Advice from Someone Who’s Walked the Walk

02.17.2012 | 9:15 am

There’s something that’s always made me a little bit uncomfortable about my blog — the name of the blog itself. “Fat Cyclist.” Yeah, I generally have 15 – 30 pounds to lose. And when the blog started, I had closer to 50 to lose: Here’s my origingal “before” photo, just for some reminder-style humiliation:


I think it’s safe to say: that’s some serious pudge (and for what it’s worth, you can see that in this photo I’m not quite over the Bell’s Palsy yet). Oh, and also I had hair. And a wristwatch. And Ralph Lauren RLX bibshorts (really good shorts, actually — it’s too bad they got out of bike clothing).

The thing is though, that’s about as big as I have ever been. So when people who are quite a bit bigger find my blog and think they’ve found a place where a guy can answer their questions about how someone who has a hundred (or much more) pounds to lose can start biking, I don’t have much in the way of personal experience that can help.

Which, considering the name of my blog, is stupid.

So I’m going to fix that. All next week.

(Re) Meet Gary Brennan — The Man Who Lost 364 Pounds on His Bike

Last April, Gary Brennan — known to his friends as “Gaz” guest-posted on my blog, giving an overview of how he lost 364 pounds by cycling. Check out his “before” picture:


And — much more importantly — check out his “after” picture:


That, my friends, is a guy who has walked the walk.

Ask Gaz

So, all next week, Gaz is going to guest-post here. This is awesome for many, many reasons, including:

  1. He can give you “been there” advice on losing weight with cycling that you know works . . . because he’s living proof.
  2. It will give you inspiration and information for the weight loss challenge we’re going to kick off sometime shortly after next week.
  3. I will be unable to post myself next week, because of day-job work-type-stuff reasons.

What I’ve asked Gaz to do is read the comments in today’s post and then write posts next week giving you advice you can use.

It’ll be like this blog is actually useful. For a week.

A good first step would be for you to check out Gary’s story — the short version’s here on my blog, the longer, ongoing version is on his own blog.

Then ask him your questions here in the comments section.

Much thanks to Gaz for agreeing to do this; I think it’s going to be a really fantastic week of posts!


  1. Comment by Jeff Bike | 02.17.2012 | 9:49 am

    First! for the first time!
    I don’t have the weight to lose that Gaz did I could loose 25 or 30. Lookinh forward to your guest post.

  2. Comment by Fat Monte | 02.17.2012 | 10:24 am

    Over the last 12 months, I’ve peeled 45 lbs off since I’ve rediscovered the joys of riding. I’ve got another 25 or so pounds to go, and I’M STUCK at 200. Been stuck like all winter, despite working out daily on the elliptical or indoor bike trainer. Gaz, help me get through this wall. I need to get to my ideal weight riding of 175.

    PS: Great review of Fatty’s book at RKP today. And I agree, it’s a fun read. With a tasty recipe for the world’s best chocolate chip cake. So thanks, Fatty, for helping me stay Fat Monte ;\

  3. Comment by Chris Engle | 02.17.2012 | 10:26 am

    I love to eat, I mean really love to eat. Steak, chips, carbs, and beer. I have been watching my FAT intake keeping below 15 grams of total fat per meal. This has worked for me for the last 12 weeks and i’m down 20lbs, but I so wanting to go on a food bender. Any advise how to avoid an avalanche of unhealthy eating that I am wanting so bad to have.

  4. Comment by Paul Guyot | 02.17.2012 | 10:34 am

    You mean he’s actually going to turn away from the Man U matches, and get off one of his plethora of bikes long enough to actually write something? Wow.

    Seriously, Gaz is a good man, and true inspiration.

  5. Comment by Shep | 02.17.2012 | 10:45 am

    I’m looking forward to this. I’ve dropped an even 100 lbs myself in the last year and I’ve got another 50 or so to go. @Chris Engle What’s worked for me over the last year is allowing myself one treat a week on the same day each week. A burger, a big steak smothered in onions and peppers, a few slices of pizza etc… That really helps me keep the benders away. I hope that works for you too.

