SparkPeople Blogs  •  fitness  •  abs

Confession: I Don't Have a Six Pack

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Last week, I was leading a group of my SparkPeople co-workers through a 10-minute core workout. Since I teach fitness classes (including Pilates) regularly, most of the exercises we do as a group are pretty easy for me since I’m used to doing them (and usually for much longer than 10 minutes).

The next day my co-worker Rachel, after telling me how she was sore from some of the moves, said, “Your core is so strong! I can’t believe you don’t have a 6 pack!”
Want to hear my reply?

I immediately responded, “Who says I don’t?!”

“You’ve told me before that you don’t.”

“Oh…You’re right. I don’t.” (haha)

Anyway, it got the pair of us talking and it kept me thinking. I explained how, having strong abs doesn’t mean you’ll have defined abs. After all, it’s the layer of fat on top of the abs that determines how much of them that you’ll see. The more I thought about her comment over the next few days, the more I decided I should share it.

I don’t have a six pack. I don’t have anywhere near a perfect body. I have stretch marks on my hips (that I’ve had since I was a teenager, even though I was a fit and healthy athlete). I have the all-too-common cellulite on the back of my thighs (show me a woman that doesn’t!). My butt sticks out way further than I think it should. And my belly, while mostly flat and definitely strong, does have a pinchable inch or so that turns into a belly roll when I sit down. I’m not ashamed to admit it!

I told Rachel that I could have a 6 pack if I wanted. Heck, I think almost anyone could. But what it takes to get to that point is serious, almost obsessive exercise and calorie counting for most people. I’ve been there before, but what it took to get there (and stay there!) was mentally and physically exhausting. I’d rather be “okay” with how I look and have a normal life where I can eat ice cream when I want to and exercise moderately…not obsessively.

I think that most people would expect that fitness instructors, trainers, and experts who seem to know it all about working out and eating right would have perfectly toned bodies. And you’re not wrong to think that’s the case. After all, gracing the cover of every fitness video and magazine are the bodies of super toned fitness models and trainers. They’re not shy about showing off their ripped abs and muscular legs in their skimpy workout clothes either. Is that the true picture of fitness? No wonder we all think we need to change our bodies.

I think these people are the exception to the rule. And not only that, but they make all of us regular people think that being fit and healthy means looking like a model on a fitness magazine cover. That couldn’t be further from the truth. More and more research is showing that fitness and fatness don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Overweight people who exercise regularly are healthier than thin and “normal” weight people who don’t exercise.

By eating right most of the time and exercising to focus on your health and fitness level (and not for the sole purpose of looking perfect, losing weight or burning calories), I think you’re more likely to reach the point where you like the way your body looks and feels just enough...or maybe more. And no matter what it looks like at that point, you’ll be healthier as a result. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

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Love it. Thanks so much for helping to keep my body images in perspective. It's SO hard to get sidetracked by all of the airbrushed bronzed bodies on my favorite magazines--despite their good intentions! Report
Thank you for your honesty. I am 5'4", have a large bone structure, and an hourglass figure. I have never looked supermodel thin even when I was 18 years old and 135lbs. I have 3 children ages 4,5, and 7. I had them when I was 28.5, 30, and 31. I had a very unsupportive spouse and I gained a significant amount of weight with each subsequent birth. I am now exercising everyday and lifting weights every second day. I still am considered overweight, but I am feeling healtheir and enjoying it. I have never had a six-pack and never expect to have one. I just want to look in the mirror and like what I see on the outside, knowing that I am even healthier on the inside. Report
"Overweight people who exercise regularly are healthier than thin and “normal” weight people who don’t exercise. "

Thank you! I've been telling people that for decades! Along with telling them that even though almost everyone in my family is "morbidly obese" the only ones who had any heart troubles were the ones that were half-sisters to my parents or who were in the family by marriage. They were also the ones who had diabetes, hypertension, etc.

We are naturally gifted with huge, strong bones, and good muscle mass. Yes, it gets better if we exercise, but, even if we do not, we are strong people and that's all there is to that. I have Fibromyalgia related to severe stress, and injuries to the abdomen, and such as that. So, my immune system is weak, I get where I can barely move, my tendons flare up, etc. None of that is related to the fat on my butt - it is mostly related to the butt that I married!

But, aside from having fairly decent, if prone to being fat, sort of genetics, I grew up hauling in wood and water, going on walks for entertainment.

