"We wanted to go somewhere to embrace the cycling lifestyle," said Cutshall, who first considered Portland, Oregon, before Brown and other local cyclists persuaded the family in Internet discussions that Minneapolis—the nation's No. 2 cycling city, according to the U.S. Census Bureau—was the best choice.
They sent a deposit for an apartment and made the move, sight unseen. Amy, a nurse, got a job in St. Paul. Scott home-schooled Chloe from their new apartment. They now live in Minneapolis' Seward neighborhood, bike lanes and parkway trails streaming to all compass points right out the front door.
Cutshall said cycling in Minneapolis has outpaced his expectations. He loves riding around the city, biking streets or heading down the Mississippi River trails to Fort Snelling. The family owns a car, but Cutshall said 99 percent of errands are done on two wheels, pannier packs and a trailer hauling groceries home from the store. Chloe rides on a tag-along bike attachment, her own handlebar, saddle, pedals and a wheel connected to dad's frame.
As the family settled into life in Minnesota, the pounds continued to fall away. A weight check in August—Cutshall gets on a scale every six weeks—revealed digits blinking at 278.2. It'd been 20 months, and Cutshall had dropped almost half of his body mass.
By the end of the year, riding through the Minnesota fall and into the cold, Cutshall passed the 4,000-mile mark around Christmas. For all of 2007, Cutshall later calculated, he'd gone 4,083 miles.
He ate essentially the same thing every day, three base meals developed off research from the book Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a New Jersey physician. The food equaled a daily dose of about 1,200 calories and provided all the nutrients, protein and vitamins essential for good health, though nothing more, Cutshall said.
He has an espresso with breakfast and a glass of wine with dinner. Cutshall said he never tires of the menu, as it was designed to include "everything a human craves," he said. "There are things that are hot, cold, salty, creamy, chewy, spicy, savory, and crisp."
Cutshall emphasizes that this meal plan is not a diet. In fact, don't even say that word around him. After years of trying fad diets to lose weight, the D-word no longer exists in the Cutshall nomenclature. "It takes a total lifestyle change, with food being one part of a larger picture," he said.
Today, Cutshall [left, in February, 2008] weighs 232 pounds. He's biked through the Minnesota winter, pedaling 10 to 30 miles daily regardless of the temperature or snowfall.
Last week, he said his weight would likely plateau around 180 pounds. That's 52 pounds to go, although Cutshall has no set number. "It's not about a goal weight," he said. "I'm just doing what's healthy for my body, and the results will follow."
I'd seen a picture of Cutshall near his peak weight. Sitting next to his daughter, a mug of black coffee steaming on the table between us, Cutshall was unrecognizable from the photograph. He looked like a new man. There was a light in his eyes.
"You used to be as big as two of me and two of Mommy," Chloe said, bouncing around her father. Cutshall smiled.
It's been more than two years since his Thanksgiving Day commitment, and everything in Cutshall's life has changed. He is humble and thankful for it. But Cutshall [right, in 2008] exudes a calm confidence.
After years of self-doubt, years fighting a battle against weight, he has conquered something big, and he knows it. He has a new belief in himself. It's that belief—not to mention a bike built in Minneapolis—that may have saved his life.
The Cutshall Meal Plan
Breakfast: 1 organic banana; 1 bowl of vegan soup (vegetable stock, dried herbs, rice noodles, pepper sauce, lime juice); 1 espresso — approx. 250 calories
Lunch: Homemade hummus on pita wrap with pan-seared Portobello mushrooms, alfalfa sprouts and mustard; water to drink — approx. 400 calories
Dinner: "The Mega Salad" (1 to 2 pounds of organic romaine lettuce, 2 organic tomatoes, 1 medium bunch of organic spring onions, organic garlic powder, pepper, Caesar croutons); Newman's Own "Lighten Up" Caesar dressing cut 50/50 with water; cup-and-a-half of pasta w/red sauce; 1 glass of wine — approx. 600 calories
Scott Cutshall's Blog: "Large Fella on a Bike" -- www.istanbultea.typepad.com
Stephen Regenold writes The Gear Junkie column for eight U.S. newspapers; visit www.thegearjunkie.com for video gear reviews, a daily blog and an archive of Regenold's work.
All photos courtesy of Scott Cutshall.