Add a new habit or give one up

Sometimes a really simple a clear thought arrives in your head and just flops out of your mouth into conversation – or ends up being typed in a text.

This morning it happened almost without realising while I was chatting with a friend, and there it was. My attitude to dieting – encapsulated in one sentence.

Add a new habit or give one up.’

This didn’t seem particularly profound when I typed it – but my friend picked up on it and the more I thought about the phrase the more it rang true. At least for me. The moment everything started changing for me I was doing just this. I’ve done it again and again recently, and each time I’ve made a little more progress toward my goals.

I’m hoping that the things I’ve given up and the new habits that I’ve adopted will be lifelong changes.

The fact of the matter was that for years and years I was the living embodiment of the often quoted definition of insanity (at least according to Einstein, amongst others). I was a man hoping for change but unwilling to do anything different in order to achieve it. I was a committed yo-yo dieter who spent more time at the bottom of a string than the top, and as soon as I accepted the truth that there would be no forward progress without change I began to get results.

However – I’m not sure my approach to the problem is something that’s a ‘one size fits all’ cut out and keep fridge magnet bumper sticker internet meme – as it may not be palatable for everyone.

However – if you’re like me it may be worth considering.

I don’t really do moderation. I’ve never been very good at doing little bits of things. I like to squeeze the most out of everything if I do it – or I don’t want to do it at all. In that respect (at least when it comes to things that may be considered habitual) I’m a very binary person.

I smoked to excess, and then just stopped. I drank to excess and then just stopped. I did nothing towards losing weight and then became fanatical about it. I ignored exercise and then became unable to do without it. The lists of things like this go on and on.

The bad side of my personality is that sometimes I can’t switch off the harmful aspects of being able to focus (or maybe the correct word is obsess) on one thing.

the good side is that when I do I can turn my habitual side into something that really benefits me.

I’ve often heard that this ‘black and white’ way of thinking is a male trait, but I don’t agree with that particular stereotype, just as I don’t agree with the statement that men lose weight easier than women. It’s hard for everyone – and I believe that my way of thinking is a product of my upbringing and personality type, not my gender.

I develop strong opinions and tend to build structure around them.

For instance, the reason I don’t do ‘fakeaways’ (the Slimming World ‘cheat’ versions of popular fast food) is that I used to continually obsess over the thought of chips, sausage and egg Mcmuffins, Dominos pizza or a chicken kebab until it drove me crazy and I had to have one.

I ate enough of them to last me a lifetime.

I’d prefer to have new habitual tastes for lovely freshly cooked, balanced meals that don’t lead me back to the wrong kinds of food if I fall off the wagon – rather than perpetuate a taste for things that caused my weight gains and brought on my diabetes in the past.

I guess the reason I was so worried about back sliding last year was that I know how dramatically the ‘me of the past’ could shift from obsessions with positive things to negative ones. So – I still protect myself the only way I know how, and I actively try and find good things that I can become just as addicted to as I was when I continually and morbidly ate crap.

Although there are conflicting theories on the subject, after a given period of doing anything repetitively it becomes habitual. It can take from 21 days to a year depending on who you believe (further reading here) but I’m living proof that it does happen.

It’s raining outside today – and going for a walk would have really sucked, but when I woke up I knew I needed to fill the silly little pointless rings on the screen of my Apple Watch today – so I headed straight to my exercise bike for a hill climb programme – all the time watching the thing on my wrist constantly increasing my stats and telling me I’m a good boy.

What does it matter?

I don’t know really. I just know that it does and that I won’t be able to sleep properly if I dont do it. The fortuitous side effect of this particular obsession (which is becoming a habit) happened to be that I started feeling insanely great all of a sudden.

The first week in early January that I started using my bike again was frankly a bag of ass. It tired me out and I didn’t enjoy the first 15-20 minutes of ANY out of breath cardio type exercise.

And then all of a sudden (around a week in) I just did.

I’ve been doing it ever since. I’d used the OCD part of my personality to fixate on an Apple Watch achievement and quite unexpectedly it led to something else that I’m really beginning to love.

So – I’m not sure whether my advice is good or bad – because what I’m advocating pre-supposes that you’re like me – which you’re probably not.

However – if you are then it just so happens that there’s a way forward. All you have to do is add a new habit and/or give one up. You don’t change all of the bad habits all at once. One change at a time starts the ball rolling.

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If you’re hooked on chocolate, try carrots, or chew some gum. If you’re obsessed with having snacks while you watch telly in the evening then don’t watch TV and go for a walk for a change. If you drink too much wine then find another drink you love the taste of that doesn’t de-rail you all the time and get stuck into that instead.

Get a fitness tracker and start watching the stats as you improve.

Just keep trying things until you find a better obsession.

Soon enough the pleasure of NOT doing something (at least for me) becomes equal, if not greater, than actually doing it – partially because of the sense of smug self satisfaction I get from knowing I’ve kicked a habit.

However internet – I’m also willing to accept I might be a bit odd, and that you’re perfectly fine with moderation. If so then knock yourself out and (if you follow Slimming World) enjoy your low syn Curly Wurly and packet of French Fries totally on plan.

Davey

Smoother than a baby’s bottom

Today I feel great. Really great. This morning I felt like lightning in a bottle when I woke up.

Although I’m relatively footloose and fancy free I think its important to get up at a good time, and try not to sleep in at all – regardless of what day it is. I got dressed (making a slightly longer than usual trip to the bathroom sink for reasons that will become apparent later), did my usual browsing for jobs with strong coffee, chewed through my employment agency mails, reviewed all of the positions available on the job centre portal and then stared out of the window for a minute or two.

It was disappointing.

There wasn’t anything new out there that I could see and no replies from anyone with good or bad feedback. The whole process of finding a job can at times feel like you’re throwing applications into a huge void where no-one reads anything you send them or is even the slightest bit interested. But I’m not letting it get to me. I refuse.

If you do then you’ve already lost the battle – so it’s important to find a reason to feel good every day.

If I couldn’t find one in my e-mail or on the job centre site then I’d damn well hunt for one somewhere else.

I’d planned to dig up the bush stump in my front garden today with the next door neighbour – but not only was the ground completely sodden (I didn’t fancy a mud bath today) but there were several other things I needed to do in town and elsewhere.

I also needed to get some walking in. I have been trying to get under eighteen minutes a mile for weeks now and on the way into Leamington the other day I came within touching distance of it – but got stuck at some traffic lights which irritatingly de-railed my attempt.

I decided that I’d see what I could do on the flat surface of the park and have a look for the Swanling while I was at it.

I arrived at the park, chose some appropriately loud and socially unacceptable music on my phone (the kind that causes bad driving and teenage pregnancies) and started walking as fast as I could.

Initially my legs didn’t want to play ball. They ached and quickly cramped – but I’ve learned that rather than stopping when I feel like this the best thing to do is ease off the pace a little, bear with the feeling and eventually it will fade. At this point I can speed back up again, and each time I don’t stop my stamina increases a little for the next attempt.

This whole process is a real learning curve for me – and I’m constantly amazed at what my body can do when I push it regularly.

I looked at my watch half way through my lap. It didn’t look like I was going to do it – but what the heck, I wasn’t going to stop trying. I poured it on for the second half. 

As I strode on I passed a group of women I see regularly and greeted them.

‘Hello ladies!’ I called – as I breezed by them. I wasn’t stopping to chat today – but waved behind me as I continued onwards.

‘You’re looking good!’ one of them shouted as I pounded into the distance. ‘Thanks!” I called back. Maybe I’d see them on the next lap and stop for a natter – but today this was more important. I wanted a win.

By the time I got close to the end of the first mile I realised that I was actually ahead of schedule. I put my head down. Maybe I could do this!

I finally felt the double tap on my wrist from my watch to tell me I’d done a mile. I didn’t want to look down. Maybe I’d just carry on and look afterwards. Maybe I could do the second lap at the same pace. Then I’d look.

‘Dave?’

I heard the voice vaguely over the sound of my exercise playlist, and looked up. In front of me, walking with his dog in the opposite direction was a friend I used to work with. I hadn’t seen him since we were both made redundant at the end of July.

‘Bloody hell!’ He said looking me up and down. ‘I thought that was you but I didn’t recognise you at first!’

I smiled and shook his hand, but not before stopping my watch’s workout app. I noticed he was stopping his Apple Watch too.

‘Wow.’ He said – looking me up and down again. ‘You’ve really changed.’

‘I’ve lost a bit of weight.’ I smiled. ‘Ten stone now.’

He looked really impressed. I smiled and stroked his dog, who timidly hid behind his right leg. ‘She’s shy.’ he said. I held out my hand and she gingerly sniffed me before finally letting me pat and stroke her head.

‘Things are good.’ I said, ‘I’ve been doing well with losing weight – in fact you stopped me at an important moment!’ I checked my watch again. ‘I just got my mile time under 18 minutes for the fist time!’

(I’d not only managed to get under 18 minutes. I’d smashed it. 17.23!)

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‘Are you doing more laps?’ I asked. ‘Yep’ he replied.

‘Mind if I join you?’ I asked ‘Sure!’ he said. So for the next hour we (after starting our workout apps again) walked and talked for another three miles, sharing what had been going on with each of us since we’d last spoken six months or so ago. He was enjoying his new job and life seemed good – in fact he was in training for the Stratford marathon in May and was walking because he’d hurt his knee doing this.

It seemed that both of us were working towards fitness goals.

I can’t overstate how nice it is to meet people from my past and be proud of how I look and who I am now. Those close to me will know how much I’ve shied away from people in my past simply because of the embarrassment of being bigger or feeling like a cumulative collection of failures.

Now I no longer feel like this. Each meeting – especially the unexpected ones like this just spur me ever onwards and give me the impetus to carry on.

As we walked I also had the opportunity to introduce him to the swanling – who looked a little lonely today, but as always – a teeny bit more grown up. It’s beak is definitely turning orange now, and it’s tail feathers are almost completely white.

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As we continued doing laps of the park we discussed setting goals and the mental challenge of working towards something like a marathon – and I told him that I was always looking for the next thing to drive me forward. Often it wasn’t about the milestone I was about to reach – but what was next on the horizon. I’m always thinking about what will come after what I am doing – and what will keep the impetus up.

So, after we’d said our goodbyes and shared some good wishes for each other’s endeavours I decided to try something new.

I went to a shop with 2xl clothes and picked a jacket off the peg. This isn’t something that’s easy for me to do (when things don’t fit it can be very demoralising) but I decided I needed to know how far I had to go before this was a possibility.

I undid the zip and swung it over my shoulders, expecting the arms and shoulders to be tight.

Only they weren’t. 

In fact the ONLY problem was at the waist, which was probably about 4-6 inches away from me being able to do the zip up!!! Otherwise the jacket felt like it would fit!

Holy crapola! 

