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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YMWONG22 10/31/2019
Great. Report
GABY1948 9/12/2019
Great Report
DRAGONFLY631 3/31/2019
Thanks Report
TERRIC853 2/10/2019
Thanks for the great, thought-provoking article. It's sometimes hard to remember that we all don't have to look like the models we see in magazines and on TV. Report
Great blog, Coach! Thanks! Report
Oh so true. Great blog. Thanks coach Nicole. I needed to read and re-read this! Report
Thanks for sharing! Report
genetics will play a part apparently Report
Overweight people who exercise regularly are healthier than thin and “normal” weight people who don’t exercise.

I keep telling people this. What happened to common sense. Did it just jump out the window and fell to it's grave? C'mon people. Let's be healthy and fit but not crazy. Thanks for the article! Report
You look great to me, Coach Nicole and I have a feeling you'll still be looking great when you are a silver citizen. Report
Thank you for this blog. I never would have thought you did not have a six pack but frankly you have a nice fit body. I appreciate your candor and it already makes me feel better about my own body issues. I do want to lose weight but more importantly I want to be healthier. I will never be a size 2 and I will never grace the magazine covers and I am okay with that. But I will grace the cover of my own life book. I love your videos and appreciate your help throughout this journey. Report
Thank you!!! What a great blog post!!! Report
I love this Nichole! How terrific you were willing to share this personal info with us. I agree with everything you have to say. I have a degree in Exercise Science and even I can get caught up in the hype, the desire to "wish I looked like that fitness model". So hearing what you said reminded me that not every fitness expert looks like that and "we" average, regular fitness fanatics don't need to either! Thanks so much for the reminder! It sure made me feel better today. :-) Report
I give you a standing ovation for this blog post. It's nice to hear that I don't have to have 'ripped' count-them-while-I-stand abs. Most people are shocked when I tell them I have never wanted six pack, rock hard abs. I just wanted flat, soft abs. I didn't want to look like I was just chiselled by some sculptor to represent some perfect Greek or Roman god. I just wanted my stomach to be flat. That's it. Just flat and soft.

I used to swim 5 days a week while I was younger, I did ab work and I could see the slight definition even beneath the fat. I was a child and didn't get that I needed cardio to burn it off, but as the years past and health issues ensued I just stopped everything all together. Now, I'm focusing on being as healthy as I can be, thanks to the awesome little boy God has given me, and reaching my heaviest weight yet.

And on this journey it's GREAT to know that 'perfection' isn't on the cover of some magazine.

Thank you. Report
Hear! Hear! I loved this blog.

I was once a very miserable size 4, starving myself & still hating how I looked.

I am a much happier size 8/6. I like ice cream once in awhile, too & have some kind of 'treat' every day.
I know I'm strong, & I like how I look. Report
Dear Coach Nicole, I always enjoy your blogs. You are one of the few voices of reason is this crazy fitness, exercise-crazed, body-image obsessed world. We should strive to be as healthy as possible and love our bodies the way they are. Report
Thanks for your wisdom. Great article and it helps shed the light on alot of things. Not having a six pack doesn't necessary someone is unhealthy. Report
I definately don't have a six pack, but I'm happy yo report that I don't have a keg either! Report
I would just be happy to flatten my "baby pouch"!!!! No 6-pack for me...I don't like beer! lol Report
this is my favorite article!! Very common sense approach - and I like the fact that BALANCE in life has a value as much as 6 pack abs... Report
Nicole thanks for this article! I really liked the things you said! Report
Terrific Article !! Report
"I don’t have a six pack. I don’t have anywhere near a perfect body."

You may not be perfection, but you are beautiful. I never thought that a six pack would mean that I met perfection. I've seen unhealthy people sporting six packs and great builds - none of them were close to perfection. You are fit and healthy, which means you have so much to be thankful for. Report
Thank you so much! This is exactly what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it. I've been struggling so hard to reach my ideal of 'perfection' and have lost touch with the main reason why I started becoming active- to be healthier. Report
You're my new hero. I'm not interested in 6 packs . You sound like a "normal" healthy person with a life other than just obsessing about your body. Thank you. My 120lb 5'6" daughter can pinch an inch. I don't think that is a good gauge of health or fitness. I'm looking to be more healthy and more comfortable with my body not on the cover of a fitness magazine. Report
I've read this before and thought, "Good for you, but personally I want to see my abs!"

