The Flat Abs Myth

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Written By

Rhea Dali

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Download 3 1 | The Flat Abs Myth

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In light of Eating Disorder Awareness Week, theres never a more timely topic to talk about then how we feel in our own skin.

While an estimated 1 in 5 women struggle with an eating disorder, a greater percentage (75% or 3 in 4) report having some sort of disordered eating  , and 97% (nearly ALL) of women, report having an I hate my body momentevery day.

Will we ever be satisfied?

Not if we look to these things

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I just want a flat stomach.”—said Most Women.

In fact, of all our body parts, the stomach is the #1 trouble spotfor womenthe body part that 69% of women say they want to change (according to a poll conducted by NBC Today in 2014). 

The answer?

  • Juice cleanses to banish belly bloat
  • Spot training with 7-minute ab blasts
  • Intermittent fasting and fasting
  • More cardio
  • Less carbs
  • ______ (insert tactic)

What do YOU do?

NEVER GOOD ENOUGH

Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, we are always going to come up shortnever good enoughif and when we keep relying on what our body LOOKS LIKE to make us fully happy, confident and satisfied.

Even if you DO reach your goal weight, or see an abor four or sixpop out, or finally feel at least confident enough to go swimsuit or jean shopping for the season (ok with making a little investment now that you are in a more acceptable place)the thing is, relying on our appearance, weight and size to feel good in our own skinWILL ALWAYS yield a return that runs dry, because:

1.) You must keep up your focus and hard work on the diet or workout routine or rules you created for yourself to get there”—constantly feeling like something is clipping at your heels if you are not on top of your A-Game

2.) There will ALWAYS be someone better,fitter, prettier, healthier, happier, etc. than us in our minds eye

3.) Once we reachour goal, there will always be something more we want (5 more pounds, two more abs to ad to the four pack, a thigh gap, etc.)

EXHIBIT A

#TheStruggleIsReal.

For 14 years, I woke up most every day with one thought on my mind:

When I weigh X-weight or look like X, then life will be so much better.

I constantly thought about reaching these goals, every day, and I scripted my to-do list around what I needed to do to get there”—Things like: cutting the carbs, spending hours on the Stair-Master, avoiding social food gatherings at all cost, and counting my almonds one by one.

Even in my weight gaindaysthe days I wanted so badly to just gain 10 pounds, and then Ill be happier”—I filled my self-care to-do list with checkboxes, like: Eating til I could barely breathe, more strength training, protein shakes, and eating foods that didnt always agree with my digestion or gut health.

The only place these body-focused and self-loathing to-dos got me?

More focused on my bodyand hating on the skin I was inno matter what size or weight.

Almost every night, without fail, when I laid my head back down to rest, I feltcompletely defeatedKnowing, I hadnt reached my goals, again, today.

BUT, in the same breath, without fail, Id tell myself… “You know what? Tomorrow is a brand new day to try again, and I am so close to the body I want.

Wash. Rinse. REPEAT.

Day in and day out, I woke up feeling the same wayhating on my body.

Then Id try to fix itby focusing more on my body, food and fitness.

Then Id go to bed each night, knowing I hadnt fully achieved my goals, or I fell back into old waysand Id tell myself that Id try again tomorrow.

Although I had another life outside of my diet and fitness routine as well (college, work, grad school, relationships, church, activities), sometimes, my worldmy inner world at leastfelt like it revolved around thoughts about my body, food and fitness (like all the time).

THE LIGHTBULB

It will come when you least expect it.

Complete freedom and happiness with your body, food and fitness will come, ironically, when you start focusing less on these things and MORE onjust living your life.

It didnt happen over night, but I personally had a rude awakening when my life came to a COMPLETE STANDSTILL from these thoughts and behaviors when I was forced to enter eating disorder treatment at age 23, on deaths doorstep at a weight I hadnt been since I was 10-years-old.

Completely banned from my Stairmasters, low-carb lifestyle, protein shakes and fitness magazines, I was forced to face the complete opposite: My own worst nightmares:

  • Lack of control
  • Egg McMuffins, Eggo Waffles and Bagels for breakfast
  • Takeout pizza every Friday night and pancakes or pastries every Saturday morning
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Ben & Jerry’s, processed foods and Snickers Bars for snacks
  • Chronic constipation, bloating, gas and discomfort in my own body
  • Skin breakouts and pimples
  • Growing out of my entire wardrobe
  • Feeling lethargic, tired and not like myself
  • Medication prescriptions prescribed by my doctors to help me “recover” and think “more clearly”
  • Talking all day, every day, about the past and eating disorder

Although I am still not sure this extreme seeming exposure therapywas the best approach for helping me heal or recover from my eating disorder, it was helpful for inspiring me to find SOMETHING DIFFERENTan actual happy medium where I felt good in my own skinregardless of what my body looked like, what I ate, or if I worked out.

