637 Days To Go is my blog, which was originally started with exactly 637 days until the start of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. And now it's been re-started with 637 days until the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

A Heavy Burden to Bear

80 pounds overweight in October, 2007
I have always found comfort in food. I've long said that I would rather eat than have sex (pretty sad, I know). Some people drink when they get depressed or bored. I eat. And eat. And eat. It's like I have no 'off' switch. So it's no wonder that dealing with excess body weight is the biggest challenge and obstacle I face in my efforts to become a world-class cyclist.

As a 'normal' person I am a healthy weight. I don't look or feel overweight in the slightest. But on a bike, every excess ounce makes a difference, especially when going up hills. And when those excess ounces become excess pounds – it's easy to see why I quickly get outdistanced by my very skinny opposition! So this winter and spring, my main goal is to lose (more) weight and give myself a chance to keep up with the (not so) big boys on the road next year.

My love affair with food started as a child. I think I was about 8 years old when my mother sent me to Austria for the summer to be with my grandmother. 2 months later, after daily gorgings on strudel and shnitzel and various other fat-filled foods, I returned home a much larger version of my former self. To this day, my mother still claims she didn't recognize me when she came to collect me from the airport - I was that fat!

It didn't help that I was an awkward child. And as we seemed to move every few years (which meant new schools), I often lacked lots of friends. Add to the equation that my mother was an excellent cook and that I seemed to spend a lot of time in the kitchen with her, it's easy to see how I stayed a fat kid for many years. It wasn't until I went to boarding school at age 12 – where they forced sports on me (plus the fortuitous onset of puberty) that I finally managed to lose my substantial 'baby weight'.

During my boarding school years I was 'forced' to participate in sports and while I hated it at the time, it has served me well in later life. In no particular order I.... did rugby, basketball, rowing, weights and of course – cycling! It was then that I got my first taste of bike racing and the thrill has stuck with me to this day.

Then it was on to university, where I was introduced to the sport of beer guzzling and pizza-eating. I could chug a pint of beer in about 3 seconds and once drank 6 beers through a funnel in 6 seconds! I also remember the eating contests that I inevitably seemed to get involved in - like the time I ate 4 Big Macs in under 3 minutes. Or the 18 slices of pizza from the all-you-can-eat buffet I scoffed in one sitting. Yes - food has always been my achilles heel!

Fortunately, during my university years much of the excess was worked off in other ways. I spent a good amount of time in the gym and playing sports with my friends. And chasing girls always seemed to burn off a few extra calories!

Lastly - when I moved to the UK about 6 years ago, there really wasn't the same type of facilities to work out and the weight started to pile on again. Then I got married and settled into married life. As I was unhappy being married - I turned to food for comfort again. And the weight grew and grew. Until one day I found myself a good 80 pounds overweight.

Slim and trim in October 2010
But that is all in the past. I am now single and lead a healthy lifestyle. I don't drink, only go to McDonald's a few times a year and rarely eat pizza. I am constantly on the scales and weighing myself (probably not healthy – but it makes me conscious of everything I eat!). I still struggle with impulse control when it comes to food - and still don't have an 'off' switch when faced with food.

I am glad that I am 'skinny' again these days. It's a relief to be able to fit into normal sized clothing and not break out in a sweat just getting out of bed. It's nice to get positive attention from the opposite sex and it certainly helps the cycling skills the less I weigh. I keep photos of myself in racing kit around the house (and on the fridge) to help keep me motivated to stay slim (and lose those extra pounds). But the biggest motivation is wanting to win on the road.

I have often said that I have all the skills to be a great cyclist. As far as I can tell - my only weakness is my weight. I don't get dropped on the flat - it's only in the hills. So if I can lose that last 10 pounds (or 15 in my case!), I may be able to make that final step up to being a winner, rather than a participant.

Maybe if I spent more time having sex and less time eating, I would be able to shift those extra pounds a lot faster!