A flat, chiseled stomach is the gold standard of the health and fitness industry. It’s what the media and magazines insist you should have. It’s what everyone seems to be focused on. But few ask the question, “At what cost?”
There are a lot of people with abs and seemingly “perfect” bodies. But you rarely ever get to hear the story behind the skin. Through Total Body Reboot, I’ve worked with men and women of all shapes and sizes, including people with “perfect bodies.” I can assure you that there’s usually a lot of pain and dysfunction on the road to having a flat, chiseled stomach.
Why would people with a “toned” body and a flat stomach do a program like Total Body Reboot? Because their body is saying, “no.” Physically, things are going wrong. The guys are losing their sex drive. The girls are losing their periods. They’ve all come to the realization that their relationship with food, body, and self is dysfunctional. Their self-worth is wrapped up in their outward appearance. And what they thought they were going to get out of looking a certain way has not materialized. Their life isn’t any better than it was before. It’s worse.
The cost of achieving these unrealistic standards is high. And the very existence of these standards makes the cost of not achieving these standards equally high. What percentage of society feels badly about how they look simply because their stomach isn’t flat (or some other arbitrary appearance standard isn’t being met)? That’s a stress that weighs on people daily—every time they look in a mirror or put on clothes.
We have to end the insanity. While you can’t flip a switch and reform the media and the mainstream health and fitness industry, you *can* reform yourself. And it starts by reorganizing your priorities. Here are five things that are more important than abs.
The #1 reason why most men and women struggle to get a body and life they love is because they buy into strategies and programs that are antagonistic. In other words, they buy into strategies that are counter to their biological and psychological programming. Calorie counting, excessive exercise, willpower, and demonizing certain foods are just a few examples.
Sometimes these strategies are based on a “magic pill” mindset. Sometimes it’s just a case of well-meaning advice that’s misguided. Either way, my biggest piece of advice is to not start anything that isn’t sustainable. Be okay with slow, steady progress. The tortoise wins the race every time I read the book.
Whenever you’re preparing to buy into a strategy, ask yourself, “Do I see myself doing this same strategy 10 years from now?”
If you’re about to commit to never eating sugar again, limiting your food intake to 1200 calories, and doing CrossFit 5 days a week, the answer is probably, “No.” Don’t do it.
2) Genuine Health
When people chase weight loss, which is something that’s usually required in order to have abs, they’re prone to follow a “do whatever it takes strategy.” This is especially true considering that a six pack is not possible for a lot of people without taking extreme measures.
Is achieving a six pack worth damaging your health? Considering that nothing will be different about your life after achieving a six pack (regardless of what you think will happen), I’d say, “No, it’s not worth it.”
Remember, big or small, an unhealthy body is a symptom of an unhealthy environment. And without health, what do you have? If you focus on physical and psychological health—not weight—from the beginning, your body and life *can* be radically different after a few months.
Getting a six pack is not easy. It requires a ton of discipline, time, obsession, effort, and sacrifice. But if you’re like most people, your goal is to get *away from* the obsession with food and fitness. Happiness means living and enjoying life to its fullest without being ruled by food. Right?
So what’s with the flat stomach goal? And what’s with committing to all that’s required to achieve it? If you’re not careful, it’s very easy to end up with a body you love and life you hate. A life of obsession and unhappiness. Because once you get the six pack, your body image can become your identity. And then you live in fear of losing it.
This is why we constantly talk about having a body *and life* you love. We help men and women heal their relationship with food, body, and self. We help you reduce stress, nourish your body, and get more sleep. We help you do all the things required to improve your body AND your life at the same time because we understand that both are required for long-term success and happiness.
Sometimes we want to lose weight and look a certain way because we think it will make us more worthy of love and attention. Our self-esteem and self-worth is wrapped up in our body image. But the way you look has nothing to do with your worth as a human being. It has nothing to do with your worthiness of love and respect.
If you want to have a body and life you love then self-love must come first. If you have this idea that you can’t love yourself *until* something happens, I can promise that all you’re going to experience at the finish line is emptiness and frustration.
When you start from a place of disdain for your body, you end up with a mindset of, “I have to fix this. It’s disgusting. It’s broken. It’s faulty. It’s unlovable. And nothing will be better until I put a stop to this state of disrepair.”
When you start from a place of self-love, it empowers you to say, “I’m going to commit to nourishment and healing because I love my body and myself and I want to make sure I’m creating the healthiest environment possible for me.”
Which frame of mind do you ultimately thing is going to be most successful?
Self-esteem affects confidence, self-worth, self-love, and happiness. The mistake is in thinking that getting a flat stomach, abs, or a “toned” body will increase your self-esteem. But self-esteem comes from authentic accomplishments that enhance your overall sense of wellbeing.
Getting a flat stomach while disregarding your health and your relationship with food, body, and self will not boost your self-esteem any more than robbing a bank to acquire more money would. Doing important, ethical work that you get paid well for *would* be a self-esteem boost. There’s a huge difference.
“Self-esteem is the reputation we acquire with ourselves.”
― Nathaniel Branden
Rather than pursuing the end result—abs, or a specific body shape—pursue an authentic process. Put as much effort into acquiring a life you love as you do a body you love. And remember that even though you may want to make some changes, you must start from a place of self-love and self-acceptance. There is nothing inherently valuable about a flat stomach.