I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to get into the conversation sparked by Maria Kang’s question, “What’s Your Excuse?” mostly because it’s not specifically Maria Kang that I have a problem with. She schedules her time to include a daily fitness regime, and we’ll also assume she is a dedicated parent. She might even be a really nice person. I wouldn’t know, we’ve never met. Up until she bared her toned-to-the-teeth abs (despite or because she is the mother of three young children) to social media, I had never even heard of her.
Yet, I can’t ignore it. This “What’s Your Excuse” business goes much deeper than simply preying on a mother’s insecurities about her post-pregnancy paunch and efforts to motivate her into someone’s specific vision of healthy.
The “What’s Your Excuse” photo of Maria Kang’s abs and three young children has generated its fair share of disapproval, and for good reason. I could add my two angry cents to explain why I feel this message is harmful, even hurtful. What I read in Maria Kang’s justification for her question is a mom who needs a shoulder.
She writes: “What you interpret is not MY fault. It’s Yours. The first step in owning your life, your body and your destiny is to OWN the thoughts that come out of your own head. So if you want to continue ‘hating’ this image, get used to hating many other things for the rest of your life… Maybe it’s time we stop tip-toeing around people’s feelings and get to the point.”
Recommendations to others are often a projection of ourselves, our personal perspective. When I am speaking to another parent about feeding a food adverse child, the advice I share tries to be supportive and blame-free, this-is-not-your-fault type of stuff. When I suggest to another mom to “serve the meal buffet style and avoid using pressure” not only is this a recommendation to encourage success at her table, it’s also a reminder to encourage success at mine as well.
Maria Kang admits that she has recovered from bulimia. Knowing this, I find her words concerning, and I wonder what demons she still fights with when circumstances don’t allow for her workout routine at the gym everyday. I wonder how she coped while she denied herself the pleasures of ice cream and french fries during her pregnancies. I wonder what she hates about this image and what she will hate about herself for the rest of her life. I wonder if she is as recovered from the eating disorder she “had” (her words) as she believes.
I don’t believe that Maria Kang’s intentions were malicious. She appears to live her life in a way that makes sense to her and helps her feel comfortable in her own skin. She did, however, err in thinking that her level of fitness is possible for everybody AND that everybody wants (or needs) what she does. It may surprise her to know that not everybody wants to (or should) be obsessed with their weight, distressed by every ingested calorie, and compelled to exercise off the guilt experienced by eating.
I can’t fault Maria Kang for believing she was acting in good faith. This concept of exercising away the guilt of eating is prevalent, it’s at the core of the belief that fat people are lazy. It’s a dangerous message to perpetuate, especially to children. And yet it is happening. This cycle of guilt and obsession is clearly printed in my seven-year old daughter’s elementary school agenda as a guideline for healthy eating.
It might come as a surprise to learn that bulimia is not healthy.
Maria Kang and I do agree on one thing. It is time to stop tip toeing around people’s feelings and get to the point.
Blame is the act of censuring, holding responsible, or making negative statements about an individual or group that their action or actions are socially or morally irresponsible. It’s a way of devaluing others by emphasizing an individual’s flaws, thus making the blamer feel superior. Blame is something inflicted upon another individual to induce guilt.
It’s time to stop promoting an unattainable standard of beauty and fitness as the norm. It’s time (like yesterday immediately) to stop using blame to motivate people to be a shape nature may have never intended them to be.
“I know you think you can’t, but if I can do it, so can you.” There are some bold assumptions happening in this statement. When we refuse to accept blame, it’s pretty easy to make swiss cheese out of this what’s-your-excuse nonsense.
What if I’m not as vain as you? What if I look in the mirror and see beyond the outer layer of skin? What if I don’t base my self-worth on how I look in a pair of booty shorts? What if I don’t want a life where I will be interviewed and photographed in my underwear? What if I’m completely okay with not needing Photoshop to enhance my looks and hide my flaws?
Healthy is a complete package of both body and mind. Guidelines to achieve “the healthy” must consider the intricacies of the individual – body shape, genetics, medical history – as well as attitudes about eating and weight. Even with all of this incorporated into a diet and exercise plan, there still needs to be respect and understanding that everyone has different priorities and goals.
This is not Maria Kang’s failing. She just bought into the entire diet industry’s marketing machine of blaming you for not being what someone else thinks you should look like. Genuine motivation is respectful, supportive, encouraging. Sadly, as Maria Kang’s response demonstrates, those who use blame as motivation often believe that their intentions are sincere.
“What’s Your Excuse?” is not a question that really has anything to do with you.
It’s all about the person asking the question.
You were saying something about an excuse?