There are also mainstream shops now that do 3xl clothes, so I need to find one and try one of those on. I’m able to wear 4xl shirts now – so maybe I don’t have as far to go as I first thought! This means a significant decrease in the cost of clothes compared to specialist shops that cater for 4xl and above men.

Shirts and trousers suddenly become more than 50% cheaper!

So – today I’m laser focused, and that makes me happy. I have several objectives, and they’re ALL do-able. All they need is time, effort and positivity – which I either currently possess or can manufacture in unlimited quantities.

Although my chin feels a little chillier today. I decided this morning that I’ve been hiding my fat face behind a beard for so long (that’s actually why I grew it in the first place) that I needed to know what I really look like underneath – and get used to the real me for a little while, even if I grow it back afterwards.

So internet – here’s bald Davey. He’s smoother than a baby’s bottom and is being unveiled in public for the first time since 2009 – having just managed to get under 18 minutes a mile.

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The beard will probably be back soon – but for the moment I’m enjoying the baristas in Starbucks doing a double take when they see me 🙂

Davey

Ten stone that’s no longer a part of me. 

As I’ve discussed in previous posts I’m very pre-disposed to a certain world view. This is fundamentally that ‘There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.’ 

Those sitting and waiting it to arrive and making no effort to be happy will be waiting a very long time – as the paradox of this state of mind is often that you yourself have to generate and nurture it for it to exist and be maintained.

Ultimately it’s a personal choice.

In the same way that negative people will always manage to find confirmation that their downbeat worldview is correct I (try to) belive that positive things will happen and also that people are fundamentally good.

Spreading positivity wherever you can and being kind to people breeds more of the same (often much more – and in unexpectedly large amounts) which will come back when you least expect it, and usually when you most need it.

This was far from my mind though when I was abstractly browsing the internet the other night.

In the background I was also semi-watching a nature documentary on BBC1 called ‘Spy in the Wild’ (here on iPlayer for people in the UK). 

It’s unique selling point was that it sent lifelike animatronic puppets with hidden cameras out into the wilderness to sit with and observe packs of animals – in this case Meerkats, Wolves, Hippos and Chimpanzees.

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I became more interested when the narrator (David Tennant of Dr Who fame) stated that the film makers appeared to have debunked previous anthropological theories concerning pack animals and how they functioned as a group. 

These long held views had focused almost entirely on social hierarchies and worked upon the premise that such groups functioned solely through dominance, which was often violently asserted in order to be maintained.

This programme was instead presenting an alternate viewpoint, because what the animatronic wolf cubs, hippos and meerkats had been recording in these social groups was quite different.

Although these animals did have leaders that used physical power to maintain their position they also presided over a caring social collective where parenting was a group activity. 

This shared familial responsibility in the pack meant that from a very early age babies formed deep bonds with each other and all of the adults.

It was THIS (the programme argued) that made them survivors rather than the rigidity of their hierarchy. Fundamentally they wanted to look after each other and to help when a member of the pack was in danger because they cared about one another.

It was friendship

In the past I’ve always just accepted the (rather bleak) social dominance theory of Alpha pack leaders and that it was this alone that enabled the survival of animals in nature. 

Instead however – here was powerful evidence that even in the brutality of the wild friendship and generosity were far more important to the continuation of a species than power and control.

Particularly in the last twelve months I’ve had continued re-affirmation that we get the best from each other in groups – especially ones where we are ‘lucky’ enough to find bonds of friendship.

But friendship isn’t really ‘luck’.

It comes as the consequence of spontaneous act of kindness, generosity or sharing – and it’s through these actions that we bond and find common purpose.

I’m part of just such a collective at the moment – my slimming group. 

It’s almost impossible to underestimate how much harder losing weight would have been without these people – and I’m glad to have walked (mostly randomly) through the right set of doors all those months ago. 

Today I stood on the scales, nervously waited for the result and eventually heard the confirmation that I had lost 3lbs and won my ten stone certificate. 

However – although there are multiple victories to be found today (the 28th is a big day for me), I think that the TRUE prize I’ve secured is being reminded (as we all sat and talked) that without the support of these lovely people continuously I don’t think that I’d have reached what I believe may be the next stage of my mental battle to keep moving forward. 

Up until now it was all about numbers – and I was chasing losses. Now – from here on it’s going to be about gains

I don’t mean that I plan to put all the weight back on – I mean something else entirely. 

Like those meerkats in the documentary, in this group I’ve gained friends. I’ve gained a sense of perspective from listening and sharing. I’ve gained the ability to carry on even when the task at hand seems insurmountable. I’ve gained the capacity to appear flawed in public both physically and emotionally – but not see it as something to be embarrassed about or as a sign of weakness. 

Instead it’s strength. 

In life (as in Slimming World) because of all this I’m gaining every day. 

I’m gaining my health back. I’m gaining a longer life. I’m gaining the hope of future relationships. I’m gaining employment opportunities that aren’t hamstrung by fears about seating, standing requirements or the size of a uniform. 

My gains are now my goals and they are for the first time outnumbering my losses in importance. 

I’m going to forge ahead with exercise as my main objective now and if I do gain weight in the process I intend it to be muscle rather than fat. I have to fill my skin with something after all. 

It’s about time I had a few of these. They really help with pickle jars. 

Without good people around me in private and public I couldn’t have done this – and I’ll never forget ever again (sadly I had done) that there is no way to happiness because happiness is the way. 

Davey

Oh. Just one final thing internet. I wrote half of this post whilst on my exercise bike. You’ve just (for the first time) read seven miles of hill climb. 

(Drops the mic)

Bins full of bush

It seems not all that long ago that I struggled to mow my front lawn.

It’s not a particularly large lawn – and it has an extremely modest slope. It’s probably around 12ft square, yet when I used to cut the grass (when I could bear the physical pain and humiliation) I had become so immobile that I had to position a stool just inside my front door so that I could pop in and sit down to catch my breath and wait for my heart to stop pounding.

I usually had to do this three times to complete the front lawn. The back one (being much larger) was way worse.

Right about now (if I was writing this six months ago) I would have written ‘I dislike gardening’ or some other dry witticism intended to explain my lack of pruning. Indeed – I did this in my blog last May (here) – jokingly cursing my (actually very nice) next door neighbour for trimming his lawn, because it meant that I also had to do mine.

I used humour a lot to deflect both myself and others away from the truth when I felt vulnerable – but I’m trying not to these days. I’m just trying to be honest.

I used to give many other excuses or opinions as reasons for not doing things. I’ve realised over time that these blanket statements about disliking or disapproving of an activity were actually just ways of covering pain and embarrassment.

I know now that my much used phrase ‘I hate gardening’ never actually meant that I hated gardening. Instead it translated to ‘I hate the way it makes me feel. It hurts and I feel exposed’ and was instead a defence mechanism.

This method of avoidance however has had consequences for my garden.

My front bush was shameful (insert joke here). It looked completely unkempt (insert further childish humour) and was badly in need of trimming.

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As I returned to my house yesterday the lady from next door approached me and asked what I’d like to do with it – and whether I would agree to us mutually cutting it down. The answer frankly was ‘yes!’ I’d never liked the thing and always wondered who it belonged to (me or next door?) but we’d both let it grow for so long that it had just become a huge obstacle.

Again I realised though that old thought patterns had made this so. I still looked at the garden and thought ‘pain and humiliation’, rather than ‘I can make this look nicer and enjoy it.’ So I immediately agreed with her to make a start on it – and this morning at around 11am stepped outside (wrapped up warm as it was cold!) to start hacking away.

Before long my large green recycling bin was completely packed solid with snipped up branches, so I went next door and grabbed theirs. Soon that too was half full and I was dragging ever longer lengths of brambles and branches across my garden to chop up and stuff into it.

Another neighbour popped out and said hello as he passed – so I asked if he minded me putting some of my cuttings in his bin as well. ‘Not at all – I have two. Help yourself!’ he said before heading off to work.

I carried on filling up the second bin and looked at the time. I’d been standing outside for two hours now and I felt great. Apple Watch was also reporting that I was doing a lot of cardio – which meant I was also getting the exercise I’m so enjoying at the moment.

Then the next door neighbour’s son came out to help me fill bins three and four up and for a couple of hours we chatted and got to know each other a bit better – all the while chopping and sawing at branches and talking about fishing, cars, computers, and work.

Then yet another neighbour drove past and stopped to say ‘Hi’. Quite out of the blue she told me she’d been reading my posts (I had no idea that any of my neighbours knew about my blog – but via Slimming World word appears to have spread!) and that she was amazed at how much I’d lost – telling me that she too was trying to lose weight and that it was really encouraging to see me out and about walking.

Like most people in modern life I never really talk to the neighbours much. It’s not because I don’t like them – it just never seems to happen.

In the past I used to come home with my provisions after work, shut the door and usually not open it again until it was time to go to back the next day. Even after I lost my job I never really found the time to say hello other than in passing – but already today, just by getting involved and saying ‘yes’ rather than ‘no’ I’d spoken at length to several of my neighbours, children and partners.

When we filled the fourth green bin and another neighbour returned from work I upped the chat count once more and asked whether I could fill his bin too.

By the time I’d had enough for the day I’d been outside chopping, packing, pulling, snipping, talking, drinking coffee and just generally enjoying bringing order to the world for four and half hours – 62 minutes of which my watch considers to be good exercise – so who am I to argue!

I still have a bit more to do in the morning to finish the job, but once it’s done I’m going to feel a real sense of accomplishment – not just because my overgrown topiary is finally gone but because of the following:

  1. I’ve been working outside for almost four and a half hours without a break! Sure my back hurts a little, but I’ve been bending over picking stuff up for most of the day. It’s totally normal pain!
  2. I have been reminded not to think ‘I hate doing xxxx’ just because that’s what I used to say to deflect away from the truth. I get much more out of saying ‘yes’ to things and finding out how I really feel now I’m changing physically.
  3. I’ve chatted to all of my nearby neighbours – and I now know that they too have seen positive changes in me which makes me feel great. Furthermore if what I’m doing is inspiring some of them too then all the better!
  4. I’m aching in places I’ve not ached up until now, and thats goooood. It means something inside me that was previously weaker and rarely used is now getting stronger and more agile.

So – it’s been a good day Internet. If your garden needs a pre-emptive strike before the grass begins to grow again I suggest that you have a go now, and have a natter with passers by while you do.

You never know what you’ll learn about each other!

Davey

 

What’s my motivation?

I’ve been thinking today about motivation – particularly what drives me and why, as well as how to maintain or even further augment it. Writing my retrospective post was a really good reminder of all the little mental tricks I’ve used over the last twelve months to keep going and I’m wondering what comes next.

I’ve said in the past that I want to eventually climb Snowdon again, but I don’t know when that will be (abstractly I’m thinking this coming year sometime) and honestly it’s more of an ‘eventually I want to’ rather than an ‘I need to do this tomorrow’ goal.

I’ve changed tactics a few times over the last year (mostly so that boredom doesn’t become an issue) and bit by bit have set different challenges so that I’ve had something always just on the horizon. These have tended to be just out of reach – but never so far away that they seem impossible or demoralising.

