What “The Fat Girl Dancing” can teach all of us, and what “fit mom” will never understand.

Whitney Way Thore and Maria Kang are on opposite sides of life’s spectrum. One is a stay at home mother of 3, an avid fitness enthusiast, trainer and blogger. She recently became a household name when she posted a pic of her fit, tanned, body with her 3 small children in tow, and asked us all “what’s your excuse?”. Said photo proceeded to set off a firestorm of controversy from people lauding her as a hero and inspiration for finally standing up to the “obesity celebrating American culture” to people calling her a self righteous fat shaming skinny *insert 5 letter expletive synonymous with a female dog*. I haven’t met Maria, (I did send her a FB message, to which she has yet to respond, 3 months later) but I wouldn’t call her a body shamer. She’s in the same vein as those tough love trainers who are just matter of fact about weight loss and fitness and health. Some people love that and are all about it, and they are fans of hers. God Bless them. She is an inspiration to them. But not to me. My inspiration is Whitney.

Whitney Way Thore is a radio personality. She grew up active all her life, playing soccer and other sports. But her passion was and is dance.  Her athletic build made her stand out in the world of dance she loved, and  started her down a path of unhealthy behaviors to try and maintain a societal standard of beauty. Issues with her health led to a significant weight gain and she sits now at over 300 pounds. In the years of her weight fluctuations, particularly her current weight, she has rediscovered her love for dance and activity and has taken to youtube, posting videos of her body in fluid motion (And let me tell you, the girl’s got some MOVES!!) under the heading “fat girl dancing”. She is a beautiful woman, with chestnut colored hair and blue eyes, intelligent, well spoken and an all around awesome person.

                Now you may read this post and wonder why I am inspired more by an “overweight” person than a “healthy” person. Simple. Whitney’s message is the better one. Contrary to her detractors and “fat shamers” out there, she is NOT promoting Obesity or unhealthy heabits. In addition to being a classically trained dancer, she runs and is active. She has also made it clear that for her to enjoy all the activities she does at the highest capacity, she would like to lose weight, (it should be noted, that despite the fluctuations in weight, she has never had any weight related health issues like diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure). She inspires me (and should inspire you) because she knows the true start to a healthy lifestyle begins in the head. She has discovered that “nothing taste as good as skinny feels” is just as cruel as “only a dog wants bones” because they come from the same dark place, change motivated by shame. Whitney’s message is simple, love your body and yourself as is. If you love something, don’t let anything stop you from doing it. It reminds me of the lyrics from a song ironically enough sung by another beautiful woman named Whitney. Maybe you heard of her, Whitney Houston, she said so famously “learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all”. Maria, fit and toned asking “what’s your excuse” is alienating and exclusive whether she wants to admit it or not. There’s the idea that “if you don’t look like I do, you’re doing something wrong”. Whitney’s simple message is to love yourself the way you are, nothing more nothing less. And the funny thing about that, when you love something, you take good care of it, and want it at its best. So Maria, you can ask others what their excuses are all day long, Whitney, me and so many others are too busy dancing to notice

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Intent vs Impact: My Letter to “No excuses” Fitness Mom Maria Kang

Over the weekend, a woman named Maria Kang posted a photo of her lean, toned body with her three kids with the caption “what’s your excuse”. The photo set off a firestorm of controversy from people calling her an inspiration to others saying she is a typical fat shaming skinny *word that rhymes with witch*. As many of you know, I have been on a journey of health myself over the past year, so I saw the spirit of what she was trying to say, but how it was lost in translation. Here is my response to her:

