Backsliding

Losing weight is hard, but gaining it back can be even harder. Well, that’s not entirely true, gaining it back can be quite easy. All you have to do is start to compromise on eating habit changes, miss a few workouts, have a few “holiday cookie” binges, or just stop watching what you are doing day to day. Truth be told, it’s really less than that because once you start to give yourself a little excuse for one more cookie or a little extra turkey things can quickly get out of hand. It doesn’t happen all at once, but it does start to add up. You have that second helping at Thanksgiving dinner even though you haven’t hit the gym lately. Then you go ahead and have a big desert. Then you have a bigger breakfast. Then you don’t quite get to the gym or ride your bike the next week because work is so hectic. The next thing you know the scale is saying mean and hurtful things to you.

I am writing about backsliding this week because I promised myself that if I were going to talk about my weight loss on the blog I would do so honestly, always including the good and the bad. It’s a great feeling to write about how much weight you have lost, but it’s a little painful to have to write about how much you have gained. I don’t want to pretend that everything is always easy and that I never make mistakes. We all have setbacks and we all have to deal with them. To pretend that they don’t happen doesn’t seem fair to either of us, I don’t want to write a lie and you don’t want to read one. I want this to be a place of honesty and I want us to all feel like we can fail as long as we promise to try again.

I had a great fall season. There was the Hartford Tour, the Hartford Races, and the Cycle Martha’s Vineyard rides. There were idyllic New England fall days to ride the roads and trails for training. Work was slow enough that I was able to leave on time and get some rides in before it got too dark to ride. I was hovering right around the 90 pounds lost mark without struggling. I had stopped taking my diet as seriously because I was maintaining my weight loss with my riding. I also reasoned that I wasn’t training at the intensity level that I had over the summer and that is why I was maintaining my weight loss instead of increasing it. I promised myself that I would start to push again. Things were going well enough that I wasn’t worried, and that was the real problem. When I worried, or concentrated, on my weight loss and fitness every day I was successful. When I stopped feeling that need to concentrate I should have seen that as a warning sign.

Cycle Martha’s Vineyard was the last organized ride of the season and it was my high water mark for distance and pace for the year. It wasn’t super impressive from the outside, but I battled through cramps and hills for a personal best mark at 50 miles on my way to the 65 miles I rode that day. As a reward, I took a break. I didn’t pay attention to how long the break was, I just knew I needed some time off the bike. I kept working at my morning calisthenics, but I really just wanted to get away from the riding for a little while. Work got busier and so did my life as a dad, shuttling my son to activities and planning fun day trips together as a family. Halloween came and went and so did Thanksgiving. I rode sporadically at best. I was burned out, but this was also my next warning sign I should have been paying attention to. I always feel better when I am riding consistently. Even if I have to push myself to get on the bike, I always feel better after the ride and I am much more comfortable in my skin when I am riding on a regular schedule.

I did ride a few times, but I missed my Thanksgiving Day ride because I had to be on call for work. I did ride the trainer that day. I also rode when I had to try out new products to review here and it was the Sufferfest review that showed me I had been away too long. I log all of my rides and training on both Endomondo and Strava. Each service gives separate data sets and I like having my training data on both to take advantage of each. I finally looked at them and realized how little I had been doing for the last two months. It was a stark sign that neither month had double digit ride totals. I am almost always in double digits by the end of the second week of a month.

While I was in the middle of my break from the bike I had been having an argument with the scale. Each morning it pointed out how little I was doing while not modifying my caloric intake to compensate for my sloth. I tried to tell the scale that it was wrong and I had earned that second helping or the burger I ate instead of the salad I should have tried. It just told me numbers. Large numbers. Numbers that kept getting slowly larger. I did what any person who has ever been in this situation does, I ignored the larger number and had a little more to eat and managed to move a little less. I lied to myself. It was muscle weight driven by the extra sit ups and pushups. It was an aborition, I would start losing again soon. I was at a plateau. I could fool myself for a while, but not once I saw the number a couple of Fridays ago, then I had to admit defeat. I have gained 10 pounds. I have managed to give back a hard won gain by inattention and inactivity.

It’s not a good time to start over. We are in the middle of the holiday season. I could even blame the holidays if I wanted to give myself another excuse, but I really don’t want to do that. I want those 10 pounds back. I want more than that. I need to get back to what got me here. To that end, I got back on the bike on December first. I have ridden as much as I could and managed to get 11 in 14 days. It was a great start. I jumped on the scale yesterday to see what my progress was. I have now gained 15 pounds. Depression and anger set in, but only briefly. I had been through that part of the cycle a couple of weeks ago and I was in the process of being honest with myself. I had assessed my lack of activity and made steps to change it. Now I needed to get back to eating better. It had been weeks since I had eaten a salad. Instead I had a cookie. Or ten. I stopped paying attention to what I was eating as well as how much and when. This needs to change.

Finally I needed to change something else. I needed to be honest with everyone else. I looked at my blog topics and it struck me how much I was writing about anything but fitness and weight loss in the last few months. Obviously it wasn’t a topic I wanted to spend much time on, but it is a large part of the blog. We can’t share the journey towards fitness if I never talk about it. I needed to change that this week as part of recovering my focus. I will always talk about cycling and other aspects of my life, but the goal of losing weight and gaining a new lifestyle is what started all of this in the first place. It’s fine that I blackslid for a little while as long as I stop. It’s time to pick myself back up and get back to work. I’m not going to lose all of what I gained back in a couple of weeks, but I do need to start again and it’s time, even if it’s inconvenient around the holidays. I already know that my New Year’s resolution will be to continue on my journey, I would like to hit the ground running and have some positive momentum when the clock strikes midnight.

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