Monday, December 2, 2013

What's Your Excuse (for not looking like me)?


 The photo above made its virtual rounds a month or two ago. I thought about blogging about it but didn’t. There was a part of me didn’t feel Maria Kang needed more attention. Then this weekend I received this from a reader.
Hi Lauren - hope you had an amazing Thanksgiving! After a day (ok 2 days) of indulgences, I stumbled across this story in the Daily NewsIt's definitely a touchy subject but I actually don't disagree with the woman who originally posted "what's your excuse”.  I hear a lot of excuses from friends and family about why they can't eat healthy, can't find time to exercise and after a certain point, it annoys me. A lot. Then guilt kicks in because I feel I'm being judgmental. It's complicated, but I do believe it's not difficult to make small changes that make a big difference! I find the whole thing rather interesting and thought it would be nice to hear your opinion a la blog post.

So here it goes. This woman, Maria Kang, has three young children and looks great. What she doesn’t look is relatable and the whole photo and tagline makes her seem like the mean girl. Her shtick, if you will, is shock. When I was choosing an author photo for the back of my book my publicist said, “if you are attractive and telling others what to eat you better be smiling and sound approachable or you’ll turn people off.” If “What’s your excuse” had a photo of a make-up less mom cooking a healthy dinner with kids carrying on OR had (as in the Nike ad) someone exerting themselves or showing their commitment, it would be different. However, when “what’s your excuse” has a nearly-naked gorgeous young mom, with three cute kids there’s no way I’m feeling inspired, I’m not calling myself on my excuses, instead I’m feeling defensive and angry.

When I heard Maria Kang interviewed she explained a rigorous routine and a difficult back-story. If it were just about the story, I know women would be curious. So this comes down to a matter of messaging. If you want to motivate friends or family members, as the reader above mentioned or simply are seeking motivation yourself, we need to check negativity, shame and our personal habits at the door. You cannot motivate others by saying "look what I do". 

I’ve talked about the importance of positivity and compassion before.

Some other ingredients for behavior change:
Accountability and support: In one Stanford study 1 phone call every 3 weeks resulted in 78% more exercise. Goal setting also helps; Carolyn enlisted me for the Runner’s WorldHoliday Running streak
after first checking to find out if this appealed to me which is key.

Sorting out "why" also matters. We don’t exercise or loose weight “because we should” we have to figure out what’s the reward or connection for each of us. One person’s skinny jeans s another person’s avoiding medication. Sure enough, in a study where women wrote down the things that were important to them they tended to eating less of the tempting but unhealthful foods that were offered in the lab after the exercise than those who did not. After two and a half months, they also weighed less, and had smaller waistlines than the other participants. The difference in the groups applied to both those with normal weight and those who were overweight.

We’re all tempted to judge and label, I know I’ve had moments of that on this blog and many more in real life. It’s OK for the reader and all of us to get judgy or annoyed when others don’t take care of themselves but if our goal is to help them the key is making it about them and keeping it kind. Nothing Maria Kang has said is designed to help others. “I want this to happen for you” or “we all make excuses” would've  been completely different. As for walking around in a sports bra…I have many excuses why I will never don the one black boob, one red if Maria wants to hear.
What motivates you to make health-related changes? Can you think of a person, ad or event that gave you a positive nudge? What do you think of what’s your excuse?”

12 comments:

  1. Well said, thanks Lauren. Kindness seems to work much better for myself and others.

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  2. I've worked with several personal trainers throughout my life. The flaunty/boob-in-your face type has always been an immediate no no for me, regardless of experience, accreditation, etc (and living in Miami most trainers fall within this category unfortunately). My teenage daughter has recently started working with a wonderful, 50 something Pilates instructor who is in amazing shape, which she happens to find very inspiring. Would never in a million years hire someone like this Kang to work with my teenage daughter, she sends the opposite message of what I would want my daughter to learn. I don't want her working out to flaunt whatever results she gets, I want her working out for the millions of reasons exercise is good for her (a great body being one of them, still no reason to go through life in a sports bra and shorts slightly bigger than underwear). Yes, judgy (maybe), but if this lady is looking to build her brand, she may want to rethink the way she's going about it. Although we're talking about her, so maybe she's doing something right...

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  3. Yes, we are talking about her but is all "press" good? I don't know. I agree about "flaunting" and underwear. We all have issues and excuses we need to move past but my goal (and perhaps you feel the same) is certainly not the same as Ms Kang's.

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  4. Andrea, interesting points about friend's motivating you. It's a fine line. Perhaps joining a friend for an activity is great (and a nice invitation for active or inactive friends) but "why don't you run/bike/exercise like me" wouldn't be received the same way.

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  5. And kindness can still involve a nudge/encouragement but just not like this. Thanks Elizabeth.

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  6. I will say that a lot of my personal motivation for keeping up healthy eating and exercise is plain old vanity. But I'm motivated for myself, and I wouldn't try to impose my goals on someone else (although I'm certainly guilty of being judgemental at times...). I think I'm just a perfectionist and that's what keeps me going at the gym. But it has to come from within, no amount of nagging another person is going to be good for either one of us!

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  7. Jess @ Keeping It Real FoodDecember 2, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    Wanting to avoid (or at least slow the inevitability of) osteoporosis is what motivates me to do yoga and lift weights. When she was about 90, my great-grandma broke her pelvis in a Wal-Mart bathroom when someone ran into her and she fell on the ground—definitely incentive to get into habits that will help me keep my bones strong! I also think about my immune system a lot when it comes to health-related behaviors. When I was younger, I used to let boyfriends motivate me to adopt their habits, but I'm much more selfish now ; )

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  8. good motivators Jess, sorry about your great-grandma. Ah- we've all let others affect our habits so it's nice when you (or I) draw the line. Appropriate selfishness, right?

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  9. It has to come from within Jen though when it does/for you and other perfectionists it's hard to fathom it doesn't for everyone.

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  10. I can totally relate with everything you said (and we have the same name - karma!). But part of that vanity also leads me to feel good about myself - and a little self-confidence boost is never a bad thing. I never impose my goals on my friends, if anything, they like to call me out for my healthy habits, which makes me not want to be in social situations at all - also not "healthy". Admittedly, I push my parents more than I should because I want them to live a long healthy life. I hate seeing them on medication or not feeling great just because their diet and exercise habits aren't very good. But they're getting there - they are big on organic fruits, veggies and meat, so that's a big step and I'm proud of them for getting to that point b/c I think other things will follow. Maybe not on my time schedule, but it will come.

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  11. i'm so glad you aren't taking fashion advice (or any advice) from MK. I had never read her initial post b/c fully agree when things come off as condescending it's a total push in the unappealing, opposite direction. at the same time I find a lot, ok the majority, of motivational ads and speakers and quotes are so cheesy. I think you're right the missing factor is kindness and also authenticity.

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  12. Just the photo and the tagline makes me want to punch her, and I never read her story so I really have no right to feel that way. As I'm sure MOST people judged before reading...that's what Americans do, we judge. And, we make excuses...so s he's right. What IS our excuse for not being healthy and exercising? Whatever people say, it doesn't work. Period. If you love yourself, and your family, you can make the time. It's not about perfection, it's about small changes that make a big difference (like your client wrote in her letter).

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