Name: John Shepard
Hometown: Winter Haven, Florida
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Start Weight: 350 pounds
End Weight: 200 Pounds
Time Cycling: 7 Years
I was a very slender teen, very active, and participated in a lot of sports. My weight gain started in my mid 20s when I started spending more time sitting on a barstool watching sports and drinking beer and eating chicken wings. By the time I hit 30, I was successful in my career, but very much settled into a sedentary lifestyle with completely unhealthy eating habits.
From time to time, I successfully lost weight, but I always put it right back on. I didn’t truly understand how diet and exercise worked hand in hand, that both needed to be a lifetime commitment.
By the time I was in my 40s, I was 350 pounds and lived a completely unhealthy lifestyle: no exercise, a sedentary job, and lots of late night eating. I was wearing size 48 pants and suddenly found it difficult to button them, meaning I was going to have to go up to 50. I’m not sure why 44, 46, or 48 didn’t bother me, but for some reason 50 did. I made up my mind then and there that I was going to change.
I had an old hybrid bike in the shed that I had loved to ride years before. A nice Diamondback that I received as a gift 15 years prior and had since rotted away. I brought it out of retirement, replacing the seat, tires, and chain, and that’s where the magic began.
I did five miles my first ride. On no less than three occasions, I was sure I’d faint and fall off the bike, only to be picked at by the turkey vultures that were circling overhead. I live in Florida, so thankfully it’s very flat where I started cycling, other than the overpasses. Those overpasses are mere bumps in the road now, but back then, they were fairly sizable obstacles for me.
There were three overpasses to the north of me and seven to the south. Somehow, I wanted to punish myself for ever having gotten so out of shape. My heart would beat nearly out of my chest on a few of the steeper ones, but my determination was so strong that I was either going to collapse or succeed.
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And success came fast and furious. I started cycling in October 2011, and by May of 2012, I was doing 60-mile rides on my hybrid bike. After a year or so I finally made the move and bought my first road bike: a used Scott Speedster that was in great shape. From the very first minutes on that bike, I was grinning from ear to ear. It was going from the family van to a Corvette. That encouraged me to ride even more. By 2013, I was riding over 5,000 miles a year, and by 2014 it was over 7,000.
Diet also played a huge role in my weight loss. People often ask me how I lost all the weight, and my answer is always the same: Eat right and move more. I have never dieted in my life, because diets don’t work. They’re not sustainable. Eating healthy is. I started out by using MyFitnessPal because it does such a great job of helping you take responsibility for everything you eat and drink, while also keeping track of how much fat, sugar, and carbs that you’re consuming.
Portion control is very important as well. You can eat the healthiest foods on the planet and still gain weight. It’s about learning to balance food and exercise.
Even after you lose the weight, you might still see yourself as fat. I had lost 150 pounds and kept it off for over three years, and still saw myself as that fat guy. It wasn’t until I was out riding my bike one sunny afternoon that I looked down and saw my shadow, the sun over my right shoulder, and thought to myself, “Look at the shape of that guy! He’s in great shape!”
Maybe it was because my shadow didn’t have my face, or maybe it was because I wasn’t looking in a mirror, but that was the first time I saw myself as an athlete, and not the fat guy.
Life isn’t perfect, or easy all the time. Weight loss is the same way. Don’t be a slave to the scale. Even if you put on a few pounds and you’re having trouble getting it back off, just stay on the course, and it will happen. And as for cycling, we all loved riding bikes when we were kids, then we got a car and put our bikes away and forgot about them. Go get that bike out, or buy yourself a new one, and take a ride. You’ll feel like a kid again.
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This content was originally published here.