Turn it around

Last time that the “What’s your excuse” mom sparked controversy, I was tempted to write about it. It eventually blew over, I forgot about it, and was recently reminded. The infamous Facebook photo-phenom made a return, and I decided I couldn’t keep my mouth shut (or fingers from typing) any longer.

If you’re not familiar with the “What’s your excuse” mom, a photo was virally shared a few months ago of a hot fitness mom, wearing a sports bra and tiny shorts, looking fit and amazing. In the photo, she’s surrounded by her three young boys along with the caption, “What’s your excuse?” She caught a lot of fire in response to the photo, and the backlash spawned conversations on both side of the spectrum: praising the mom for providing inspiration, and berating her for shaming the habits of other other moms.

I didn’t find anything wrong with photo. The mom looks great, her kids look happy and healthy, and if it were left alone, I could find it extremely inspirational. It IS possible to get extremely fit after having three children within three years. Good for her.

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(photo source)

The problem I have is with the caption:

“What’s your excuse?”

What?!

Maybe a mom’s “excuse” is that she’s trying to make ends meet, spending any potential gym time working to support her family.

Maybe she’s sick, and has a medical explanation for why her body looks a certain way. Maybe she’s injured or physically disabled and can’t work out.

Maybe she’s enduring a personal tragedy, or depression, and making it through the day is a battle in itself.

Who are you to judge?

I feel like this is just another layer of the so-called mommy wars: women fighting to climb a ladder that doesn’t exist, stepping on each other along the way. 

I also feel like this is an aspect of fitness that I personally loathe: achieving a certain body type for the sole purpose of comparison.

If you want to look a certain way, do it for YOU. Don’t do it to turn around and ask why everyone else isn’t doing the same. Maybe they have a reason… or, maybe it’s just not important to them. It shouldn’t be important to you, either. Also, there is SO much more to fitness and healthy living than physical results. The benefits that can’t be photographed (better sleep, more energy, higher sports performance, better posture, etc), to me, far outweigh some chiseled biceps. Physical appearance is just a tiny glimpse into overall health. 

She recently posted yet another photo, indicating that she doesn’t have any “special help” to help her achieve her fitness goals.

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(Photo source. Icing on the cake: the photo was Photoshopped)

No chef, no nanny, not enough sleep, works 8+ hours a day, wah wah. What about the mom who does have a nanny and has a hot bod? Are her results less impressive? Not really. 

I think the purpose of this post was to share my thoughts and emphasize the importance of compassion. We’re all on different paths of our unique fitness journey. For many people, that journey hasn’t even started yet, and the snobbiness and judging in the fitness world could be what’s preventing them from beginning. Reach a hand out to someone who may need support along the way instead of guilting them (even if it’s unintentional) to follow the path you’ve decided for yourself. I think it’s especially important to remember that if you’re a mom: we’re all in this together. Being a mom is hard work, and by tearing each other down, we just make it more challenging. 

The funny thing is that I used to judge a lot more before I had a child. I was so fixated on how I wanted things to be when/if I had my own children, it was much easier for me to make assessments of other women for their choices. Now that I’ve been in the proverbial trenches, and many things didn’t work out the way I originally anticipated, I care so much less about how other women choose to live their lives. I’m too busy trying to figure out my own <3 Even though these photos got me thinking, and maybe got me a little riled up, I’m going to try and put myself in this mom’s situation. Maybe she’s not as confident as these photos suggest, or she’s trying to make herself feel better about something unrelated that she’s experiencing. Either way, she has her own things going on. 

As always, excited to hear your thoughts.

xo

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Comments

  1. You took the words right out of my mouth. I couldn’t agree with you more!

  2. I’m glad you addressed this, because it is so, so frustrating to see images like this. If she wants to make her body a priority, that’s awesome, but there’s a lot of other people out there who don’t want to or just plain can’t hit the gym every day. And that’s fine – we all have our own priorities! And obviously, we don’t have to look like that to be considered healthy. Considering the fact that that photo is glaringly photoshopped, apparently, she can’t look that way naturally either.

