I have seen piles of articles and blog postings and Facebook comment about Maria Kang’s “what’s your excuse?” poster. I wanted to respond to it myself, because I have responded to so many of those things!
I think the first thing to remember about this poster is that this was created for her website, a year ago. Her personal website, her Facebook page. It was meant for people that are already following her, for people that have already bought into her no excuses program…which is an excellent program by the way; it is a weight-loss program created for moms, to break down the barriers that they have built around themselves that keep them from getting fit and healthy. I have not followed the program myself, but I have been looking at her webpage over the years, for inspiration. I find her very inspirational! So I think it is funny that people that have never known anything of Maria Kang before, are suddenly writing about how obnoxious and fat-shaming her poster is. The thing is, the poster wasn’t meant for those people. She didn’t post it on random parenting sites hoping some overweight mothers would see it and feel bad about themselves. She posted it on her no excuses social media webpages. For her followers, all of whom love it! If people would stop looking at the poster and getting angry about it, and start looking at her website and her message and thinking about what message is really trying to send, they would probably like her and her message a lot more. I have seen several postings where mothers that are in shape and do eat healthy…but not in her kind of shape…are rallying against her poster. They don’t seem to get that they have already bought into her program. They are taking the time for themselves to eat well, and take care of their bodies, and be healthy for themselves and their kids.
One thing that really bothers people about this picture, from what I can see, is that they cannot have a body like hers. That doesn’t bother me. I know I can’t (not without a monumental effort that is just not worth it), that’s okay. She knows we all can’t as well. It is not that she is promoting everyone to have a six pack, and walk around in micro shorts and a bra top. What she is promoting, is that women can take control of their bodies. That we can stop making excuses for letting ourselves be unhealthy, thinking it makes us better mothers if we don’t take care of ourselves.
I can see this from both sides. Four years ago, that poster probably would’ve made me angry too. I was a full-time working mom to two kids, I weighed 200 pounds, but dammit I was busy and tired and overwhelmed. Eating heavy fattening foods, and lots of it, made me happy. It was also pretty hard to avoid them, when I was surrounded by my husband and children, who could and did eat them all the time!
Exercise? Blech! By the time my kids were asleep, I was too tired to exercise, and I didn’t want to anyways, I wanted to be a good mother and wife, and take care of my home and have time for myself to read or watch TV.
Those all seemed like valid excuses at the time, and I would’ve been pissed off if I felt like someone was telling me they weren’t good enough excuses for me to not prioritize losing weight. Even though I hated being overweight. I would have been angry because I knew it was true. I was letting excuses hold me back from having the healthier, more energetic and more attractive (in my opinion) body that I wanted, and the truth hurts.
Fast-forward almost 4 years, and I am in good shape. I’m a better mother for it. When I go for walks with my kids, I don’t have to sit down every 10 minutes or at every hill. We can dance in the kitchen while we cook. Daddy is no longer the only parent capable of giving “rides”! My house is as clean as it ever was…which isn’t very clean. It’s true that I take a bit of time away from them to exercise, maybe 2 to 3 hours a week, but during that time they are with their father or on occasion their grandparents (where they would be anyways, it is a Saturday morning tradition). It is not like I am leaving them alone or with random strangers! They’re with people that love them, and there is value in spending time with those people. They certainly have plenty of time with me. I have found creative ways to fit in many of my workouts when I would not be with the kids anyway, eating at my desk so I can use my lunch break or finish work early for exercise, going on walks between appointments (often on work phone calls) whenever I can fit them in, or getting on the spin bike or running at night after they’ve gone to bed. Of course it’s hard to find the energy to do that, but once your body gets accustomed to it, it’s not that hard anymore. Being healthier makes me a better mother. I’m a better influence on my kids, who see the importance of exercise and healthy eating and follow me into those habits-Zoe runs! I will hopefully live a longer, healthier more productive life, which will make my kids happier adults…I hope.
I am a better wife. My marriage is a solid as it ever was, I might have a little less time for my husband…but I also have a lot more energy for him (so probably I don’t really have less time for him…I can stay up later and wake up earlier….wink wink). I also have a lot more confidence, and we all know how sexy confidence is!
I am better for myself. I feel good about myself, I enjoy shopping, the mirror doesn’t make me cry, I have energy, all those things make me a better wife, mother and woman! That’s not to say that anybody who does those things will be a better wife, mother and woman or a great wife, mother and woman cannot be overweight …there are lots of women that are happily, confidently, overweight and do great in all areas if their lives, and that’s awesome. But it made me tired and miserable, so I am better the way I am now.
Now, I can look back at myself four years ago, look back at how I would’ve responded to that poster…realize I would’ve been angry…but be so glad that I made the changes! I can also look at my excuses, and realize they were just that. Excuses. Which does not mean that my barriers were not valid, but it does mean that they could be broken down.
I would like to take some time and express how I broke down some of those barriers, since I know a lot of of moms have the same barriers, and maybe can help someone else.
