Why Abs Can't Always Be Made in the Kitchen

Achieving well-defined abs is a popular goal for men and women. Making changes in diet and exercise habits is the best way to see results for the majority of people. However, there are select groups who work hard but are still unable to accomplish abs made in the kitchen.

The Abdominal Struggle

Woman in gym giving high five
Westend61 / Getty Images

Studies show what we eat primarily responsible for our ability to see muscle definition. Nutrition can range as high as 80% compared to 20% workouts to determine if our muscle will be visible or hidden under a layer of fat. 

The famous quote Abs Are Made in the Kitchen appears to be backed up by the evidence, but there are cases when this doesn’t apply. Many people struggle with reducing abdominal fat unrelated to food intake. Others are frustrated with loose abdominal skin from extreme weight loss. The kitchen certainly can't come to the rescue in all cases.

The following reasons are among the top scenarios of why abs can't always be made in the kitchen. 

Menopause

Weight loss
IAN HOOTON / Getty Images

Menopause brings body changes, especially around the mid-section. The dreaded menopot” is a true story for many women. A decrease in estrogen brings fat to the midsection in an attempt to replace the hormone. Fat is a carrier of estrogen and the body wants to put the stuff where it’s needed or believed to be useful. Just as our body goes to work to repair a broken bone, it places fat around our gut to fix our estrogen. 

Research and clinical tests show  postmenopausal women "have greater amounts of intra-abdominal fat compared to premenopausal women.” This doesn’t mean to throw in the towel as a menopausal woman but it does require full attention to living a healthy lifestyle. 

It is recommended to add foods helpful to alleviate menopause symptoms. Regular exercise is also advised to combat what can’t be fixed in the kitchen. Become your own health care advocate and ward off excess pounds by reading articles on how to manage weight gain in menopause.  

Excessive Weight Loss

woman's stomach
Bill Diodato / Getty Images

Being overweight, obese or excessive weight gain during pregnancy can cause unwanted abdominal changes. A common problem is loose abdominal skin not bouncing back after extreme weight loss regardless of what is done in the kitchen. 

Studies show patients who have lost massive amounts of weight can suffer from skin redundancy (loose skin). The areas most affected are the abdominal area, buttocks, breasts, upper arms, thighs, and face. This can lead to a poor quality of life and fear of social acceptance.

Sometimes and especially if the loose skin is excessive, patients consider surgical options for removal. Even though surgery may be an option, having a positive mental outlook on your weight loss achievements is important.

You aren’t alone in this struggle. It will be essential for you to maintain a healthy lifestyle of eating right and exercise. Continue to research your options and before making surgical decisions, reading articles on body lift surgery will be beneficial. 

Pregnancy and Child Birth

Pregnant lady works from her home office
Kelvin Murray / Getty Images

Childbirth includes weight gain and possible stretch marks. What is often left out of the picture is diastasis recti abdominis (DRA). Diastasis recti abdominis is stretching and thinning of the recti abdominis muscles and a natural occurrence during pregnancy due to abdominal growth.

A large percentage of women experience DRA and after giving birth, the muscle returns to normal. This is not the case for some women who are left with a weakened abdominal and pelvic floor. They may have abdominal distension and separation, and inability to perform normal daily activities.

DRA can also occur in men where internal abdominal pressure has been an issue as with obesity or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The most frequent place of occurrence is at the umbilicus (belly button area) and is commonly clinically diagnosed using finger-width measurement.

If two or more fingers can be placed horizontally in the umbilicus, DRA is likely and should be brought to the attention of your physician immediately. Stay informed about DRA by reading articles on diastasis recti after having a baby

Aging

Aging and Abs
Westend61 / Getty Images

Aging is a privilege and when living healthy, absolutely awesome. However, getting older does come with body changes for both men and women. Weight gain comes easier, metabolism slows, and the skin becomes thinner and wrinkled. 

Studies indicate postmenopausal women to have significantly higher body fat percentage compared to her younger counterpart. Research also shows aging men and women increasing in weight while decreasing in muscle. Having a slowed to sedentary exercise lifestyle can contribute to these outcomes. 

Science is providing great feedback on the importance of continuing a regular exercise and healthy eating plan as we get older. In fact, physical activity is shown to increase muscle and decrease body fat percentage in aging adults. We can come close to creating abs in the kitchen but exercise definitely needs to be included for a lifetime. 

It will be helpful to continue good health through the years and stay informed by reading articles on how the body changes as we age

Sources:

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Aging, body composition, and lifestyle: the Fels Longitudinal Study, Shumei S Guo et al., 9/1999

Journal of Women’s Health and Physical Therapy, Progressive Therapeutic Exercise Program for Successful Treatment of a Postpartum Woman With a Severe Diastasis Recti Abdominis, Litos, Karen PT, MPT, 8/14

National Institutes of Health, Age-and menopause-associated variations in body composition and fat distribution in healthy women as measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, Svendsen OL et al., 3/95

National Institutes of Health, Body contouring after massive weight loss, Torio-Padron N et al., 2/09

National Institutes of Health, Menopause-related changes in body fat distribution, Toth MJ et al., 5/00

Continue Reading