  6. Comment by Racheal | 02.17.2012 | 11:05 am

    How did you stay motivated? I need to lose 100+ lbs and I’m great at losing 10-15 but after that mark I get thrown off track, distracted. Next thing I know I’m back at 250 and feel even worse. It gets harder to start each time I fail. Hopefully you can address during your posts next week.

  7. Comment by Erik Stoneham | 02.17.2012 | 11:11 am

    Fatty and Friends,
    I have lost over 30 pounds cycling and working out. 284-247 as of today! I am not a fad diet person. I simply have cut soda, daily coffee, alcohol, fatty foods and other junk out of my life. I feel great. Look great and have been an inspiration to my friends and family! i love it! I am planning on jumping back on the bike this spring ( once the snow is gone ) and plan to loose more weight! I love it! I love my bike! Oh on a side note. I missed the gym for about 12 days due to work and the fact that I did get a little lazy. STILL LOST WEIGHT!!! BAM! I am that good. But it does prove what you put in defiantly effects you. So again to Fatty and Friends Keep up the good fight. DO NOT expect immediate results. Keep trying and just have fun!

  8. Comment by Erik Stoneham | 02.17.2012 | 11:18 am


    I find that doing the same thing here that Fatty has done has helped me. I post my weight and pictures on Facebook. Open myself to my friends and family. If they are really your friends and family they will support you in ways you can not imagine. It has gotten so bad ( I mean great ) that me posting this stuff about me on facebook has inspired co-workers, my mother and several other friends to pick up their bikes, get to the gym and make better food choices. So my inspiration is / are my friends and family telling me their success stories and sharing mine as well. All you have to do is stop making and excuse, get to the gym, the bike, the treadmill whatever and just do it! Take each day as it comes. Set small goals and stay at it! GOOD LUCK!!!

  9. Comment by Haven-KT | 02.17.2012 | 11:23 am

    I’ve only got about 10 pounds I’d like to lose, and I feel like I’m at a plateau. It’s like I can’t shake this last little bit. I’m interested in how he got that last little bit off.

    Heck, I’m interested in his whole story! What an inspiration!

  10. Comment by The Flyin' Ute | 02.17.2012 | 11:59 am

    Can you post about your level of energy now vs. before as well as confidence now vs. then.

    Has your self view changed? or do you still “see” yourself as the big guy in the skinny body?

    Also, how do you view other fit people? other large people?

    What do you think of the marketing hype to be fit?

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

  11. Comment by dirtengineer | 02.17.2012 | 12:15 pm

    Hey Gaz – I love reading your blog. I know you have struggled immensely with weight, but more importantly your selective eating disorder. I am currently hitting the gym, cycling and on a diet that for the most part satisfies my urges to binge on bad bad food, and I have lost about 6 pounds in 2.5 weeks. I have only cheated once, and that was for a valentines day piece of chocolate (small).

    But I also know that as somebody who struggles with eating properly himself, there will be times that I give in to temptation and binge on bad foods. I think many people don’t realize how “hard” proper eating habits can be for some people.

    So my question(s) are: 1) How is your food struggle going? 2) What kind of a diet do you have now – is it very specific goals of fat/protein/carbs, or just an “eat better” attitude? 3)Successful weight loss and success in cycling are both based on healthy nutrition, good fuel, not too little, not too much. Any tips?

  12. Comment by Clydesteve | 02.17.2012 | 12:17 pm

    OK Gaz, I am down about 40 lbs from my top, but I yoyo around 205 – 215. My ideal weight would be 188 lbs. (I got there once when I re-started riding in 2003)

    How do you lose that last 15-20 lbs?

    You obviously have – great job BTW.

  13. Comment by Wife#1 | 02.17.2012 | 12:40 pm

    Another person here that needs to lose a lot of weight and is really looking forward to next week!

