James Fell, CSCS
Never let it be said that I’m unwilling to suffer for my art, if you can call fitness writing 'art'.
I used to be fat, but now I’ve got a flat belly, which I figure is pretty good for a forty-something beer-drinking family guy just coming out of the winter flab-adding season.
Still, no fitness magazine is going to ask me to grace their cover, because I’m too fond of drinking six packs to have the requisite six pack abs.
The media inundates us with chiseled abdominal imagery, but they don’t tell us that the models (whose job it is to look that way) have highly restrictive diets and rigorous training programs. They are dehydrated, well-lit, waxed, fake-tanned and often Photoshopped. So "just eat this magical food" or "pop that miracle pill", and apparently you get both the rippling abs and the girl.
That's not my experience.
Although having a large belly is bad, at a certain point fat loss becomes more about vanity than health, as there is minimal cardiac benefit to a visible six pack over simply having a flat midsection. I advise people to find their own personal fitness level of “good enough”, a goal that they can sustain rather than stressing about the last ten pounds so they can dress up like one of King Leonidas’ 300 Spartans for Halloween.
For the average guy, I don’t think the sacrifice it requires to get a six pack is worth it, but I’ve never actually been able to see much of my abs, so I’m not speaking from experience.
That’s all about to change, and I have a strong feeling that it’s going to suck. This article is about me being a guinea pig, taking ten weeks to get as ripped as I can and documenting the process to see if the end result makes it worth the trouble.
Prepare yourself for some bitching and moaning.
With wife, kids, job and no housekeeper, the eight hours a week of intense weights, running and cycling I do now is about all I can fit in, so achieving this goal will involve dietary restriction.
I already have a pretty healthy diet. I just happen to supplement it with some crap (namely beer, pizza and potato chips). So I’ve decided that for this project, my cheat treats and booze will have to go... Mostly go.
Getting lean is easier for some people than others. If you met my parents, you’d understand that I’m genetically programmed to resemble a potato. Evolution made me a fat-storer, and my body is going to fight this every step.
I set a couple of basic rules:
[Takes deep breath] Here goes…
I make the questionable decision not inform my wife (who has her black belt in karate) of this project, because I want to get her honest reaction to the leaner me without her knowing I was doing it for an article. I engage my nine-year-old daughter to take the “before” picture.
While some people will hide drinking from a spouse, I am not sure how to hide not drinking. So I prepare my wife with the only statement I will make about the project; I make a show of patting my belly and say, “I think I’m going to ease off the beer for a bit.”
She rolls her eyes at the belly patting part, but because she’s a family physician she isn’t going to discourage me from reducing alcohol.
Day 4 – Long Weekend With The Family
Do you know that you can get beer in a 32 ounce glass at Boston Pizza? Well, you can; I can’t. Stupid diet.
After five hours in a water park, we’re at Boston Pizza again, and I’m having one of those giant freakin’ beers because… Well, just because.
The boss orders pizza for the whole office. Jerk.
Two days of single parenting without alcohol.
Attending a work-related BBQ event at...wait for it... a brewery; also known as the happiest place in town. I am convinced that God hates me.
I’ve been eating so many low-calorie mixed green salads to fill the screaming hole in my gullet that I’m ready to poop algae.
I think I see an ab. Hmm… maybe it's just some dirt from working in the yard.
Forty-second birthday and no beer make James feel very sorry for himself.
Day 33 – Father’s Day
Screw it. I ran 27km and biked 60km in the last two days. It's sunny and hot outside. I’m having some beer.
Oog. Drain… bamage… something…
Day 35 – Half Way
Okay, I definitely see two abs, but it feels like I should be further along considering how much dietary suckage I’ve put up with thus far. Although I’m looking slimmer, I can still see a roll of fat above my belt, and it’s pissing me off because I’m concerned about my ability to get rid of it with only five weeks left.
I grab the flab with both hands and squeeze. “Dammit! Why won’t you just go away?”
James Fell, CSCS
James S. Fell, MBA, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Calgary, Canada. He authors the syndicated fitness column In-Your-Face Fitness for the Chicago Tribune and can be found at www.bodyforwife.com.