Raise your hand if you have ever been on a diet.
OK, don’t even bother. Chances are, if you are reading this article you have.
Even if you didn’t call it a diet, per se, you probably have some experience restricting what you eat for a time.
One of the surefire ways to go faster on the bike if you’re an overweight cyclist is to lose some weight. So many of us have tried to drop a few pounds so that we can get up those hills a little faster!
At first when you went on a diet, you may have lost weight.
Possibly a lot of it.
This is, after all, what diets and restrictions are designed to do!
Maybe you became the absolute queen of salads and lean protein.
Perhaps you cut all carbs out of your diet.
Maybe you counted calories, macros, or points.
Whatever it is that you did, you were committed to this thing.
You declared once and for all that you were going to lose the weight AND keep it off. For good.
This was your TIME!
I know. I have been there. I feel like with every article I am literally writing the book on how I screwed up diet after diet, restriction after restriction.
And of course I also beat myself up, and felt like an absolute failure, each and every time.
So why specifically is it that diets suck so much? Pull up a seat, my friend, because I am going to give you five BIG REASONS that you should never diet again.
Reason #1: Diet Culture Implies There is Something Wrong With You Right Now That Has to be Fixed By Eating Only “Good” Foods
All of the major diets out there seem to start with the premise that there is something wrong with you and what you are doing right now.
So many diets have all of these before and after photos. They imply that however the person was before was bad, and is now is good. She is so much better now that she has lost weight.
The message is so black and white. There are good and bad foods. Good and bad times to eat.
Right and wrong ways to exercise. There are so many rules, made up by someone else, that literally have nothing at all what-so-ever to do with you.
I mean, the world just isn’t black and white. It’s shades of gray. There is no one right way or wrong way to eat.
It’s nice to have guidance and information. To know what’s healthy for you. But there’s no reason not to incorporate all of the foods we love.
I mean, if you have a medical condition that’s certainly a whole different story. If you are deathly allergic to bananas, for example, you best be avoiding those bananas!
I am talking more about a diet that labels certain foods as bad and forbidden. Because you know what happens when someone tells me NOT to eat something? It’s ALL I want to eat.
I try to stay away from the foods I love instead of learning to live alongside them. To incorporate them in my life in reasonable amounts at a reasonable time.
It never works. Sooner or later, I find myself with a bag of potato chips that somehow made it into my grocery cart, and I am shoveling them in on my way home from work.
If I learn how to incorporate the foods I love into my plan, and learn how to consume them and enjoy them the way that I want to? Then I can lose weight.
Reason #2: Diets Often Demonize Carbs
This is a HUGE one for female cyclists.
Cutting carbs out of your diet as a female cyclist completely sucks.
It’s a very BAD idea.
I am not an expert on nutrition, but Dr. Stacy Sims is! She is an exercise physiologist and nutrition scientist who focuses on female athletes. In this article she addresses exactly how much carbohydrate we should take in depending on your training effort that day.
To put it very simply, carbs are our fuel. We need them. Without them we are in danger of bonking.
Bonking is when you literally do not have the energy to finish a ride.
It can be just a decrease in performance, or it can be much worse.
If you have really, truly bonked? You will know. On a hard effort your legs stop turning. They simply say NOPE! Even though your brain is telling them to GO!
What has happened is that your body has used all of the glycogen stored in your muscles and it has nada, zilch left because you didn’t fuel it with the carbohydrates that it needs.
The reality is that if you ride a bike? You ARE an athlete. This means you need to think like one. You need to fuel like one. And, most importantly, you need to eat like one. That means incorporating carbs.
Reason #3: A Diet is Someone Else’s Plan, Not Yours
I mean seriously, how many times have you looked at a diet and thought “hrm I could make this one work!” or you thought, “Oh no, absolutely not, that one doesn’t fit me or my lifestyle.”
The problem is that someone else’s diet, some else’s plan, is exactly that.
It’s THEIR diet, and THEIR plan. It’s not yours.
Diets set us up for failure because they always promise that if you follow “their” plan, that you will lose weight.
And the sneaky thing is that you might actually lose weight, at least at first.
But a lot of times what happens is that life gets in the way. The diet wasn’t made up of the foods we normally eat. Or even foods that we like.
Sometimes we think that we want to just have someone tell us what to eat so that we don’t have to make any decisions. We want a food plan. We want a diet. We want an exercise plan.
The problem is that over time, if we have no hand in making the plan, and if we feel like we are being restricted, and we are stressed and haven’t learned how to feel our emotions?
The diet fails.
We are standing in front of the pantry, we are sad, bored, or stressed, and we eat all of the things that are “off diet.” We eat what we “aren’t supposed to eat.”
And if you are anything like me? You eat a LOT of it.
Then, you feel even worse. You feel more sad. You beat yourself up. You swear you will never diet again…until the next time. You feel the push, and you get your hopes up, and think that finally this is the one that will work!
Until it doesn’t, and you are right back where you started. Again.
It’s a pretty damaging cycle that just makes us feel…bad. Who wants to feel bad all of the time? Who wants to always feel like a failure?
It simply doesn’t work.
Reason #4: Diets Focus on Restrictions and Willpower
You know the drill. You restrict all of the foods. How much you are eating is restricted. Honestly, you feel like you are restricting just about everything.
