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You don’t need an excuse

exercise-insideI don’t know if you’ve seen the picture. I’m not going to post it here because it’s not mine to post but it’s raised a ruckus. The picture is of fitness blogger Maria Kang with her three kids, who are three, two and 8-months. Maria is wearing an abs-bearing crop top and booty shorts and she looks very fit. She’s toned, she has visible abs and across the top she’s written, “What’s your excuse?”

Maria says she’s fought eating disorders and bad genetics and says she is super fit and super healthy and you should be, too, because if she can do it (with her three little kids and her bad genetics), you should be able to do it, too.

Ok. I don’t know Maria and I don’t know much about her story (her site is overloaded so I can’t read up on it) but I don’t need to read it to know that it’s her story and your story is yours. I don’t need to critique her story to know that it won’t cover any of the reasons why you might not look like her (then again, you might, it’s all good — you look however you look and the rest of us will work on minding our own business).

Let me frame it this way.

Let’s imagine a Facebook post of a Super Important biology professor standing behind a desk full of Super Important Papers about Super Important Discoveries. “What’s your excuse?” is across the top because the professor wants to know why you haven’t been making discoveries. Well, you haven’t because you’re not a biology professor, right? You’ve been doing other stuff. In fact, maybe you don’t even like biology. Are you supposed to feel bad about that?

Another one.

Imagine a picture of J. K. Rowling surrounded by piles of money, her bestselling Harry Potter books, and posters of the movie franchise. Across the top is, “What’s your excuse?”

You know what your excuse is already — you’re not J. K. Rowling. She’s not better than you because she’s sold more books (assuming that you’re not John Grisham or Danielle Steel although maybe they haven’t sold more books, I’m not sure about that). She’s J. K. Rowling and that’s her life and this one is yours.

Here’s one more.

Imagine a picture of the Dalai Lama who is looking way more at peace than you ever will. Across the top is, “What’s your excuse?”

Well, that’s ridiculous, isn’t it, because the Dalai Lama would never do something so silly but still wouldn’t you laugh and think, “Ummm, I’m not the Dalai freaking Lama, that’s my excuse!”

Maria is really good at doing whatever it is that she does to look great in a crop top and booty shorts. You might look just as good or you might not. You might spend your time getting really good at other things. Probably some of those things — being a quality friend, listening to your kids, writing amazing letters, making Very Important Scientific Discoveries, etc. — don’t photograph all that well.

That’s not to say that Maria isn’t good at other things, too, just that we privilege a particular kind of body type because we can see it and think we know what it means. We think we can look at someone’s muscle definition and know something about them even though we don’t really know anything.

We really can’t know Maria by looking at that photograph. We don’t know if she uses healthy means to get that body or unhealthy means. We don’t know the state of her inner life or her relationships. We don’t know if she goes to bed peacefully and without a care in the world or if she lies in bed at night staring at the ceiling with a sense of existential dread. We don’t know anything about Maria and conversely she doesn’t know anything about us.

You don’t have to make any excuses for not having three little kids or not having visible abs or not having a fitness blog or even for not having a fitness routine like Maria’s. You don’t have to feel ashamed of not being her anymore than she ought to be ashamed of not being you. Her life has nothing to do with you and neither does yours with her.

Lots of studies show that people treat themselves well when they feel good about themselves. Photos like Maria might inspire enough shame to make people attempt to make changes but those changes — whatever their results — are unlikely to be long-term, healthy and nurturing changes.

Life is a process. Life is a journey. You are allowed to sit on the sidelines once in awhile. You’re allowed to let your exercise routine lapse without feeling defensive. And you’re also allowed to come back to it not for the abs and booty shorts but because you want to move your body again. You’re also allowed to come back for abs and booty shorts, mind you, because it’s your body and you can do what you want with it. But do me a favor and pay attention to yourself and see what really works for you long-term and makes you happy whether that be following Maria Kang or Anna Guest-Jelley of Curvy Yoga or worn out Stop the Insanity VHS tapes.

You don’t need any excuses for not being someone other than who you are.