    So, this might be SUCH the girly question but I have to know, after losing so much weight, did you have to have any surgery to remove excess skin afterwards? If so, can you share that a little bit?

    Looks like you are in your thirties(?), so maybe it was still elastic enough to avoid but that’s obviously a tremendous loss. How did the rest of your body react to the weight loss?

    I guess the other question would be around public presence. I know I feel so embarrassed when I ride my bike. Doesn’t help I live in superfit/bike loving Marin but still. How did you deal with self-consciousness about being an obese person on a bike?

    And a general question for this group – does anyone know what “safe” weight limits are for the common bikes like Trek and Cannondale, road versus mountain even? Assume the latter can handle more. The manufacturers seem loathe to give out recommended weight limits, which is really annoying.

  14. Comment by Kukui | 02.17.2012 | 12:58 pm

    Hey Gaz!

    I’m down 60 pounds from my peak last May. Started at 324, and as of this morning I’m down to 264! I still have 115 pounds to lose ’til I reach my goal.

    One problem I’m running into: the pounds just melted away at first, and now it’s slowed to a demoralizing 1 pound a week. How do I stay motivated?

    Also, through my weight-loss journey I’ve become vegan and have run into a lot of opposition with my friends and family. I kind of feel like I don’t want to bug them with “yet another diet-exercise fad.” I know their support could end up being important. Do you have any advice?

    Thank you and congratulations!

  15. Comment by centurion | 02.17.2012 | 12:58 pm

    What is a “stone” in american measurement?

  16. Comment by Shep | 02.17.2012 | 1:13 pm

    @Centurion 14lbs

  17. Comment by Chris Engle | 02.17.2012 | 1:15 pm

    @Shep, Thanks. I think that is a good idea, I find my self making excuses. Always seems like we have some type of event to go to and I don’t want to be the guy “no thanks i’m on a diet”

  18. Comment by Fat Cathy | 02.17.2012 | 1:40 pm

    @Fatty: Gah, don’t scare me like that. I opened your blog while I was eating lunch and suddenly there was a picture of a fat, half-naked guy on my screen. At least I wasn’t hungry anymore.

    @Gaz: looking forward to your guest posts.

  19. Comment by Skippy | 02.17.2012 | 2:16 pm

    Watched the progress this Guy has made over the years but never been able to find him cycling on the road whilst visiting friends in his neighbourhood !

    Not having the weight problem anymore thru not drinking BEER i can say that a read of his blog over the weekend will give many of you ” food for thought” and help you get an early start on the road to a fitter lifestyle .

    Good luck to all !

  20. Comment by Jouni | 02.17.2012 | 2:18 pm

    I’m looking to lose 30 by the last week of June… the Garrett County Gran Fondo is on the 23rd (I’m in for the “Savage Century” – 102 miles, 12,000 feet of climbing).

    At 192, that is going to be a tough slog; at ~162, it should be a little easier.

    I’m looking forward to next week, and the inspiration that it will undoubtedly bring! Thanks Fatty and Gaz!

  21. Comment by CRSonic | 02.17.2012 | 2:52 pm

    Hi, seconding the Flying Ute: Has your self view changed? or do you still “see” yourself as the big guy in the skinny body?

    I lost 25lbs (I’m a little person, so it was a lot on me) and still don’t see someone small in the mirror. I recently bought a new bikini and looking at it in my hands it looks so tiny, but when i put it up against myself and look into the mirror it looks big. Have you struggled with this? If so, were you able to get past it?

  22. Comment by Adam Bowes | 02.17.2012 | 2:55 pm

    Hi Gaz!

    I am losing wieght via cycling… down from 332lbs to 295lbs since November. My first goal is to fit into a professional cycling kit. I went to try on an XXXL and wasn’t anywhere near close to squeezing into it.

    My second goal is to race in local, entry level bike races.

    I have been losing the weight by eating a carb reduced diet and I have purchased an indoor trainer for my bicycle (a quiet fluid trainer so my wife doesn’t get too annoyed).

