Diverse Mothers United Through Fitness

Culturally, as women, we are taught at a young age to aspire for marriage and children. However in today’s day in age, it’s far more common for women to go about it alone running single parent households. For the economic standards have vastly improved allowing women to work outside the home.
Aspiring for marriage isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not something we should continue to teach our girls, simply because it’s been passed on generation to generation. The problem with relying on a man to seemingly “fix” our problems by taking our hand in marriage and giving us children, is we begin to lose our sense of identity. Loss of personal identity for a woman is even harder when that woman becomes a mother.
What I am trying to say is, no relationship is guaranteed. Half of all marriages in the US result in divorce, and many women now choose to raise their children alone because they have the ability to do so. The problem with settling in an unhappy relationship, is we teach our children that it’s okay.
We teach them to find their worth in another human being, essentially failing them in the long run. What we should be teaching our children is how to be self sufficient, fostering their dreams so they can establish a sense of self identity. By figuring out who you are, what you are passionate about, you’ll find your purpose in life.
It’s okay to aspire for marriage and children, but it shouldn’t be the ultimate end all goal for anyone. Once you establish your identity, and what makes you happy, it will allow you to find and maintain a healthy relationship. The purpose of a relationship isn’t to find someone to complete you, but add to your life, because you are already complete.
As No Excuse Moms, we come from different backgrounds, but united we stand as mothers looking to improve physically so we can conquer motherhood together. That being said, as a single mother myself, I’ve encountered “mom-shamers.” These are the women who like to put down other women who aren’t married like they are, pointing out the flaws in their life that led them to be a single parent, as if their marriage and family are perfect.
This is not okay. As a single parent, we are exhausted trying to keep it all together for our children, lacking the emotional support of a partner. The last thing we need from other women are the judgments.
I get it, when women get together talking about their family is instinctual, but putting others down because their life went in a different direction is just wrong. In order to have a more inclusive group of moms supporting moms, we need to focus on strengthening each other emotionally as well as physically. Everyone is fighting their own personal battle that we are unaware of, that’s why it’s important to be kind.
As a group of diverse women, No Excuse Mom is more than a workout group for moms, it’s a supportive group of moms coming together making motherhood a little easier for everyone. But in order to do that, we need to drop the judgments, open our heart to those that are different than us, and stop trying to on-up each other social media. No Excuse Mom is an an all inclusive group of women who share similar interests bonded by the fact that we are all mothers, united through fitness.

What Led Me To Joining No Excuse Mom

I think too often we forget where we started.
My fitness journey began when I was a child. I was in just about every sport you could imagine, from cheer leading, volleyball and basketball. Ultimately I settled with track and cross-country.
I joined the military at nineteen, after a semester of college. Maintaining a certain level of physical fitness in the Air Force wasn’t a challenge for me. The challenge came after separating.
I separated after seven years of active duty, as a single parent of two. After the birth of my daughter, postpartum depression had set in. So there I was with a preschooler and a newborn, with no support system as my immediate family resided out of state.

My kids I had while serving 7yrs. active duty Air Force

I longed for a sense of belonging, not knowing my place as a civilian. I chose to use my GI Bill and go to school full time. Now I’m a veteran, full-time student, single mother of two.
I dedicated all my time to my studies, striving to be the best mother I could for my kids but it wasn’t easy. I felt alone, being older than most in college, single with two kids. I needed to find balance in what had felt like a chaotic time in my life, unsure of how to juggle it all.
My first Veteran’s Day Parade as a prior service member.

It was the summer of 2018 when I was introduced to No Excuse Mom through my neighbor; who had just started holding meet-ups in the same location her husband taught my son’s martial arts. When I was approached by another leader about leading workouts, I was ecstatic. I started holding my own workouts in the park on Saturday mornings, creating bonds and fitness goals with other mamas.
I began engaging more online, realizing we are more alike than we are different. As a single mother, I feared the judgments I would receive. Initially I viewed No Excuse Mom as a group for married stay at home moms, and wanted no part of it. When I began attending meetups, and began engaging with members who attended mine I was surprisingly mistaken.
There’s more support with a group of women looking to better themselves, not only for themselves, but their children as well. What I found after separating from the Air Force was a new sense of belonging. I discovered a way to create change in the world, looking to empower and support one another while doing the hardest job in the world, motherhood.
It renewed a sense of confidence in me and opened myself up to more opportunities, allowing me to touch more lives through the power of health and wellness. You can channel all your energy into your job, getting an education, or your children, but in order to be well-rounded you can’t forget about yourself. When one challenges themselves physically, it allows one to be mentally and emotionally fit as well too.
I needed to be in a workout routine, pushing my body to new levels in order to deal with life’s stressors. As mothers it’s important we focus on becoming the best versions of ourselves.
What better way to do it, than with the help of other mothers with the same goal in mind?
Bio:
I’m a 28 yr. old USAF veteran single mother of two. I have my AA in communications, and am pursuing my BA in journalism at Sac State. I write for The State Hornet, and am a co-leader for No Excuse Mom. They say it takes a village, sometimes all that entails is a group of women committed to bettering themselves through a healthy lifestyle. After all, health starts at home.
https://statehornet.com
ashtonsnewsandreviewblog.wordpress.com