Rather than worrying about where I’ve got to get to I’ve just tried to take lots and lots of little steps, until such time that I can take bigger and bigger ones. So far it’s worked.

I originally had a lot of success with using physical objects to relate my weight loss to and work towards. When I did those I broke them up in to two blocks of five stone each, which seemed a bit more do-able. This was really useful and even now the 7 stone fridge freezer photo that I got a shop assistant in Currys to take for me is one of my favourite moments on my journey – and a nice, tangible real world example of my progress that everyone can relate to.

The problem with that is that the more you lose, the more outlandish and un-relateable the objects end up becoming. After all – apart from the weight of someone you know what does ten stone represent to the average person?

The one I found and am supposedly working towards at the moment is the biggest gold ring in the world.

A huge piece of bad taste jewellery is amusing – but I’m never going to see it or hold it myself so it ends up being a meaningless achievement in practical terms.

I’ve learned from experience that this aspect of a goal is very important – visualising objects to lose has ceased to motivate me because of this, even though I had fun with them at the time.

My inner nerd also enjoyed the ‘Lands End to John o Groats’ distance statistics and graphs that my walking goal provided. The progress that my ever increasing distance showed also made my push myself more and more.

I’m still adding up the miles I’ve walked even though I’ve reached my goal, just so I know what it is (I’m well over the 1000 miles mark now!) but from an improvement perspective it’s beginning to flatline somewhat.

I can easily walk long distances now in 2-3 mile chunks, but without a bench rest for 30 mins or so after that I find I get blisters not long after. If I rest then 6-7 miles is probably my daily top end now. Also the sheer length of time it takes to walk from A-B on long jaunts and the blisters these can cause when I overdo it just to get a bigger bar on my graph can end up having a negative impact rather than a positive one.

Distance then is no longer the answer either. I can’t just keep walking further and further all day long. I do after all also need a job.

Then there are numbers from the past – and chasing the man I was as well as the man I want to be.

Back in November I set some interim goals – and I’m very close to the first of those. 24st 5lbs was the lowest I managed to get to on the 3rd of May when I last tried to lose weight in 2008 and that’s now within touching distance. I’m only four pounds away. Next I turn the clock back a little further to November of 1999 when I was attending Weight Watchers and got down to 22st 12.5lbs.

When I reach that weight I’ve turned the clock back to the last millennium.

That’s nice – but it’s not going to last me long according to Slimming World’s helpful online predicted loss and progress chart. Roughly speaking it expects me to hit this target sometime around the first week in March.

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I’ll try not to disappoint it – but after that I’m in a void of sorts. I never recorded my weight much prior to that so it’s all uncharted territory. Apart from briefly being 12st 7lbs when I was 16 I’ve nothing else to work with.

So – none of these seem to be hitting the spot at the moment – but maybe I’m missing the point a little. As I alluded to before something appears to be changing (at least for the moment) in my fundamental attitude to losing weight.

The more I’ve gotten used to the shopping, food preparation, cooking times, and length of ‘fullness’ that my favourite ‘go to’ meals provide me the less my journey has been about what I eat. I’ve suddenly stopped worrying about weighing in.

There are reasons for this though.

A few weeks ago I decided to give up on guesswork. The ‘Speed’, ‘Free’ and ‘Syn’ food groups that underpin the Slimming World plan work when you follow the guidelines – however they can also be open to abuse, especially to a man like me who can still eat very large portions in one sitting.

If fat people like to do one thing it’s avoid the truth. I’m no exception to this. I think I have Ostrich DNA.

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So I started adding up calorie counts so that I absolutely knew what I was eating.

A really good day sees me consuming around 1500-1600 kcal, and an average one is probably around 2000-2100. An off the rails day lately only seems to mean about 2500 -which is due to the fact I don’t keep ANYTHING in the house that I can go truly nuts with.

Unless I want to drink a litre of olive oil, but that’s never really appealed to me.

The worst I can do outside of that is have a second banana (I only ever have two in the house at a time) or a whole bag of frozen strawberries. So – although I have off days, the food is (currently at least) locked down. I plan to tackle the portion sizes at a later date but I’m still hoping that will sort itself out.

The exercise is what’s changing…

So if a big push into this is what comes next then I want to understand what is currently making me feel so driven. I want to move forward with every fibre of being – but why am I feeling like this? I’m not sure what is providing my impetus at the moment with exercise, and my urge seems almost primal lately.

Is it newfound capability or just determination?

Initially it was the latter as the former was in short supply a year ago – but both now seem to go hand in hand and have become interlinked in a way that they never were before. Now the more I do the more I end up wanting to do. A year ago it was very different and my progress was initially almost completely dependant upon mental brute force and willing myself to take another step.

I did a little more research recently into Apple Watch’s activity stats and how they work. It seems that as long as you keep your weight up to date (I do) in the health app, the watch learns what you regularly get up to and adjusts itself accordingly. So – even though I was doing more at the start of January than I was 12 months ago, my exercise stat hadn’t MASSIVELY changed until mid January when I started working hard on making it go up.

In order to do this I had to do a LOT more than I had previously done. The aim of the fitness app is to ensure constant progression rather than just staying the same and watching a pedometer counter go up endlessly for doing the same walk that you did when you were ten stone heavier.

I’m already noticing the benefit of the increased cardio exercise that this requires and it’s only been three weeks since I started a push toward it.

However – I’m loathe to assign a goal associated to this until I become a bit more secure with how my mood and body reacts to it over time. I still have way too much weight (and knackered knees) to do something like jogging, but I’m getting better and better on my exercise bike – and if my last loss of 6lbs was anything to go by (I don’t expect or want that every week) it’s going to be a long term winner.

So – I still haven’t answered my question, which is irritating. Normally by this time I’ve decided on something. However internet – maybe that’s been my mistake. I’ve tried to create a formula in the past and tie a neat little bow on it rather than just coming to one organically.

Increasing my cardio capability does nothing but good and also plays perfectly into my Snowdon goal – even if I’m not yet consciously working towards it. As I get fitter maybe it will all just slot into place…

Hmmm….

I suppose while I’m still enjoying my walking and (to an extent) my exercise bike, eating well and staying focused I can just let this slide for a little while. Feel free to give me ideas in the comments though – I can’t promise I’ll take action on them but you never know!

Davey

Year one retrospective

My last post was very very reflective. It was an effort to deal with some very deep feelings, and it did.

I felt somehow purged after writing it – and the feedback both publicly and privately was both humbling and heartfelt. I can’t thank those who took the time to reach out enough. Your words (and sometimes tears) meant everything to me.

In a very buoyant frame of mind I’ve taken some time today to look through the photos that I FORCED myself to take and keep – regardless of how they made me feel at the time. Many of them I felt showed me in a poor light and I was intensely embarrassed when I looked at my own image.

I don’t regret taking a single one though because today I’ve been able to look back over the feelings and thoughts that I experienced on my journey and milestones so far and see the progression thats happened over the last year – starting on the 26th January 2016.

However from my blog’s perspective it really started on the 10th February when I began writing and shortly after tried to walk somewhere and use my exercise bike.

The walking distance I was capable of (which at the time tore both my calf muscles and the plantar tendon in the base of my right foot) was roughly the end of my street or just past the beer garden at a local pub (the Saxon Mill). On my bike I managed around 0.4 miles before I was in agony and couldn’t breathe.

However I’d stopped drinking and was beginning to think about improving my health. It took a while though as I’d decided that I needed to be certain that was a thing of the past before I tried to diet.

My brother took a sneaky photo following this in mid March – which (if you take into account the picture above my head) says much about our mutual tendency to take the mickey out of eachother, but even more about how far I’d fallen health wise. My face, arms and stomach are swollen and bloated – just like the rest of me.

However, quietly sitting on my wrist (although I didn’t know at the time) was my new best friend.

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On the 14th April I finished an intensive four week recovery programme which used Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and mindfulness to help me explore my relationship with alcohol, food, and the recent death of my mother.

I’d promised myself that As soon as this was complete I’d start a diet plan of some kind – so I did. On the 16th of April I joined Slimming World.

This was a truly terrifying and horrible day – but also the start of something wonderful. I was 34st 8.5lbs when I stepped on the scales, and could hardly fit on the little red chairs in the school hall.

I cried myself to a standstill writing my blog later that evening.

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Two weeks after starting I’d lost eight pounds. In many ways I was still a little in denial about the task at hand – but feeling more positive. In early May I tried to walk small distances again – and found that I couldn’t do even 1/3 of a lap of the park near to where I worked (Arrow Valley in Redditch) but persisted and also started trying to walk around St Nicholas Park in Warwick.

This started twin addictions – one for walking in the park, and the other related to a group of cygnets that I spotted. Ultimately only one of them survived – and that day (forgetting what a baby swan was called) I christened it ‘The Swanling‘ – but please don’t ask me which one is which!.

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I’d also started collecting certificates and stickers. This too would become something of an addiction…

However I was initially struggling to understand the SW plan. I’d begun to eat things in the wrong quantities and had my first blip quite early on – which knocked my confidence. For the first (and last) time I stomped out of the group without staying for the talk. It was a big mistake.

I spent the week hating myself needlessly and never left without staying to group ever again.

At this point I started realising that the Apple Watch on my arm might be more than just a toy – and began (hamfistedly) trying to track my walking progress. I still couldn’t walk far – but by the 3rd of June I was able to do a single lap of Arrow Valley or St Nicholas.

The crappy app I used gave continually unreliable stats – but I was (with a LOT of sitting) beginning to gradually improve.

Sometimes I found the whole process really demoralising though and at times was in near constant pain – tearing muscle after muscle as well as still suffering badly with plantar heel and tendon problems.

Slimming World however seemed to know just when I needed picking up, and around this time I quite unexpectedly got an award. On the 18th June I was voted my group’s man of the year – and also my 2 stone certificate.

At this point I was still taking 5 pills a day for my type 2 diabetes – but for the first time on the 12th of July I had become fit enough to walk down the hill near my house to a diabetic retinopathy screening and back up again.

It was a massive milestone for me, but also an annoying reminder that chairs with arms were still my natural predator.

On the plus side all the extra activity meant the certificates kept rolling in during July and by the end of it I was 3.5 stone lighter. This was a much needed morale boost, because by then I’d also been made redundant…

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However, despite no small degree of sadness I tried to see it as an opportunity and a new beginning rather than an end. The weather was good in August and I was loving my walking!

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It was around this time that a chance photo with a friend who was exhibiting at the Leamington Art in the Park festival (she’s very talented) made me realise just how far I’d come. All of the extra notches that I’d had to make in my belt suddenly became really apparent when it slipped out of it’s loop.

At the time I realised I’d lost around 8 inches from my waist.

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This REALLY spurred me on – and I began to test myself more and more.

