Please note: I am a cyclist, mom, and teacher who helps female cyclists lose weight from a place of love and appreciation for everything our bodies can DO. The photos of me in this article are a snapshot in time along this journey and are in no particular order. I love the girl AND her body in all of these photos. My body is just as it was meant to be in each and every one.
I love the month of January! It is always full of possibilities.
I always like to think about what a new year on the bike will bring, and dream of all of the cool places it will take me!
Now, what I don’t love?
I truly don’t love the idea of New Year’s Resolutions. At least not for me.
There have been so many resolutions over the years that I committed to and promptly abandoned a couple weeks down the road. I felt like a failure. The term just doesn’t breed super happy thoughts for me.
Kind of like that whole “New year, new you!” idea.
Please no. What is so wrong with me that I have to become someone completely different? That doesn’t feel good!
I do, however, love the idea of all of the possibilities of a fresh start in the new year. I love the opportunity to look at myself, what I have accomplished, and focus on areas where I can grow.
In fact, one of my favorite things is to focus on my physical health in the dead of winter after the holidays.
For example, two years ago I stepped on the scale on January 2nd.
I saw a number that was…well…let’s just say it was a number that was significantly higher than any I had ever seen when I wasn’t actively carrying another human.
At that moment, I looked at the number, and I decided that I wanted to change it.
That was it.
No drama, no “how did I let this happen to myself” nonsense.
I just looked at the number, and decided I wanted to change it. I believed it was possible, and so I did it.
I lost almost 50 pounds in a little over a year because I had spent a literal lifetime trying to lose weight, and gaining it back. Finally, this time, I learned from my mistakes.
I knew this time was going to be different because I was different. I was a cyclist. A mom. A teacher. A wife. I was strong.
I finally learned to love myself completely, unconditionally, just as I was.
I decided to lose weight not because I was broken, not because I needed to be fixed, and not because something was wrong with me or my body.
I chose to lose weight because I am awesome, I am a cyclist, and I want and deserve this for me.
Oh, and I also want to get up hills a little faster and easier!
In this article I will share with you my history of being overweight, my thoughts about my body, and how I finally was able to lose almost 50 pounds riding my bike.
I Have Been Overweight/Obese for YEARS
I’ve struggled with my weight pretty much for as long as I can remember. I always felt…big.
I felt bigger than other girls my age. My thighs, my arms, they just looked bigger.
I had this “baby fat” around my middle that didn’t ever go away, even though I was clearly no longer a baby.
I could always make “lips” with the rolls of my tummy and make my tummy “smile”…which I simultaneously found sort of funny, and, well, sort of not.
My parents, bless them, were amazing. They were loving and supportive. They never commented on my weight or my size. They told me I was beautiful and perfect just as I was.
My classmates and I had other ideas, however. I would be teased, and I let myself believe what they said.
It is so, so easy to pick on someone because they are fat. It’s something physical and visible.
I was always a little rough around the edges, a little argumentative, and would always stand up for myself. As a result I was kind of an easy target for the fat jokes and insults.
If boys couldn’t get the better of me in other ways, they would just call me fat.
And as angry as I would get on the outside, inside I was hurt. I wondered if they were right, and I felt like being fat was bad.
Sometimes I would lose a little weight, but I would always gain it back (plus a few pounds) and beat myself up. It was a cycle that would repeat itself again, and again.
As I got older the comments and insults from others were more nuanced and less frequent.
By this point it really didn’t matter anyway, because I was still doing a number on myself.
It wasn’t until I started turning all of these negative thoughts about my body into neutral, and then positive ones, that I truly believed in the possibility of losing weight.
Once I believed in this possibility I knew nothing could stop me.
How I Actually Lost Weight Cycling (And You Can Too!)
I don’t follow a “diet”. I don’t count macros or calories. I don’t do anything like that, and I probably never will unless somehow it becomes “fun” for me to!
It never worked for me. It wasn’t fun. I always would try a diet, try counting calories, fail, beat myself up, say “eff it.” and gain back the five pounds I lost plus at least five more.
Instead, this time I decided to try something totally different.
What if losing weight could feel good? What if it could be fun? What if I could be the one in control?
I decided to stop talking to myself like a jerk. I made a plan. I followed through with the plan (most days), and made sure that I got enough water and sleep.
That’s it. Truly.
Here is how I did each of those things, and why I ended up with the weight loss results I wanted.