  3. Your thoughts on this are spot on! A woman should be able to showcase her pride in her body, but the message is off. Instead of being inspirational, it seemed to put others down. The message should have been more uplifting!

  4. I really enjoy the fact that your blog is very inclusive rather than exclusive. I feel like you don’t judge me for the fact that generally speaking I want to be healthy and happy, but sometimes I just want to wear sweatpants and drink wine on the couch. I don’t read many blogs on a regular basis, but that is one reason why I read yours.

    • If there was a like button, I would like this. Good for you, Gina, for inspiring but not preaching. You share your healthy lifestyle with us. Health is encompassed by so much more than JUST physical fitness/appearance: mental, social, spiritual, etc…thank you for conveying ALL aspects of health through your blog!

  5. It is important for all moms and dads to maintain a happy medium of fitness to be good role models for their children AND to be healthy productive adults. As a mom, I want to live to 100 so I can see all of my child’s life and poor health will not get me there. We can all fall victim to the excuse game and maybe this is the kind of kick in the butt message we need every now and again.

    • Hi Jenn,

      I understand what you’re saying, but frankly, it’s none of your business how people take care of their bodies. As Gina said, everyone has reasons- some people don’t have time to exercise so they can actually feed their children. T

      This image may not inspire everyone and may make them feel inadequate, which is not the best exercise/eating well motivator.

      I think the point is that she did it in a judgy, not very kind way. There are enough images of what a “healthy” or “fit” woman should look like, do we really need this one too?

  6. Gina, I could not agree more. As women, we often compare ourselves to and judge other women- often out of our own insecurity. I think that the best way to combat this is for women to support each other. We are all insecure in our own ways, but ultimately, we are all in this together.

    It’s fine to set a great example, as you do, but it’s quite another thing to put others down in the process. And, if you are happy with yourself, you shouldn’t give a damn about what anyone else is doing.

  7. my problem with this lady is that I feel like she’s coming from the mindset that anyone would want her body and that there’s no excuse not to achieve her results. In reality everyone wants and prioritizes different things in life. It’s one thing to encourage mothers to take care of themselves but I don’t think any mother, or person for that matter, should feel obligated to look any particular way except for the one that allows them to live the happiest and most balanced life they can.

  8. This post is amazing. Could not agree more!

  9. To me our epidemic of being judgmental is on full display here, as you point out, but it is not limited to moms. It’s become very American to display hubris and judgment (falsely called Pride) rather than compassion, tolerance, acceptance and openness. We say we are a country of Live and Let Live yet the AZ legislature passed a law making it ok to be bigoted in business and it then took the AZ governor way too long to veto it … and said she did so because it wasn’t prudent economically?!?!? What about it being immoral?

    I don’t know if it is social media, regular media, hyper politicization, celebrity / materialism focus or something else. But I hope we can reverse this. I know a voice like yours helps Gina! And I do my best to be open, curious, loving, helpful, and non-judgmental. Because all I can control is what I do.

    Thanks for the great post, per usual 🙂

    • Fitnessista says:

      that law was atrocious. it still surprises me that it was even considered to be put up for legislation. one good reason to get out of AZ

  10. Your outlook in this is exactly how I, and I’m sure many of your readers, feel. It’s so refreshing and even comforting to hear someone like you put this perspective out there. Her picture and message are also why many people don’t like “gym people” or runners, because they think we are obnoxious and judgmental, as her picture perfectly depicts. The focus should be on yourself, not making others second guess themselves. Anyway, thank you for your usual down to earth and thoughtful contribution to the fitness community. This is why I read your blog.

  11. All I have to say is Thank You and Bravo. This is exactly why I read your blog and not a lot of other health and fitness blogs – it makes me want to be healthy, not feel bad about myself.