Maria,

                Can I call you Maria? You seem to have had a very busy past few days as of late. I am-like many other people-writing in response to the photo you posted showing off your post baby body (which is fabulous by the way, job well done) and the now infamous caption, “what’s your excuse?”. At the end of the day, the point you made by the photo and your subsequent “apology” (you didn’t apologize, you just told people to look at the person in the mirror for some self-examination if they are so bothered by you, which is ok.) is that the like anything in life, health is something we can make a choice to have, with some effort, time management and blood sweat and tears. That’s the difficult part, our instantaneous society wants quick results, with no thought to the process it takes to get there. We all want gold medals, but don’t want the hours of practice and pain to get it. So for some people, your success is a glaring example of their failure, but again, that’s a them thing, not a you thing. But if I may, I would like to tell you a story about someone I know, and maybe give you a lesson on intent vs impact. Your intent was to show people that nothing should stand in their way to achieve a healthy body, and if they want to achieve it, they can. Your intent was to show people the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, one that might have saved your mother’s  life if she had adopted it, instead of dying of a stroke in her 50’s. (I am so sorry for your loss by the way). You intended to show girls who struggle with eating disorders that a healthy balance can be achieved. And that was a wonderful intent. For many, that intent was made as there have been women who have come to your aid saying that you have motivated them to go to the gym.  But there is another segment of women who you had a different impact on. They saw your photo, and the subsequent caption as a thumb to the nose (or even a middle finger)to them. They’re women who work hard either in their career or as mothers full time, and when they can they work out, and eat right, and have seen some progress, but then see your photo, and can’t help but feel like they can’t measure up. They want to be healthier, they want to lose weight, but between the job, the family, or the job and family, they just aren’t sure how to manage time.  I know one of those girls, let me tell you about her.

                I have a friend I’ve known for a while. Intelligent, pretty, driven and hard working, but she has struggled with her weight all her life. She was an overweight child, teen and adult. Wanting to do something about it, but not really because she wasn’t quite willing to put the dedication in, and she wasn’t sure where to start. But then in 2011 she noticed people at work making concerned comments, she noticed that she could hardly stand for a 45 minute class and teach her students because her knees hurt her too much. She was short of breath all the time, snoring loudly, and had no clothes. She hated going out because she always felt like people were staring at her. She ordered in when she wanted restaurant food because she couldn’t fit in booths. She sat on the end pews at church so people wouldn’t have to step over her wide body. And then she saw a picture of herself holding her newborn niece taking up half the couch, and knew something had to be done. She just didn’t know what to do or how to even start. She knew some people who had success with Weight Loss Surgery and looked into that, and had planned to use her health insurance to cover it. Then she found out the coverage was vetoed in the last legislative session and she was back at square 1. But then her parents recommended a popular weight loss program to her, one that would give her tips on eating right, gradually modifying her portions, increase exercise into her life. One that would give her tools to change her lifestyle. At this point, she figured why not, and went. And found out that she was 410.8 pounds. Now that number would be enough to cause most people to throw up their hands in defeat, give up, and just accept the inevitable consequences of morbid obesity. The diabetes, the reduced mobility, the cane, the hovercraft, the oxygen mask, disability because she couldn’t work anymore, the death due to heart failure, the supersize casket. But something in her decided that she didn’t want to give up, she didn’t want to just throw her life away. She wanted more. So she stayed. She modified her portions, she ate cleaner, she began to exercise. And a funny thing happened along the way. She fell in love with a healthy lifestyle. She now goes to the gym 4 days a week, is an avid fan of Zumba, and hoping to get certified to teach it next summer. She has people tell her all the time what an inspiration she is, and she doesn’t let that go to her head, because she is an ordinary girl who just decided to make a few small changes that led to major ones. And she tells people all the time, that if she can do it, then so can they. She knows she can’t look like you, and has no aspirations for that. She wants to be at a healthy weight for herself, and her family. And she is well on her way to doing that now. And I think if you had used the caption “I did it, so can you”, the truth of your message would not have been lost in translation. Well, I know you would probably rather be exercising than reading this long e-mail so I will close here. But I want to tell you that you are an inspiration, and someone will see your photo, and ask themselves, “what is my excuse” and begin to make those changes. Blessings to you and your beautiful family.

 

                                                                 Ebony L. Thornton

Ps: That “friend” I was talking about, it’s me. Under this post is my before and “in progress” photo, down 122 pounds since June of last year.

