What Works

01.13.2006 | 4:31 pm

Right now, I am learning what I have learned many times before: the first week of a diet is incredibly difficult. First, it’s tough because I’m constantly having to override my grazing instinct. Several times each evening (and during the whole day during the weekend), both before and after dinner, I find myself standing in front of the pantry or fridge. I’ve got the door open and am automatically scanning for something to throw in my mouth.

Second, it’s tough because I have to get used to not always feeling full, and that includes at bedtime. And while I get used to that feeling, I have a hard time sleeping. And I get grouchy. I’ve got to watch what I say, to coworkers, to my wife, and to my kids. Keep the brain-to-mouth filter turned up to 11, and maybe install a backup filter, just in case the first one fails.

I do know one thing: my diet does work for me, when I follow it. I lose weight, at a reasonable rate, without losing power on the bike. Here are the essentials:



Ordinarily, I am incredible at rationalizing. I’m good at coming up with a reason why it’s OK for me to go out to eat because I haven’t seen this friend in at least a couple weeks. Or that it’s OK for me to eat a handful of pretzels because they’ve got no fat in them. If I want to lose weight, though, I need to have a couple absolutes:

  • No grazing. At all. I know that once I start, I don’t stop. I eat during my mealtimes (of which there are 5 daily)
  • Weigh myself every morning. Especially the mornings following a day when I screwed up. I say to myself, “Oh, it’ll just depress me; I’ll skip today so I don’t have to see what the spike in weight was.” Well, now it’s important to see what kind of damage I’ve done, so I don’t go doing it again.


I base my diet primarily on a few principles:

  • I will continue to eat lots of carbohydrates; they’re what I like best and they keep me strong on the bike.
  • If I eat five servings of raw fruits and vegetables daily, everything else pretty much takes care of itself.
  • I don’t measure out quantities; I know how much is reasonable.
  • Pasta is my friend. Just don’t use rich sauces.
  • In fact, don’t eat anything rich. It’s not so much calories that are the enemy as the concentration of calories.

I don’t have lots of foods that are crossed off my list of things that are OK to eat. But I do keep the fridge and pantry stocked with a few things that I like:

  • Dannon Light ‘n Fit Yogurt: I’ve eaten this kind of yogurt for more than a year: no fat, only 90 calories. Last week, Dannon mailed (yes, mailed) me some samples of their new version of this kind of yogurt: now it has only 60 calories, and it tastes even better. I’m a big fan of the vanilla, peach, and blueberry flavors. This new version isn’t available in stores yet (it will be later this month), so I’m hoarding my stash.
  • Whole grain breads: One of my favorite foods in the world is Great Harvest’s white bread. Whole grain’s better for you, though; I’m off the white, and onto the wheat.
  • Grapefruit: I don’t understand why, but I’ve discovered that if I eat a grapefruit at night, I’m not as hungry the rest of the night and don’t have the graze instinct quite as bad. Also, grapefruit is one of my very favorite foods in the world.
  • Pasta + cottage cheese + lots and lots and lots of ground pepper: I could eat this every day, and when I’m dieting, often do. Carbs, protein, calcium, not much fat. Lots of bulk without much penalty.
  • Fiber 1: For breakfast. It does its job.
  • Water, water, water: Half a gallon of it, every day. Every diet I’ve ever seen includes lots of water as part of the program, and cyclists need to train their bodies to be good at drinking lots of water to stay hydrated.
  • Apples: Golden Delicious and Jonagolds are my favorite. I can and do eat two or three apples per day. The weird thing is, apples seem to make me hungrier. I still like them, though.
  • Bananas: Nature’s Twinkies. Genius bike builder and noted vegan Matt Chester eats around twenty of these per day. And he sleeps on a bed of leaves.
  • Carrots: Every time you eat a carrot, you lose an ounce. It’s a well known fact, which I just made up.
  • Mushrooms: Wash the manure off first, though.
  • Peppers: Yellow peppers taste more like a fruit than a vegetable.
  • Tuna: Add fat-free mayo, mustard, and pickle relish, put on a rice cake, and completely blacken it with ground pepper and you’ve got a meal that’s very nearly tolerable.

I Will Never Gain This Weight Again

As I go through this first week of dieting (last week was also the first week, but it didn’t work out so well), I keep finding myself saying, “When I finally get to my target weight, I’m never going to put this weight on again.”

This, I know, is a lie. I fully expect this year to hit my target weight — 150 — but will almost certainly hit 170 again within 18 months. Or within six months, if I’m going to be honest with myself (which I am not). I am a human yoyo.

But it is my intention to be one hell of a fast yoyo this summer.


Grace Period

I used to post my weight daily on this site, and beginning February 1, I will do so again. I’m giving myself the month of January to lose weight in private, as an extra incentive. Basically, knowing that I’ve got to go public with whatever weight I’m at in February is a huge motivator to get back down to something a little less embarrassing.


