I remember very well the first time I had visible abs. It was in a picture taken at a tattoo parlour with the tattoo artist, in Brazil, during the Fifa World Cup in 2014. No, the picture wasn’t photoshopped and we hadn’t entered the metaverse of filters back then. The funny thing is that despite working fairly hard for chiseled abs for years, I never once realised I had acquired them. Whenever I’d looked into a mirror, I always saw a little fat fold around the belt line. The abs were real and I said aloud to myself more out of surprise, “Wow, I didn’t know I have abs.” My friend Bia, who had taken the photograph and who I had been working out with at a CrossFit box in Sao Paulo, matter-of-factly stated, “You have had them since your first day working out with us.”
This was at a time when I wasn’t taking any protein shakes, ate mostly bread, beans and rice meals and had more than an occasional beer, cola drinks and spirits. I used to do high intensity and strength-based CrossFit workouts about five times a week, I used to walk a lot and also spent plenty of time on my feet. As for my sleep patterns, there were quite a few days when I hadn’t had enough. In short, apart from the workout and generally being active, I hadn’t been very careful about any of the other things that one is supposed to do to get abs.
A couple of weeks after ab discovery, I started travelling around the country and let’s just say I celebrated a bit too much. Coupled with the fact that I wasn’t getting enough workouts owing to the nature of being on the road, I returned to the gym a month later with the lines on the midriff hidden under a layer of fresh deposits of adipose tissue. Bia confirmed it. “Too many beers and caipirinhas?”
That’s how I learnt the harsh truth about abs— abs might be hard to get but they are much, much harder to keep. The only thing guaranteed about abs is they will eventually go and it doesn’t take much to make them disappear. Just a week off your training routine or a week of fun and excesses could be enough to have your abs slip out of your life.
Also, did my life or I change once I got the abs? Well, I was chuffed about getting a chiseled abdomen but other than that there was nothing different. Our media, pop culture and movies would have us believe abs would immediately make you irresistible, improve your looks, win you friends, bring you success and even find you love. Well, I had achieved one of my goals but it really hadn’t made my life any different or better. I hadn’t started walking around town with my shirt unbuttoned in slow measured steps.
No one I knew was interested in me for my abs. I didn’t become more intelligent or efficient at my work. I still wasn’t able to do a proper squat snatch or run a marathon under 3 hours. What I am trying to say is that getting the abs didn’t change my life in any meaningful way or improve it. Similarly, when they disappeared, again, nothing really changed. I have met many men and women with well defined abs, and not one ever claimed that their midriff has changed their lives in any significant way as long (as they aren’t in the showbiz).
The simple truth is abs are a mere cosmetic touch that are very difficult to hold on to, and all they really accomplish is to make you feel good for a short while. It would be wise to focus on more holistic and practical goals that actually improve your life.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.