ashton.wright90@gmail.com

Break Free From Society’s Expectation’s This Holiday Season

We all know that the holidays can be incredibly taxing.
Society places these unconventional standards on us as mothers, leaving many to feel like they simply can’t measure up. It’s easy to get caught up in this commercialized holiday, forgetting about what really matters. While it’s true that making memories with your loved ones are more important than the gifts they’ll receive, not everyone’s holiday goes as planned.
For those with broken families, the idea of the holidays can be stressful having to divide up the holiday with an ex. I myself am a single parent, and have joint custody with my ex. Being single with two children, leaves me eager to ditch the gifts and replace them with experiences.
Memories are all your child will have left when you’re gone. When they’re adults, they won’t remember what you bought them when they were younger, they’ll remember how you made them feel. I often get depressed during the holiday’s seeing seemingly perfect families celebrate the holidays.
I yearn to have a two parent home, one where my children can have a bit of stability with some normalcy in their lives. But sometimes challenges are placed in our lives to make us stronger, sometimes we don’t get what we want because what we need is still yet to come. Sometimes what we want, isn’t always what we need.
I used to dwell on this fact, until I realized that you can’t control another person, relationships don’t work if they are one sided. Sometimes you have to let go of the ones you love, and let them figure it out for themselves. There is pain in letting go, but it hurts more holding on.
All these realizations come flooding into the mind of a single mother during the holidays because it’s easy to get caught up comparing your life to those who live the lives you aspire to have. The reality is we are all on different paths, no one’s life comes without struggle and pain, because we are all human. If we lived our lives without pain, there would be no happiness.
We must create our own happiness, a realization I had after experiencing pain from failed relationships resulting in children. When children are involved, the failed relationship becomes that much more painful. What I learned from my break-ups, was that I had to stop searching for happiness in others. No one was responsible for my happiness but me.
I had to learn how to love myself again, after losing myself in the ones that I loved. As mothers, it’s essential we focus on loving ourselves, because it’s the longest relationship we will ever have. When you focus on your joys, your children will see that, and it will in turn bring joy into their lives.
While I’ve had my ups and downs, I keep things in perspective, knowing there’s always someone who has it worse. This holiday season pay it forward. You may not have a lot to give, but some have nothing at all.
Sometimes all someone needs is a helping hand. Volunteering, donating, teaching your kids the holiday spirit without spending a dime. Sometimes you need time to heal your heart, and memories to heal your soul.
So this holiday season, no matter what boat you’re in, embrace your loved ones, make memories with your children, and be thankful for this life you’ve been given.
Bio:
I’m a 28 yr. old USAF veteran single mother of two. I have my AA in communications, and am pursuing my BA in journalism at Sac State. I write for The State Hornet, and am a co-leader for No Excuse Mom. They say it takes a village, sometimes all that entails is a group of women committed to bettering themselves through a healthy lifestyle. After all, health starts at home.
https://statehornet.com
ashtonsnewsandreviewblog,wordpress.com
ashton.wright90@gmail.com
 
 

How I Found My Excuses

From 2016 to 2018: My excuses gained strength over 18 months and I gained about 30 lbs.

Being a No Excuse Mom means different things to different people. For many, it signifies the transition they made while dropping their excuses as to why their health, and themselves as a whole, weren’t a priority in their lives. For others it is solidifying the healthy habits they have already established into their lifestyle. The common thread for No Excuse Mom is making us, as mothers, a priority because when you take care of yourself you can better take care of the precious ones in your life.

Personally, I fell into the latter category when I became a member of the NEM tribe. I was a stay at home mom first and foremost plus a part-time personal trainer. Health and fitness have been a big part of my life ever since high school when was a dancer.  Marrying young, I lost a bit of that passion as I navigated military spouse life but it quickly rekindled when I had my daughter in 2007. I was so in awe of the amazing feat my body had accomplished, creating this beautiful child and nourishing her for the first few months of her life. I made it a priority to take care of my body with healthy food choices and lots of movement through traditional gym workouts, yoga, and dancing (I still teach). I was blessed with my son in 2013, shortly after gaining an ACE Personal Trainer Certification and was absolutely thrilled to become part of the No Excuse Mom movement in 2014 after discovering Maria Kang on Instagram. It was a perfect fit for my lifestyle and passions! I established the still strong NEM local group at Fort Meade, Maryland and soon took on the role of Region III Manager. It was a wonderful time in my life that awarded me amazing experiences, friendships, and memories.
My life then took a complete derailment in the spring of 2016 when my husband of 11 years told me he was leaving. As you can imagine, I was sent reeling as my life seemingly crashed down around me. I made the decision to step away from Facebook for various reasons, which is the main communication mechanism for the No Excuse Mom community. Eventually, and with much heartbreak, I stepped back from the organization completely and stopped personal training so I could start earning a steady income at a 9 to 5 job.

                This is when the excuses started building.

It is commonplace for the members of No Excuse Mom to celebrate how they “lost their excuses” on their health journey, and for obvious reasons. Sharing ones triumphs is a great motivator to others on similar paths! But I now recognize that by traveling that road backwards, in a sense, I have the opportunity to analyze how these excuses take hold in the first place. My hope is that this knowledge will serve to add another layer of insight for those starting their fitness journeys AND prevent those who have made those huge strides worth applauding from having relapses and repeating the same mistakes.

Excuse #1: My physical health is not a priority.

At the core of No Excuse Mom is the idea that your well-being influences the well-being of your family, friends, and community. After all, if you aren’t taking care of yourself, how can you best take care of others? After I separated from my husband my main focus was re-stabilizing my life while simultaneously shielding my children from the immense pain I was feeling.  I was entrenched in job hunting, setting up childcare for my youngest, and then shifting my lifestyle from a stay at home mom to a working mom. While I had periods of hyper focus, they were often interrupted by severe depressive thoughts and apathy. I was often so burned out that I no longer cared what I ate. I overate unhealthy foods as a coping mechanism. I didn’t see my workouts and nutrition as something worthwhile because there were so many stressors in my life. I was in therapy each week and was only concentrating on my mental and emotional health.
In hindsight, regular exercise would have been a fantastic way to manage the dark thoughts and anxiety that ran rampant through my brain and the pizza and cookies did nothing to combat my constant fatigue. Had I used the tools that I preached to my clients I would have been much better off. While my mental health and the logistics of shifting to a single mom were important, my physical health was important too. It all ties together in a symbiotic relationship and neglecting one part only hinders the others.

Before: Life as a SAHM, part time personal trainer, and NEM Leader meant my health and fitness were a big priority.

 

Excuse #2: The weight I am gaining isn’t that big of a deal.