  12. THANK YOU for commenting on this photo, and such an honest straightforward post. Before giving birth to my son, I saw this and agreed, what could be my excuse not to get back in shape. I ran several half marathons and ran throughout my pregnancy. Well, I only gained 17 lbs during pregnancy and my body is so different post birth. I feel like even though I work out everyday and eat healthy, I still have wider hips and a pooch that won’t disappear. Ok, so I just may not get chiseled abs again because childbirth changes women in different ways. But, it was all worth it because my son is the love of my husband and my lives.

  13. Well said! It’s impossible to know what’s going on in someone else’s head and in their homes. And wouldn’t it be boring if we all were exactly the same and prioritized the same way.

  14. Well said. I just don’t get the mommy wars…I rarely hear of daddy wars. Why do women do this to each other?

  15. Love love love this. I’m not even a mom and her photo made me furious. I’m sure part of it is just a stunt to get noticed, but whatever it is, your words say it better than I could!

  16. I think you put it perfectly! If someone wants inspiration for weightloss and fitness after having children, it would be nice to see a fit mom with 3 sons. What’s not nice is making moms who don’t look like that feel like failures–that they need to excuse their appearances. I can’t imagine trying to make time for yourself when you have to make time for your kids!

    I’m not a mom, but I suffer from chronic illnesses that caused weight gain. I’m starting to get my life back. But, it started with trying to sleep well, then eat well, and now it has culminated into some weightloss. I’ll never be able to do high intensity workouts without crashing and causing more harm than good, but people who really know me tell me how inspired they are and I don’t have chiseled muscles or flat abs!

  17. The other thing that bothered me A LOT about that post was that it was just so damn arrogant! And when has that ever been an attractive quality in a person? I mean, does she look fit? Sure. But I see fit people every single day. If one of them ever walked up to me at the gym, pointed to her abs and said, “I have 3 toddlers. What’s your excuse?”, it would be one of the most socially inappropriate moments ever. Saying in an internet post and directing it at the entire world (some of whom probably have more obligations and look at least as good) is just… yuck! She’s attractive, but a smidge of modesty would do her wonders.

  18. Couldn’t agree more with the points you made! One of my big issues with her pictures is that they are photoshopped. She’s portraying something that is not even 100% real!

  19. Well said. Oxygen had an article about her last month and the tone felt like it was supporting her shaming in the name of fighting obesity. You raise an incredibly salient point about compassion and the mommy wars. Thank you for putting it so eloquently and succinctly and with your expertise as a mom and fitness professional behind it. Keep up the good work, Gina.

  20. Being open to the idea that everyone faces their own battles and never to judge is a beautiful way to be. Thanks for a lovely, warm-hearted discussion on the topic that should make everyone feel good about themselves. I love your outlook, thanks for the virtual hug I feel this post gave all the mums out there xxx

  21. Beautifully said. Thank you!!!

  22. Thank you for writing this Gina! I mean, come on, I work out 5-6 days per week and eat super healthy and I have lost a ton of weight, but it wasn’t good for me… it’s not the same for everyone.

  23. I mostly agree with you! At first I was like “right on!! hot mom!” but after I thought about it more, and had more time being a mother (my baby is 4.5 months old), I realized that being a mom is TOUGH work. There are excuses to not focusing all your attention on physical aesthetic appearance!

    The message I think was meant to be positive and uplifting, but her delivery failed. I help women to become happier and healthier all over- mind, body and spirit. Maria Kang is missing the important components of mental and spiritual ‘fitness’ and it makes her message kind of cunning, competitive and most importantly- it lacks the compassion that is so important in mothering.

  24. I think a more appropriate caption would be, “All things are possible.” or “It can be done!”

  25. Marisol B says:

    Couldn’t have said it better myself Gina, thank you for this.

  26. Stephanie says:

    Love this post. Especially the part about comparison. It drives me crazy when I see things that basically say “my workout is better than yours”. Aren’t we are all trying to achieve the same goal, a healthier happier us? When we stick together and support one another we are so much more powerful and successful with our own goals. Trying to tear others down by way of comparison just makes the fabric weaker. Thanks again for the great post.

