Fitspo or confronting reflection? Maria Klang.

Fit inspiration or confronting reflection? Maria Kang.

At a time when being overweight is considered normal, the finger of ridicule has turned full circle and it's now the physically fit who are forced to defend their healthy choices.

In 2012 when celebrity chef Pete Evans shared that activated almonds and cultured vegetables featured in his daily diet, the collective snigger of the country was audible.

He took to Facebook to respond. "Ignorance is not bliss. I'm occasionally ridiculed because I choose to eat a nutrient dense diet, and I find it so bizarre as to why people sometimes find my food choice's so offensive. All I know is that I'm well aware of the consequences of eating 'dead' food, and also I'm a father, and I take that privilege very seriously, so for me striving for optimum health whenever I can so that I can be a responsible role model for my daughters, and still be able to surf right up until the end, is the obvious choice for me."

Maria Klang.

Maria Kang.

More recently, Maria Kang, the "no excuses mum", almost broke the internet when she posed in a crop top alongside her children aged three, two and eight months with the caption "What's your excuse?". Criticism ranged from claims of photo shopping to labelling her as a bad mother.

She answered her critics on her website. "I thought the caption was fitting since I often saw posters of grandmothers running in marathons, paraplegics competing in the Olympics and even a father performing a pull up with three kids in tow – all with the same caption: 'What's your excuse?' I felt that if others can overcome incredible challenges to be in shape, why would my story be any different?"

Both Kang and Evans seem rational and responsible in their choices, and as we're so often told, our country is in the midst of an obesity epidemic. The implications of an unhealthy lifestyle can no longer be ignored. So why are these images of inspiration so commonly viewed with humour and sometimes contempt?

Psychologist Sarah-Jayne McCormick of Bright Ideas Psychology explains that people such as Kang and Evans remind us of how fit and healthy we aren't. "A little like holding up a mirror to reflect back at us what we should be, rather than what the reality might be. That's an uncomfortable place for us to be. Often the criticism can seem to make it more acceptable for us to remain unhealthy or unfit, rather than taking it on and doing something about it," she says.

This ridicule isn't just reserved for celebrities though. Skipping after-work drinks and saying no to a slice of birthday cake can sometimes be the cause for workplace bullying. Eric*, 40, works in insurance. Being physically fit and choosing to bring in healthy lunches from home has often found him the butt of office jokes.

"This is generally coming from guys who are quite overweight themselves and I try not to let it bother me, but it's never nice to know that people are talking about you in a negative way behind your back. It certainly makes me feel less comfortable at work," he says.

McCormick points out that many people who struggle with their weight are also dealing with a psychological component that's not often addressed when it comes to weight loss. "Often, along with being overweight comes a whole lot of judgments about ourselves which is heightened when we see super fit and healthy people. Rather than motivating us to change our behaviour, it can actually highlight the gap between where we are and where we want to be," she says.

"I think that often we pick on those who fit outside of the norm. Those who take fitness super seriously are rarer so are more obvious."