Banjo Brothers Bike Bag Contest Winner

There were lots of good confessions in this week’s contest. The truth is, though, this time it was easy for me to pick one, because it seems like Craig reached right into my head and pulled out a lie I use every year:

OK, so I’m not losing weight as fast as I thought. But, that’s OK. Training with this extra 30 pounds later into the spring will only ultimately increase my power. So when I do lose that extra weight and finally look like Rasmussen, I will be “climber extraordinaire.”

Ballooning up like I’m pregnant every fall is part of my power-building training plan. 

Congratulations, Craig. Email me with your address and whether you want the messenger bag or pannier setup.


Bonus Awesome Present from Awesome Sister

My sister Lori, who is a well-known artist, and writes an excellent blog of her own, just sent me what is immediately my favorite new jersey. Check this out:


Perfect cool-weather long-sleeved jersey (which, for my morning rides, is 9 months out of the year here), with big pockets in the back. Very bright and visible on the road, with a Brooklyn cool factor I don’t even come close to deserving.


  1. Comment by Unknown | 01.13.2006 | 4:55 pm

    Relief, i just built up my ‘06 Litespeed Ghisallo.(I work in a bike shop!) I NEVER have to diet again!!!!!Yipee for me. ( I suck, don’t I?)By the way, diet is a four letter word. Pleasebe careful of offending too many people forit’s usage. Thank you.

  2. Comment by Unknown | 01.13.2006 | 5:11 pm

    You think it’s going to take 6 months (post dieting) to get back up to 170?? You are delusional. It took me 6 weeks to gain my weight back last fall.Botched (168 and heading south to a goal of 155)

  3. Comment by Unknown | 01.13.2006 | 5:22 pm

    Dr. E.–Trivia for the file…Did you ever get to see all of those old pictures and those old videos where the ‘Brooklyn’ pro team was dominating the one day classics in the 70’s. That jersey came from that era and has continued to be duplicated, just like the old Molteni and Fiat jerseys.Roger DeVlaemick was the Belgian stud who won Oaris Roubaix and Milan San Remo a bunch of times wearing that jersey.-cowboy

  4. Comment by craig | 01.13.2006 | 5:41 pm

    I agree with botched.I could go from 150 to 170 in about 40 days. Especially if those forty days are thanksgiving through new years.

  5. Comment by Unknown | 01.13.2006 | 6:29 pm

    Good diet tips. Different things work for different folks. For me – a slow loser (describes my riding style too) here are some things I’m discovering. – There’s no substitute for regular seat time. Ride every day. – Do two-a-days – if you have 90 minutes net time, break it into two 45 minute chunks to keep the metabolism elevated for most of the day. Commuting is wonderful for this.- Eat constantly. Don’t eat huge meals. Eat what you’d normally eat but spread it out into five or six mini-meals. This seems to keep the metabolism at a steady pace; like a fire, logs burn faster if you throw them on while the fire is roaring, rather than after it’s flared down. I am probably eating more now, but still losing weight, albeit with a commute and spin classes in the mix. Your mileage may vary (YMMV). – Don’t eat right after you ride. Wait an hour until your body has gone into crisis mode and had a chance to burn some fat. Drink a lot of water right after your ride though. It will stave off the hunger. Though you’ll still be insanely hungry and want to eat the first thing you see – heck I shiver until I eat – I recommend a small handful of peanuts or cashews, eaten slowly. They stave off the hunger and the salt seems to help too for some reason. Stay away from the cookies if you’re abstaining after a ride, because if you approach their gravitational pull after the ride I assure you, you will be forced by them to act like Mr. Creosote. – Eat if you feel really hungry between meals (once you’ve started to lose weight a week or two into the diet). If I have a nice commute into work, I may eat a small ‘elevensies" second breakfast – a fruit salad thingy or a bagel. (I’m trying to cut out the pancakes and croissants which give more calories than are needed). It’s better to take the edge off your hunger and then stick to your routine through the morning, than to get wicked hungry, and pick up a bag of chips and a candy bar at lunch because you’re soooo hungry that you *know* your sandwich wont be enough. – Beans, beans beans. Kidney bean salad for lunch. Lentil soup or curry or a chili. Chick peas on the salad. Mmmmm… filling, lots of protein, good complex carbs for fuel, damn near perfect weight loss food. If you are exercising a lot you can handle the carb calories. (YMMV)- Use Franks Louisiana Hot Sauce, Tobasco, Red Hot, Dave’s Endorphin Rush, Curry powder and spices, Pickapeppa Sauce, black pepper, or virtually any sauce made in New Iberia, Louisiana. Doesn’t matter, spice up your food. I find that if I eat spicy food, I really feel like I’ve eaten, even if the portions are small. These tactics are working for me so far. I’m 5 pounds down just 10 days into the B5 challenge.