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“Ties that bind”…the gift and the curse,

“Ties that bind”…the gift and the curse,

                When you hear the phrase “these are the ties that bind” you often think of images of family, bonding together and united in love and kinship to weather the storms of life, but they are not limited to only family. We as human beings long for companionship and love, we want to connect with people. We want to find people to share our lives with, build our families with, shape our futures with. It is these desires I believe are why we have the ability to form soul ties with people. Some refer to it as kindred spirits, but it is when you find someone in this world that you connect with on a deeper level; usually in the form of marriage, family or sexual intimacy.  When they form in the proper context, it can be the catalyst for a family on the brink to fight for the wayward child they had prepared to bury. It can be what causes a marriage in shambles to buckle down and fight to honor the love they have for each other, and the covenant they made before God.

                But, what happens when you form a tie out of season? What do you do when you feel drawn to a person that you know will bring you nothing but harm? What do you do when someone breaks your heart but even then you still love them with the broken pieces? You see it with a friend or family member, they are plagued with a relationship that haunts them. Despite the warnings seen and unseen, they’re drawn back like a moth to a flame. You make light of it and say that they are “p—- whipped” or “d— notized” when it is deeper than that (Forgive my frankness, but a trip to your local “adult toy store” can scratch that itch). They’re “soul whipped”. They have formed a soul tie with that person, and it is not something that they can “just get over”. They have tried. They walked away, days, weeks, months, maybe even years go by and they live their life as normal….until they see a picture, or hear a song that triggers a memory. From that memory comes the thoughts, the recollections, wondering how they are, what they’re doing, if they’re thinking of you as well. You miss them…you long for them….then you reach out.  The danger of these ties is that more often than not they are not formed in healthy relationships, and what started as love can become manipulation, control or even abuse. In these cases the consequences can be detrimental, even deadly.

                But, even if someone struggles with a soul tie, there is Hope that comes in the salvation of God. Turning it over to him, leaving it in his hands, and turning to Him in those moments of weakness will ensure that deliverance will come. This doesn’t mean you hate the person, or wish them ill. You just love them from a distance. That way you can heal and so can they. And when the time is right, you will bond with the person you are meant to share everything with’ heart, soul, spirit…forever.

Adventures in Ebony’s journey to ONEderland: Year 1: Letter to “Before” Ebony

100PoundDifference

 

Dear Ebony,

               
You may recognize me but it’ll be hard to believe it. But I’m you, a year and 106 pounds from now to tell you what to expect over the first year of your weight loss journey. Right now you’re sitting in your Weight Watchers, looking at your weight for the first time in the better part of two years. When you were going to the gym and starting to make improvements, but you stopped. That’s ok. You weren’t really ready then, at least not fully. You didn’t know how to integrate a healthier lifestyle into your life slowly so it wouldn’t feel so drastic. Plus, you were telling yourself it wasn’t quite so bad, when it really was. In fact, it was a little worse. You deleted pictures of yourself on your parents digital camera taking up half a couch when you held your niece because you were trying to deny it. You almost didn’t spend Memorial Day Weekend with your family because you don’t want people to see you and comment on how much you have gained. You don’t go get your hair done as often because it hurts to sit in the salon chair and you broke the shampoo chair the last time. You buy makeup and shoes because you can’t afford clothes anymore, and don’t want to know what size you really are since the 28 are gasping for dear life. All this was on your mind as you stepped on the scale that Saturday morning in June, hoping to not be 400 pounds. In your mind, as long as the scale was under that number, if it wasn’t that, you’d be ok. And then you saw the number…410.8. Ten pounds over 400 lbs, 60 pounds over 350 (which explained why you never went to the Dr’s offices for check ups (those scales tap out at 350), why it hurt to stand for long periods of time, why you struggled to breathe. You were the size of a bear, a male lion, a baby cow, 40 pounds more than 2 6 feet tall men. You’ve seen it, in black and white, you sit there, stunned, wondering how did you let it come to this? How did it get so bad? You shed tears, and for a moment, contemplate walking out the door and giving up, but you remember the story of a WW Member who lost 300 pounds, so you think to yourself, if she can do it, so can I. So you stay. Because of that decision, let me tell you what is going to happen to you over the next 365 days.

