As a fitness and health blogger, I feel a lot of pressure to have a perfect body and be constantly ‘on’ healthy mode. It seems like the most successful online fitness personalities are those with six packs, in the UK particularly, with instagram selfies of toned abs displayed under lifted up tops.
My tummy is not Instagram ready; no amount of filters will remove my slight muffin top and perhaps my likes and follower number reflect this. I share real life, the failed workout or the miserable run, the cake and Prosecco that I enjoy with friends.
At a recent press event, I was embarrassed to have to request a large top, and despite wearing their largest sizes, I felt uncomfortable in the tight outfit. I feel embarrassed when PR’s ask me what size clothes I wear, having to ask for an M rather than the sample size S, as if they might change their mind about working with me once they know my real size.
But I am fit, I am healthy. I do believe I am a good role model. I eat well, I workout and I enjoy an achievable balance in my life. In reality, getting a six pack is not all that healthy for most people. This interesting article outlines why having a six pack does not necessarily make you an authority on healthy living, and I couldn’t agree more.
The strict eating and exercise regime that most people would need to follow in order to achieve these dream abs is unrealistic, and in my opinion, not particularly good for you. Here’s a brilliant infographic on the true cost of getting lean.
However, this doesn’t stop me feeling envious, I feel like a lesser fitness blogger because I don’t have perfect abs. I wear loose tops both to the gym and when I’m not wearing lycra to cover up the area I’m most self-conscious of. I saw some photos of myself that aren’t particularly flattering, and I want to feel confident and comfortable on holiday this summer.
My stomach is my problem area, and it needs addressing. Over the next few weeks I’m going to be cleaning up my diet during the week (inspired by Ashley’s latest post), and working hard with the Trube trainers to target my core- not to get a six pack, or a ‘bikini body’, but to regain body confidence.
When I first read this I was so shocked that you feel this way as I think you have a very enviable figure Charlie!! However I know that all women have issues with their bodies, regardless of their size. I think you should be very proud of yours! X
That’s exactly what I was going to write! Your fitness and shape is what I aspire to not some skinny 20 year old who doesn’t eat enough. Thanks for keeping me interested and inspiring me to get out and do something x
Thank you so much for you message 🙂
Thanks Cara, it was actually photos from the runs last week that really hit home!!
I hate my legs, always have! I’m a runner, I run at least 3 times a week (plus everything else, gym, swimming, cycling etc!) and I know I’ll never have slim cellulite free legs! However they’ve run 4 marathons and that’s pretty cool and sometimes I have to remind myself of that 🙂 You look great! Happy Monday x
Thanks Ab, running 4 marathons is awesome! Your legs are amazing!
I’m so glad that my post inspired you. It’s incredible that people we envy and look to as role models have their own self esteem issues. You are incredibly fit and sure, you may have lost a few seconds off your running pace or an extra pound or two but you’re beautiful, a wonderful friend, strong and balancing SO MUCH right now!
Yes! I am so relieved to read this post. Not because you are self-conscious and feel awkward asking for a medium when working with brands (for the record I think you look awesome – I’m very envious how you can carry off those amazingly patterned leggings). But because you are normal… you are super fit and healthy, enjoy life and make the most of every day. You certainly don’t have to be a body builder to be a fitness role model (I prefer it that you’re not); you are already a role model to people like me.
I am inspired. Thanks Charlie.
Firstly, you look great- beautiful and healthy.
But that’s not really the point, so lets talk abs. I don’t want abs. I don’t actually really think its worth it. If they happen accidentally as I keep up my exercise and work on my diet, so be it!
I also think that at the far end of ab definition, people have gone all the way through health into unhealthiness again- if you read what bodybuilders (or VS models) do before a show!
I know, it’s scary knowing what happens before a men’s health photoshoot!
Great post highlighting something I feel super passionate about. As a health food chef and blogger I have far from the perfect figure. But I am healthy, I work out regularly and life stresses aside I feel fab. I am sick of seeing super toned bodies on instagram ‘selling’ a lifestyle that for most is unattainable and see’s my (and others I presume) self-confidence bomb dive. Keep being passionate about healthy living and the rest will follow..
YES! That is exactly it!
Great post and interesting to hear about the hangups and insecurities we all have, no matter how fit and healthy we are! For the record I think you have an aspirational physique that you should be proud of, you clearly work hard for it! 🙂 Aby x
haha thank you so much! Got to try to remember that when I’m in a bikini in 3 weeks!
Great post! I follow you because you are REAL. Not everyone wants to have a six pack or can have a six pack. My belly has stretch marks and will probably never be tight and flat. Does it bother me? Of course, but there are more important things in life than having a tight belly. I love to run and exercise and feel a whole lot better for it. I exercise because it makes me feel good and it relieves stress, having a fit body is just a bonus. Thanks for keeping it real!
