Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What's Your Excuse (Read: The Maria Kang Fallout)

Maria Kang’s name is everywhere this week so I’m sure you’ve heard of her. If not, she is causing a stir around the web for this picture:

Everyone is at her throat for fat shaming and I have to confess that I don’t understand why. This is nothing new. She is not the only one running to the beat of the no excuses drummer. There are entire boards on Pinterest…hell, there are entire industries dedicated to that finger pointing “I work out, what do you do?” mentality. Seen a Cross Fit ad lately? Why isn’t anyone all over that? What about similar ads featuring men? Why isn’t anyone jumping down the throats of the super fit men doing Insanity, P90X, etc., etc.  all while telling other men to get their pot bellied asses off the couch to flip some giant truck tires to build their biceps? 

Women are held to an impossible standard of beauty but it’s nothing new. We’re groomed to be the prettiest overachievers in the world. We are to get through our task list with time to spare then cook, clean and raise kids to boot. Not all of us can do that – arguably none of us can do it all and feel peaceful and balanced at the end of any given day. Yet, the commercials play on. If you love who you are and can ignore the images in the commercials as photoshopped, special effect driven bull, why can’t you ignore a super fit woman essentially saying she works out harder than you even with 3 young kids? Why is she a woman hating, fat shaming, internet villain rather than just another exercise junkie spreading her fitness message to the world?
Is it because she brings you into it by asking for your excuse? Does she seem to be taunting you in that on the playground “nanny, nanny boo-boo” kind of way? Look a little deeper. Is it because she hit a nerve? For me the answer is yes because I know better.

At the end of the day, I feel like no one can shame me for things that don’t bother me. For instance, if someone said “I can’t believe you can drink four glasses of wine in one night” I would tell them to kick rocks. If on the other hand, someone said I can’t believe you’ve gained almost 30 pounds since your wedding, I would feel bad because (i) I am ashamed; and (ii) I know I got there on the backs of various excuses.

You only live once!

You gotta live!

My show starts in 5 minutes.

I’ll work out extra hard tomorrow.

I have a meeting after work.

I’m tired.

Excuses, excuses, excuses. Not one among them is adequate enough to justify living at an unhealthy weight and letting my heart get lazy from lack of cardio. That doesn’t mean I don’t use them anyway. As you know, I missed the last two weeks of workouts all because of excuses, which is precisely why something like Maria Kang’s photo struck a nerve. It’s the same nerve struck by EVERY fitness message meant to kick my butt into gear.

Now, before you cut my head off and point to more serious excuses/reasons people may have (particularly health related ones), let me say this: I have Pulmonary Hypertension (PAH) and Lupus SLE.  Both cause fatigue and one causes shortness of breath and rapid heart rate (and that is the biggest understatement of the issues caused by my illnesses I’ve EVER made but I digress). I could fall back on my conditions and use them as excuses not to get fit and be well within my right to sit on the couch and relax. Trust me. I have done it. I get it. Sometimes, you just can’t work out. I don’t feel like Maria Kang’s message is targeted at those with debilitating conditions. The same can be said for those who love their bodies no matter the size. Again, I don’t feel that’s the targeted audience for her message.

The message (IMHO) is meant for those who can do it and want the results but make a million excuses  and lament their self-perceived physical shortcomings every New Year’s Eve, Weigh-In Day, Class Reunion, Family Gathering, etc. I don't think the message was meant to say "You need to look like me" to be worth something. I think it was meant to say you can be the best you if you let go of the standard set of excuses. She's speaking from experience. After all, she wasn't born looking the way she does in the controversial photo. Check out her before and after photos here

I have friends with 4 kids who manage to get up every day, do cross fit, take their kids to school, attend every kid’s sporting events and have meals together at night. They also find time to go to parties, motivate friends, go on vacation, and train for marathons. They do not have a live in nanny or clones. They make health a priority and they get it done. I aspire to get there and I know if I asked them how they keep it going, “NO EXCUSES” would be somewhere in the answer. One thing is clear. If I want to get to my fitness goal, excuses won’t get me there and people like Maria Kang will continue to strike a nerve. Not willing to let that happen. 

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