  1. Your stay in the FOURest is brief, and you’ll never be there again: 3 weeks into WW and working out you drop 11 pounds, getting you out of the 400’s forever. But you decided that day that was the last time you would ever see that number
  2. Being over 350 pounds won’t last that long either. You’ll be under that by Christmas
  3. Take the before picture at your first meeting, and more progress photos: There’s 1 that we use, but it’s not an official 1, and sometimes you’ll need them to know how far you’ve come when you think you’re not making much progress
  4. You’re still going to get to eat what you like…sort of: Yep. Pizza, Hot Wings, Your Mama’s rice and gravy, Mexican, even Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, but there is a bit of a caveat. You eat less of it then you once did, and sometimes it doesn’t taste as good as it used. This is because you’re getting healthier, and like a car runs better when it has tune ups, oil changes and good food in it, you run better because you are eating healthier things. On the flip side, junk food now tastes just like that. Not as satisfying, and just blah. The good news is, for your favorite dishes, you’ve found ways to cook them and make them more conducive to WW and give you all the flavor for a lot fewer points.
  5. Your family gets you back: Your parents see their intelligent, beautiful daughter come back before their very eyes. Your nieces love running and playing with you (you know you’re their favorite aunt, right?) Your family loves you, but they were scared you were going to die (and sweetheart, let’s face it, we were). Now they know it won’t be obesity related.
  6. You really love working out, it just took the right classes and the right people: You know how we hear ad nauseum in education the importance of relationship building with students to ensure academic success and achievement? You see it all the time in your classroom. Your students respond to you because they know you care and have their best interest at heart. Well, it works the same way in health. When you go back to the gym this time there’s a great Water Aerobics instructor there who makes the class fun and gives you a hell of a workout everytime you go. You bond with the classmates over a few months and they notice the results and changes and congratulate you on them, and they miss you and ask about you when you aren’t in class. All the while you do your thing in the pool, you notice that Zumba classes are being offered two nights a week. You really wanna go (you’re a Spanish teacher after all, so you LOVE Salsa and Latin Music) but you’re scared you won’t be able to keep up, your knees won’t hold out, you’ll trip and bust your gradually shrinking ass and never be able to show your face. So weeks go by, months go by. Finally, you work up the nerve to ask the instructor-tall, fit beautiful with a great personality- how hard the class is. She says just come in and have fun, don’t worry about what you can’t do. So that’s what you did. Fast forward 6 months, you’ve made a new set of friends, found a growing passion for health, helped choreograph a routine, all while “exercising”. Some people have a passion for running, some people cycle, some do pilates and yoga, Zumba is yours. NOT ONLY THAT, you found out that those other classes aren’t so bad either. In fact, you’re gonna do things that never thought you could physically, but I don’t wanna give away too many spoilers.  
  7. You’re building a testimony: Your faith has been your cornerstone for the bulk of your life. You have seen God work in your life on a grand scale, and in the still small voice. You know the importance of good stewardship in your finances, your relationships, and in the workplace. But, you never quite made the connection with your health. I don’t know if you kinda figured like Celie “This life be over soon. Heaven last always” and when you know there’s a glorified one waiting on the other side, maintenance on the temporary one can fall by the wayside.  Plus, to be totally honest, you were scared you couldn’t do it. You’ve lost and gained and lost and gained and lost and gained again. But this time, you ask (and still ask) for grace for the moment, and for God to show you good stewardship over your health. When you’re healthy in body, you’ll be Healthy in Spirit. You can live the life God wants you to live (abundant life isn’t about having coins in the bank) in fullness because you’re gonna be around longer. Not to mention that there are people who are watching you, who see the progress you will make. There will be women in the gym close to your size who you can tell, “I’ve been where you are, just keep going. It won’t always be easy, but you can do it”. You’re inspiring your co workers, who will see the changes over the course of the school year and come up to you and tell you “I am so proud of you” “Keep up the good work”. But remember that while it’s for your good, it’s for God’s glory.
  8. You’re biggest support system will come from the most unexpected places: You have friends at work who will encourage you, and tell you that you’re an inspiration to them, even people who are in shape, who are healthy, who weigh far less than you,  so to hear them say you inspire them is a lot to take in. But let it be a catalyst for you, because while they cheer your losses, they’ll also give you pick me ups when the scale isn’t always kind. They are your “weight loss family”, which also includes your gym family.
  9. What goes down, must come up: There are gonna be weeks where you kick ass and take names, dropping 5, 7, even 8 pounds in 1 week, then you’ll have weeks where you average 1 or 2, maybe even 3. But, there will be moments, when the scale stays the same, only goes down an ounce, and even goes up. This will suck and never gets easier each time, but it’s par for the course in this journey. Your body gets bored, you retain fluid from muscle building, you don’t quite the follow the program as you should, and then…you hit plateaus. Don’t freakout when this happens. This journey is a marathon, not a sprint, so just like a marathon, you’re gonna hit a wall. What’s important is how you respond. They’re slips, not falls. Persevere, push through ,they won’t last.  And look at how far you’ve come when you get discouraged. If you hadn’t come into this meeting today. I don’t know if I would be writing you this letter now.
  10. THIS IS ONLY THE BEGINNING: You will reach a major milestone this year, but even in that, it won’t stop you. You’ll keep going, trying new things, increasing your fitness regimen. There are greater things coming your way, things you can’t even believe…But it all starts today