In August I returned to Aberystwyth (my university town – and somewhere I love) and climbed constitution hill which was followed by a bath for the first time in around a decade. On the way home the next day I then walked around the medium difficulty trail at Nant Yr Arian’s forestry commission which was something I never thought I’d be able to manage.

Until I did.

I finally rounded off the month by conquering a fear that had been with me for ages. I caught the train to Birmingham and left my car behind. I had to make my way under my own steam – and there was no backup plan.

My trip was enjoyable, but also a mixed bag, and my shirt was embarrassingly soaked with sweat from the heat in the museum that I had wanted to visit. Although I’d done it I still felt like I stood out in a crowd and was very self conscious.

However I did do it – and a friend pointed out to me around this time that I had (in a week) walked the length of the English Channel. Filled with enthusiasm from this I rather whimsically set myself the goal of walking the slightly longer channel tunnel length (31.5 miles) the following week.

August also heralded more certificate successes and by the end of the month I’d lost over four and a half stone…

In September the idea of walking virtual geographical distances mushroomed a little when a lady at Slimming World casually suggested that I expand my horizons and track my progress across the globe on a larger scale.

I decided to run with this idea and plot my walking progress from the moment I joined SW – mapping it onto a virtual walk from Lands end to John o Groats (847 miles). I realised that (thanks to the friend on my wrist tracking everything that I’d done since buying it) that I was already a good way toward my goal and that I now walking around 134 miles a month!!!

I also tried to conquer my (still) nagging negative feelings about travelling to Birmingham under my own steam and not long after made a trip to the Electric cinema (something I’d wanted to do for many years but couldn’t) which was still a squeeze – even with their front row premium seats.

Thanks to around another stone being gone, September heralded a noticeable increase in mobility and I found myself exploring all over the place – often with four legged companions!

Unusually the English summer just kept on going in 2016 and October was also a great month. I spent some time exploring Hay Wood locally, got re-acquainted with canal walking, took home my six and a half stone certificate – and also managed to make it around the whole of Cardiff Bay!

To put a cherry on October’s cake I also managed to get the group’s ‘Mr Sleek’ award (and a fetching tie) as well as a seven stone award – which happens to be THE WEIGHT OF A FRIDGE FREEZER!!!

November started to get a little chillier – and since I’m getting thin on top I embarked upon a new relationship to keep me warm in the cold winter evenings. Me and peaky are still very happy together and have yet to fall out!

Peaky kept my head warm as the leaves fell from the trees and winter drew nearer and (despite a pretty epic episode of shin splints in my left leg which is frikkin painful!!!) I managed to get some more bling, walk across the completely unmanaged and overgrown Ryton Woods (making my leg waaaaay worse like an idiot) play with a cute puppy in group and take a small fortune’s worth of huge clothes to charity.

By the time December arrived I was still motivated – but probably somewhat unsurprisingly given the time of year things slowed down – both mentally and physically. I became obsessed with the idea of reaching a ‘plateau’ and that somehow I would fail.

In reality (looking back) I was always moving forward – and just occasionally admiring the view.

Thanks to my Slimming World group and friends I stayed largely on plan throughout Christmas – even walking six miles to my brother’s house for and back for dinner on Xmas day (with an epic blister all taped up) just to ensure I wasn’t naughty.

Christmas had no bottles of Southern Comfort as was traditional for me for many years past and was powered only by the magic of weaponised caffeine.

And so we come to January.

It’s not over yet – but by the end of it I’m hoping that I’ll have my ten stone certificate. 

So far this month has seen me hit my target of walking from Land’s end to John O Groats, have my first (unsuccessful) job interview in a decade and a half, meet more dogs, start to massively increase my cardio based exercise and walk the length of the Stratford Greenway.

To make me even happier, the swanling in St Nicholas park has survived, and is flourishing. It gets a bit more beautiful every day.

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So – that’s my year, and you know what? For the very first time in nearly a decade I can look back on the last twelve months of my life and feel a sense of pride.

Furthermore I feel something else too. Hope.

I no longer take medication for my diabetes (which appears to be in full retreat) and I’m far less likely to die a really early death. I’m fitter than I think I’ve ever been at any time I can remember.

I love life at the moment internet – and I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store. I hope you’re here to find out with me!

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Davey

 

 

Anniversaries

The 26th and 28th of January are a big days for me – but for very different reasons. Whilst one is cause for celebration the other is not, and both have been playing on my mind for weeks.

I need to get my thoughts about these out of my head and onto the page, despite their anniversary still being a few days away.

Firstly – the 28th. The bad one. The day my mom died a year ago. It doesn’t seem like five minutes ago since it happened.

My thoughts on this subject are complex. I wasn’t alone in thinking that she was a damaging and often abusive lady who struggled to connect with anyone on a level other than passive aggressive hostility. Until the day she died she created nothing but conflict with those that found themselves in her orbit.

But she was still my mother…

Because of this I am left with a sense of loss for what should have been rather than fond memories of what was. Over the last year (with varying degrees of success) I’ve had to learn to forgive the person that I knew and try to love her regardless.

I’ll be very honest. Sometimes this means that I have to consciously ‘re-touch’ reminiscences of her so that I can retrospectively experience them in a warmer light – because in reality there are so few good ones that I’m left with.

I don’t do this with anything or anyone else in my life. I have consciously chosen this approach to her memory because there’s no milage in bitterness – especially when it’s directed at someone who’s gone.

All it does is harm those that remain and that’s no way to live.

So I instead remember the (often partially fictional) moments when she smiled and hid special presents at Christmas when I was a little boy, or walks that we went on in the park, and a pirate costume she made for me when I was at infant school.

I jealously guard these memories when I find them. They’re insanely precious. Over the last year I’ve tried to grow and propagate them like flowers in a garden that’s otherwise barren.

For the most part I’ve succeeded. I’m not angry when I think about her and I don’t have animosity in my heart. After a lot of effort I can now see images of her in my mind where she’s happy and smiling.

However I can’t find it within myself to miss or mourn her in the way I think people might expect me to. As much as it would salve my conscience to know that I feel the appropriate and socially acceptable grief one normally associates with the death of a parent, I don’t.

I have a lot of guilt because of this and I often wonder if it makes me abnormal or a bad son.

This is compounded by the fact that (if I’m brutally honest with myself) the 26th of January is a far more significant date to me than the 28th because it represents a massive and positive change in my life.

It’s the day I gave up drinking.

For newer readers who haven’t been following my blog for the last year I don’t consider myself to be an alcoholic – and never did when I was drinking either – although toward the end I had begun to accept that I was probably ‘alcohol dependant’.

This (probably wafer thin) distinction between the two terms meant (to me at least) that while I wasn’t physically in need of alcohol I had learned to emotionally rely upon it to manage almost every aspect of my life. The truth was that instead of helping me it was damaging me almost every conceivable way.

It helped me excuse my eating behaviour over and over again and made it much easier to ignore the reality of my situation – which was that I was committing suicide with food and drink as surely as I would have if I’d taken a bubble bath with my electric toaster.

In a darkly comic moment I realised afterwards that even if I had wanted to take it – this domestic appliance related demise was no longer an option. Although I had the toaster (and the electric) I could no longer fit in the bath.

I had told many close friends I didn’t expect to live to see 50 and that I had accepted that I would probably have a very early death.

Things hadn’t always been this way though. Although my eating and drinking issues started early in life the more pernicious consequences of my habits (such as diabetes, mobility problems, breathing difficulties etc etc) only became problems over time.

Initially alcohol and food were just convenient (and enjoyable) ways to deal with unresolvable and painful emotions. In the early years these were mostly related to my mother but by the time I left home for the second time the patterns that would begin to control me were firmly embedded and I used both substances to deal with the bad times and celebrate the good ones.

I blocked my mom out for years – but in the last stages of her life (through a convergence of circumstances rather than a conscious choice) I finally allowed her back in again. In many ways I was convinced at the time that this was a mistake. In the months following our reacquaintance (up until just before she died) I upped my alcohol intake dramatically to counteract the stress that dealing with her brought.

Then during a particularly disagreeable visit to see her (just after she had left hospital for the final time) my brother stormed out of her bungalow. He exited in a fit of frustration and anger with her (mostly) because she had lasted less than two days without a cigarette after not smoking for almost six weeks in a high dependency COPD ward.

As my mother and I sat alone in her house, and the silence following their argument slowly descended, she turned to me and after a moment said ‘I’m so misunderstood.’

I laughed.

Not because it was funny. It was an exasperated laugh, born primarily out of incredulity. Everyone was trying to help her and she was continually pushing all of them away, making each one in turn regret that they had tried to care.

I didn’t know why she so often did or said so many things to hurt people but in that moment I definitely understood her capacity for self delusion. I knew what it was like to give in to seductive but self destructive impulses. I also knew what it was like to eventually feel consumed by them – and to decide that there was no way out.

I realised the reason why I was still sitting with her was that unlike my brother I felt no anger or disappointment that she had started smoking again.

I didn’t feel that way because I expected it. I knew deep down that I was looking in a mirror when I looked at my mom. She knew she was dying – and she had known for years that what she was doing would eventually kill her but she did it anyway.

And there it was.

I drank and ate the same way that she smoked. There was no reason to worry about the consequences because (like her) I’d convinced myself that nothing mattered any more. The end was inevitable and I couldn’t change it.

Until that moment I was so sure that I was nothing like her.

I often couldn’t bear her company. It was impossibly hard to avoid arguments and I found it completely exhausting playing the games of mental hopscotch that were required to do so. She was full of anger and bitterness and could never move past anything that she considered was a personal slight or injustice.

And yet I was doing exactly the same thing that she was to herself but with a different substance.

So two days before she died on the 26th Jan I had my last drink. It was one of the most difficult mental transitions of my life – but now as I sit here a year later I know that it was also the most important.

So – it’s complex. I feel happiness that I finally found my current impetus for change – but I also feel guilt because of the reasons behind it. My shift didn’t start because of a nurturing, loving mother. It came as the cumulative result of years of pain, frustration, anger and sadness and because I wanted to be nothing like her.

I feel very conflicted because of this.

In an ideal world over the years she would have led me by the hand toward being the man I am now with support and love. She’d have been here with me as I type to celebrate my successes and commiserate my failures in life. We’d share a cup of tea while we talked about the good old days, and the happy memories that we had made together as mother and son.

That’s not what happened however – and every day that I get better and recover from years of self abuse I have to construct my own, better reality. In this new world I continue to choose a healthy life, and not live in the past or give in to anger or bitterness.

As I sit here nearly a year later I think the best that I can do is say that in her memory I’ve done something good with the last year, and that wherever she is now I hope she’s content and that she too has finally found happiness.

mom

Davey

Pugly and guesswork

For the second Friday in a row I haven’t been stressing about pounds and ounces, and it’s an odd feeling. I woke up this morning (Saturday) and was again completely stress free about standing on the scales – and it’s not because I don’t want to lose weight. It’s something else entirely and I’m not completely sure what that is.

