Six packs are not worth the trouble
If you work as a fitness model or sell supplements on Instagram, disregard. Those shredded abs are going to come in handy. And for some people, a six pack may just be like a project or hobby; the love of trying to perfect their body like a sculpture. For others, simply the byproduct of a genuine love of fitness or good genetics.
But for everyone else, which is the vast majority of the population, the pursuit of rippled six or even eight pack abs has nothing to do with health and can be a damaging and illogical goal.
You have to weigh benefits and consequences. The gap between having a healthy body fat percentage and where you'll need to be to have that magazine look is probably much bigger than you realize- the gap can only be filled with major lifestyle changes that may not be worth it!
The gap between health and being shredded
There is no universal "healthy" number for body fat, but for most men, up to 20% can be considered normal. 15% would probably represent where most would consider themselves to be looking healthy or reasonably fit, and would be fine by any doctor's standards. For the famous "six pack", most men would need to get to around 10%.
The gap between 10 and 15 percent doesn't sound like much, but for myself and most others, it's a canyon.
Getting your body fat down can be like climbing Everest, as you get closer to the top, the gains come at a bigger and bigger cost. That five percent difference is likely going to mean foregoing almost every food you enjoy and having the tiger by the tail in terms of maintenance; any significant time away from training and you'll lose it.
It could mean a lot of missed dinners with friends, problems being able to enjoy food with a partner, missed obligations because of gym time and a constant pressure to maintain the precious six pack that's become part of your identity.
You can achieve a flat stomach without such dramatic sacrifices, but it would be a very slow process that almost happens naturally after years of gentle pressure on caloric intake and activity levels.
I am not trying to discourage people from setting ambitious goals, I am simply suggesting you might be happier and potentially even healthier running at around 15%, give or take, and being able to enjoy eating without so much pressure.
You could be an absolute fitness beast at 15%. Having to reduce further than that is the realm of athletes, competitive bodybuilders, etc. You're not a welterweight boxer, so don't sweat it.
If it's not for health, what is it for?
A couple small little rolls on your stomach that you can only see you slouch is a bargain price to pay for relative dietary freedom. Health and fitness have become almost religious these days, robbing people of enjoying the fruits of their athletic labors. What's the point of all this running around if we can't have a piece of pie?
If you start to develop some more positive associations between fitness and the foods you love, you'll likely work out more and more. I don't know if this is true when the reward for your hard work is avocado toast and skipping out on birthday dinners, all for ripped abs that are covered up for 95% of your life.
I never worried about a six pack, always just had fun with food and eventually came to love working out so much, I ended up with a flat stomach anyways. Sometimes it's best to just let these things happen or not on their own schedule.
Like everything in life, we have to weigh benefits and consequences. Just keep in mind that the difference between a six pack and a four pack has nothing to do with health- it's almost always about our ego.
P.S. Have you ever tried avocado toast? I did once, and it sucked.
Feel great again with Cooper Health Coaching!
Cooper Health Coaching is a personal training and health coaching service located in Vancouver, B.C. providing in-person and online coaching for clients locally and across North America. Founder Geoff Cooper is certified as both a Health Coach and Personal Trainer through the American Council on Exercise (ACE).