why 6 pack abs will make you fatter

Fitness is the easy part.

Not sacrificing your health in the process — that’s harder.

It’s often this sacrifice that makes many of the goals we set unsustainable and short-lived (such as trying to get unnaturally lean and/or vigorous “running everyday” type training).

When we go against our health and own well-being by chasing crazy ideals (often set by the media), we pay the price.

The thing is, though, no one is going to tell us to stop chasing 6 pack abs or world records in Crossfit (and no one should). What we should be talking, however, is all the dangerous roads that people take to achieve those end outcomes.

What we should be discussing is….


“For everything you have lost, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are no shortcuts in life and this especially true for our own health and fitness.

We like to think there is a pill we can take or that we if do an extreme 4, 8, or 12 week diet & exercise program that we can achieve our super hero body, but it just doesn’t work like that.

Change – both mentally and physically – is slow.

We know that, but we don’t really want to acknowledge it.

When the pills and the diets and the extreme workouts do manage to work, it is short-lived. Short-lived because our metabolism is wrecked and our hormones are shot and the overall stress load we have put ourselves is just too much to be able to recover from.

Those images you see of models in magazines and even body builders at the day of their show, that’s not real. They are water depleted, mega-tanned, pumped up, and only a couple days away from re-gaining back multiple pounds.

This is just how it is: Easy come, easy go.

Sure, there are body builders, models, and other freaky deeky athletes that do it right. For them, it is real and that’s how they look and perform almost all the time.

This elite group shares one common thread: Change slowly.

For them, there are no start-and-stop diets ( just a diet that they continually stick with). And
for them, there is no sudden burst of activity followed by months of Seinfeld on the couch (just a way of moving that they enjoy and fits in with their lifestyle).

Progress is slow but so is regress. [Note: And when regress is slow, you can do more normal human stuff like eat ice cream and not have to worry about it.]

I can honestly say I am now apart of this group, however, it was not always like this.

Truth is, Cara and I have done the whole “get fit quick” scheme.

The results? We got fit but it didn’t stick.

There is a reason we are not this lean anymore.

There is a reason we are not this lean anymore.

Not only didn’t it stick, but we both had to work smarter afterwards to regain the health we lost.

You see, when you are mentally fuzzy and your libido is non-existent and your constantly constipated and your even neurotic about every little calorie you consume, that’s what it means to lose health.

And that’s what many of us sacrifice in an attempt to get 6 pack abs or any other goal that is deemed extreme.

Now, I am not saying that you cannot get (and keep) a 6 pack. I’m just saying your time-frame and the amount of work you think will be involved is unrealistic.

Truth is, it will not be quick. Nor will it be easy. And if it is either of those, it will not be sustainable.

Same goes for our athletic performance (e.g going from the couch to training 5 times a week is recipe for pain and injury).


K. Good. Getting back on track.

I started this post with the idea I was going to answer this question: “Realistically, how fit should we be?”

This late in the ballgame, I am still unsure.

What I am sure about, however, is this:

  1. Your quest for fitness shouldn’t come at the sacrifice of your health.
  2. If you commit to slow change, you could prevent the above from happening.
  3. If your persist onward towards fast, radical change, you’ll get burned out (and probably end up fatter than before).

In the end, the body always beats the mind.

Don’t put things on it that it can’t handle or doesn’t want.

We never win.


Most people do not sleep enough (shocking, right?).

While I think this mostly has to do with priorities, there are still a lot of people who do not know why this could be sabotaging their goals.

Rather than  jump into the science of it or provide a million links for “proof” (go test it yourself), I am just going to say this:

Before going on a diet or starting an exercise routine or creating any new habit for that matter, we should focus on getting enough sleep first.

Here is a post to help you with that.


The Basics

Your sleeping environment should be:

  • A little cold
  • Dark (as can be).
  • Floor or mattress, neither not too soft or too hard.
  • And maybe some white noise (I prefer a fan).

The Activities

1. The Brain Dump

We spend all day – whether conscious or not – taking in information and different stimuli. This information then has sex with our prior knowledge which produces little babies called thoughts, ideas, and plans. If we do not have a crib for these babies (which are very stimulating stuff), they will keep us up at night. Notebooks, whiteboards, and tape recorders all work as cribs.

2. Choose Boring Things

Makes sense, right? Here is what works for me:


I cannot watch The Walking Dead right before bedtime. No way, no how. It’s just as powerful as a cup of coffee. What does work  (and I actually do like) is Ancient Aliens or Through the Wormhole:


Magazines on various topics or fiction books.


Light stuff such a Chillstep, classical, meditative, and Pink Floyd.

The Drugs

Caffeine, nicotine, and other stimulants generally have a half-life of 4 – 8 hours. So that means if you have a cup of coffee at 4 pm, then half that amount is still in your system around midnight. Think this will affect your sleep? You’re right.

So, if your sleep is a bit off, try having a cut-off  time for stimulants (mine is 1 pm).

Now if your sleep is still wack, it could be that emotional stress is just too high. If you are having trouble changing your perception of it, you may need to look towards relaxants.

My favorite of these is ZMA. One of it’s chief ingredients, magnesium, is nature’s valium (ie, it helps us cope with stress). Other ones that work well are L-theanine (found in tea), 5-htp (by raising serotonin), and valerian root.

If you really, really cannot sleep, you may want to give melatonin a shot. While long-term use is not recommended, it may help coax your body into developing a better habit.

[ For more on these, refer to #6 in “Supplements: Why, What, When, and How”]

The Others

Here are some more things that may help:

  • Early morning sunlight (to raise serotonin levels)
  • Sex (for guys at least)
  • Warm baths
  • Moving exercise to the mornings
  • Completely exhausting yourself
  • Blue Blocker sunglasses after sundown
  • Using lavender oil (place some behind the ears)
  • Trying different food combinations

The Point

==> Sleep is the game changer.

This is the most important part of the health and fitness game.

Without it, eating nutritious foods will become that much harder. So will the act of adopting a positive mindset. And exercise? Good luck trying to see gains when you take away the recovery time.

Only a very small % of the population ( <5 ) will be actually able to function optimally off 6 hours or less of sleep a night.

Are you one of them? You will have to see what it feels like to get 8 – 9 hrs a night first.