Everything they say, you do…until of course you don’t.
At some point just about every one of us stops following that diet because it simply doesn’t work for us.
It doesn’t fit into our life, and we are only usually willing to change our lives so much to make it fit.
So we stop, and then we feel like somehow we have failed.
You did not fail, my friend. The diet failed you because it wasn’t ever your plan.
Restriction and willpower just don’t feel good. They come from a place of lack and scarcity. It feels bad. You end up thinking and feeling that there is never going to be enough.
In order to truly lose weight, and keep the weight off, it needs to feel good.
It should be…dare I say it???? FUN!
Seriously. I’m not joking. You should enjoy the process of losing weight. You should be excited about it. There’s no rush, and it should absolutely feel amazing.
Reason #5: Diets Don’t Address Emotional Eating
This actually may be the biggest reason of all that diets totally suck for female cyclists.
I have saved the big one for last, my friends!
I have eluded to this throughout, but ultimately the reason traditional diets don’t work is because they don’t encourage you to address what is going on in your head.
Restrictions and willpower only go so far.
The diet tells you everything you should and shouldn’t eat. It gives you a list of approved foods, a meal plan. Sometimes an exercise plan too.
None of this helps when you are standing in front of the refrigerator at the end of the day poised to eat all of the things because you are totally stressed out.
In those moments you want to be able to identify and feel the actual emotion. The idea is to recognize it for what it is.
It’s so empowering to say “I am stressed, I am not hungry. I need to focus on identifying that feeling and letting myself feel it. Eating a bunch of doritos is not going to solve the problem.”
If you just eat a bunch of oreos from the pantry, chances are you are going to still feel stressed AND possibly have a stomachache. Or, even worse than a stomachache, start beating yourself up for eating the oreos.
Neither of those things is particularly useful.
What is useful is learning how to identify and actually feel your true feelings. Learning that escaping your feelings with food and emotional eating doesn’t work is the fundamental step in losing weight as a female cyclist.
Without doing this? The doritos and the oreos? They will win every single time.
A Final Note on Why Diets Suck for Female Cyclists
Truly, at the end of the day, the diet culture tends to focus so much on what is wrong with women, and why we need to fix ourselves.
You are not broken. There is literally nothing wrong with you, and nothing that needs to be fixed.
Diets convince us that something is wrong. We start the diet, we use willpower and restrictions, we lose weight.
What most diets don’t do is address our emotions. They don’t help us feel our feelings.
Because it is always someone else’s plan, someone else’s imposed restrictions, long term it is just not likely to work for us.
We gain the weight back. We beat ourselves up. We don’t feel like squeezing into our cycling kit and getting on our bike because why on earth should we bother?
It all just feels bad.
What if, instead, we loved ourselves, exactly as we are, right now?
What if, from this place of love and appreciation for everything our body can do, we lost weight because we want to be stronger? Because we want to be faster on our bikes? Because we want to be active with our families?
What if we came up with our own plan of what to eat? Filled with foods we love?
What if we had a plan, not a diet, to eat foods that we love? To make our own choices about what we like, what is healthy, and how often and how much we eat?
When we take charge of our food, of our nutrition, of our lives…when we love our body just as it is right now?
We are unstoppable.
You are unstoppable.
Are you with me? Let’s do this.
Love this article we are all so different what works for some does not work for everyone. It’s ok to have bad days. The more I am try to lose weight the more I seem to put on. I track all my food and in a deficit most days for calories. I don’t eat meat or chicken gave up wine for a while . I put on 6lbs. I need more protein and less carbs. Oh well.
Stacy Ann Smith
Yes! It is absolutely OK to have bad days. And it is fine to experiment and see what works for you. Also keep in mind that sometimes it takes time for our changes to actually show up on the scale. It’s not at all unusual to gain weight from time to time. Nothing has gone wrong. You are doing great!
I’ve been up and down with diets and this year seeking a sustainable long term approach. After I learned to eat enough protéin to support my training and adventures the next big thing to get more if was FIBRE and WATER! Now I take a Fibre first (veggies, whole grains) + protien (yoghourt, plant based protien sources and some protien supps) and Lots of water through the day – THis focus on what to eat than what to exclude has been a good mind shift and it makes long term sense. Also sugar … reduction in sugar seemed to help with hormone balancing? It was noticeable. Stay healthy have fun!
Stacy Ann Smith
This is so great! I love that you are experimenting with different options and different ways of fueling your body. It’s so important that we find what works for us. Fiber, Water, Protein, limiting sugar seems like a wonderful, healthy approach. Love it!
I used to follow diets my friends recommended or from the internet. Sure, they helped me lose weight for some time before they led me back to where I started. It wasn’t until I learned about nutrition myself that I was able to find a sustainable approach.
I started focusing more on getting enough protein and veggies in all my meals and taught myself to enjoy cooking. I quickly began to feel how it positively impacted my mood and performance. I allow myself to eat whatever I want whenever I want, but since I enjoy being this person who feels energized and happier, I don’t have the same need for snacks.
I learned that focusing too much on the goals instead of enjoying the systems that will get you there is a recipe for failure.
Malthe Haagen recently posted…BMR calculator – Calculate your daily calorie needs