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The Truth About Getting Flat Abs

Are you wasting your time?

By

Updated July 30, 2014

The Truth About Getting Flat Abs
Will & Deni McIntyre/Photodisc/Getty Images

I get many questions about getting flat abs, but one email stands out. This reader wrote: "I've been working on my lower belly pooch for about 2.5 years and it still won't go away even though I have a good diet." That email made me realize how long many of us persist with these types of goals, even in the face of failure.

Despite the facts, many people still think they can get flat abs if they do enough ab exercises. They think, if they're not achieving that goal, they must be doing something wrong. The truth is, getting six-pack abs is hard and, if you haven't seen yours yet, maybe it's not what you're doing that's the problem.

The Myth That Wouldn't Die

If you've been doing crunches forever and are wondering why you still don't have flat abs, you're no doubt operating under what I consider the biggest myth of weight loss: That you can do an exercise for a certain area of your body and get rid of the fat there.

It's no wonder this myth is so popular. Pick up any popular fitness magazine and you'll find plenty of headlines to feed that belief. For example, in one issue of a popular fitness magazine recently proclaimed: "Banish Belly Fat - Tone, tighten , trim in just 7 moves." 7 moves to flat abs? Who wouldn't want that? But it's these kinds of headlines that keep us stuck in the same place for months, even years, trying the same thing over and over and thinking we'll finally get it right.

The truth is, six-pack abs are difficult to get. I've been exercising for 14 years and consider myself in excellent shape. I don't have a six-pack and never have (and not for lack of trying). It took me years to understand that goal wasn't right for me and, when I finally did, my life changed for the better. What about you? Is it time to let go of old goals and set new ones? Maybe it'll help to get a clear idea of what it takes to get flat abs.

What You Really Need for Flat Abs

Despite what you think, ab exercises are not the number one thing you need to do for flat abs. In fact, getting flat abs requires hard work, commitment and something else you have no control over: cooperative genes.

The only way to get flat abs is to lose body fat and you already know what that requires:

1. Regular cardio exercise
2. Strength Training for the ENTIRE BODY (treating the abs just like any other muscle in the body)
3. A healthy, low-calorie diet

You must get all three of these (especially your diet) right on a consistent basis in order to even get close to flat abs. And, something else important: If you've lost body fat and you still don't have flat abs, don't be terribly surprised. Many of us will never see that six-pack because:

  • The body fat level required to get flat abs is lower than you can sustain with your current lifestyle/schedule, or
  • The body fat level required is lower than is healthy for your body to function.

So, even if you follow a perfect program and a perfect diet, flat abs still may elude you. Does that mean you should give up? You shouldn't give up on exercise but, maybe, giving up the ideal of six-pack abs is exactly what you need to make your life better.

Giving Up on the 'Ideal'

Now you know the truth: The goal to get flat abs may:

  • Require more exercise than your schedule will allow and more than you can mentally handle
  • Require more attention to your diet than you're willing/able to expend
  • Require more strict adherence to diet/and exercise than you have the time or energy to spare
  • Not be in your genetic cards

If that's the case, maybe it's time to get rid of that goal. It may seem foreign to imagine an exercise life without it, but it's possible and tossing that goal may actually be a relief, allowing you to focus on what you can change.

Now's the time to ask yourself:

  • Do I really want flat abs?
  • Am I willing to work as hard as I need to to get them?
  • If I will work that hard, am I willing to accept that it still may not happen, even if I do everything right?
  • If I did get six-pack abs, what will that change in my life? What will flat abs actually do for me?
  • What would happen if I let go of this ideal and focused on other goals?

Accepting that your body works as a whole and not in pieces and parts is the first step towards releasing that ideal body that lurks in your mind and embracing the one you have now. Maybe it's time to finally let that goal go and realize you aren't a failure for not reaching it.

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