1. There is no time:
All I can say is, make the time. Make it a priority. As for food, it takes no more time to eat healthy than unhealthy. As for exercise, the very first thing I did, was get a cheap elliptical machine off craigslist, and put it in front of my TV. Why? Because I loved watching TV after the kids went to bed, I did not want to be unable to do that. Lots of people put their exercise machines in the basement, but who wants to be alone in the basement, and out of sight can be out of mind? Putting it in front of the TV where I would normally watch TV meant that I had to look at it if I was sitting there watching TV. Which meant I would be inspired to get onto it, and I did. It also meant it Adam was not home I could be close to the kids while exercising (I would not have been comfortable exercising down the basement when they were asleep upstairs…certainly not when Charlotte was younger and more prone to waking) and when he is home we can watch TV together. I know a lot of people will say they have no room for an exercise machine. Find it. We have a small home and my entire family has to either climb over my spin bike, or over my bed, to get from one side of my room to the other. I have to actually balance myself on the bike to go into my closet. It is not aesthetically appealing (my home is for living not showing though…especially my bedroom), or very functional, but it is worth it because it means that I get to watch Grey’s and exercise at the same time. I also use that time to listen to audio books.
Figure out when it would make more sense for you to exercise: lunch, evenings, first thing in the morning or late at night, and make yourself do it. At first it is really hard to exercise at some of these times and you don’t feel like you have the energy, but if you force yourself, eventually you get used to it. I often exercise at 9 or even 10 at night. I make myself start, once I start I get the energy to complete, and I can still sleep afterwards.
2. I need to be with my kids:
No, you don’t. Well, obviously you do…I would not recommend any mom never spend time with the kids cause she is always exercising. Obviously our kids need us, but spending a few hours a week with a loving other parent or grandparent or family friend won’t hurt them. It will be good for them. Kids can never have too much love, and can always use more time with people that love them. Also, as you get more fit and healthy, you will have more energy and a better mood…I bet the time you do spend with your kids will be much more pleasant and fun! I know with me it is.
3. Eating healthy is so hard:
It’s true, it’s very very hard to get accustomed to eating well, picking healthy foods at the supermarket and especially restaurants. I found it extremely difficult mentally the first year or so, when I was losing weight. The second year, when I started maintaining, I also found it very hard. There were many times that I was depressed or angry about the fact that I could no longer go to a restaurant and just order what I wanted from the menu. It depressed me even more to know that that time would probably never come again, not if I wanted to maintain my weight loss. All I can say is that if you keep it up, a shift happens. This is no longer hard for me. It is normal for me to go to a restaurant and order fish instead of pasta, salad instead of french fries. I don’t think about it anymore, I don’t feel sorry for myself anymore, I don’t feel angry about it anymore, it is how I eat and I am eating what I enjoy. If someone told me three or four years ago that I would actually enjoy eating an apple as a snack, I would’ve told them they were crazy. If someone had told me I would go to a restaurant and think the salads looked better than the pasta, again I never would’ve believed it. But these things are now true of me. That’s not to say that I never have a “cheat” meal or treat , of course I do, but my tastes and appetite have changed enough that even when I do I don’t eat that much of it, and I no longer worry that one treat is going to make me spiral back into my former lifestyle and body.
4. I hate exercise:
Find what you like. It doesn’t matter what it is. Zumba, turning on music and dancing, wii fit, walking, running, skating, strength training, yoga, Pilates, barre, etcetera. There are a million options. Of course you can find lots of fitness books and websites to learn about the perfect exercise for muscle tone and definition and maximum fat loss…but don’t worry about that. Honestly, being active is better than not being active, no matter what it is you do. Find a sport or activity you enjoy, and do it as much as you can. Don’t worry if it is not going to give you the perfect balanced workout and body, that may or may not come in the future…but for now… just focus on being active and making it fun so that you’ll want to do it.
5. Gyms are too expensive:
They can be. There are lots of good deals to be had though. Check out daily deal sights. If you work for a big company, check and see if a discounted gym membership is part of your benefits. If not, that’s okay. If you have kids, you probably have a Wii or similar game system…look for some active games. No Wii? Turn on the music and dance. Put on your shoes and go for a brisk long walks alone or while the kids ride their bikes and scooters or around the soccer field during practice or the block while they are in swim lessons. Who knows? One day, you might find yourself wanting to go a bit faster and running? Certainly money gives you more options for exercise, but there are lots of ways to do it for free or little money.
One other this thing I’d like to say is as much as we hear about fat shaming, I feel like from others, there is also a lot of thin shaming. I get dirty looks from other women all the time, those skinny bitch (I’m not “skinny”…but in certain groups/circles I can appear so) looks that I know so well because I used to give them. Women I know make passive aggressive comments to me all the time, saying things like “I could never leave my children so much to exercise” and “must be nice to have time to have a body like that”. I wish women could be more supportive of each other. I can be a good mom and in good shape. If someone else cannot, that’s not on me and I shouldn’t be made to feel badly about it. I also hate the vanity shaming. A FB friend yesterday said the problem with Maria Kang is the poster was only for vanity not health, and proudly expressed how she (FB friend) is only losing weight for health reasons. I think that’s great. Admirable. I have no issue with someone who doesn’t care how she looks. But I also have no shame in the fact that I like to look good, I like my body to look good. That doesn’t make me a lesser person or lesser mother than someone who only loses weight for health reasons.