  27. She pretty much enumerates all her insecurities which is so contradictory to her recent ‘Don’t’ list.
    http://www.mariakang.com/2013/07/21/mommy-fitness-blog-my-insecurities/

    I am not being judgmental on her but I think she is the type of person who likes and wants to be on the limelight. She joined over 10 beauty pageants, bikini competitions. She obviously wants to be seen and I think with that mindset, she needs to look her best all the time. She might think that most moms or women wanted the same but I for one, don’t.

    Thank you for this article. You summed it up well. She blocked me on her page when I tried to speak (write) my mind out. And yes, it’s about mostly asking for compassion…

  28. I dunno…if I had seen this when I was so unhappy with my body and trying to get it back in shape 6 weeks postpartum, I would’ve thought “heck yeah! I have no excuse” and continued to power on with my workouts. I would’ve found it motivating and a good reminder that even though the only time I had to workout was a limited window a nighttime, I was going to push through and get it done. And I did get it done and feel proud of that.

    When I first saw this photo (after already getting back in shape after my second baby), it made me feel proud and I thought “that’s right, I had no excuse and I got it done!”

    I can see where you and others are coming from, but I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.

    I have a guest post up from a friend today who lost 80lbs after having 3 kids in 14 months. I don’t know her thoughts on this woman, but she certainly didn’t make excuses and got down to business and lost all that weight.

    That’s what I think of when I see this post. I think it was intended to be encouraging and empowering.

    • Empowering is not a woman tearing down another woman. This woman photoshops her images and has admitted to having an eating disorder in the past, and it’s extremely likely she’s still vastly insecure on account of her need to shame other women who aren’t living their lives as she chooses to.

      This is not empowering.

  29. Gina,

    I’m so glad you touched on the fact that women often tear each other down, even in subtle ways like a Facebook photo. I’m a strong believer that we ladies should be lifting each other up, and celebrating each other’s choices, not judging them.

    I also agree that attaining this body type may not be a major goal for every woman. I teach at a Title 1 school, (over 50% of our students qualify as low income) and many of my students’ mother do not have the time or money to attain this goal, yet media images keep telling them this is the way they SHOULD look. It’s not a supportive message.

    Overall, I think this picture would have been okay as a motivational image if the tagline had been just that, more motivational, and less judgmental.

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this! As far as role models go, I think you are a great Fit Mom!

    -Rebecca

  30. Amen! I couldn’t have put my own thoughts on this into better words!

  31. Thank you for this post.

    I think she was trying to say “You can do it” but of course it came out in a WAY less positive way.

    I already judge myself enough–I don’t need her doing it for me. And I don’t have any kids!

    Before I react to anyone, I think about what it’s like to be in their shoes and what their struggles could be. There is so much we don’t know about someone just by looking at them.

    My favorite saying is “When you point the finger, you have three pointing back at you”. 🙂

  32. I don’t have kids so I’m coming at this simply from a comparing yourself to other people perspective. To me, I would never look at these pictures and think that the woman is judging other mothers. (I haven’t looked at her site so maybe she’s being all preachy and judgmental there, but I’m writing this off the whole assumption that she’s encouraging moms to stop making excuses.) To me this is the same as all those hot bodied photos on Pinterest: it’s inspiration. Different people respond to different things and maybe what she’s doing will inspire some women to look at their lives in a different way. I also think that you can’t blame this woman for other people’s reactions to her. We control our own reactions. Plus, when you say what if someone is disabled or dealing with a family tragedy or whatever then obviously it’s up to that individual person to realize that their life is different and it’s possible that this level of fitness isn’t in the cards for them right now. I’m in grad school and sometimes it’s hard to hear people talk about their fabulous vacations or when friends talk about how they bought a house and worked so hard to save for the down payment, but ultimately it’s up to me to realize that I’m in a different place in my life than they are.