In the grand scheme of things, gaining a few extra pounds on my then lean physique was totally fine. I stayed in a healthy weight and body composition range for about a year, but during that time I was slowly gaining body fat by overeating and atrophying my hard earned muscle due to lack of exercise. By the time my clothes were starting to get snug, I was too comfortable with “treating” myself to sweets and overeating at dinner. That was my new normal because I had given myself slack for so long. I am all about splurging in moderation, I actually think it is a very healthy practice, but moderation slipped into daily overindulgence without my even realizing. It is very difficult to retrain habitual thinking and it wasn’t until I was 30 pounds heavier and near the “overweight” BMI range that I started to make serious changes. We all have seasons in life and I don’t beat myself up for gaining some weight, but turning a blind eye for too long will eventually lead to big issues.

Excuse #3: I don’t have enough time.

This is a big excuse for everyone. We live in a fast paced world and most moms are pulled in fifteen different directions. Between working three jobs, keeping up with extracurricular activities for the kids, and the time suck that is East coast traffic, I didn’t see how I could possibly fit in time to work out and/or meal prep. The fact of the matter is that if something is a priority you will find a way to squeeze it in. I reprioritized and now I hit the gym in the morning before work on weeks that I don’t have my kids, leaving the evenings free for errands, social engagements, or another job haha! I make extra portions of anything I cook for a healthy lunch the next day or another quick dinner on busy weeknights. Sometimes I have to buck up and meal prep at 9:30 at night, but I know I will otherwise spend just as much time scrambling to make something later while adding to my big ole’ bucket of stress. Making time to exercise also gives me more energy, essentially adding another productive hour to my evening to clean or simply decompress after the kids are in bed.

Current: Now that I have settled into my life as a divorced working mom I have slowly gotten back on track on my health and fitness journey.

Excuse #4: I just need to get through this week and then I will start exercising and clean up my diet.

Each week seemed to bring struggles whether it was fighting with my ex or just dealing with the day to day stress of being a mom fresh to full time work. For 18 months I kept telling myself that it would be better next week and I would start out that Monday on the right foot, but I think I can speak for everyone when I say that “next week” doesn’t hold that magic we are hoping for. Life never stops and neither do the stresses, deadlines, and lovely surprises like flat tires or sickness. I will ALWAYS have a full plate each week. Some times of the year will be fuller than others (holidays, dance recital season, traveling), but motivation isn’t dependent on the calendar. You can start working on yourself wherever you are in life, no matter the circumstances. The intensity of the effort and subsequent changes may ebb and flow but positive change is still positive change, no matter the size. I plan to start school in the summer or fall, and I know it will be rough to keep up on my health journey, but in the end I will be much better off continuing the hard work than putting it on the back burner until the end of the term.

Do any of these excuses sound familiar?
What other ones might you add from your personal experience?
Comment below and share your thoughts!

Recovery of a No Excuse Mom: What I Learned from a Month of Vegan Eating

I spent the larger part of the last month eating a vegan diet and a lot of good things came from it.
First, let me say that my specific guidelines were as follows:
-A vegan diet consists of NO animal-based products. No meat, no dairy, no eggs, plus as often as possible, I ate organic.
-I cooked as many meals as I could from scratch with plant-based food choices.
-I limited the amount of sugars I ate, including no refined (table) sugar and limited addition of things like honey.
-I focused the majority of my meals around vegetables.
-I also cut out all gluten products, as this is something that is a problem area for me.
-I planned ahead and made meals that lasted a few days.
-I drank at least 90 ounces of water daily.

What I DIDN’T do:
-I didn’t count calories. I ate till I felt satisfied and munched on fruits or veggies when I was in a munching mood.
-I didn’t strive for perfection… I strived for consistency. I did veer off of the plan a few times, but never more than a tiny bit and always got right back on course.
-I didn’t focus of exercising. While I definitely exercised during the last month, my focus was more on my eating. My average was 2-3 workouts a week.

What were my results?
Well, first things first, I will answer the question probably everyone wonders. Did I lose weight? Yes. I lost about 2 pounds, which averages at ½ pound every week. While this is slow, it’s a very healthy amount to lose (and my weight loss has always been ridiculously slow). Also, for the fact that I didn’t count calories and barely exercised, I think this is phenomenal.
The next thing I noticed was that my skin because VERY clear. I have suffered from mild adult acne during my life – I don’t think there has ever been a time since my teenage years that I didn’t have acne. But my complexion cleared up beautifully.
On top of that…. I had energy. More energy than I have had in a while. I have been surviving on three cups of coffee a day and while I have no intention of giving up my coffee, I am down to my one cup in the morning.
Next, (TMI, BTW) I found my bowel habits to be very regular. I have had some problems with this, particularly linked to eating gluten/wheat. So it didn’t surprise me that increased fiber and plenty of water had this result.
The other thing that I learned is what were trigger times for me to eat… The most common times for me to want something sugary or to ‘binge’ eat because I felt super hungry was in the afternoon around 2pm (2pm slump, anyone?) and after I got home from work – before dinner around 5pm.
What I also realized is that I was BARELY drinking any water in these time periods.
So, I tried to increase my amount of water and reach for that instead of giving in to sugary cravings.
And it worked.
The more I paid attention, the more I noticed that my water intake seems directly related to almost all cravings that I have. And while I still have a ways to go to make it a habit to reach for water instead of food…. I think I am really onto something for myself.
The next thing I noticed is the foods I was craving… yes, a lot of them were sugary things that I might have reached for before… but I greatly missed two foods that are not in a vegan diet.
Eggs and yogurt.
Call me crazy, I could live without just about everything else. But I LOVE me some eggs in the morning.
I just might have splurged a couple of mornings… but I digress.
What did I love about veganism? Carbs. If I wanted an apple or oatmeal, I ate it. I credit the high amount of carbs for the amount of energy I had.
This year for me is all about finding out what works best for my body. For the next month I am shifting back to a more “normal” moderation style diet, but I am going to do what I kind of hate doing..
I’m going to count calories and macros.
I’m going to be honest, it’s time consuming, sometimes inconvenient, and can feel monotonous…
But tracking your food makes you extra Mindful of what you are eating, how much you’re eating and keeps you accountable.
Why would I choose to count calories when I just told you that I lost weight without counting calories…?
Because mindfulness and accountability are two things that I NEED.