  6. Comment by barry1021 | 01.13.2006 | 6:43 pm

    Great tips from FC and Al Maviva. I have read them carefully, analyzing which rules I adhere to and which ones i violate. Here are the ones I do a good job sticking to:"Eat constantly."

  7. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 01.13.2006 | 7:03 pm

    bikemike – mmmm. litespeed.botched – you’re right. i was — as usual — lying to myself.dp – i actually saw "Brooklyn" team jerseys for the first time when watching that "Sunday in Hell" video. It was a different, cursive design, though, probably predating the design i have on this jersey. craig – maybe this autumn we can have a big "diet reversal" contest to see who gains the most weight from 10/1 to 1/1. I think it would be both remarkable and dismaying.al – agree on all points; sounds like we work the same way. for the record, my current favorite hot sauces are Tabasco Chipotle — you’ve got to use a lot of it because it’s mild, but it tastes great — and Cholula. And I douse pretty much everything with black pepper. i love my food hot.barry – yeah, that edict’s not too hard to comply with, is it? you know, there’s a Breyer’s (or is it Dreyers? I can’t remember) Soft Serve Ice Cream dispenser in the cafeteria across the street from my building. i think i’ll go obey that edict right now.

  8. Comment by Tyler | 01.13.2006 | 7:07 pm

    This is the problem with a FULL. It’s my new theory. Some people are FULLs, some are EMPTIES.The crux of all diet bullshit is here.Check out today’s post of my blog for a long explanation.

  9. Comment by Alex | 01.13.2006 | 7:37 pm

    Hey Fatty,The reason eating apples makes you hungrier is because they have a high glycemic index. That means that the blood sugar concentration following an apple consumption is going to be a sharp spike up and then down. And then your body is going to go "wah! I was full five minutes ago, but now I am hungry again. feed me!". Carrots are even worse in that regard – they are great, healthy snacks, but eating them to relieve hunger just won’t work. Both of these are best eaten as a snack some time before a larger meal.Grapefruit, on the other hand, has a GI of 25 (vis-a-vis apples’ 38, or carrots’ 47). No wonder it leaves you feeling full before bedtime – the blood sugar release will be much more gradual, over a longer period of time. Other low-GI fruits and veggies include cherries (22), peaches (28) and bean sprouts (25).Have fun dieting. You should know that your blog is almost an inspiration for me to get back into riding my bike to work, from greenlake to redmond. Almost.

  10. Comment by Unknown | 01.13.2006 | 8:24 pm

    Now I know why people hate dieting. It seems that it requires so much attention. I say, eat right, reduce portions of good food, give yourself a treat once in awile, ride plenty, and the weight will take care of itself. Don’t worry about it so much.

  11. Comment by barry1021 | 01.13.2006 | 8:42 pm

    I am going out on a limb here and say that MeandMyShadows2 looks more like Rasmussen than most of us. -I say, eat right, reduce portions of good food, give yourself a treat once in awile, ride plenty and the weight will take care of itself. Don’t worry about it so much-It’s great advice except for this. I have never cheated on my wife. I don’t take drugs. A glass of wine every week fills my need for alcohol. I like a good cigar but i can go months without having one. I don’t buy expensive clothes or drive fast cars. I open doors for women. I always say please and thank you. I don’t blow snot out my nostrils on the street (except when I am riding, and I try to make sure no one is driving by). So as you can see, I am damn near perfect. Except for one thing,I AM ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY INCAPABLE OF FOLLOWING YOUR ADVICE!!!!!You might as well be telling a heroin addict to "just stop shooting up and you’ll be fine." I could go into all the stuff when I was a kid and my mother used food to express her love for me etc etc, but I would have you all in tears and then you will be sending me boxes of used smelly bike clothing and gu in flavors I abhor, so I will just stop here and go look for a snack.

  12. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 01.13.2006 | 9:16 pm

    My diet is simple. Cut 300 calories straight off the top of the 2005 daily average. That puts my right in the middle of the loss/maintain zone.

  13. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 01.13.2006 | 9:17 pm

    Don’t you hate that. Well, I do. That was supposed to be 3000 calories.

  14. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 01.13.2006 | 9:19 pm

    argentius – i think you’ve got it pegged. i would pay good money to become an empty. rocky aka MeandMyShadows2 – i have nothing to add to Barry1021’s response, except a fervent "amen." Barry1021 – amen. fervently.

  15. Comment by Zed | 01.13.2006 | 10:22 pm

    So let it be blogged, so let it be done. End of comment.

  16. Comment by tayfuryagci | 01.13.2006 | 11:04 pm

    that is one good lookin’ jersey you got there! wear it out in good times!

