Dietary choices are obviously a huge component of sexy abs. However, I’m not a huge fan of low-fat anything. Nope, I don’t think nature made a mistake when it put fat into things like cream, eggs, avocado, coconut, meats, etc. Foods that have their fat content altered from the way nature presented them represent to me what I’d call “nutritionism” – an attempt to use food to manipulate body chemistry for a short term goal, not real, sustainable nutrition. While a low fat diet can lead to weight loss, too little fat in the diet also leads to other health problems and is just not worth it.
Many people are surprised to learn that my diet is about 40% fat and (gasp) I always eat the yoke! Yet, my body fat fluctuates between 9-11%. So if I’m not crazy or from another planet and eating 40% fat does not mean I will be 40% fat, what keeps people from having an aesthetically pleasing set of abs? In my humble opinion, here are the top seven things that keep people from a chiseled midsection.
- Too Many Grains: Whole and sprouted grains included, but especially refined ones like white rice, white bread and white pasta. If you’re a bread lover, this one can be hard to take. Even if your grains are whole or sprouted, they are actually one of the hardest things to digest and can cause a lot of bloating, which can make it hard to even suck in your tummy. If you care to, try going off all grains for a solid week and see if your gut does not feel (and look) better.
- Sugar: The list of reasons to avoid sugar is long, but if you’re serious about sexy abs, you can pretty much look at sugar as kryptonite for your abs sculpting efforts (not to mention kryptonite for your immune system). Staying away from sweets is easier said than done, but once you learn to get away from them, I promise that they really start to lose their appeal. If you take a hiatus from sugar, if/when you go back to it, you’ll find it is much sweeter than you remember and less enjoyable. Next time you are tempted by something sweet, perhaps you can consider how what your thinking about eating would look if you tucked it just under the skin around your tummy. That’s probably where it’s headed anyway. What’s the saying…“Nothing tastes as good sexy abs feel”?
- Portion Control: Portions have pretty much gotten out of control in our society. Marry capitalism, mass production and the food industry and eventually you have the outrageous portion sizes we have today. Go back and look at portion sizes we had in the 1950s and you’ll know what I mean. As a general rule, eat as little as you need to feel full and recognize that if you are eating real food (recognizable, non-processed food), it is harder to eat too much. Eat real food and your body is more likely to have its needs met and less likely to urge you to keep eating so it can find something nourishing.
- Liquid Belly Fat a.k.a. Alcohol: I’m not here to tell you can’t enjoy some alcohol from time to time, but if you are serious about having abs you can be proud of, the short of it is alcohol will do nothing to help you look the way you want. It is liquid sugar in an amount way beyond anything you’d ever come across in nature. Drink it with any regularity and your body with think you are asking it to store energy for the future…and guess where it stores it.
- Stress: Cortisol—you’ve probably heard of it. It is (as far as we know now) your body’s major stress hormone. One thing cortisol does is signal your body to store fat, particularly fat around the midsection, also known as “visceral fat”. Cortisol is not necessarily a bad guy. We need it to overcome stress, but the problem we get into is that most of us live in this state of moderate to high stress called “life”. The times of low stress are often so infrequent that our bodies don’t get a chance to counterbalance all the cortisol we make, and thus we store more fat than we burn. What can you do to reduce your stress?
- Medications: There are a lot of medications out there that directly cause weight gain, and even if weight gain is not a listed side effect, drugs are still toxic and thus they tend to get stored in your fat cells (doing so keeps them out of your blood). If you’re taking any medications, it may be worth considering what you and your doctor can do to help you get off the medications…for the sake of your abs, but also for other reasons.
- Lack of Sleep: If you’re looking to lose belly fat and you regularly don’t get enough sleep, it will be very challenging to have nice looking abs. Lack of sleep is a stress to the body, which puts you right back to the point above about Cortisol. If your body does not run on a good night’s sleep, then your back up option is Cortisol.
These seven keys make up 80% of what is takes to have nice looking abs. Taking care of these essentials will help make that other 20% you handle in the gym worth your while.