Sometimes in life, you gotta make choices. Pepperoni or Hawaiian. Paper or plastic. Automatic or manual. Life…or something else.

But it’s not always easy to know what you really want. I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who has a penchant for partying. She was saying that she really wants six pack abs, and I told her that she had to choose between the six pack of beer or the six pack of abs. Because most of us can’t have them at the same time. Honestly, I can’t help but wonder if it’s really worth it, but more on that in a minute.

First off, just in case you haven’t heard yet, you aren’t going to crunch your way to washboard abs. And sit-ups aren’t going to get you there either. I mean, ab work is good for you; it strengthens your core, which is important. But if you want the muscles in your stomach to SHOW, you have to get rid of the fat on top. And that is all about your diet. I don’t like to use cliches often, but this one is fitting: Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym. Granted, the gym helps, but the real results are going to come from what you eat.

Now, there are exceptions to that. People who have a naturally flat stomach can get away with a lot more. Take (my imaginary girlfriend) Zuzana Light. Nice abs, right? You’d probably think that her stomach looks the way it does because she does a ton of ab work. Ehhh, kind of, but not really. You see, Zuzana was an erotic model before she got into fitness. (I’m not outing her, she’s publicly spoken about it.) So through, um, various resources I was able to look her up in a shoot she did back in 2001. Her physique was different then, much softer. But you know what? Her stomach was still very flat. It was just a step away from what it is now. Some people are just naturally very lean in their midsection, and if they wish to get more definition, it’s going to be a lot easier for them. Genetics, man.

Hey bebe...

For the rest of us, it’s more of a struggle. Take me for example. Most people would consider me thin or thinish. However I have what I like to call a “bagel” as a belly. I’m not being self-deprecating here, just saying that I tend to carry a little bit of fat in my tummy even while being small. That’s just the way my body is. For me to get a six pack, I would have to get extremely lean. I don’t mind giving up beer ‘cause I don’t even drink it. However to get some ABZZZ I’d have to be really strict with my diet. Like, REALLY strict. That’s the part that I mind. Shit, that’s the part that EVERYONE minds.

Got some cream cheese to go with that bagel?

So is it worth it? Are you willing to really clamp down on your diet and temporarily sacrifice your indulgences? Are you willing to possibly give up your social life for a little while? These are all things you have to decide for yourself. Also, consider the side effects. My friend who wants a six pack mentioned that she didn’t want to lose her boobs, which inevitably happens the leaner you get. Depending on your body fat patterns, you might not like the way the rest of your body looks if you get lean enough to have definition in your abs (gaunt face, chest, etc.) Once again, make a choice. Enjoy your nice, squishy rack and accept that you’re going to have a little paunch along with it, or go for a leaner midsection with smaller boobs.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having very high goals for your physique. All I’m saying is know what you’re getting into. If you don’t think you can sacrifice alcohol and maintain a very strict diet for a few months, then make your peace with that and move on. I know self acceptance can be a tricky thing, but there’s no point in longing for something that’s unreasonable for you, personally, to obtain.

I struggled for a long time trying to get that banging body. But I know that I don’t have the kind of discipline it takes to get to that level right now. Which is fine. I’m healthy and strong and at a good weight. And honestly, my indulgences here and there keep me sane. I’m not too proud to admit that I’m a sucker for sugary, girly cocktails. And what!?

If you’re happy with your physique and don’t really want to make any changes to it, congratulations! You’ve won a huge battle. One that some people spend their whole lives trying to win…the internal war of self-esteem. That being said, even if you’re content with yourself that doesn’t mean you have to be complacent about your health goals. Working out and eating well isn’t only about being hot. It’s about being strong and fit and athletic (if that’s what you want.) It’s about preventing injury and staving off illness. It’s about confidence and better posture. Your goal doesn’t have to be about being smaller or bigger. It can be about being stronger and faster. Whatever helps keep you motivated to workout.

Right now I’m focusing more on improving my strength and cleaning up my eating more than anything. I find it a lot less stressful to aim for a harder workout or a more nutritious meal than a lower number on the scale. At the end of the day, that’s what’s important. Eating well and moving your ass.

What do YOU choose?

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