I have a confession…I do not have visible abs. I am a nutrition coach and I will probably never have a six pack.
A client once said to me “I wouldn’t hire ‘Jane’ because she doesn’t look like she works out.” Let me be clear… “Jane” has a great body, is super fit and looks amazing. So naturally, that stressed me out, and made me feel like I needed to look a certain way to be successful at this job. As if I wasn’t already fucked up enough from a lifetime of pursuing perfectionism wrapped in 6-pack abs, this just made matters worse.
I get it, people want those who are guiding them in fitness and nutrition to look the part, to lead by example, to look healthy and fit and take pride in their appearance. And since it’s basically impossible to avoid being bombarded with images of flat stomachs, shredded abs and poppin’ booties…everyone and their dog wants to chase this ideal, regardless of whether or not it’s healthy or even possible for them to achieve it.
Because we see these images everywhere in the media, we are lead to believe that this unrealistic yet highly coveted display of shredded abs is also the pinnacle of health, success, sexual appeal and happiness. The reality is, that’s just not the case.
I did not win the genetic ab lottery, so for me to have even marginally visible abs I need to be in a pretty deep caloric deficit and I need to be super lean. It means eating somewhere around 100g of carbs a day, exercising a lot, suffering through workouts and being a little miserable in the process. It means forcing my body to be a shape and size it’s probably not really meant to be…even though I like when it looks that way.
The reality is, that version of me is not necessarily the healthiest version of me, and it certainly doesn’t make me a better coach.
That’s not true for everyone. There are plenty of very healthy and fit people with rock hard abs, and there are just as many very healthy and fit people without abs–there are also those fuckers who were just born with abs and have never had to work a day in their life 😉 But, abs are NOT a requirement for being healthy, fit, or happy.
So, if you’re scrolling IG, feeling terrible about your lack of six-pack abs and contemplating purchasing a vibrating ab sculptor off Amazon, dive a little deeper into why you’re feeling that way. What feeling are you chasing? Is it the feeling of being desired? Praised? Validated? Happy? Either way, even though abs look sexy AF, life with abs is not all it’s cracked up to be, here’s why:
Fashion over function
Although abs are fashionable, they aren’t necessarily functional. Defined abdominals are usually the result of extreme leanness and not functionality. Of course, you have to have a strong muscular midsection to have ripped up abs, and it certainly requires years of training to gain that muscle, but abs don’t make you fitter.
For me, the leanness necessary to achieve visible abs is actually detrimental to my strength. So…its fine if I want my abs to show, but I have to understand what I’m giving up in the process.
Abs and Obamacare
Abs certainly do not equal health. There are plenty of jacked up meatheads out there rocking 6-pack abs with terrible health markers. Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and is the result of proper lifestyle habits such as good food, training, sleep and stress-reduction.
For many females, the level of leanness required to obtain visible abs means hormones are f*cked. Amenorrhea, the absence of one or more menstrual periods, is typically caused by hormonal disturbances. Training too much, eating too little, and reducing body weight eventually can cause hypothalamic amenorrhea, a condition characterized by low levels of reproductive hormones needed for the menstrual cycle. In case you missed it, women were made to reproduce…and losing your cycle is a solid indicator that something is not quite right! Ladies…it’s not OK to not have a period. And dudes…don’t feel like bangin’ your wife? I’m going to go ahead and say your testosterone might be a little f*d up!
Eating is nice
To be strong and fuel training, its super important to eat enough to support that. Low calorie diets don’t lend well to high training output, muscle building, recovery, sleep, or mood. To gain a sick set of abs, a caloric deficit is often necessary and being in a caloric deficit sucks. More importantly, eating in a caloric deficit year round in order to maintain those abs is not sustainable and will leave you depleted and feeling like shit. Eating is enjoyable and striving for abs means less of that enjoyment and usually more of an obsession with all the food we cannot enjoy!
The term metabolism is commonly used to refer specifically to the breakdown of food and its transformation into energy. When nutrients are restricted or reduced below what is needed, the body down-regulates overall metabolism to adapt to the intake…essentially a survival mechanism.
After years of underrating and overtraining, my body is well primed to survive a famine. Watch out people, when the apocalypse hits I will thrive, it’s all part of my master plan! HOWEVER, our metabolism is fuelled by the food we eat, and often in the misguided pursuit of abs, we can fuck up our metabolisms.
Time is money
Here is the thing…having visible abs often requires a shit ton of time, time that could be better spent with family, friends, and focussed on your career. I’ve fucked up far too many relationships in my life obsessing over working out, controlling everything I eat, skipping social functions and stressing about it all. To say that this is not still a problem for me would be a lie, but step one is self-awareness right?
Unless you are genetically blessed, abs take hard work, dedication and lots of sacrifice. It’s totally cool if that is something you want to pursue, I fully support that, but understand that other things will be put on the back-burner!
While you are in pursuit of having abs to be more desirable, are you sacrificing relationships with people who actually desire your time?
I could probably go on about this topic for another hour, but you likely stopped reading this 12 paragraphs ago.
If you made it this far, my message is this—abs are not a requirement of a good nutrition coach, they are not a requirement of beauty, they are not a requirement of health, they do not signify strength, they are not a requirement for mental and emotional well-being, they don’t afford happiness and they aren’t going to provide you with the validation you may be seeking. Unless that validation is from strangers on the Gram, in which case, congratulations you won the internet.