#1: I Stopped Talking to Myself Like a Jerk
I learned to finally focus on what my body can DO. Not what it looks like.
We humans, especially women it seems, LOVE to beat ourselves up.
We tell ourselves we are overweight. That we look bad. That we look fat.
We use deprivation and willpower to make ourselves feel like crap, and try to actually lose weight this way!
Spoiler: it doesn’t work.
At least it never did for me. Why?
Because it feels BAD. Who wants to feel bad?
And when we feel bad, we look for something that makes us feel good. For many of us who are overweight…what makes us feel good?
You guessed it. Food. And LOTS OF IT.
Like a whole pantry of it. Chips. Cookies. Seconds on dinner when we are already full. Snacks, snacks, and more snacks.
However, once I stopped talking to myself like a jerk and started focusing on my body and what it could DO, not what it looks like, I actually started to love it and want to take care of it.
I stopped feeling bad about my body, and stopped feeling bad about myself.
I lost weight from a place of loving and appreciating myself and my body right now.
It’s my body that allows me to ride my bike. It’s my legs that spin and keep me moving. My body is something really incredible.
And yours is too. You just need to figure out how to believe it.
How I Changed My Thoughts
Instead of looking in the mirror and focusing on everything that’s wrong, I practiced completely neutral thoughts.
I knew that if I tried to jump right to thoughts like “MY BODY IS AWESOME!” that I wouldn’t actually believe it. My brain was too smart for that.
However, if I instead started with changing negative thoughts to neutral ones, I could actually believe them.
For example, “I hate my legs, they are so big” turned into “I have legs.”
That’s a fact! I have legs!
And then, I focused on what they could DO.
“My legs allow me to ride my bike.” Another fact!
That feels a whole lot better than the negative thoughts about my legs that weren’t serving me.
I was now on my way to having more positive thoughts of my body and focusing on what it can do.
I finally realized that once I started to love my body and appreciate what it is right now, that I wanted to take care of it. I wanted to be faster and stronger on my bike.
I want to lose weight, not just to look better, but to get up hills! I want to lose weight to be able to keep up with my son. To be an example of what healthy living is for him to follow.
Getting my head straight and loving myself and my body for what it can do, was the essential first step towards reasonable, sustainable weight loss.
#2: I Plan My Rides Weekly
Once I got a handle on my thoughts about myself, I realized I needed a plan.
I have always been a “fly by the seat of my pants” sort of girl.
I used to rarely, if ever, plan anything. Not even chores, you know the easiest thing to plan. I have piles of laundry all over my house.
I mean, they are clean and all, but I really don’t feel like folding them! So, I just pull clothes out of the baskets for my family when they need stuff.
Now, doing this with laundry is one thing. Doing it with your health is another thing entirely.
I knew that if I was going to make the changes I wanted, and see the results, that I would need a plan.
It would have to be a manageable plan. It would have to be doable. It would have to be EASY if there was ever a chance that I would stick with it.
There is something about making a plan, and writing it down/putting it into your calendar that makes it so much easier to follow through with the plan.
Each week on Sunday or Monday I sit down and intentionally plan my rides. I decide what days I am going to ride, and what time. Then I put it in my google calendar.
I also schedule a backup time that day where I can ride if something gets in the way of my original ride time.
This planning process is so important. By scheduling everything in advance you can set yourself up for success.
Instead of having a vague idea of how many times you would like to ride, you have specific times set aside on your calendar.
You are making an appointment for you. An appointment for your own physical (and mental) health. Honor it the same way you would honor an appointment with anyone else. YOU are that important.
Additionally, by planning your rides in advance you can also brainstorm obstacles in advance.
For example, my husband and I both ride. We can’t both ride solo outside the house because someone needs to be with our son. I know this is a potential obstacle, so I keep it in mind while planning my rides.
I also know that I hate riding late at night, so I try to schedule my rides earlier to set myself up for success. Then I leave the “after our son goes to bed” slot as an emergency backup.
Work is another obstacle to my rides, so I will have days where I plan to leave work on time/not so that I can get home for my ride.
If I don’t plan my rides for the week in advance I find that I scramble to fit them in. And when I am not feeling like it, and it’s not in my calendar, I more easily make excuses.
By planning out your rides, putting them in your calendar, and making an effort to keep that commitment to yourself, you will find it to be so much easier to get your rides in.
No drama. No excuses. You have the time.
