fitness-selfies-sunday-girls-30-06-13-sweatforit4If you’ve been on social media, then I assume you’ve been exposed to “six-pack selfies.” You know, the pictures of the perfectly sculpted, tan midsection that frequently finds its way to your Facebook or Instagram feed. Ya, those ones.

Maybe you know someone who is trying to promote or sell a supplement who frequently shares six-pack selfies.  These images that flood our social media have a powerful impact on us. Some see these pictures and instantly put down their soda, start doing jumping jacks, and plan their next trip the gym. Others become frustrated and depressed, because they’ve tried everything and still can’t get a six-pack.

I want to offer you a dose of reality and help you realize that both promised results and extreme optimism are what make the fitness industry go ’round. According to the fitness industry, the reason you don’t have a six-pack is because you’re lazy, you eat too much, you don’t do enough cardio, you eat too many carbs, you sit too much, you drink too much, you need a better plan, etc. For some, this may be the case. But for others, the ones who eat well, workout, and do everything right, there’s more to the equation.

2 reasons why you may never have a six-pack

1. Genetics

We’ve all had a friend who could eat whatever they wanted, not workout a day in their life, and still have a well-toned midsection, killer legs, or arms. On the flip side, we’ve all known someone (maybe yourself) who eats a perfectly clean diet, works out regularly, and can’t ever seem to get that toned midsection, Carrie Underwood legs, or arms they’ve dreamed of. What’s up with that? Would eating less or working harder do the trick? Maybe…but genetics are more powerful than we realize, and no amount of exercise or diet will change that.

During my 10-year career as a personal trainer, people have come to me with goals like: “I want to have lean arms,” or “I want to have smaller hips or butt,” or “I want a six-pack.” With hard work and some lifestyle changes, we move toward their goal.  But, there is one recurring theme. Genetics are powerful and have a huge influence on how difficult it is to lose body fat.

If you’re the type of person who can’t seem to get rid of that annoying belly pooch no matter how hard you work… hear this: in order to achieve those goals, you may have to get down to an extremely low body fat percentage to rid your “trouble spot”.  What’s wrong with having low body fat? Isn’t fat bad for you? The negative effects of low body fat can be devastating and range from serious heart conditions, decrease in hormone production, decrease in thyroid function, low energy, infertility, decreased immune function, and depression.

Our genetic makeup largely determines which body type we are born with: apple, pear, hourglass or ruler. In other words, where you gain weight does not happen by chance and it turns out that it’s highly influenced by your genes. Recently, researchers have identified the gene (Plexin D1) that determines body type, where body fat is stored, and how fat cells are shaped. There are huge differences in each individual’s genetic potential when it comes to being lean. On some level, we are all aware these differences exist, but most are not aware of how significant these differences really are.

2. Hormones

  • Cortisol

Under stress the body releases cortisol, a “fight or flight” hormone. When stress levels are high for prolonged periods of time, the body goes into starvation mode and begins to take fat from other (more plump) areas, like your butt and hips, and moves it to your abdomen, which has more cortisol receptors. Studiesshow that an increase in cortisol has been linked to an increase in belly fat. So, keep in mind that stress also plays a roll in body fat distribution, and exactly WHERE our bodies store fat.

  • Insulin

Insulin is the hormone that tells our cells to pick up glucose from the bloodstream and is the key that unlocks our cells and allows sugar in. Insulin allows your body to use the sugar (food) that you consume. When our blood sugar becomes disregulated due to poor diet/lifestyle choices meaning blood sugar consistently goes too high then too low, or both, over time we become insulin resistant. And once we develop this resistance to insulin, our cells no longer pull sugar from our blood for fuel. Insulin resistance can also be refereed to as pre-diabetes, which results in an increase in body fat and a major decrease in energy due to lack of fuel. People who are insulin resistant tend have an increased amount of abdominal fat, or ab flab.

  • Estrogen

It turns out that the hormone estrogen has a lot to do with WHERE you store body fat. Estrogen dominance, either from too much estrogen or lack of balance between estrogen and progesterone, increases fat distribution (below the waist) in the hips, buttocks, and upper legs. Today, we’re bombarded with toxins that increase estrogen like plastic exposure, processed foods, and soy. Here are 8 ways to minimize your estrogen exposure.

What’s your body shape?

images (1)When it comes to body shape, everyone’s certainly different. However, most people fall into one of these (ruler, apple, pear, or hourglass) categories and each individual body shape stores fat in different places.

Celebrities like J Lo, Beyonce, and Rhianna are all perfect examples of pear-shaped bodies.  These women tend to store fat in their hips and butt. All of these women have unlimited access to the top personal trainers, the most cutting edge nutritionists/weight loss experts, and are all quite lean. But, make no mistake: these women will never have small hips or a small butt. Why? Genetic limitations. You can take a pear-shaped body and make it smaller/leaner, but you can’t take a pear-shaped body and turn it into a ruler- shaped body (someone with a small hips or butt).

Embrace your shape.

No nutritional system or supplement can give you a new set of genes. Does this mean you will never have a six-pack? Maybe. Maybe not. But, there are always going to be limitations. And, being truly healthy (having balanced hormones, proper nourishment/nutrition, etc)and having a six-pack is not realistic or achievable for most. So, learn to embrace the body you have.  Maybe you were born with curves. Be proud of your body. Be confident. Eat wholesome, real food, stay active and learn to ignore those daunting six-pack selfies flooding your news feed, that could potentially lead to you having a very unhealthy lifestyle.

And, remember if you want to lose a bit of weight or “tone up” that’s okay, but set realistic, healthy, and achievable goals. Focus on proper nutrition and taking steps toward improved health instead of obsessing over having a six-pack or the “perfect body”.