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!

6 Tips for Self-Motivation

One of the very first (and most difficult) steps to making a lifestyle change is finding the motivation. Without it, we may know the ‘right’ things to do, but not quite be able to put that into practice.
You, like many others, might struggle with self-motivation from time to time. This means you may have a hard time getting yourself to your regularly scheduled workout, or will try and find more and more reasons to stray away from your healthy changes.
But guess what? You won’t be alone! We all struggle with motivation sometimes, but here are some tips that can help you self-motivate and reach your goals.

A healthy dose of motivation coupled with determination will get you almost anything in life (again sometimes it just takes time and effort to find it). So how do you know if you’re genuinely motivated?

  • Motivation will tell you to get to your workout no matter what.
  • Motivation will nag you to put down the doughnut.
  • Motivation makes passing on fries a reflex.
  • Motivation makes a sweat drenched workout exciting.
  • Motivation constantly reminds you why you do what you do.

The key to staying motivated is similar to fuel in a car—you don’t need the motivation tank to be full to drive, you just need to prevent it from running empty. Do not waste precious time and energy on staying highly motivated because motivation has a natural rhythm. Most people see a drop in motivation as a signal of failure, but it’s not. Weight loss and lifestyle changes are not a linear process; it is an up and down roller coaster ride – as with success in anything in life.
Self-Motivating Tip #1: Find Your Motivator.
Motivation stems from having a goal. What is your goal? Why do you want to get into great shape and/or make a lifestyle change?
Once you uncover your personal motivator you’ll find that motivation flows quickly your way.
Take a minute to really uncover the reason that you want to lose the weight. Don’t say something vague like you want to ‘Be thinner’ or ‘Look more attractive.’ Dig deeper – there is a very specific motivator in your life, you simply need to uncover it.
Here are some possible motivators…

  • I want to have more energy to keep up with the kids.
  • I want to improve my health through weight loss to extend and improve my life.
  • I want to lose 15 pounds before my vacation.
  • I want to restore my confidence to wear sleeveless shirts.
  • I want to regain my figure to impress and attract my significant other.

It’s great that you have the family wedding to motivate you in the meantime, but try and find some other motivators so that when the wedding has come and gone, you will still have that drive and determination.
Keep reminding yourself why you started in the first place, and that continuing to push forward in any way will get you further 3 months, 1 year, 5 years from now. Many people find asking the following questions help:

  • If I stop making changes, how will I feel in six months or one year from now?
  • If I stop making changes, what will my health be like?
  • If I stop making changes, how will my family and friends be affected?

Self-Motivating Tip #2: Make It Official.
When you write something down it tends to feel more official. Write down your motivator for getting into great shape, and post it where you will see it often—next to your alarm clock, on the bathroom mirror, or in your car.
Each time you see your written motivator take a moment to visualize yourself accomplishing your goal. Try to make the scene as clear in your mind as possible. This is a powerful tool for maintaining your focus and direction.
Even posting on Facebook your plans and goals can be a huge motivator – the more you tell people about your goals, the more drive you will have to achieve them.
Self-Motivating Tip #3: Be Practical.
It’s game plan time. You know what you want, and now you need to map out exactly how you’ll achieve it. It is important to be practical in your planning, rather than throwing out ideas that you know you won’t stick with. The secret to success is to break down your healthy living goals into mini goals that are easy to manage. Start with one small, clear goal that is right for you. This is often referred to as developing ‘SMART’ goals. SMART stands for goals that are: specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and time-framed. Setting “SMART” goals can also help you achieve bigger goals you may want to set for yourself over time. For more info on SMART goals, visit here.
With any weight loss goal it is important to 1) maintain a healthy diet, and 2) participate in a consistent and challenging exercise program.
Plan a routine that will fit into your schedule and you’ll be more likely to stick with it. It is important to sit down and find the best days and times to fit it in. Then write it in a schedule and treat it like a an important commitment!
Self-Motivating Tip #4: Call For Backup.
Enlist the support of your friends, family and co-workers if you can. Tell everyone about your goal to lose weight and get fit, you’ll be surprised how supportive most people will be. By being open about your goals you’ll likely be an encouragement to others to make healthy changes in their own lives. And if they don’t that’s okay! But finding at least one person and supporter could help significantly. Even an online community such as a local free ‘No Excuse Mom’ group, or the larger ‘No Excuse Moms’ Facebook support group could help you stay motivated.
Self-Motivating Tip #5: Be Easy on Yourself.
If you notice that your motivation is waning, give yourself a break from your diet or exercise plan for one to three days. The problem with motivation is that the more people try to ‘catch’ it, the more elusive it becomes; by allowing it to run its natural course and at the same time having a set of habit-changing skills (such as a meal plan for the week), you’ll stay on track and your motivation levels will run their natural course.
Self-Motivating Tip #6: Practice Integrity in Other Areas of Your Life.
For example, clean out your closet (finally), pay off your debts, make good on your promises to friends, family, or co-workers. Practice sticking with promises or commitments you’ve made in other areas of your life in order to strengthen your own subconscious belief that you are able to uphold the promise of losing weight that you’ve made to yourself.
If you need help with developing SMART goals, finding your motivation, or someone to provide you with the knowledge and support to help you with your journey, I now offer 25% off my services for NEM members (use the promo code NEM25). Click here to see an overview of the services I offer. All counseling programs include a customized meal guide (breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks), calculation of Total Estimated Energy Expenditure (daily caloric requirements to reach your goals), continuous one-on-one counseling and support, recipes, progress assessments and plan adjustments (if necessary), and more.
– Felicia Newell, BScAHN, MScAHN(c), RD(c)

