How cycling solved my food ‘issues’

The more I’ve got into cycling, the more I’ve got into food. There’s a pretty obvious link between the two and I’m not just talking about stopping for cake on the club ride each Sunday. Naturally, exercise fires up my appetite no end, but my interest in food is about more than just hunger now that I spend so much time training on the bike and in the gym.

Back in the dim and distant past when I was a professional snowboarder and model concurrently, the necessity of fuelling my athletic endeavours were hampered by the need to stay thin enough to satisfy clients and agents. It was an awkward mix if I’m honest, neither job particularly helping with the other and one of my abiding memories from that time is being pretty obsessed with food, mainly because I was permanently starving.

Trying to snowboard about six hours a day on a couple of bits of toast and no lunch left me feeling permanently exhausted, grumpy and even dizzy. Along with the fact I was permanently on a diet, I was also really skint so the food that I did eat wasn’t really ticking many nutritional boxes. I remember we used to buy the cheapest economy frozen burgers, defrost them and then make spaghetti bolognaise. Ew.


Above: Baby me in Vogue Italia. Photo by Steven Meisel

I now feel sad that when I was living in America and Canada I never eased up on myself and allowed myself some of the foods that I craved. I spent so much time denying myself that I ended up with a pretty unhealthy relationship with food where the goal was minimising calories whilst saving money. I’d eat stuff such as ‘lite’ yoghurts, diet cokes, economy spaghetti with economy sauce, economy bread, economy noodles… you get the picture.

One of my housemates would only eat cereal. Another guy lived on porridge for an entire winter. And at fashion shoots, girls would eat just two tablespoons of lunch or even nothing at all. Looking back, I’m kind of amazed I didn’t develop a full blown eating disorder!

All Change Please

Nevertheless, I’d say I never really shrugged off a warped attitude to food until I started cycling. Older, wiser and out of the grip of model agents, this time around when my body demanded sustenance I finally delivered. Honestly, it took a little getting used to – after many years of trying to choose the lowest calorie options, allowing myself to eat the things I wanted seemed strange.

It started with cake. Previously something I wouldn’t touch with a bargepole, when I started cycling a lot a slice of Victoria Sponge mid or post ride seemed like the perfect thing to eat. Out cycling for the day, I’d be surrounded by people who were happy, active and eating cake like it just didn’t matter. Because actually, it really doesn’t.



Luckily, I didn’t just start eating cake all day every day. Once a relaxed attitude to food infiltrated the rest of my life I began to see food as a friend, rather than an enemy and this has led me to where I am now. I still don’t make a lot of money but having educated myself on food, nutrition and vitally, cooking, I now realise that it’s possible to eat really well quite easily. I’ve channelled an obsession with food into cooking and eating really delicious meals; meals that make me feel good rather than foods that are ‘good’ or ‘bad.’

Eating in this way has resulted in me naturally choosing a good balance of foods, depending on my daily mood or nutritional needs. Over the last couple of years I’ve increased the amount of training that I do significantly, adding in ‘double days’ where I ride in the morning and hit the gym in the evening. If I were to restrict myself, either in calories or nutritionally by choosing foods empty of nutrients (such as those instant noodles!) I’d feel it straight away. As I don’t eat meat anymore, it’s a happy accident that many of the things I now base my meals around, such as lentils and beans, are cheap and really rich nutritionally.



So after too long spent eating rubbish food, my aim now is to pack in as many nutrients as I can but without getting all weird about it. It’s all about balance. Cake is necessary as it nourishes my mind and makes me feel good, vegetable, carbs and protein satisfy by grumbling stomach and give me the strength to train another day.

If you’d like to see what makes the basis of my simple diet, check out the video below.



I’m not a nutritionist and I’m not planning on telling anyone what they should or shouldn’t be eating but I’ve found ways of preparing lots of cheap, healthy meals so if that’s your thing, stay tuned for lots of recipes, tips and advice over the coming months as I share some of the things that work for me. You can subscribe to my channel for free and get notifications of all my new videos. Please do leave me any suggestions in the comments below.

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Comments (8)
  1. Jesica January 18, 2018 at 6:25 am

    Hey Juliet, this is a very informative post. By the way, your recipe looks awesome! I will try at home.

  2. Andrew Wilson January 18, 2018 at 10:54 am

    Started cycling because I couldn’t drive for a while( not DD). Became half decent and obsessed with diet, I still like the ‘bad’ stuff but like to earn it and I think so long as your overdrawn at the calorie bank each day then it works.

  3. Bob January 18, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    Thanks for the article Juliet. I have found that a whole-food, plant based diet has worked brilliantly for myself. I’m an avid cyclist that rides 10-12 hours/week and I’ve found that with no meat and dairy, I recover quicker and feel much better in general. Plus I stopped eating wheat, and to my surprise, it was causing me all kinds of problems I was attributing to other things. For instance, my chronic back pain went away, my arthritic knee no longer troubles me and I had horrible acid reflux that I thought was caused by spicy and acidic foods but it wasn’t. It was the wheat all along. Anyway, to your point, crappy diets make you physically ill. Thanks and keep the awesome articles & vids coming.

    • Juliet_Elliott January 22, 2018 at 9:55 am

      You’re welcome Bob. It’s definitely important to find something that works for you if you’re cycling that much – glad to hear that you have.
      Glad you’re enjoying the articles and videos, thanks for your support!

  4. April February 1, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    I completely echo your sentiments with your relationship to food. I wasn’t a model or anything fantastic, and I wasn’t even not eating enough. My issue was that I went on the paleo diet as a crossfitter and developed quite an aversion to processed sugar, and would get quite anxious at the thought of consuming it.

    3 years later and I am just as fit but now enjoy real butter on my toast and chocolate after dinner…and couldn’t be happier. Still not sure about eating gummy bears mid bike ride but I’m sure I’ll get there eventually 😛

    • Juliet_Elliott February 1, 2018 at 3:42 pm

      I suspect there are many people with some kind of anxiety about food in the sporting world but it’s not talked about as much as it is with models. Luckily, cycling made me go the other way rather than increase any issues.

      Glad you have come out the other side too. If I’m riding super hard and someone hands me gummy bears I’ll eat them but they’re definitely not ideal to eat all the time, mainly because of one’s teeth!!

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