    I find that now a few pounds are off, I want to train harder and harder. Obviously cyclists that train this hard eat a massive amount of calories, to RETAIN their energy and body fat.

    Did you tackle situations where you had to train slower or diffferently than you wanted to or were inspired to do, in order to promote your weight loss and avoid over training?

    How great did it feel to finally fit into a proper cycling bib and jersey?



  23. Comment by Shep | 02.17.2012 | 2:56 pm

    @Chris I tend to find that when I tell people “no thank you, I don’t eat those types of foods” that they’re the ones feeling a bit odd instead of me. Don’t be afraid to shine, because your light will help guide those who want to live a healthy lifestyle, but are too prone to going with the crowd because of the same fear you’re expressing. Like Gaz and The Biggest Loser and countless other people like Fats, I have inspired quite a few of my friends and family to live a healthier lifestyle and exercise because they see what’s happened to me since I made that choice (down 100 lbs with 50 to go). I no longer drink alcohol or soda of any kind, I don’t eat fried foods, I don’t eat anything that isn’t “healthy”. Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels…well…maybe those cookies Fats loves…those might taste that good. But nothing else.

  24. Comment by geoff | 02.17.2012 | 2:57 pm

    I can identify with gaz.. well.. mostly.

    I was nearly 500 pounds (210+ KG) and was dying. The NZ government (because we have free healthcare) paid for my gastric sleeve laproscopy (gave me a stomach about the size of my index finger). I’m now about 240lb (110-120KG depending on how hard I have been riding).
    I had complications with the surgery, and spend 3 months in hospital, nil by mouth. And I can never eat “normally” again, most importantly, as a cyclist, I cant drink lots of water (even a mouthful takes 3-4 attempts to swallow), so I have to adapt.
    However, Cycling is now what keeps the weight off, and keeps me fit.. I’d like to lose another 20kg, but, really, whats more important is just getting out there and getting fit, so my 5 yr old daughter, and 3mnth old son can have a dad for the best part of their lives, and so I can instil in them the desire to keep fit too.

  25. Comment by MattJank | 02.17.2012 | 3:43 pm

    Yes, the last 10-15 lbs. How do you get it. I lost 60 about 10 years ago, and have plateaued at 200-205. I run, bike, watch what I eat and still can’t get down to 185 like I need to.

  26. Comment by None Given | 02.17.2012 | 3:50 pm

    Euro Braking: Awesome
    Shaded Legs: Pro
    Non-cycling glasses: Awesome Hinault
    Black socks: OK
    Cable lengths: Fail
    Pinarello with Shimano: Fail
    Jersey that doesn’t fit: Fail
    Replica Pro complete kit: Fail
    Jersey with WC Stripes: Fail
    Factory-built wheels: Fail
    Oversized water bottles: Fail

    These are more important topics, since we all know the key to being not fat: stop overeating.

  27. Comment by Turn The Damn Cranks | 02.17.2012 | 4:06 pm

    @None Given: If you are going to be an ass, at least be sure you avoid typos.

  28. Comment by Shep | 02.17.2012 | 4:07 pm

    @None Given I really admire your obvious grasp of things. While you’re at it, would you mind expounding on the key to not being a jackoff?

  29. Comment by Anonymous | 02.17.2012 | 5:06 pm

    Wow, what a life changing turn around! How long did Gaz take to lose all that weight?

  30. Comment by Patrick | 02.17.2012 | 9:47 pm

    Gaz, man you look terrific. Great job. I bet you feel like a million bucks inside and out.
    If I can share just a few thoughts with those looking to drop some pounds before spandex season. First, cross train. Your body/muscles get used to cycling. Try swimming. Try running. Bikram (sp?) yoga. Just keep changing it up, especially in the ”off season” and you’ll burn those calories and it’s good for the body as well. If you’re not a swimmer, try 20 minutes of free style. You’ll feel starved an hour later.
    Speaking of calories, keep it in your head that you need to burn more than you consume. Simple concept…somebody could make a bundle selling that plan on late night TV if it were only more complicated. Lastly, we’re creatures of habit. I used to eat out for lunch daily, dinners out often as well. I never eat out now. Strictly farm to table- no processed crap. It’s easy once you’re body’s used to it. You just have to start the habit going and then your body won’t put up with any crap. Sorry to come across like a preacher, but it’s worked for me (30 lbs lost. )

  31. Comment by ChefJT | 02.17.2012 | 11:04 pm


    Bite Me!

