Weight Loss: What Worked For Me
Since this time last year, I have been able to drop about 40lbs which combined with more consistent training on the bike has made me a much faster and more competitive cyclist. Several times now I've been asked what I did to lose weight. So here's an overview of some of the changes that played a role in not only weight loss but also in getting fitter and stronger than I've ever been before.
I recently launched a podcast where I also include some deeper explanations of some of these habits that have helped not only weight loss but helped me get stronger and healthier. You can find ARO Wellness Wednesday Podcast on Apple Podcasts here.
Building small habits
I started looking at the small habits that I needed to develop to be healthier. I imagined the person, the athlete I aspired to be...what would that version of myself do each day? How would it differ from what I do now?
I began to add into my day a range of small habits that would help get me there. I can't tell you how much this helped. In fact it worked so well that it inspired me to create the podcast mentioned above. I wanted to give others some of those tools. I also put together a 7-page guide to using this system, if you'd like me to send that to you just leave me you email and I'll have it sent straight over to you.
Fasting/Time Restricted Eating
I find that skipping breakfast and sometimes lunch, then eating a nutritious dinner to be a great way to create a calorie deficit (when the number of calories you consume in a day is lower than the number of calories you burn). I often find that when I start eating, I eat more than I want or need. For me, this has proved to be an effective way to counteract that on select days (not every day!). For some, especially women, fasting can actually lower your basal metabolic rate (discussed more in point #3) and make weight loss harder.
Low intensity workouts on fasted days
I make sure that the days I'm fasting or restricting calorie intake are also on days were I have low intensity workouts. Fasting and hard, high intensity workouts are a terrible combination. Low intensity, aerobic rides, runs, walks, swims compliment fasting really well. In the right circumstances, these low intensity workouts cause your body to use fat stores as fuel. They are also workouts that don't tend to suffer if your energy levels are not especially high.
Increasing My Resting Metabolic Rate
We have a metabolic testing unit that we use to test athletes VO2 max, lactate threshold and resting metabolic rate. Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is the number of calories required to keep your body functioning at rest. RMR is also known as your body's metabolism. I started measuring my RMR once a week, and worked to increase it. Strength training was a big part of how I went about increasing my RMR but I also used some trial and error to see what worked. Typically we think of fasting as being something that can slow metabolism, especially in women. That was not the case for me.
Added strength training
When I was actively driving my weight down I was strength training 4/5 days a week. This was mostly bodyweight and TRX work set by my husband who is a strength and conditioning coach (link below). Greater muscle mass means higher RMR, so more calories are needed to keep your body functioning at rest.
Found weak points in my nutrition
I started using a food diary to identify where my less helpful eating was happening. Anyone who has tried a food diary knows it's harder than it seems but even a few days of a food diary, with a score for hunger & energy levels was useful. Once I saw where the areas for improvement were, I tried plugging these times with things like meditation, my cycling workout for the day, stretching and yoga. Knowing when I was eating in ways that didn’t benefit me was helpful and then having a plan to be doing something more useful during that time.
Cut out alcohol
Mostly because I found that when I had a drink in the evening I was much more likely to snack. Alcohol also contains sugar that isn’t useful either, plus it hinders recovery from training. For me this was an easy one and ultimately I actually believe that alcohol rarely serves us well.
Trained consistently on the bike
These days I train on the bike every single day. I thrive on consistency and know my weaknesses now. If I'm going to disconnect from training and skip workouts it always starts the day after a rest day. I found its much more helpful to be on the bike everyday even if it was a very easy zone 1 ride. My coach is Rob Lee and he does a wonderful job of holding me accountable whilst building my confidence in my ability to do the workouts he sets me. Confident people are successful people.
Found a crazy big goal that I really really wanted to achieve
This was huge and was not focused at all on my physical appearance. I want to be the first woman to buckle at Marji Gesick 100 (sub 12 hour finish). It's a crazy big goal that may never be achievable (personally I think it is achievable which makes it much more likely to be possible) but it lights a fire in me. I want it so badly that even in the times where I'm exhausted with no motivation I look to that goal and I do what needs to be done in that moment. We will have to wait until September to see if I can pull it off but setting big goals that really inspire you and push you out of your comfort zone is so valuable.
Came off birth control
Stopped taking hormonal birth control, it's widely accepted that many forms of birth control increase appetite and often result in weight gain. So many women spend a decade or more on hormonal birth control and I looking back now I wish I had stopped that sooner. I have no doubt it contributed to gradual weight gain throughout my late 20s and early 30s. I also started syncing fasting/more time restricted eating with first two weeks of menstrual cycle - Lower hormone phase, lower appetite. There is no doubt that for me it was easier to fast earlier in my cycle. To learn more on this I recommend Dr Stacey Sims book Roar. I generally consider myself to have a very good knowledge of human physiology, especially that relating more heavily to exercise (that's what I went to school for). But my knowledge of female hormones and their impact on hunger, energy levels and exercise performance was lacking. Roar is an excellent book and I highly recommend it to everyone who interacts with a female athlete (or an athlete assigned female at birth).
Great Support System
Last but certainly not least, I have a husband who gives me confidence, makes me feel capable of anything and beautiful at every weight. If you've ever tried to make changes like this to your life when you are surrounded by people who make you feel less, you will rarely be successful.
I do want to point out that this is only what worked for me. I'm not suggesting that it will work for others. I also want to be clear, there was absolutely nothing wrong with my body 40lbs heavier. I was healthy, fit and strong. I just knew that if I could lower my body weight, I'd be a faster cyclist and that was what I set out to do. There is an incredibly damaging diet culture that is so detrimental to our self confidence and mental health. I will discuss my thoughts on navigating that another time.
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