September 24, 2015 01:40 PM

Courtesy Maria Kang

Maria Kang wants to unite moms of all different shapes and sizes.

And with her new 2016 Fit Mom Calendar, she is doing just that.

The notion may have seemed unlikely a few years ago, given Kang’s controversial “What’s Your Excuse?” Facebook photo, which went viral in 2012.  She was accused of body-shaming other moms by showing her super-fit figure alongside her three young sons (now 6, 5 and 3).

“Do I still think there are excuses?” asks Kang, 33. “Yes. And I think many can be overcome. But my approach has become a little bit softer in terms of promoting non-judgment and progress. We need role models and people who have overcome similar challenges to get inspiration from.”

Courtesy Maria Kang

Courtesy Maria Kang

These days the Sacramento-based Kang is seen as a champion for moms who are taking control of their health. In addition to publishing a diet book earlier this year, Kang has created a vast network of No Excuse Mom groups, which invite moms to meet up for free workouts at least once a week. (Kids are welcome —and encouraged!) Nearly 70,000 motivated moms in 25 countries participate in these groups, says Kang.

Courtesy Maria Kang

And some of these women have been spotlighted in the third annual calendar, which includes personal transformation stories, nutrition tips and workouts. It’s the first year Kang has featured the local groups.

“What I love about the calendar is that is shows everyday women,” Kang tells PEOPLE. “You’re going to see a variety of different sizes and shapes and ages. It’s inspiring. Everyone can connect with someone in this calendar. You can relate to a body type or even a story.”

RELATED: Miss America Betty Cantrell: ‘It Doesn’t Matter If You’re a Size 0 or 12, As Long As You’re Healthy’

The women, most of whom are wearing swimsuits, “want to show and represent what an everyday mother looks like,” says Kang. “We’re not all beauty queens or celebrities or athletes. Our groups are all different and come from different places. But what unites us is not only that we are mothers, but that we care about our health and our families and we want to give back to our communities.”

Courtesy Maria Kang

Courtesy Maria Kang

“It may seem hypocritical [to celebrate all body types] when I’ve been criticized for my stance on obesity. But I believe we should not only have very athletic role models, but also women who are medically obese, yet striving,” says Kang. “I see the [photos] they post of themselves working out. Maybe they’re not in their best shape, but they are in the process of becoming their best self. And that process should be celebrated.”

RELATED: Hungry Girl: Get Your Diet Back on Track These Healthy Eating Strategies

–Michelle Ward Trainor

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