Felicia Newell is our Official NEM Nutritionist and has a Bachelor of Science in Applied Human Nutrition, as well as a Master of Science in Applied Human Nutrition. For the past several years, Felicia has worked at a university research centre with a focus on food security, food access, and policies relating to food; she has taught university level nutrition courses; and she is currently working at a large chain grocery store helping her community make healthier choices. One of Felicia’s passions is helping others fight through the confusing misinformation that is out there in the ever-changing and growing world of food and nutrition. Another one of her passions lies in working toward a future where everyone has access to enough affordable, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food, that is produced, processed and distributed in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways. Felicia has published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Public Health titled, ‘Is the Minimum Enough: Affordability of a Nutritious Diet for Minimum Wage Earners in Nova Scotia’.
Read more about her story here, and on her Facebook page, or follow her on Instagram: @felicianewellnutrition. Click here for more NEM experts.

Making Behavior and Lifestyle Changes

Food for thought: Does simply telling someone to do something, or judging someone for not doing what you think is right, actually help that person change their behavior?
As an Official NEM Nutritionist, I wanted to take a moment to bring what may be a different perspective to the table. Some may be familiar with these concepts; some may think I am way out in left field. Life is a lot about perspective, so even if I can give a new perspective to a few people I am okay with that. Here are two concepts that are just food for thought! They are usually very detailed and complex, but for the sake of this post I want to be as straightforward as possible.
1)   Behavior change. Our group is based a lot around the changing of lifestyles and behaviors. Behaviors are psychological, and deeply engrained. They are habits, and a lot of times when it comes to food-related behaviors they are even addictions. They are very difficult to change, which is why many different theories and models in the scientific field that are used to explain behavior change. I don’t want to go into detail of course because you are all busy moms and don’t have all day to read a post that sounds like a lecture. The key message I want to bring here is changing behaviors is HARD. It involves many different steps and factors to change a behavior (e.g., motivation, education, support, confidence, etc.). If you think  ‘clean eating’ and living a healthy lifestyle is hard and you are alone because everyone else is making progress or some people make it look easy – think again! We all have difficulties at some point or another (we just don’t always show it, especially on social media), and with the right support and motivation (and accepting that we will have set-backs and no success comes without failure), we can overcome them.
2)   Social Determinants of Health.  This is another concept I don’t want to bore you all with and go into detail, but I just want to introduce for those of you who may not have heard of it. This is a premise that lifestyle choices are largely shaped by many different factors, including: income and income distribution, education, unemployment and job security, employment and working conditions, early childhood development/experiences, food insecurity, housing, social exclusion, social safety network, health services, aboriginal status, gender, race, and disability. Each and every one of these factors influences the choices that we make, and we don’t always have control over a lot of these factors (a lot of these factors are set by society, and individuals have no control over this). Just one example (there are many other examples, but again for the sake of us busy moms): people in various family situations (from low to middle income; single to two parent households), cannot afford a healthy diet. This is by no means their fault for many reasons, one being the cost of living (has risen significantly, and increase in wages have not kept up with the many costs of living (food, shelter, transportation, childcare, etc.). This means many families cannot afford to eat healthy, but it is not their fault. Now there may be many other factors that influence say a low-income families’ ability to purchase a healthy diet – e.g., knowledge, skills, childhood experiences, stress, etc. So as you can see, a person’s decisions around food can be very complex!
We are all human. For the most part we have good intentions and want to support and help each other by giving advice and what works for us, and we do an incredible job! Some days we might have a bad day and post something in the wrong way. Misunderstandings can happen. I get it and I think for the most part we all do. We are all busy, and most times trying to post something in between other daily responsibilities. BUT, I do know there are moms in here who feel overwhelmed at times with conflicting advice, and/or they feel ashamed because certain things that they perceive as the ‘right thing to do’ doesn’t fit their lifestyle. These feelings can really hinder someone’s progress. Telling someone to do something is one thing, but again, we all have different factors that affect why we do what we do.
My 2 takeaway messages are: 1) try to be a little more understanding of just how many factors influence a person and the decisions that they make. If we all try to be a little more understanding of this, we may be able to support each other even more than we already do; and 2) if someone gives you advice and it works for them and not you – that is okay! We are all human, different things work for different people. It doesn’t make us any less of women or mothers. We are already doing so much and are hard enough on ourselves (but shouldn’t be) – so let’s not be hard on each other!