A lot of times when we set out to lose weight we want someone, anyone, to just tell us WHAT to do.
We want to know what to eat, how much to ride, and want someone to just give us the perfect combination of all of the things that will lead to steady weight loss.
The problem with this approach is that it is someone else’s plan.
It’s not YOU listening to your body and figuring out what works for YOU.
The diet industry encourages us to restrict foods and calories. We plug what we eat into some app somewhere and it tells us what we can eat for the rest of the day based on some formula that has NOTHING TO DO WITH US.
It doesn’t take into account what we like to eat. Additionally, it doesn’t take into account our own personal nutritional needs.
It doesn’t require us to think at all about whether or not we are hungry, or whether or not we have had enough food to feel satisfied.
We aren’t actually thinking about and taking note of what combinations of foods feel good in our bodies and give us the energy that we need.
Now, if you are working really closely with a personalized 1:1 coach that is taking all of these things into account, that’s one thing, but most of us a) can’t afford that and/or b) don’t have that kind of time!
The great thing is that there absolutely are things that you can do on your own if you don’t have the time and money to spend on personalized coaching, and it all starts with listening to your body and testing and finding out what works for you.
Curious as to HOW to do this? Read on for my tips on the specific ways that listening to your body can help you lose weight biking.
#1: Follow Your Hunger
Our hunger cues are SO important, and yet, the diet industry seems to think it’s OK to ignore them.
Hunger is our body’s natural way of telling us we need some food.
The problem with this is that many of us don’t even know when we are actually hungry.
Since we were little we have been told to eat at a certain time. We grow up celebrating milestones with food…weddings, graduations…I remember always going out to ice cream after a music concert!
We eat when we are happy, we eat when we are sad. Or, we eat because other people around us are eating.
So rarely do we stop to ask ourselves and our bodies if we are actually hungry because we don’t want to miss out. Or because we think other people will think we are weird if we aren’t eating too.
Remember the gathering is about fostering the relationship! Actually eating is not necessary to have a connection with people you love.
Next time you are about to eat, stop for just 10 seconds and ask yourself if your body is actually hungry. Next time you are hungry, ask yourself how it feels. Are you feeling lightheaded? A little headachey? Is your tummy actually growling? Are you having a hard time focusing?
If so, and if you are well hydrated already (sometimes we think we are hungry and we are actually thirsty), then THIS is the time to eat.
#2 Only Eat When You Are Hungry Unless You NEED to Fuel For a Ride/Won’t Be Able to Eat Later
Now, being women who ride bikes, there can be some exceptions. We might have to eat when we aren’t actually hungry.
There are two acceptable times to do this. One is when you are fueling for a big ride, and the other is when you need to eat because you actually won’t be able to follow your hunger cues later.
Let’s cover fueling for a big ride first. When you are going to be going farther/longer than your usual ride, you will likely need a little extra fuel for the ride, and you might not actually be hungry for it.
For example, when I am leading my Wednesday night women’s ride, I am usually riding for 2+ hours for 20+ miles. This is much longer and further than my 20-30 min Peloton ride, or even my 15 mile after work ride.
For these sorts of rides I need a little extra fuel about an hour before the ride. I will eat a banana, or half a peanut butter sandwich. I shoot for a nice, easy to digest carb/protein combo that feels good in my body.
Secondly, I am a teacher. This means that I can’t eat whenever I get hungry during the day. I have to eat breakfast before I am actually hungry for it because I am at work by 7:30 am. I have to eat lunch before I am actually hungry for it sometimes because my lunch is at 11:15.
The key here it to try to only eat when you are hungry, but if you have to eat other times, be very mindful of your reason. It makes sense for me to eat when I need to fuel for my rides or because I am a shift worker.
On the other hand, it doesn’t make sense for me to eat just because someone put some cookies out at work when I didn’t plan for food at that time, and I didn’t plan for cookies.
#3: Notice What Foods Feel Good In Your Body
I encourage you to really take note of how the food you put into your body makes you feel.
I was guilty of ignoring this for the longest time. When I was younger a friend told me she didn’t eat fried food because it upset her stomach.
I couldn’t understand this! You see, I loved fried food (um still do!), and there was no way I was going to let any kind of stomach upset stand between me and my french fries.
When I lost my weight a few years ago though, I started to pay attention to how foods felt in my body. I found that certain foods just didn’t feel good, and so I stopped eating them as much.
There are times I still eat things that don’t feel great in my body, but I do this much less frequently.
I want to actually feel strong on my bike rides now, and I don’t want to worry about being full of gas or doubled over in pain when I am trying to ride my bike!
#4: Notice WHEN Certain Foods Feel Better Than Others
Going along with taking note of how different foods feel in your body, have you ever noticed that some things feel fine at certain times of day, but other times not so much?
Or, have you noticed that certain foods just seem to fuel your body better for your bike rides than others?
Though there are certainly guidelines for fueling for rides, you are going to find that things that work for others just don’t really work for you. Either they upset your stomach or they don’t give you the energy you need.
Likewise, you may find some things doing sit well with you first thing in the morning, but later in the day they are A-OK!
I almost never feel good with a carb-heavy breakfast. Not only does it make me feel sluggish, but it upsets my tummy. As a result I tend to reach for a breakfast with just a little bit of a carb that is heavy on veggies and protein, and this feels much better.
Sometimes when I make pancakes for the family on the weekend I just really want a pancake, and I have one! But I do this knowing that my stomach is likely going to be rather angry with me, and therefore I don’t do it very often.
#5: Test and Find Out – Modify if Necessary
Listening to your body isn’t something that you just master overnight. It will likely take weeks, months, or even years for you to figure out what really seems to work well in your body and make you feel good.
This is especially true if like me you spent literally decades ignoring your hunger cues and ignoring what foods didn’t feel good.
You are going to need to test and find out what works and what doesn’t. Around this time last year I tried swapping out my savory breakfast for a delicious smoothie.
It didn’t work. The smoothie tasted SO good, but the combination of the dairy and the sugar just didn’t feel great.
Also, I found that it just didn’t stick with me long enough, and I was SO hungry before lunch (and being a shift worker I couldn’t exactly just have lunch early!).
As you listen to your body and test different foods at different times you are going to notice what feels good, what works, and what doesn’t. Keep a journal and write this down. That way you can mindfully start to make better choices about what your body needs and remember what your body does and does not particularly like.
A Final Note
Listening to your body helps you respect it and WANT to put good stuff in it. When we listen to our body, we appreciate it even more for all that it can do.
It is something that seems so simple and easy, and yet so many of us overlook how food in our body feels for a variety of reasons.
This isn’t about cutting out all of the foods you love all of the time because they don’t feel good. It’s about simply being aware of what works for you.
This way, if you want to eat things that your body doesn’t like, you are prepared for how it is going to make your body feel.
When we only eat when we are hungry or to fuel our body, and pay attention to what feels good, we are strengthening our relationship with our body.
We don’t need to be extreme and eliminate everything we love. We just need to focus on how awesome our body is and everything it can do.
You can absolutely do this. You’ve got this. I believe in you, my friend.