So, one last thought…
Would I do a vegan diet again?
Potentially, yes. It had a lot of great benefits and I felt fantastic.
But I honestly don’t buy into it enough to do as an overall lifestyle. (Sorry Vegan friends!) I have never advocated for lifestyle changes that ditch entire food groups…and I love my eggs and yogurt…. I’m sure that comment will offend some, but that’s not my intention. Veganism just isn’t for me.
 

Recovery of a No Excuse Mom: New Year’s Reassessment…What’s working for me and What’s Not

Anyone who has ever tried to make lifestyle changes for health and fitness reasons has to know one thing….
It takes CHANGE. The New Year is a time that a lot of people are planning changes.
Usually in the beginning, it’s pretty easy.
Anyone can start a new diet.
Anyone can begin to exercise.
Anyone can have the desire to be fitter than they are.
What divides the group of “anyone’s” from there is the ability to persist.

What makes you eat the right thing when faced with a box of donuts?
What makes you put on your workout clothing and exercise?
What makes you achieve the goal of being fitter than you are now…?
Being that this is far from my first attempt to change my lifestyle and my body, I have made a few ground rules for myself to base all of my fitness decisions around……..
First and foremost…..
I refuse to start anything that I have no intention of doing for the rest of my life.
That means: no quick fixes, no cabbage soup diets, no expensive supplements to speed up my metabolism, no gym 6 days a week for 2 hours each time, etc.
If that’s what you want to do…. More power to you.
But I have done all of those things I listed before – and for me – all it has led to is Yo-yo dieting, inconsistency in my long-term fitness level and I’m pretty sure at least a slightly damaged metabolism.
I’m over it.
My current approach has probably made me less progress overall, but I really believe I am making changes – however slowly – that I can keep up for the rest of my life.
(Although I may or may not have had a solo argument with myself over how unfair it is that I have to work SO HARD to gain so little progress…. But I digress.)
So, what HAVE I learned over the course of the last year….?
The first thing that I learned is that I have a problem with food. I’m pretty sure I was addicted to sugar. I’m a muncher. I’m a boredom eater and my job leads to MANY instances of boredom eating. (I drive between 100-200 miles most days and on long drives, the first thing I want to do is munch…)
I have also noticed a trend in my lifestyle. Being that I am a single mom living on my own, I have a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it all. It seems that most weeks If I have time to get to the gym consistently, then I don’t have time for true meal prep and tracking my meals (read that section as: EXCUSE.)
While it is true that I have limited time available to do ANYTHING outside of work, mommy time, household chores, etc… I’m a fan of the saying that if you want it enough… You will make time for it.
If I’m honest with myself, I spend way too much of my “spare time” doing mindless things; like scrolling through Facebook and playing games on my phone.
While a little bit of “zone out” time is probably not a bad thing, if you are spending 30 or more minutes doing these things, then you can easily swap in healthy tactics like a quick workout during that time.

If you’re like me, then your “zone out” time is when you don’t really WANT to be doing anything else.
Like right before I wake up my daughter.
Right when I get home from work.
After dinner and before bedtime routines.
…or after you get your kids to bed.
But like I said, if you want it enough… You will make time for it.
As far as my eating habits go, I have decided to make my meal planning and eating habits my goal for the New Year. Since this has been such a LONG-standing problem for me, it requires more attention. That means that if I really and truly only have time for one thing on a given day, I’d rather kick some royal butt in my eating habits than exercise. Not that I won’t plan to exercise! But if you’re a single mom, (or any sort of normal human being) then you know things don’t always go as you plan them.
I have found that when I eat lots of vegetables, I feel tremendously better. Plus, every time in the past that I have had great success, it was with eating whole, natural foods.
Within the last challenge that we had, I focused on eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the day. If you’re a muncher, then eating tons of cucumbers, strawberries and peppers probably isn’t going to make your waistline any bigger.
I ‘ve been a fan of the “Clean Eating” movement, eating fresh, cooking from fresh with as little processed food as possible.
But the problem that I found during the challenge was that if I would eat a lot of fruit… I would end up craving more sugar.

Hello… sugar addict.
So, for the beginning of the year, I am cutting out all sugar, including natural sugars.
At least for now.
I started the new year off with a Vegan style of eating. And though I have no intention of never eating meat products again (sorry, Vegan friends and more power to you!!!) After this initial time of clearing the sugar from my diet, I plan to eat a primarily plant-based diet, with some meat sources such as chicken and eggs and dairy.
My other thought behind starting Vegan is as an elimination diet. Although vegan is not wheat free, I have also cut this out. In the past I have found that wheat causes me to feel bloated, exhausted, and (TMI) constipated. When I don’t eat it, I feel 100% better.
After my month of Vegan eating, I will reintroduce other foods that may be difficult to tolerate, but NOT wheat. (although I have found that taking a probiotic/enzyme supplement when I do eat it helps the symptoms.  I’ll save that for a rare or special occasion.)
I started by drinking more water. With my job in home care, I have found that my water intake is SEVERELY low if I don’t keep track of it.
I discovered an app that I am in love with called “Water Time Pro”.
It notifies you every hour on your cell phone to remind you to drink more water.
You can tell it whether you had water, coffee or tea (10% counts toward hydration), milk or juice (80% counts toward your hydration).
While I still am working on perfecting this, having an app to keep me accountable has been VERY helpful.
So… while I definitely had some progress in 2017, I didn’t have as much as I wanted.
I’ve said before how Molasses slow my weight loss tends to be. And this time through, is no exception.
I just need to trust the process.
Stay the course.
Be Consistent.
… and believe that I CAN.

Recovery of a No Excuse Mom: Togetherness

I have had a crazy week, which has led to me being behind in my blogging. I have had a very full, busy schedule… but the things on my list are far from the stressful things that we dread. Quite the opposite.
My last weekend was full of things that build me up.
Remind me of how blessed I am.
Remind me of WHO I am.
…. and be around people who give me strength.

