Six-Pack Abs in Six Weeks #Absperiment: The Sacrifices
This is Week 5 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), Week 3 (how much traveling sucks for this), and Week 4 (early conclusions).
I’m not suffering. I’m not starving. I don’t feel tortured when people nosh on food I can’t eat in front of me. And I look better than I’ve ever looked. I weigh less than I have in five years, maybe 10. And though the last few days have been the toughest yet, I’m not giving up on the #absperiment challenge until it’s complete.
But after that? I’m having the biggest Shake Shack meal anyone has ever had. This week’s update is about the things I’ve given up to make this happen so you can decide for yourself whether it’s worth it.
As always, here’s my day-by-day, meal-by-meal, workout-by-workout week to keep me honest:
Here’s a (condensed) list of the things I’ve sacrificed on my journey to get six-pack abs in six weeks. Can you endure them all?
- Drinking not a single drop of alcohol. That means beer, wine, whiskey, sangria. Zippo. Zilch. Nada.
- Feeling uncomfortable watching any big game at a sports bar, especially the ones you care about most. Really? You’re going to order the vegetable and hummus platter instead of the wings?
- Canceling/not attending/feeling terribly out of place at any social event focused on drinking. Think twice about attending any birthday parties. Think thrice about going out for drinks with friends. And don’t even think about a wine tasting, distillery visit, or beer pong tourney.
- Feeling terrifically sick if you do mess up and eat something bad for you. Not just emotionally, but also physically. Who knew just a few fries could make you feel like vomiting?
- Dreaming about food constantly. Multiple times already I’ve had vivid dreams about secretly or accidentally consuming massive amounts of food. Don’t need Freud to tell you what this means.
- Seeing the look on your grandmother’s face when you tell her you can’t eat any of her home cooking. And die.
- Making others drink alone. This is super crappy.
- Making others feel bad about their food choices. It’s amazing how self-conscious people can get about ordering fries, pizza, whatever when you’ve been talking about your abs for 15 minutes.
- Having to constantly explain what you’re doing. “Well, it’s after 9pm and I’m on this thing…” “You mean a juice cleanse?” “No… I’m trying to get six-pack abs in six-weeks. It’s for Greatist.” “So you can’t eat anything?” Repeat.
- Sounding like a douchebag. Because who needs six-pack abs more than douchebags, really?
- Scheduling in one-and-a-half to two hours of gym time every day. I’m currently doing seven days a week: five days of cardio, three days of lifting, and two days of intervals. That means it’s taking up roughly 11 to 12 hours every week. Have time for that?
- Thinking every part of you is falling apart. During the last five weeks, I’ve had what I’m pretty sure was tendonitis in my right foot, a pinched sciatic nerve that’s sent heat pangs down the entire backside of my left leg, re-aggravated my slightly herniated discs at the top of my spine, and thought the top of one of my knee-caps had been knocked off (turned out to just be super weird swelling). I’m OK, but none of this part is fun.
- Being super grouchy a surprising amount of the time. I have felt more like Oscar the Grouch than my normal, positive self. And it has particularly bothered those closest to me — the people I wanted this #absperiment to bother the least.
- Doing laundry constantly. Can be either a time or money drain, but regardless super stressful when all you need is a two clean socks for the day’s workout.
- Having no room for “off days.” It doesn’t matter how icky you’re feeling — or if you forget your athletic shorts and just want to call it a day.
Photo by Jordan Shakeshaft
Not eating yummy carbs. Except for sweet potatoes and quinoa, I haven’t had starchy carbs of any kind for five weeks. Not a single piece of bread. Not a single Cinnabon (to be fair, I don’t think I’ve had a Cinnabon since 1998).
- Running out of things to do. Especially for dates. Because of a regimented exercise and specific eating schedule, doing activities, going out for most dinners, and leaving for treats is out. Plus you’re tired. So I’ve watched a lot of movies and eaten a lot of prepared meals in parks. So fun.