I do know that in a relatively short space of time I’ve felt a rather profound change in my attitudes towards exercise and how it makes me feel.

Frankly I’ve never felt like this before in my entire life.

The reason for my shift in focus is as much a mystery to me as anyone who may be reading – but ever since my Apple Watch challenge a couple of weeks ago (which entailed filling all three of my activity rings for a whole week) my focus has moved from pounds and ounces to making absolutely sure that my day contains enough of the right type of movement.

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Although I’ve walked some epic distances lately (I’m at around 1000 miles walked since I joined Slimming World in April last year) one thing I’ve not really paid attention to is the cardio element of my exercise.

I’ve not consciously avoided it – but crucially I’ve also never proactively sought it out either.

As you can see in January (the start of the month is pretty typical of most months preceding it) there’s been a significant shift in my behaviour in the area of my green exercise ring.

This is clearly having a continued positive impact on my blood sugar. I’m still not taking any medication for my diabetes and since the 10th Jan I have been managing my condition with diet and exercise alone. The list below is measured in mmol/L (millimoles per litre) and should be between 4-7 to qualify as ‘normal’.

  • 10th Jan – no test/no meds
  • 11th Jan – 5.5 (12.30pm)
  • 12th Jan – 4.9 (7.30pm)
  • 13th Jan – forgot to test
  • 14th Jan – 6.3 (9.30am)
  • 15th Jan – forgot to test
  • 16th Jan – 5.6 (11am)
  • 17th Jan – 5.1 (10am)
  • 18th Jan – 5.3 (9.20am)
  • 19th Jan – 5.5 (10.10am)
  • 20th Jan – forgot to test
  • 21st Jan – 4.9 (10.15am)

Although my change in exercise behaviour initially slowed my weight loss – this week the pendulum unexpectedly swung back in the opposite direction and I lost a whopping 6lbs on the Slimming World scales this morning.

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As long as my body doesn’t circle the wagons next week and slow right down I am (seemingly out of nowhere) on target to hit my 10 stone goal by the end of January. I have one more weigh in to do it and for it to happen I only need to lose half a pound.

I’m not going to be complacent though. I need to remain focused and keep exercising whilst following the plan. No celebration meals, or belt busting treats for me. I started the day as I meant to go on – with a 35 minute hill climb on my exercise bike at 9am.

I’ve found that as long as I don’t do this EVERY day I am seeing tangible improvements each time I do this. My heart rate is now lower, I can go a bit faster, and for a bit longer than I could only two short weeks ago.

I’m still not loving the bike however. It’s a means to an end at the moment.

My first love is still walking and thankfully the ladies at Slimming World have my back. They know of my weakness for little waggy things with four legs and wet noses and strolling in the park.

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Today I’d arranged for a walk with a fellow slimmer after group and despite my assurances that I may steal her dog and take him home as my own my companion still brought little Pugly along with us today.

He’s an outrageously cute little fellow – and absolutely full of beans. He also appeared to take quite a shine to Angie (our always buoyant SW leader) in group today – which is totally understandable. He’s a good judge of character.

He’s a little more nervous of other dogs however, but is quite a plucky chap and only turned tail to run when an extremely playful black labrador decided that Pugly would be the object of his affections. Honestly I doubt logistically either of them could have pulled that feat off – so he was never in any peril.

I’m not sure the same could be said for my Swanling however – who was finally around to say hello for the first time in weeks today. He/She (I don’t know which since there’s still no sign of a handbag or a briefcase) was hissing almost immediately, and was shortly after joined by the other two swans, who looked like they didn’t like poor Pugly at all.

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My four legged comrade wasn’t quite so chipper and inquisitive four miles later however. His enthusiasm was definitely on the wane as on the third lap he slowly began to lag further and further behind. Having little legs clearly has a bearing on distance capability and his appeared to be giving up the ghost somewhat by the time we headed back to my companion’s car.

By the end of it though we’d walked for about an hour and 45 mins, rattled off a relaxed four miles and had both had a lovely chat. We said our goodbyes, wished each other the best for the week ahead and started making our respective ways home.

In my case as I walked to my house all I could think of was food.  I’d missed breakfast before my weigh in and I doubt that much on the planet would have been capable of standing in between me and lunch – which in my case was going to be a beef and vegetable chilli.

I dont have rice with mine (mostly because I try to limit carbs wherever I can) and instead bulk it up with LOADS of speed food. I limit the meat intake by adding chick peas and split it over two really healthy and filling meals.

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The ingredients for today’s chilli were (with calorie values on NON speed foods):

  • 500g (5%) fat minced beef (775 kcal)
  • half a tube of tomato puree (100 kcal)
  • a can of chopped plum tomatoes (74 kcal)
  • a can of chick peas in water (306 kcal)
  • a can of kidney beans in water (280 kcal)
  • mushrooms
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 orange pepper
  • half a bunch of broccoli finely chopped
  • a courgette
  • an onion
  • plenty of roughly torn mushrooms
  • two cloves of garlic
  • a beef stock cube
  • Paprika, cumin and chilli powder
  • Salt to taste

The non-speed food adds up to 1535 kcal. I rarely bother counting the other veg – but it’s minimal.

This seems like a lot – and for me it’s two large and very very filling meals. I’m also fully aware this means I will today be eating significantly larger portions than many other people reading this. Crucially however, I can eat all of this today and remain (even if I didn’t exercise) fully in plan.

I may have some natural yogurt and frozen berries later tonight – but it’s highly unlikely that my day’s intake will exceed 1800 calories.

According to Apple Watch I have already burned 1464 active calories out of a total of 3800 kcal, and its only 4pm.

The reason that I’m going into this fine level of detail is that half way through writing this I realised why I’m not stressed any more on a Friday.

It’s because I know already how EXACTLY when I cook now how much I’m burning and how much I’m eating.

Although I’m following Slimming World for simplicity I realised a while back that I needed to understand exactly what speed, free and syn REALLY means in the real world, so that I don’t worry and guess all the time (and potentially overdo it) and then face unexpected disappointment.

I may have a week here and there where my body decides to slow down – but crucially I know that even with this generous amount of food for the day (and I know that one day I’m going to have to look at reducing this in order to become who I ultimately want to be) I am in control like never before.

So internet – that’s my day.

Emotionally I have a tough week ahead – and today was just the start I needed to make absolutely sure that I’m in the best place I can be mentally and physically to deal with it. With this in mind, as I reflect upon today I can say that without exaggeration I feel (in both of these respects) as good as I think I’ve ever felt at any time in my life.

I couldn’t ask for more than that!

Davey

A year on Mars

It’s a cold, but also rather lovely morning. The sun is out today – and I’ve an appointment to go to, so I’ve started out early and dressed up warm. Everywhere I look the light is streaming between trees and houses and chasing away the crisp and beautiful frost from every surface.

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As I walk today I’m not trying to beat any records – just trying to order my thoughts. I’m not listening to music – and instead just paying attention to the sounds of the world and people as they pass by.

There are a number of anniversaries drawing near. Some are positive and others… well, not so much – but as these come closer I’m beginning to think more and more about their significance, and where I was then versus where I am now.

This mood of reflection appears to be having an impact on my dreams though, which over the last week or so have been periodically very vivid indeed, and I’ve awoken some mornings full of adrenalin and (in the case of today) also with a strong fight or flight response.

This morning I found myself jolted myself awake in the middle of a dream where I was brawling with someone.

There aren’t many people in the world I don’t like – but this was a real (rather than imagined) figure from my past and I was genuinely enjoying thumping this person (repeatedly and gleefully) in the face.

I’ve only ever punched one person as an adult in a fight (and on that occasion some twenty plus years ago it was in self defence) but in my dream it felt good. There was a sense of triumph – like I was finally living out a fantasy.

I’ve looked this up online (I never Google dreams and I’ve already done it TWICE this week!) and it seems that it can mean many things, if you believe what you read – and I’m not 100% sure I do.

Mostly this seems to be symbolic of someone dealing with unresolved personal conflict or significant change.

‘Violent dreams are relatively common and may be a reflection of the confusion and conflict that the dreamer experiences in daily life. Interpreting dreams with violent themes suggest that the dreamer has unconscious negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, and anger. If you are not dealing with these feelings consciously, your dreams are compensating and bringing into awareness the need for honest reflection and emotional balance in daily life.’ (link)

I don’t think that I’m angry about anything – although deep down I do have a lot of unresolved anxiety and maybe even some fear about the future that didn’t exist a year ago.

Things that play on my mind these days are topics like finding a job, the gradual decline of my bank balance in the absence of regular pay cheques, who I’ll be when I’ve lost my weight (as well as whether or not I will manage to lose it after all) if I’ll ever have another relationship and a few other more personal things.

Suffice to say there is always something vaguely unresolved floating around in the back of my mind, and I could probably never be accused of being an uncomplicated person (although who could?). Even when I look calm on the surface there’s usually a lot of mental paddling going on under the water.

Lately I work these internal worries and conflicts out by writing them down. Usually this enables me to engage in the introspection I seem to crave recently but also usually has the side effect of resulting in a resolution of sorts too. I often end up understanding myself a just a little bit better after putting together a post – but for some reason at the moment I’m also dreaming stranger and wilder things.

I’m not sure why the anniversary of something is a big enough event that it changes a person’s thought processes. After all what does it really matter if it’s been a year or just two weeks since an event occurred? I didn’t feel this way a month ago, so what has changed in my mind when I start thinking about the significance of 365 days having passed by?

I was reading another blogger’s entry this morning about their negative feelings towards a significant birthday milestone in the near future. It started me thinking about why that particular day means so much to so many people compared to the day that preceded or followed it.

Time after all only exists as a concept that we use to explain the world around us and make sense of our lives – which makes it even odder that human beings obsess over dates. They don’t really mean anything at all.

You can be sure dogs and cats don’t do this and they get along just fine without that added (and self imposed) burden thank you very much.

In contrast for some crazy reason I’m locked into a lunar calendar mentality where the significance of my life’s milestones are almost exclusively related to the passage of a moon around the ball of rock I’m standing on. If I lived on Mars then I’d only feel this way every 686.98 days (based on it’s contrasting solar calendar) and even those days would be a longer 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35 seconds in duration.

So – when I intellectualise them, anniversaries become completely meaningless.

And yet they’re not – because I’m still thinking about them, and what they mean to my life.

Yesterday I asked my friend to take a photo of me, sitting in a similar place to where a photo (that I will always hate) was taken. Davey on the right was the 8XL man I was prior to giving up drinking and starting to lose weight. Davey on the left is for the first time wearing a 4XL shirt.

The start of the process that made that happen is one of the approaching milestones on my mind. It’s a complex moment in my life and is for another post when I have finally decided how I feel about it.

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I’ve already shown this photo to my Slimming World group on our Facebook page – so In their case (if they’re reading) I apologise for the duplication.

