Since I knew what a 6-pack was, I've always wanted one.
I would read every fitness magazine idolising the fitness models that graced the covers wondering "how do they do it"?
What's their workout routine and diet to get six pack abs?
What I was really telling myself was, if I wanted to be successful and on the cover of a magazine, I needed to have six pack abs and big biceps. My obsession with perfection was born...
In this article, I'm going to share with you how I overcame a 4 year eating disorder and the truth about 6-pack abs.
Fitness Modelling & Being 'Ripped' Is Not What You Think
I used to say "I'll be happy when I have a 6-pack" and "I just want to be on the cover of fitness magazines".
Such a goal is fine but that mindset is flawed because happiness is not a destination. It's not something you just obtain overnight. There will always be something else that rears its' ugly head making you unhappy, especially if your mindset is "I'll be happy when".
Cut a long story short, I achieved my goal of obtaining 6-pack abs four years ago when I stepped on the bodybuilding stage for the first time.
Was I happy and satisfied?
Maybe for a day, but believe me, it all came crashing down the next day when I inhaled a pizza, a jar of peanut butter, many spoonfuls of nutella, several rice cakes with honey, a few bags of lollies and chocolate.
The 'post comp comedown' was in full swing and an eating disorder was born.
You see, when you get to such a low level of body fat, it's incredibly difficult to maintain it and at the time, I refused to accept the fact I couldn't keep my ridiculous 'stage weight' .
Not to mention you just crave junk food all the time from having your hormones out of whack.
I was so frustrated at the fact other fitness models around me looked lean all year round effortlessly yet I struggled. It made me feel like a failure because I felt I could never do the same. I always had to drop 10+ kg if I wanted to be lean and step on stage as a model.
I had no balance in my life. It was always 'all or nothing' leading to extreme dieting and training.
The truth is, (which I didn't know at the time) the magazines these models pose for, have their photoshoots either straight after their own show or they prepare specifically for that one shot.
4 Years of Disordered Eating, Body Image Issues & Guilt
Since that first show, I've stepped on the bodybuilding stage on five separate occasions, placing 1st, 3rd (twice), 4th and 5th. I've even been involved in 7 separate photoshoots, all of which required super low levels of body fat.
Unfortunately, as a result of all this, I suffered disordered eating for a long time and even on certain occasions (especially holidays), I still do. I've 'yo-yo'd' with my weight for years, always using a photoshoot or show to jump on another meal plan in seek of that fitness model physique.
Here's one of my 'chunkier' photos. The heaviest I got to was 94kg (pictured below). Quite a contrast to my 'stage day' photos right? (minus the tan).
I now comfortable sit around 78-80kg all year.
During my show preparations, I would restrict myself all week to my meal plan, only to binge on junk food every Saturday night in my 'cheat meal'. It wouldn't be uncommon for me to consume up to 5,000 calories in one night.
Quite hard to believe right?
I'm a personal trainer and fitness model, surely I'm perfect and never eat a piece of chocolate right?
Unfortunately, we're preached to by the so called 'gurus' to follow a strict meal plan until your 'cheat meal' on a Saturday night.
I'm guilty of doing this in the past and I'm embarrassed to admit it.
What the hell is a cheat meal anyway and why would you 'cheat' on your diet?
'Cheating' sets up a negative connotation with what you eat which leaves you feeling guilty after eating something that's deemed as 'bad food'.
It makes you believe those foods are forbidden and should be avoided at all costs when in reality; you can still eat your favourite foods and drink your favourite drinks when losing fat.
It's this 'fear' of food that sets up disordered eating and guilt to begin with. For so long I've feared eating 'junk food' because I thought I was going to get fat. It sounds so silly even typing it, but that's the mindset I had.
As vain as this sounds, it's very hard to 'let go' of your abs. In other words, it can feel very disheartening to watch your abs disappear under a layer of water and body fat. It makes you feel like a failure.
You work so hard to uncover your abs that you want to do everything in your power to keep them which unfortunately leads to unsustainable sacrifices such as:
Fitness models and bodybuilders often burn themselves out in the constant battle of getting and keeping a six pack (myself included). It's only recently I've given up the fight unless I have a photoshoot to prepare for. Otherwise, I'm bound to live a life where I miss important occasions and will constantly battle feeling guilty after eating certain foods.
"You're a Personal Trainer, You Shouldn't Be Eating That"
I posted this in my Facebook group the other day.
If only I got a dollar for every time somebody told me that.