I attended a women’s retreat through my church with the topic of “Shine: Stepping Into the Role You Were Made For”
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize how completely beyond PERFECT the timing of this retreat is in my life. Finding and pursuing my “role” has been at the forefront of my mind for a good portion of the year. It’s is what has lead me to blog for No Excuse Mom and pursue my own health and fitness again. It is what inspired me to listen to two AMAZING audio books in my countless hours in my car for my job. And it is what has been urging me to begin pursuing my master’s degree and speaking engagements….
(If you’re looking for inspiration and direction, I HIGHLY recommend these two books, which I have no affiliation with but have been GREATLY blessed and inspired by: She’s Still There: Rescuing The Girl In You by Chrystal Evans Hurst and Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown. Even the names of the books are inspiring!! I listened to them both in audio format, but am highly considering also buying the hard copy of each book because I loved them so much.)
But I digress…..
Friday night the author, speaker and fellow mom, Allison Allen, started by talking to us about living our lives “in character”. I resonate deeply with this. All of my life I have felt the pressure to be something that I am not and I struggled for years as a people pleaser. I made a lot of my decisions in my 20’s purely because I thought certain things were expected of me…. She went on talking to our small little church group about living a life of Authentic Bravery and being who we REALLY are.

This is the exact call of my life right now. I want to be fully myself – in all of it’s raw, vulnerable, hard truths.
On one hand, it’s so scary exposing yourself to the world.
But on the other, I have a calling to be real enough to stop letting people think that they are struggling alone.
I cried a few tears Friday night and there was more to come the next day in the women’s retreat… but I had also signed up for my first 5k of the year Saturday morning as well. (Leave it to me to schedule two things SO closely…)
I headed home Friday night, decided to get groceries on my way and tried to get a good nights sleep… Only to toss and turn, wake up really bloated and starting my period.
I’ll admit, part of me wanted to skip the 5k altogether and just go back and be filled at the women’s retreat.
But I knew I couldn’t. I had no desire to miss it, even if I felt terrible.
I met my friend and mutual No Excuse Mom Selena before the race and offered to run with her. It was her first 5k EVER and knowing that we seemed about at the same point in our running training… I thought it might help both of us. She graciously left the decision up to me, but I am SO glad to have had her running – walking – trekking – and talking at my side for the duration of the race.
I had no idea just how challenging of a trail we were running.
Nearly the entire race was off road at an apple orchard. It started up by the entrance, entered the forest surrounding the orchard, re-entered the orchard, up and down large hills, back into the forest with a lot of twists, winds, ups, downs, and a total of 81 feet of elevation changes according to my running app. And wouldn’t you know it….? The finish line was at the top of a nice, beautiful, TALL hill.
Selena and I stayed together and honestly, I needed her as much as she needed me.
We completed it TOGETHER.

(This is the trail we ran!)
She was vital to my journey that day. And I can honestly say that I think I have been underestimating the power of friendship, togetherness and “Accountability” in regards to my fitness journey.
I have been treading the waters of fitness relatively alone for this last month (and for much of the last three years as I felt I was failing). The No Excuse Mom group in my area has meetings when I am at work. I’ve still been primarily working out alone and exercising at home and running solo… everything ALONE…. and I intend to be changing that.
We NEED each other.
We can build each other up, urge each other on, challenge each other, and – yet again – keep each other accountable.
Much like Selena and I did at the race for each other.
After the 5k was over, we parted and I went on my way to finish the women’s retreat… and it was also something that I needed.
First, it was more “togetherness”. I am coming to realize just how important it is to see that we are not an “island”.  We are not intended to do the journey of life alone, nor are we meant to travel alone for the fitness journey, the spiritual journey or whatever journey you may be one.
Seek out friendships that build up the areas of life you need building.
This has been very hard for me recently, mostly because one by one, my friends have been moving away, moving on in life to bigger better things or following their own calling – which is leading them far from the area I live in.
Distance-wise, my closest friend is my sister, who lives about a 40 minute drive away. My best friend is an hour’s drive away, a couple of my childhood friends moved to Colorado, a dear friend moved to North Carolina…. All on to bigger better things in life. Except me. I feel stuck and honestly, I’d love to move, but it doesn’t seem to be what’s going to happen in my life any time soon.
I have had the increasing knowledge that I need to build more friendships that support me spiritually, physically and emotionally.
The second thing that I needed from the women’s retreat… was much deeper. They talked about how we hold onto names that are NOT true about ourselves. I have been sharing a bit on here about my struggles with Failure. That was one of many words that I use for myself that I know are not true.
Even in writing this, I wonder how transparent I should be about the false things I have believed about myself.  But ehre goes some of it…
I have seen myself as stupid.
Fat.
Ugly.
Worthless.
And many other terrible, false lies that I refuse to believe anymore.
Not only am I not a failure… but I am not stupid, fat, ugly or worthless! In prayer and tears, we were encouraged to write our false “names” on a name tag and I left those things at the conference and chose a new name that God has given me.

I finally know that I have value….
…and so do you.
Don’t leave room for any lies in your head. The future YOU depends on you believing that you have value and that you are not defined by your failures or by someone’s cruel words to you, or by anything that you have labeled yourself as.
Write down your false names and get rid of them.
Surround yourself with the TRUTH and with people who build you up, not tear you down.
Be the best you that you can be.
And shine your light to this world as only you can.

Recovery of a No Excuse Mom: My Failures-Part 1: Overcoming

Change is hard. It’s three weeks into the most recent challenge and I haven’t talked at all about my own struggles, current successes and progress.
I am doing pretty well in regards to my goals. I am setting weekly exercise goals and meeting them. I am starting to challenge myself with things that make me uncomfortable, like new exercises or equipment. I am improving my eating habits little by little, and I’ve even managed to lose four pounds already!!
Woot!
But perhaps my biggest obstacle – and biggest learning tool…. Is failure.

