Category Archives: biking

The Choices We Make

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I have a co-worker, a young millennial who has a loud vibrant personality. She is brash, unapologetic, and funny. I wouldn’t have her any other way. She recently moved offices and I miss the energy she brought to an otherwise mundane job.

Every day as she breezed out of the office, she would mockingly say over her shoulder, “Make good choices!” And we would all laugh.

Recently, I was part of a pilot group with my therapist. If I had  not written this before, I am seeing someone to help me with my binge eating. She is writing a book about how to lose weight and keep it off forever.

The group I was a part of has been reviewing her book and launching a kind of support group where we read chapters of her book and discuss the ideas in that chapter. We were her beta readers/guinea pigs. This past weekend, we all met in person to discuss what we thought of the book and make suggestions for the support system she wants to create. I am so glad to have been a part of that group.

The book is very interesting. The book is less about what we eat and more about why we eat what we eat. She really encouraged us to explore the reasons behind our eating habits.

Of course she thinks the best diet for weight loss is low carb, high protein focusing on eating fresh meats and fish, high protein vegetarian options, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Very similar to any good bariatric diet, right?

So, why can’t we stick to it? Why do we constantly sabotage our diet plans? Why do we make choices we know will not help us on our path to a healthy weight and relationship to food?

Those are the questions through both my sessions with her and the book she’s working to address.

For me, a lot of my bad choices have to do with my inability to deal with stress and toxic people. I get very stressed out when I think about the toxic people in my life, and there have been several who have entered and left my world. Some stay longer than others. It has taken me a long time to realize their behavior is about them and not me and to create a distance between me and them, even if that barrier is just a mental one.

I also suffer from a low self-image and self-confidence. Many people who know me would certainly be surprised to know this. I hide it well most of the time. It is hard for me to find good things about myself.

After I had lost about 130 pounds, a guy I am friends with complimented me on a shirt I was wearing. He said something like, “That green color looks very good on you.”

I immediately replied with how much more weight I needed to lose, my hair looked awful, pick any one of the myriad of negative thoughts inside my head.

A female friend standing nearby turned to me and said, “No! Stop, Colleen. He complimented you. Your answer is, ‘Thank you!'”

She knew what I was doing. I was not used to being complimented about my appearance. She knew this. And she put the brakes on my negative thought train. At least the verbalization of my negative thoughts.

So, I have been exploring my insecurities. My inability to deal with stress and toxic people. My negative thoughts. And why I look for solace in food.

It is hard to constantly stop myself before I make a bad food decision and analyze the why. In the past, I’ve made a decision about what I wanted to eat and then just ate it. Even if I did not eat it to excess, I still often made very bad food choices.

So, this is what I do when I want to eat the cheesy poofs or whatever food I am craving at the moment. I stop and ask myself some questions.

  • Do I need this to feel full and meet my nutritional goals? (Is this choice a need or a want?)
  • Why do I want to eat the cheesy poofs?
  • What is going on? Am I stressed out? I am feeling bad?
  • What happened today, last night, yesterday to make me feel this way?
  • Will eating this particular food help me achieve my weight loss/health goals?
  • What impact will this choice have on my calories, protein, carb intake for the day?
  • What can I eat that I like that will keep me on track?
  • What other choice can I make?

 

Sometimes I even stop and pull out my phone and enter the cheesy poofs into myfitnesspal.com just to see what that choice will do to my daily goals.

I am successful in making better choices probably 95% of the time. Do I slip? Sure. One example, I had an extra slice of toast one day. Normally, that is enough to send me into a tailspin and think the whole day is lost. But the next day, I entered everything into myfitnesspal.com, and I was only a couple of points high on my carbs. I met my protein goals and calorie goals.

So, great choice? No. Diet-killer? Not even close. I was still on track.

Another thing I do is I try not to think of my entire weight loss goal every time I eat. I do keep that goal in mind every day, yes. But for each meal or snack, I think only of that meal or snack. I might think of how it fits into my daily goals, but in the moment, I do not think too much beyond that.