I had a boyfriend who kept telling me that overweight people caused most of the medical debts in America; most of the higher insurance rates, too. He would go into bouts of telling me how much more fit his mother was than my parents, because my parents are roly-poly people. His mother died of ill health, she was thin and feeble with it. That was about 6 years ago and my overweight, at risk for everything, parents, who were older than her too - are still going strong. My dad is in his 70's and still lifting weights!

I'll share what a friend of mine said when someone asked her did she have a six pack? She said yeah, but someone opened all the cans. I don't think she knows how much I think, embrace and appreciate that comment. I thought it was hilarious Report
Thank you for this blog! I love your attitude! I have struggled my entire life with my body concept, always thinking (even when I was "normal" for my height & frame) that I was big & needed to be skinnier.

I am trying to develop your attitude - that good enough is okay! I don't have to be perfect, just healthy! And I certainly am not motivated enough to commit the amount of time & energy that it would require for me to have 6-pack abs! So I will learn to be happy with good enough! There are so many more important causes for me to devote myself to other than having a picture-perfect body! Report
I don't have a six pack either, even when I was able to exercise each day. But it is toned and flat. That is what I want these days toned all over, saggy butt go away!, and fit. Report
We all have abdonimal muscle so we all have a "6 pack" some just have less fat hiding them and more definition !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Report
Thank You for writing this blog for everyone to read. I always ,and still did,until I read this, that those people on the fitness magazines,commercials was the way you should look if you worked out. I finally realize, that I will never have a flat stomach. I never did have one, so it's no wonder that I won't. I, too, don't want to starve to lose weight. I want to be able to have a favorite food, like ice cream sometimes,too. Since starting Spark, I do feel better, because I exercise now. I'm also trying to eat healthier. I was so glad to read that by doing these things, and focusing on them, instead of losing weight, you are more apt to reach your goals. Report
This is a wonderful article ! I think too much emphasis is placed on a person's "looks" instead of a person's accomplishments.

Today, I'm focusing more on what my body can do instead of how it looks. I mean, I see plenty of size 2-4 young women who look great in clothes, but couldn't do a push up if their life depended on it.

I think society has placed too much value on looks and as a result our self esteem has taken a beating.

That's why this article is great. It has us focus on our accomplishments rather than our looks.

As they say,"never judge a book by its cover"

Finally, someone that things smart. I agree it isn't the six pack that makes you its how you feel about yourself. If you are happy then that is all that matters. Thanks for the wonderful blog!!! Report
Thank you I needed this article!!!! Report
I use to work out at the YMCA all the time and my body was rock hard but I never had a six-pack in my life. There was a physiology poster on the wall about the ab muscles that explained that belly fat is not the same as the fat in the rest of your body and only one out of nine people are even genetically capable of obtaining a ripped six-six pack through diet and excercise. Report
Id like to see thoser fitness models get pregnant, I mean theres no way you can have all that time to work out and actually care about what you eat when your trying to take care of a baby, and they;ll have stretch marks too lol :).

I have stretch marks on my sides and stomache too, I dont really like it only because they are really bad and its because of my weight gain and all that, I hate it how it looks but Im still pretty comfortable in a bikini and its only because i know some one has it worse then me. I dont mind the 6-pak abs, but at the same time Id rather have a trainer that knows what he/shes doing but have to work with it too just like me, it'll be like a growing experiance for both trainer and trainee. I mean, besides the muscles looks better on the men anyways lol. Report
Here Here! Big Thumbs Up! Report
It's great to hear that there are fitness instructors that aren't "perfect". I have been doing exercise and strength training as well as pilates for some time. I am at my goal weight but certainly don't have a "six-pack" either. But, my clothes fit and because of the strenght I have in my core muscles, I don't have the back pain that I used to get after working. Report
I love my body! The stretch marks from carrying some healthy kids thru 9 months of pregnancy; a small pot-belly from the c-sections that won't go away; the gray hair from teaching them to drive the family car; the laugh lines on my face from all the joys in my life...yep they're all still there. But I've also got: the strength to someday carry a grandchild around; the energy to play games or enjoy a long walk with friends; the great heart health that comes from great nutrition; and the freedom of not obsessing about the perfect body! Report
Even when I was younger, thinner, and healthier, I didn't have the model body that others felt was perfect. For the most part, I was okay with how I looked and definitely with how I felt. So, now, I want to lose weight so I can be healthier. I want my body to be healthy, not a definition of what others feel is good. Report
Thank you for your blog and for allowing us to feel a bit more "normal" I was a healthy and fit teen and still got strechmarks and after many years have learned to live with them Report
So true and very well said! As normal humans, we need to seek the attainable with moderation in everything. I would love to get that gorgeous ripped body but I realize the time and effort on "me" would take away from time to other people I live with an know. Report
Sure...I've got a six pack, it's just covered with ice! You should always keep it cold, not? Report
Speaking as a mildly overweight male, I don't have a six pack either. More like a party keg. ;-)

