Resolutions in Reverse: 23 Pounds and Counting

If you had asked me in June if I thought I had 23 pounds to lose, I would have said no. Everyone probably would have said that. 10, sure. 15? maybe.

I carry weight well. I get curvy. I know what to wear. Short summer dresses with good drape. A shoe with a heel. It’s not rocket science, it’s camouflage – and they teach that shit in the fashion military. I’ve been through basic training – I know how to get by. People say, “Oh – you’re fine! You look great!”

They’re lying. Or else they’re totally content with mediocrity. A lot of people are. It’s not a crime.

The whole “you’re fine” thing started to get to me.

Fine is a C+.

Fine is just ok.

Fine is getting by.

Fine is average.

Fuck fine.

Dresses may cut a flattering figure but I’ll tell you one thing for sure – the bike never lies. And here is what the bike told me in June: you are not ok, Swift. You’re not fine. And, besides, you shouldn’t want to be fine. You should want to be on fucking fire.

Where’s your fight, Swift?

I mentioned a few days ago that every day is a good day to make a plan, start a goal or make a big decision and I think that’s really important to remember. You can change your life at any moment. You make a choice and then you change your actions. Right now. What are you waiting for, anyway?

On some day in June I got on the scale and snapped. It was a number that did it for me. For some people it’s a pair of jeans or a bad ride on the bike or getting winded going up the stairs. It doesn’t matter what pushes you over the edge – what matters is that when you hit the open air, you learn how to fly. And fast.

I’m decent at fitness. I understand nutrient timing, I get stoked about the science and I love to learn. I also know my body pretty well and there’s one thing that works better than any other for me – weight lifting and super dialed nutrition. (I’ve never had much luck on the bike – even after two solid months of non-stop training in Arizona last year).

So I went back into the gym and hit it. I went back to my nutrition basics and realigned my diet with my goals. I found a trainer who I believed understood and supported my aggressive personality and made a deal with him.

I ate a lot of goddam lean protein.
And broccoli.
And spinach.
And oatmeal.
And nuts.

I cut back on beer and booze and bacon.
I reinstated fish oil supplements and dialed in my pre and post-workout nutrition.
I paid attention.
I focused.
I fought.

The first ten pounds disappeared almost overnight because the truth was, my body hated that weight. It didn’t want it. It was begging me to get rid of it. After the first month of hard work I water-dunked my bodyfat at 17%.

“That’s actually really good, Heidi.” my trainer said to me.

“I’m done with good.” I said. “Let’s get to great.”

The cyclotour in August kept me lean even on a one-cheeseburger-a-day (or sometimes chicken-fried steak) regimen. I lost some lean muscle mass, but generally maintained the same fitness level. I came back and started training for cyclocross and felt like a new person. By then I’d lost 18 pounds. Eighteen pounds! That’s a fucking toddler!

Do you know how amazing it is to race a bike with 18 fewer pounds? It’s mind-blowing. Incredible. It’s a whole new world. It changed everything. I mean that.

This is the secret those lean assholes have been keeping! I thought to myself. And all this time they were telling me I was “fine”. No wonder!!

I did this all in the background, without telling many people or making dramatic waving motions with my hands. I  never even mentioned a word here on this blog. You know why? Because  the “show don’t tell” rule is just as powerful in life as it is in writing. You’re going to make a big change, Swift? You’re going to drop a toddler’s worth of weight? That’s nice. I’ll believe it when I see it. Even a wordy girl like me gets tired of the talking sometimes. Shut your mouth and work.

So here I am on December 31st surrounded by a culture of crappy resolution making. When I go back to the gym on Monday it’s going to be crowded with new faces. I hope in my deepest heart of hearts that every single one of them sticks with it. That they get what they want and reach their goals.

But most of them won’t.

And you know what? It doesn’t matter. Because January 1st is March 18th is June 29th is October Fucking 5th.

The date doesn’t matter.
And they can recommit at any moment.
And so can you.
And so will I.

Don’t settle. You’re worth so much more than you will ever know.

A few weeks after the breaking point.

A wish made at Thump Coffee in Bend, Oregon. They hang these from the ceiling. There are hundreds.

Toddler on board in July. Denim doesn’t lie either. I’m just saying.




2009 racing. At least 15 extra pounds on board. You can bet your ass I was fucking slow.

August cyclo-touring. Lean and rabid for top ramen.

Cyclo-tour lean, but not very strong.

Late October. No room for extra toddlers in this fucking skinsuit!

Washington County Fairgrounds in mid-November. Photo: Victor Duong

State in late November. Getting some muscle mass back. Photo: Dave Roth

Feeling strong in November! Photo: Dave Roth


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35 Responses to “Resolutions in Reverse: 23 Pounds and Counting”

  1. cgb says:

    terrific story!

  2. Justin says:

    Wow. Amazing. Sign me up…I need to get back in shape.

  3. bmoiles says:

    Thank you, I needed this, I was going to skip the gym today (and probably this whole weekend), it’s back on.