You just ride. Done.
#3: I Plan My Meals Daily
I will let you in on a little secret. Well, I guess it’s not much of a secret.
Losing weight had a lot more to do with what I was putting in my mouth than how often I was getting on the bike.
I know this, because before I lost weight I was VERY active. I was riding regularly. Probably even more than I ride now.
And yet, instead of losing weight, I was gaining weight.
I felt like I had worked so hard on the bike that I earned the right to eat whatever I wanted.
Cycling was hard. Fun…but hard! Eating was easy and fun and I felt like I should be able to eat everything.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? That extra glass of wine, the extra cookie, the extra helping of potatoes…in the moment they taste so good. And you figure you can always just burn it off with the next ride!
Except, for me, it didn’t work that way. I wasn’t actually riding as much as I thought I was. I wasn’t burning as many calories as I thought I was. As a result, I was gaining weight.
The way I chose to manage this was to plan my food every day, and focus on what my body needs, not just what I want.
That doesn’t mean I choose foods I don’t like. On the contrary!
I only plan foods I like and enjoy. And in the beginning, I planned more food than I thought I would actually need just to get in the habit of planning my meals in advance.
I also don’t have any foods that are off limits. I happen to like carbs. Carbs are energy and fuel for my bike rides, so I have no interest in eliminating them or anything else that I happen to enjoy!
The idea is to get into the habit of planning your food intentionally, in advance, so that you don’t make emotional food choices.
You do not want to wait until you are so hungry you will eat any and everything in front of you.
All of my favorite foods were a part of my plan, and still are a part of my plan. I just decide each morning which foods I am going to eat, when I am going to eat them, and how much.
Sometimes I even plan choices if I am worried that I would rather have a piece of chocolate instead of a cookie. That way it is still an intentional part of my plan.
If I want to eat something off my plan I tell myself that I can just plan for it tomorrow, but it’s not in my plan today.
I make my plan VERY simple and easy to follow. I almost have the same thing for breakfast and lunch because it’s easy! I only plan things I actually like to eat.
I eat kielbasa almost every day for breakfast. I have soup almost every day for lunch. I have real half and half and sugar in my tea every day. And still I lose weight.
I lose weight because I plan intentionally and I plan reasonable amounts of the foods I love.
And I stick to the plan (most days!).
The plan keeps me from coming home and eating everything in the pantry because I had a bad day.
Simply, it keeps me from emotionally eating.
I have always been an emotional eater. If I am stressed? I eat. Happy? I eat. Sad? I eat.
Instead of eating, I now let myself feel the emotions. I even mentally label how they feel in my body. Like when I am anxious I can feel my chest tighten.
By letting myself feel negative emotion and positive emotion without using food to either escape or celebrate that emotion, I have separated my emotions from food.
I’m not going to lie, this is really hard work. There are days where I am standing in front of the pantry, feel that tightening in my chest, know it’s anxiety, and say “eff it” and eat the chips anyway.
I still do this from time to time. Even after literal years of doing this work.
The thing is, though, that I don’t do it as frequently anymore. And, all of the good habits that I have instituted over the past couple years have given me amazing results.
#4: I Weigh Myself Almost Every Day
This is somewhat of a controversial and personal choice.
You may be wondering why on earth, if I am so flexible about what I eat, that I would want to weigh myself every day.
I weigh myself almost every day because it is a measure of my progress over time.
I apply the same thought-work about my body to my weight.
My weight is neutral. It is truly just a number. Sometimes that number goes up, sometimes it goes down.
Over time, though, it creates an awesome measure of my progress. I can go into my health apps and see graphs that are all trending in the right direction.
I have this awesome digital scale *that tracks weight, muscle, water, and body fat. It uploads all of that data into an app.
There are a lot of questions as to how accurate these measurements are with this sort of scale. Therefore, I don’t really pay much attention to the details day to day. For instance, I am not going to freak out if one day my muscle mass appears much lower than the next.
I find that the graphs and the overall trends are really helpful in terms of measuring my overall health over time.
Really, what I have done is taken all of the drama out of stepping on the scale. It’s not about my emotions, it’s about facts.
The numbers are just measures of where I am at, and they don’t mean anything about me as a person.
Sometimes they go up, sometimes they go down. I am curious about it, I question it, but I do not ever beat myself up over it.
In fact, I have actually gained some weight over the holidays, and that’s OK. I was in control of it the whole time.