 

Well there you have it. What is coming up over the next year.  I know it sounds like a lot given where you are right now, but Our Daddy told us once before that if we can get through some of the things we have already overcome and still be sane (you know what they are) we can do this. You’ve already taken the first step by walking into this meeting. Well, I’m gonna sign off now, church and a 4:30 Zumba class await tomorrow ( I told you you were gonna fall in love with it. You helped your instructor choreograph a routine a few days ago too,).  I Love You,

Ebony.

Ebony’s Journey to ONEderland: The Story in Photos

Ebony's Journey to ONEderland: The Story in Photos

Many of the weight loss blogs I follow have “progress pics” photos that document the bloggers journey to improve thei health Progress pics are important for 2 reasons. 1. They are a reminder that you are changing, even if you can’t see it. 2. When you hit a plateau or are exercising, you can still see the decrease in fat due to increased muscle mass. So, what I have here are a series of photos of me on my journey. I don’t have an official “before” photo because I didn’t wanna see myself at that size, but I have taken photos since then, so you can see how far I have come

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“Next Year is our Year”: The Scourge and Shame of the Atlanta Sports Fan

Scourge (n): : a cause of wide or great affliction

    Now, normally something as fun as sports would be a cause of joy and celebration and moments of levity for a community. They serve as a rallying cry and a sense of pride. In the city of Tuscaloosa, a bunch of college kids for almost 2 years made its citizens forget for a moment about the tornado that had swept through and left destruction in its wake. The performance of the Alabama football, gymnastics, women’s golf and softball teams during the 2011-2012 school year showed the country that “T-Town is never down” and those residents will never forget it.

     And then, there are cities like Atlanta. Where the passion for sports is fleeting or located in other places, but when it builds, it usually crashes and burns in a firery blaze. A few years ago,, Sports Illustrated named the city of Atlanta the WORST SPORTS TOWN in the United States of America. And had ticket revenue and apparel sales and a leaving hockey franchise to back it all up. But, I contend that this is really not the case. We love our sports, we love our sports teams. We’re just a little gun shy with them is all, and here are the reasons why.

1. College Football: Let’s face it, to the chagrin of the NCAA, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and every FBS conference in existence, the best college football in the country is played in the South. The last 7 national champions have been in Southeastern Conference teams, and College Gameday comes to Altanta at least once a season for the BCS Semifinal (AKA “The Southeastern Conference Championship Game”), sometimes, they come twice for  the Kickoff game when a Big Name team (Like this year’s matchup between Alabama and Virginia Tech) is playing. Plans are in place right now to build a new stadium to ensure we keep the SECCG,and the city has hosted NCAA reigonals, and the final 4 as well. But It could be said that the Mecca of college football is Altanta Georgia. Now, if this were such a crappy sports town, would that be the case? Don’t think so.