- Not sampling any famous restaurant specials, any local must-haves, etc… Seriously, no Thai lobster rolls at that Asian place that’s famous for them, and no In-N-Out when visiting the west coast. This one bothered me a ton, actually, because I love adventure and trying new things.
- Ordering nothing with your coffee. I already order my coffee black (if I don’t brew it myself), but nothing else at the coffee shop is up to snuff. Especially not that new Starbucks Bountiful Blueberry Muffin.
- Staring hungrily at random people’s food without meaning to. For some reason, I haven’t been able to stop looking when someone is eating pie of any kind. It’s mesmerizing. And creeps them the hell out.
- Taking significantly more time (and likely more money) to prepare food far in advance. Tupperware is nice and all, but man is it a pain to wash out.
- Not eating a scoop of ice cream. Not even a little, itty-bitty one.
- Not drinking any smoothie with bananas in it. Sorry, not allowed.
- Being tired a lot of the time. Really tired. Especially on low-carbohydrate days.
- Having your clothes no longer fit. This may seem like a good thing, but having to buy new clothes (or at least carrying a belt around everywhere) is a total pain.
- Having to skip guacamole and chips at Mexican restaurants. I’m allowed maybe a spoonful of guacamole, God’s gift to mankind, but nothing more.
- Drinking over a gallon of water a day makes you have to pee nonstop. I left The Amazing Spider-Man four times to use the restroom the other night, no joke.
- Except for berries, cutting out all fruit. No peaches, no apples, no oranges for five weeks so far.
- The extra sleeping time takes its toll. I’m behind on a surprising amount of things because all of a sudden I absolutely need to get seven and a half hours of sleep, ideally eight, every night. I’ve done OK at this and definitely appreciate how much better I feel — but it’s a real commitment that forces priorities to change, for better or for worse.
- Not being able to celebrate the holidays like you’re used to. For July 4th, all my friends had pizza, hot dogs, and tons of beer. I had an arugala salad and water. I can’t imagine what this would have been like on my birthday or around Christmas.
- Even treating veggies differently. Steering clear of corn, carrots, and tomatoes is weird.
Five weeks in and I’m proof that giving up the above is possible. If you had to, you could. But are you willing to sacrifice all of them to get six-pack abs in six weeks? Or would you rather live a healthier lifestyle, making one healthier choice at a time, while enjoying a normal life? I know where my answer is leaning, six-pack or not… One week until my final conclusion!
Which of the above would you be willing to give up? Any of them? All of them? Let me know in the comments below!
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Derek, your #absperiment posts are becoming some of my favorite on Greatist, if only because you're the extreme version of what many of us here strive for! I also struggle with the guilt of either NOT ordering the unhealthy thing when I'm with friends, and making them feel worse, or ordering it out of peer pressure and then feeling worse about myself. So many things you mentioned -- sounding like a douchebag, doing tons of laundry, making people drink alone, finding time for the gym 6-7x a week, dreaming about food -- are all things I think many of us struggle with in our "get fit" experiments. Cheers to you for sticking with it; as much as I try for self-improvement, I don't think I could pull off what you're doing. #oneweekleft!
@arcDC Thanks for the amazing support, Alison. To be fair, I always knew this "get fit" experiment had an expiration date, so all those things were easier (at least a little)--- but yeah, glad to hear I'm not alone. The story I'm hoping to tell is that no one should really have to pull of what I'm doing-- that six-pack abs isn't the point of health & wellness, but that happiness is. Thanks again!
@thederek I recommend core body training to help weave a new, natural "natural ab" girdle. To achieve this add standing anti-rotation and rotation core moves using resistance. Wood chops, golf swings, torso rotation boxing moves, etc. Of course my Core Transformer is the BEST core body resistance training device.
Derek, I am totally in awe of your determination and drive. I mean I've done some pretty ridiculous things to look good, but I've never had only six weeks to pull it off. And here you are, making it all really happen. I have to say, I'm one of those people who NEEDS abs (fine, call me a douchebag), the #absperiment is in the name of SOMETHING OTHER THAN VANITY, which I commend.Also, I haven't seen you at all, even once, in these five weeks, so I'm dying to see the pictures!
