Editor’s note: Joe Peacock is a writer and an athlete. He is the author of “Mentally Incontinent” and is currently working on his upcoming book, "Everyone Deserves to Know What I Think." He is on Twitter and Facebook.
I can summarize the debacle that ensued after a fit mother of three posted a picture of herself on Facebook, seemingly taunting other moms, in two sentences: "She's an attention junkie. Move on."
Do I find Maria Kang attractive? Not really. Do I think she is "fat-shaming" women who don't have trim physiques? Yes.
Looking at her photo -- where she flaunts her six-pack and her trim body with her three children in front of her and asks "What's your excuse?" -- you might be thinking your job, responsibilities with family and other things leave you with very little time as it is. How the heck are you supposed to get into her kind of shape?
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I think the more important question is, why do you feel you need to in the first place? Because men think you should? Because hers is an ideal body type?
Look, a woman who doesn't have time for the gym because she's too busy pursuing her dreams, being who she knows she is and standing up for herself is 10 times sexier than one who spends six hours a day getting her six-pack a little tighter because everything she is depends on how she looks. End of story.
Ideal body types are just that -- ideal. They're what you end up with when conditions are exactly perfect. And they’re hardly the most important aspect of attraction.
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It's a natural consequence of working out that confidence shows up. Obviously we as humans, both male and female, like when someone is cut up and toned and slim. It's attractive. But far more attractive than that is a meaningful conversation, mutual interests, drive, ambition, loyalty and intelligence.
Those things beget confidence. And confidence is sexy.
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From an athlete's perspective, I'm far more interested in a woman who is in the gym to achieve a goal or compete in an event than one who simply wants to work on her looks. And I think most confident, intelligent men agree. Those who don't... Well, let's just say like attracts like.
But women don't have to be athletes to be attractive. It's true that a woman who takes the time to take care of herself is more attractive than one who doesn't care about her health. But it's not because they take care of themselves that they are attractive. It's because the underlying desire to take care of themselves -- the love they have for themselves -- is made evident by their physique, and that's the sexy part.
Just as sexy is knowledge of self, expertise in a field of study, being comfortable in your own skin... Physical fitness is simply an external indicator that you care about and love yourself.
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That's really where everything starts. Society has us thinking the pyramid starts with fitness at the base and ends with self-confidence at the tip, but that's upside down. If you cultivate confidence and love for yourself, things like fitness, diet, self-discovery and growth become ways to exhibit it.
And that's sexy.
Be athletic if you want to be. Put in the time it takes to train for a marathon or a 5K or a CrossFit challenge or fitting into your skinny jeans. But do it for you. Because when you put you first, you become attractive. After all, you're the absolute expert on you.
Rather than answer her question, "What's your excuse?" with reasons why you don't have the body she does, respond with a question that shows you don't need her approval (or anyone's, for that matter):
"What's your point?"
Editor's note: Kang wrote a statement on her Facebook page in response to the influx of comments and emails she received about her photo. In it, she says: "I'm sorry you took an image and resonated with it in such a negative way... What you interpret is not MY fault. It's Yours. The first step in owning your life, your body and your destiny is to OWN the thoughts that come out of your own head... So if you want to continue 'hating' this image, get used to hating many other things for the rest of your life. You can either blame, complain or obtain a new level of thought by challenging the negative words that come out of your own brain." You can see Kang's full statement here.