Oh, the illusive six pack….
I’m going to make this one short, sweet, and cut right to the point with this post. I absolutely HATE this hashtag. Every single solitary time I see it being posted by someone I follow on my Instagram, I have to close my eyes, force myself to take a deep cleansing breath, and convince myself to NOT leave a snarky comment. “#eatforabs” currently bugs me like no other hashtag. Perhaps it annoys me so much because I spent almost my entire journey in the pursuit of visible abs and saw first hand what it really takes to achieve AND maintain them. I can honestly say today that I think abs are entirely over rated and are absolutely NO measure of any success, health, or “achievement”. I dieted down to 15% body fat, on occasion could see a few of my abs, and while it may have been cool for a split second in my own head, I’m no longer going chasing that particular “goal”.
Before I get into the thick of my post here, first let me just start out by saying #1 EVERYONE has some type of “abs” (depending on how much you have built them and your strong your core is, some people simply have more prominent ones than others) AND #2 in order to make them visible, you must get your body fat down low enough to see them. A person can do 1,000 ab exercises every single day for 6 months and still not have a six pack. And another person can run on the treadmill doing 2 hours of cardio a day and also still not see them. Again, the layer of fat on top of the built up muscles must be shed for them to appear and this will ultimately come down to nutrition.
Also, I never like to blame things on genetics BUT your muscle structure and how you are “built” can’t really be changed. Some women/people develop a six pack fairly easy and some women/people don’t. Same thing goes for a lot of your other muscle groups and your overall body structure. I get comments on my legs ALL of the time but truth be told, they have always kind of been there. I don’t have to train them much, I don’t lift extremely heavy, I’m entirely quad dominate on all exercises so they build easy and quickly, and ALL of my sisters (and mother) have great legs… they haven’t lifted a weight in their lives’ by the way. Other muscle groups I have to work really really really hard for, like abdominals. Some people hold weight in their lower body (thighs, glutes), some hold it in their upper body (back), and some (like myself) hold weight and more fat strictly in their mid section (abs/hips). We are all built so so differently.
OK, thats all out of the way now, on to the main point of my post…
If you have followed my journey at all, you will know that my ENTIRE journey started with me chasing a six pack. I wanted rock hard, visible abs that glistened in the sun while on the beaches of Hawaii (that was what I was getting in shape for at the time). I know you have seen that exact image posted a thousand times on social media by your favorite fitness models. She’s in a super cute, teeny bikini. She’s shredded. Her six pack is poppin’. Her body is banging’. She looked confident and happy. You want to look just like that. And you think she is perfect. I know I did anyways.
Believe me, I know how those feels, I was in that exact same position as you. Believe me. I was there nearly all of my journey and maybe even for a large part of my life. However, all of that changed at the end of my last cut and I had a HUGE shift in my mindset. An epiphany so to speak. After dieting very slow & steady, I got my body fat down to the lowest in my entire life. I was probably hovering around 15% in the final weeks of my last cut and was faced with the decision:
“Do I want to continue dieting SOLELY for the sake of a six pack?”
I was the most lean I had ever been, put in a ton of work, and proud of where I was.
I remember posting this picture and thinking my stomach still wasn’t good enough. Even at this level of leanness, I STILL wanted more. I know I could do “better”. I knew I could work “harder”. And want to know why? Because for most people who are chasing “ideals”, more than likely anything you do will not be “enough”. One will always want more, want a bigger this, smaller that, rounder here, more firm there, etc. Looking at this picture now, I still can’t believe how warped my brain was to think this wasn’t lean enough. Did I have the poppin’ six pack vision I had in my mind to starts with? Nope. And in the end when I came to the decision to end my cut, that was ok.
I was content making the decision to stop dieting for so many reasons. I began feeling weak during my lifts. I felt small and deflated everywhere. I was less confident than I was before because I felt like I was too small. And although I was still taking in a decent amount of food even after 15 weeks of dieting AND rarely found myself overly hungry, the next decrease in my macros would definitely be significant. Significant enough for me to start feeling deprived and hungry anyways.
And again, for what now? Why was I doing it? A full six pack?
One might say that I didn’t want it bad enough, that I wasn’t committed to my “goal” and that might very well be true. For me, the bottom line at that very moment where I had to question continuing on with my cut was taking a deep look at myself and realizing that fitness for me was NOT about having that six pack anyways. I learned that I was in this for long haul. I fell in love with my new lifestyle of being active, weight training, doing things because I simply wanted to. It was about loving my body at any and all stages/shapes. It was about fueling my body sufficiently to thrive and feel good. It was about loving lifting, cardio, hiking, or any other activity I choose to do. That goal of “achieving” a six pack may have been what got my journey going, but certainly not what matters to me at the end of the day anyways.
Now, it’s one thing to want to improve certain body parts you may feel self conscious about, but another thing entirely when you are are left feeling like crap to achieve those “goals” day in and day out (for months or years at a time). Yes, changing your physique may require effort. There will be habits that need to be changed. You may feel hungry on occasion if you are dieting. You might not be eating anything and everything you want to all of the time (even as a flexible dieter). Energy levels may feel low day to day sometimes. And “moody” might be a word that friends and family use to describe you. Yes, there will be sacrifices. However, when YOU begin to HATE and resent everything you are doing, it simply becomes not worth it. Well, not to me anyways. And certainly not for a six pack. And certainly not anymore.
The psychological battles we have with ourselves are absolutely real and those demons haunt us daily. They begin to take charge and drive us. Those insignificant details we strive for simply take away from what we really need to be focusing on… overall health AND mental well being. Don’t ever compromise your happiness for the sake of looking like someone else. You are exactly where you need to be in your own journey. Take it slow. Enjoy the ride. And never let anyone else steal your thunder.
So instead of #eatforabs… how about looking at your journey through these eyes:
And those are my thoughts on that subject.
ReneeApril 2, 2015 at 5:54 pm
Yes! Yes! YES!! Lately I’ve been unfollowing so many fitness women on IG because of this. So many of them have the perfect midsection, but it’s not enough for them. They have a PERFECT six-pack in their teeny bikini, yet still post something along the lines of ‘can’t wait to shed all this fluff’ and I’m like ‘are you kidding me?!’ Frankly, it’s disturbing. I too thought I had to have the perfect midsection when I started my fitness journey. But I quickly realized how unhappy I was by limiting myself with what I could eat. And how weak I felt during my workouts. It was so stupid. Now I just focus on training for health rather than perfection and see food as my fuel. Thank you so much for posting this. <3
SarahApril 3, 2015 at 7:17 pm
I couldn’t agree more. I too am on the “where are my abs?” fitness journey. I carry all of my fat in my midsection and dang it I’ll find the muscle that hides underneath. But I’m starting to find that finding my abs are not nearly as important as feeling good all around-both mentally and physically. I start my reverse diet this month in order to build strength and muscle. If the abs show up during my cut…great. If not, oh well.