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    COACH_NICOLE   72,921
60,000-79,999 SparkPoints

I don't have a 6 pack

Friday, March 21, 2008

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). But they’re new and challenging for the group, who like to complain about their soreness during the workout (and the day afterwards).

Anyway, 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!”

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?

Member Comments About This Blog Post:
SALANDER3 2/22/2012 1:06PM

  Thank you for such an insightful and inspirational blog. One of the reasons I feel motivated to watch and workout to your videos on spark is because you are relatable to me. I can see that your emphasis is to be healthy and be balanced with fitness and eating.

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CURVYCARA 7/31/2008 8:33AM

    Hi Nicole. This is such a good discussion point. A lot of people don't realise that there is a huge difference between looking fit and being fit. Recently a fitness model was saying about how at the time of her peak popularity as a fitness model, when she was seen to be the epitome of fitness and health, she was actually suffering from a host of health complaints, hair falling out, bad skin, no periods etc, from the extreme diet and methods she was using to achieve her physique.

Here's a link on the same subject that I found interesting:

in particular fit/fat and "Why don't you look like a fitness model?"

Comment edited on: 7/31/2008 10:49:50 AM

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MADDY112500 7/30/2008 11:34PM

  Thank you for writing this I am so sick of people asking why I don't have ripped muscles. I run 4 miles 5 a week and do strength traing days a week and I still have the little layer of fat and that awful word CELLULITE. I don't have the time to be that obsessive about it I am healthy and happy.And I love to EAT emoticon

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    That was beautifully said. I copied this entry and pasted it into my journal. Thanks for this

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LORACRM 7/5/2008 7:50PM

  Thank you for a great article. I started doing your Bootcamp videos, and determined to sticking to it. Keep up the great work.

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JSLIFI 7/1/2008 11:11AM

    What a great article thank you. It's so sad that so many women obsess over the unattainable idea of perfection. You are a fabulous role model for all women out there!

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CMGRASKI 6/28/2008 2:14AM

    Sometimes I am reminded of the sterotypical male that some women find attractive, which is the statuesque six-pack having "stud." This is touted, by some of the more tactless folks, as the only attractive state that a male body can assume. Everything else is a sack of fat. I really don't buy this, as if it were the case there would be a lot more single people out there. The thing that bugs me about this stereotype is that it seems to be the only "ideal" image some women seem to have of men. I apologize for the generalization.

My point is that I could easily become obssessed enough with fitness to get there now that I'm done with grad school. Grad school is why I joined this site and have become devoted to improving my fitness level.

However, my goal is to not have my self-esteem and fitness plan sabotaged by irrational and base expectations. My goal is to strengthen my core for climbing and lose my "scholar tummy." After I work-out I feel great. Thank you for this article and your 15-minute ab video.

Also, there's a Penn and Teller: BS episode about being overweight. During the challenge portion of the show all of the overweight people out-performed the "normal" person.

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    I really enjoy your exercise videos, recipes and articles. What I like about you is that you're real, and so is your body: that of a healthy, fit but balanced woman. Not like some of the women on TV exercise ads and programs, with their over-defined and
"perfect" bodies. My husband says that women like that repulse him and women who look strong and healthy but feminine attract.

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CHNSEGUH 6/1/2008 4:34AM

  i totally know what u mean about the need for almost obsessive exercising to acheive and maintain a six pack. its crazy. and stressful sometimes. so i have stopped doing obsessive and accepted the little pooch i have developed. am happier now that i dont have to constantly try to maintain the look. as long as you are healthy and strong. thats what counts!

