It's January, everyone decides to lose weight in January, well not everyone, I was at a CX race at the weekend and there were plenty of racers with less meat on them than a butcher's pencil, so maybe not them. I, on the other-hand have indulged over the holiday period so now it's time to knuckle down to some serious weight loss and get to my desired weight in time for the start of the racing season.
I was 126kg in 2008 and I'm now 77kg, all down to a change in lifestyle and a love of cycling. It's easy to forget how big I was now as I look to lose a few kilos after the Christmas break, so this blog is about writing down things that will help me as much as helping others who may not know where to start.
Choose something that works
This is the most important thing, when I was looking for a way to lose weight I tried Weight Watchers and Slimming World, neither of which taught me about the nutritional value of food. Then I tried my own “eat salad” diet, which didn't work at all. I found a website called Weight Loss Resources that works on a calorie counting system, I did a free trial and decided it was the thing for me. Being inherently lazy, I liked the fact that I could do it all from my computer (or smartphone) by putting in what I was eating and what calories I was burning, the database system works out the rest, telling me how much I can eat and what I should be aiming for nutritionally. I had a really poor understanding of what calories I was eating, and how much I was eating before I started counting calories, it was a big shock to see what I actually should be eating. Nevertheless, it works for me and I continue to use it to control and lose weight. Calorie counting has taught me some good lessons, mainly about making the right choices when it comes to eating and exercising.
Make a plan
Set yourself a goal and work out how you're going to achieve it. Don't be afraid to set yourself a goal that you might think is unrealistic, I lost nearly 50kg, if you've ever carried a big bag of cement (the 25kg bags) then you'll realise how much extra weight that is to be hauling around. If I can do it as a lazy sofa-dweller, then anyone can. You've got to be bloody-minded and hard on yourself to do it at times, but it's worth doing! Making your big plan ties in with making a daily plan. Decide what you're going to eat and how much you're going to have, don't deviate from it. If you do, make sure you work off any indiscretions, they're bound to happen at some point so that's when you should have a contingency plan!
Make small changes
Small changes can make all the difference. If you normally put a big scrape of proper butter on your sandwich, change it for half-fat butter and put on a barely-visible scrape, it doesn't taste as good but it's less calories! If you have a sandwich every day of the week then you can reduce your calorie intake easily by using less and choosing a lower calorie alternative. Make your own sandwiches if you buy from a shop - full calorie mayo and uncontrolled amounts of cheese can be difficult to quantify. Stop eating biscuits and swap them for fruit, I do this at work to avoid the daily biscuit tin rounds at 10am and 3pm. It's amazing how much more fruit you'll eat, plus it staves off the sugar dip you get after eating sweet goods.
Make big changes
If you like a drink, then avoiding alcohol for a month can be a big calorie saver. It'll give you something to work towards, plus it makes getting up to go cycling on weekend mornings much easier! Start commuting to work rather than driving, it's the best thing I ever did. When I fell off my bike and fractured my thumb in October, I drove to work for a while and the amount I spent on fuel soon added up, it soon made me realise how beneficial cycle commuting was to my pocket as well as my paunch!
Walk to the shops when you can, even better – take the bike! There's a great range of racks, bags and bikes to help transporting things easier, utility bikes can also make great tourers – double bonus! Take the stairs rather than a lift... if you're really sad, run up the stairs – it's good “stealth training”! Dig the garden – good core strength work, or re-lay the wonky slabs on the garden path (I've still got this looming over me, it'll be a tough job!). If you've got kids and struggle with getting training time, take them for walks, especially if you live somewhere hilly. Those kid-carrying backpacks are a great work out if your child is under 3 and you can walk up a local hill. It also makes you realise what carrying a couple of extra stone feels like, you'll soon want to shift it!
Doing something other than cycling can be beneficial too, I started running when I'd fractured my thumb and found it a used different muscles to cycling, as well as being a good cardio work out. Core strength training can be done at home in the evenings if you don't have a turbo and don't fancy riding in the dark. Half an hour of squats/press-ups/planks etc. will help build core strength, good for your calorie burn and good for cycling.
Make good choices
If you like a Chinese take-away, make sure you eat it at the weekend when you've done a big ride, if you want a dessert after your dinner every night (like me and my daily ice cream) then make sure you've done enough exercise during the day to have earned it, likewise if you've had a dry January and want a beer in February, don't get blitzed every night for the month, there's loads of calories in booze!
Talk about it
Post up on Road.cc's forum, start a thread, say what you want to achieve and get others to join in. It's easier when there are more people aiming for the same goal, you can pick up some good hints and tips from others about what works, what to eat, what exercise to do and give each other encouragement.
It's a bank balance
Many people I know who've lost weight (me included) treat their calorie intake and expenditure like a bank balance. You have a base number of calories during the day, you can add to that by exercising, but don't go over that amount or you're into the overdraft!
If you need to lose weight then there's a chance that weight will always be an issue, if this is the case, you need to make sure that whatever you do is sustainable. It's all well and good eating zero carbs, or cutting out everything but dust to get to your desired weight, but you're going to have to keep control of things after you've lost the weight. Will a dust-only diet work if you go for a night out with your mates, or have a buffet at a work function, or go to your mother in law's who dishes out big portions? Probably not.
Whatever you do needs to be something that you can continue with when you start maintaining at your goal weight, if you're reading this then it'll probably also involve cycling!