Thank you Andrea- completely agree that working out does so much more than just make you look great!
Strong core is important but thankfully it’s not the same thing as a six pack 🙂 I work on my core a lot (mostly at Crossfit) because after 2 kids I felt completely mush in the middle and I don’t mean the looks – I felt weak and just ‘not together’ (if that makes sense to someone who hasn’t had kids yet! :). I’m happy with my core strength now even though I still have a muffin top. As much as I love to work out and push my body in all kinds of different ways, I really, really enjoy eating as well 🙂
Agree a strong core really helped me get through the Berlin marathon last year and is something I’m working on for Chicago! Good for you!!
This is a brilliant post, and I’m really glad to see that there are people out there who are taking a realistic, healthy approach to fitness and exercise. I think you look fab, and should be very proud of your figure – you’ve worked hard to get it!
With regards to six packs, I came across a really interesting post from @MelissaWeldonUK a while back about the realities of getting down to that sort of fat percentage, and it was a real eye opener – certainly not all it’s cracked up to be. Who needs one, anyway? 😉
Ooh will have to check that out, thanks for sharing!
H Charlie, this is a really good post & like someone else has already commented, one of the main reasons I read your blog is because of your honesty and how real you are with how you portray yourself in your posts. I think you’re right about how abs can be deceptive – both perfectly sculpted ones and the absence of – because neither necessarily indicate how fit or healthy you really are. I think you’re a great role model for girls, you’ve a great attitude with regards to running and fitness and you also seem to have fun along the way and know it’s good to have a treat occasionally. You work hard for your figure so be proud of her 🙂
Thank you so much Fiona, I really appreciate your comment 🙂 Thanks for reading!
I absolutely love this post. Very original, and well said. There’s definitely room for a more ‘realistic’ blog like yours online. I can’t believe the number of bloggers I see who claim to live off raw kale and chia seeds. It’s not very achievable, and definitely not very desirable!
Hatty at headtotone.com
Thanks Hatty! I definitely could not live off kale and chia seeds 😉
I tried to write a similar post last week – not so much about abs but about how much pressure it feels like there is. I felt too overwhelmed and upset to publish. Mostly I feel like this comes from myself; I continually assess myself against my past figure, my dream figure, and the figures of other women. It’s an ongoing battle. Thank you for sharing.
This is so me! I’m always thinking about ‘going back to 2008 skinny’ even though I was 25 then and out raving (and not eating) every weekend as well as working out all of the time..
No matter what level my fitness at the present moment I am always comparing myself to my younger self, knowing in those pictures where I like what I see, I was probably thinking exactly the same thing – it’s exhausting!
Gotta love the Baz Luhrmann song for this sort of thing!
I completely agree- there is so much pressure! I feel guilty when I see people on instagram and twitter that seem to work out all the time, and hardly take rest days! WE need to remember it’s about what works for you to make you feel good!
I feel your pain. I even get embarrassed at events because I dont wear matching kit let alone focusing on the shape of what’s in it (remember the girl in the dress at laughter yoga, that’s me!). To be thin I would have to deny my body what’s fun in life – or exercise in ways that took the fun out of that. So I’ll deal. I really do need to get round to buying matching kit one day though!
Haha don’t worry- I don’t wear matching kit either especially not for a 6am workout!
This was exactly what I needed to hear today – thank you Charlie! I struggle a lot to separate “healthy” from “stick-thin”…
No problem- thanks Rachel!
Yeah, I don’t think I’d read your blog if you had this ‘perfect, model-like’ body. That’s not real. You’re real – you’re strong and healthy and full of beans and that’s why I read along. If it’s any help, I am always super jealous of how your legs look in those crazy leggings you wear. I die inside just THINKING about my bottom in them! And my pot belly is HORRIBLE!!!
So basically, stuff ’em and keep being you. x
Thanks Cathryn! That makes me feel so much better! And I’m sure you would look awesome in printed leggings- it’s all about finding the right ones for your legs and bum!!
This made for a really interesting but uncomfortable read for me. I’m a (relatively new) health and fitness blogger and I do want a six pack. I am also ‘guilty’ of the ab shots on Instagram. I do hope that I’m not promoting an unhealthy image/way of life and I don’t think that’s the case, but this post will certainly make me think carefully about it in future. Definitely a thought provoking post, so thank you 🙂
Hi Joanna, thanks so much for commenting!! I guess I just find the lifting the top up to show abs off a little like a cleavage shot! Maybe that’s because I don’t have the abs to show off in the first place!!