Don’t Exercise to Lose Weight

yoga2-insideIf you’re exercising to lose weight, please stop. No, not the exercise part, the exercising to lose weight part.

It’s a change in mindset.

We all have bodies that respond to life choices by coming to a particular weight set point and sometimes when we begin or increase an exercise routine that means weightloss. But not for every one of us because some of us have naturally fat bodies. Check out this Daily Beast gallery and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

What if you could have:

  • Lower blood pressure and a stronger heart;
  • Better flexibility and stamina;
  • Lots of busy endorphins, nature’s way of making you happier, calmer and more even-keeled;
  • More energy;
  • Higher chances of catching a good night’s sleep; and
  • Fun.

But you weren’t going to lose any weight. Would you do it anyway? You probably would if you had no expectations that you were going to lose weight but the minute you add that into the mix it becomes a win/lose proposition. Either you’re doing it right (and losing weight) or you’re pounding away at the pavement and what do you have to show for it? Nothing. (Except for the lower blood pressure, stronger heart, more energy, etc.)

What if you decided to exercise just for the fun of it? What if you decided to do it to get off your high blood pressure medication? Or because you don’t snap at your kids as often when you’ve got a regular running routine? Those are great, fantastic and worthy reasons and hopefully they’re good enough reasons to keep you going.

You might be tempted to step on the scale, especially if you notice your jeans are fitting a little differently. But try to skip it, ok? Because sometimes our body shapes change but our pounds don’t. And if you’re used to using weight as a yardstick, seeing the “wrong” number there can really send you into a tailspin.

Let me be clear — weightloss in itself isn’t a problem. The problem is when we use weightloss to determine the value of our accomplishments and our self-worth.

There is absolutely no reason to measure your progress by your scale. You can measure your progress by running further; holding a yoga pose longer; finishing a class without taking a break; racing a friend and so on and so on.

For inspiration and community support in starting and sticking to an exercise routine for health, you can join the Fit Fatties forum.

Deep-Winter Day Retreat for Women

sunlithope-insideYou’re invited to join Eve Hermann, LMT, at her annual Presence in Transition: The second Deep-Winter Day Retreat for Women at Spring Hollow Lodge in Westerville, OH on January 13th from 10am to 3:30pm.

Join a circle of women at Columbus Metro Parks’ most welcoming lodge.

“Our appointment with life takes place in the present moment. And the venue is right where we are right now.”–Siddartha Gautama

Enjoy the calm of wooded ravines, trees, winter birds and community.

Focus for a day on movement, meditation and healing.

Recharge yourself in the midst of winter.

Listen, laugh and move as everyone shares their journeys to a higher level of self awareness.

Share with the other participants how you maintain presence in transition.

• Yoga and meditation led by Elizabeth Miller
• Engaged Embodiment movement and Presence in Transition Sharing Circle led by Eve Hermann

Cost for the day: $55

To register & pay online, visit Eve’s website here. You can also visit the Facebook page for this event right here.

For more information, contact Eve Hermann at presence@evehermann.com.

Two more things

My much maligned forgiveness article is online at Yoga Journal now and you can find it here. (Wish it’d be online when the furor was actually happening so that people could have made their own decisions. Oh well!)

And my latest entry for AntiRacistParent.com is here.

Heads up from a commenter

I know, I should be upset, should be wringing my hands but actually this article made me laugh: The hostile New Age takeover of yoga. – By Ron Rosenbaum – Slate Magazine

So just to clear things up for Ron (and other angry YJ subscribers):

  • I don’t have a yoga practice but was interested in writing about this topic and YJ seemed like a good market for it.
  • She says it was “never romantic,” and it clearly wasn’t — his part. It really wasn’t — on either side.
  • So she Google-stalks him, or, as she puts it: “With the help of an Internet search engine, I tracked him down and sent an e-mail. I told him I was sorry and that I hoped we could talk.” Actually I think google-stalk was in my original draft. Heh.
  • Somehow one wonders if she sent the article to him, perhaps with another poem. Yeah, I didn’t.

Anyway, I kinda got a kick out of being a symbol for all that is wrong with the Western take on yoga. Maybe I can get a t-shirt out of it!

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