Why Abs Can't Always Be Made in the Kitchen

When Ab Definition Requires More than Just Kitchen Help

 Having a sculpted body and well-defined abs are popular goals for men and women.  For the majority, it is possible by simply making changes in diet and exercise habits but there are select groups who are unable to accomplish “creating abs in the kitchen”. 

Achieving Defined Abs Can be a Struggle

Abs Aren't Always Made in the Kitchen. AleksandarGeorgiev/Getty Images

Studies show what we eat holds the largest weight in seeing results and as high as 80% compared to 20% workouts determining if our lean mass 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 and loose skin due to ongoing issues the kitchen just can’t fix.  Although there are numerous causes, I have narrowed down the top four reasons why “Abs Can’t Always Be Made in the Kitchen:” 


Menopause is Linked to Increased Abdominal Fat. tbradford/GettyImages

 The dreaded coined phrase “menopot” does ring true for many menopausal women.  A decrease in estrogen brings fat to the mid-section in an attempt to fix a “problem” not really a problem but a natural part of life.  Fat is a carrier of estrogen and the body wants to put the stuff where it’s needed or believed to be useful.  “Studies using computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) show that 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 does require full attention to our healthy lifestyle.  Add foods helpful to alleviate menopause symptoms and regular exercise to combat what can’t be fixed in the kitchen.  Our Menopause Expert, Mache Seibel, MD, has published an excellent article titled “Weight Gain in Menopause” and recommendations to ward off excess pounds: 

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Excessive Weight Loss

Loose Skin
Loose Skin is Common with Excessive Weight Loss. Juan Silva/Getty Images

 Being overweight or obese for a long period of time or experiencing more weight gain than desired during a pregnancy can cause unwanted abdominal changes.  Common are loose abdominal skin and pouches that just won’t bounce back regardless of what is done in the kitchen.  “Following massive weight loss, patients generally have skin redundancy on the trunk, buttocks, breast, upper arms, thighs and face, leading to a poor quality of life and social acceptance.” This can feel overwhelming especially if you are considering surgical options.  Now is the time to focus on the positive and celebrate your victories of getting healthy, losing weight and having further fitness goals.  You aren’t alone in this struggle and it will be important for you to maintain a healthy lifestyle of eating right and exercise.  Continue to research your options and start by reading this very informative article titled “Body Lift Surgery - What You Need to Know” by our Plastic Surgery Expert, Natalie Kita:

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Pregnancy and Child Birth

Abs and Pregnancy
Child Birth Can Cause Diastasis recti. © nico piotto/Getty Images

 Child birth includes weight gain and possible stretch marks, but what is often left out of the picture is Diastasis recti abdominis (DRA).  “Stretching and thinning of the recti abdominis muscles are 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, 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.  Read more about “Diastasis Recti after Having a Baby” from our Pregnancy and Childbirth Expert, Robin Elise Weiss, PhD:

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Aging and Abs
Aging Comes with Body Changes. Westend61/Getty Images

 Aging is an honor and privilege and done healthy, absolutely awesome.  Getting older does come with body changes for both men and women however.  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 counter-part.  Research also shows both men and women increasing in weight, fat, while decreasing in muscle.  It is also noted a slowed to sedentary exercise lifestyle greatly contributed to these results.  Science is providing great feedback on the importance of continuing a regular exercise and healthy eating plan as we get older.   “Significant positive effects of physical activity are increases in fat free mass (muscle) and decreases in total body fat and percentage body fat.” We can come close to creating abs in the kitchen but exercise definitely needs to be included for a lifetime.  Read this outstanding article by our Healthy Aging Expert, Sharon Basaraba outlining “How Your Body Shape Changes with Age”:

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