    There was a really interesting story on Morning Edition this morning about a woman who is a reporter and has two young kids and how she always felt completely run ragged with no extra time in her day for anything. She met with some type of time management expert and he found 27 EXTRA hours in her week. 27!!! And that’s not like taking away from sleep or work or her kids, it was just time she was wasting. (Here’s the link: http://www.npr.org/2014/03/11/288596888/not-enough-hours-in-the-day-we-all-feel-a-little-overwhelmed) To me photos and “movements” (I don’t love using that word, but I couldn’t think of another one) like the one No Excuse Mom are perpetuating are ways of encouraging people to look at their lives and reevaluate their decisions. Most women (sadly) probably have weight loss as a goal, but how many are actually doing something constructive to make it happen? It’s not many, at least among the people I encounter.

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I thought your points were really interesting and I certainly agree with some of them, but to me it comes down to not comparing ourselves with others which is ultimately our own responsibility, as difficult as it might be at times.

  33. I didn’t think too much about that first photo that was published. I remember seeing it about a year before I heard of all the hype it was causing. After all that, I think that next photo is a little ‘rub it in your face I’m ‘hotter’ than you.’ It’s a little unnecessary if her true goal wasn’t body image, but being healthy.

  34. Oh AMEN. I hope someone directed her to your post.

    What’s unique about her isn’t that she’s a mom of three and thin but that she thinks that all mothers should share her shallow goals.

  35. Courtney says:

    The reason these photos offend me is simple – maybe some people just don’t care and are perfectly comfortable with their appearance. Maybe some people enjoy every day of their lives to the fullest and are perfectly comfortable with the fact that this could mean some fat on their bodies. I go to the gym, but I don’t my PR’S and I don’t have a “leg day”. I also eat healthy, but I don’t substitute squash for pasta if I want pasta. I think Maria is assuming that everyone envies her, but I think of it as, ya she looks hot and her hard work is admirable, but I would prefer to spend the majority of my time with my friends and family, visiting and laughing over beer and pizza on Friday night.

  36. This resonates hard with me because I gave birth 11 weeks ago to a perfect little boy, and yet since I was cleared to begin exercising at 6 weeks, I haven’t lost a pound! I am breastfeeding, which everyone said would help me lose weight, but it seems to be doing the opposite. It is BEYOND frustrating to work out hard (sometimes I only have 30 minutes in a day, but I try to make it count), eat healthy (also not easy when you have 5 minutes to grab some lunch before the baby starts crying again) and see no physical results. I am still a good 25 pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight (only gained 35lb during the whole pregnancy) and have about 60 pounds to lose overall….but it’s not for lack of trying. Instead I try to focus on the fact that I’m giving my baby the best nutrition I can, and working out does help me to not lose my mind when the baby’s been crying for an hour. But still, seeing pictures like that makes me feel pretty terrible as a woman. Thanks for writing this post!

    • Don’t beat yourself up! It’s still early days and your body is doing its best to give your bub good nourishment and heal you. Cant fight those hormones! I gained 52 pounds during my pregnancy and have lost it all but after my initial weight loss in the first few weeks nothing shifted for a while. Then by 6 months most of it had gone and as soon as I stopped breastfeeding when my son was 11 months it all fell off. I can’t say I ate differently or worked out differently. Your body will do best for you.

  37. I struggle with my stance on this because I have noticed that everyone markets this way. I see it all over Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. There’s plenty of “No Excuses” banners, photos and images. Some ranging from “A workout is only 4% of your day, no excuse” to “don’t get upset with the results you didn’t get from the work you didn’t do”.

    I feel like it is negative advertising but it seems like many individuals like this type of motivation. I asked a question on my facebook page if people would prefer to have their workout/eating habits addressed in a manner that is sugar coated, straight to the point or rough and aggressive. Nobody said they wanted it sugar coated. There were some who wanted aggressiveness and even more who wanted straight to the point.

