Why You Might NOT Want a 6-Pack
It took a lot for me to write this… for me to share my past mistakes and my insecurities. I wrote this so people could hear both sides of the story when it comes to fitness and body image. So often people only see the smiles we show on the outside and don’t realize the struggle a person is going through inside. Please know that I am not bashing anyone with a six pack NOR am I saying that you are unhealthy if you have one. I am just explaining why I am not making a six pack my year round goal for fitness right now and why I am a happier person for having other goals.
I would be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy having a 6-pack. In fact, it was my main goal to maintain my-six pack abs once I had achieved them. They took a lot of hard work. For me it was 6 days a week in the gym doing 1.5 hour workouts plus eating not only clean but the right kind of macros and micros and nutrient timing to boot. Phew! I am exhausted just thinking about it, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it… especially after having 2 babies. I was happy to have the tummy I never even had in high school. I was happy to be in control of my body and know exactly what it takes to get the results I wanted. But as we all usually learn (some sooner than others and some learn the hard way ), happiness can’t be obtained by a “perfect body”. And who is it who gets to decide what that perfect body is? I have always struggled with body image, but once I had my abs I was finally happy with my stomach, BUT I critiqued other parts of my body. So when would I be happy? How is it that we are never “perfect”? And according to who?
I know that my husband thinks I’m perfect (for him). And even if he didn’t….
I know that I was created in God’s image and I am beautifully and wonderfully made.
I know that I was setting these crazy high standards for myself… but why?
Why this obsession? I think we all know that it comes from societal pressures. My 7 year old daughter doesn’t look in the mirror and think she sees too much fat on her beautiful stomach (yet). It pains me to think that she might some day. She might someday compare herself to the images on TV and magazines and social media and think “why don’t I look like that?” Which is just one reason why I don’t complain about my own body anymore (out loud at least) because I know little ears are listening. This is also one reason why I don’t expose her to much media yet. I know there will be a day when she sees far too much and we will ease into it and I will be there for her as we do. Yet I want my little girl to love who she is for who she is… not what she looks like.
But I digress….
Back to why I decided not to try maintaining a six pack.
Now if you are prepping for a competition this post is not for you. There are reasons to get that sculpted look. I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the goal and the challenge of sculpting my body, but keeping that look year round (like I did for over 2 years) takes discipline. For the stage of life I’m in right now it’s not my goal…. and I will tell you why.
- I enjoy time with my family.
- This isn’t to say that I can’t spend time with my family AND have a six-pack. I spent plenty of time with my family when I had one. However, now my plate is even more full than it was back then, and I just don’t have the time to focus on keeping my body fat that low right now. Correction: I don’t MAKE time for that right now. I could squeeze it in somehow. I could find the time, but something else would have to give, and I’m just not willing to give up other things in my life.
2. I’m tired of the obsession.
- Everyone is different, but I’m an “all or nothing” kind of person. I’m trying not to be. This is one reason why I decided to drop my “obsession”. While I still bring healthy foods along on vacation I don’t want to spend my time obsessing over every little thing I eat and when. I don’t want to feel like I HAVE to eat every 3 hours and HAVE to eat the perfect meal around my workouts and CAN’T have carbs at night if that’s what I want. I still have food goals, but they aren’t as strict. I’m tired of being so dogmatic about my eating, and I wanted to be more relaxed. I don’t want to be considered “grain free”, “paleo”, “miss no processed sugar” or “wheat-belly approved” (even if I often eat that way). When I’m constantly thinking about what my next meal is or when I will work out next my mind isn’t with my family and friends. I was tired of waking up and having the first thing I think of be “what will I eat and when will I work out?”
- I also homeschool now. When my babies were babies I could drop them off at gym daycare and get “me time in”. Now it’s a little tougher for me to spend THAT much time at the gym. I do go some weeks, but most weeks I do at home workouts. It’s still possible to get that six pack with my at home workouts, but since I’ve lightened up on my expectations in both working out and eating the combo has resulted in less ab definition. Some days my abs are visible, sometimes they are not.
3. There is nothing functional about having a six pack.
- Maybe I should have started with this point. But let me repeat this key reason: There isn’t anything functional about having a six pack! You can have a perfectly strong core under a little more “fluff” or “insulation”. You just wont have that “cut” look that every magazine raves about. Having a strong core is important, but having visible abs is not necessarily a sign of strength or peak personal health. I actually have stronger abs now than I did when I had my six pack… you just can’t see them as well because my body fat percentage isn’t extremely low. You can have the strongest core in the world, but if you don’t get your body fat down you are not likely to see them (depending where you naturally store fat). This isn’t a problem, unless seeing that six pack is your goal.
