Back in 2008 when I re-discovered the love of cycling I experienced as a teen, I had a bit of baby weight to get off. I’d tried everything that I knew to try, well according to “conventional” wisdom, that is. The weight wouldn’t budge.
Some of you might remember that when I started cycling that year, I made a decision (based on inexperience and a reluctance to open my wallet) to buy a really, heavy hybrid. How heavy? 35lbs heavy. Problem is, I didn’t understand how heavy it was, and I didn’t realize how much all that extra weight would tax me. I started cycling on this bike, and the weight came off. Easily! I even ate like a horse with plenty of carbs, and the weight still came off! It must have been all the riding, right? It was all that cardio, right? Those two C’s helped me lose weight, right?
Mmm. Actually, no. Oh, ho, ho! I can hear the arguments coming, now. Wait! Read on, and you might change your assumptions.
How did I lose that weight? (a) Yes, I was taking a body, my body, that hadn’t been doing much and making it get a workout via riding. However…the real reason I lost that weight is (b) the effort required to push around that super, heavy bike! Sure, cardio was amongst the pool of forces, but it was not the force of change. It was the fact that I was building muscles using this bike. So now, I’m pushing around my body weight PLUS 35lbs, even a bit more when you add gear bag and drink bottles and hauling all that up and down rather hilly terrain.
I saw it go off. You “got it”. Yes, that’s right. It really was a muscle workout! Heck, you could take a backpack, and fill it with 35-40lbs of stuff. Now, go walk, run, ride or just do your daily activities while wearing this for a couple hours. Guess what’s going to happen? You’ll build muscle. You’ll get stronger. [To what does this exercise equate? Think “Farmer’s Walks” for starters. Go ask Al and Daniella about this.] When you add muscle to your body, your metabolism gets a nice boost. You might even be able eat more food and still lose weight! That’s what happened to me that first cycling season. It was a beautiful thing. Darned hard riding that beast-of-a-bike but wonderful to feel good about my body, again. Ahhhhh!
Problem was…I made the assumption it was the riding itself that made the difference! It did, but I was looking at it from the old paradigm. I assumed it was the cardio effort that made me lose the weight. I had assumed that all I had to do was get my body active, again, and it would come off.
Then…came the “off season”.
The weather became cold and unpleasant in which to ride. I didn’t have proper cold weather gear. So, I didn’t do much riding that winter. There wasn’t much movement, at all. Sure, I lowered my food intake…a bit but not enough. You know what happened, next, right? Yep, I gained a few pounds that winter.
Now still rolling with the old paradigm of thoughts, I assumed that when I got moving in the next season the weight would come quickly off. That 2009 season, I rode twice the mileage of the year previous. Early in the season, I “upgraded” to a real (albeit old) road bike that was 10lbs lighter than the hybrid. (Despite its look and weight, I loved that hybrid bike and am forever grateful for having it, that 2008 year.) My new-to-me road bike was “just” 25lbs, which was a nice change, and I was instantly faster. During the season, I noticed that my food intake had dropped some more. You would think that I would have lost the weight. More riding—twice as much—and less food equals weight loss, right?
No, it didn’t. I was confused. I was following the “conventional” wisdom, and this weight should have easily come off. So, why wasn’t it? Hmm.
I started the musings that I just needed to add even more miles. “Yes! That’s the ticket! I’ll do even more riding!”
The 2010 season came around, and that’s exactly what I did. I doubled the mileage of the previous year which means I quadrupled the mileage of my first season. Plus, I observed that I was eating even less than the year prior. Certainly now, the weight came off, right? Nope, not a single pound. [Side note: to be clear, I wasn’t “fat”, but I wasn’t the weight I wanted to be, either.]
Now, I was starting to get really frustrated. The efforts I knew to do were yielding me zilch in results. What the heck was I doing wrong? Next, came the really dark thoughts. I started to wonder what’s wrong with ME?! Surely if other people lose weight by doing what I’m doing then, it must be me. I must be doing something wrong, or there is something faulty about my body.
As I look back, I realize how dangerous and dis-enfranchising thoughts like those are. Why? First off, I was drawing assumptions that were wholly incorrect. Next, I was getting down on myself and believing that if something was truly wrong with me, that means there’s NOTHING I CAN DO to get this weight off. That’s disempowerment. That’s giving up. Hope disappears, and a spark of life away is taken away with thoughts like these.