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MISSTHANG6 5/17/2008 6:29PM

  Thank you so much I watch your videos everyday and there awsom emoticon

Comment edited on: 5/17/2008 6:30:03 PM

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SATINP 5/15/2008 10:38AM

  I think you'd have to lift and dig to find a six pack on me, but knowing my core is strong and that because of my line of work, nursing, I'm either going to have a core or I'm going to hurt my back. When I feel sore, I should be grateful that it's the beginning of abdominal strength and not a back out of wack. It's neat that you can get a group of people together to do anything at work other then eat. Keep up the great work emoticon

Comment edited on: 5/15/2008 10:37:49 AM

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BRISSJN 5/3/2008 4:23PM

  I just started browsing this site, your videos are awesome. I'm 60 years old with lung disease, my aerobic capacity is limited, but your videos are helping me get core strength back, and you make it doable. I've added this to my walking program and can feel the difference. You are so not Jillian and I love it. We all want to be fit.

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SUZGLEADALL 4/30/2008 10:02AM

    Thank you so much for posting this blog!Me and so many other women(and men) out there really needed to hear that.We as humans are very visual and we are constantly being bombarded by images on a daily basis of what we think being "fit" is.When in reality what is portrayed on tv and magazines as being "fit" is really not the norm for most people (including fitness trainers).I really liked you comment about someone who may be over weight but exercises regularly is more healthy than someone who is thin and does not exercise.That is so true...It seems we get so caught up in what we think we should look like, rather than the biggerpicture... that is to be healthier and lead fuller, longer lives as a result.Thanks again! emoticon

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A003BABE 4/30/2008 2:25AM

    This was a great read. Thank you for sharing!

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HOYTKE 4/29/2008 10:04PM

    Wow, this really helped me in not worrying about that type of thing. Thank you so much!!

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LAURA*K 4/29/2008 8:18PM

    This was as great as seeing Valerie Bertanelli on NutriSystem commercials, showing that even celebs can gain weight or be imperfect. I resigned years ago to having that body due to the maintenance it took--obsessive exercise...that's the only way I get to see well defined muscles. Way to go, Nicole!

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LEGGYLADY 4/29/2008 3:08PM

    Thank you for posting this!

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MARCHELLES 4/17/2008 4:20PM

  Here Here. I have an instructor in her 50s that has a six pack and one in her early 30s that does not. Both are strong, fit women that can out crunch me any day of the week. Therefore, I keep going to their classes. If I were able to do this on my own, I still wouldn't have as much fun.
emoticon blog

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LYNZIBROOKE 4/17/2008 12:58PM

    i was wondered why my spinning coach wasn't tight all over. this makes perfect sense and makes me feel better about myself. thanks you

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CHRISSANDRA1 4/16/2008 9:08AM

    thank you so much, you have made me feel so much better

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KNDJP21 4/15/2008 12:38PM


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FITMOMTO4 4/15/2008 9:14AM

    Thank you for this blog. It makes me feel better to know that I do not care about having a 6-pack. I'm not close to being able yet. I see pics of women who have a 6-pack; I think they look great and congradulate them for being able too. But I don't have to be that woman. I want my stomach flat and strong. I figure I'm a work in progress.

Thanks to you my abs are getting stonger. I try to do all your ab videos on here, thanks for pushing me! (I do about all your videos!) Thanks again.

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FITGIRL15 4/12/2008 1:22AM

    This post sums it up perfectly!

I'm a fitness intstructor, and I always have people telling me I'm so strong and fit, but somedays because I don't see it in the mirror, I get discouraged!

I am very healthy, and I know this!!! Thanks for reminding me :)

Comment edited on: 4/12/2008 1:21:35 AM

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4DOLLFACE 4/10/2008 10:17AM

  I also agree with what you said in this blog. However, I would like to add that everyone has abs and if your core is strong they might even be defined but the amount of fat covering them keeps people from seeing the defined abs. Women need the fat on their body's to sustain a normal functioning body, especially for our reproductive system. emoticon Blog

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NEOANGEL 4/10/2008 2:59AM

    Great blog! Thank you :)

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    Thank you!! I needed that this morning.

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LOOKER999 4/7/2008 12:56AM

  Well said! people confuse between fitness and looking fit!, while the latter may serve as inspiration clearly the former should be one's goal.

