What can you accomplish when you work out an hour a day, and make your living as a fitness competitor, nutritionist, and trainer? According to London-based mom (and fitness competitor, nutritionist, and trainer) Abby Pell: you, too, can have a six-pack!
Pell is at the center of the latest mom-shaming (and fat-shaming) controversy after she posted a photo showing off her abs, with her 6-year-old daughter Bella pointing to her rock-hard midsection. The caption reads, "I have a kid, a six pack and no excuse."
Although the photo was first posted in February of last year, it got loads of comments—both angry and inspired—after Pell placed fourth in the World Beauty Fitness & Fashion bodybuilding competition. The new attention led Pell to re-post the photo in December with a disclaimer.
A photo posted by ABBY PELL (@superabs) on Dec 3, 2014 at 2:06pm PST
"I've been getting a lot of stick for this picture recently... I've been accused of adding to unnecessary pressure put on women and more specifically mums to lose weight," she wrote. "I would like to clarify that this is not my objective whatsoever. The message I want to portray is for all the women/mums/girl who aren't happy or confident with themselves and the reason they don't try to do anything about it is because they think it'll be too hard or even impossible to get results."
She continued, "I don't want to make other women feel bad about themselves, I want them to look at me and think, if she can do it so can I. Because you can!"
If this whole thing sounds familiar, it's because a stateside mom named Maria Kang caused an eerily similar dust-up back in December 2013. (Kang came under fire after posting a photo of herself and her three children with the caption "What's your excuse?")
Certainly, encouraging women to get off the couch is a worthy stance, but it's that "no excuse" that makes this a problem. Some have argued in the comments of Pell's photo that it's not fat-shaming; it's just a fact that having a six-pack takes commitment and anyone can do it if they make the necessary choices. Okay…duh! Could she have said the same thing without the suggestion that every mom who lacks a six-pack is a lazy tub of lard using her children as an excuse for her body's shortcomings? I think so.
Here's the thing: Pell is right. I don't doubt that if I made it a priority in my life to work out five days a week and eat like a saint, I could achieve rock-hard abs. I don't doubt that if my sister, a new mom who did CrossFit throughout her pregnancy, really wanted to she could do it, too. But the reality is I just don't want to. I asked my sister over text how badly she wants a six-pack and she put it succinctly: "not important."
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Aside from the fact that studies continue to show fat-shaming doesn't work and that encouraging people to love their bodies is actually more motivating, this is such a narrow, toxic view of health. Why is a six-pack the gold standard of fitness anyway? For me at least, going to the gym is not something I do because I want to change my appearance. I do it because I want to feel happy, have energy, and yeah, I'd rather skip having a heart attack, thanks. (For the record: like a good journalist, I checked and as far as I can tell, there is absolutely zero research suggesting a six-pack is the route to self-acceptance, happiness, or heart health.)
Pell has every reason to celebrate her body—as does every woman. She has worked hard for it, even placing in a worldwide athletic competition recently. But there's a big difference between trying to inspire women to get fit by sharing your own triumphs and shoving down their throats a version of what fitness supposedly looks like.
If you wish you had a six-pack, by all means, go for it. But somehow I seriously doubt anyone needs Abby Pell (or Maria Kang) to shame them into wanting it badly enough.