I can certainly see the comparison – after all, it’s showing off a part of the body usually kept under wraps. I’m going to plug it here as I think it’s a bit cringe but I did write on my blog about the reasons I post such pictures on Instagram, which might make for another side to the story.
Again though, really interesting read and you’ve gained another follower in me 🙂
Great post! I started a fitness regime a few months ago and had started panicking that I didn’t have abs yet. All I do is see abs on Instagram and it made me panic that I was doing something wrong. But I feel much better about myself and am still able to enjoy some treats which is the main thing. Thanks for sharing your opinion and allowing us to see that you don’t have to be chiseled to be healthy.
Thank you! you’re not doing anything wrong- it can feel that way though!! You definitely don’t have to be chiselled to be healthy!
Don’t worry, I’m sure you’re doing a great job!
Great post. I feel exactly the same. Thank you for putting it out there and making me feel OK about feeling this way. I enjoy running, working out and feeling good as much as I enjoy chocolate, prosecco and cake! And why should I feel bad about that?! I try to tell myself all the time that everyone’s bodies are different, but it doesn’t stop me feeling jealous of the insta-abs pics. I just have to keep reminding myself that abs or no abs, I get round flippin’ marathons, and that ROCKS!
NO problem, was a little scary but the overwhelming response has been amazing!! A marathon is amazing!!
Inspiring post – I feel exactly the same. I cycle everyday, run 3 times a week and walk yet still feel embarrassed to show any slight glimpse of my stomach – or even cellulite on my legs! Just have to remind myself that I am fit – a lot fitter than my friends with amazing bodies.
It can be so frustrating though, can’t it! I’m about to go on a holiday with my friends and trying not to think about that!!
As all the replies above have said, you have an incredible figure which is realistic! You are NORMAL! You lead a normal life, with a full time job and you enjoy life – who wants to not be able to have a glass of wine with friends or not go out for meals because you are scared of the temptation? No one. It’s not realistic. But you are a brilliant role model and are probably fitter and stronger than all those Instagram models put together despite not having a rock hard set of abs. You’re normal and are a real inspiration 🙂
I was just thinking the other day that the only thing I ever see on Instagram is abs….it can be rather depressing, especially when you’re keeping fit, eating well and having a balanced lifestyle but don’t have the abs to ‘prove’ it. Although it’s meant to show people what a ‘healthy lifestyle’ can achieve I fear it leads to unhealthy habits, just like the craze a few years ago to be super skinny goes hand in hand with eating disorders. There’s a lot of things that I sometimes think I’d like to change about my body but my little legs (which I often complain are a little stumpy) just ran 110 miles in 4 days- I think that says more about what my body can acheive than a picture of my abs!!
It really can! 110 miles in 4 days is epic, well done!
In defence of abs I would say that in my case, mine have developed as a result of a healthy, balanced lifestyle as opposed to the unhealthy lifestyle I was previously sustaining in order to be super-skinny.
I am not professing to be a health & fitness expert at all, and certainly don’t think a set of abs qualifies you as such. I have incredible admiration for those of you who run marathons and can only hope that my body can do such things one day. But I would just caution against thinking that those who show off their abs are promoting an unhealthy attitude, just because it’s not something that isn’t obtainable for everyone. After all, marathon running isn’t something that everyone will be able to achieve, yet marathon runners aren’t accused of setting unhealthy standards.
This has been tricky to word and I hope I’ve managed it without causing any offence! 🙂
I love this honest post, Charlie! You’re right that your following loves you because you’re real and share the struggles along with the wins 🙂 Having a strong core is important for health, but having is six pack is not…at all! I joke and say I’m “skinny fat” because my stomach is not toned at all, but you know, I’d rather drink the wine with friends haha.
Agree that a strong core is really important but strong doesn’t necessarily mean six pack (luckily!)
I loved this post so much. If it helps, I view you as a healthy shot of awesomeness. But I too see all of those “transformative abs” on insta. They make it look like its so easy and then whatever healthy lifestyle we’re already living feels like it falls short b/c we don’t all have the same results.
Thanks Nicole!! Love the description as a ‘healthy shot of awesomeness’- made my day!
Really interesting infographic.
In the real world i.e. not on an airbrushed magazine cover being healthy, strong, fit and fast are the things we aim for whilst still enjoying the beers and the laughs that should go with it. Sacrificing those things for a few Instagram flat stomach shots is not a good trade.
I completely agree Chris!!
You’ve got to love the skin your in. A six pack is definitely not a requirement of being fit our healthy. you look awesome!
There’s nothing wrong with being a lard arse. You go girl!