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SARIESARA 4/5/2008 6:06PM

    You rock!!! Thank you so much for what you said!! Its refreshing!

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HEALTHE_LEN 4/5/2008 3:24PM

    i love what you said here... thank you thank you thank you!!!

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PERSIS 4/4/2008 10:47PM

  I guess I really don't feel ok about my body. Lately, I have really been eager to be able to work out VERY hard, to get much, much stronger. I have worked out some, so that my abs are stronger than I can remember since I gave birth to the first of my 9 children (well, one is adopted). The rectis seems not to be separated anymore. It felt so neat the day I realized that.

I used to be pretty active, but I don't think I have ever been very fit. The best I ever was was when I was about 20 or 21 and I could run 3 miles in less than 27 minutes. I loved the "runner's high" and though I don't think I will run like that again, I'd like to find something I could do to exert myself with on a regular basis.

My daughter will hug me and tell me how trim I am, but I just cannot accept it. I have lost over 100 pounds, and kept most of it off, despite having 2 more children since I first dropped that first 75 pounds in 6 months, simply because I began to eat less food.

I feel like I am rambling, but I agree we don't have to be perfect, but I am not there when it comes to accepting myself as I am.

Thanks, Coach Nicole

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LINDOKAS 4/4/2008 9:27AM

    I love this blog more than life itself! Being healthy and happy doesn't mean looking like a body builder! I love love love your attitude!

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DEANNA_ID 4/3/2008 11:41PM

    This is a very interesting and inspiring blog coming from a person teaching fitness classes. I completely agree with you. I started working out not long ago and I feel much stronger even though I still hear myself huffing and puffing when I do heavy cleaning around the house. This is me at age 22 and I'm only few pounds "heavier" than I should be. My goal is not to do that, not to have six pack or well defined biceps.

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    As I wipe the little tears that sprang forward at the thought of being ok with my body. WOW. I will have to think about this a bit! Heck your right! Thanks for the GREAT words and insight!!!


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OTHERJLO 4/2/2008 2:21PM

  Thanks for adding this blog. I like what you said about being "okay with our bodies". That's one of the goals I'm striving for. I'm just starting out and have a long way to go, but it's nice to hear that I don't have to be perfect to enjoy the body I have (or want). Thank you.

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SP_COACH_DENISE 4/1/2008 10:36PM

    Love this blog entry - very well said! Thanks for sharing on this topic! :)

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K_RENEE 3/29/2008 2:56PM

    I don't think fitness and fatness go hand in hand necessarily. I'm not thin by any stretch of the word, but I am quite fit. I do cardio regularly and just this morning a couple of friends (who are both probably a size 6 or under) were walking up a hill and I was the one NOT huffing and puffing when we reached the top. Also, I know of a professor that teaches at the university I attend and she is a beautifully curvy and full-figured woman who has completed 3 triathlons and a local marathon! When I think about it this way, fitness has much less to do with fatness, and I think that the media and our own insecurities are what's making us think otherwise.

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SAVANNA263 3/29/2008 1:26PM

    Thank you for the article Coach Nicole! It is encouraging to hear that even very fit people such as yourself do not always feel they have "perfect" bodies. I also agree that it is much more beneficial to focus on the positive things you are doing for your health and how much better exercise makes you feel than to focus on your appearance.

I love your videos! The workouts are fun and challenging, and your instructions are super helpful! Thanks so much :)

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EZMOM3 3/29/2008 12:26PM

    This is such a timely blog. I agree that you can be fit and still not look like you have the perfect body. I'm also thrilled to see a celebrity like Queen Latifah talking about getting to "your perfect size" which isn't the same for everyone. It's nice to see the focus on health rather than appearance.

I've been working out faithfully for a year and a half and I still haven't lost more than 10 lbs. Now, I am to the point where I am ready to really focus on the food part of the equation, but even doing that here on Spark, I still see the scale stuck at a number I really hate. However, I have noticed a change in how my clothes fit and I have gone down a pant size.