Although I’m still not happy with the man on the left (he still looks fat) I’m not blind to the significance of my achievements so far. The man in blue is to me ‘only’ a half way point and as such (despite representing both pride and a lot of effort) he looks to me like someone who will have to do a lot more fighting to get to where he wants to be.

Maybe it’s unsurprising then that the man on the left is punching people in his dreams.

Maybe the meanings behind his subconscious thoughts are simpler than he thinks.

Maybe they are present because on a daily basis he is trying to find within him the fight to carry on with the task at hand and to love the person that he looks at in the mirror every day.

Some days (if I’m truthful internet) it’s my own face I want to punch – in retribution for all the things I’ve done to damage my body – and yet on other days I see a man that I want to hug for finally finding deep down (somewhere that was previously inaccessible) the will to change things for the better.

Thankfully a year ago I only saw the one I wanted to punch, so that’s progress!

Davey

Wrinkly

I’m always on the look out for the little victories associated with weight loss. Sometimes they pass me by unnoticed and at other times they loom much larger than expected.

Over the last two weeks my priorities have shifted somewhat with my Apple Watch objectives, and I’ve found quite unexpectedly that exercise has become something of a minor addiction – or at least the need to fill my stats has become a driving force behind my day.

All of a sudden the numbers on the Saturday morning weigh in scales have become slightly less important to me than my new objective of getting under 18 minutes per mile when walking.

Currently I’m stuck at around 18.5 on average – but crucially (although I can go no faster and at this speed my shins and calves are burning and complaining) I can maintain the pace without stopping for around two miles (even with gradients) – which is the exact distance from my house the coffee shop I often frequent in Leamington Spa.

I wish I had a long enough tape measure (or the presence of mind) to have noted down the girths of the various bits of myself before I began this recent push, because although I suspect I’m not losing too much weight I feel like I’m a little trimmer in my clothes – which is a lovely side effect.

All this would be absolutely smashing on its own and I’d be more than happy with this as a big enough win for the day (or week) until tonight when a friend texted me to say she’d had a fairly stressful day. After outlining the various factors that had been contributing to her daily woes she mentioned that she was really looking forward to a long soak in the bath before an early night.

Jealousy.

It’s a green eyed monster.

I don’t feel it very often but I’ll admit to feeling it this evening. ‘I wish I could have a bath’ was the only thing going through my head as I replied to the text.

Older readers may already know the back story behind this thought but newer readers may not be so familiar with the challenges I’ve had not only getting into a bath but also getting out of one.

When I started my weight loss journey it was next to impossible in my tub at home. I just got wedged if I tried to sit in it and found it next to impossible to extract myself without considerable (and sometimes painful) floundering.

It was SO frustrating.

I missed having a soak in the bath SO much (showers are great but they’re not the same) that back in August I paid WAY above the odds when visiting my father in Wales to stay in a hotel room with a large bath so that I could enjoy for the first time in many many years the sensation of relaxing whilst submerged in hot water (post here).

I know from the miracle of obsessive blogging (and the back of my Slimming World book) that at that time I’d lost 4st 5lbs and was 30st 3.5lbs (post here). I’m now over five stone lighter than I was back then (and surprised at how much rounder my face looks in that post) but due to my mind’s occasionally warped self image I tend to think that’s not very much.

However it really is – because tonight I decided not to sit and feel jealous of my friend and her bubble bath but instead to try and get into my own bath again. It has after all been around six months since I last attempted it.

Wow.

The first mistake I made was the amount of water I put in. Previously I had displaced a significant volume of liquid and soaked the bathroom floor if I put more than about six inches of water in the bath – so I err’d on the side of caution again.

Tonight I significantly underestimated how much I needed and initially found myself sitting in a hot puddle.

‘Ok’ I thought – ‘I’ll add more water’.

Now – logistically this would previously meant standing up and turning the taps on because physically I couldn’t easily reach them whilst sitting in the bath. There was too much stomach in the way.

Not any more. It’s still not 100% perfect but I can now lean forward and turn the taps on and off. Whats more – when I do the water flows either side of me instead of creating a dam of water thats ready to overflow.

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The upshot of this is that I am immensely happy with my new wrinkly fingers – which were obtained after sitting in a steaming hot bath for 45 minutes. Most of this time involved me sticking my head under the water for a nice relaxing underwater experience whilst I listened to my Friday Night Comedy Podcast from Radio 4.

It was great.

Recently I wrote a post about non-scale victories, of which there have been a few in recent months.

However, compared to a lot of them – this… this is significant.

It’s moments like this that make all my aches and pains worth it – and I’m struck not just by what this means to me but the fact that I am appreciating things that to other people may seem inconsequential.

I’m warm and tingly all over and I suspect I’m going to sleep like a baby tonight (I’ve also walked around seven miles today which will help).

For all the downsides to being overweight and immobile for so long, one of the unexpected benefits of trying to lose it all and get fit is the ability to gain a renewed sense of perspective about an awful lot of little things in life – and to once again become immensely grateful for them.

You can be sure that I’m never going to take having a bath for granted ever again.

So internet, my soak and my prune like appearance have been my non-scale victories for the day. Now I’m going to go to bed for a very very very relaxed and tingly (even still slightly wrinkly) sleep to dream about getting under 18 minutes per mile.

(Zzzzz walk zzzz walk zzzz walk zzzz….)

Davey

Dream meanings

It was a grey, damp, rainy day yesterday, and the light levels barely rose above ‘early evening’ all day long. It’s slightly brighter today – but not by much.

It’s easy to feel glum on a day like this – especially when you’re faced with a bewildering array of job sites (every time I follow a link to apply for a job I end up signing up to yet another one I’ve never heard of), an inbox full of mails from recruiters with roles that aren’t even vaguely suitable for you, and a bank account that’s reliant on you doing very little that costs money to remain in the black.

However I really don’t feel glum today. I didn’t yesterday either. I feel quite good actually. One might even say liberated.

I woke up the other day having had a rather unsettling dream about staying at a hotel. The plumbing and bathroom in this hotel (one that I was sharing with several friends) was awful. The toilet didn’t work and there was no privacy. By the end of my time in this horrible 70’s decorated environment with green deep polyester carpets the facilities were overflowing and I was desperately trying to clean up an impossible mess of effluence.

It all eventually overflowed in a raging torrent and I was surrounded by a disgusting mess.

I woke up at this point – but realised it wasn’t the first time I’d had this dream and Googled it to see whether there was an explanation that might make sense of why this would recur.

I found this (edited) explanation:

As in waking life, when in the bathroom in a dream you are often dealing with the unpleasant, intimate aspects of life: relieving yourself, elimination of wastes, cleansing yourself, etc. In dreams, additional obstacles or unfortunate circumstances are usually a factor. These might include: being unable to find the bathroom, a lack of privacy, having no toilet paper available, a dirty bathroom or a clogged or overflowing toilet.

Basically, bathroom dreams may be addressing your need to relieve yourself emotionally and/or psychologically. You may be dealing with a dirty, messy, toxic or crappy situation in waking life or are under a lot of stress. A public bathroom or restroom may suggest the dream is dealing with your social or professional life or relationships while the bathroom in a home suggests the issue may be internal or related to your home life or relationships.

The toilet itself may be dealing with your ability or inability to eliminate problems, relationships, emotions, etc. If the toilet won’t flush or is clogged, you may be unwilling or unable to release your emotions or express yourself. An overflowing toilet may represent an emotional outburst or you may be feeling overwhelmed by your emotions and the stresses in life.

The night before I’d told someone something about my relationship with my mother that I’d never mentioned to anyone before. I hadn’t been purposefully hiding it, and had good reason to keep it to myself – as it was something that was profoundly intimate and embarrassing.

It just came out in conversation.

I realised as my friend and I were talking that for a number of reasons I’d been hiding and pushing the thought to the back of my mind every time it came up. I’d hidden it from myself for years – motivated mostly by a sense of personal shame. Each time I’d wanted to vocalise it I’d stopped and pushed it back down – moving on instead to other topics.

For some reason I chose not to this time and instead relayed the story to my friend and then how it made me feel. I was close to tears after letting it go – and realised (based on the look on my friend’s face) that what I was describing was a form of abuse by my mother that designed to maintain control and manipulate me.

Honestly – this kind of thing isn’t anything new to me with regards to her memory, but this particular thing is something I hadn’t openly admitted to anyone before. Unburdening came with a sense of relief and no small degree of fear, but it was extremely liberating – and as I drove home in the dark rainy night afterwards I felt somehow lighter.

My mind was clearly still turning over the consequences of my tale being told however, and the whole night was characterised by restless sleep – and finally this dream.

Sharing this memory (which happened randomly in a very normal conversation) reminded me of a couple of things however – and they’re the root of why I feel so good at the moment.

Firstly, when you hide your true self the only person that you ultimately hurt is yourself.

Sure, you may temporarily save yourself some embarrassment and shame – but you’re only constructing a prison for that part of you in your own mind. It’s as real as any physical cell in a real jail, and the longer that you leave it closed the less likely you are to be able to easily find the key.

Being open and honest is the best gift we can give to ourselves and others – and although if anyone asks me for my pin numbers they can get stuffed, when they ask me how I feel I’ll always do my very best to tell them.

Secondly, people are inherently good.

Some may see this as a naive attitude – but I’m not a stupid man and I like to think I’m a good judge of character. I’ll have alarm bells if someone looks shifty just as much as the next guy.

Often if someone looks insane and you cant quite figure out why that’s evolution whispering in your ear and reminding you of primal reasons why you avoid certain things and move towards others. It’s a good thing to trust your instincts.

What I mean is that when I meet someone (that seems ok) for the first time I prefer my default position to be trust and openness – and I can only think of a few instances in my life where this has been betrayed. In the vast majority of cases people are worth the time you invest in them and they ALL have something to give.

So – my inbox is overflowing with stuff thats misdirecting me left and right, my bank account looks worse than ever, but I’m continually reminded that the yardsticks that I used to judge my old life are no longer as relevant as they once were.

Eventually something good will happen and when it does I’ll be standing there with a smile on my face waiting to shake its hand and say hello.

Finally internet – my soppy side came out whilst writing this – and I was reminded of the song that most parents must have been battered to death with in recent years – ‘Let it go’ from the Disney film Frozen.

It may be corny but people love it for a reason – you should listen to the lyrics and just let it go.

The cold never bothered me anyway.

Davey

Achievement unlocked!

There’s not much to report today – and so far I’ve had my head solidly buried in job and education sites. This will probably continue for the rest of the day in between me slowly simmering and stirring a huge cauldron of beef soup and popping out on little errands.

However – I thought I’d pass on the news that my first little Apple Watch victory popped yesterday evening when I closed the third ring of the day and received my (although it’s probably important only to me!) achievement badge for the week’s activity.

For those that missed it the challenge was to fill all three rings every day (Sunday to Monday) on any week in January. Although I’ve had the watch since it launched this is something I’ve never done before. I’m not sure whether this says more about my attitude to cardio based exercise up until now or my level of fitness in general.

Maybe it’s a little of both!

