Maybe you've been able to tell over the past few months...maybe not. But since March 4th, I have lost 31 pounds! And I am pretty damn proud of myself for it! (And I'm not done, by the way...not by a long shot.) It hasn't been easy, but then again, it hasn't been all that hard, either. And the best part of all? I'm doing it the right way! No gimmicks, no fads, no pills, no programs, no boot camp, no DVDs with barking mad instructors - I'm just eating modest portions of wholesome, clean foods and riding my bicycle. That's it!
You know, when I bought my bike back in March, I never imagined that five months later I would be as completely and utterly hooked (addicted, really) to bicycling as I am. A 10-mile mix of trail and road after work for an hour (54:08, actually...and getting faster!) is a piece of cake. A 25-mile ride on the weekends or in the morning at the beach? Easy-breezy. I got a CamelBak, new grips, new gloves, a spare tube, and tire levers for my birthday. I buy Lara bars. I leave the office wearing a bandana on my head a few times per week (and people SEE ME looking like this). I've decided to train for a 100-mile bike ride next year. I rented a bicycle on a business trip earlier this month because I hadn't ridden a bike in a week and just felt the need to ride.
WHO AM I?!? WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME?!?
Who am I? I'm someone doing it the right way! I happened upon something - a form of exercise, a means of physical activity - that doesn't feel like work. I have, in the last five months, never not wanted to ride my bike. When I belonged to a gym, there were days when I didn't want to go. When I'd find an excuse not to go. Any day that my bike is on my car, that's a day I'm going to ride.
When I'm on my bike, I'm free. I don't think about work. I don't think about home. I don't think about upcoming conferences or travel. I don't think about the grocery shopping, or the laundry, or the start of football season, or anything other than not wrecking. And there are a lot of times I don't even think about that! I just go. I pedal, pedal, pedal...and then I pedal some more. I fly down the hills and grind my way back up them. And I love every, single minute of it! Just Tuesday, I was rewarded by a bald eagle flying overhead and landing in a tree above me. Pure. Majesty.
But I don't want this entire post to be about bicycling. Because there's another piece that's been pretty key to my success and that's "eating clean." By that, I mean I eat largely whole foods. I still buy some packaged foods, but even those are whole foods - rice, oatmeal, beans, tuna. I generally eschew packaged foods with more than five ingredients, unless I can pronounce them all and the ingredients themselves are clean (Lara bars are a good example).
I just about gave up soda 18 months ago...and I say "just about" because when Chris and I go to the movies and split a pretzel bites combo (no cheese!), we share a soda. But it's pretty vile and I drink just enough to wet my whistle. (I really should just start smuggling in a bottle of water, because $4 for a bottle of Dasani is ridiculous.) I'm pretty much on a water and tea regimen now - hot tea in the morning, water all day long at work, seltzer water with dinner, and the occasional herbal tea in the evening. If I eat out, I may have an unsweetened iced tea with my meal. Artificial sweeteners? Gone. Added sugar? Gone. The occasional teaspoon of honey? Maybe. If I can get some local stuff to help with my allergies. Yes, I still enjoy an adult beverage (or two) from time to time...mainly when I travel. I'm not that strict.
And that's the point. I'm not strict. It's all about moderation. I had cake and ice cream at work yesterday to celebrate a co-worker's 40th birthday (er, I'm sorry...1st anniversary of her 39th!). I enjoyed it...until I didn't. (It didn't sit right.) But the point is, I don't deny myself anything. It's never a philosophy of "I can't have _____" but rather one of "I choose to have _____ or not have _____." Two weeks ago when Chris and I hiked and biked at Parker Dam State Park, we capped our afternoon off with an ice cream cone. A small one. Which we'd both felt like we'd earned. I didn't feel bad about "cheating" because it wasn't cheating. I chose to bust my ass on a strenuous bike ride and hike around the park and then I chose to have an ice cream cone. It's that simple.
It really is that simple. Seriously. It's not rocket science. It's not brain surgery. It's eating good food and moving my ass. Which is smaller these days, thankyouverymuch!
Wanna hear something else pretty spectacular? I had blood work done on Tuesday. It's been just under six months since I started "this whole thing" and since I'd last had it all checked. I was curious to see what progress I've made during this period of time. How about 28 points shaved off my cholesterol?!? From 203 to 175! And how about 55 points off my triglycerides?!? From 219 to 164. That's without drugs, folks. That's simply diet and exercise that achieved those results in less than six months. Pretty damn amazing, eh?
And proof that it can be done. Medication doesn't have to be the answer; it shouldn't. There are no magic pills. Yet there are magic foods. But they don't come in a box in aisle 15A. They're berries and spinach and oats and beans and lean meats and eggs (yup, I said eggs) and fish and tomatoes and on and on! And ice cream can be magical, too, if it's enjoyed occasionally if for no other reason than to cap off a kick-ass day of outdoor activity!
Folks have asked me "how are you doing it?" or "what have you done?" and I answer, "I eat clean and ride my bike." But now you know just a little bit more. A few people have told me that I'm an inspiration, which is amazingly flattering and completely embarrassing all at once. I've only found one person to inspire me and she stares right back at me each morning in the mirror.
Every day that I cinch up a belt one notch tighter, every day that I notice my face looks a little slimmer, every day that I pull up next to my car on my bike after a great after-work ride and catch a glimpse of myself in my helmet dripping in sweat...those are the days I inspire myself. It sounds so incredibly selfish and self-centered, but I realize now that all of the other times and attempts I've made at losing weight and/or getting healthy, I've done it for other people or reasons that weren't my own.
This time, I'm doing it for me. And only me. And I think that's the ultimate "right way."