Is your fitness goal to have a 6-pack abs? Find out the truth about having abs as a woman and why this may be a detrimental to your health.
That seems to be every woman’s goal these days when it comes to their fitness. It’s not wonder as every fitness magazine cover glorifies women who have the elusive 6-pack abs.
These magazines make these 6-pack abs seems easy. Just do what she does and you’ll get 6-pack abs too! Train hard, do ab exercises, and eat “clean.” Sound familiar?
For 10 years I followed that regiment. I exercised HARD. I ate CLEAN. I got the ABS!
I would get messages from women on a daily basis asking me how I got my abs! They wanted abs like that, what was my secret?
Unfortunately, I’m not here to tell you my secret to getting my 6-pack abs.
I’m going to tell you the complete opposite. I’m going to tell you how those 6-pack abs ruined my life. I’m going to tell you that those 6-pack abs are actually detrimental to your health. I’m going to tell you that those 6-pack abs are NOT what you want.
Why 6-Pack Abs Are Detrimental to Women’s Health
The true fact is, a woman can not have 6-pack abs and also have a healthy relationship with food, exercise, and her body. Period.
Because to get those 6-pack abs, women need to go below a healthy body fat percentage. Women generally need a body fat percentage of at least 20 percent in order to remain fertile and have regular menstrual cycles. This is in comparison to men, who can get to as low as 6 percent body fat and still remain in the “healthy” category.
Are there exceptions to this? Yes, of course. Some women are naturally more muscular which allows for their ab muscles to show. However, this is not the norm. I repeat…this is NOT THE NORM.
Unfortunately today, achieving 6-pack abs has become the “gold standard” of fitness. I once achieved this “gold standard” and constantly received comments every time I took a post-workout selfie and posted it on social media. Women were dying to know my secret.
I would tell these women, just eat cleaner and exercise harder. (If you are one of these women, I’m so sorry for telling you this.)
But if I had really told you my secret, it would have been more along the lines of, “Never go out to eat. Fear ALL unhealthy foods. Don’t eat cake at your children’s birthday celebration. Workout for an hour every single day. Never take a rest day. Eat plain, boring, tasteless food. Go to bed hungry. Hate your body so you work harder. Lose your menstrual cycle. F*** up your hormones.”
That’s the truth. That’s how I achieved my 6-pack abs. I did ALL of those things and more.
No one wanted to hear the truth. They wanted to hear exactly what I was eating, exactly how I was exercising, and how “amazing” it felt to be so healthy. Truthfully though, I was far from healthy.
As a matter of fact, I was the least healthy I’d ever been in my entire life. I felt weak, my hair was starting to fall out, and my relationships with my family and friends were suffering. But the constant positive reinforcement I received from outsiders made it nearly impossible for me to regain true health. It’s hard to admit, but all those positive comments kept me going.
I had found the ONE thing that I was amazing at. The ONE thing I could control in my life. Fitness and nutrition was one way I could be perfect. I could make up for my shyness, my lack of good looks (that’s what I thought of myself,) and all of my other imperfections by controlling my exercise and food intake.
Having a six-pack is not a sign of health. Having a six-pack is not a sign of willpower. Having a six-pack is not a sign of happiness or joy or anything else besides having a low body-fat percentage and/or the genetics for it.
My Health After Letting My 6-Pack Go
Once I realized that how my body looked didn’t bring me anymore happiness, health, or peace, I stopped striving for it. I lessened my workouts (bye bye cardio) and started eating a wider variety of foods, including foods I had deemed as “bad” when I was dieting (hello chocolate covered almonds and English muffins smothered in nut butter.)
My energy is better. My hair is growing back in. I’m no longer “hangry” all the time. I love myself more. I have a healthier relationship with food. I enjoy my workouts. I have more fun with my family and friends. I got my menstrual cycle back!
I also know that I am infinitely healthier, despite the fact that random people don’t comment on my abs or ask me for my fitness routine.
If you want ripped abs, I’m not saying don’t go for it. But I want you to know that having a 6-pack abs or ripped abs isn’t going to make you any happier, any healthier, any stronger, or any better as a person. This is why I had to unfollow a ton of fitness social media accounts. The message that a ripped body and ripped abs will bring you happiness is a LIE!
In most cases, those photos you see in the media are the result of overtraining and undereating for months. Those models probably missed social events, friendships, and relationships to pursue their aesthetic goals. They are also spray-tanned, flexed, and Photoshopped to perfection. They are not real life.
Behind every pair of six-pack abs may be an ugly, unglamorous truth about what happens when the pursuit of “health” is taken too far. I know this because I’ve been there.
I get it! As women, we want to look and feel strong, and there is nothing wrong with that. But let’s not forget about real life; our health, our happiness, our body image, and our relationship with food and others.
I don’t know about you, but a healthy relationship with myself and those I love is much more important than ripped abs.