When I ask my fellow female cyclists what they struggle with when they are trying to lose weight or get on their bike more often…do you know what they say?
Me. I struggle with myself.
In other words, we tend to feel like we are our own worst enemy, and put the blame on ourselves.
We feel like it’s our fault that we aren’t losing weight.
Or, we feel like a failure because we aren’t getting on the bike regularly.
We beat ourselves and our bodies up all of the time. We look in the mirror and we hate what we see. We want to change it, but we don’t know how to get out of this cycle.
You know, the cycle of feeling like “we have to do something.”
That we are this project. We are broken. Something has gone terribly wrong, and it’s all our fault, and we are at a loss to “fix it.”
If you have ever felt this way, or ever found yourself stuck in this thought loop of wanting to make a change but feeling like YOU keep getting in your own way, read on for some important mindset shifts that will help you lose weight as a cyclist.
Mindset Shift #1: Know That Nothing Has Gone Wrong, and You Are Exactly Where You Are Supposed to Be
Learning to believe that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, right now, with your cycling performance AND weight loss, is an essential mindset shift.
Instead of thinking that you have screwed up, that everything has gone wrong…what if you were to think that this is exactly where you are supposed to be today?
That there is nothing wrong with you, and nothing wrong with the “you” that has created your current results.
That you can love the person who made the choices that brought you to where you are today, and give her grace and kindness.
That “you”…you know…the “you” of last week, last month, or last year? She did what she needed to do to get through the day, and that’s OK.
She made choices, and those choices were OK.
Once you can take a look in the mirror and forgive past “you” who maybe ate a bunch of food because she was stressed, or didn’t ride her bike because she felt like she didn’t have time?
If you can do this, you have taken the first step to really shifting how you feel about yourself and your body.
One of the most powerful things I do to drive this idea home when I am down on myself is to think of 12-year-old “me.”
She thought she was the fattest girl in her class. She looked in the mirror and didn’t like what she saw. She asked herself how she could be so gross and disgusting.
Would “me” today say those things to a 12-year-old me? Absolutely not. Of course not.
I would say, “You’re beautiful, and you are so very strong. I am so proud of you for everything you are, and everything I know you will become.”
If we wouldn’t talk to the 12-year-old version of ourselves in such a crappy way, why do we seem to think it’s OK to do it to our current self?
Mindset Shift #2: Realizing You Can Love Your Body Right Now AND Want to Change It
When we build ourselves up instead of tearing ourselves down, we can learn to love who we are right now.
We can even love our body how it is right now.
We can love our body AND want to make changes to it.
There is no shame in thinking that you are absolutely amazing AND that you want to lose weight.
You do not need to wait until you weigh less in order to love yourself and your body.
When I lost almost 50 pounds I loved my body just as it was.
Was it harder to get up hills? Sure. Did I have to buy bigger clothes? Absolutely.
My body was also strong. It allowed me to do all of the things!
My legs could ride my bike.
My arms could hug my son.
I loved my body for everything it could do. AND I also wanted to lose weight.
I wanted to get up those hills a little faster. I wanted it to be a little easier to run around the yard with my son.
I wanted to be the healthiest version of myself so that I could be around for him for a very, very long time.
The more that I focused on loving myself and my body right now, the more I actually wanted to take care of it.
It is so much easier to lose weight from this place than from one where you are constantly beating yourself up, using willpower, and being fearful that you are going to screw it up all over again.
Mindset Shift #3: Knowing You Don’t Need to Ride Your Bike to Lose Weight
When I was at my heaviest, before I lost my weight, I was riding my bike a lot. A lot more than I am now, in fact.
One of the biggest myths with weight loss is that we have to exercise a ton to lose weight.
We really don’t.
What we need to do to lose weight is to change our relationship with our body and food.
Cycling is something we do because we love it. We move our bodies to feel healthy and strong.
If we get in the trap of thinking that we need to ride 100 miles a week to lose weight, then we start sapping all of the joy out of weight loss and cycling.
