This is Week 3 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), and Week 2 (how it’s about the little things) or read ahead for Week 4 (early conclusions), Week 5 (the sacrifices), and Week 6 (it's over).

We’ve reached the halfway point of my six-pack abs in six weeks #absperiment, and I’ve messed up big time.

But first, here’s update (and proof) of my day-by-day, meal-by-meal, workout-by-workout week:

Illustration by Bob Al-Greene

Day 15 (Monday, June 25): Strength Resistance Training + Hot Yoga, Low Carb, Low Calorie Day, and slept 7 hours

Day 16 (Tuesday, June 26): Metabolic Resistance Training, Low Carb, Lower Calorie Day, and slept 6.5 hours

Day 17 (Wednesday, June 27): Slow Cardio, Low Carb, Lower Calorie Day, and slept 7.5 hours

Day 18 (Thursday, June 28): Strength Resistance Training, Low Carb, Low Calorie Day, and slept 7 hours

Day 19 (Friday, June 29)*: Rest/Travel Day, Low Carb, Low Calorie Day, and slept 8 hours (but poorly in a really bad, cramped bed)

Day 20 (Saturday, June 30)*: Running Intervals Outside, Low Carb Breakfast and Evening Cheat Meal, and slept 8 hours (same as above)

Day 21 (Sunday, July 1)*: Tabata Pushups/Travel Day, Low Carb, Low Calorie Day w/ Major Slip-Up, and slept 7 hours

*On a quick trip to California to celebrate my grandmother’s 85th birthday.

I thought I had planned for my trip really well in advance, communicating to everyone in the family that I was on a “special diet” (try translating “absperiment” into Russian), purposefully setting my cheat meal on Saturday nights, and making sure to eat healthy before and after plane rides. But I blew it. All trip long I was wishing I could have my two favorite California food groups, See’s Candies and In-N-Out Burger, but knew I wasn’t allowed. I would be happy, I told myself, with a solid cheat meal at the awesome Chinese food restaurant where my grandmother’s birthday bash would be held. But then, that night, I overdid it.

There was a lazy Susan at our big table and, due mostly to the fact that all of my grandmother’s friends are over 80 and don’t have big appetites, I ended up eating far too much (like, say, two lychee ice cream desserts too much). Fine, though. I had a tough workout earlier that day and it was my cheat meal after all. But what I’ve found, unfortunately, is the day after my cheat meal I can’t stop thinking about cheating more. And this time I had it really bad. The morning afterwards I ordered an egg and veggie scramble at breakfast, but stared hungrily at my mom’s bagel, my grandma’s croissant, and my brother’s milkshake (it was a late breakfast). I got to the airport and gave in, getting three pieces of See’s Candies after seeing I didn’t have to purchase a whole box. First slip-up.

Then, on the plane, something took over. I ordered a whole box of snacks, tearing through chocolate chip cookies, candy fruit snacks, and a packet of mixed nuts like Cookie Monster. I knew it was a mistake even as I om nom nom-ed them, knowing I’d have to write it down, knowing it’d affect my goal, knowing I was letting myself down. But for some reason I couldn’t stop.

Snacks done, I collected myself and began thinking about why it’d happened. For one, traveling sucks: I couldn’t stick with my daily routine, I was out of my food and fitness comfort zone, and I wasn’t getting good quality sleep. Everyone else around me was “on vacation” and eating whatever they wanted. And I really wanted See’s Candies and In-N-Out Burger. Badly. I felt my willpower was in overdrive the whole trip and, eventually, it had to crack. I’ve also been under heavy stress, I’m beginning to admit to myself, without proper rest and recovery. Finally, I was in the sky and thinking: “Hey, maybe consuming calories above 10,000 feet works differently.”

My results after the first two weeks were killer: I went from 14.7 percent body fat to 12.6, and lost over 7 pounds. My grandma even worried aloud whether there was enough food for me in New York. But this thing can’t happen overnight. There’s no such thing as six-pack abs in twenty-one days. So this Sunday happened, but it’s OK. Instead of giving up, even for the day, I resolved to forgive myself and move forward with a better plan for my fitness, food, rest, and recovery. Even Cookie Monster now admits cookies are a sometime food.

So what’s the plan?

Photo by Caitlin Covington

1. Re-tooling my cheat meal. Greatist Expert Dietician Lindsey Joe challenged me just a few days before to change the way I experience the “cheat meal” because “you’re not cheating anything, but simply enjoying something that you know has higher calories (or sugar, or fat, or whatever) and plan on getting back to your normal eating habits at your next meal or snack.” Instead, she said I should “take time to savor the way those specially picked foods make all your senses feel.” Indulge, not cheat. OK, check.

2. Evolving my diet. The low carbohydrate thing, as Greatist Expert Trainer Matt McGorry has been cautioning, isn’t super sustainable. I’ve basically been eating a super low-carb, low-sugar (no fruit), no dairy, and some good fats diet — increasing calories a little for strength training and interval workout days. For the next three weeks, though, my plans are to swap some complex carbs in for the fats (mostly post-workout), including foods like quinoa, sweet potatoes, and maybe some berries back into the mix. This will also help my training recovery (I hope), since I’ve essentially doubled the amount I’ve been exercising and have honestly felt a little beaten up.

3. Drinking more than just water. I’m drinking a gallon of water a day, but haven’t been doing a good job of replenishing electrolytes — so I may start adding coconut water to my post-workout protein shakes.

4. Emphasizing rest and recovery even more. Finally, I’m going to place an even bigger emphasis on rest. As Greatist Expert Trainer Kelvin Gary wisely advised this past week: “Don’t overcook the turkey!” In Week Three, I averaged 7.3 hours of sleep per night, but I’ll work to increase my sleep even more. I’ll do even more stretching pre and post-workout and may even schedule a massage…

There is still a lot more work to be done. I’m adding an extra day of intervals. I’m also going, as Precision Nutrition's Jay Bonn counseled me this week, to start thinking on the “conservative side when thinking of ‘how much?’ in regards to adding carbs in… [because] there’s not as much time for testing and making adjustments.” He’s right. Time is running out and I’ve got some slip-ups to make up for!

I have just three weeks to go, so continue to follow my workouts on Fitocracy, food tracking at MyFitnessPal, and #absperiment-themed tweets on Twitter. And while the experts have been amazing, I’ve found some of the best advice has come from our community. Don’t stop sharing your support, either.

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