A few weeks ago a woman named Maria Kang posted the following picture online:

I remember seeing the picture and thinking to myself “Wow! I would love to be in such great shape once I’ve had kids”. To me it was a positive and inspiring message. Sadly, instead of this being an inspiration and something to aspire to and champion by other women, she received a barrage of nasty comments that ranged from labeling her a “fat-shamer”, to calling her a “bully” and “a shame to women”. She was actually accused of “causing a lot of hurt” to women and told to apologize.

This woman is a fitness professional and so it is her JOB to inspire her clients to be fit and healthy. So why was she attacked for doing so? Surely there is no bigger inspiration than her walking the talk herself?

In another example recently, this woman received a whole host of criticism simply for CrossFitting and keeping fit whilst she was pregnant. Surely she should be applauded for getting off the couch and doing something healthy for herself and the baby? Instead she also was the victim of a whole slew of nasty comments, accusing her of making other women feel bad, or worse, of causing harm to her baby.

I’ve seen this same attitude spewed out across social media countless times. People criticizing models with beautiful bodies as promoting an “unrealistic” image of what beauty is, and accusing naturally slim women of promoting anorexia.

Now I am not condoning the general media portrayal of beauty as being defined solely by that narrow niche of women who happen to be 6′ tall, leggy and flawless. We cannot all look like that, and we all know beauty comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. But, the truly beautiful examples of these women are healthy and look as good as they do because they have worked their butts off to get there through exercise, eating healthy and looking after themselves. Surely they should be lauded for those things?

Whether we like it or not, beauty and health go hand in hand. We are biologically programmed to be attracted to healthy people to ensure the propagation of healthy off-spring, so it is no wonder we find slimmer, more muscularly defined people attractive. They are (for the most part) the embodiments of health, both on a genetic and epigenetic level. Obesity is not healthy no matter which way you choose to look at it, and in a country where 1/3 of the population is drastically overweight, surely we should be commending those people who promote a healthier way of living?

And in case you’re worrying whether I am referring to the starved looking skeletal models that sometimes hungrily roam the pages of magazines, I think most people would readily admit that these men and women are not particularly attractive or something to aspire to. The ones who are – people like Camille Leblanc Bazinet, Miranda Kerr, or Sarah Fragoso, are each (in their own ways) the epitome of health.

In high-school I was always mocked for being too skinny. But imagine the wrath I would have received if I had called any of the bigger girls fat?! In the same way it seems to be ok to criticize fit and healthy women in the public eye for being just that – fit and healthy. And yet it is severely frowned upon to throw criticism at women who choose to be overweight. Why the double standards?

Ultimately we choose how we want to live. We can choose to be in great shape, to be vibrant, healthy versions of ourselves through the way we eat and exercise, or we can decide we would rather let our bodies go and that all the hard work is not worth it to us. Either way, we need to own that choice and stand by it.

If you are overweight and out of shape, either own it and be happy with it, or do something about it. Equally if you are skinny and weak – either embrace that, or get up and do something about it. I am not naturally strong. I have had to work darn hard to get where I am today, and I still have a long way to go. I wanted to be the healthiest version of me possible, and so I make the effort to workout every single week, and I am extremely disciplined with how I choose to nourish my body.

What I’m trying to say is, we need to take responsibility for our own bodies and stop blaming the media/other people for the failings we may see in ourselves. If these people make us feel bad – people who have no personal bearings on our lives – maybe it’s time to look at what about them is making us feel uncomfortable about ourselves and address that instead?

I will never look like Camille or Miranda Kerr, but I don’t get angry when I see pictures of them. Instead I use their work ethic to inspire me to be better and healthier and to appreciate that all that hard work does eventually pay off. In terms of our physical appearance and beyond.

Our bodies are nobody else’s responsibility but our own.