  32. Comment by Byg Papi | 02.18.2012 | 1:48 am

    Last year around my 40th birthday I weighed in at 360 pounds. I watched what I ate and rode my bike in the summer 486 miles (my goal was 300 miles for the summer) and I got down to 314 pounds. This year I started at 340 pounds and my goal is 1000 miles for the summer. My biggest problem cycling was never being able to continuously pedal for a long period of time or distance as I would run out of breath. My question is did you deal with this and what helped you overcome it? Everyone I talk to said you burn more fat if you pedal all the time, I can’t seem to break my coasting habit.
    Your story is a great motivator and inspiration, thank you for helping out and sharing your success.

  33. Comment by Jenn | 02.18.2012 | 3:37 am

    Just another note to the ‘plateau’ folks. If you’re not doing strength training and interval training, give them both a try. Google ‘functional training’ and get moving. I’d lost about 45lbs on my own and been stuck for the better part of a year, needing to get down about another 40. Quality time with a personal trainer, learning about intervals and strength training, are what did it. I’ve kept most of it off for over five years (!?!) now, but after a rough winter/holiday season, am currently back in my own personal boot camp to drop twenty before I have to follow the skinny girls up-hill in a mere six weeks!

  34. Comment by roan | 02.18.2012 | 9:45 am

    I fall into the Fatty annual cycle pounds up/down. What you have achieved is amazing. I’m sure to enjoy your postings as I’ve co-workers that say I’m lucky because I done really don’t have the large size body they do. I mentioned that I read and showed one co-worker your earlier post of “The King” I was surprised when that person bought a bike last summer. I will tune them into next week for sure.
    My question…I read ‘Jill Outside’ from Fatty’s blogroll. I’m also amazed by her. Her current posting has a pic of her energy ‘food’. She metabolizes sugar to survive, she doesn’t have fat reserves. I’m interested in what you eat/drink on long rides when you need a boost and how to tell a needed boost from a craving.

  35. Comment by daddystle | 02.18.2012 | 12:24 pm

    maxed out at 360, now 185, cycling didn’t just change, but saved my life. Positive energy and healthy lifestyles are contagious. spread the 2 wheeled love.

  36. Comment by Dave T | 02.18.2012 | 4:18 pm

    Great job Gaz. Your determination is unbelievable. I peaked out at 250 several years ago demanding job and no time for the bike. About 6 years ago I started counting my calories and made the effort to get on the bike as much as possible. When counting calories I realized most of them were coming from going out every day for lunch. I started bring my lunch to work and controlling my portion size when eating out. It took me about 8 months to get down to my current weight, around 200lbs. Looking forward to your blog posts next week Gaz.

  37. Comment by cece | 02.18.2012 | 9:11 pm

    Yes, I agree! Keeping your motivation up and also prioritizing your self-care? Need strategies for both. have lost 125+ pounds and working on the next 15, then 15 more.

  38. Comment by Erik | 02.19.2012 | 8:37 am

    Gaz, great before & after photos! Looking forward to your posts. My biggest challenge is that I’m stuck on a plateau and can’t seem to lose it. I think my work travel schedule and stress level contribute; I’m only able to use the gym and spin bikes.

  39. Comment by Cathy | 02.19.2012 | 1:17 pm

    I’m losing weight by working out and watching my intake – all about the numbers. My question is for when it gets nice enough to ride outside. How do I take in enough calories so I don’t bonk but still continue to lose while going on the long rides?