  17. Comment by tayfuryagci | 01.13.2006 | 11:10 pm

    mr brenner, taras bulba is my all times favorite movie and book!

  18. Comment by Kelly | 01.14.2006 | 1:17 pm

    It absolutely irks me that apples do that to me, too. They just aren’t FILLING. They just warm up my jaws to get ready to chew on something not good for me. I keep telling hubby that’s why I’m taking a bite outta his ass, but he doesn’t buy it. The water thing after a ride is good, too, because I want to eat everything not nailed down afterward. Carbs, especially, seem to sing out my name to come and find them. Just how does one get a company to send them things? Dannon is very kind. If they sent you a coffee or mocha flavored sample, could you send it my way? Thus far, it hasn’t worked with Starbucks for me and I mention those people nearly every day on my blog. "Ummmm, Mr. Joe Starbucks? Are you listening?"Kelly

  19. Comment by Bryn | 01.15.2006 | 2:22 am

    That jersey rocks fatty! I guess its another item to add to your ever increasing wardrobe of cycling clothes. For me, i dont really need to diet, i dont really know how i would lose much weight anyway if i did try. Though i must say, i still can’t climb! Maybe if i spent a couple of grand i dont have and bought myself a litespeed, then like mike, the weight of myself would become insignificant, see what money can buy.

  20. Comment by tayfuryagci | 01.15.2006 | 9:55 am

    money cant buy speed, that’s a fact. I’m fat, if I use a 17 kg bike our cumulative weight will be 102 kgs with the bike. If I use a 10 kg bike (which is pretty light for a MTB) our cumulative weight will be 95 kgs. 95/102 = 93/100 see there’s only a 7% difference on my muscles. what you ride is pretty important but it is a lot less significant than your body. a cyclist with nice big quads could goo fast even on a hi-ten piece of crap. I’m not one of those cyclists.

  21. Comment by Tom Stormcrowe | 01.15.2006 | 3:24 pm

    Great Jersey, Elden! Tell your sister she has another brother available to be adopted!::GRIN:: Size 3X::GRIN::

  22. Comment by Lola | 01.16.2006 | 12:59 am

    I have a tendency to graze out of boredom. Like, I need to do something so I immediately go for my food stash. I’ve found that a good fix for this is to chew gum. It gives my mouth something to do, but I’m not eating a ton of unhealthy food.Lola

  23. Comment by Unknown | 01.16.2006 | 4:45 am

    Ah, Lori! Definitely the eye of an artist! Magnificent jersey, that!Try oat bread instead of wheat.. tastes better and great for the heart.A bowl of oatmeal has something like 7 grams of protein,. lots of fiber, and no fat. I love oatmeal, but not with sugar and milk. I use Brummel & Brown and a bit of salt and I like my oatmeal thinnish and kind of soupy.I also am a grapefruit lover and we grow the nicest, sweetest grapefruit I’ve ver had right here in our yards. I wish I could ship it out of state but you know how the ag people are. Pink grapefruit and regular, but I love the pink the most. My doc told me to stop eating grapefruit because it had bad interactions with some medicines and I told him I will forego those medicines because I could not survive without grapefruit.Eat a bit of protein with your apple (Utah colby is great with Golden Declicious apples) and your sugar won’t get weird from the apple. Nuts are also good protein and contain good fats, so they are good with apple and so is peanut butter. I am actually keeping a chart of what I actually eat, both calories and fat grams, and I found that I wasn’t eating enough… only around 800 calories a day and nowhere near enough fats. Our bodies need about 60 grams of fat a day (mostly good fats, of course) to function right. I don’t go to Weight Watchers but that’s one reason why their program works so well… they understand that the body needs the fats in order to function properly and in order to lose weight.Dairy is a good fat they now tell us.I’m eating small "meals" every two or three hours these days and my blood sugar stays level, so I never feel hungry… and not from being full of food because the best I have been able to do was around 1400 calories one day.I think you are absolutely right about getting the servings of fruits and vegetables. Gotta be sure there are plenty of dark green ones, too.Hugs,MuMo

  24. Comment by Carolynn | 01.16.2006 | 6:15 am

    So I have put on a few pounds. Is it genetic?

  25. Comment by Jane | 01.16.2006 | 11:38 am

    You might want to take a look at http://www.weightlossresources.co.ukBasically it has a database where you tell it how much you want to lose each week and it tells you how many calories you can eat to make that weight loss. You then type in what you eat each day and it converts it to calories. Totally non-judgemental – you decide what you eat and how much. The really great bit is that you can also add your exercise and it translates that it to calories so that you can eat more and still lose weight.I’ve lost 1.5 stone using the site and become a much fitter cyclist because when ever i want to eat i get on my bike. I did it mainly by exercising more rather than losing weight.Good luck how ever you do it.


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