HealthHealth ChallengeNutrition

Health Challenge Update III: Getting to that Six Pack, Slowly But Surely!

It’s been about two weeks since the last update and being busy with the creation of the first minimum viable product of Shape Scale, I have been getting my hands busy helping to roll out our scale to local fitness and wellness centers. A super exciting move for us as we’ll get first hand feedback from actual users for our product!
That doesn’t mean we have stopped with our health challenge. But the challenge is definitely there to keep up with our ambitious regiment.

After 5 weeks into the six-pack challenge, I’m slowly getting there. The six pack seems slowly but surely within reach. It’s definitely going to take a lot more work as I still have too much fat.

What’s Been Working:


  • Running & cycling. I’ve been running and cycling around the bay to some great extend over the past few weeks. I’ve also mixed in some interval training and tempo running, which allowed me mix up my cardio with some HIIT. I most recently even competed in a 10k charity run for the Red Cross in Santa Cruz and reach my own Personal Record at 48min. I’m excited to see what I’ll be able to pull off for the San Francisco Half Marathon in two weeks.

  • We got ourselves a foam roller, which allowed me to massage my sore muscle areas for faster recovery.

  • I have increased my protein intake from 0.6~0.7 per pound of body weight to 1.0~1.1 per pound of body weight as recommend by the Muscle For Life book. Mostly by drinking pre- and post- workout protein shakes. This has visibly allowed my muscles to repair at a quicker pace. The jury is still out whether this will help me with muscle growth, but since I’m currently going for a calorie deficit, I’ll be at best experiencing slight muscle growth I reckon.

Whey Protein

  • I allowed for greater rest of two days between working out muscle areas (i.e. upper body vs lower body).

  • Pushing myself to the limits. It’s easy to get stagnant and not push yourself to your limit. But in order to make real gains you’ll need to push your muscle to overexert so that they repair and grow larger. Alex and a few group exercises via Vint and Class Pass have been a tremendous help in making sure I don’t slack. Getting the body of my dreams is hard work and if I’m doing this alone, I’ll only end up slacking!

My Struggles:


  • My metabolism. As you remember, it’s been a big pain point for me. I have learnt the hard way that low carb diets such as Paleo, or Tim Ferris’ 4H Body Slow Carb diet can cause the metabolism to slow down more. Carbohydrates are heavily related to thyroid hormones, which are responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism. I’m sorry for sharing but in the light of transparency, I have to say that our new diet had dramatically slowed down my bowl movement (about once a week) and it had been somewhat a problem, as I felt bloated and constipated. I don’t think it’s been unhealthy, but it’s been a discomfort and distraction.As I had mentioned in my last blog post I have now instated a few measures. First, of all I’m now committing to “re-feeding” aka reversed dieting at least once a week. I first read about it in the ‘Bigger Leaner Stronger’ book by the renown blogger Michael Mathews and then also heard it first hand two weeks ago from a nutrition expert from at the Evolution Sports Expo down in Santa Clara. The basic idea is to bring up your energy and carbohydrate intake above your Base Metabolic Rate (BMR) again for a day so that your body reboots its metabolism again. So two weeks ago I initiated this new ritual with a re-feed weekend by consuming above my basic metabolism rate of around 1,830 calories. I literary ate energy bars, potatoes, a chocolate desert and some bread as well. This helped me to get things going, but then everything slowed again, so I asked around and was recommended to try flax seeds (high in fiber) and then also prune juice (high in sorbitol as I explained in my last post). This second and third measure led to even more success and now things have started to slowly normalize for me.

  • Counting your nutrition (via MyFitnessPal) is a CHORE (you can follow my diet here). It’s doable when preparing your own food. But over the last month we have attended workshops, YC’s prototype day, weekly YC dinners and had a number of meals out in San Francisco. Most restaurants or catered food won’t be able to disclose the nutritional value of their meals to you. And this is where the guess work starts, and why I have never been able to use MyFitnessPal in Hong Kong and China very much. Generally this makes it hard to be truly proactive of keeping in line with one’s own energy goals. In theory one shouldn’t have to pea count one’s calories, but since I’m on average going for a 500 calorie deficit I can easily end up overeating by simple consuming a few too many nuts or olive oil. We are doing this for the sake of science and staying true to the quantified self, but I can totally relate why measuring your daily food intake can be a true obstacle to most of us. Nevertheless, even when only done for a period of time it allows for a brief snapshot into one’s own eating habits. I’ve seen too many folks that simply have no clue that they are overeating and thus end up obese. It’s just so damn easy in our modern society that is showering us foods dense in carbs/sugars and fat.