  40. Comment by Rob w | 02.19.2012 | 3:28 pm

    Will you share how hard it was to make that intial leap of faith?

    You are amazing. Thanks and looking forward to your posts

  41. Comment by Heather Williams | 02.19.2012 | 7:29 pm

    What was your diet like during this weight loss and biking?


  42. Comment by Kasia | 02.19.2012 | 9:14 pm


    Your story is inspirational. I’m trying to lose about 80 pounds but am having trouble doing everything all at once when it comes to fixing my exercise and nutrition habits. It just becomes too overwhelming! What were your stages of weight-loss? Like, did you focus on making exercising a habit before moving on to changing your diet? Like some posters above, I’m really good for 10-15 pounds and then after that it just stops.

    Thanks in advance! I’m really looking forward to this week of posts.

  43. Comment by James | 02.20.2012 | 12:53 am

    This is a good story. Nothing is impossible if you are determined to reach your goal, specially losing weight. Wherein many people are having trouble. And i must say, biking is a really good way to exercise and lose weight.

  44. Comment by Shep | 02.20.2012 | 8:21 am

    Here’s a quick formula for those wondering about calorie intake and exercise. 3,500 calories = 1 pound. It’s that simple (at least the math part of it). If you take in 3,500 calories more than you burn, you gain a pound. If you burn 3,500 more calories than you take in, you lose a pound. Use a web site like and keep track of what you’re eating and your exercise. If you’re biking, download an app or use your bike computer to find out how many calories you’re burning. Take in enough food to keep the motor running, but not more than you’re burning. Just think of your body like a car. If you put too much gas in the tank, it spills out all over the ground (or over the sides of your jeans). Too little and the car won’t start (bonk). The web site I mentioned is critical to learn how many calories, how much fat, protein and carbs to ingest daily. Eat small meals often (about every 3 hours) and exercise at least an hour a day. No diets work long-term. You have to commit yourself to living a healthy lifestyle. It’s like our grandparents have been saying for years…eat right and exercise. If you do that, you’ll have success. Good luck!

  45. Comment by Lonster | 02.20.2012 | 9:35 am

    Calorie restriction means eating greens and proteins a bit more than you normally do. It is a healthy lifestyle change for most Americans. Throw in exercise and weight slowly drops off.

  46. Comment by Kari | 02.20.2012 | 11:26 am

    I am also a clyde rider. In June at the time Fatty posted my write up for 100 Miles to Nowhere, I had maxed out at 200. That was more than I weighed even when I was pregnant! My goal weight is roughly another 35 pounds away now but I have already lost 35 pounds of it. I have been riding, eating better and I also follow the same rule to have one SMALL indulgence once a week and no more. It makes it easier to make it through those social functions like birthdays and Thanksgiving to not pig out on every dessert in sight, especially when its almost expecte of you. The way I have done it is by downloading an app that tracks my calorie intake from what I eat and the calories burned while excersising. The one I have asks several questions to start up a custom program (what you currently weigh, what you want to weigh and how fast you want to lose it) It keeps you witthin realistic limits (the fastest weigh loss option it give you to choose from is 2 lbs per week) and then tells you based on your answers how long it will take, and an overall calorie budget. If you excersise it deducts the calories burned from intake and gives visual images to help you learn to budget them better. My current daily budget for example is 850. That does not mean I am only allowed to eat 850 calories per day, which can be a stumbling block for most people if misunderstood. It is what is left after excersise has taken off some of the calories from your final count. It makes it easier also when in a restaurant to look up how much that giant milkshake will earn you, see that you’re about to max out your calorie budget over a sweet tooth, and order an Iced tea instead. Eventually this becomes a healthy eating habit without even needing to check the app to know it will take you more hours of riding than there is daylight left to work it back off, much less the rest ofthe meal too.

  47. Comment by DavidH | 02.21.2012 | 12:18 pm

    So that’s where Floyd Landis went.

  48. Comment by Jenni | 02.22.2012 | 10:07 am

    I can’t unsee that Fatty.


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