Viral 'what's your excuse? Fit Mom' apologizes for 'normalizing unnatural body standards'

Maria Kang spoke to Know Your Value about the decision to remove her breast implants and how her perception of body image has changed.
Maria Kang revealed she recently removed her longtime breast implants after dealing with years of side effects.
Maria Kang revealed she recently removed her longtime breast implants after dealing with years of side effects.Beth Baugher

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By Julianne Pepitone

Remember the viral 2013 photo of the “Fit Mom” who posted a picture of her toned body surrounded by her three young sons with the caption “What’s your excuse?” At the time, Maria Kang was accused of fat-shaming and putting unnecessary pressure on busy mothers.

Six years later, Kang is apologizing for “unconsciously normalizing an unnatural body standard” over the years — and she also revealed she recently removed her longtime breast implants after dealing with years of side effects.

Kang in 2013 posted this photo on social media and received backlash. She has since softened her message.Courtesy of Maria Kang.

“Dear followers, I’m sorry,” Kang, 38, said in a Facebook and Instagram post. “I don’t like regrets, but I have a few in life. As I look at my scarred, numb and deflated breasts today, I regret ever thinking they weren’t good enough. I fell into the insecurity trap.”

After discussing her years-ago battles with depression, bulimia and body dysmorphia, Kang said it was vanity that led her to objectify her own body and ultimately go under the knife. “I’m sorry for my presence — for unconsciously normalizing an unnatural body standard, not expressing my challenges with body image and not being strong enough to unfix this years ago.”

In an interview with Know Your Value, Kang — whose whole attitude is "no apologies, no excuses,” — said her apology wasn’t premeditated but felt necessary to share as she recovers from the implant-removal surgery completed on June 27.

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Maria Kang decided to remove her breast implants and completed the surgery in June. Kang said she experienced complications after the surgery and developed a hematoma immediately after (seen here).Courtesy of Maria Kang.

“When I sat down to write the post, I didn’t think I was going to apologize; I was just writing,” said Kang. “But then I saw my scars and I thought, ‘What am I feeling in this moment?’ And it was, ‘I’m sorry.’”

Specifically, Kang felt sorry not only to her own body “for disrespecting it, not honoring it,” but also for other women who promote unrealistic standards to others through their messaging. Kang said she’s felt that pressure herself — from her pageant days in her 20s through today’s “Instagram fitness model” standards.

Kang, who lives in Elk Grove, California, with her husband and sons who are now 10, 9 and 7, had the breast augmentation surgery in 2003. She liked how they looked; she felt they finally gave her the proportions she wanted.

“I had a great physique but it wasn’t possible to have breasts while being so lean,” Kang said. “That’s where I get mad at what I’ve promoted, because there’s nothing natural about that. You can’t attain it through fitness.”

Though she liked how she looked with the implants, Kang also remembers feeling “disconnected” from that part of her body. She lost sensation in her nipples. And by the time she had the implants removed 16 years later, she had experienced years of what she believes are implant side effects that became worse over the past year: chest pressure, heart palpitations and fatigue.

“I was scared of the surgery and that I wouldn’t feel as sexual after, but when I woke up I felt free,” Kang said. “It was incredible to feel like, this is my body. All me. I haven’t felt like that since [I got the implants] when I was 23.”

Kang felt similarly liberated when posting her apology on Tuesday.

“When I clicked ‘post’ I felt free, the same way I did when I got rid of the boobs,” Kang said. “But I also felt vulnerable. I lost a piece of me again, the part that’s all about ‘no apologies.’ But I’m going to own my journey. I can start making a more positive impact.”

Kang had already softened her message in 2018, recreating her original “What’s your excuse?” photo five years later with a new caption: “What’s your reason?” At the time, she told TODAY she felt “it's important to address your excuse, but it's more important to address your motivation.” Kang acknowledged that she had become more flexible with her own workout regimen.

Today Kang still believes in promoting body positivity by prioritizing eating well and exercising.

But, she added: “the biggest thing is to treat yourself with love and respect. It’s not about how you look, it’s about how you feel, and we can’t idolize fake physiques while expecting women to feel good about themselves.”