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'No Excuse Mom' on Her New Diet Book – and That Infamous Photo

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James Patrick

There’s a new fitness book on shelves – and it has stretch marks on the cover.

The No More Excuses Diet by Maria Kang aims to help readers overcome the excuses that prevent them from leading a healthy life.

“I know what it’s like to be stressed out, to be depressed, to have kids, to be overweight,” Kang, 33, tells PEOPLE. “I am someone you can truly relate to.”

That wasn’t always the case. Kang came under fire when her controversial “What’s Your Excuse?” Facebook photo went viral in 2012. She was accused of body-shaming other moms by showing her fit figure alongside her three young sons.

“I had never been in a mommy war before!” says the Sacramento-based Kang. “I didn’t aim the post at moms. Everyone knows that one of the busiest people in the world is a mother. The idea was that if moms can do it, so can you – fathers, college students, whomever!”

Since then, many of Kang’s detractors have come to view her as an inspiration, she says.

“When people first saw me they assumed I was a trainer, or that I had a nanny and a cook. But over time I’ve been able to explain myself,” she says.

In fact, Kang has a full-time job, a limited budget and, like so many other people, a very busy life.

“I understand people’s excuses on an intimate, accessible level,” she says.

As Kang’s reputation evolved and she became a champion for the fitness-challenged, her popularity soared; along with a vocal and supportive community on Facebook and Instagram, her No Excuse Mom group – which offers 300 free workout locations worldwide – boasts 40,000 members.

Kang, whose sons are now 6, 4 and 3, says she was inspired to write The No More Excuses Diet to simplify the process of getting healthy.

“One of the excuses people have is they don’t know where to start and there is too much information,” she says. “You don’t know if you should go paleo or vegetarian, or how many calories you should be consuming or if carbs are good for you. It’s frustrating.”

That’s why one of the book’s core principles is simplicity.

“I always talk about the power of three,” she says. “I think more than three of anything is too many choices! So I say it takes three days to overcome an excuse or a craving, three weeks to build a habit and three months for a transformation.”

She also favors a diet that is 30 percent carbs, 30 percent protein, 30 percent fat and 10 percent flexible according to lifestyle and needs.

“I didn’t have a ghostwriter,” says Kang of her book. “I wrote this from my heart and I really, truly mean what I say.”