Yours in health and wellness,


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