I get told so many times. “My trouble spot is my stomach.” “I want a six pack.” “I have this pooch even though I’m below what I weighed before I had kids.” “I want to look like her!”…. you get the drift. As a personal trainer, a Beachbody coach, a fitness instructor… I am constantly surrounded by super fit individuals. I have friends who have been in fitness competitions. I follow some bodybuilders on their journeys. I have had clients stress themselves out and never EVER be happy with the way the look or feel. I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile but wasn’t sure which direction I wanted it to go in… so here goes. 🙂
“Six Pack Abs”. The truth? That “six pack” you say you want to see… may not be possible, no matter how lean you get. Why? Genetics. Everyone has a genetic makeup that makes their abdominal muscles structured differently. Some people have a super split down the middle. Some have super prominent upper abs and small lower abs. Some how the opposite. Some people have oblique muscles that like to show up. My first piece of advice is to STOP comparing yourself to the magazines, the pinterest posts, the instagram pictures. The minute you have this “picture” of how you “should” look you are setting yourself up for failure, and for unhappiness. Can you have a flat stomach? SURE thing! Can you have strong muscles that show up? Absolutely. Personally, I have ab muscles that are fairly visible .. but I wouldn’t say I have a “six pack” . My friends and I joke about it but the truth is, it’s not a true “six-pack” but I am VERY proud of my body and what it can do and happy with the way I look. I am very lean. I’ve had my body fat tested and its in the athlete category… and going much lower would probably compromise my hormone function...and truthfully, I don’t think that is worth it. I am not going to go compete on stage. That is not my goal. My goal is health, happiness and fitness. 🙂
“Abs are made in the kitchen.” – Well, this is true and this is false. Can you have a great midsection and eat junk food all day everyday? No. Can you have a great midsection and never workout or weight train? No. They go hand in hand. What you see when it comes to those pesky ab muscles will be more visible if you have a strong core, and this is done with lifting weights. You can actually have visible ab muscles with more body fat on your body (and healthier level) if you build those muscles up rather than starve them. So while eating healthy is an important component to a leaner midsection, it isn’t everything. Other things that can make you feel “fluffier” in the middle is too much salt and sugar… retain water, you will see bloat. Ladies, ever notice your stomach looks flatter when it’s not your time of the month? There is a reason for that. Hormones, on purpose, play a part in water retention. Don’t freak out, ok? Personally, I always notice I am more bloated the week before I actually start my monthly cycle. Normal. My take: Eat healthy food 80-90% of the time. Enjoy life. Drink plenty of water.
Muscle weighs more than fat. This is true. A pound of muscle absolutely takes up less space than a pound of fat. I have put on more muscle on my own physique in the past year but my weight has STAYED THE SAME. I am totally 100% fine with that. Stop being a slave to the scale. It tells you nothing except maybe if you need to eat more fiber or drink more water. Muscles need fuel to grow. Eating at a caloric deficit will NOT ALLOW YOU TO BUILD MUSCLE. You lose weight this way, but your muscles will not grow. Muscles need plenty of lean proteins and healthy carbohydrates. Healthy fats are needed for a healthy hormone function and metabolism. See below. WEIGHT IS THE SAME, actually I think it went up a pound in the after photo. Notice I do not have a “six pack”. I certainly have leaned out but again I HAVE NOT LOST WEIGHT. I still carry enough fat on my body to have a female cycle. I was not counting calories endlessly either or spending 2 hours in the gym.
Spot reduction. Not possible folks. Overall fat loss is possible. Building muscle is possible. Neither things happen overnight.
Cardiovascular exercise… yes our bodies need it. It’s good for your heart. It makes you feel good. Do you need to run for hours? Nope.
Calories/Macros/Carbs oh MY..…. Another thing I get asked about a lot. I am BIG believer in balance in life. Nobody wants to count calories for their entire lives. Fitness models and bodybuilders track macros because it’s their JOB. You know what you don’t see? Many of them suffer from metabolic damage… not all of them, but many of them. They they spend years trying to recover from this and often gain pounds and pounds and pounds back quickly after a competition because of the restrictions they underwent. Low carbohydrate diets are another thing out there that I do not find necessary. Yes there is such a thing as too many carbohydrates in your diet. Yes, there is such a thing as too much fat in your diet. The key is choosing healthy carbs. Your body and your MUSCLES need carbohydrates to run, to build, to burn. The more muscle you have your body, the more calories you will burn at rest and the healthier your metabolism will be. Also, please think about the mental health of countless calorie counting forever and ever. I don’t know many people that want to do this for the rest of their lives. Have children? Do you want them to grow up counting everything? Just some food for thought. I know the science in carb cycling and protein timing and all of that stuff… but just think about what is realistic for you… in your life. 🙂 When someone comes to me for weight loss help, I often have them keep a food journal at first because we need to have a starting point. If they are 50 pounds overweight I have no idea what they are eating. Some overweight people have done SO much metabolic damage that we need to know that. Others, on the flip side are eating well over their maintenance calories without even realizing it. However, it is never my intention to have them counting forever and ever. What is the fun and balance in that?
“I had a baby and I am back to goal weight, but I still have this skin…” Yep. Ladies. This is normal! It’s skin. When I am in plank or prone position, it hangs. It’s not fat. My babies were worth it. I promise it looks way worse to you than it does to anyone else and you shouldn’t be afraid to wear a bathing suit. 🙂
Where do we draw the line?
I don’t think there is one answer. It’s going to be personal for everyone. For most of my clients and challenge group members…. most of us have children. Most of us want to be fit, healthy, happy. I suggest remembering that those cover models you see do not walk around with their “six pack abs” year round. Remember that many of them that you see may be suffering from metabolic damage, and many of them may be rebounding at the time you read the article. I’m not saying all of them do because I know many who live very balanced lives…but they will also be the first to tell you that they don’t count every calorie and don’t walk around with cover model abs all year either. 🙂 What might be someone’s goal doesn’t need to be yours. And what it means for them may be different than what it means for you.
If you seek body re composition, we can help with that. If you have specific goals, we can help with that. If you seek balance, we can help with that.
Remember that what you seek may be right in front of you already. Remember who is watching.
I am all about promoting a healthy, active and fit lifestyle. I am all about promoting healthy eating with the younger generation. However, I refuse to promote a lifestyle full of endless calorie counting and weighing food forever with my daughters. I want them to love life. I want them to enjoy fitness and whatever sports or music or whatever activities they decide to do as they grow up. I don’t want them to be afraid of food. I don’t want them to think they have to have “six pack abs” to be accepted or beautiful.
So there you have it. 🙂
Be fit. Be Happy.