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Are Six-Pack Abs Worth It?

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Greatist Journeys explore amazing stories from extraordinary people. This guest post was written by Joel Runyon, author of Impossible HQ. He recently dropped 34 pounds in 8 weeks and got six-pack abs with Impossible Abs. For more from Joel, follow him on Twitter.

From magazines to movies, great abs are everywhere, and like most other males on the planet I’ve wanted to know exactly how to get a six-pack for as long as I could remember. I had gotten close on previous half-hearted attempts, but never quite there. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought the six-pack was reserved for Olympic athletes, A-list movie stars, and the guys from 300.

So, about a week or two before Greatist's founder Derek embarked on his #absperiment, I began my own impossible abs challenge: “Get six-pack abs and have a photo shoot to celebrate.”

I finally put my money where my mouth is, stopped making excuses, and decided to do it. After a friendly wager with a friend and the guidance of a fitness guru, in eight weeks, I was able to lose 34 pounds, drop down to 5.4 percent body fat, and get a six-pack without stepping foot in a gym.

I had finally done it! But man, was it tough. For a lot of people, the sacrifices simply won’t be worth it. There are two main things you’ll have to master in order to get six-pack abs.

The Diet

Abs are made in the kitchen, and anyone who says differently is lying. Want to change the way you look? Change the way you cook.

Unfortunately, diet is usually also the hardest part. For my regimen, it meant saying no to the following things for eight weeks:

  • Bread, pasta, and grains
  • Alcohol
  • Almost all fruit
  • Dessert, candy, and sugar in almost all forms
  • Milk, cheese, ice cream, and other dairy by-products (including happiness).

That meant my diet was almost entirely made up of meat, vegetables, and eggs with a few almonds here and there. That’s hard enough to do from a discipline perspective, but it’s even tougher from a practical perspective.

This meant planning my meals out in advance so I’d have something ready to eat that wasn’t packaged. It also meant learning to trade out protein bars, fruit, or pretzels for a nice head of broccoli for snacks and bringing along beef jerky and almonds on trips. Yum?

While it was tough, throughout the eight weeks, I started to actually enjoy some of the foods and my taste buds began to change. Foods like dark chocolate (92 percent), which seemed bitter at the start but was downright sweet towards the end. Broccoli, which used to be nothing less than food torture, turned into one of my favorite foods. Avocado and coconut oil became staples in my meals I considered indulgences.

The Friends

Notice I didn’t say "the workouts." With the right diet, you don’t have to kill yourself working out to lose fat. You just have to be consistent. Once you get into a rhythm, workouts are the easy (-ish) part.

It was much more difficult to navigate the social side of things. Explaining a new, restrictive diet to your friends is just as tough, if not tougher, than sticking to the diet in the first place. Conversations end up going like this:

“Want a beer/burger/ice cream?”

“Nah, I can’t — I’m on a fitness regimen.”

“What for?”

“I’m getting a six-pack in 8 weeks.”

“Really, why?”

“I’ve got a photo shoot in 8 weeks.”

“Haha, that’s funny.”

“I’m serious.”

“Oh…”

Those conversations happen daily and it’s hard to turn people down over and over again when they’re just trying to be friendly and welcoming. It can be awkward to explain your diet and goal to colleagues without being that guy and making them feel bad about their own health decisions. This is especially tough at first, but like anything, it gets easier and easier the more you do it.

Which brings us back to the question.

Are Six-Pack Abs Worth It?

Like any goal, the answer will vary broadly depending on your own personal goals and ambitions. So is it worth it? Based on the two big sacrifices I list above, here’s my assessment:

Six-Pack Abs Are NOT Worth It If:

  • You simply don’t want to have to put in the work to get a six-pack. The journey takes a lot of dedication, and if you don’t want to work at it, it definitely won’t be worth it.
  • You’re a performance athlete and have an upcoming performance event. While six-pack abs might make you look good for it, you won’t necessarily perform better because you have them.
  • You could care less about the aesthetic appeal. Six-pack abs are purely a vanity metric, not a measurement of overall health or fitness. In fact, sometimes to get six-pack abs you’re going to have to do some things that are uncomfortable and borderline unhealthy (especially the last few days before the photo shoot). If you could care less about the aesthetic appeal, then getting a six-pack is probably not worth it.
  • The idea of a “six-pack personal challenge” has no appeal to you by itself. Some people like challenges and the idea of one is enough to go and do crazy things. If this isn’t you, then it might not be worth it.

Six-Pack Abs Are DEFINITELY Worth It If:

  • You enjoy the challenge. Six-pack abs are really hard to achieve and unless you’re a genetic freak, it’s a tough challenge, both physically and mentally. It’s a challenge that gives you an excuse to do stuff you’ve never done before. If you’re looking for a tough challenge, getting six-pack abs is a great one.
  • You need a goal to help get you disciplined. There’s nothing like a deadline with a consequence to get your butt in gear and get disciplined. You’ll create a few hyper-disciplined habits throughout the challenge. Once you get there, you can be less restrictive and still maintain your overall fitness level.
  • You want to look really good naked. Six-pack abs are a vanity metric sure, but there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, six-pack abs make for a great photo shoot. But, even after the shoot, you’ll be able to maintain most of your physique by implementing just 80% of what you did throughout your transformation.

So Was It Worth It?

For me, yes. I absolutely love challenges. While it was an incredibly tough experience, it was also worth it.

As Derek mentioned in his summary, the challenge can be lonely and difficult. Friends and family didn’t always understand why I wasn’t drinking, and some were even insulted when I turned down certain foods while going out.

But I stuck with it and started seeing results. As I did, my friends and family went from asking you, “What are you doing?” to “Why are you doing that” to “How did you do that?"

I began to understand that personal fitness isn’t a mystery — it’s a science. My body is a machine that will do whatever I’m willing to train it to do. It was an eye-opening moment when I realized that it was possible, even for a normal person like me, to get six-pack abs. Wow. It’s incredible what you can achieve when you have a goal, a plan, and a reason to stick with it.

Getting a six-pack is as much about achieving the physical goal as it is about the actual challenge of transforming your body, understanding what you’re capable of, and showing yourself that you can do things you never thought possible. It’s definitely hard, but yes, it’s worth it.

Have you ever tried for six-pack abs? Was it worth the time and dedication you put into them? Let us know in the comments below!