Earlier this year while shopping, my wife and I passed a display for Mexican food. She looked at me and said “you never eat nachos anymore.” She was right. I hadn’t eaten nachos in years. Back in the day, I would place layers of chips on a large plate. I would melt smooth and creamy cheese, add refried beans, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, jalapenos — the works! Sometimes I would even fry up some hamburger meet and sprinkle it on top, grease and all. It was a gigantic plate of fat, and it tasted so, so good!
Needless to say, I was a lot heavier back then. I had grown up skinny with a high metabolism. I could eat anything, including 2,000 calorie plates of nachos, and gain nothing. I lived in denial for awhile about my weight gain. I would see a chubby face in pictures and figure it was just a bad picture, the wrong angle.
I topped out at above 190 lbs, maybe as much as 195. That’s a lot for a guy of my height. One day, a co-worker looked at me and said “Wow, Aaron, you need to back off from that table!” She meant it playfully, but instantly realized she had crossed into an area that most people don’t talk about. I was not offended in the least. If anything, I realized she was right. How in the world did this happen to me?
Over the next couple of years, I managed to lose about 25% of my body weight through dieting. It was not an easy task. I cut approximately a quarter of my daily calories and stuck with it for the long haul. My weight would fluctuate, but as long as I stuck with my diet, it would trend downward. At some points the weight would come off quick. Other times it came off slow. The important thing is that it came off.
During my dieting period, I got a gym membership and started putting time into the cardio machines. That eventually led to running and then cycling.
Since I had lost all that weight, I figured I knew it all about dieting. The truth was that I knew next to nothing save for how to burn calories. I wasn’t eating well. I was just eating less. I had no concept of eating healthy, and couldn’t even begin to understand how to fuel a workout.
That’s when Kelli from Apex Nutrition came in. I found her from another blog endorsement, kind of like this one. She gave me a discount and that started almost a year-and-a-half relationship where I finally learned how to eat well.
In the beginning she had me complete a lengthy questionnaire that documented everything I consumed. And I mean everything! She asked questions about my lifestyle, what food options were available, when I could cook, and so on. In a few days she sent me this detailed, lengthy meal plan. At first I was overwhelmed. The more I read, the more I thought there was no way I could eat this stuff. It was a lot to absorb and I let it sink in for a few days.
Finally I set the plan into action. I took her suggestions little by little and documented my caloric intake a meal at a time. She initially offered free coaching and I re-upped for more. She monitored what I ate, praised me when I ate good, whole foods, and politely pointed out when I had not done so well. Yes, I literally paid someone to tell me to eat my vegetables. 🙂
Like with the weight loss, getting into a routine of healthy eating took time. First of all I had to re-invent my kitchen, gradually phasing out the unhealthy foods and replacing them with healthy alternatives. I had to find healthier options for eating out, which is something I have to do often because of a busy schedule. On top of all that, I’m somewhat of a picky eater, so I had to find foods that fit into my selective palette.
Perhaps the most valuable aspect of Kelli’s training is that I learned how to fuel my workouts. In fact, I would say that what I’ve learned about fueling and eating right is a substantial reason for my successes on the bike. Someone who has not been riding two years should not be able to accomplish Mitchell in 7 hours. Without experimenting, learning my body and how to keep it fueled, I would not have reached such heights.
I have utilized Kelli for two Mitchell training periods and an off-season conditioning program. I have achieved great results in both. The only failure was in my goal to reach 145 lbs before Mitchell. I was at 147 lbs before Mitchell, but I achieved far better gains in muscle mass that my power increased dramatically. It was a net gain, and a lot of it was a result of the coaching I was receiving.
I no longer track my calories and really don’t need to. I may not know it all, but I know my body far better than I ever have. I’m able to eat light without feeling hungry, and it is almost second nature for me to prepare for short, weekday rides, or these intense endurance events.