Cycling Weight Loss – How Cycling Changed Rob Rafanan

Age: 38 years
Hometown: Milton, Ontario, Canada
Occupation: medical sales
Time cycling: 1 year, 7 months
Takeoff weight: 379 pounds
Final weight: 179 pounds
Reason for cycling: I started cycling because it was the only exercise I could do without being in excruciating pain. It quickly became the vehicle for a complete change of mindset.

I’ve always been a big person, but in my early twenties I was very active. I would run and lift weights regularly. When I started my “adult” life weighing 218 pounds, I made efforts to maintain a healthy balance of my life priorities. My weight quickly rose to 270 pounds and then to 320 pounds in a couple of years. How do you lose track of 50 pounds?

When my weight reached over 379 pounds, I could barely move, let alone run. I learned that I had a genetic heart problem (cardiomyopathy), high blood pressure, and four herniated discs that eventually left me with a long-term disability. I watched my children grow up on the sidelines. I just existed and didn’t live.

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In the fall of 2019 when I was 36 years old, a group of my neighbors had an intervention with me. They shared their concerns, and we are all committed to working together to encourage a group to adopt a healthier lifestyle. This commitment made way for something bigger: the CCC or the Coombs Cycling Club (Coombs is the name of our street). Cycling relieved my back and I thought it would be the best option for exercising for now. In October 2019, I asked three of these neighbors if they would ride with me and they agreed.

I immediately loved cycling, but it was difficult to find equipment. After extensive research, I bought my first jersey in size 5XL; This seemingly simple task was not a great experience! Buying a bike was also a challenge. For my first bike, I bought a used hybrid bike that didn’t really suit me – all I cared about was weight capacity. When I invested in a real racing bike, I was much more specific about what I was looking for, counting the spokes on the wheels, narrowing them to aluminum-specific frames instead of carbon, and riding 32mm tires at maximum pressure.

We drove the CCC outside for the first two months before switching to indoor spin classes at the local gym five to six times a week over the winter. In the following season, I did numerous 100 km and even a 100 mile drive.

In 2020, I went outside facing the challenges of COVID-19 and completed a bike training program offered by a local Granfondo organization called Epictour. In the off-season I also mixed in some winter fat biking. And when it was no longer below 0 degrees outside, we were outside again almost every day and drove 30 km to 40 km. Since then, through rain and family tragedies, winter spin sessions and Zwift rides, the CCC has not stopped.

In addition, my eating habits have changed. I started counting calories to make sure I had a safe deficit every day. I tried to keep a 40/40/20 split between protein, carbohydrates, and fat. And in September 2020 I had gastric bypass surgery. My goal for the procedure is to use it as a tool to keep me from gaining weight again. I have a long history of losing weight and gaining weight, compounded by extreme diets like low carb, keto, and intermittent fasting.

I’ve lost another 120 pounds since the surgery. Sometimes I still have a cookie, or some french fries, or a slice of pizza, but I’ve just learned to stick to small portions. I had the surgery to give myself this physical limitation, but during the trip I gained the willpower to control it so that these limitations will never be tested again.

I currently drive about five to six days a week. I always try to get out when it’s not raining. At the end of summer I will be running a cancer fundraiser where I will drive 250 km for two days.

Rob’s bike

Huge TCR Advanced Pro Disc

I was sold when I bought a Defy, which is Giant’s offering for long distance bikes. It coincided with where I was on my trip and what I was currently able to do. However, when I went to the cash register, I noticed one particular bike: the Giant TCR Advanced Pro Team Disc. It was the color I wanted, it looked more aggressive, and on closer inspection it was the Team CCC Edition. Of course it wasn’t our CCC riding club, but when I saw this I felt that it should be and that this represented where I wanted to be in the future.

I’ve lost 200 pounds since October 2019. Cycling gave me a second chance in life. It gives me perspective on what I’ve lost and it gives me appreciation for the things that are really important to me. It has given me the opportunity to be an active and present husband, father and friend. Cycling is so much more than just a way of getting exercise and doing sports. It has become the physical and social center of my life and has largely helped me cope with the doom and darkness of the past year and a half.

I lost my mother in December 2019. What followed were the psychological, economic, and social challenges that came with COVID-19. Cycling has been one of the consistent components of my life. I had much of what some call a “spiritual awakening” during my weight loss as I reconnected to various aspects of my life that I thought I had lost forever. I can say without a doubt that many of these moments of clarity were either on the bike or because I realized what I gained back through cycling.

I started this trip with a broken body that was unable to go to the mailbox, let alone drive 160 km. I had already watched from the sidelines as my children had grown up for the past six years. How much more would I miss before I inevitably missed it all? This motivated me to act and kept me going when things got difficult.

My final piece of advice is something CCC members would say during winter training if it was -20 ° C outside and we didn’t want to go to the spinning class: just take this step out the door. As soon as you get up, pack your bags and walk out of your house, you are already committed. We wait here and we root you. Just take this step.

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Emily Shiffer is a former men’s health and prevention digital web producer and currently a freelance writer specializing in health, weight loss, and fitness.

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