Oh, 6 pack abs…the desire of every man and woman in the fitness world. All you have to do is scroll through Instagram fitness accounts to see that it is inundated with ab selfies. And usually, the better abs, the more followers, and the more people who idolize and worship you.
But are 6 pack abs really all they’re cracked up to be? I think not.
There was a time when all I wanted was to get 6 packs abs, but when I realized the cost…for me, it just wasn’t worth it. For myself and most(not all) women, having visible abs requires an unhealthy and unsustainable body fat percentage. Yes, they look cool and are the result of extreme dedication and hard work, but as someone who has been leaner with more visible abs, I can say that for me, they are overrated.
1. They have nothing to do with health.
Having 6 pack abs can actually be detrimental to your health. Being at an extremely low body fat percentage for an extended amount of time can have many damaging side effects, such as hormonal imbalances, low energy levels, loss of menstruation, osteoperosis, low libido, and heart problems. Making healthy food choices is one thing, but damaging your health in the quest for 6 pack abs is a whole different thing.
2. They have nothing to do with strength.
6 pack abs are purely for show. Yes, a strong core is important for lifting, but visible abs do NOT mean you are strong. Fueling your body with more food and having a little more body fat is much more conducive to being strong than having shredded abs. And being strong is awesome.
3. They can lead to disordered eating and body image issues.
To be lean enough to have 6 pack abs, you have to be extremely meticulous about your eating, which can often lead to disordered eating or actual full blown eating disorders. It all starts when you begin to fear and restrict certain foods. Then you start to constantly stress about your meals and what you “can” or “can’t” eat. Your life basically begins to revolve around your meals and workouts. It can also really mess with your mind when it comes to body image. No matter how lean you get, it’s never enough. You’ll begin critique your body in the mirror and be disgusted by any ounce of fat or “flaws” that you see on your body. And once you’ve gotten lean enough to see your abs, it can be really hard to give them up, even when you know you need to for health reasons. Gaining body fat after being that lean can be a very hard thing mentally.
4. They limit your ability to gain muscle and strength.
Trying to always be at a very low body fat with visible abs will make it hard to gain muscle and get stronger. To be strong, you need to fuel your body with lots of food, and to build muscle, your body needs more calories than it burns.The opposite is true when trying to lose fat or maintain visible abs-you need to consume less calories than you burn, which makes it very hard to build muscle and increase strength.
5. They don’t allow you to live the fullest, healthiest life.
Being extremely lean often requires very strict dieting. In order to adhere to your diet, you may begin to have anxiety about going to social events. You will have to pack all your pre-prepared and portioned out meals in tupperware containers and haul a food scale around with you everywhere you go. I’ve heard of people eating cold fish or chicken out of baggies(gag me), or just avoiding social situations entirely…all for the sake of being super lean. To me, that’s no way to live life. To me, that is not living life to the fullest. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to eat and be healthy, but living a healthy lifestyle is supposed to ENHANCE your life. When it’s taken to the extreme, I believe that it detracts from your quality of life.
Now, I know all of these are not true for everyone, but for me, and for countless others, they are. If you have 6 pack abs, and you’re happy and healthy, then that is awesome. We all have different genetics, we all hold fat in different places, and we all have different metabolisms. Some people will be able to maintain visible abs in a healthy, balanced way, while others simply can’t. And that’s okay! There should be no judging anyone based on how lean or not lean they are.
But to those of you who don’t have visible abs, just know that you’re not missing out on anything. And you know what? Your abs will always be there, if you so choose to reveal them at some point. But to me, there are so many other things to think about and pursue in life than 6 pack abs.