Debunking the Myth: Why ‘Abs Are Made in the Kitchen’ Is a Harmful Fallacy

pilates reformer machines at Orofino Wellness

Why the phrase “abs are made in the kitchen” is a fallacy. 

I’ve heard versions of this phrase many, many times. For a long time I went along with it. After all, you are what you eat, right?

Well, not exactly. 

Beliefs like these are why some people get into disordered eating patterns

I get it when people say that no amount of crunches will give you visible abs.  When fat covers abdominal muscles, you won’t see any definition. But to imply that abs are made in the kitchen is to imply that if you eat a certain way, you can have the body you want.  One that boasts a flat tummy or even 6-pack or 8-pack abs. And that is simply not true for most people.  And for the people that it is true, I would argue that many of those people restrict food and battle disordered eating. 

That’s not to say that some people don’t naturally have lean figures. They do. But phrases like “abs are made in the kitchen” are not only misguided but potentially harmful.

Let’s say a person starts working out and they are not seeing results that they want.  Instead of focusing on all of the amazing benefits that the movement is giving them, they turn further down the path of what to do to alter their body, be it in composition or overall size.  They turn to behaviors that are far from health promoting by beginning to eliminate foods that hold a lot of nutritional value or starting to cut calories in general. 

And then they are praised for it.  Reinforcing unhealthy and likely unsustainable behaviors. And worse case scenario, leading people down a path of weight cycling, chronic dieting, and/or disordered eating behaviors. 

Body Diversity is real 

Another reason that the phrase bugs me is that it reinforces that people that are smaller are that way because they have the behaviors that back that up. But that is simply not true. Many people reside in smaller bodies because those are their genetics.  Not because they eat a certain way.  Not because they spend 6 days of the week in the gym.

And likewise, there are many people who reside in larger bodies who simply are meant to live in larger bodies.  They might have the “healthiest” diet in the world and work out consistently and still not see abs.  And, if they are able to produce those results, it would likely be very unhealthy and, again, unsustainable because their body is simply not supposed to be that way. 

Exercise is worth it even if you don’t see results externally

And thirdly, the reason that the phrase is problematic is that it implies that exercise isn’t beneficial without also embarking on some sort of weight loss or “healthy eating” plan.  What’s healthy to one person is not healthy to another.  Becoming active benefits your health without trying to change any other behaviors.  You don’t have to start a diet if you begin to exercise.  In fact, I’d advise against it.  It’s important to have reasons to move that have nothing to do with the way your body will change on the outside.  More importantly fitness gives us a healthier mind, prevents disease, and ensures that we will feel better as we age. That’s enough.  You don’t need visible abs to prove that you’re fit and you certainly don’t need someone telling you that in order to make movement count, you also have to eat a certain way.

You have abs right now.  No one has to see them for that to be true.  

If you want a stronger core, the kind of core that will support your back, help you stand and sit taller, and support your balance, then please pursue that.  The pursuit of a stronger core is healthy.  Trying to lose enough fat to see those abs, isn’t. 

If you’d like to support your body through proper nutrition, reach out to me or another professional who doesn’t promote restriction.  And if you’d like to build your core strength, I’ve got a Pilates Reformer with your name on it!