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.
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.
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.