Yet, nothing could be further from the truth!
So, what was happening? Why wasn’t this working for me? What the (achem) “experts” have forgotten to tell you is that your body is very smart. The more cardio you do, the better it gets at using less energy to fuel your exercise. This goes back to primal programming. Yes, we still have that programming in us. Just because we’re running around in the digital age with multiple “smart” devices in our pockets doesn’t mean that our bodies are operating in the same way. No. So, what happens is exactly what happened to me. I was doing quadruple the mileage and consuming maybe 1/3 of the calories I did compared with the first season. Yet, my weight didn’t drop. In fact, it even crept up a tiny bit.
Cardio was adding fat to my body.
(By the way, I’m not the only one who has had that experience.)
This was a fact that I did not want to see. You know what one of the definitions of insanity is, right? Doing the same things over and over but expecting different results.
When I started listening to Al, his “drips of water” finally started making an impression. Once I released the false paradigm that clearly wasn’t serving me, I allowed older memories to come back when I used weight bearing exercises. I had a rock, solid body and a metabolism that was screaming fast. Worried about my weight? Never. In fact, I look back and realized what an awesome body I had back then. I wanted it back. “Oh! Hey! I’ve been doing it wrong all this time!”
As I review the experience of those cycling seasons, I can get myself really angry. Why? Because women are targeted with The Wrong Information. We “buy it” because it’s coming from “experts” who are supposed to know better than us. Sometimes, the guys fall prey to this, too…but mostly, it is us women. It’s frustrating. It’s not fair. Heavens, I feel so much for women who have come to believe the stuff I started to believe, when It Simply Isn’t True!
We think that guys have it easy. To give a properly balanced nod…yes, to a certain degree, they do. Why? Because their bodies are meant for building muscle more easily than a woman’s is. So by nature, they tend to already have a bigger baseline of muscles to start, which means it’s easier for them in general to jump start their metabolism. So, adding more muscle is fairly easy for them.
However, that is not to say that women can’t build muscle or that women shouldn’t build muscle. No, no, no, no, no! In fact, step back and take a look at the studies you’ve been ignoring all this time. What do you begin to notice? Want a better metabolism? Do weight-bearing exercises in some form. (For simplicity of this post, let’s call it “lift weights”.) Build muscle. Want to preserve your bones as you age? Lift weights. Build muscle. Want more energy? Lift weights. Build muscle. Want to lose weight? Lift weights. Build muscle. Want to get rid of certain aches & pains? Lift weights. Build muscle. (Wait! Especially with the latter, consult a personal trainer who has proper education and knows how to correct the body’s imbalances. Not all personal trainers are the same! Again, ask Al and Daniella.)
Keep in mind that in general guys, also, tend to hit the gym for weight training more often and more readily than women do as a group, as well. It’s much more a part of the male mindset than it is of a woman’s mindset. So, what do we need to do? Change the dominating female mindset surrounding weight-bearing exercises/lifting weights, and we must hold the media responsible for changing the false information they continue to put out there or at least recognize “bull” when we see it. Really, it’s up to us, as individuals. We must talk to our friends and share with them the real truth. We must share the stories of what really worked and stop buying into the latest “craze”, which is usually just a recycled form of some fad diet of the past that never worked long-term, anyway.
Oh I hear the ubiquitous, “But I don’t want to bulk up!” Girls, you can’t. Female body-builders get their huge muscles using un-natural means of exercise (hours and hours in the gym) and un-natural means of consumption, including products that mess with the body’s hormone levels in order force the body into creating a level of muscles that it otherwise could not. Furthermore please, put down those tiny weights! You’re stronger than you think. Why are you wasting your time with 2 or 5lb dumbbells when your trash, your groceries and your kids weigh much more than that! Heck, even a gallon of milk or water weighs at least 8lbs! Re-think those numbers, and use ones that serve your body.
I should mention one more thing. Certain personal trainers have fallen prey to the “women don’t life weights” mantra, as well. So if you choose to utilize a personal trainer, you might have to push them in order for them to push you.