@robynneurope They're coming, I promise. Thanks for all your help along the way, Robynn-- and for bringing da truth. :)
Hmmm, it sounds like something that I would never have the tenacity for. I have toyed with the idea of fitness competitions, but if this is what it takes then I am not sure I can do it!
@laurenislost I hate to break it to you, but it takes way more than this, and for way longer than 6 weeks. That said, don't speculate about your focus and drive- JUST GO FOR IT. Half of the victory is completing the journey!
Love your updates! But why are you avoiding carrots and tomatoes? I totally get corn, but I always thought tomatoes especially had enzymes that helped break down fatty acids!
@vikkifeggs Yup, totally-- and typically (even for the last few weeks) they're 100% awesome and worth it. But for the last few days, trying to keep carbs super low and for some reason those always end up having tons relative to other vegetables (I blame the fiber).
@thederek @vikkifeggs actually it's because they are fruits, not vegetables. They have a lot of natural simple sugar, which will spike your insulin and make your body more likely to store their natural carbohydrates as fat. FIBER would have the opposite effect- slowing down your body's absorption of sugar, and therefore lessening the insulin effect.
I can totally relate to so many of these things on your list. great article. @thederek what do attribute the extra sleep to? I find that when this happens to me its more from over training than what I am eating. you agree?
@PaulWintergerst Thanks Paul! In previous experience, definitely-- but the extra sleep here is because I was trying my darnedest to get 7.5, ideally 8 hours/night to recover from the extra exercise. Did okay-- and got progressively as the weeks wore on and I got increasingly more exhausted...
@thederek yeah man, looking forward to your final post. Did you take any markers before you started other than the calipers and photos? Drinking & guacamole might be the 2 hardest things to give up for sure. When I go out and don't drink I somehow end up firing down club sodas like a freak. I must drink 15 easy.
@PaulWintergerst No other significant markers-- just photos! Re: drinking and guacamole, don't get me started-- may just eat guacamole, chips, and drink whiskey for a week after this is done.
Hi @thederek , I am going through something very similar right now. I started a fitness company in January and I wanted to show everyone that its not easy to be fit. It takes a ton of sacrifice which you have shown here. I started a 60 day challenge and Im about half way through. I give you much credit, I have slipped up several times so far but I do get myself back on track. I appreciate and respect what you are doing! Keep it up..
@Mario_Trotta Thanks Mario-- this means a tot. This is hard! 60 days is just long enough, too, that it'll begin to wear on you-- but I'm sure you're doing it in a more manageable way than the craziness I'm putting myself through. :)
I'm sorry that you missed out on In-n-Out. You could have had a protein-style double-double (Two beef patties, 2 slices of cheese, wrapped in a lettuce leaf instead of bread) and enjoyed it like crazy.
@alfaj0r You're absolutely right-- think they call it the Flying Dutchman? But let's be serious, no way someone can go to In-n-Out and not leave w/ fries & a shake too. :)
I have been on a similar journey and experienced every single one of these! It has been kind of successful, I've lost about 25 pounds over the past 90 days. The most unexpected part for me has been what you mentioned about the cheat meals making you feel sick. The last time I had a proper cheat meal I felt ill for two days - it seems unfair to really want, and really not want, the chocolate chip cookie or whatever both at the same time.
It must be nice to be getting near the finish - the plateauing is actually hardest around week six, when you are still more or less always hungry and the scale won't move (or goes the wrong direction).
I've really enjoyed reading these!
@pgardett Totally-- that sick feeling after cheat meals is a really interesting one I think most people don't expect. I officially finished yesterday & even now I'm looking twice at things I would have downed without thinking previously. Broke through that plateau pretty well, but was lucky! Thanks for the support.
I like this one much better than the results post because it gives an insight into what you really have to do to make 6 pack abs happen quickly and at the same time gives some actions to undertake.