This is Week 4 of 6 in Derek Flanzraich’s #absperiment series. Catch up on Week 0 (why he’s doing this to begin with), Week 1 (how it takes a village), Week 2 (how it’s about the little things), and Week 3 (how much traveling sucks for this) or read ahead for Week 5 (the sacrifices) and Week 6 (it's over).

It’s the start of Week 5 and I’m already coming to some interesting conclusions about my six-pack abs in six weeks challenge. Since there are only 13 days left (but who’s counting? Answer: Me), here are 26 quick hits I’ve made so far, two for each day.

As always, here’s my day-by-day, meal-by-meal, workout-by-workout week:

Illustration by Bob Al-Greene

Day 22 (Monday, July 2): Cardio Interval Running + Walking, Med Carb, Low Calorie Day, and slept 7.5 hours

Day 23 (Tuesday, July 3): Metabolic Resistance Training + Modified Tabata, Med Carb, Low Calorie Day, and slept 7.5 hours

Day 24 (Wednesday, July 4): Slow Steady-State Cardio, Low Carb, Low Calorie Day, and slept 7.75 hours

Day 25 (Thursday, July 5): Strength Resistance Training, Med Carb, Med Calorie Day, and slept 8 hours

Day 26 (Friday, July 6): Metabolic Resistance Training + Arms, Med Carb, Low Calorie Day, and slept 8.5 hours

Day 27 (Saturday, July 7): Cardio Interval Running + Walking, Low Calorie Day and Evening Cheat Meal, and slept 8 hours

Day 28 (Sunday, July 8): Rest Day, Low Carb, Low Calorie Day w/ Major Slip-Up, and slept 8 hours

And now, for my by-no-means exhaustive list of early #absperiment conclusions:

1. Don’t, under any circumstances, be on a diet for July 4th. It’s the nation’s birthday and even the good old United States will put the pressure on to ruin your focus. As my buddies downed hot dogs, burgers, pizza, and beer this past week, honest Abe Lincoln himself wouldn’t have approved of my arugula salad.

2. It’s just as important to make sure you’re getting enough calories as it is to make sure you’re not eating too many. It took me a few days to realize that eating fewer than 1300 calories per day (and burning 400-plus calories per workout) could be a problem — and the possible culprit for my slip-up last week. I asked both Precision Nutrition’s Jay Bonn and Greatist Expert Dietician Lindsey Joe for their thoughts and they agreed. “What you're doing isn't a lifestyle change and it’s a short-term focused goal,” Bonn said. “[But] it’s evidence that diets tend to not work in the long run … [Willpower] is like a muscle. It gets used up all day long whether you realize it or not. Eventually, there's nothing left in the tank.” Similarly, Joe explained: “the body definitely has a threshold, where too few calories ('fuel') causes the body to think it's somehow ‘starving.’ So we’ll fight off losing weight by holding onto what is already stored... almost like a bear in hibernation.” I definitely don’t want to be a bear in hibernation (OK, maybe sometimes when the weather sucks), so have been determined to increase calories since then (in healthy ways, of course).

3. People at Sunday brunch don’t like it when you just stare as they eat a plate of apple pie.

4. If John Romaniello says I’m beginning to look good, it must be true. For the record, as of this week, I've lost nearly 3% total body fat and 13 pounds since this started.

5. I couldn’t stop laughing at an improv show and, for the first time, I could feel my abs!

6. Professional photos are really expensive. After the long wait, I promise you’ll be seeing some high-quality “after” (and even some “before”) photos soon.

7. Working out a lot is awesome. Six days per week is intense for sure, but I still look forward to every single session. And I feel great afterwards. I’ve learned that I like the increased amount of exercise more than I like the decreased amount of food (not really a shocker, but something that definitely sticks with me).

8. Certain things I used to eat before don’t really feel “worth it” anymore. Like muffins. WTF are up with those?

Photo by Kelli Kerkman
9. If food is near you, you’ll probably justify some reason to eat it. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve found keeping things I shouldn’t eat as far away as possible from me has been key. I’ve removed nearly everything from my apartment, steered clear of social events with free food, and always moved away from any goodies left on the office table.

10. Any more than a handful of nuts has a surprising amount of calories and fat. I now think of them as the dangerfood of dangerfoods.

11. Not eating anything after 9 pm is clutch. I now realize how eating after that point in the past has single-handedly tanked day after day of healthier choices. Make a categorical rule and stick to it.

