Of the hundreds of bike rides I’ve been on, one stands out above all others. It was my first attempt at riding out to Stinson Beach by way of Muir Beach along Highway 1. I didn’t have an internet connection, and I hadn’t checked the elevation map beforehand, so I didn’t know what lay ahead of me. At some point, I stopped, looked at the road ahead of me, and turned back.
Today, after months of built-up angst about my increasing weight, I got up, put on my cycling outfit, loaded the mountain bike into the car, and drove out to Tennessee Trailhead for a ride in the mountains. The trail starts out flat on paved road, eventually forking off into dirt and winding its way up 800 ft. The weather was fairly gray and cloudy, but the fog added a beautiful surrealism to the green-covered smooth hills on either side. After two weeks in the Middle East, the air felt refreshingly clean and crisp, and the sound of the crashing waves made their way through Tennessee Valley. That all felt great. What didn’t feel great were my legs and my lungs.
After the first hill, I thought I just needed to take a breather. I was hunched over my handlebars trying to catch my breath.
On to the next turn.
I barely made it up when I looked up the trail, saw the third hill coming up and had to stop again to catch my breath. When I could barely lift my leg up to my pedal to clip in and keep going, I knew the time had come. I was barely 2 miles in, and it was a 20 mile ride, and it wasn’t going to get much easier. The last time I tried mountain biking, my rear brake was stuck pretty badly, and I had an excuse. This time, I couldn’t blame anything other than my lack of exercise and increasing weight.
I’m afraid I added a new ride to the list of ever-memorable failure rides today.
Weight gain creeps up over time. I stopped being active over a year ago as I contemplated the decision to quit my job, spent a lot of time traveling, and started working on Darkroom.
I knew I had been gaining weight, but I wasn’t aware that I was losing muscle mass. A popped shirt button here and a slightly tighter fitting pair of pants there and you look back after a year noticing a meaningful difference. This trip was a sort of shock to my system because it caused a disruption to my routine. I couldn’t wear the same comfortable, broken-in pair of jeans and loose shirts anymore – I was going to a formal wedding.
It’d been a while since I last wore my suit and dress shirts, and putting them on gave me a sense of how far I had strayed.
For me — and I reckon a lot of people who lose a lot of weight — a constant fear had been that the weight loss was temporary. For three years I held either a downward or flat weight graph, and had been reaping the rewards, emotional, social, and physical. This weight gain over the past year is a terrifying reversal and has become a constant, ever-present source of anxiety and disappointment.
My stubbornness against buying any clothes a size larger than what I used to comfortably wear before means I now walk around in uncomfortable new jeans, and I occasionally have to re-button a button in my shirt that popped off while I was sitting. It also means that I’m constantly walking around with a source of aggravation like an unscratchable itch. A constant reminder that I have let myself down and let go of an important part of my post-collegiate life.
And if you know me at all, you know that I don’t take to personal failures lightly.
The benefits of health are huge. Not least of which is the added self confidence and positivity. It’s hard to maintain an active and spontaneous dating life without self confidence in how one feels emotionally and physically. It’s hard to remain social when the added anxiety affects ones mood.
I’m making some short term changes to change the tide and get back to a happy place. I currently weigh 185-190b. At my lowest, I clocked 170lb. I suspect that with my lost muscle mass, my weight gain is closer to 30 pounds. At 175, I felt satisfied with my weight, physically and emotionally. At 170, I was ecstatic. I imagine my efforts at weight loss will help me regain a fair amount of muscle mass, so I’m setting my target at 175 for the next 2 months.
Towards that effort, I’m going foor the low-hanging fruit for these two months:
- I’m reducing drinking to 1 night a week and 3 drinks maximum.
- I’m reducing my dinner to smaller meals instead of the main meal of the day and shifting those calories towards lunch.
- I’m starting a gym routine. I’m expecting to do a combination of running, weights, and yoga, along with weekend bike rides.
- As far as Diet goes, I’ve already reduced my pasta/bread/rice intake, so I’ll continue that, but I’ve been pretty bad about tortillas and chips, so those will go as well.
It's not nice to be unhappy with your health and body, but what's less nice is denying it or not doing anything about it.