Although I agree, I need to practice what I preach but most people don't see me with my hair down.
You see, for over 5 years I've always had a bodybuilding show or photoshoot to prepare for. Most people know me as being at low levels of body fat all the time. That's actually not the case.
This requires super dedication and of course, discipline. It means strict tracking and lots of sacrifice. This has led me to disordered eating and yo yo dieting in the past.
Whilst here in NZ, I'm relaxing, enjoying my food and doing things you wouldn't expect a personal trainer to do.
Why am I sharing this with you?
Because you need balance with your eating. You need to understand you can't stay shredded forever, nor should you be in a calorie deficit forever either. There are no foods off limits and there are no such things as superfoods, bad foods or even good foods.
If your goal is a low level of body fat then of course, you need to make sacrifices.
Otherwise, find your balance, enjoy your food but most importantly enjoy it in moderation.
Now it's time for me to hurl myself out of a plane at 15,000FT. Oh and if you haven't been to Queenstown yet, you must try Furgburger.
And yes, here's the picture of me hurling myself out of a plane at 15,000 FT above one of the most beautiful places in the world...
If you're in Queenstown, go check out NZONE Skydive.
6 Pack Vs Self Worth - Who Wins?
I've been pretty successful at getting lean and standing on stage.
I've even coach others to do the same.
However, self worth plays a major role here. As I mentioned above, I've been known to people as the guy who's always lean and competes on stage. For so long, being a fitness model and competitor has led me to believe my self worth is determined by how lean I am.
If I'm not lean, I feel I'm not successful. Again, sounds silly right?
But it's actually the feeling you have. You feel like people's expectation of you is to have a 6 pack all the time so if you can't seem them, your self worth goes down.
Pretty deep hey.
Fortunately, through the help of my coach and those close to me, I've made the decision to detach my self worth from fitness modelling and the way I look. I've given myself permission to relax and to change the way I view food and exercise.
If your goal is to step on stage, uncover your abs, or even if you're a personal trainer reading this, I highly recommend you do the same or you'll burn out like I did.
I've learnt that your self worth is not determined by how you look. To prove this, when was the last time you judged someones self worth based on how they looked?
The fitness models you see in magazines (and on Instagram) don't look like that all year round.
The photos are taken after an extensive period of dieting, all timed for that one day.
The same applies to bodybuilders and bikini models. Not only that, the photographer tells us exactly how to stand, when to tense the abs and sets the appropriate lighting.
By now, you can see that getting to low levels of body fat is NOT easy and requires a LOT of sacrifices.
So, is it worth having 6-pack abs?
Maybe. It all depends on the goal and your insecurities.
More often than not, I'd say no but with that said, I know people who can sustain a real low level of body fat, with little effort. Is this healthy? The answer depends on the individual. Every body's 'healthy' is different.
If you're preparing for a photoshoot or stepping on stage, that's by choice and a big goal so you're more motivated to 'up the ante' to do the work. I still prepare for photoshoots, but it comes from a place of balance and using sustainable methods such as flexible dieting.
Should you have abs just for a lifestyle? I'll let you decide. It can be extremely taxing to maintain and as you can see from my experience, it can damage your body image and self worth.
Although I maintain a weight I'm happy with, I still struggle with body image since my time on stage. You always battle with comparing yourself now, to how you looked on stage.
I highly suggest (if your goal is to get super lean) you understand the sacrifices required and to hire a coach who is experienced in the field.
Fitness modelling, Bodybuilding, Instagram and having a 6-pack is not what it seems. They all can leave you feeling inadequate, unworthy and isolated.
If you're thinking of competing, or want to be a fitness model, make sure you're doing it for the right reasons and not just because you think 'it's cool'. Understand the trade-offs required and the potential outcomes from doing so.
I've shared with you my story of how I overcame a 4 year eating disorder and the truth about 6-pack abs. If you can relate to me, please reach out or share this article. I'd love to chat with you personally and see how many people we can impact to help overcome the same battles.
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Thanks for reading.
26/3/2021 11:32:44 pm
This is just what I needed to read. I told myself I'd be happy just as soon as I got abs, now I have them but with the added bonus of a nasty bingeing issue! Glad I'm not the only one
27/3/2021 06:59:53 am
Thanks so much for sharing Andrew. You're definitely not alone on this.
26/4/2023 07:40:59 pm
Thanks for sharing. I really appreciate it that you shared with us such informative post, great tips and very easy to understand.
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