My story... everyone has one....
I awoke a few months ago and began a quest in earnest to loose some weight. I have not been a dieter in the past, in fact, I have never been hung up on food and for the most part, have never had a problem with weight. I was middle aged, had the now traditional beer belly, was fit enough to occasionally surf, but then one day it hit me as I walked by the mirror after getting out of the shower.
I was fat. I stepped on the scale, and it hit 240lbs, on my 6’3” frame. I’m not talking 240lbs in the NFL variety all in muscle, but a flabby 240 that droops under my chin, my belly hiding my sagging ass. My man boobs were starting to mature, and it was a moment in the mirror that caught me gasping. What have I done to myself?
Darcy and I have a very nice lifestyle. We eat out damn near every night. When we don’t eat out, we probably order ‘in’. If we don’t order in, we cook something we assume is healthy. My diet consisted of fine wine, amazing meals with complicated sauces and fantastic starches like double stuffed potatoes. Darcy’s has an amazing metabolism and should be studied in school. She has low blood pressure, can eat anything and not gain weight, yet still has a very active social circle that revolves around walking miles on the beach with friends. I however, was becoming a sedentary slug.
I wasn’t always this way. In college I raced bicycles and was president of our cycling team for several years. I put everything I had into running the team, to the detriment of my grades unfortunately. I was lean, had very little body fat, and was fit. I could eat anything I wanted and then some. I knew that burning those calories while on a 100 mile ride was not a problem, and generally ate the traditional way a cyclist in the 80’s did. Lots of ‘carbo loading’ before races, recovery featuring even more pasta, etc. I took some sports nutrition classes and the science of the day supported this lifestyle.
Over the years, my body transformed to slugness. I had entered the workforce, built a company, and generally overworked myself into unhealthful plenty. A plenty that is on every corner of every intersection all over the country. A fast food customer I was.
So that September afternoon, I pumped up the tires and dusted off the detritus on my 24 year old custom made Holland racing bike, and went for a ride down the coast. It was wonderful. The surfers getting ready to head out, the girls in bikinis, the Arizona drivers looking for a place to park the minivan, the whole scene was right out central casting of a movie. There were people on roller blades, guys sitting on park benches smoking pot, cops writing tickets, seagulls flying by, the salt air filling my lungs and the sunset recharging my soul. I missed it. I missed my bike.
I began with some short rides. But before that I had to rummage through my junk to find my shoes and helmet. My cycling shorts of yesteryear were shredded by age and I had to get some new gear. My wife is very clever and always worries when I begin a new hobby. She knows I have two modes. Either ‘off’ or ‘all in’ when it comes to my obsessions with new projects. She saw the bag from the bike store and asked casually what I needed at the bike shop. I told her mater of factly that my shoes were MIA, and I needed a helmet and shorts to go for a ride on my bike. I didn’t think anything of it, however she sort of looked at me funny and said ‘uh huh, right’.
She had reason to worry. I was hooked in no time. I quickly ditched the 20+ year old steel bike and scoured eBay for a state of the art carbon bike and components. I was soon donning a new team jersey, but instead of SDSU, it was SDBC (San Diego Bicycle Club). I was riding on their Sat morning rides, and working my way from dead slow to faster and faster rides. By October I did my first century ride (100 miles) in 20 years. It wasn’t bad. I decided I needed help to maybe race again. I hired a bike coach. Was it the bike making me like this, or something else?
I was also going to the gym a couple of days a week. I’ve typically spent my entire life trying to avoid the gym. I think it comes from some early high school memories of jocks in the weight room and my spindly arms trying to push a measly weight and the subsequent laughter. I grew into a large person, and with proper clothing choices, people couldn’t tell I was jabba the hut. I never had trouble catching waves in the crowd as nobody wants to get in the way of the ‘big’ guys in the lineup. So there I was in the gym with a personal trainer learning how all the equipment works, while pretending that I knew all along. I certainly didn’t.
Luckily, I had started doing Pilates and Yoga several days a week for years. It was a way to reconnect with myself and was very good for the soul, but not necessarily my body until I decided to activate that in my practice. I had made some progress at 240lbs, but made even more progress as the weight loss took hold.
The weight started falling off. Well, not falling off, the first 20 was easy. In fact, just a couple of months of pushing the pedals, my repressed memories of bike racing must have kicked in and gave me a boost of metabolism. I burned that off fast. And it’s becomes addictive. The weight loss that is.
One day I’m climbing with a group of accomplished riders up a hill in east San Diego County and one of the riders who I had been pacing with looks at me and says “for a big fella, your climbing really well”. I said, "huh?" He finished “ I can’t imaging carrying an extra 40 lbs up this hill”. Ouch. But it’s true. If you think about how much extra energy it takes to climb a hill on a bike when your overweight, It’s really a remarkable difference. He was 160lbs, in good shape, and producing 250watts of energy. I was 215lbs at the time and producing 320watts to go the same pace. Sure, I was ‘stronger’ in that I was producing more watts, but my heart rate was increased and I couldn’t nearly go as long or as hard as my lighter companion regardless of how much I wanted to kick his ass to the top of the climb!
If I could loose 20, I might be able to go a bit further I thought. I came across a post on Facebook about the Paleo Diet. It was essentially saying eat like a caveman. Cavemen didn’t eat processed foods, big macs, soda or krispy kreme donuts. Cavemen didn’t eat two food groups that our Federal Government considers essential. Grains and Dairy. There was no domesticated farm animals in the those days, so the idea of stealing some milk from a wandering wild animal and live to tell the tale is highly unlikely. Grains were not cultivated, and enriched flour was not even a thought, especially the sinfully tasty and shallow glazed donut. At least the caveman might have tasted honey. He certainly would have eaten lots of fruit, veggies and all the meat and eggs he could eat.
I went caveman. It really wasn’t too far off of what I was already eating. I had really started watching my diet when I started my journey and was calorie counting with the help of some iphone apps. The apps can really give you some insight into how you consume your calories each day and how it all adds up. My traditional cycling nutrition of pasta, pasta and more pasta was turned on it’s ear however. Paleo man never had a bowl of pasta, delicious pepperoni pizza or gnocchi with a Gorgonzola sauce.
So the results? I lost a grand total of 50 lbs. I now weigh in at 190 lbs, which was my target. I started my quest on Sept 1, 2010 Essentially 255 days, and lost almost .2 lbs a day. Not much, and very doable. I rode over 3,617 miles on my bike in that time, and burnt an extra 176,491 calories because of it. I set out on a ride on my bike 152 times for 292 total hours of riding. I climbed 156,000 vertical feet and rode an average cadence of 82 rpm and my heart beat on average 143 times per minute. My average ride duration is 24.8 miles. The miracle of keeping track of this stuff electronically eh?
So there you go. That's what happened to me, it's like back to the future. I'm on my bike again, but this time it's for me and it feels great! Now then, what should the next goal(s) be?