There was a time not very long ago that I felt like a complete failure. I wrote briefly about it before and now I would like to talk about it much, much deeper.
Failure can make you doubt yourself.
Failure can be a spirit killer.
Failure can be a motivation squelcher.
Failure can reverse your progress and stall your life.
But it can do so much more, too…. If you let it.
When we fail once, most people have the ability to get up and try again. But how many failures can one person take?
When we fail, again and again, whether it is perceived failure or real… it can create a seed of doubt. Doubt increases the risk we perceive from each step we take.
Doubt can grow to shame and shame tells me that there is something wrong with me. It’s not an action that is wrong, stupid or bad.
I am wrong. I am stupid. I am bad.
Once shame is in the picture, we can become paralyzed.
If you have never felt this, then you’re lucky.
I envy you.
Some people tear themselves down and create their own impossible to meet standards. Some people were told by someone else that they weren’t enough. And others are in the middle. They were torn down for so long that even without the person there to criticize them, they continue the deprecation on their own.
I am the third one.
I have spent a large amount of my life being told that I don’t run fast enough, don’t do pushups low enough, don’t sweat enough, don’t clean the dishes well enough, don’t match the right colors in my wardrobe, don’t sing well enough; my list could go on and on.
But I’m not in that situation anymore. On most days, I don’t have anyone telling me – in any sort of words, actions, etc – that I am not enough.
So, what is it that placed me in an emotional spiral of self-deprecation for the last three years?
Part of it was depression, that’s for sure. But part of it was… ME.
When no one else took the responsibility of tearing me down, my mind began to do it instead.
It has taken me SO long to dig out from under the pressure of perfectionism, impossible standards and degrading behavior, that I am just now at a point of healing, where I no longer constantly tear myself down.
God has been leading me on a journey out of this trap. And I believe that I need to share my story because I am far from the only person who has felt this way. There is healing, but it is a LONG, HARD road. One which is already so worth it for me. I don’t know if I will ever be completely over it this side of heaven, but I can share a couple of things that have helped me overcome my own failures and my self-deprecation.
I have to say that I am a HUGE advocate for counselling. I went through a year and a half with an amazing counselor who helped me to unpack the baggage that I had been carrying around with me.
Seeking professional help is literally one of the BEST THINGS I HAVE EVER DONE.

Detail, signpost, in english

It doesn’t make you weak to need help outside of yourself. Actually, it’s quite the opposite… it takes a great amount of humility, bravery and vulnerability to face the demons in your closet.
But if you’re paralyzed in any part of your life – it’s the biggest step you can take to begin to heal.
Once I faced the lies I had been told, I was able to see them objectively. Honestly, some of what I was told in my past was hard truths that I needed to face. Some of it was absolutely not the truth and I have slowly been throwing it out the window of my mind and heart.
In this process, I have learned that Failure is not a definition. It is an event. It’s a single moment in time and it is WE who decide to cling to that one moment.
Yes, it’s true that sometimes we make mistake after mistake, or failure after failure. But failure itself is still just one moment. One action. One word.
We have to learn to OWN our failures and LEARN from them.
Every failure has a message, a lesson or can serve a purpose…. If we let it.
Take a look at your failures. Every single one of them.
I am also a big advocate for journaling. Of course, you don’t have to know much about me before you know I love to write…. But even for those who don’t consider themselves ‘writers’, journaling can help you so much. When you write your thoughts, feelings, anxieties, emotions, etc. down on paper… it gives them validity. And it helps it get out of you.

Journaling doesn’t bring instant healing, but it allows you to process whatever is eating your soul. It gives release. It can help you think clearer and even recognize errors in your own thinking.
While there is no set-in-stone way to journal, if you don’t know where to start when you journal about a perceived failure, start by writing how it makes you feel. Really think about your own actions. Did you contribute to your own failure? If you did, then how can you do better next time?
Failure only kills your motivation if you let it. Refuse to be defined by your failures.
You are worth SO MUCH more than that.
So, face your fears.
Face your failures.
….and kiss them goodbye.
Yes, they happened. Own it and don’t back down.
Be determined not to let your failures define you.
You have the power to let them shape your future – whether it is as a limitation… or a motivation.
Let your failures motivate you.
A wise friend told me recently, “Sometimes failure is a learning experience, preparing us to achieve a greater goal. Sometimes, the passage of time reveals that failing to achieve a goal was a better option than achieving it would have been. And many “failures” are failures only because we accept them as failures and stop trying.”
Don’t stop trying.
It sounds so simple to say it that way. But, really, it is so much easier than we make it.
Take control of your life.
Step up to the plate and be determined to be the best YOU that you can be.
And finally, give it TIME.

 
They say that time heals all wounds. I don’t exactly agree…. Time gives you the chance to heal the wound – but it is not a given. Many things in life require time to grieve, time to feel and process the emotions that you have attached to your failure, and time to do the work that it takes to know that it does NOT define who you are.
So, get up off of the “woe is me” couch and get to work on you. Become the best YOU that you can be.
And overcome your failures.

Recovery of a No Excuse Mom: Living With Focus

Ever since I started getting back on my feet with my health and fitness pursuits, I have been having a hard time with certain things.
Since I was in such good shape before, it’s frustrating to not be able to run as far or as fast; not be able to lift as much weight; or even do some of the same exercises I could have done before. (Hello, pull-ups!)
I have been working on making a schedule for myself to try to be consistent with my workouts and in that schedule, I am running a little farther each week.

I went for a run the other day in a direction I had never taken before, turned on my MapMyRun app, slid my phone into my pocket and started out. It was a hot, muggy day and after a few minutes, I already felt tired. Time went on and I felt like any minute my phone would tell me when I reached a mile.
It never did.
I ran on, past where I expected the one-mile marker to be, but before long, pure curiosity (and a little irritation) led me to reach for the phone out of my pocket to see how far I had run.
Although the timer was counting on… the GPS had never decided where I was.
While I was looking at my phone, my foot tripped slowly over the sidewalk and I stumbled to a stop.
The thought crossed my mind, “why am I running so hard in this heat if I don’t even know how far I’m going?”
My GPS still wasn’t picking up, I started walking for a minute while I played with my phone. I turned the app off and then back on, still nothing. The GPS map still showed me spinning in circles at the place I had started initially.

