Old Dog, New Tricks: From Fat To Fit (A Work In Progress)

Evans Brasfield
by Evans Brasfield

All physical activities - even motorcycling - benefit from a strong core

I really wish I could blame Covid inactivity or a medication that has weight gain as a side-effect (though both are true), but the responsibility for my physical state rests firmly on me. As a kid, I could eat anything and everything at any time and not gain a pound. For most of my life, I wanted to gain weight, and until my late 40s, I never had to think about my diet. Oh, and I have a relentless sweet tooth. So, as I celebrated my 59th birthday, my bulk had grown by almost 60 pounds during my tenure at Motorcycle.com. Stepping on the scale in mid-May and seeing it register 218 lbs was the last straw.

I reached out to a personal trainer friend who I’d worked out with regularly before I started at MO, telling her that I could only fit in one pair of my pants – and just barely. As expected, I got no sympathy. Instead, she challenged me to step up and do something for myself. I waffled briefly and then committed.


Simple Math

The prescription for weight loss is easy. You’ve got to burn more calories than you take in. Basic addition and subtraction, actually. The reality is much harder. And slower. For me, the biggest stumbling block (aside from my close relationship with the employees of the Donut Hut) was time and accountability. My responsibilities at MO and working at home mean that there is always something else that needs to be done. Skipping exercise is too easy, and coupled with the fact that a recurring knee injury has me worried that my running days may be nearing their end, I’m having to adjust to the fact that my fat-burning primary exercise might not be able to work its magic anymore.

In the past, I found that I needed to be both financially and publicly responsible for seeking out my goals. A simple gym membership isn’t enough for me.

So, I signed up for a month-long intensive program with my trainer that required that I do three simple but extremely challenging things: eat under a certain daily calorie total, exercise a minimum of 30 minutes a day with 10 minutes of stretching tacked on at the end, and report my exercise and food intake to my trainer nightly. Having to report daily was essential for me to lose significant weight because my trainer does not tolerate excuses.

Changing Diet

You’ll spend a lot of time on this My Fitness Pal screen if you choose to use it to track your calories. I chose this day because I – despite what the totals say – overshot my 1,500 calorie goal. Don’t fall into the trap of giving yourself play calories by counting those you burned during exercise.

In order to succeed, I needed to change from the inside out. Not only did I need to cut the number of calories I took in, but also changing what I consumed was essential. To determine what my calorie count should be, I consulted a weight loss/BMI calculator; my initial goal was 1,600 calories, and I tracked them with the free My Fitness Pal website and app. The content of those calories was based on the Whole 30 diet. I essentially vowed to completely cut out sugar, bread, and dairy, among other things. I would eat as clean as possible, meaning no processed foods, too.

The other dietary challenge was to change the timing of the calories I eat. Breakfast would be my big meal, with lunch being a little lower in calories. Dinner would be the smallest of the day since I typically won’t be doing anything physical for the rest of the day. Finally, I must consume nothing after 9:00 pm.

The first week was hell as I detoxed from sugar. In retrospect, I feel sorry for my family. I’m sure it was unpleasant. I had constant food cravings, especially around bedtime when I was accustomed to having a bowl of cereal. Gradually, the cravings diminished, and a new normal was established.

I couldn’t have maintained this diet without three things: morning protein smoothies, the rise of Whole 30-compliant, healthy fast food restaurants (like the Sweet Green a couple miles from my house) for those days I didn’t have time to prepare a meal, and medjool dates. The smoothie is pretty self-explanatory. A 500-600 calorie protein smoothie and a cup of coffee had me primed for the morning. For someone as lazy as me in the kitchen, compliant prepared food was a godsend. Then there were my beloved medjool dates for snacks. I wouldn’t have survived my sugar cravings without them.

Getting Active

For my daily exercise, I was mostly on my own since my trainer’s boot camp hours conflict with my work schedule. I settled into a regular afternoon workout routine with Apple’s Fitness+ program. Initially, I pieced together 10-minute workouts to reach my half-hour goal. As I progressed, I naturally gravitated towards longer workouts. I alternated core and strength days with cardio days where I settled into spin sessions and ultimately wound up doing 45-minute stints after a month or so.

I won’t let this happen again! Shutterstock/Alex_An_Der

What I like about the Fitness+ program is that it doesn’t require much specialized equipment. I already had the Apple Watch and iPad. The few free weights I required just needed to be pulled out of the garage and dusted off. For spin, my wife and I had bought a used analog Spinner bike off of Craigslist for a couple hundred dollars a few years ago.

In my early weeks, I walked around constantly sore. Rather than being bummed about it, I felt like I was making progress. Additionally, in the early days of this regimen, the pounds just melted off me to the tune of 3-5 lb. per week. I was fortunate in that this positive trend helped me get past the toughest initial food cravings and aches from becoming more active. That excitement pushed me to continue.

After a while, Apple’s Fitness+ studio began to feel like it was part of my garage. (If it were, my property value would go up.)

In the later months of this program, my weight loss has trailed off and become much more challenging. I’ve stalled out a mere 2 lb. from my goal weight of 180 lb., and with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays on tap, reaching my goal before the end of the year will be tough. Still, I’m determined to do it.

Weight loss isn’t a quick fix, although the first pounds dropped off me surprisingly quickly. My progress is the result of six months of hard work. You will note, however, that I didn’t include the aftermath of the orgy of consumption that is Thanksgiving.

The payoff

To date, I’ve lost a total of 36 lb. and 6 inches off of my waist. I can fit in my leathers again, and track riding has become less of a challenge – both from being able to actually move in my gear and from higher physical strength and endurance. I’m now wearing my Aerostich regularly after two years of not being able to zip it. Before my pledge to improve myself, I only had one pair of jeans I could fit in (shown above), now all of my pants are big on me. Most importantly, I’m more comfortable in my own skin, and I feel younger than I did on my birthday. I’ve still got a few months until the big 60, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.

If I can do it, so can you. You just have to want it.

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Evans Brasfield
Evans Brasfield

Like most of the best happenings in his life, Evans stumbled into his motojournalism career. While on his way to a planned life in academia, he applied for a job at a motorcycle magazine, thinking he’d get the opportunity to write some freelance articles. Instead, he was offered a full-time job in which he discovered he could actually get paid to ride other people’s motorcycles – and he’s never looked back. Over the 25 years he’s been in the motorcycle industry, Evans has written two books, 101 Sportbike Performance Projects and How to Modify Your Metric Cruiser, and has ridden just about every production motorcycle manufactured. Evans has a deep love of motorcycles and believes they are a force for good in the world.

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2 of 16 comments
  • Old MOron Old MOron on Dec 03, 2021

    Good onya, Evans.

  • Hipsabad Hipsabad on Dec 06, 2021

    i share much of the same issues, Mr Brasfield: with a few years on you, the scale had been creeping insidiously up til the shock of seeing it hovering just below 200(!) Hell no! It's been a year of gym work now, Mon - Fri. The matter of fitness isn't as easy as it was when i was 18--or 44 for that matter. But, as with your story, progress has been made. On the bright side, never has so little food been required to sustain myself: it's now cheaper to shop, almost feels like being a breatharian, ha. In addition, it's comforting to know that others also have that problematic sweet tooth that's been with me all my life.