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obesity epidemic

Ditch the Fitness Excuses: How I Hope America Moves Forward in A Nation of Obesity

Written on December 16, 2013 at 4:20 pm , by

Photo courtesy of Maria Kang

Photo courtesy of Maria Kang

Written by Maria Kang

I believe our emotions are what drive our successes or failures.

Motivation is an incredibly powerful emotion. It helps you challenge yourself and push through plateaus. This kind of energy can help us interpret messages in a positive light, envision possibilities, and then seek out those opportunities.

My “What’s Your Excuse?” poster evoked motivation in some, particularly the audience reading this right now. For others, it sparked shame—and outrage. Those people labeled me a bully and a fat-shamer, and suddenly I was at the core of controversy.

But when FitnessMagazine.com asked its audience what they thought of me, a large chunk of you said I was an inspiration. When Facebook banned me from its site and FitnessMagazine.com then interviewed me, you rallied on my side. You’ve defended me because of one common truth among us: We know our health is important.

So what do we do now?

We want to stop the obesity epidemic in America. We aren’t complacent—or at least don’t want to be. Whether we’re overweight or super fit, we know none of this is really about me, the messenger. It’s about the message.

The message is about balance, and yes, pushing past self-acceptance. It says that when we deprive ourselves from living a healthy life, we limit our ability to thrive.

As I’ve said numerous times over, it’s important to love yourself. But let’s challenge ourselves and the people around us. When something or someone refers to obesity as “normal,” challenge it! I’m not saying to shame or bully anyone, but we must focus on progress. On a daily basis we engage in a comfortable schedule, with comfortable people and comfortable habits. Instead, let’s focus on how there is always room for improvement.

The first step in discouraging complacency is to create a goal and go public with it. This goal may be to fit into your pre-pregnancy jeans or to eat less processed foods. You need to write it down, set a deadline, and create daily steps in your life to hold you accountable. Accountability begins when you set up mental and physical enforcers that will push you to move out of your comfort zone – because let’s be honest, we are creatures of comfort. It’s only natural to gravitate toward what is easier rather than what is harder.

So let’s fight the complacency trend by making life harder. Here’s how:

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Maria Kang Plays Defense Against the Haters (Again!) Post Facebook Ban

Written on November 27, 2013 at 11:22 am , by

No excuses mommy blogger Maria Kang got the Facebook boot this past weekend for more controversial comments. Do you think she’s in the wrong? (Photo courtesy of Maria Kang)

Maria Kang is just a mom—a mom gone viral, that is, when her ab-flaunting “What’s your excuse?” captioned photo sparked controversy and media scrutiny. Things had just died down for the Californian fitness enthusiast when she hit another nerve last week with a Facebook rant about plus-size women in lingerie.

Kang issued a warning about what she had to say, then vented her disapproval for those who encourage overweight women to be proud of their bodies. The mother of three urged her nearly 230,000 followers to change the mentality that’s sweeping the nation (sourcing multiple statistics), noting that she was not knocking those who are proud and heavy…but instead simply trying to empower healthy role models in society. Three hours later, Facebook removed her post and she was temporarily blocked from the site altogether.

“I think that everyone should love and accept their bodies,” Kang told FITNESS yesterday. “I don’t think that anyone can progress when they have a foundation of shame, so I didn’t want to seem like I was bashing them. No one should be ashamed of who they are. But there is a fine line that we’re walking, and that’s what I was talking about: When you say you love and accept yourself versus love and progress yourself.”

With two-thirds of our nation obese, $3 trillion being spent on health care, and childhood obesity on the rise, Kang believes there are multiple contributing factors tipping the scales, all in which stem from family. “Economically, it’s tougher to get good food when you’re poor,” she says. “Socially, if people around you are eating like crap and it’s normal, then it’s normalized. And culturally, if people are saying you’re okay being overweight, they keep on reinforcing this outlook.” The root of the problem, in her eyes, lies in leadership. “If the parents are healthy and they are healthy role models, then they can raise healthy kids. That’s just how it goes. It’s so simple but so hard when we live in such a blameful culture.”