The mildly annoying thing about this achievement is (with the possible exception of yesterday) how much I enjoyed doing it. I have no idea why I didn’t try it before. I know for sure I’ll be attempting to maintain this kind of activity, and have re-initialised reminders on my watch that I’d previously turned off to try and keep my head in the game.

Who knows – maybe I can keep it up for a month?

Davey

 

A damp Sunday

It’s good to take pride in things that your country does well.

The land of my birth has its faults – but if there’s one thing that it’s eminently capable of producing it’s rain. Looking at the forecast for the week the gradual saturation of Warwickshire is set to continue for a while – so I may as well embrace it and get out there. It’s not going to stop just for me.

I’m not alone though thankfully.

Whilst turning over in my mind possible excuses NOT to go out today I noticed a picture of a bedraggled woman on my Slimming World Facebook group. This little dynamo of a lady had not only been out in the rain that I was planning to turn my nose up at, she’d been RUNNING in it and was absolutely soaked. Her hair was dripping in her picture – as was the rest of her.

But she was proud of herself for making the effort.

To be honest it was all the motivation I needed at just the right time. What was a bit of rain? I’d briskly walk down to the park, do a lap, pop to the shop, come back home, tidy up and do some lunch. That would add up to around four miles worth of activity and around 10,000 steps.

The park was sodden. I don’t go there too often when it’s waterlogged because all of the paths basically become mini lakes with occasional islands of pavement. Annoyingly before I’d set out I’d put on the one and only pair of denims that I have left which aren’t comically baggy.

However – despite being warm and comfy, the hem on these almost touches the floor, meaning that the bottom of my trousers by my heels act like a sponge in the rain. They had soon sucked all of the water up from the park and made absolutely sure my ankles didn’t miss out and made them nice and wet too.

But it was nice being outside nevertheless. You can’t beat the freshness in the air when it’s raining.

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There’s also a sense of wellbeing and accomplishment that comes from going out and braving the elements, especially when you know that you could have easily done the opposite and been lazy at home, in the warm, on your sofa with your feet on a pouffe watching the TV.

I had a quick look for the swanling – but it’s no-where to be seen. I’ve not clapped eyes on it for a couple of weeks now and I’m beginning to wonder if something has happened to it or whether its moved on.

Nevertheless I had a friend coming over for dinner soon – so the next quick stop had to be the supermarket just down the road. I’d already most of the items I needed the night before, but couldn’t carry any more things and left behind the ‘nice to have’ things in favour of the ‘cannot do without’ items.

My local shop has some special offers on at the moment – including Braeburn Apples (my favourite and they’re six for 69p!) so I thought I’d buy a couple of packs, get some more fat free natural yogurt and make myself some cinnamon and apple desserts as an evening treat.

After an hour or so of prep lunch turned out pretty nice – and there wasn’t a syn in sight.

Because they cook through much quicker I decided to buy chicken breast goujons rather than full breasts. These were fried up (in spray oil) with onions, garlic and half a chicken stock pot.

The roast parsnips, sweet potato and parsnips were mixed with crushed garlic and spray oil (to coat them) before giving them a light salt dusting to crisp up the edges in the oven. The boiled veg consisted of savoy cabbage, green beans, carrots and sprouts.

I didn’t take a photo of the gravy unfortunately but it was made from a carton of passata, some of the fried onions that I cooked with the chicken goujons, 1 clove of garlic and the other half of the chicken stock pot.

This is a suggestion someone gave me in SW and frankly it tastes delicious – but sadly it’s also pureed tomato and consequently isn’t particularly photogenic on a dinner plate covering one’s Sunday lunch. It has the habit of making a wonderful dinner look a bit like a murder scene…

Trust me when I say though that if you dont care if your gravy is brown or red you should chuck those fattening gravy granules in the bin and go for the passata alternative!

Finally – sitting here now my friend has gone home, and feeling a bit full I am irritatingly aware that still have some work to do. My green exercise ring (despite walking around five miles today) is not full and is teetering around the 16 minute mark.

I’m planning on shooting aliens online this evening – so I need to bite the bullet and get on my exercise bike sooner rather than later. To be absolutely truthful today I haven’t felt particularly motivated – and I’m not sure why. I had great sleep, ate well yesterday and didn’t overdo anything exercise wise – but from the moment I opened my eyes today I’ve felt lethargic and tired.

It’s not going to stop me though. I have to do just a bit more and I have my Apple Watch achievement.

Hope you’re enjoying your Sunday internet!

Davey

Nine and a half stone gone

Today is a complete first. Since April 16th I’ve not slept properly on a Friday due to worrying about weighing in on a Saturday – but last night I had Primo Grade A Five Star Excelsior Class Luxury sleep (with bells on)!

I woke up this morning feeling absolutely smashing and have been dancing around the kitchen to LMFAO – Party Rock Anthem (to quote Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally) ‘with the white man’s overbite’ and tidying the decks before heading off to Slimming World.

I must admit – this lack of worry is a little unsettling. I wonder if my theory about it helping me lose weight will hold true and I’ll falter without it… Only time will tell!

Mind you, as I reflect upon my words I realise that it’s amusingly typical of me to worry about not worrying enough…

(still jiggling and dancing author makes coffee to go and heads off)

Well – somewhat unsurprisingly after all my walking and working out this week I’ve ‘only’ lost a pound today. What is however more surprising is that I’m not upset. Not even a little bit.

The truth of it is that I feel so darned good at the moment that I really don’t care.

The spring in my step that I noticed whilst walking to group this morning is something that has been cumulatively more noticeable as the week has progressed. Even though I didn’t feel particularly unfit before I started trying to fill all of my Apple Watch activity rings every day for a week I definitely feel different now. Although the challenge in my app runs from a Monday to a Sunday I’ve actually already (by the end of today) done seven days in a row with significantly increased cardio activity.

I may be imagining it but my clothes also feel a bit looser and I’m on the cusp of being completely comfortable in a 4XL shirt. It fits and I can sit down in it if I breathe in a little!

Plus – my other cause for happiness is the nine and a half stone certificate I received this morning!!!

Often I can forget how significant the amount i’ve lost is – but sometimes I’m reminded that this is an unusually large sum in anyone’s book (largely when people say so!).

For the benefit of Europhiles reading this (nearly) 134lbs equates to (almost) 61kg. 

I tried to find a visualisation for this last night on http://www.ilostwhat.com – which allows you to pop in the pounds you’ve shed and gives you an amusing real world visualisation of what you’ve managed to get rid of. Some of the ladies from group have posted some impressive items on our Facebook group – which have really made me stop and think several times!

This is what mine says.

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For those of you with poor eyesight let me zoom in a little.

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It appears that I broke the logic behind the site…

So the only thing that I can do is do it twice. In this case I appear to have lost a small horse and a championship trophy awarded annually to the US National Hockey League playoff winner (I admit it – I Googled that… It’s a hefty piece of silver!)

But, you know what? It gets way way better than this.

This morning I can honestly say that I’ve felt like part of a family.

Members that I haven’t seen for a while have returned, ladies who come every week have been there as usual to say hello and natter about how they’re doing, there have been many hugs (I love hugs!), I’ve talked to people who I genuinely find inspire me to come every week, plans were made for coffee and walks, instant message chats arrived in my inbox from people spontaneously reaching out with offers of support and encouragement, and I even had an impromptu meeting (totally by accident) and lovely chat in Costa Coffee later in the day with a fellow ‘groupie’.

So – I’m not even going to try and talk myself down from my usual emotional ledge about not losing as much as I want to because I truly don’t care.

Everything about today and the people I’ve talked to has reminded me that what I’m doing can’t simply be reduced to numbers on the readout of the scales. It’s fundamentally more profound than that.

I have a life now – and a good one. Day by day by choosing the right paths I’m making that life fuller and more joyful. I’m becoming part of the world in a way that (even when I was thinner in the past) I never did before, and in turn I’m being enriched by the people and places within it.

It’s a great time to be alive. At this moment, right now, in my trousers, typing on my laptop and feeling happy.

Also – I have another (possibly even more profound) cause for celebration – but one which I am still being rather cautious about. I’m not feeling completely triumphant just yet.

Earlier in the week I completely forgot to take my diabetic medication. I also forgot to test myself on this day, and thought ‘no problem – I’ll do it tomorrow’.

The following day arrived, and my blood sugar was still good – sitting right where it should be. I picked up my tablets and was just about to pop one out of the blister pack and put it in my mouth when I thought ‘I wonder what will happen if I just… don’t?

So I didn’t, and I haven’t ever since.

BUT – I must point out that I’m not being stupid about this. Just stopping medication is silly, so I’m not only testing myself every day, but called the doctor to discuss what I was doing, ask candidly if what I was doing was silly, and whether there was anything I should be cautious about.

So far it seems that as I’m testing myself daily and things are ok. I’m apparently doing all I can do to ensure that I won’t harm myself and I have my GP’s blessing.

The doctor (having not read my notes thoroughly before calling) also nearly metaphorically fell off his metaphorical chair when I told him that I had lost nine and a half stone and now walked around 40 miles a week. After metaphorically picking himself up and metaphorically sitting back on his metaphorical chair he told me that I had a ‘proper’ HbA1c blood test scheduled in March anyway and would shortly after have my regular check up with the diabetic nurse to confirm and discuss my results.

March will therefore be my moment of truth.

Unless my levels go haywire in the meantime I’m not planning on taking any Metformin between now and then. I will try to manage my condition by diet and exercise alone.

Could it be (please please please please let it be so!) that I have managed to exercise and diet my way OUT of type 2 diabetes?

If it is then I may just have given myself the gift of life in the last 10 months.

So – I’m really really happy with my 1lb loss, and all of my cardio this week. I’m happy as well that I’m surrounded by positive, kind, thoughtful and loving people. No matter what the future holds and whatever difficulties lie ahead I know that I’m more prepared now than at any other time in my adult life to face what’s over the horizon.

Davey

Adequate

Well – it finally snowed last night. However the ‘snowpocalypse’ that the weathermen have been warning us about managed to pretty much thaw as soon as the sun came up – despite me being out and exploring by 9am.

Irritatingly the light dusting we recieved wasn’t even mildly photogenic – just really soggy and accompanied by a bitterly cold breeze – so (my dear reader) you will have to imagine the splendour that could have been and ignore the sodden, dripping reality that was.

To add insult to injury my friend in the Czech Republic sent me a photo last night of snow drifts outside her house. Despite her continued protestations about how tons and tons of the stuff day after day gets really really boring really really quick I still want to build a snowman.

Unbelievably she also refused to go outside, lie in the snow, do some snow angels and send me pictures to make up for the mild weather I’m enduring in the UK.

Some people are just selfish!

However – to counterbalance my profound disappointment over the sorry state of the morning’s weather I finally got some quality sleep last night. I went to bed packed full of hot beef stew and nestled under a couple of thick warm duvets before immediately dropping off.