  4. Caroline says:

    hott! look at those skinny cyclist arms! (i had noticed.)

    cap the loss at 25lb tho… right? ok?

  5. Dan says:

    Great timing, was thinking about taking the weekend off. Now heading to the gym and sneaking a ride in this afternoon. Thanks!

  6. H. Brown says:

    inspiring! thank you. good to be reminded i don’t have to be a slave to dates. it’s my life and my body and today is the day! happy new year also.

  7. Caroline says:

    Oh, hi again. Just after I left I stumbled on this site I clicked the camera in the upper left corner and chose “EATS” then sat there big-eye rumbly-tummy. I’m making buttermilk pancakes and coffee this morning, damnit. I think I just scare people when I’m lean. :)

  8. erikv says:

    Good job Heidi. That must have been rather tough. No more, though!

  9. Dave says:

    “You’re going to drop a toddler’s worth of weight?” Good way to put it in perspective.

  10. Caroline says:

    Oh shit! My first pancake is sooooo big, I can’t even flip it. Note to self: never go big with first pancake.

  11. snarkypants says:

    Caroline: You’re making me giggle! And you’re also making my tummy grumble.
    I won’t go crazy with this, promise. Next few months are all about building more muscle. The pounds dropped statistics are interesting (and always seem to be the easiest thing for people to understand), but what I really pay attention to is the body composition.
    PS: I have a little Christmas present for you! Are you in town next week? :)

  12. Ed Rowell says:

    Lady, you always inspire me. The last two posts are just exactly what I needed to hear. Thanks for writing from the heart.

  13. Sara says:

    Great post! I lost a bunch of weight while training to climb Rainier this summer (summit 7/17/10!), but then a relative passed suddenly and I spent 2 weeks living in a hotel room grief-eating with my family and not riding/hiking/running/etc…and it all porked back on. :~(

    Hit it hard, kids! I know I will!

  14. sarah says:

    Heidi, you may be my official girl-crush. Grit and Glimmer
    has earned a spot on my browser tool bar, and is my go-to site when
    I’m lazing around trying to find the motivation to GO GET SHIT
    DONE. And not just done, but done WELL. Work, training, powering
    through days that do not let up–thanks for the inspiration to keep
    pushing hard past the finish line. Keep the bad-assery up in the
    New Year!

  15. B-Rat says:

    Awesome! Reminds me of how I felt when I crossed the 200lb line going the wrong way three years ago.

  16. chadwick says:

    Heidi, Fantastic work and you look stunning now. Did you
    find your quest stalling when you added more biking back into the
    mix towards the Fall? I find it neigh impossible to reduce any body
    fat if I’m biking more than about 4 hours a week… less than that,
    or just running, no problem.

    • snarkypants says:

      Chadwick: Yes, definitely. The cyclotouring of August kept me lean, but I didn’t make any real progress in the body comp department. If anything, it set me back in terms of some of the specific goals I’d set.
      During ‘cross racing season I found that I could either do a really hard leg workout in the gym OR one hard interval workout on the bike per week (assuming I had 1 or 2 races every weekend). If I tried to do a hard leg workout on top of bike training, I ended up with 4 days of intensity and not enough rest. It ran me ragged. I ended up cutting out gym leg days so I could do one hard day on the bike on Wednesdays. This definitely slowed overall progress a little bit, too.
      In general, I’ve never found the bike to be a good tool for weight loss. My body adapts almost immediately and my metabolism, too. Building lean muscle mass has been really key for me for shedding fat pounds.
      I don’t think there’s any one right answer for people and I definitely know a lot of people (mostly men) who were able to lose a lot of weight by riding. I also know some men who lost their extra weight by eliminating sugary soda from their diets. :) If only it were always so easy! :)

  17. Ben Welnak says:

    that’s some good shit. keep it up and keep up the great

  18. velogirl says:

    rawr! great job, Heidi. from someone who’s been up + down + up + down + up (and currently trending down again), I can completely empathize with the process (and agree with your means for getting there). CONGRATULATIONS!


  19. Noelle says:

    Dude. You’re wicked awesome sauce. My problem was when i broje a damn bobe in my foot 2 months ago. Haven’t been able to work out properly since. I now have 8 weeks before my next tri. Bring it.
    Inspirational post too. Thanks.

  20. EJ says:

    Hi there. This is amazing! I have a deep love for all things PN and will be sharing this post with my PN buddies.

    You look badass in all that mud. What races are those (the 3rd to last and last images).

  21. sarah r. says:

    i love this post because it is all about deciding to to something and then actually doing it. it makes me kind of sad, though, cuz i worry that someone reading it will be all like, “oh, man, i thought i WAS fine! maybe i’ll be better if i drop 20 lbs. faster. prettier. more inspirational.” so i’m just saying! heidi, i think you look great in the last picture and i think you looked great in the first one. the best body is the one you’re confident in and the one you love and trust and can take you all the places you want to go.

    • snarkypants says:

      Sarah – thank you so much!
      I think there are two important things to remember:
      First is that I knew, very clearly and without any doubt whatsoever, that I was not ok with how I felt. The first picture is already after almost a month of hard training. There is no true “before” picture because I was pretty good at avoiding cameras. Even still, a real before picture probably would have look “fine”.

