Fitness Calvinists, Total Depravity, and You.

Recently, (October, 2013) a mother of 3 posted a fitness ‘progress picture’ of herself and her 3 children. She’s quite fit, puts in a lot of effort, and is justifiably proud of the results.

However, many people were critical of the posting and some pointed out their offense at the caption, “What’s Your Excuse?”

It was such a widespread response that I wanted to consider why it was so polarizing. What was it about that particular phrasing that pushed so many people’s buttons? If we can identify the root causes, do the have any relevance to our goal of sustainable management of our weight and fitness without stress, anxiety or grief?

I am certain that the title of this post got your attention, if only to wonder, “What the heck does that mean?”

“Fitness Calvinists” are those people with a particular mindset about fitness and weight loss. Central to their viewpoint is “total depravity”, a Calvinist religious concept saying that says since the Fall of Man and our expulsion from the Garden of Eden, everyone is enslaved to the service of sin. Without the grace of G-d, we cannot refrain from evil. We are, by our own natures, committed to nothing but selfish desire.

However, with the Grace of G-d, true belief in the gospel and their repentance, they can be saved!

Consequently, if you’re not saved, you either don’t really believe or aren’t really repentant.

In this context, ‘belief in the gospel’ maps to ‘belief in the same fitness goals’, and that ‘repentance’ is restrictive dieting and exhaustive exercise.

If you’re not fit, you’re either not doing the right thing, or you’re not doing it hard enough, and it’s all your fault.

And that’s the problem with asking “What’s your excuse?” It frames the whole issue in terms of a conscious choice to malinger and guilt over that choice.

People have excuses for malingering. Making a choice to not do something you are capable of doing. “I just don’t want to do the dishes because Bob’s Burgers is on.” That’s an excuse.

But that presumes there aren’t other issues which render the management of one’s fitness impossible. If you’re not physically or emotionally able to manage your fitness, it’s not a personal failure, but there’s this sense that it is.

“What’s your excuse?” When you CAN’T do something you don’t need an excuse.

But an EXPLANATION is a life long struggle to dealing with the emotional and psychological issues preventing effective management of fitness.

And all the willpower, ‘belief’, or ‘repentance’ in the world isn’t going to resolve those issues.