Lately, though, I've been feeling down because my soon-to-be-maintenance body isn't what I'd expected. Now it's comforting to know I'm not alone, and that even fit people have rolls of fat. I've started obsessing over the calorie burn and calorie intake. I definitely need to step back.

I WILL have a toned body, but I don't need a photo-shopped, professionally photographed, plastered in make-up, perfectly smooth, very tight, body builder, fitness model body. I'll just have my own healthy, toned body. Report
we'll all been a bit brainwashed by the images of "perfection" we see in magazines, billboards and TV/movies.

We all know what we see when we look in the mirror, and we all need to ease up on ourselves.

That why we were so happy when Glamor magazine published a picture of a model with her belly roll showing - she was us, but she was in a magazine
Imagine my disappointment when I discovered 'six-pack abs' did not mean they CAME from a six pack. It sounded so much better than 'beer belly'.

Hey, if you can't laugh at yourself, someone may do it for you! Report
great blog. Report
Nicole, thanks once again for an EXCELLENT article that really puts self-esteem and fitness into a reality. You've got an amazing way of putting into words just what my mind is thinking this time around. I once was anorexic and epliptic at the same time trying to find some form of control in my young life. I survived that and was determined to find a better way to live and accept myself for being ME. Mentally I have been there for years, its just taking me longer to get my fitness level to where it needs to be and be healthy. I no longer want to be "skinny" or "model thin". Instead I want to be fit and healthy for my body, not someone else's body. I am getting there and not only am starting to see results but feel it emotionally and mentally- Thanks. Report
Oh, the 6-pack abs. I'll never have them. It's just not in my genetics. My body likes to put weight in the stomach. First to pile on, last to leave is the tummy fat. I'd have to be anorexic again to have a prayer of seeing a 6-pack, and that won't happen ever!

And I don't care. I'm a normal, healthy person. I don't care if I don't look like a fitness model, I just want to be healthy. Report
Thank you for helping "real" women feel good about their bodies! Report
I am slightly overweight-I know that, but I have alwas maintained that I am much fitter and healthier than someone of a normal weight who doesn't exercise. My core strength is pretty good from 2 karate sessions a week and my cardio fitness is getting there with 4 running sessions a week. Who says you need the perfect body to be fit and healthy-I am sure there is a 6pack buried somewhere and maybe one day it will reveal itself, but I don't mind if it doesn't. Report
Thank you for your article :-)
I know I am not happy with my belly and should be doing more exercises but most times when i look at my belly I am reminded I gave birth to 5 beautiful children..

Glenda Report
As I tell my wife and friends, "I have a 8 pack, I just opt to keep it well insulated." Report
I don't think I'd want a six-pack. I'm a woman and proud of it and I want to look feminine. I had a bellydance dvd of Kathy Smith and she has a very hard, muscled body. She may have felt sensuous bellydancing but I didn't think she look sensuous. Bellydancers are supposed to have a belly.