What about my training? I welcomed back muscle workouts, happily! I’m still refining. This is the fun part! I’m experimenting with what I like and what gets me the most bang for my buck. Plus, I get bored easy. So, I like to change things up, too. Remember, you don’t have to have a gym membership in order to do muscles workouts! (Have you been on Al and Daniella’s Facebook page, called The Trainers, lately? Al, in particular, regularly discusses inexpensive means to get those workouts right at home, if that’s what you need and want. There’s many other gym-free options, too. Just ask.)
Okay…so, I’ve gone on for an age regarding this section but haven’t touched the carbs aspect. I want to start this section by adding a caveat. If you’ve got your nutrition dialed in, your overall health is awesome, and your body composition is the way you want it then, there’s no reason to make any changes. However if you have a problem or unhappiness in one or more of these realms, a lower carb way of eating is worth exploring to see if it is right for you, as I have found it is right for me.
The science espousing a low carbohydrate diet has been there for years. Individuals and companies with a different agenda have tried very, very hard to grind their axes against this mode of eating. Yet, the research continues to accumulate and is getting louder. In addition after 30 years, it’s clear that not only has the low fat, high carbohydrate mode of eating failed us, it has harmed our society immensely. Obesity has exploded, and there’s a cascade of related health issues that puts a huge strain on the heathcare system. Granted, this isn’t the only cause of obesity, but it is one of the biggest.
How does this relate to me? Well, I was following “conventional” wisdom. There’s that word, again. I’ve come to realize that that word can mean a harbinger of doom because “conventional” indicates assumptions are happening. Folks aren’t doing their own digging to see what the truth really is. They assume it’s the truth even when experience is screaming otherwise at them. (Remember that insanity thing?) Hey, I did it for years, too, before I finally woke up on this subject.
You see when I cut down my food intake, I kept up my carb count. “Conventional” wisdom said that as a cyclist, I must carb-load! So, I was doing higher mileage rides and taking in more and more carbs. It’s a wonder I didn’t end up with diabetes with the level of carbs I was consuming. I’m not kidding!
I’m thankful that the drips I’d been getting over the years finally hit the right button in my brain and pushed it. “Hey!” I said to myself. “Perhaps, I need to look more closely at this!” After all if other endurance athletes were cutting carbs and not just performing their activities but excelling at them then, there is something to this.
I dove in with a short book geared specifically toward athletes written by Dr. Jeff Volek and Dr. Stephen Phinney called “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance”. These two have been studying the low carbohydrate diet from a science perspective for over 30 years. This book really intrigued me. I wanted to know more. So next, I grabbed “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: An Expert Guide to Making the Life-Saving Benefits of Carbohydrate Restriction Sustainable and Enjoyable” which these same authors had written the year prior. Before I could finish the book, I made the decision to go “low carb”. Yet, I still needed one more piece. I found what I needed (which was eating and living with this diet from a street-level, real-world perspective) in the book “The New Atkins for A New You” of which these doctors are co-authors. Plus, I hit the Atkins site for food/recipe ideas. [CAVEAT! I’m pretty picky and won’t choose foods loaded with garbage ingredients. So, I quickly eschewed those “convenience” foods off my radar and out of my mind. I wanted real foods for a real life, not just replacing one bad way of eating with another. So, keep this in mind should you choose this route.]
What happened? My body made the switch from using carbs for energy to using fat for energy, the way we were originally programmed. What happened to my numbers on the scale? Whoa…in a reasonable amount of time, I saw a sweet number that I hadn’t seen since a few years before our oldest child was born. I was through-the-roof happy! Could I still ride? You bet. It was nice not to worry about making sure my drinks had enough carbs in them or all that other jazz. Sure, I might bring something along as a snack on really long rides, but I rarely eat it. I no longer need the array of “stuff” that I used to consume. That’s freeing…and less expensive, too.
If any of you have questions about my personal experiences, I’ll be glad to share. If you need finer details then, I’m going to defer to Daniella or another professional who is properly familiar with this mode of eating to help you steer through using whatever refinements you’ll need. Remember, every BODY is different. Broader truths/facts will apply, but specific details might need tweaking in order to make it work for you. (That’s true of many subjects in life.). All I’m doing is sharing what worked for me.
Now that I know the truth about losing weight, I have the tools to affect change when I need it. I am empowered. Gosh, that’s a great space in which to be. If you haven’t found it yet, I hope you find such a space for yourself!