Snuggled under the covers in a small apartment in Barcelona she whispered “which bucket list item are you dreading the most?” Taken back, I laid silent for a moment. I had never thought about that before. I mentally scanned my list and stopped on the most likely answer. “Getting a six pack”, I grimaced, “I hear you need to get to a inhumane body fat percentage of 10 or less.”

“What are you at right now?”, she said stroking my stomach.

“I don’t know but even in my best shape I have never dipped below 15%.”

It Starts

Two weeks ago I had my wisdom teeth removed and was forced to go on an all liquid diet. As my weight started to go down, I realized that I was feeling better physically (although the pain killers might have helped :-p). As I was forced to consider everything that I ate, my attitude toward diet made a noticeable shift.

A week ago I decided to face this bucket list item head on. It is not a physical victory I am looking for (I think I look fine and healthy) but instead a mental one. Diet and exercise are two of the hardest battles I have ever fought. They are also two of the most important for my happiness.

I have read extensively about people’s tips and tricks for perfect abs. I have talked to doctors, athletes, models and other physique experts and come to one simple conclusion.

I am mostly going to ignore everything people say about how to get perfect abs.

I am not looking for the perfect exercise technique or new drug. Instead I am going to go back to the basics. It might take me a while but I am confident that by ignoring shortcuts, I can achieve my goal.

The Simple Plan

  1. Set a finish line before I start
  2. Build up mental energy
  3. Make no exceptions
  4. Drink lots of water
  5. Eat mostly fruits and vegetables
  6. Exercise four days a week
  7. Plan for weak moments

That’s it. I am going to stick with the basics and focus on staying consistent. Ideally, I hope my plan is maintainable so that it becomes less of a strict diet and more of a lifestyle. Unfortunately, hope is not a solid game plan. For that, see below.

The Full Plan

Below are the full details of my plan:

Set a Finish Line Before I Start

One of my major priorities for this bucket list item is creating a plan that is slow and maintainable rather than fast and brutal. Getting 10% or less body fat literally requires starving yourself. I am not interested in doing this in the short term, I’d rather have a small surplus of burned calories rather than a magic technique that creates a spiking surplus.

From past experience, I know that it is easier to stick to a hard plan if you have an end point in mind. As such, I am planning an end date of July 3rd. After that date, I will evaluate my progress and decide on a next step. (I suspect it will be continuing the plan.) This also happens to be the time when I will be visiting Newport Beach, California. For those who haven’t been there, that city is inhabited by some of the most beautiful people in the world. It is ridiculous how good most people there look on the beach. I plan on using this event as mental fuel for when times get tough.

Build Up Mental Energy

Dieting and exercise are extremely difficult. While one part of the brain reminds you of the diet, the older root of your brain reminds you of hunger. Unfortunately, the older part of your brain is usually stronger. To combat this I am publishing this post in order build up positive peer pressure and I am giving myself two days of ramp up time. (a pre-diet if you will.)

Make No Exceptions

Every diet that fails, fails at the first exception.

“Eating a cookie is fine, I will just go running afterward.”
“Mayo on this won’t hurt me, I have earned it!”
“Skipping exercise today is no problem, I’ll just do it tomorrow.”
“I know I not supposed to eat rice but sushi is different!”

While these situations on their own are not likely to make a major impact, the precedence that they set absolutely will. I can only fail at a diet if I allow myself to make a first failure.

Drink A lot of Water


Every other morning I am going to slice up a lemon into four parts and put it into a liter water bottle. (I have found the lemon lasts two days before getting gross). I plan on taking the water bottle with me throughout most of my day.

Eat Mostly Fruits and Vegetables

I am sticking to a paleo diet. I don’t care about the fine details of the diet, all I am concerned about is eating simple foods that I can easily identify as being healthy.

My meals will include eggs and meat (low-fat sausage or something similar) for breakfast, salad for lunch, berries for snacks, beef or chicken with vegetables with a salad for dinner. I have found that the key to successful dieting is making sure that my meals are convenient to prepare and that the serving sizes are reasonable. Convenience and serving size are the quicksand of dieting.

To prevent any worries about not getting enough “xyz” vitamin/mineral, I will be taking 1-a-day multivitamins. Problem solved.

Exercise Four Days a Week

Sunday – 1.5 hours of Yoga
Monday – 1 hour of Crossfit
Wednesday – 1 hour of Crossfit
Friday – 1 hour of Crossfit

This will allow me to burn plenty of calories while allowing for my body to heal and rebuild between workouts. Remember, I am going for maintainability, not suicide.

Plan for Weak Moments

I am intentionally planning to take cheat meals. I am anticipating and planing these for dinners on Friday and breakfasts/lunch on Saturday. (I also have a short Chicago trip) Allowing these cheat meals will let me lose weight without being anti-social. It will also make it easier to deal with those moments when the craving for ice cream equal that of oxygen. :-)

That’s all there is to it. I’ll let you all know as I make progress.

While I still strongly believe in this framework for success, I feel that I need to note that this attempt failed. I succumbed to work pressure and lost my will power. That said, hope is not lost! I have a new, more drastic, plan that I am trying next. Details to come after I see results.
Update: It took a long time but I eventually did earn six pack abs. Good grief was this a challenge!