2. Transient population: Atlanta has a good amount of transfers from other cities so when they come, they bring the love of their home team with them. It’s why there’s lots of Purple and Gold in Phillips when the Lakers play, Cheeseheads when the Packers come. No better example of this is the Falcons/Saints saga. After hurricane Katrina many New Orleans residents made Atlanta their home, and when they did, they brought Who Dat nation with them. I can’t tell you how upsetting it is to see so much black and gold in the Georgia Dome when they come to town (and why I REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted the Falcons to go to the Superbowl THIS year-which was being held in New Orleans, but I digress) but as long as we get so many travellers into our city, they bring their team love with them. Which means that in Candlestick Park or Cowboys Stadium or Madison Square Garden, Atlanta will have representation as well.

3. Post-Season Performance (or lack thereof)- This is mainly where the problem lies. Atlanta has great teams. They have winning records, hall of fame athletes and pretty good facilities. But in all that, there is only 1 Major Title for all the years sports have been here; the 1995 World Series Title Won by the Braves. And even THAT was during the decade long run of Division Titles and NL titles. By my count the Braves should have 3 World Series Banners in Turner Field. The Hawks have great regular seasons, then the Eastern Conference Semis roll around and the wheels fall off. And I don’t even want to mention the football team right now. The bottom line is, Atlanta has developed a reputation of the “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” team. They do great in the regular season, maybe even win the division or go sorta far in the playoffs, but when it’s crunch time-championship games, superbowls, Conference Championships- things just kinda go craphouse. And that consistently will make even the most devoted fan weary of cheering for you. You get so close, and then disappointed, closer, and disappointed, and closer STILL and disappointed…AGAIN. Think of it as a woman who keeps waiting and waiting and waiting for a proposal. Eventiually she’ll get tired and move on.

    But, even in the saga that is Atlanta sports, I did see a glimmer of hope. In this recent run to the NFC Championship, Falcons gear was sold out all over the city, the Georgia Dome was packed loud and proud even until the closing seconds. Most of the things I saw on FB and Twitter about the team said things like “Thanks for a great ride, we’ll get there” or “you never gave up. So I’ll still Rise Up” instead of the usual “You guys SUCK” that I’m used to. Bulldog Nation is optimistic about their the new season, and Braves fans are sharpening their tomahawks as we speak. So, in that spirit, I say the slogan that has become a bit of a mantra around here:

   “Wait until next year.”

Maybe we Can’t

  This is a blog I posted on Myspace back in 2008, during President Obama’s first run for the Presidency. Seeing the responses to his inauguration on Facebook and Twitter brought it to my mind again, sadly. Because it reminded me that we’ve still got a LONG way to go in this country….and it may only happen on the other side of eternity:

 

  

Maybe we can’t

 

       Now normally I don’t post things on my blog of a political nature because A) this isn’t the place and B) My political affiliations as of late piss people off so I leave it alone, but I gotta say something
   As many of you know, the United States of America is on the brink of doing what was deemed the impossible: electing an African-American as President. The dream of equality so many people lent their bodies to the fire hose, the police dog, and the lynching tree is very close to becoming reality. Think of the statement that would make. It would show the world that we are on our way to putting the Middle Passage, Jim Crow, Birmingham, Freedom Summer Mississippi, Selma, and South Central Los Angeles behind us, that content of character would take precedence over skin color, that we are ready for change.And then I open my bulletins to find a posting about Barack Obama being the anti-christ, because of his Islamic Faith, and charisma . For the record: Obama is a Christian, and in all likelyhood, the antichrist will be someone of European descent (rise of the Euro, decline of dollar, less and less usage of cash), and it says NO WHERE in Revelation that he will be a Muslim, it doesn’t even mention he’ll come from the seed of Ishmael (Abraham’s son by his mistress and the father of the Arab nation). And I just sigh. Is the thought of losing the last bastion of white Anglo Male ownership so terrifying to some that people have to say he is Satan incarnate and his inaguration will bring on armageddon? If we were truly equal people would stand up and say “that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard”, and a few are, but there are others who aren’t. There are others who think there may be truth to this, others who think a black man in the white house will bring to play every worse-case scenario stereotype in their minds and be the downfall of America. It should make me angry, but it doesn’t…
  It breaks my heart.

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