    I think this mom may have been trying to motivate and inspire others by doing what all the other marketers/marketing are doing or has done recently. I do not know her but I am speculating based on what I have seen with all the other ‘motivational’ quotes. Again, I feel like it is negtive advertising but I have to admit, I have even ‘liked’ and shared and posted some of these inspirational quotes.

    I do not have my own photos attached to them and I am learning a huge lesson from someone else’s mistake because I will NEVER do that. Although, I get embarrassed taking selfies at all so I would probably not do that anyway.

  38. As a poster above commented, there is a difference between the word “excuse” and a “reason”, although I don’t know if that was thought of when the caption was added to the picture.
    A side note- people first language would be “a woman with a physical disability” ( in blog post “she’s physically disabled). Not trying to be nit picky but had this ingrained in my head during my OT schooling. People first language respectfully puts the person before the disability.

  39. BRAVO!!!!! I have to wonder if she had a daughter if she’d have the same feelings about posting that picture……People who don’t work out won’t start because of that picture, the people who do work out will keep doing their thing, and sadly the people with disordered eating or exercise will be affected more than the first two combined. Nothing good comes from this, not for her, for you, or for me, or for anyone else who views that picture……and most of all not for our daughters.

  40. When I first saw the picture, I totally misunderstood it. I thought it was about birth control, 3 children in 3 years is a lot after all… I thought, “wow, how judgy, she can have her kids as quickly as she likes, it’s her family…”. Then it clicked, and I still thought it was pretty judgemental. I don’t even have kids, I do have a job and a part time master’s course, and sometimes my priority is to get things done for those. Sometimes my priority is to watch an entire season of Bones because I can’t wait to see what happens, or potter on the internet because I’m not feeling the gym today. All of those things are OK. I’m aiming for progress, not perfection. Using the word “excuse” seems intended to provoke a response. If she changed it to, “make time for the things that are important to you”, or “even Mums can pursue their own goals”, or “you can do it, if you try” it would have been more effective, and would have taken the comparison element out of it slightly (although, arguably anyone posting pictures of their abs is offering a comparison, but that’s a discussion for another time). As someone who came to healthy living a little late in the game, it is so important to have people like you to motivate and inspire. Making people feel ashamed of not being able to pose in tiny workout clothes just makes the goal of being healthy seem all the more out of reach. Thank you for offering an alternative to this kind of snobbery, and for making a healthy lifestyle seem possible.

  41. I really liked this post. This is the first time I’ve seen the ‘whats your excuse’ image and I immediately found myself feeling defensive. I’m not a mom, and have pretty limited responsibilities outside of my 9-5, but I still struggle with my weight and body image. I liked your comment about how her body wouldn’t be any less impressive is she did have a nanny and chef. That’s sort of how I feel; if I’m able to achieve my fitness goals, should I feel less good about them because I don’t have the level of responsibility other women do? No way!

    Also, I really love your blog!

  42. I only just heard about the “what’s your excuse” phenomenon recently, but it bothers me. On the one hand, good for her if she has a great body after having 3 kids within a short amount of time. For most people that takes a lot work, so good on her. However, there are a lot of moms who work very hard and maybe getting back their flat abs isn’t high on their priority list, and that’s TOTALLY OK. Instead of shaming them, I feel like women should be supportive of one another and I agree that it’s not our place to judge someone’s reasons for getting back in shape or focusing on other things (like, you know, her family). It makes me sad to see that such competition still exists among women and that there’s this expectation to not only be a great mom, but get back into shape ASAP after giving birth. I also think it has implications for women who aren’t mothers and are still trying to get fit. I’m still young and single but I’m also recovering from an eating disorder, so seeing this “What’s your excuse?” picture stirs up things for me too. Also–photoshopped? Seriously? They can’t honestly post a photoshopped picture and expect us to take them seriously. Misrepresentation anyone?

  43. Well said.

  44. I usually agree with you and love your posts, BUT I completely disagree with what you’re saying here though. I think her photo is motivational, and good for her!

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