I was intentional about it. I planned more holiday cookies and meals in advance. I thoroughly enjoyed all of them. No regrets!
None of this makes me “good” or “bad”. It just makes me human, and intentional.
And, most importantly, I love the me who chose to enjoy those holiday foods just as much as I love the me who is now enjoying some healthier options.
I am the one in charge, I am the one who gets to decide. I am the one who is in control.
#5 I Drink Lots of Water and Get Lots of Sleep
I actually hesitated to make this number 5 in the list because it almost implies that water and sleep are the least important components of weight loss.
In fact, water and sleep are incredibly important. We need to drink enough water to stay hydrated as humans.
Hydration is especially important for cyclists and athletes in general. And yes, if you ride a bike, you are athletic. You are an athlete. Don’t let that brain of yours get all cringy and convince you otherwise!
We need to be hydrated to perform our best on the bike, and we need to replenish the water that we expel when we sweat.
Also, sometimes when we think we are hungry we are actually thirsty, so staying hydrated can also help eliminate overeating.
I shoot for at least 64 oz of water a day. Some experts say to drink half your body weight in water, others say to drink more, but I find that 64 oz is a manageable amount for me.
If I drink much more than that I find it interrupts my sleep, which brings me to the importance of sleep!
Sleep is when and where our bodies recover from cycling and our daily activities. According to this article from Bike Radar, sleep is essential for muscle recovery, helps to keep us from being hungry, and is the “unsung hero of weight loss.”
Bike Radar suggests that we cyclists shoot for 7 hours of sleep a night.
I always make sleep a priority. On the nights when I don’t get the 7 hours I definitely feel a difference in my motivation, and just feel a little off.
This can lead to me not wanting to ride, or making less awesome food choices, so I always prioritize sleep.
How Long it Took Me to Lose Almost 50 Pounds and Why I Didn’t Gain All the Weight Back
I mentioned in the beginning that I went through this process two years ago.
It took me just over a year to lose 47.5 pounds (that ½ pound COUNTS!).
It wasn’t until a few months into the second year that I got to that 47.5 point. If you are doing the math that is significantly less than one pound a week.
I am not in any kind of rush.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. A century, not a time trial!
I didn’t put unrealistic deadlines on myself. I didn’t tell myself I had to lose x number of pounds a week or a month.
In fact, some months I even gained weight. You might too! And that’s OK. I didn’t allow this to mean anything about my self-worth. I did not beat myself up. I knew I was playing the long game, and over time all of my healthy habits would pay off.
A little bit of weight gain is not a reason to give up on myself, my goals, or my dreams.
I continue to plan my rides. Plan my meals. I get enough sleep. I drink enough water.
I have a great reason to lose weight that has nothing to do with anyone else, and is meaningful to me.
I knew that the weight loss would come, it would just be a matter of time.
All of the awesome habits I developed by being intentional about my nutrition and getting on the bike would lead to weight loss.
I stopped second guessing myself. I stopped beating myself up. I started supporting myself and believing in myself.
I want to be strong on the bike and be able to keep up with my son. I want to do these things forever.
I plan to be alive for a very long time, so if it takes me a few years to reach my goal weight that is just fine.
I am now a couple of years out from when I set a goal to lose 50 pounds. I am still not at my goal weight.
In fact, I gained some weight over the past year.
And that’s OK.
Gaining back a few pounds doesn’t make me a failure. It’s simply something to be curious about.
I am not beating myself up or telling myself I messed up. I am loving myself and my body and supporting myself!
I am a little curious about my weight gain, and have decided to make a couple of changes this year to start moving towards my goal weight again.
I kept most of the weight off for a year now, because I am so loving and supportive of who I am today.
Not every day is perfect in this journey. There are days I eat off plan. Days I skip a ride. Days I don’t get enough sleep or drink enough water.
Days where that bag of organic Doritos is just screaming my name and I eat more of them than I planned.
The key is those days are now the exception, and no longer the norm.
I allow those days, notice them, and move on.
I have a great relationship with my body now, and am so much better at catching those negative thoughts and turning them around.
I truly believe that any woman who wants to can have the weight loss results she wants.
You simply need to believe in the possibility.
You need to love yourself AND your body.
You need to make a plan. Drink water. Get enough sleep. Be kind to yourself, and trust yourself through the process.
You can do this. I believe in you and your possibilities. YOU simply need to believe in yourself too.