Ryan: Like Riding a Bike

People always say “it’s like riding a bike” to mean that something should be easy when it isn’t. At the beginning of every school year, I struggle to set up my electronic grade book even though I use it every day for 10 months. The short break from using it over summer vacation is all it takes to make a simple task complicated again. Relax. It’s like riding a bike, they say. Hmmmm...these people must have had a different experience riding bikes than I did. Like most kids in the 80’s, I rode a bike constantly. I loved my orange bicycle with the dreaded “boy bar” and banana seat. No gears or handle brakes, just push the pedal backwards to screech to a halt. I learned to ride a bike around 5 years old, like most people, and I “mastered” it pretty quickly. I could race around my neighborhood with the best of them, and most of the time, I ended my rides unscathed. But...it didn’t take all that much to mess it up and make something easy kind of hard again. Ever decide, in a moment of childhood stupidity, to pedal as furiously as possible, then take your feet off the pedals and stick them straight out to the sides? Or wonder what would happen if you just took your hands off the handlebars and held them over your head? Sometimes my bike riding skills and experience saved the day, but sometimes those rides ended with a closeup encounter with a tree. Other times a bike ride could go bad, and it had nothing to do with a foolish decision on my part. Do you remember that moment when you realized the leg of your jeans were stuck in the chain? Or the chain slipped off completely?? Or even worse - the dreaded wobble. That moment when you took a turn a little too fast, or looked back over your shoulder a little too long, and your whole bicycle went into the early stages of instability that would end either in a graceful correction of your trajectory, or an awkward face plant in a muddy ditch. That’s what riding a bike was like for me. Easy? Most of the time, but there were expected AND unexpected curveballs along the way, and a steady need for assessment and correction. Most of the time it was smooth, but once in a while, not so much. My intermittent fasting journey has been a lot like riding a bike. It was a little tricky at first, as I was learning how to do things that were new and unfamiliar. After I learned how to manage my daily fasts and which foods felt good in my eating window, it was so easy. I was coasting along with the metaphorical wind in my hair. When I reached maintenance, I got overconfident and started pushing my boundaries. I’m eating all the foods I love again. I wonder what would happen if I ate a dessert every-single-night? Huh. No consequences that I could see, so I wonder what would happen if I ate a whole bag of candy in a single sitting? Or an entire pizza by myself? When these dysfunctional eating patterns from my past were occasional indulgences that I gently corrected, my body came out of the “wobble” just fine. But over time, the wobble deepened, and I started eating more than my body needed more of the time. Diet mentality started creeping back in. I’ll tighten this up on Monday. I’ll eat this whole box of crackers just to tidy up. My clothes started feeling a little tighter, and I struggled with the paradox of eating too much to deal with the stress of knowing that I was eating too much. I was heading towards a figurative face plant in the ditch. Then I remembered what I’ve known deep down about IF for the last two years. It’s an ongoing process, not a final destination. It’s a simple and powerful tool, but it’s not always easy. Why should it be? The good things in life rarely are. I reconnected with the joy of my daily clean fast and gently refocused on planning and eating awesome meals. I reminded myself that pizza and desserts and crackers are not bad foods, but sometimes it’s best to delay them rather than deny them. The angst - and the slight regain of fat - simply melted away. Intermittent fasting really IS just like riding a bike. Enjoy the journey but keep your eyes on the road ahead. You will wobble but don’t panic. Gently correct to achieve a smoother ride. And most importantly, know that closeup encounters with trees happen. The secret is getting back on the seat and fasting on. The whole story of our personal transformation is in our new book, Unbelievable Freedom: How Intermittent Fasting Transformed Our Health and Happiness, available on Amazon using the link below.