Taking Body Measurements

  • Likewise taking measurements can be quite TIME consuming and inaccurate when done yourself. It’s easy to get it wrong by just a millimeter because you have not tightened the measure tape as much as the previous time. So it’s quite easy to get these wrong. Shape Scale’s automatic measurements are just around the door. Getting these right and accurate to the millimeter will solve a great pain point for myself and potentially thousands of others.

  • Relying on weight and staying in the mirror doesn’t cut it. I have made little to next progress in terms of weight over the past 2-3 weeks. Staring into the mirror I sometimes feel that I have made no progress at all and then sometimes depending on my hydration level I can truly see the difference. Body fat seems to have been the most accurate indicator so far. We take skin fold and bio-impedance measures and by all accounts I have decreased body fat from 19-20% to 15-16% during June. Alex on the other hand who has been even more rigorous in his diet, has been shedding now 12lbs over the past month. It’s also clearly reflected in his loss in body fat from 15-16% down to around 13%. A tremendous success.

  • It definitely doesn’t get easier. The last few body fat percentiles towards my six pack will be most definitely the most hardest and I’ll likely have to reduce my calorie deficit further to make it happen.

 The Wrap

We have been making progress. I can slowly pick up a four-pack now if I flex my abs and Alex now has a full six-pack. But it is indeed a challenge to keep yourself motivated when things appear to move slowly. I’ve been betting now close to $200 on DietBet to reduce my weight a further 4% within the next four weeks. To me it’s another tool to get moving towards my goal. It really helps that I’m not alone at it. In the end changing your diet should be something permanent and not just a temporary cut and that’s going to be the true challenge for us during our Road to Health.
The past few weeks have made Alex and myself far more conscious about what we eat and not in a negative, starving kind of way. Our journey so far has taught us a lot about the nutrients (or there lack of) within our food. In fact, I’d argue that the difficulty lies mostly within our society. It has become far too easy to eat food with a high density in macro nutrients but that offer little micro nutrient value. A lot of these include sauces high in sugar and/or fat, processed foods high in sugars or simple carbohydrates such as cereals and packaged meals, alcohol and of course soda drinks. If you consume any of these it’s extremely easy to over consume as these foods are so dense in their energy concentration that they barely make our stomach feel “full”. Our food has changed tremendously over the past 100 years, but our body has hardly evolved over the past 2 million years. If you stick with complex carbohydrates and protein rich meals that are high in dietary fiber, it is relatively easy to stay within your Metabolic Burn Rate without ever going hungry. Exercise itself can only burn so much weight. It takes some hard, exhausting cardio (running or cycling) to just burn 1,000 calories within 60-70 minutes and that burns off barely 10 tablespoons of Olive Oil, 200g of Goat Cheese or not even an entire 12″ pizza.

My Health Challenge Stats [July 9]

  • Current Weight: 169.8 lbs (down from 173.5 from June 1)
  • Current BMI: 23.68 (down from 24.2 from June 1)
  • Current Body Fat (Bio Impedance): 14~15%  (down from 18.4% from June 1)
  • Current Waist Measurement: 83.4mm (down from about ~88mm from early June)
  • Steps: between 45-80k a week. Lately I’ve been doing more cycling, which is fantastic in the Bay area. There are bike paths and the surface is typically very flat. I cycle easily 30-50 miles a week due to our customer development in the Bay area.


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Have any feedback? Comments? Let me know. 🙂


Photo Credits: Phil Gradwell (Flickr), Health Gauge (Flickr)

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Martin Kessler

COO and Co-Founder of Shape. Enjoys tackling video games at high difficulty and crazy, muddy obstacle course races.


  1. I love the graphical representation of how you track your results. Where can I find that program, to use it for myself ❓

  2. I started my route to six pack abs about 7’weeks ago. I have generally thin bones and think my weight would be in the 150s area although my height is 5’11”. I can see a four back now. I was a bit beyond this stage two years ago. My net calorie intake is about 1950 and myfitnesspal is my way to do this. My daily calories are anywhere from 2500 to 2700. I lost about 5 pounds in 5 weeks and think that is too fast. So I adjusted my goal calories upward from 1900 to 1950. Though i started this in May, I’ve come a lot further along since February. It’s a significant difference. I think my progress is going to get slower so I hunk in December I will get the six pack. I already can feel the three rows under my skin.

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