Coach Nicole, you're amazing! Thank you for sharing!! Report
Thank Coach Nicole. It's nice to hear that even the most healthy person that works out all the time can be comfortable with their own flaws. Report
I have always wanted a flatter stomach and there was a time when I wanted to have abs like Demi Moore in GI Jane...reality hit me and I decided there is only one Demi Moore and eh a flat tummy with a little softness is better than rock hard and defined. Besides, my husband like to hold me b/c I'm soft :) Report
lo que a gente no considera es que el ejercicio esta relacionado con la SALUD mas que con la IMAGEN de una persona, me encanta tu blog. Saludos desde Chile Report
To each his own - some want the 6-pack (which I think Jillian Michaels said is really and eight pack) and others want to just be fit and average. That's all fine. It's okay as long as you are happy with the way you look - no need to look like a fitness model. But, I personally would like to go the extra miles to look as great as possible - I want to be above average fitness wise.

I am not expending all this effort to just lose the poundage I gained. I might as well go full out and see how toned, lean and defined I can actually be. It's a goal, a challenge - and an opportunity to control something in my life that nobody else has any say so over. Anything is possible with the right motivation, desire and effort.

Thanks for the article. It is a good message to people who are discouraged by their own progress. Being happy, fit and healthy come first. Once you reach that point -- then you can decide if you want to go the extra mile to see how great you can be.
I hope sexyladyv is not insinuating that Coach Nicole doesn't know her stuff simply because she doesn't have a six pack... Report
Thank you!! We need to have more blogs like this encouraging a reasonable approach to fitness and exercise. For most of us, it is unreasonable to think we will ever look like the models on the front page of the fitness magazines. I think it is much more important to be fit and still maintain a balance in our lives. My motto is "moderation in all things." For me, that ensures that I stay injury-free, I'm not exhausted with training, and best of all, I have fun while trying to improve my fitness. Report
This is a great blog. It's nice to know that even fitness people are okay with how they look, and that being obsessively perfect isn't for everyone. Report
Thanks for sharing. I must admit I do, however, hold fitness trainers and such to a higher standard. I think it's the only logical thing to do. After all, I wouldn't knowingly have a dunce as my law professor or a hair stylist whose own hair isn't well maintained. The same principle applies all across the board. In order to be looked at, respected as and treated like an authority on a subject as a trainer/instructor, etc, some mastery of the subject is required. The aforementioned mastery is displayed by a fitness trainer is the condition of their body. Report
In my opinion, this is loser mentality. Of course, we can't all look ripped and muscular all the time, but there's no pain trying to. I have lost 7 kg in a year and improved my muscles greatly so in another year, after another 4 or 5 kg down, I would most definitely have the ripped look... I'll tell post pics when I do! :)

This article is positive in the fact that an instructor confesses to not being as perfect as people might think, but otherwise it couls be positive only if you have way too much fat (not wieght) to lose and if you are happy to ever have a normal BMI... Report
#91, It doesn't hurt to wish for that 6-pak, but neither does it help, I've been wishing for it for years, and I still don't have it, hard work is the only way, I think we;d all love to be happy with the body we have, and/or have the body we want without obsessing over it, probably half the comments say something along those lines, we should.... or we should not... But can we? There are people apparently, who are born with that perfect metabolism, and perfect genetic makeup to have a perfect body, and maybe no urge for fattening/junk foods, are athlrtic, perfectly healthy, fit, alas, I am not one of them, and chances are if you're here, you're not either.
Barbara Report
I want my body to be smaller. I want to keep my apple butt, However I want to loose the thighsthat shake like chitterlings and my muffin top abdomen. On a lighter note i just think people are ignorant to the fact of what they let come out of their mouth. Keep up the good work with exercise class. Report
Thanks for sharing your article. I struggle with the whole notion of "6 pack" and body shape along with the BMI. You can be fit and have a flat stomach but not a six pack. Thanks for the words of encouragement that it is not necessary. Report
I love this topic! I am obsesively searching for perfection.