So is she at fault for fat-shaming? Is the criticism warranted? According to Kang, she’s simply telling the truth and would never intend on hurting anyone’s feelings. “If you have excess body fat, especially around your midsection where your organs are, that’s not healthy for you,” she said in response to the recent backlash. “I think we should never shame anybody to lose weight. We should motivate them in a positive way, but when you say love and accept yourself, you’re creating not only a normalization, but a sedentary, complacent society.”

Although some have deemed Kang a pudge-loathing personal trainer, that’s not exactly the case. “I’m average…and nowhere near a size zero,” the former NASM-certified instructor said. She doesn’t work out for a living — her day job revolves around overseeing the ownership of two residential care homes for the elderly — but she loves volunteering her time to mommy exercise groups every Tuesday night. “I think your job is to be healthy if you’re a mom,” she added, a concept that provoked her founding of Fitness Without Borders, a community education and motivation non-profit.

So, why so passionate about the obesity epidemic? Kang, a former bulimic, witnessed first-hand the debilitating repercussions of the medical condition with her own mother. “She’s 52 years-old and has so many health issues. I work with people who are overweight by choice. I think that’s the reason why people are so pissed off; I’m telling them that they have a choice when they really want to have an excuse.”

Is it a choice? We at FITNESS believe someone can be fat but fit, and you can’t tell what’s going on with a person’s body just by the way they look. Regardless, Kang certainly knows how to stir the pot, and one thing we can totally get behind is her belief that small steps in the right direction can lead to major gains, which doesn’t happen over night. According to Kang, you have to be uncomfortable with where you are to desire change. “It’s not an all or nothing thing,” she said. “You have to take it one step at a time.”

 More from FITNESS: 

Hot Topic Tuesday: How Can We Slow Down the Obesity Epidemic?

Written on September 18, 2012 at 1:48 pm , by

Some bad news for our scales. (Photo by Denise Crew)

By Deanna Cioppa, editorial intern

Today, two organizations that campaign against the obesity epidemic in America have released statistics that point to a dark and unhealthy future. According to the Associated Press, this new report predicts that by 2030, the obesity (not just overweight) rate in 39 states will be over 50 percent. Let that sink in.  The two organizations, Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation used data collected by the CDC and other governmental sources and examined trends to make these predictions.

What’s even more stunning is that the obesity rate in the other 11 states and the capitol will be just under 50 percent, with Colorado coming in as the lightest state at 45 percent, and Washington, D.C. coming in at a cool 33 percent by 2030. Mississippi tops the list with a 67 percent obesity rate by 2030. According to the report by Trust for America’s Health, the national cost of treating the diseases stemming from this level of obesity will be a staggering $66 billion per year.

One-third of Americans are currently obese, and the CDC predicts that as a nation, a full 42 percent of Americans will be obese by 2030. The question is how can Americans turn the tide on this catastrophic number?

Now you tell us: What do you think is the most important factor in slowing America’s rising obesity rates?

Hot Topic Tuesday: Can Documentaries Help Curb Obesity?

Written on July 31, 2012 at 11:22 am , by

Will a documentary series open people's eyes to serious health issues? (Photo courtesy of HBO)

Written by Laura Cofsky, editorial intern

In America, growing waistlines have become a big problem. With nearly 70 percent of the population being overweight or obese, it seems like it’ll take a village to solve the dilemma — or maybe a country.

The HBO documentary series The Weight of the Nation stresses that, between ads for unhealthy foods, the expense of buying more nutritious options, the lack of workout spaces and a national shortage of produce (according to one of the experts, there’s not enough available for everyone to eat the recommended amount of fruits and veggies), losing excess fat is more than a matter of willpower. But dropping the extra weight is important: the hosts argue that obesity leads to five of the main causes of death —diabetes and kidney disease included— and costs businesses billions of dollars in health care costs each year.

The three-disc DVD set, which hits shelves today, may be a wake up call for some. The creators, in association with Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute of Health, look at the issue from multiple different angles by consulting with various experts, discuss the consequences and possible solutions, and interview people who successfully lost weight and kept it off to give you an arsenal of information.

Now you tell us: What do you know about the obesity epidemic, and do you think documentaries like this can be useful?