When I got pregnant, I was really worried about gaining a bunch of weight and not being able to lose it. I rolled my eyes at women who complained about not being able to lose weight after having a baby. “You know, I just had a baby — two years ago.”
Oh wait, but now that’s me.
I exercised throughout my pregnancy and did my best to eat a healthy diet. But my body just laughed at my feeble attempts to feed it broccoli and chicken and put my stomach in a metaphorical headlock until I agreed to give it pizza. Don’t get me wrong: I ate well. I just didn’t meet my own unrealistic expectations for diet. Pregnant women crave certain foods for a reason, and trying to enforce rules for what you can eat and in what quantities you can eat it while your pregnant is a recipe for poor health for you and your baby.
I ended up gaining 45 pounds overall — just a little more than the recommended amount. Not too bad. Certainly a healthy weight gain. A week after I gave birth, I was down 30 pounds. I lost another 5 over the following weeks, but then something terrible happened — something that I was promised wouldn’t happen because I was breastfeeding: I started to gain weight.
That’s right. My birth-class friends were losing weight like they were models on a heroin cleanse, but my scale mocked my dreams and crept up despite my cutting back calories. Turns out I’m a hormonal freak who has the exact opposite experience with breastfeeding that most of the rest of the world has.
Really though, who am I kidding? This is all just an excuse! I mean, if I really cared about losing weight, I totally would.
At least that’s what former bulimic turned fitness blogger Maria Kang tells me.
This “inspirational” image caused a shit storm on the Interwebs these past few weeks, and rightfully so.
Though Kang says that she intended to inspire women by showing them that hey, if she can do it even though she has three young children, then so can you. What’s wrong with that?
A lot. A fucking hell of a lot.
Let’s start by pointing out that not everyone is like her, so her experience is completely irrelevant. The way her body responds to her specific diet and exercise program are not indicative of the way my body will respond or the way that your body will respond.
Before I had Quinn, I decided to get in shape and lose some weight. I wasn’t overweight to start, but I wanted to be thinner. I started slow and worked my way up. Eventually, I was running at least 3 miles four or five times a week. At one point, I got up to six miles, but I injured my foot and had to dial it back. At any rate, I was running an hour or two each time I ran. I even trained for a half-marathon. On top of that, I did strength training three or four times a week, for an extra 30 minutes to an hour. I ate a decent diet, but to be honest, I probably didn’t eat enough. You need to eat a lot of food to sustain that level of activity, and I was likely overworking my body. (Kinda shoots to shit all those claims about needing to “put down the donut.” Sometimes, you need to pick it up.)
After a year, I lost 7 pounds. SEVEN. POUNDS. No, it wasn’t because I gained more muscle but ultimately dropped several sizes. I was more toned, but I was still a size 8 to a 10 — which was about one size down from where I started. I looked nothing like Maria Kang, and if nearly 3 hours of activity on most days of the week combined with a moderate diet didn’t do that for me, I don’t know what would.
The reality is that I will likely never look like Maria Kang. And neither will you. AND THAT’S OK.
There is no “excuse” in that. And there is no room for anyone making the suggestion that if you don’t look like that, you must have an excuse.
Flash forward to now. I don’t work out nearly as much. I don’t run. I walk just about every day, I do intense yard work (chopping down trees, raking, digging holes) and I work on house projects (painting rooms, customizing furniture). It’s not a fitness competitor’s routine, but it’s enough to keep me healthy. And I’m still 20 pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight.
Am I fat? No.
Am I unhealthy? No.
Am I sedentary? No.
I don’t need an “excuse.” And neither do you or any of the other millions of women who live in perfectly average-sized or maybe even above-average-sized bodies who are eating healthy diets and engaging in healthy exercise.
The reasons I haven’t been able to lose weight are REALITY, not “excuses.”
With as diverse as we all are, there are thousands of other legitimate reasons why women don’t look like this — all of them valid and none of them “excuses.”
I’ve seen several commenters and bloggers suggest that those — like myself — who have taken offense to this image perhaps protest a bit too much, likely because something about it hits a little too close to the truth. This is utter nonsense. I’m a strong and intelligent women, but I still find it offensive when a man calls me “sugar tits” or suggests that I’m incapable of understanding something because I’m a woman. I’m not black, but I’m still offended when I hear the n-word thrown around.
I don’t need to be fat to be offended by fat shaming when I see it.
And that’s what this is: Unequivocal fat shaming.
The subtext here is that if you do not look like this woman — eight months after having a child no less! — that you have an “excuse.” Because there’s no other reason why you shouldn’t look like her.
It’s complete and utter bullshit.
Besides all the reasons that people may never achieve this kind of body — no matter how much they work out or how little they eat — not everyone wants to look like this. Or should. This image is holding up this body type as an ideal. Anything less is an “excuse.”
You can be healthy without looking like this. You can be committed to fitness without looking like this. You can eat a healthy diet without looking like this. You can take care of yourself and provide a good example for your children without looking like this.
To imply that you have an “excuse” when you don’t look like this implies that there is something wrong with the way you look.
The bottom line is this: It doesn’t matter the way you look. The only person who has to be OK with the way you look is you.
I loved this woman’s response:
If Maria Kang wanted to motivate women to take action to be healthy, her first mistake was focusing on the way they look. But if she had to use her own appearance as “inspiration,” here’s what a more motivational poster would have looked like:
You get the idea.
Not only was her campaign ineffective, but it was misguided. Beauty does not look like this for every woman — or to the men looking at these women.
Why don’t you ask these women what’s their excuse?
I loved this Buzzfeed article that showcased what Fitspiration posters should look like to be truly motivational and to truly encourage healthy habits. Check ’em:
Then remember: You are a beautiful woman. As a mother, your body has done amazing things. You don’t need to live up to anyone else’s ideal when you look in the mirror. You don’t have to meet anyone’s expectations but your own.
Health comes in every size. Beauty comes in every shape.
You don’t owe anyone an explanation for who you are.
You need no excuse to live your life on your own terms and to love the body that has allowed you to give and experience pleasure, to indulge all of your senses, to create life and to experience the wonder and heartbreak of all that life has to offer.