Eventually, I decided that I had determined to run that day – and running is what I was going to do. I could find out afterwards how far I had gone.
After a little while of running again – still no GPS signal – my cell phone rang. It was my daughter who was at her dad’s house. They were calling a little earlier than usual, but I don’t like missing her calls.  I slowed to a walk and talked to her.
When our adorable phone call ended, I thought again about just stopping and walking the rest of the way.  But changed my mind, I had enough time during our conversation to fully recover from any fatigue and stopping now would certainly be an excuse because of the heat.
So I trudged on the rest of the way down this new trail and made it to the end. Interrupted? Yes. Irritated with my GPS? Yes. But I still finished what I started.
When I plotted out the course later on my laptop, I found that I covered 3.1 miles for the first time since earlier this year.
I had set out with such a clear focus on my intended goal: run this new trail and be consistent in my workouts. The distractions made me want to quit. It was hard for me to trudge through and complete it, but I did.
It wasn’t until later that I realized how much my experience that day is like our fitness journeys.
We start out with good intentions.
It’s hot – or challenging – harder than we expected.
But we trudge on.
Distractions come. Sometimes bad distractions, sometimes good. But we have to keep in mind why it is we started.
We started so we can eventually finish. We have goals, dreams, aspirations.
Sometimes our journey looks like we imagined it – but often times it doesn’t.
We have to learn to live with focus.

So, how exactly do we do that? What does it mean to live with focus?

  • Living with focus means having your own personal, internal, deep-seated motivation.

So, you want to be in shape. You want to have a flat stomach, look great in a bathing suit, make your husband think you’re hot, lower your blood pressure, etc. These are all great motivators and aspirations, but they are very externally focused goals. These goals may get you out of bed for the first few weeks to kick your butt in the gym and eat right, but they may not be enough to KEEP you trudging to the gym when you don’t have energy, running through the heat, and choosing the healthy food option when you had a terrible day, you’re running late and McDonald’s is more appealing than cooking dinner for a family of four.

What does a personal, internal, deep-seated motivation look like? It’s different for everyone. Let me share my own. First, I want to be a good role model for my daughter. I have always struggled with my weight and, if at all possible, I don’t want that to be her problem to. Second, my family has always had a long list of health problems – most of which are generally preventable through eating right and exercising. And third, I love being active. Even though I have gotten out of shape over the last 3 years, this isn’t me. I know not only what I am capable of, but I know what I want for my life and it is NOT being overweight with back problems, knee problems and breathing heavy if I have to walk up too many stairs. I missed exercising. I missed the gym, running 5k’s and challenging myself to do something physical I couldn’t do before.
Everyone has to find their own motivation and what works for me, might not be enough for the next person. But we all have it somewhere inside of us: our real reasons.

  • Living with focus means making – and keeping – priorities.

Even if you have never written them down, we all have our own priorities in life. I heard one time that we are incapable of having any more than 5 things on our plate at any given time and do them WELL. So what are your five priorities? My first one is God. I will never cram my beliefs down anyone’s throat, but it is impossible for me to separate my faith from my life. My second priority is my daughter.  Balancing between third and fourth is my job (gotta make a living!) and my care for myself. I have to be my own priority and that includes eating right, exercising and planning my intentions for the week. And for me, writing has quickly become my fifth priority. I keep ending up in scenarios where I need to write and I am loving the opportunities.

You might notice that my house is not on my list. I am not a perfectionist and my home is very “lived in”. While I take time to keep it neat, and clean well if I’m having company… I am a single mom of a 5 year old and I would rather enjoy her than obsess about always having a swept floor, IMHO.   I also don’t have a relationship, no husband or boyfriend. Which, honestly simplifies my life at the moment. Each of these areas of priority in my life need their own time – intentional time – to do them well. Work is a given. I know what time I work every day and my hours are actually flexible. For my God priority, I read the Bible every morning – with coffee in hand – before I do anything else and go to church on Sundays. I am also involved in a weekly life group on Thursday nights. For my daughter, we wake up just a little early so we can relax together before the day begins and I make sure we get a little time together in the evening despite the usual craziness of dinner time, other obligations and our bedtime routine. She NEEDS me to set aside time for her, it doesn’t take much. For myself, I have literally been scheduling days and times that I plan to exercise, just like I would a doctors appointment. When I schedule it this way, 9/10 times I keep it. I have also started to set aside some time Sunday morning before church to plan meals for the week. This has worked fantastically for me to keep me on track for my eating (which, honestly, is the biggest problem area for me). Finally, my writing is easiest to be done when my daughter is at her dad’s house. He has her every Thursday and Friday evening and I get her Saturday at 4pm. This is actually a good time for me to also get longer workouts and make time to clean the house………… Life is hard, we all balance WAY too many things on our plates. When I prioritize well, my days are pretty structured and almost pre-scheduled. But I thrive on a schedule.
If you could do 5 things Well in your life, what would they be?

  • Living with focus means realizing that priorities can shift – but there is always something you can do about it.

So, my list of priorities above doesn’t account for the many unexpected things in life. Or other obligations. Or down time.
The fact of the matter is that life is busy. I wish that all I had on my calendar was those five priorities. But I am a seamstress as a side job. My daughter has ballet once a week.  There are doctor’s appointments, parent teacher conferences, meetings, days I work later than expected, days I feel exhausted, days I spend time with my friends or have family over to my house. The list could go on forever. Some days, your list of 5 things will go smoothly. My other days, you have to shift things up or down the list depending on what happens and what NEEDS to be a priority. For me, taking care of myself and my writing are both the easiest thing to drop to a lower spot on my priority list. Writing – in the grand scheme of things – although it has become a great part of me, doesn’t have to have that priority spot. But even if it doesn’t, there are ways to fit in 5 or 10 minutes of writing a day. Taking care of myself, on the other hand, should always stay in the top five.

