Growing up I was extremely active, attending various extracurricular activities. That was great, but left me hungry most of the time. I developed a bad habit of snacking regularly on sugar-based foods as a quick fix.
As I grew older and focused more on my studies and reduced the levels of extracurricular activities, my bad habits continued and I slowly gained weight with a bad diet throughout my teenage years. My first job was at McDonald’s, and the free on-shift food didn’t help.
I graduated university at 21, tipping the scales at almost 300 pounds. At this point I wasn’t really aware of my weight and the potential harm that I could be doing to myself. It just became part of my identity.
It wasn’t until the 2012 Olympics that I really started to take stock. Living in London during the games, I remember being captivated by the whole thing and one event in particular: the Triathlon. Two guys competing for Team GB, the Brownlee Brothers, were absolutely dominating on the world stage. They are about my age and from near where I am from; however, they were in peak physical fitness and I could barely climb a flight of stairs without getting out of breath.
I’m not 100 percent sure how it came about (I’m sure alcohol was involved), but I challenged myself to complete a triathlon. And six weeks later, I did. After completing my first triathlon, the following year I joined the Triathlon club, Tri London, and started going on group rides with the other members.
Apart from fitness, one of the biggest challenges was learning the skills necessary for riding in groups. Cycling is full of unwritten rules and etiquette that I was unaware of as a beginner, but being part of an inclusive club, the more experienced members helped show me the ropes.
I remember getting dropped at first every week at the Wednesday morning power hour around The Regent’s Park, but I was determined to keep coming back week in week, and slowly found myself edging closer to the front of the pack.
Each training ride was now also a social occasion, so instead of heading to the pub on a Friday or Saturday night, I was setting the alarm to get up early and meet up with friends so we could venture on two wheels out of the city.
I think the first time I realized that I had lost so much weight was when I compared the finishing photo of the first triathlon to the following year. Even then I was more pleased with the athletic performance rather than the weight loss.
I’m currently the lightest I’ve ever been at 215 pounds, so you could say it’s taken 8 years, but there have been many ups and downs over that period. Looking back I feel proud of what I have achieved, but I’m still striving for that next performance goal.
That’s my advice for anyone starting cycling for weight loss: Focus on specific performance goals, like trying to finish a race or sportive in a certain time, or trying to get a PR on a local hill. By following a plan to make that a reality, the weight loss will take care of itself.
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