If you feel like you have to ride your bike in order to burn off all those cookies you just ate? You aren’t going to want to ride your bike. Suddenly it becomes a chore…or worse…a punishment.
Weight loss should be fun! CYCLING should be FUN! And what we eat should be fun too.
If we start trying to wrap it all up into a tidy little math problem in our minds we sap all of the joy out of it.
I mean, unless you love math. I am a history teacher and very much do NOT love math!
Separate cycling from weight loss. Ride your bike because you love it. Because moving your body feels freaking good. Don’t feel like you have to ride your bike to lose weight.
It’s just simply not true. You can lose a ton of weight without getting on your bike at all.
Once you separate these two things in your mind you will be able to enjoy your bike and food so much more.
Mindset Shift #4: Understanding You Don’t Have to Do it On Your Own
Weight loss can be really lonely. If we let it, it can feel hard…impossible even.
We often feel like we have to go it alone.
Going it alone kind of sucks, to be honest. I know, because I did it this way, and it was…well…lonely.
I celebrated my wins…all by myself. And I am pretty awesome, but still, it would have been so much more fun if I had a coach and a community to share them with.
I was so scared to tell people around me that I was trying to lose weight. I was afraid that they would judge me if I failed. I was scared to tell them my progress because I was afraid I would gain all the weight back.
The whole process of weight loss was actually really fun for me for the most part, but this is one aspect that I sometimes wish I did differently.
What if, instead of being too scared to ask for help, I found a weight loss community? A coach? Or better yet, both? I would have been so much less alone.
I would have had so much support. Who knows…maybe weight loss would have been easier, I would have had so much more fun, and it might have even gone a little faster!
Mindset Shift #5: Realizing ALL Food is Good Food
Yes. All food. Really.
That peanut butter cup? Those sour cream and onion chips?
They are freaking good. And delicious. Also, did I mention good?
Are there foods out there that provide more nutrients? Have better ingredients? That will fuel our bodies better?
Of course. I mean, probably. Sure. BUT that doesn’t make these foods bad.
When we label and vilify food we give it a lot of power. When we think “I can’t have that in the house because I will eat all of it” we are dis-empowering ourselves.
All food that we like has a place in our lives, and in our food plan. We will find, naturally, over time, and through the weight loss process, that some foods give us better results.
We will choose to eat more of those foods.
Other foods will taste good, but not make us feel great. Not really fuel our rides. We will then choose to eat less of those foods.
The idea is, at the end of the day, WE are the ones who are in control. Not the food. That Oreo is just an Oreo, my friend. It is merely white cream sandwiched between two chocolate disks.
It is not a monster, it is not yelling “eat me!” It’s just a freaking cookie.
Eat it, if you want it. Or not.
If you do, savor that sucker. But, calling it names, vilifying it, and banning it from crossing the threshold of your house? That’s giving it WAY more power than it deserves.
Once we realize that all food is good food, and all food has a place in our plan? Then we can learn how to lose weight AND eat what we love without being terrified we are going to blow it and have to start all over again.
A Final Note…
I cannot tell you how many diets I have tried, or how many times I have thought I needed to find the magical combination of foods and exercise to lose weight.
How many of us, for years, blamed ourselves?
We thought WE were the problem. That we were the reason why we couldn’t lose weight.
That the food was the problem. Or our lack of exercise was the problem. That we just weren’t quite strong enough to do it.
The diet was the problem. NOT you.
Beating yourself up is never the answer. It would be one thing if it led to the results that we don’t but it doesn’t.
Even if we do lose the weight through willpower and self-loathing, we tend to gain it all back.
We do this because we haven’t addressed the real problem, which is that we aren’t loving ourselves through the process.
The diet industry failed us. It told us that we need a certain combination of exercise and food to have the body that we want.
What it didn’t do was tell us that we needed to stop beating ourselves up, stop talking to ourselves like jerks, and actually love everything that we are right now.
With love, grace, acceptance, and honoring yourself you CAN lose weight. For the last time. I believe in you. Let’s GO.