Ironically, living for a time in both extremes (extreme eating disorder/diet obsession, and eating disorder treatment, where I felt like a lazy American), helped me have a lightbulb moment I wasnt looking for, determining both: I never want to go through treatment like this again,AND, I also NEVER want to go back to my eating disorder againand the unhealthy depths and lows it took me too.

Somewhere in the middle of these two extreme worlds, and I began to search high and low for the answerto actually feeling good in my own skinnot based on numbers, weight, calories, mirrors, jeans.

What I discovered?

Feeling good in your own skinactually has NOTHING to do with six packs, popping shoulders, Kim Kardashian booties

These are fleeting.

DANGLING CARROTS

When we chase the ideal bodyor body confidenceor feeling good in our own skinas our primary goal and reason around why we eat the things we eat, workout the way we workout, wear what we wear or a million other ways we spend our timewe are ALWAYS going to come up dry.

I call this dangling carrot syndromebecause, like a horse that tries to reach the dangling carrot hanging over its nose as it continues to walk forward, we robotically do the SAME thing when we try to focus on the SAME THINGS (the scale, our calories, our fat grams, macros, our jean size, how we look in certain pictures, etc.) and try to yield different results.

When has focusing on the scale worked for youlike really workedto the point that you feel 100% confident now where you are at?

When has focusing on what you look like in pictures, or how you feel in your own skin really, solely, worked for you that you feel completely free to now just be who you are (while still focusing on these things)?

Crickets. Crickets.

Whether you are overweight, underweight, feel too fat,or too skinny”—if and when we wrap our personal self-esteem and worth in what we look like or how we feel about how we look, we are ALWAYS going to come up dry.

While I constantly wanted to lose weight in my early eating disorder days, ironically, there came a time when I constantly wanted to gain weight and be bigger”—not little Lauryn anymore.

Id see pictures of beautiful CrossFit women, Blake Lively, or other celebrity idols, even girls at my gym or women on the street and think, ManIf only I looked like her…” or, If only I was a little more filled out,or… “If only I was a couple sizes biggerTHEN ILL BE MORE CONFIDENT.

It was exhausting becauseI was still chasing dangling carrots.

Even though, to this day, I am STILL self-conscious about being little Laurynand sometimes hate on my body for being thinner than I want it to be, I do KNOW that when my mindset shifts from my body and what it looks like to more internal and external factors that define true health (like my energy, digestion, non-obsessive thinking, living out my purpose, doing things I love, meaningful relationships, having fun in life)I come MORE alive  and less focused on what my outside shell looks like at all.

Here are eight tips to start loving the skin youre inALL of you (no dangling carrots included):

  1. Remind yourself that obsessing over what you eat or look like doesn’t make you look any better. Remember, youve tried this method 1,000 times before.
  1. Give thanks. Thank your body for what it doesmore than what it looks like. Strong legs for squatting nearly 200 pounds on a barbell?
  1. Pick a new health marker(or 2 or 3) to focus on. Energy. Digestion and a healthy gut. Your ability to go with the flowon vacation or dinner outand not freak out. Refreshing sleep. Balanced hormones. Pursuing your passionsand setting goals in these areas. Spiritual health and connectedness. Etc.
  1. Work it. Play to your strengths. What are you naturally good at? What are your natural physical and characters strengths you bring to the table? Comparing yourself to others will not get you anywhere other than discontent and chasing those dangling carrots.
  1. Smash the scale. Or throw out the FitBit. Delete the fitness or calorie tracker. Delete the Instagram accounts that trigger negative thinkingor unplug altogether. Stop tempting yourself with things that put you down. And ironically, when we stop using these measures as barometers for success, often times our body (and metabolism) starts working for us, not against us.
  1. Nourish. Eat and workout to nourish your bodynot hate on your body. Choose foods that nourish not only physicallybut sometimes emotionally or mentally. Even though emotional eatingis often viewed as a negative thing, its not bad
  1. See your body as a whole. Not parts. You (and your worth) are not your thighs, your stomach, or your underarms. You are a WHOLE person.
  1. Stand up for non-weight-bias and health at every size.Seriously. If and when you are truly taking care of yourself, your body will go to where its happy place is. For some, this is bigger bonedfor others, this is smaller framedor smaller chested”… While people in larger bodies oftenexperience the effectsof weight bias more deeply than those in smaller bodies, but no one is exempt from feeling shame about their body when we rely on societys ideals.Our culture makes many people (of every size) feel on guard, critical of their perceived “flaws,” and wanting something other than what body they are in today.

So how do you get therereally? To the point you dont care so much about what you look like without letting yourself goor feeling completely un-confident in your own skin?

Join me in a movement (and new attitude) Im calling the Thrive Life Project Aimed at developing this champion mindset I am talking about and learning to genuinely love your bodyfrom the inside out.

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