12. A handful of blueberries can be the best indulgence in the world. Take the time to really enjoy them. Maybe sing a song to them. Maybe read them poetry. What are we talking about again?

13. Getting enough sleep can be incredibly powerful in the weight room. I’ve had more sleep this week than any other week so far (averaging about 8 hours per night) and it’s made a huge difference in how I feel — and how I lift.

14. Baby carrots contain a surprising amount of carbs. Who knew?

15. I have the weirdest nonstop hankering for s’mores. S'mores...

16. Stay away from mirrors. Greatist Expert Trainer Matt McGorry (and my personal fitness “Sherpa” for this challenge) warned me that one of the downsides to getting six-pack abs in six weeks is that I won’t be able to stop checking my abs out in the mirror, especially in public bathrooms. I definitely don’t think I’m there yet. I’ve only done that, oh, 150 times tops. Yesterday.

17. I’ve had an unfortunate effect on people around me and what they’re eating, or worse, what they think about what they’re eating. Even though I’ve tried to explain the real reason why I’m doing this #absperiment and how it’s precisely so they don’t have to do it, it’s often too late. Suddenly everyone at the table’s enjoying their pizza a little less, and that defeats the whole point of ordering pizza!

18. Planning dates and social events is totally different. If I’ve already finished a workout and obviously can’t go somewhere to have a treat, what else is there to do outside? I have been left with basically just coffee meetings and movie dates as options, maybe a brunch or two.

19. I’m definitely more grouchy and tired. I can pretend that’s not the case, but it’s true. But hey, what a good excuse to cue the second straight Sesame Street video in two weeks!

20. The thing I miss most is fresh summer peaches. Twitter’s Alejandro Montoya asked me what I missed the most and, though the first answer that came to mind was definitely ice cream, I think the true answer is peaches.

21. I spend at least 10 times more time thinking about and making my meals. Greatist’s community director Kelli Kerkman asked me how much more time meals have taken and, though I’ve found removing certain things from a diet (versus being wishy-washy about whether they should be included or not) makes things way more simple. I definitely think about my meals way more, plan for them way farther in advance, and spend more time preparing them.

22. I was eating much more before than I needed. Twitter’s Nicole Mercer asked if there was anything I was actually glad to be rid of — and though no specific food comes to mind, I’ve definitely realized how much more food I was eating before. It turns out I can eat a lot less and be just as satisfied. That’s been a major revelation for me. Or maybe my stomach has just shrunk?

23. Bison is an awesome meat. Try it.

24. The Greatist community is awesome. I’ve also been particularly struck by how many of you have been following along with this challenge. We’re building something really meaningful — and our community is where it all starts.

25. Scheduling my workouts and meals so far in advance has made any changes to that routine bother the heck out of me. Maybe this is me just being grouchy again, but if this were a lifestyle change and not just a six-week experiment, I fear I’d lack the ability to be spontaneous — and that that would affect my appreciation for life big time.

26. And finally, here are the things I can’t wait to have after this is all done. This is the most popular question I’ve been asked and though I haven’t thought about this thaaat much, I guess I’ll just take… tons of Rocky Road and Mint Chip ice cream, far too much red wine, a bison burger from Bareburger, yogurt with tons of toppings from Yogurtland (coming to NYC just in time!), several bowls of Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds, a pint of Hercules Double IPA from TapRoom No 307, a Peanut Better smoothie from Energy Kitchen, an order of Russian pilmeni and pierogi, a Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew + Antioxidants Kind Bar (waiting for me in the freezer), 12 fresh peaches, too much Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, a whole jar of almond butter, a double meat chicken burrito with guacamole from Chipotle, the biggest assortment of dark chocolate candies I can order from See’s Candies, three-and-a-half honeydew melons, two huge caramel apples with nuts from Disney World (guess I have to visit then?), frozen butterbeer from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (here too!), a full meal at Medieval Times, a whole personal Molcajete of guacamole (and chips) from Rosa Mexicano, copious amounts of sushi, Blow Pops, the awesome California Burger from Hillstone, a slice of amazing pumpkin pie from somewhere, and of course a full-size Hopscotch concrete from the Madison Square Park Shake Shack. Not that I’m keeping track or anything.

There’s less than two weeks left, so keep following along with my workouts on Fitocracy, meals at MyFitnessPal, and #absperiment-related adventures on Twitter.

And don’t stop sharing your support and ideas in the comments below — they mean an awful lot (especially when I’m thinking about all the delicious food I just wrote down).

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