BUT, we all know that life can be unpredictable. So, if I can’t make my workouts for three days straight…. What can I do? There are actually more than one answer. First, I can do a mini workout at home. I can play-exercise with my daughter. (if you’ve never heard of Pancake Manor, check out this convenient 14 minutes of unique kids dance songs that are pretty fun for adults to dance to as well.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VenHIGDEAQ ) But I digress… I can also have 100% control over what foods I put into my mouth. I have been around the health and fitness block long enough to be very well aware of what is a healthy choice and what is not. Choosing anything else – even in stress, time crunch or laziness – is pretty much just an excuse. ?
So, what should your take home be from my longer-than-anticipated post today?
Know what you want to accomplish for yourself and dive in.  Keep your eye on the prize and make it a priority. Long-term success is an accumulation of how consistent we are over time.
One misstep here or there doesn’t determine the outcome. Our determination and internal motivation can help assure some level of success…. Even if it doesn’t always look how we think it’s going to.
We CAN live with focus.

Recovery of a No Excuse Mom: A Re-Introduction

It’s time for me to take some time to re-introduce myself. For those of you who have never heard my name… I’d like to change that.
I am Lori Hare.
I am the Co-Founder of the No Excuse Mom Facebook group that began in 2013. Maria and I have an even longer history, stemming clear back to 2006, when I reached out to her in order to get serious about my fitness journey. You can see more of that history here, in a fit mom interview on her website from 2013:
http://www.mariakang.com/2013/02/05/fitness-role-model-lori-ann-hare/
When Maria and I ended up pregnant at the same time in 2011, it was only natural to be in touch and talking about our health and fitness. I was absolutely honored when she asked me to start blogging about my post baby weight loss in 2012 and in 2013 I asked Maria to start an online Facebook group for challengers following her No Excuse book. During that initial time, I lost all of my pregnancy weight and had a new motivation to live a healthy lifestyle for my daughter. This picture was my documentation of that… (with my ex-husband strategically deleted for privacy purposes!)

When the first No Excuse Mom calendar challenge was created, I competed and I ended up on January with my challenge transformation.
I was in the best shape of my life physically.

This is when I wish I could have stayed on track. But at the same time that that photo shoot was taken, my marriage was in complete disarray. My grandparents passed away 22 days apart, my work hours dropped significantly and I was struggling to hold it all together.
I was able to keep pretty consistent with my healthy lifestyle until after my initial separation with my husband in early 2014 and had an awesome opportunity to meet Maria and some other amazing No Excuse Moms in Central Park, NY.

After this, my life continued into a downward spiral. I fell into depression, everything in my life was uprooted and nothing was what I thought it would be in my 30’s – divorced – alone – no consistent work hours – no money for the gym – at that time, it was barely enough for me to muster getting myself to counselling which I so desperately needed.
I have clung to No Excuse Mom for two reasons. First, it was my baby, I still had a dream for it. Since I had been so involved in its beginnings, I never intended to let things slip so far. And second, because I knew that I was so much more than how I was living. I wanted to make the effort to eat right and exercise, but each step that I took painfully reminded me of how far I had dropped off of the wagon. My pride kept me from going to the gym when I got the money because many of the people had seen me when I was fit and because I couldn’t lift what I had done before. What would people think now? My pride also stopped me from running 5k races that I had enjoyed so much, because I used to run 3 miles in 26 minutes and now it took over 34 minutes. Running at all was so hard. Exercising was hard. All I wanted to do was retreat to a bag of jelly beans and not care about anything. In 2016 I ended up 178 pounds, my heaviest ever (more than pregnancy and more than my unhealthy teenage years). Here I am at my friend Dylan’s wedding.

This picture was hard to dig up because I tried very hard to not be in photographs….I literally had to have this dress taken out for it to fit…
In this time frame, I only took pictures of my face – at certain angles – and maybe with a filter… I was ashamed of how heavy I had become.
But during my hiatus from healthy living…. Something else had been slowly happening. Despite the frustration and chaos I was choosing to live in at that point, my heart was healing. I went through counselling, was spending a lot of time journaling and reading my Bible and unpacking all of the lies that I had been told for years. I was remembering who I was and who I was created to be. I was realizing that I have value. I was deciding for myself who I was, what I liked and what was important to me. I would see my old pictures when I was fit and I realized how insecure I actually was. I was definitely pursing health to be a good example for my daughter, for my husband to think I looked hot, to break my family history of bad health… but I had no self-esteem.  You wouldn’t have known that looking at me. I’m a smiler. I have always been great at building other people up, but terrible at encouraging myself. And great at hiding my sadness.
For all of my life I have felt like I was not “worthy” or like I had no value.  Somewhere deep down, I felt like garbage and my more recent life failures only amplified those feelings of unworthiness.
My biggest “Ah-Ha” moment happened last year when I was sitting in my car, driving for my job. I turned the radio station and heard the last line of a sermon on the radio. “God can take the garbage of your life and turn it into something beautiful.”
I felt like those words were meant for me.
Don’t ask me why that made more of a difference to me than anything else in that time frame. But I decided in that moment to take whatever little steps I could to stop thinking that the garbage and failure in my life defined who I was.
So, I quit making a stop at the dollar store for jelly beans. I started making at least better choices in my food choices to make sure I had healthy thing to eat during the day and tried to start being more active.
Weight loss for me has always been molasses slow.
I have only lost about 13 pounds since that point, but the transformation has been much more internal this year than external.

So, what makes me think that this time around is going to be any different?
First things first, I have come to the realization that while my divorce was an ending and a “death” that marred me and changed my life greatly, it is also a new beginning.
I have decided to be brave and believe that the Lori I felt like I lost is still there.
She’s different.
But she knows without question who she is inside.
She knows her worth.
And she is deciding to be vulnerable enough to take this leap back into health and fitness with No Excuse Mom and to show other moms that they aren’t alone. That they aren’t defined by their failures. That the story isn’t over just because life changes. There are times in life when health and fitness can be a priority and times when it can’t. For me, that time is now.
And so here I am today.
Excuse Mom Lori.
165 pounds, but not defined by my weight.
Divorced, but not defined by my relationship status.
Not where I want to be in life, but certainly not where I was…. and yet, also not where I am going to be.
I believe in me. I have confidence and hope that will not be taken away from me. Although I cannot rely on the strength and endurance I used to have, I have the power to create that anew.
This is my new beginning.