My weight has gone up and down most of my life. I was a chubby kid, a skinny teenager, and I put weight on and off throughout my adult life. About a year before Andrew was born, I stepped on a scale at a clinic where I was volunteering and was not able to get my weight. The scale would only weigh up to 300 pounds. My body mass index (BMI) was 39 kg/m2. My waist size was more than 40 inches, which meant that I was at very high risk for cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes. In 2014, I had a physical exam before going to Sierra Leone. I weighed 284 lbs. I’d lost around 20 lbs. and felt pretty good about that. Nevertheless, my fasting blood glucose was still over 100 mg/dL, which meant I had prediabetes.
Although she's no longer "in the business," Holly, my wife, is a professional photographer and knows how to make people look good. I went to Africa twice in 2014 and was bothered when I saw photographs of myself taken by other people. I didn't realize how bad I looked. I was 52 years old and had a two-year-old son. I realized that, if I wanted to see Andrew reach adulthood, I needed to get my weight under control.
I had been riding a bicycle for many years. I was riding 100 miles per week when Holly and I lived in New Orleans, but New Orleans is flat. The biggest "hills" I had to climb were the levee and I-10 overpasses. When we moved back to the Pacific Northwest I had get used to not only hills, but cold, wet winter weather. That took a couple of years.
I started pushing myself; riding more miles, riding up hills that I had previously avoided, and riding in miserable weather. I also changed my diet, although not drastically. I cut down on carbohydrates and ate more salads. I bought a rowing machine so that I could keep up my workouts during the winter months when it was too cold or wet to ride. I started keeping track of my weight and used an app on my cell phone to track my rides.
I took some long rides in the summer. In July 2016, I took a couple of days to ride the Olympic Discovery Trail from Port Townsend to La Push, Washington. In June of this year I rode from Tacoma, through Seattle to the Snohomish County line, around Lake Sammamish, then through Renton, Black Diamond, Enumclaw, Buckley, Puyallup, and back to Tacoma. To celebrate my 55th birthday, I rode from Tacoma to the coast and back.
In September 2015, my BMI dropped below 30 kg/m2 - overweight, but no longer obese. A year later my BMI was less than 25: normal weight. This September the scale dipped below 180 lbs (BMI 23.1). My total cholesterol and triglycerides dropped, my high-density lipoprotein (HDL; "good" cholesterol) is up, and my fasting blood sugar is below 100 mg/dL.
I rode through last winter, but that put a lot of wear and tear on my bicycle. Now that I've achieved my weight loss goal, I've decided to start working on strength training this winter. I picked up a set of weights and read a book titled "Weight training for cyclists."
This hasn't been easy. It's been a huge commitment of time. So far this year I've spent 478 hours riding my bicycle, which doesn't include most of my rides to and from work. It's also been expensive. I bought a new bicycle last year and have had to replace a lot of parts and buy tools so that I can work on my bicycle instead of paying someone else to do it. I've also had to buy new clothes. The clothes I bought last year are too big for me now.
I could not have done this without Holly's help. She has graciously allowed me to take the time I need to ride as much as I have. In return, she gets a healthier husband and Andrew gets a daddy who can keep up with him!
One final note: I've put my background in neuroscience nursing, public health, and bicycling to use as a member of the Cooper Jones bicyclist safety advisory council. One of our objectives is to encourage more people in Washington State to ride bicycles by making cycling safer. You can read more about it on the Washington Bikes website.