Abs Aren’t Everything: A Wake up Call

Disclaimer: I’m talking about my own personal experiences but this may be triggering for some people, If you feel like you are in a similar position you may want to seek professional help.

We’ve all done 20 sit-ups or eaten a salad and then checked to see if our abs have magically appeared, no just me? 

But have no fear because whether you have a fully defined 6 pack or not, trust me you have abs. The truth is that having a strong core and visibly defined stomach muscles don’t really correlate. More often than not the aesthetics of abs are usually down to genetics or having a low body fat percentage, which for some of us is not necessarily a good thing. This is especially the case for us women as from first hand experience I know that this can cause havoc with your hormones.

… Queue period talk

If you lose a significant amount of body fat either from extreme exercise or restricting calories your body perceives you to be in a stressed state and therefore unable to reproduce. (Pretty clever if you ask me). Not to get too technical but essentially the luteinising hormone which triggers ovulation isn’t produced = no period. This can obviously have a detrimental affect on your performance not to mention your health. For women, having a period is a sign that your body is functioning properly and therefore a lack of it should be a serious cause for alarm. Having struggled with amenorrhea (it’s technical term) for the best part of a year I can first hand say that having abs is not everything…

Just because you may look fit doesn’t mean you are. For me the lower my body fat got and the more stress I put on my body the more fitness I actually lost. My body could no longer keep up with my energy demands and I quickly became extremely tired, miserable and depressed, which affected not only my training but consumed my entire life. 

As athletes I think it’s easy to want to push yourself to the limit in a lot of different areas, train harder, perform better, right? But at what costs? When my weight first started to drop at the beginning of 2019 I was feeling fitter than ever, I was lifting heavier weights, running faster and getting PBs that I had never thought possible. Not to mention friends and people in the gym were commenting on how ‘shredded’ I was looking, which I hate to say, only added fuel to the fire and made me more determined to be the ‘best’ I could possibly be. Although things can seem perfect and I convinced myself they were, it soon became apparent that I was about to experience a massive burn out, due to months of underfueling and over training.

I remember being at the University cheerleading nationals last year and I was due to be performing two different routines in quite a short amount of time. Not to mention as part of our uniform we had to wear a cropped top so I felt even more pressure to look a certain way. On the day I barely ate anything and I came off the stage feeling like I was about to collapse due to exhaustion (cheerleading can be quite intense but this is obviously not normal), whilst this was clearly not good for me I was also putting my teammates at risk by performing in an unfit state, which could have been very dangerous. This was definitely a wake up call that things had spiralled out of control and it was time to ask for help. (I fully understand that speaking to someone can be extremely difficult but it’s often the first step and there is light at the end of the tunnel.)

I guess what I’m trying to say with this post is that aesthetics are not everything and if this is one of the sole reasons you are working out then it can definitely lead you down an unhealthy path. Yes abs look good, but the mindset that this aesthetic goal is vital to be seen as ‘fit’ is not a healthy one that I think we should be advocating. Now obviously training for aesthetic purposes is by no means bad for everyone, however I think it’s far more beneficial to focus on exercising because we enjoy it, rather than a form of punishing ourselves or trying to fit into the ‘so called’ standards of what we think we should look like. Don’t let your looks define you and instead remember that you’re more than a size or a number on the scale.

For me this is still an ongoing battle that I’m trying to overcome, it’s a gradual process that is by no means easy. But by reminding myself that I train because I love it and not because I think I have to is a lot healthier and makes me a lot happier. 

I hope you found this post insightful, if you wish to discuss it further then my inbox is always open.

Anna xx

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