Not anything against her. She's done a lot for women who want to get fit. But I've observed that most of the female fitness gurus have very healthy looking bodies but not particulary feminine ones. That isn't to say that I think she or they look masculine. Just very very fit. Report
It must be my age or the fact that I was never "fat" until I was way pass 30, but these kind of articles and the picture of "perfect" is so distorted to me. I know that getting the kind of body that some of ya-all are talking about is extremely low in body fat composition. And I never want to go there. I don't think that is "Perfect" or even attractive! Ladies should have curves. We need that extra layer of fat mostly when we are in our child baring years. I find myself wanting to say over and over "really, get a clue". Report
Thank you, we need to keep on eye in our health and not looks that will come with time. Report
Thank you so much for writing this! Report
I just graduated from a small college and in my junior year we got a new assistant recreation/athletic director. She wanted to offer more fitness classes and decided to train student instructors. I was her first student instructor and I was amazed she asked me if I was interested. I always thought fitness instructors had to look perfectly toned and in shape. While I was very self-conscious I accepted the position and taught a muscle-flex class for a year and a half. I loved every moment of it but I did stress that people would think it was weird to have an instructor on the upper end of a normal bmi and definitely far from having a six-pack. But the director thought I was in shape enough to teach so I did. Some of the students who took my class said it was actually nicer to have someone who looked "normal" because it was less intiminating. It took me awhile to realize that being in shape didn't mean I had to look like a body builder. I was healthy and was a good fitness instructor (I was sad when I graduated and had to give up teaching classes). Report
This article actually makes me feel a lot better about myself and my body image. I've been trying hard (though not obsessively hard as I would have to) to try to reduce the amount of fat around my stomach and thighs to have excellent and noticeable tone. I'm smaller than I have ever been in my life and feel much more fit. The health and feeling fit should be what I focus on, not the whittling away every inch of fat on my body. It's hard for me sometimes to see models and fitness models and not think to myself that I should be like that. I know deep inside that it will never happen, cause I'm not willing to give myself that strict of a diet and workout. I don't know. I do feel a bit better about my overall appearance though now. Report
The women in my family gain weight in their abs first, plus I have PCOS, and that is normally something that goes along with it. I am always told that I have a very "lean" body and asked if I was a dancer. Having lean legs and arms, isnt enough for me. I have always wanted six-pack abs. I realized recently that I do not want to work for them I would rather enjoy life,food,and my child instead of leaving her while I run on the treadmill. I dont have a completly flat stomach. When I sit down there is a roll, and I have love handles, but at a size 2, I dont worry about it. I love and embrace my small stretch marks, bc they are for my daughter, and if I get flat abs, great....its something Ill work towards, but 6packs, well..........they're over-rated! Report
As long as I can dance and do capoeira I could care less about how my stomach looks although it would be nice to be able to wear super fitting clothes without having to check the mirror twice. Report
I am working towards a flat abdomen, but WILL keep working til I see some definition of the abs. I am hoping the uneven love handles go away too! I am only a month into taking classes, and a day of weights. I will get there. Report
Here's the way I see it. Yes, having large amounts of excess fat is unhealthy for so many reasons. However, I would rather you have the excess fat and exercise than have the excess fat and not exercise. Also, being thin can be very deceptive. Being thin does not constitute being healthy. I've tested the body fat of a lady with a "normal" BMI and her body fat was in the "Very High" range for her age. Not healthy at all. I've also tested the body fat of a lady whose BMI would be considered in the "high" range and her body fat was actually at the lower end of the "normal" range. What is healthier? The first or second? The second for sure. Report
I don't completely agree. A fat person will most of the time be less healthy than a thinner person because fat by itself is a risk factor for a multitude of conditions - from heart decease to diabetes to osteoporosis. Even if a fat person is able to do a lot of exercise, it does not mean being healthy. And I don't think eating ice cream whenever you like is a good idea either. Report
Thank you SO much for this perspective! I have lost 20lb actually in the last 6 mo, and am at the point I want to lose 5 more, because I will "see those ABS"...I am sure of it. But, I am now 5'7" and you said, do I want to be that obsessive about exercise and diet enough that it overtakes my life...because that is what I feel will have to happen. I enjoy working out because it makes me feel strong, accomplished, and healthy...and if I still have some Mommy Belly hanging on be it. Report
Holding trainers that look NORMAL to a higher standard of THIN, just because they are trainers is like insisting that every English Literature teacher had to have written a book before they could teach the subject.

We need to all get a better idea of what NORMAL is, and Coach Nicole looks pretty normal to me...and jolly good too! Report
OK so I weigh 264 lbs at 5'7" I am 52.

BUT, I work in an office with a skinny 21 yr old and a slim 30 yr old. So Recently, we were talking about getting fit and I challenged them to some simple squats, stretches and toe touches....well at the end of 20 mins, they were begging for mercy!

Now I am sure that all the work I did having 3 mammoth children had something to do with this- motherhood brings endurance...but NO WAY am I going to pretend I am a weakling, and dying just because the magazines say so...I am way fitter than the average office worker- no matter what they look like.....and Spark People is helping me lose the weight.

Frankly, I only want to lose the weight to fit NICELY into clothes- not too worried about the rest of the stuff- no diabetes, no hypertension, no heart disease....just too much fat.. BUT FIT! Report
"Well, I suppose a "6-pack" would be a prestigious thing to have, however to have a FLAT abdomen is my goal. "

SunnyArizona, I agree. A six pack would be "great success" but a flat abdomen is AWESOME and that's what I am going for. If I can manage to hit up a six pack for the first time in my life, yay, but I won't die if I don't get it. The pressure to keep those abs would be great. I mean once you have them, can you ever really let them go? It's a pandora's box.