Derek Flanzraich is surrounded by the latest in wellness news on a daily basis. Early last year he founded the health website Greatist.com. Still, like many of us, Flanzraich struggles to fit healthy habits in to his own life, so those infomercial claims that promise 6-pack abs in just six weeks sounded awful tempting! But Flanzraich thought he might be able to achieve a ripped midsection on his own with enough dedication, and worse case scenario, “I could be a guinea pig for our readers,” Flanzraich says.
He kept a weekly diary on the site, which surprisingly focused almost as much on his emotional and mental struggles as the physical ones. As you can see above, he reached his goal. What did he learn along the way? Read on for, appropriately, his top six lessons from the “absperiment.”
1. Check your calorie needs. Essentially, he just ate less and moved more, working out about six times a week and being super-strict with his food intake, eating only lean protein and vegetables. The no-cheating-allowed diet was tough, but taught Flanzraich an important lesson. “Before the experiment, I was eating way more than my body needed,” he says. “Now that it’s over, I’m trying to find that happy balance somewhere between my ‘before’ intake and my ‘during’ intake.” [Editor's note: Find your target Calorie Needs Calculator.]
2. Use Sundays wisely. To guarantee that it was easy—or at least easier—to opt for protein and veggies rather than a cheeseburger, Flanzraich prepared meals and snacks for the whole week on Sunday.
3. Recognize the sacrifices. While there’s “nothing inherently wrong with wanting 6-pack abs, you have to weigh whether you really want them or if you just want to be fitter and healthier,” Flanzraich says. When birthday cupcakes rolled around his office, he had to say “no” every time during the six weeks since there’s no room for cheating with such a tight deadline.
4. Being super-strict can be isolating. So there were no cupcakes on the menu, and also no Happy Hour. “I wanted to go out with friends and have drinks and guacamole, but I couldn’t indulge in either if I wanted to get my 6-pack! And if I did go, the whole time I’d be excusing myself for why I wasn’t eating and apologizing for not taking part in the fun,” Flanzraich remembers.
5. Famines may lead to feasts. “One-and-a-half weeks later, I don’t have a 6-pack anymore. It’s crazy how fast they disappear when you act like a ‘normal’ person again!” he says. “Because I was so strict with my diet during the project, I literally can’t stop eating now. I think that’s a sign that my body didn’t especially appreciate what I was doing before.”
6. A perfect physique doesn’t necessarily bring happiness. “I went in to this project thinking you don’t need a 6-pack to be happy, but I wanted to see for myself,” he says. So was it worth it? “For normal people, like those who aren’t athletes or trainers, it’s a somewhat superficial goal,” Flanzraich explains. “A happier, healthier fitter life can be achieved while going out with friends and living a normal life, but just making smart choices. I’m excited to get back to that.”
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