I chose that approach because sometimes thinking of the entire goal is too overwhelming and seems unattainable. Today, this moment, this meal, that is a doable goal.

I get weighed every two weeks, and in that moment, I only think of my bi-monthly goals. I do sit down with the doctor afterwards and talk about long-term goals, but only a month out. Most importantly, I’m not weighing myself every day and stressing out about the numbers on the scale.

Biking and exercising also helps. I have been biking quite a bit, although the impending snow storm in our area has really put a damper on that recently. But biking takes my mind off the stress of the day, releases endorphins, and generally makes me feel better. Not to mention, it is great exercise for a weight loss plan.

The result is, of the 58 pounds of regain, I’m down 18 pounds. And my overall goal is now lower as well. So, now instead of needing to lose 94 pounds, I only need to lose 76 pounds.

So, good news all around. I am working on improving my mental health and making better choices. I’m also losing weight, exercising, and feeling better!

Will I always make good choices? No, definitely not. No one is perfect, and I know I am not. But I know that if I stay focused, I can make much better choices moving forward.

I’ll just keep my co-workers voice in my head every time I reach for those cheesy poofs reminding me to stop and “Make Good Choices!”

 

 

10 Things I love About Biking

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I have been wanting to write this post for a while, especially since I wrote the 10 Things I Hate About Biking. So here it is:

10 Things I Love About Biking:

  1. Biking is Challenging – I love a good challenge. I tend to be singular in what I challenge myself with. Mostly, the only challenge I really have is my work. Last year was particularly difficult and work took up a huge amount of my time and focus. Biking offered a counter balance to the work challenge. It was personally challenging for me to get on the bike. I forced myself push a little farther every day.
  2. Biking is Fun! – Honestly, it really is. I have said many times it was hard work, but the pay-off for that hard work is that I get to bike. I love the feel of the sun on my face, the wind in my hair. I love flying down hills, or the steady pedaling of riding on a flat trail. I feel free in a way that I do not feel walking or *gasp* running, or doing any other kind of exercise.
  3.  The “Biking Community” –  I am not sure if it is the same in every community, but in Arlington, there is a big informal, (and probably formal if I looked into it more), biking community. A lot of people bike here. There are bike trails everywhere and most of the streets are accommodating to bikers. And other bikers kind of look out for one another. This is something I was not really aware of. One day in August was particularly hot. I was thirsty and pulled off the trail for a moment to drink some water. I’m sure my face was red and I was very sweaty and panting. One girl slowly road by me and asked if I was OK. I assured her I was just thirsty and she pedaled on her way. Occasionally, you get the person who is aggressively concerned with your biking. Annoyingly so, in fact. “That bike is too small for you!” One such person yelled to me as I was slowly riding up hill. “You need to raise your seat! You’ll blow out your knees!” I had to stop and walk the bike up the hill and he came over to try to show me how to raise my seat. Dude! Seriously? At that point in my biking I was just a few days out and feeling very unstable on the bike. Raising my seat was not something I was quite comfortable with yet. I waved him off and told him I was OK, and he grumbled his disapproval and walked away. Creepy. Fortunately, my experiences with other bikers has been much more pleasant.
  4. Supportive Bikers – This is probably a sub-group of the biking community, but I have really come across so many bikers who have been very supportive of my efforts. There’s the girl who offered to fix my flat tire. The guy who stopped to see if he could fix my handle bars. And bikers who just acknowledge me with a polite nod as they pass. But my favorite person, I “met” on one of my first rides. I was re-entering the Four Mile Run trail from South Glebe. There is a slight incline as you enter the trail. I was really struggling to get up the teeny hill. I wanted to push myself to the top. I was traveling at a snail’s pace. A woman rides up behind me and announces she’s passing me on my left. I was literally about to give up and get off my bike when she said as she rode by, “Keep pushing! You got this!” Her words were just the impetus I needed. Two, maybe, three pedals later, I crested the hill and yelled out, “I did it!” She raised her fist in the air in solidarity and rode off.
  5. Being Outside – I could go to gym and ride the stationary bike or join a spin class, but that really never held any appeal for me. I love being outside. The feel of the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. Amazing. Plus I get to see all the beauty around me. Spring and fall are my two favorite seasons. I love the feeling of renewal in the spring air, the blooming of the cherry blossoms, azaleas, budding trees. And the last splash of color and cool air of autumn. And everything in between.
  6. Pushing Myself – I love pushing myself. This past year, I have ridden harder and farther than I ever thought I could. I love to see how far I can go. There have been times I have pushed too far, but I’ve always made it back home, even if I had to walk. The farthest I ever pushed myself to date is my ride from home to Chinatown in DC. It was much farther than I thought it was. Google Maps initially said it was only 6 miles from my house and would take an hour. Google lied. On the bike trail, it was probably 10 or 11 miles. And it took almost two hours. I do not regret doing this though. It was hard and a little scary, but I had a lot of fun.
  7. Riding Downhill – Need I say more? Yes, it is a little scary, but man is it ever fun! I push myself to ride a 4 miles on a slow steady incline on my regular ride. The reward is, I get to ride about 4 miles on a slow steady decline on the way home. The downhill part of the ride is what everyone who dreams of riding thinks biking is like, pedaling effortlessly down the trail and enjoying the ride. And that is what it is like sometimes. But you do not think of the long slog of pushing up hill to get there. The uphill is what makes the downhill really worth it though.
  8. It Is Hard – I like that biking is difficult. One of my favorite movie quotes is from A League of Her Own when the obnoxious Tom Hanks character says to star player who is walking away from the game, “It’s supposed to be hard.  If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” Of course, in Northern Virginia, I think everyone does bike, but that’s not the point. The point is, that I have forced myself to do something that was difficult for me. And the rewards have been immeasurable.
  9. Being Present – There are numerous articles about the benefits of being present in your life, living in he moment, appreciating the here and now. So many of us just coast through our days. Or our schedules are so full, we are just racing to get to the end of the day so we can collapse on our beds for a few hours of respite before we begin again. I often say that when I’m at work, I feel like I’m wishing my life away 8 hours at a time. I’m never fully there. Always planning for the next thing. When I’m biking, I’m not doing that. I have to be focused and present all the time. There are so many things that can derail my ride, cars, traffic, pedestrians, obstacles on the trail errant two-year olds running in front of the bike. You have to pay attention if you want to be safe. Of course, my mind wanders and I think of other things while I’m biking. I think about writing, and all the things I have to do when I get home or get to work, but always, I’m paying attention to the trail, the bike, how I feel, am I hydrated, should I rest, how far I am from home. Biking is one of the few parts of my life where I’m not just waiting for the time to pass so I can get to the next part of my day. I am happy just to be in the moment biking and loving it.
  10. Overall Feeling of Well Being And Accomplishment – I feel better when I bike. My health is better. My breathing is better. I feel stronger and more confident because of biking. I know something about myself. I know that I can push myself physically to achieve a goal. This is something I have not always felt I could do. As someone who spent most of her adult life morbidly obese, the idea of excelling in any kind of physical activity was almost unthinkable. That is no longer the case.

What I Think About While I’m Biking (Hint: Not you!)

I have been biking quite a lot recently. I try to get out at least 3-5 times a week. I have even biked to work, although I do not do that often. I’m often hot and sweaty after I get there and the ride home, while primarily downhill, is mostly on city streets and is kind of brutal and scary.

A few months ago, a friend of mine, or maybe someone I know only slightly posted this meme oh Facebook:

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I think the person was trying to be encouraging by showing how judgy they are not by posting a meme on Facebook. I was slightly offended by it and became more so the more I thought about it. I’m not upset with the person, just the idea. The idea that there are good fat people, those who exercise or do something other people deem to be healthy. And bad fat people. To me, this is just another form of fat shaming.

The idea that my health, my appearance somehow belongs to other people is offensive to me. If I do what you think is the right thing, I’m worthy of praise, and if I do not, I deserve derision.