      As I pointed out in the post, I *was* fine. I just decided that fine was not good enough for me. I was not living up to my own standards.

      Also, it’s worth noting that one of the motivators for this change was that I started hanging around in the same circles as super fit pro or very elite athletes. They took themselves seriously and trained and ate well. I don’t have a top percentile V02 max and I’ll never be as fast or successful as them, but that didn’t seem like enough of an excuse to deny myself a fighting chance in hell at being my best self.

      Hopefully it’s pretty evident from this blog that I’m generally happy and satisfied with life. But I will always be in the camp that wants to find the next level. It’s in my blood. It doesn’t mean I’m not content. I think there’s a balance in there and finding it is tricky but important.

      The second thing is that I can’t control what people who might visit this site think. You are probably right and there may be individuals who read this and wonder what they can improve, perhaps even ones who may fall into unwarranted self-criticism. Their inability to value their current state of being (emotional, mental, physical, professional, whatever) while still looking forward is probably not a good enough reason for me not to share a success story that is potentially motivating for lots of other people. If this one post is the thing that dashes someone into a fit of despair and damaged confidence, my guess is that there is a lot more going on than just a simple blog entry.

      Thank you again for bringing it up – I think it’s important to address. By all means, be happy in your body! You said it well with “The best body is the one you’re confident in and the one you love and trust”.

  22. allison says:

    Awesome, keep it up. I went from just above “fine” to down about 35lbs in 2~ years from cycling. I’m still a lot bigger than the best female mountain bike climbers, though :)

    Looking great!

  23. Ryan says:

    Good stuff. I’m feeling pretty fed up with my weight/fitness right now too. I ride 100-150 miles/week, but I am still pretty paunchy. Riding is the easy part- it’s the other stuff where I fail- too little sleep, too much beer, no breakfast… Also, I’m almost 40 and (unfortunatly) I have a sedentarty job. I have thought about hiring a coach but I think I should just take care of the stuff I already know I’m doing wrong. Your post has motivated me! Also, I can really relate to the “you’re fine” thing. Any time I complain about fitness, people say, “What? You ride your bike all the time! You’re fine!” I’m with you- fuck fine. I know though- just talk at this point…

  24. chr15 says:

    [quote]As I pointed out in the post, I *was* fine. I just decided that fine was not good enough for me. I was not living up to my own standards.

    Also, it’s worth noting that one of the motivators for this change was that I started hanging around in the same circles as super fit pro or very elite athletes.[/quote]

    Or hanging ’round their blogs ;)
    For me despite the scales telling me for ages I needed to do something, it was most definately a feeling inside that was the trigger.

    Fine is subjective…
    The intended meaning of ‘fine’ can change with the tone of voice…
    Would you be satisfied with F.I.N.E!!!

  25. random reader says:

    Great entry! I stumbled on to this blog some time ago and had not visited it for a while. My ‘ff’ day happened in stages. I lost some 25 lbs during 2010 and intend to lose some 10-15 lbs more. I still get people telling ‘but you were fine’. But, as you say, bike shorts don’t lie; I felt like beached whale (I still do some days). Anyway, the mention of the fish oil was very intriguing, so I went trolling to PubMed and found that a recent randomized study found fish oil does not help weight loss (here’s the URL: Bummer! I may give it a try, regardless.

  26. Nicole says:

    Inspirational! Not just for resculpturing your body but for the mindset that got you there.

    I’ve been ‘fine’ all my life, fit, healthy and happy (mostly). I don’t need to race nor do I hang out with elite or pro athletes but I’m still not happy with fine. With my cycling I’m increasing my muscle mass and my poundage is going up as a result but my nutrition let’s me down. How was PN for you? Did you have a nutritionist too? I’m more interested in my body composition than with my weight. I’m in my mid 40′s and DO NOT want to go downhill.

  27. Derek says:

    You just NOW took my advice? Jesus ;)

  28. pete says:

    Superb(not fine) writing Heidi, as usual :)

  29. [...] I want to get my eating really under control.  I found Heidi Swift’s recent post about weight loss inspiring!  I’m fine right now.  I’m good.  But I’m not [...]

  30. Advogirl says:

    Sorry for reading this so late, but loved this post – one of my favorites. On the same type of plan, and believe me, even a few pounds is telling especially in the gym. :-) My trainer says I am always jonesing for the pullup machine when feeling good about my weight.

  31. Laura says:

    Great post! My friend Susan P. sent me a link to this after I shyly showed her pics from my 12-week, 27 lb transformation. I still have a long way to go, probably 25 more lbs before I reach my measurement/bf% goals. But I’m well on my way and I’m pumped to be getting there. Anyway, congrats on all you’ve accomplished. Awesome job, awesome attitude.

  32. Great blog. Love the attitude.

  33. Sarah says:

    THIS is the blog I’ve been looking for! You look amazing, you are amazing, wow. Now I can see my own future. I can do this!