Abs, or the lack of them, is one of the most common body dissatisfactions for women. How many times have you looked at your stomach in the mirror with frustration this week? How many articles have you clicked on because they offered a solution to bloating or promised 30 days to flat abs?
While I believe that everyone should seek to be a better version of themselves – this obsession with getting abs is out of control. Here’s the problem:
- Abs are everywhere on social media.
- Most of what you see on social media isn’t reality.
- You feel unsatisfied with your own body because you compare yourself to what you see on social media and set unrealistic standards for yourself.
- You don’t understand what it takes to get abs (and if you did you’d probably decide it wasn’t worth it).
In this article I’m going to tell you more about how these women get abs. Not to help you get your own six pack but in the hopes that you’ll ease up on yourself.
If I could paint a magic brush, I’d get you to stop looking at those photos on social media completely. But since I know that’s not going to happen, I’m going to help you understand how those photos and those so-called fitness experts are fooling you and making you feel unhappy with your body.
How You’re Being Fooled
1. They don’t look like that all the time.
Most women don’t look like that year round. Actually, they don’t even look like that all day. Most of the ab photos are taken around big events like photoshoots and fitness competitions, and I’d bet most of them are taken in the morning or before consuming any food or liquid.
Ever noticed that your stomach looks lean first thing in the morning and then as soon as you eat or drink something you lose that flatness? It’s a perfectly normal part of being human so there’s no point in feeling frustrated about it or trying to find some magic solution.
Sure, some women with naturally lean and long torsos are able to keep a reasonably flat stomach year round (and post-baby). But, for most of us, to have a perfectly flat stomach and visual abs, we need to achieve a very low body fat. That’s why most women, even the ones putting photos of their abs on Instagram, don’t look like that all the time.
If you are thinking – well how are they able to put out photos of themselves with abs all year round? It’s called “batching”. Just like you make a batch of cookies, these women batch their photo taking around the time of year they are lean. Then they release them throughout the year.
Remember, you don’t see what these women go through to get abs. The restrictive diets, the hunger, the endless cardio, the fat burners and even sometimes drugs.
For many women, being lean enough to see a six pack has detrimental effects on hormone balance, thyroid hormones, metabolism, mood, energy and sleep. Not to mention that being that low in body fat doesn’t look that great in other areas. If you’ve ever been that lean you’d know that your breasts shrink to almost nothing (that’s why so many of these women have implants) and your face often looks gaunt and sickly (although you won’t see this in photos thanks to makeup). Talk to anyone who has done a natural fitness competition and they’ll confirm this for you.
It’s not possible to maintain the rigourous dieting and exercise regime to stay lean enough to see your abs all the time.
If you want abs, it’s going to take commitment and sacrifice. You definitely aren’t going to be drinking wine and relaxing with friends on the weekends. Instead, you’ll be dragging your tired body in for another workout and eating mostly chicken breast and vegetables. When I explain to my clients the changes they would need to make to get abs, they usually realize that it isn’t worth it.
2. They know how to take the perfect photo.
There are a lot of tricks to taking the perfect fitness selfie. Here are just some of the things that can be manipulated for great photos:
- Time of day
- Food, liquid and sodium intake
- Skin colour (tanned skin looks way more defined and muscular!)
These things make a huge difference to how abs look in a photo. Remember, you don’t see all the photos that get discarded in the attempt to take the perfect ab shot.
Then there’s the editing. Most people are surprised to learn that common photo editing apps have a “slimming” feature that makes your waist (or any area) look smaller with just one click. Even just playing with the contrast can change how muscles appear in a photo. If most people edit before putting photos on social media, then what you are seeing isn’t reality!
3. They call themselves fitness experts.
Having shredded abs is not a qualification to teach others about health and fitness.
Just because someone has ab photos doesn’t mean they know how to be a coach. Similarly, being a fitness model or competitor doesn’t qualify someone to teach others to healthily lose weight. Many women drive their bodies into the ground doing competitions and end up with really screwed up metabolisms. Think about whether you want this type of person as a coach.
Before you decide to jump on board to someone’s coaching program just because they have great bikini shots, stop and investigate that person’s qualifications. It’s easy to get sucked in by an exciting website but does this person’s philosophy and approach align with what you know to be true about yourself and how you want to undertake a personal transformation?
4. They make time-specific promises that you too can have abs.
Okay. First of all, no one knows how long it’s going to take you to lose weight and get lean enough to have abs. If someone is selling a “30 Day Flat Belly Program”, be very, very skeptical.
Second, abs don’t come easily for many women. Your genetics, body shape, age, stress levels, digestive health and, of course, having babies is going to impact stomach flatness. Earlier in this article I mentioned that some women are naturally leaner and can maintain a flat tummy year round. A naturally lean lady needs a different strategy than someone who is thicker and who tends to hold fat on her stomach.
If you are one of these “thicker” ladies you may have a shorter torso, a bigger rib cage and/or big muscle bellies. Muscle bellies impact how your abs look because they influence how much your muscle “pops” out or how thick you look (check out my ab photo below to see what I mean). I have big muscle bellies which means my waist appears bigger than someone with flat muscle bellies. This means that even if I keep my body fat lower than most women year round, my waist measurement can be a source of frustration. Also, those “30 day ab challenges” could be disastrous for my midsection because I’ll just build more muscle making my waist even bigger!
You can compare my photo to the one below to see the difference between muscle bellies that pop and ones that are flat.
My abs will never look like this, so there’s no point in worrying about things I can’t change. Just because you can’t change one little thing about your physique doesn’t mean there isn’t a whole lot of other stuff you can focus on. How about having fantastic looking arms and/or legs? More people see your limbs than your abs on a daily basis anyway.
Learn more about ab training here: 3 Ab Training Mistakes That Are Destroying Your Curves
It’s Ok If You Can’t Get Abs
You may never have the abs you see on social media or as promised in all these programs – but that’s ok!
Unless you are genetically gifted with a long, lean torso or want to go through extreme measures to get that perfectly flat stomach, stop focusing on small imperfections and making your happiness dependent on unrealistic goals. Remember, those “fitness experts” don’t look like that year round and they know how to create the perfect photo.
A few years ago I unfollowed every fitness person on social media who put out ab photos because I realized that they were making me feel frustrated about my own body.
You might think these people are inspiring but pause for a moment and think about how you really feel. Quite likely those photos make you feel frustrated about your own body – and that’s not motivating at all.
Now…is there someone you need to unfollow?