I'm taking this as a positive and focusing on what was said in the last paragraph of this can be a bigger person who exercises and still be healthier than a thin person who sits on their tush every day!

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BIGMAMA1962 3/28/2008 9:12PM


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THAISBR08 3/28/2008 3:30PM

  This article came in a good time for me! My mind set has been going through some "changes" and one of them is just to be happy with my body and myself. Having healthy eating habits and exercise will lead me to where I enjoy my body and allow me to be myself with all my imperfections, but feeling great about my shape... not that it doesn't look like somebody else's. Thank you for posting this article, it means a lot coming from a professional like you. It took a lot of "pressure" off my shoulders to be perfect!! Thank you so much!!!

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BLOOREGARD 3/28/2008 11:54AM

    Coach Nicole...I don't have a six pack either!!
I truly believe that the media does make us think that we all need to be a certain size. I think the most important part is to be happy with the skin that your in....
Thanks for sharing!!
Bloo :)

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SMLNGS_MY_FVRT 3/28/2008 10:01AM

    This blog was exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you so much for sharing that!!

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LOTUZ123 3/27/2008 10:47PM

  i want 6 pack so bad before. Your article did wake me up.. Now I just exercise on my own pace beside attend yoga & pilates class 4times a week.Pilates really challenge my core strength. On my first pilates class, I observe that my core is very weak. It was 4 months ago. Now my core is not strong yet but it getting better and better. I dont have six packs at all. Instaed i have a 3 layers (when i roll my body). When I stand in front a mirror, I can notice a (light)parallel line. And when i touch my stomach, I can feel it hard (not so soft as before).

P/s : your article inspiring me to continue work towards strong stomach :)

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REA1981 3/27/2008 9:06PM

  Your comments were very inspiring to me. I'm a certified PT - for about a hear now, but not actively practicing. My job is in wellness, but I haven't had the opportunity yet to do personal training. That is going to change soon and I feel a little unsure of myself - for one I'm inexperienced, but I think the main reason is I don't have that 'perfect fitness model' body. I'm at a healthy weight and I exercise regularly - I believe I'm a good role model, but still that lack of confidence comes to play. So your comments just helped me believe in myself a little more.


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ORANGES5 3/27/2008 1:34PM

  I want a 6 pack ab. I want to know that just because I am over 40 it is still possible. I have never had a 6 pack ab but Lord knows I have drank my share of six-packs and that was easy. I personally have to set high standards for myself to be motivated. When my core is strong I feel more in tune and balanced in my body. I gain my weight in my stomach so I am always concerned about not having my gut stick out farther than my butt it you know what I mean. I am not obsessed with getting 6 pack abs. I am not even sure exactly what it takes to get there. No pain no gain.

Comment edited on: 3/27/2008 1:46:09 PM

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JBANERJJEE 3/27/2008 12:18PM

  Thanks Coach..... I want to be happy in my skin and you just certified that I am not alone..........

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FRITHTY 3/27/2008 12:20AM

  Thanks Nicole- - - i have become increasingly obsessed over food and exercise and trying to attain the fitness cover figure - they did it right?! I am not fat - but I think I am when I look and invariably compare myself. Thanks for putting the focus back on health and balance.

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SCHRISTOPHER1 3/26/2008 6:38PM

    Wow ... what a great article. It's so true, you see these women in magazines like Madonna with a totally ripped body and can't help but want the same body. But I'm sure it's taken her years to achieve it and I can't imagine the time and energy to maintain it. I would rather live with my current body than be a slave to a rigid nutrition and exercise program. Thanks for putting things in perspective, Nicole!

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RABIBOO 3/26/2008 4:50PM

  I have believed that from the get go but I still can't seem to get over that my body won't cooperate when all fitness instructors at the gym are buff. Why can't I look like them? Maybe because I am over 40 have 4 kids and can't be bother to count calories every time I want to eat. I am happy most of the time with how I look and that I am healthy enough to workout.

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