Don’t give in to social media pressure
With celebs and influencers sporting chiselled bodies, getting the same type of physique has become an aspirational thing for their fans and followers. And many people often associate washboard abs to being extremely fit. Experts suggest that one should rather think about what’s right for your body and what can help you stay fit, rather than following trends without knowing the pros and cons. Anamika Anand, a clinical nutritionist, says it’s important to understand that celebrities have an army of people to help them maintain themselves. “Abs are not for the long term for many celebs. They prepare their body according to their characters and they have a health expert, a nutritionist/dietician and a team of people who help them make their abs look good on screen,” says Anamika. It is important to recognise that they often undergo intensive training and follow strict diets to prepare for their roles. “It is crucial to remember that their bodies are part of their job and may not necessarily reflect their actual health or lifestyle. Moreover, what works for celebs may not necessarily be suitable or healthy for everyone. Therefore, it is essential to approach fitness goals with an individualised and balanced perspective,” says Dr Parinita Kaur, senior general physician at a Pune-based hospital.
It’s inaccurate to say that a fuller belly in women has been considered natural and healthy. It is important to recognise that excess belly fat, regardless of gender, is associated with an increased risk of various health problems
-Dr Parinita Kaur, senior general physician at a Pune hospital
Understand your body
The main morphological difference between men and women is that women carry more fat than men, which softens the outline of the muscle, thus giving more folds, grooves and curves to the body. “The body fat percentage in a woman who is generally fit approximately falls between 18 and 24 per cent whereas, in men, it represents only 10-15 per cent. The main reason for the difference in fat distribution can be attributed to the nourishment a woman needs to provide a foetus with, as and when that moment arises,” says Dr Batul Patel, a dermatologist. Another important reason is linked to hormonal changes in the body. However, this is more about good and bad fat. “The subcutaneous fat is the fat below the skin which affects the visibility of the six-pack to some extent. However, visceral fat is a greater health concern as excess content of it comes with side effects. Hence, a balance of good and bad fat along with the muscle mass determines the visibility of the washboard abs that everyone looks for,” adds Dr Patel.
The outline of the abs differs as per one’s percentage of body fat. If one ensures to maintain a healthy body fat percentage, follows a healthy lifestyle and exercises, healthy-looking abs can be achieved
– Dr Batul Patel, dermatologist
Having six-pack abs is neither inherently good nor bad for women. It is a personal choice and depends on individual goals. say experts. Some women may want to have six-pack abs for aesthetic reasons or as a symbol of fitness, while others may not prioritise it or may even find it unappealing. “If a woman chooses to work towards developing six-pack abs, it is essential to keep in mind that it requires a combination of a healthy diet, regular exercise, and dedication. It is crucial to approach the process healthily and sustainably, avoiding extreme diets or excessive exercise that can be harmful to one’s physical and mental health,” says Dr Kaur.
Know what’s right for you
For women, there’s a lot that can go wrong in case of a drastically low body fat percentage. The acceptable body fat percentage in women is anywhere between 18 and 32 per cent. Higher than 32 means a person is obese and lower than five per cent means the body cannot function efficiently. “Fat is like a warm jacket to your organs, it provides insulation and protection. The spinal cord and bone marrow need fat to function. Body fat is also responsible for the absorption of essential vitamins such as Vitamin A, Vitamin D and Vitamin E and Vitamin K which contribute to maintaining healthy skin. Losing 10-15 per cent body fat is enough to disrupt fertility and eventually lead to the development of reduced or absent periods,” explains Dr Patel. But there are ways to work around this if someone wants to have abs and maintain a healthy body fat percentage for reproductive and hormonal purposes. “It can be achieved through resistance training, such as weight lifting or bodyweight exercises, and a healthy, balanced diet. Building more muscle mass can help create the appearance of toned abs while also allowing for a higher body fat percentage,” says Dr Kaur.
Does that mean getting washboard abs are bad for women?
While toned abs are a sign of dedication and hard work towards fitness goals, it’s important to strike a balance and do it in a measured manner. Ketan Mavinkurve, founder and CEO of a physical fitness program, shares, “First, focus on building lean muscle mass through strength training exercises. Secondly, maintain a balanced diet that provides enough nutrients and energy for the body. Finally, listen to your body and don’t push yourself too hard, as this can lead to injuries or health problems. Having abs is not good or bad, but the lifestyle you choose to get them is what determines if it’s good for you or not. Some are naturally gifted with a lean physique and some have to work harder. Remember that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and the most important thing is to prioritise your overall health and well-being.” It is important to recognise that different people have different goals. For some women, achieving a visible six-pack may be important for their satisfaction or their career, such as female actors or bodybuilders who may be required to have a certain level of muscle definition for their roles or competitions. “It is also important to note that while having a low body fat percentage can have negative health effects, such as hormonal imbalances and decreased fertility, it doesn’t necessarily mean that having visible abs is inherently unhealthy. Hard work and discipline with regular exercise and a healthy diet can have overall health benefits. Ultimately, the decision to pursue visible abs or any other aesthetic goal should be made in consultation with a healthcare professional or certified personal trainer,” says Dr Kaur. On a concluding note, she adds, “Eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats, can help support muscle growth and fat loss. Avoid crash diets or extreme calorie restrictions, as they can be detrimental to both physical and mental health.”
Tips to stay fit
– Consistency is key
– Stay away from diet fads
– Stick to a healthy diet plan which suits your body type, composition, age, height and metabolism
– Follow a good workout routine that aids in strengthening the core muscles
Foods that are rich in protein or healthy fats
1. Lean meats and fatty fish, such as salmon, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids
2. Low-fat dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yoghurt
3. Vegetarian proteins, such as tofu, beans, or tempeh
4. Most nuts including walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts seeds, including pumpkin, sunflower, and quinoa
Carbohydrates that can fuel the body for exercise
1. Fruits, including bananas, apples, and oranges
2. Non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach
3. Starchy vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, corn, and green peas
4. Unrefined grains, such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, and oats
5. Beans and legumes, such as lentils, kidney beans, and chickpeas
–As shared by Anamika Anand, a clinical nutritionist