Now that I am biking myself, I’m here to tell you that while I’m biking, none of that matters. Here’s the secret. Fat people bike for the same reasons skinny people bike…because they love it. Yes, it is exercise and helps to build muscle mass and burn calories, but that is not my primary motivation.

So I thought I’d share some of the things I actually think about while I’m biking. (hint: those thoughts have nothing to do with you or what I think you think I look like!)

  1. Balance! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa Whoa! Don’t fall! Don’t fall!
  2. I put my feet not the pedals! Whoo hoo!
  3. OK, pedal, pedal! Don’t fall!
  4. I’m biking! I’m biking!
  5. OK get to bike trail…
  6. Big hill! It’s downhill, you can do this!
  7. Holy crap here comes a car! It’s OK! It’s OK! They’ll go around me.
  8. Whew, they went around me. Catastrophe averted.
  9. I made it to the bike trail! OMG, it’s uphill! At least it will be downhill on the way back.
  10. On the way back: How can the bike trail possibly be uphill in both directions?? Seriously? Who designed these trails?
  11. OMG, my legs.
  12. OMG, my butt hurts.
  13. OMG, I cannot breathe.
  14. Just breathe!
  15. OMG, I think a bug flew up my nose!
  16. Now my nose is itchy!
  17. Can’t take hands off handlebars to scratch nose.
  18. I have to scratch my nose.
  19. Scratches nose. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Don’t fall!
  20. Making bike trail part of the sidewalk…not a good idea!
  21. Case in point…who decided to put a lamppost in the middle of the bike trail/sidewalk? WTF? img_1858
  22. Bike around lamppost by railing and risk running into the railing and possibly tumbling down the embankment and into the creek? Or bike around lamppost street-side and risk tumbling into traffic? Nice.
  23. Preparing to bike up a short, but sharp hill. I can do this. I can do this. Uh oh, someone is coming downhill fast in my lane! He’s not looking up. Look up, look up look up! “Hey, look up! Coming towards you!”
  24. He moved, thank God.
  25. Lost momentum. Great, now I have to walk up the hill.
  26. OMG, I didn’t know I could sweat this much.
  27. Family with kids, “I’m on your left!” Please, God, don’t let the kids run out in front of me!
  28. Did the runner I just passed going downhill just pass me as we are going uphill? Holy crap, I’m slow!
  29. When does this get easier?
  30. Does it have to be so hot out?
  31. When does this hill end?
  32. Breathe! Just breathe!
  33. You can do this!
  34. Home at last!
  35. I so totally rock!

I do not think about what other people think I look like. Not at all. I think about safety and the other people I see on the trails. I do not want to put myself or anyone else at risk.

A friend of mine recently asked me that since I live in an urban area and I bike on the streets a lot if cars scare me. The answer is, they terrify me. I have a healthy fear of cars. Every time I have to cross a street or bike on the street, I’m terrified. I know most drivers are cautious and do not want to hit me, but in that moment, all I can think about is trying to avoid being hit. I yield to everyone.

But here’s another secret, I spend most of my time on my bike being terrified. Terrified I’ll fall. Terrified I’ll run into a pedestrian. Terrified of going uphill. Terrified of going down hill. Terrified of going too slow. And terrified of going too fast. Still, I get out there.

So, why do I do it? I do it because I have to. Not because I’m required to, or that the doctor told me I must. I do it because I love it. When I’m on my bike I’m not concerned about what I look like or what anyone else thinks of me. It is the only time I feel free from the judgment of other people; free to just live in the moment. I think that more than anything gets me out there on the trails as often as possible.

I see people of all sizes on the bike trails. Some a much smaller than me, some much bigger. One girl in particular stands out. I saw her this weekend and I think she was biking with her boyfriend. She looked like she was struggling. Still, she was faster than me. The two of them whizzed by me without a problem. I later caught up with them as they had stopped for water. She saw me coming and smiled. She looked just as hot and sweaty as I felt. I smiled back and gave her the biker nod – the nod many bikers have given me. A nod of recognition; of camaraderie; a welcome to the club. I hope she sticks with it and loves it as much as I do.