- I have other fitness goals now that don’t include seeing my abs. I am stronger now than I was before. I can do more pull ups and chin ups. I can do more pushups and I don’t get tired as quickly. I wasn’t any healthier when I had my six pack than I am now. My health goals now include not only what I eat and how I work out but also how I feel emotionally and mentally.
4. Aunt Flow stopped visiting.
- I wont go too into detail here because some of my readers are not interested in hearing TMI. Feel free to skip over this if you’re not comfortable with this topic, but I wanted to share for anyone who may be dealing with similar issues. During this time I didn’t have any cycle for over 2 years. I had multiple tests done to make sure there wasn’t anything wrong. Everything came up as normal… except I wasn’t able to reproduce. Thankfully I was done having kiddos so I didn’t worry too much about it. BUT my low body fat affected my hormones in general. I was cold ALL the time (I always run colder than most but I was usually freezing). Sure, I felt good in that sun dress, but I was cold as soon as we walked into the air conditioned buildings. Once I put on a little more weight things returned to normal, my hormones became less out of whack, and body temperature regulating abilities returned.
5. I am beautiful with OR without a six pack.
- My husband used to comment that I could gain 5-20 lbs if I wanted too. He has always been happy with how I look, but he has always preferred me to have a little more weight rather than too little of it. Where I got the notion that I wouldn’t be as pretty without a six pack I don’t know. Okay, maybe I do know… media is relentless. You get commercials with beautiful and skinny women eating big juicy burgers. So now I want a six pack and a bacon cheeseburger. Crap!
- I think it’s always hard when you have to move up a size in clothes. Once I accepted the fact that this was my new look and just bought bigger jeans I discovered that I was just as happy in that size of jeans as I was in one size less. My husband is just as happy with me (if not more happy) with this size than when I was skinnier. It really comes down to this: who am I trying to please? Myself? my God? or others? I think part of me was afraid that if I didn’t have a six pack I could never be an “expert” in nutrition.
6. It took a toll on my happiness
- I vividly remember a year back having a conversation with my mom on the phone. I was in tears as I told her how I have everything I ever thought I wanted but I wasn’t content. I think too often getting what we think we want comes with a price. I’m happier now with a more balanced life than I was when I was a tad obsessed with my appearance. I can’t say I didn’t have VERY happy days and that I don’t LOVE my time at the gym. In fact, I learned a lot and enjoyed my goal of attaining my six pack abs. It was just when life got crazy, and I didn’t know how to let things go that it became a problem. I just didn’t have the balance that I have now. I wasn’t finding my joy in the Lord… I was looking for joy from my appearance.
- Now I workout, but the workouts are shorter (yet intense). They are often at home so I have more time in the day . I eat clean but don’t obsess over every single thing I eat. I am happy with how I look. I am healthier than I was as a teenager AND healthier mentally and physically than I was during some of the time when I had my six pack.
The other day I finished an amazingly tough ab routine. I was thinking, “Man, I killed that ab workout, my abs must be insane.” Do you ever feel that way and then look down to see your normal stomach? Or feel like it’s just plain fat?
I looked in the mirror. I even flexed and…nothing. No ab definition what so ever. I wanted to see that my abs looked as amazing my they felt. The point is, I felt strong. I was strong. My abs didn’t have to be visible for that to be true.
I am beautiful with or without my six pack, but I am happier right now without one. I may want to work at getting it back someday (along with watching for signs of being unhealthy… ie messed up hormones or feeling tired all the time), but for now my abs come and go and I’m happier for it.
Now this isn’t to say that YOU shouldn’t want a six pack. If you do, I can try to help you to achieve that goal. I know I have written plenty about how to achieve them. This post isn’t even to say that someone (including myself) can’t be healthy and have a six pack or that it’s a silly goal. It was a fun goal (for a time), and I was healthy for a good amount of the time while I had visible abs.
This post is about why a six pack is not my goal right now. It’s also about how I am finding balance (which is something I will forever be working on). This post is also about how some of us need to be more accepting of ourselves and compare ourselves to others less. You are beautiful no matter what your size.
My goal now is to be the healthiest version of me and to help others who have questions or want to know more about how they can be their healthiest them. Health is more than just aesthetics (although I know that looking good is a nice added bonus). I have never wanted to be on a diet. I want have a healthy lifestyle instead. If the way I workout and eat is stressing me out or unattainable for a long period of time it’s more of a diet than a lifestyle.
I believe that a big part of being healthy is being happy with the way God created me, being in the moment, enjoying life, and loving on those around me. Now I have more balance. I don’t want to die and only be remembered as the girl who was in shape. I want to be the girl who loved… the girl who loved God and the girl who reflected that love to her family and friends. I want to be a positive example for my kiddos. I want to be fun to be around… not cranky mom when she hasn’t gotten her workout in yet. Eating well and working out is only part of the picture to being truly healthy.
Thanks for reading! Thanks for all your support! Feel free to ask questions or make comments below.