Still haven't found it. Report
Well, I suppose a "6-pack" would be a prestigious thing to have, however to have a FLAT abdomen is my goal.

Has anyone noticed the ab definition of the one exercisor in Leslie Sansone's 3 mile Walk Away the Pounds? She is in the back far right. I am constantly looking at her wonderful defined abs!

Guess it CAN be done, but my ultimate goal is to be healthier!!! Report
Amen Sister! Report
Amen! I have almost always been fit, and most of the time fat! The only time I was really out of shape fitness wise was after the birth of my second child. I just let myself go for a couple years. I'm still considered obese based on the height/weight charts but I don't think I really have that much body fat. When I was in college I was helped out a buddy of mine who was doing Body Fat % and BMI comparisions for a class. According to the caliper BMI I was about 32% fat, according to the water immersion method I was around 21%!! Wow .. huge difference! So .. I take the whole BMI thing with a grain of sodium .. it's not completely accurate because it doesn't take into account frame size and muscle mass. Ok .. guess this is a bit of a rant .. just wanted to say that I agree totally with what Jen said .. it's really not about having a six pack .. it's about being in the best shape you can while still having a life! Report
Thanks so much for this, Coach. I sometimes stand in the mirror, pulling the eccess away and dream of a tummy tuck that would pull the flab off th muscle I know is there. But I have my sons and I know I look and feel fairly good for a woman in her mid 40's. I love my treats when I can get them, and even here at SP, the portraits does not share enough of our personal discontent with others when each one of theirs may be worse and in their eyes they see only perfection.

Cee Report
I've often joked that if I were to burn off all the fat I carry around that I'd have a ripped body. I've got an hourglass figure and even when I weighed 125 lbs in my 20's I never had a six-pack - it's just not the way my body is built. I accept that gladly and wish that more people could appreciate their body in whatever state/shape it's in. Report
When I read this, I was thinking about all the thin people I knew who had problems walking up flights of stairs or fainted frequently in hot weather. They are the other side of the spectrum. I don't want to be like them. I want to be able to help someone move all day without getting tired, or walk 100 steps to get to the top of a tower to see the sights, or be able to mountain climb, or snowboard all day long without getting tired. If I look great and I can't do anything, what's the point?

I'd just be the poor girl sitting on the side of the pool suntanning in her bikini because she can't swim without getting worn out. And watching life from the sidelines is no fun if you're fat or skinny! Report
Thanks for reinforcing the fact that we don't have to look like a body builder to be healthy and fit. Trying to attain unrealistic goals only serves to dissapoint. Report
I hold a personal trainer to a higher standard of fitness... absolutely! I would never hire one that believes "fitness and fatness don't have to be mutually exclusive," nor one who considers it "obsessive" to strive for top form. Yes, optimum fitness is hard to achieve. It takes dedication, commitment and discipline and I think those are admirable traits in any endeavor... Report
That was hilarious and I have to admit sounds like me. Good lighting and make-up can make anyone look good. It is your fitness level that is important.... Report
What a wonderful post. Thank you for writing it. You really bring a little normalcy to health/fitness... It seems like people want to be extremists. It is so nice to read your article. Report
Bravo. Personally, I think 6packs on women look rather odd. And, I also agree that everyone's best body is different. I'm short but have a large frame, and about a size 12 is right for me. Yes, I know taller people who are thinner, but being healthy is far more important. Report
Thanks Coach Nicole...this article makes me feel good about myself and what I'm trying to acheive on my weight loss journey. Even when I was thinner, I didn't have a 6-pack but enjoyed the flat tummy. Now, I just want to get to the pinchable inch! Report
Thanks for this. I don't understand the obsession with 6-pack abs. I actually don't think it is a beautiful thing.

For myself: I want to be fit and healthy, so that I am stronger and have better quality of life. I also want to look nice and so I want to have some definition in my body. But not in the extreme. Report
Thanks for the info. Many women compare ourselves to other women and it's a constant batte. Report
In addition to what Nicole said, the pictures on magazine covers don't get there straight from the camera, and the celebrity who posed for the photo did not just get out of bed and decide to pose for a photo. The models have make-up and specific clothes, they are shot from their best angles, and the photos are undoubtedly "photoshopped" to accentuate desirable characteristics before being printed on magazine covers. Report
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