10/30/2013 05:45 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

We Don't Need "Excuses" for How We Look

I'm sure by now, everyone's seen that Maria Kang fitspiration photo. If you haven't, this is what it looks like:


And I don't want to rehash all the reasons why this woman is under fire for this photo. This post isn't really about Kang and her photo -- that's old news. This post is about her message, which is something that lives on daily.

I don't have a problem with the idea of fitspiration. I think that if you find someone like Maria Kang inspiring, then that's great. Everyone is inspired by different people. Everyone has different wants and needs for their lives, and everyone has different ideas of how those wants and needs should be carried out. Maria Kang is an inspiring woman. And she doesn't have to apologize for this photo. She doesn't have to apologize for what she finds important and how she lives her life at all.

However, Kang didn't post this to celebrate what's important to her. She posted this photo asking people who view it to think about "their excuses" as to why they don't look like her or give their all to practice her fitness regime. And I've been under fire for this since I posted my own photo on Instagram as a response. I know that she's just representing the "No Excuses" movement. I don't really care about the backstory as to why this was posted, because my problem is with asking people to define reasons and give excuses as to why they live their lives the way they do. Kang is simply the catalyst for a discussion we should be continuously having, especially as we live in and some of us raise children in an increasingly sizeist, perfectionist environment.

Why does anyone need to give an excuse for their body or lifestyle?

And I don't see this just as fat-shaming, though Kang has stated that it's part of her "fight against obesity" on her Facebook page. I don't care if Kang wants to post a million of these photos to try to inspire her followers. I know she runs a fitness and dieting business and I know this is part of her brand. Again, it's not about her. It's about the overall message that she's sending. It's the message that if you don't try like she tries, and if you don't look like her, you're not trying hard enough, and you need to give her an excuse. You need to justify why you're not living and acting like Maria Kang. And while anyone can ignore the fitspiration movement if they want to, this went well beyond simply trying to make people think and inspire them to work harder at their own fitness, because this picture went viral. This became the jumping-off point for a society that is obsessed with body size, fitness, and "the War on Obesity."

It doesn't stop there.

How many times have you, personally, felt like you needed to give an excuse to someone for something that's going on in your life? We do it all the time. "Oh, I ate that brownie when I shouldn't have, but I worked hard this week and I'll just eat salad." "I didn't go for a run because I was tired, but it's OK, because I was careful about my sugar intake." "I'm fat, but it's because of genetics or a chronic illness, and I don't have the energy to work out." Excuse after excuse, and you know what? Most of those excuses are not, and will never be, good enough for society.

So why make them? Why do we have to "give an excuse" to justify ourselves?

It goes beyond body shaming and scorn over people who don't work out. If you're raped, you're expected to give an excuse as to why that happened to you. If you're laid off, you're expected to justify that. If you're poor, what's your excuse as to why you're on welfare? If anything that isn't the norm happens in society, well, dammit, we want an excuse! What's your excuse? Give us an excuse as to why you just don't measure up! That excuse isn't good enough. Why aren't you more like me? If I can overcome odds that are hard for me, then you should be able to overcome your completely different odds and be just like me, too!

And I think, personally, that we need to stop giving excuses. To anyone. Because in the end, the only person that you need to answer to is yourself. The only person you need to make happy is you. And how you choose to do that is your business.

That's why "We Don't Need An Excuse" was born. It's not about attacking Maria Kang. It goes well beyond her and focuses on the "No Excuses" movement. It's about realizing that we all walk different paths and have different challenges. It's about not needing an excuse to be who we are and live the life that we do. It's about recognizing our privilege and our blessings, celebrating what we can do and building up people who might need a little boost with their self-esteem. We are all worthy and we are all valid. No one needs to give any excuses.

I personally can see just how Maria Kang is inspiring. She works hard. She seems happy. And those are valid and worthy goals. I'm proud of her for doing that for herself. And she doesn't need to give me any explanations or excuses as to how she got there unless she wants to.

How about being inspired by each other without the shame? How about celebrating and encouraging everyone, no matter their journey, no matter their self-worth, no matter how they look or what they eat?

How about eliminating excuses?

I think that's the inspiration I'd like to get on board with.

Here's my submission to "We Don't Need Excuses," because if I'm going to talk about Maria Kang's photo, then it's only fair that I show you mine:


Want to submit your own? You can do it here.

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