- Posted November 24, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Your 'Aha' weight-loss moments
Motivated by the next generation.
Six years ago I peaked out at 340 pounds. This was at about the same time my second son was born. A doctor had told me that I wouldn't live to see my kids grow up if I didn't do something about my weight.
Desperate to get in shape and willing to try anything I started riding an old bike up to get coffee in the mornings. That eventually led to borrowing a proper road bike and trying to ride three times a week. My first “real” ride on a “real” bike was six miles – six of the most painful and generally miserable miles of my life. But not entirely in a bad way…
My "aha" moment was when I figured out there was something about the suffering that I actually enjoyed. It's been said that you can't be a cyclist without being willing to suffer.
The more I rode, the more I was hooked.
Soon I was riding with a group of friends and within six months I had bought my first carbon-fiber bike and did my first century (100-mile ride). In the first year, I lost 40 pounds and rode at least 3-4 times per week.
As a way to check my progress I would purchase a new cycling jersey that was one size too small. The jersey hung next to my desk at work as a constant reminder. I also always had a new outfit at home, typically a button down shirt and pair of jeans that I was working toward. It was always a celebration when I made the next size. I was a size 44 pants I'm now a 36.
I had another “aha” moment when I decided not to be on a diet anymore – after all, if you can be “on” a diet, you can be “off” it all too quickly. Instead of limiting myself to certain foods and counting calories, I focused on making better choices and not beating myself up when I didn't. It’s simple: I think about the last thing I ate and then try to do better.
My newfound love for cycling also gave me something else: time to reflect, think about life…and examine what I was doing to better the world. Two years after I started cycling I learned about Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), a starvation issue that affects 20 million children in rural poor areas like South Sudan, and can lead to severe developmental issues and, in many cases, death. As devastating and widespread as the condition is, halting and even reversing it was simple. A lifesaving product called RUTF (Ready to use therapeutic food), made primarily of peanut butter, and milk was being produced by my friends at MANA Nutrition. As a dad, it was hard to ignore an issue where kids didn't have a chance at life, especially when the treatment was so simple.
Initially, I got involved by using my professional branding experience to help tell the story of these children and this remarkable treatment. The more I learned and the more I worked on the cause, the more convinced I became that I had to do something bigger. In 2013 I co-founded Stop SAM, an organization dedicated to fighting Severe Acute Malnutrition head on. And in 2014 the inevitable happened: my passion for cycling collided with my utter conviction to help children suffering from SAM. I had always dreamed of riding across America and so I did what I felt I needed to do, which included shutting a 17-year old company, packing up my family and hitting the road. After securing sponsorships and an RV I got on my bike in San Diego CA and peddled north to Portland before turning east to New York – a journey of more than 4,100 miles. My wife and two kids followed along in the RV helping share our story and spread the word about SAM.
On September 27th, 2014, just six years after tipping the scales at 340 pounds and being miserable on a six-mile ride, I crossed the George Washington Bridge in to New York City, completing my cross-country bike ride in under 60 days. You can see the whole trip at CycleCause.com
The story is not over – I am far from finished, and even after raising over $25,000 and spreading the word with multiple speaking stops and national press we’ve just scratched the surface. I'm motivated to leave a legacy of hope and make a difference for next generation. For my own sons it's about showing them what true determination and sacrifice for others looks like. For kids suffering from SAM it's about fixing something that I know I can fix. The bike gave me hope and now I get to pass hope along.