When I woke up almost exactly eight hours later at 8am the first thing that popped into my head was the task of filling my Apple Watch exercise ring so that I didn’t have to worry about doing it later in the day. I’d go for a brisk walk and hunt for snow drifts in shady places.

However – once I was outside I found that my enthusiasm for the task hand was in short supply. As I rounded the soggy corner to leave my soggy street I realised I’d have to dig deep to find a good reason to rattle off four miles outside rather than turning around and going back into the warmth of my house to sit on my exercise bike.

The wind hit my face like an icy brick and was insanely cold. I pulled my double thickness gloves on, yanked my wooly hat down over my ears and turned my collar up – moving forward and muttering under my breath.

Ironically – only once I’d finished 90 minutes of walking powered only by grim determination (and had filled my green exercise ring) my previously motivation arrived late and completely out of the blue.

I received an e-mail to tell me that I didn’t get the job that I had an interview for on Monday. What’s more they gave me almost zero helpful feedback. The grading criteria for the interview was simply a number – which was supposed to explain every aspect of how they felt about my answers and competency. It translated (in the supplied key) to one word.

Adequate‘.

Now what I’m supposed to gather from this, or read into it is utterly beyond me – so I find myself with a burst of useless energy thats mostly supplied by being totally *****d off. I can happily deal with constructive criticism – but being left in a vacuum without input of any kind really gets my goat.

Still – I have to view this as a stepping stone and nothing more. I doubt very much it will be the only time that this will happen, and I already know deep down what I probably could have done better.

Having thought long and hard about my interview this week (which is mostly the culprit behind my crappy sleep) I also have a list of things I could have done prior to attending to better prepare – and what I probably need to add to my CV in the coming weeks to improve my chances.

Now it’s time to start working on those things and move swiftly on rather then feeling glum, because that’s going to get me absolutely no-where.

Besides- there is reason to be cheerful.

I found my happy in Sainsburys the other day for 60p in a post Christmas sale. I’d been wondering whether or not I was too mature, wise (and disarmingly handsome) to use it – but after today I’ve decided that it makes me smile and it cheers me up.

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I’m sure you’ll agree that nothing says to a prospective partner ‘this man is a grown up and definitely appears to be relationship material’ more than a shiny new R2-D2 velcro wallet!!!

Now all I need is the courage to wear my Pikachu shaped Pokemon rucksack and my bright red Super Mario plumber hat in public and I’ll be sorted!

Finally – another interesting side effect of my cardio push this week is that today I’ve not been stressing about my weigh in tomorrow – which is a complete first for me. I have no idea why though – as exercise (when taken in larger then usual amounts) has in the past stopped me from losing weight or instead given me a very slight loss.

I still really want my 10 stone certificate by the end of January but- for the time being at least I’m focused on things other than numbers on the scales and just really enjoying the sense of wellbeing that I have from all my exercise.

That may change though internet if i don’t lose at least two and a half pounds tomorrow.

Tune in on Saturday to see if I throw my toys out of the pram after stepping on the scales and whether I’ve had to barricade myself in my house to deter the ladies attracted to my R2-D2 wallet.

Davey

Rogue Two

Although it’s a bit of an extravagance sometimes a film is sooooo good that it’s worth seeing a second time. Star Wars: Rogue One is (for me anyway) that film. Today was also doubly exciting because its the first time in quite a few years I’ve been to an IMAX screening of something – and it made my second viewing a really great way to re-visit it.

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I’ll be completely honest and say the reason I haven’t done this for a while is that IMAX seating is often (because of the tall, curved auditorium) a more restrictive width with less legroom than conventional cinema seating.

In the past the seats have really hurt to sit in – and that’s taken all of the pleasure out of my visits. Not any more!

However – my width restriction has now been replaced by ticket costs as IMAX isn’t cheap!

This week (since I am super frugal at the moment and have a tight weekly budget) in order to pay for it I’ve only bought food if it’s been reduced in the supermarket, and I’ve walked there to buy it when I needed it rather than use the car. I guesstimate that I’ve saved almost the money it required to treat myself to today’s visit so I’m guilt free.

Another plus is that I have loads of carrots, broccoli, cabbage, celery, lettuce and leeks and have been eating like a (rabbit) king for next to nothing this week. Currently as I type there’s a super cheap beef stew bubbling away in the kitchen that smells delicious!

It’s only been a month or so since I saw Rogue One last – but the second time around it was just as exciting and fresh as the first time – and I even saw some things I missed the first time.

I have to say though when the film closed I was actually in tears (which took me quite by surprise) thinking about Carrie Fisher – as Rogue One’s ending leads directly into to the events in ‘A New Hope’. I won’t go into what happens for fear of spoiling what is a really cool finale – but my bottom lip lost the plot.

I also have to hand it to Disney though – because despite my reservations when they purchased Lucasfilm it appears that they are doing a way better job of being George Lucas than George Lucas ever did. Still – he’s now richer than anyone ever needs to be so I doubt he’s particularly upset about how things turned out. If he so desires he can make lots of full sized Jar Jar Binks dolls and have an army of Gungans populating his ranch.

As long as there’s none in the films everyone is happy!

So – in conclusion, if you haven’t already – GO AND SEE THIS MOVIE IN IMAX ASAP!!!

In other news I came home and did five miles on the exercise bike to make sure I filled my green ring on my activity tracker. I now have five days in a row with all rings filled and that for me is previously unheard of.

I’m actually feeling a lot more energetic already with the added cardio and I’m actually really really glad I set myself the task of getting this Apple Watch achievement!

Finally – still no news on the job front. Many people have said that no news equals good news – but I don’t know. I’m trying to ignore it but the pessimist in me is fighting a brutal war with my realist and optimist sides for air time.

The good news is that all three of them agree that I should just get on with looking for other stuff and forget it for the time being – which is what I’ve been doing. Hopefully more news will come in the not too distant future and I’ll know for sure either way.

Anyway – the cheapest, healthiest syn free soup in the known universe is just begging to be eaten and I must oblige it.

Laters internet. May the force be with you!

Davey

Exercise, my BMI and goal weight

I’m probably thinking way too far in advance at the moment – but today I’ve been considering my goal weight. This is not because I’m nearly there but because I am absolutely 100% going to get there. 


A few days ago I noticed that my Apple Watch has a new ‘achievement’ to fill all of my activity rings every day for a week in January. As you can see it’s greyed out at the moment and that’s irritating me. 

The period of activity needs to be Monday – Sunday and at the moment I’m doing my best to pander to my watch’s desires. I’ve so far done it three days in a row.

I manually set my move goal to 1000kcal per day some time back – and I almost always exceed this – unless I have a day off. 

My stand and exercise goals are non-user modifiable and sit at 12 and 30 respectively. The exercise one often confounds me as I definitely feel like I’ve had exercise after a long walk but my green ring doesn’t agree. 

This fascist dictator of a stat wants me to be panting and sweaty. It only pays attention when I walk briskly up hills or exceedingly fast without a gradient. As I’ve become smaller my heart rate has regularly been SIGNIFICANTLY lower during all movement.

This is great news for my heart but annoying for my stats. 

So – I’m trying to oblige it for a change and make a concerted effort to do more cardio based activity than I normally do. Thinking about this is what’s made me focus on my end goal as well – which so far I’ve been very vague about. 

If people have asked me about it so far I’ve mostly said ‘mutter mutter 15 stone ish mutter mutter’.

After looking at my BMI and where it should be again today (something I’ve always known but tend to ignore as it’s a long way away) it’s a bit different. I have around 12-13 stone still to lose.


The low end of this scale seems to me to be dramatically under weight – and I can’t imagine me ever being that size. 

Mind you it’s also pretty hard to visualise the top end as well. I’ve only ever been this weight once in my life – when I was around 17. 

Apple Watch has made me think hard about the exercise I’m doing at the moment (as well as my calorie intake and usage) and how it relates to where I want to be. 

The grim reality is that to get there (as time goes on) I will need to do more and eventually consume less and less. 

Previously these kind of thoughts used to send me into a tailspin of denial – but at the moment (and I’m not sure if this is a surge of willpower or my body naturally feeling more energetic and my mind more positive) I’m viewing it as a challenge – and one that is totally do-able. 

I used to view all exercise as a disagreeable sensation that made me feel uncomfortable and usually in some kind of pain. 

As I’ve progressed with my walking I’m naturally getting faster and less out of breath. This is making me want to see what else I can do and because of that I’m trying to change my attitude towards (amongst other things) my exercise bike. 

I’m pledging (in public – so no takesiebacksies) that by the end of Sunday using a combination of walking and my cycling torture simulator that every day this week will look something like this. 


In other news Internet it might snow tomorrow and if it does part of me wants to build a snowman and make snow angels while lying in a snow drift!!!! 

Admittedly this part of me is silly but you never know. It could happen!

Davey

Stretching the truth

Good grief it’s cold this morning. My ears feel like they have frostbite and the collar of my jacket doesn’t quite cover the tops of them – even when I hunker down into my clothes.

I’m sitting on a bench at 7am in the dark outside a coffee shop, waiting for it to open.

There are several other caffeine purveyors I could choose, but this one is marginally cheaper and that’s all the thrifty motivation I need to endure the temperature.

Besides, sitting in McDonald’s (which is nearby and just to the right of me) thinking virtuous thoughts and just drinking caffeine seems vaguely perverse. All I can think of when I look through the window is ‘sausage and egg McMuffins are 21.5 syns and I refuse to eat them’ rather than ‘coffee and a McSalad please’.

I’m gonna wait. Not long now and I’ll be in the warm. Besides – shivering burns calories.

Allegedly.

Also – despite the cold snap it’s nice watching the world wake up.

I’ve been walking since about 5.30 am and I’m out here because I can’t sleep. On the plus side on top of the five and a half miles I rattled off on my exercise bike late last night I’ve just walked another four into and around town (almost). By the time I get home today my conscience should be spotlessly clean when I look at my fitness stats on Apple Watch – even if my mind is still dwelling on other thoughts.

Yesterday evening a wonderful continental friend spent her time translating something into English that she thought might help me with my moments of stressing and my tendency to over think some things in life.

She ended up sending me by e-mail her top 12 tips on how to overcome a mind that refuses to shut down.

The list was mainly aimed at combatting negative thinking.

For the record I don’t feel down at the moment – just a bit preoccupied with a variety of subjects. However a few of the points she sent me stood out in her mail regardless.

(I’ve brutally edited her list down for expediency only)

  1. Does this thought help me in any way?
  2. How would my best friend tell me I should feel about these thoughts?
  3. What would I tell my best friend if she/he were in a similar situation
  4. Does this thought help me to solve my problem, or does it just simply make it harder?

These for me are really important, and they remind me of the way not so long ago I was trying to re-frame my thinking about alcohol after my mother died.

Mostly the thing keeping me awake is that I’m playing yesterday’s job interview over and over in my mind and considering how I could have improved my performance. Last night I got back and after a while decided that regardless of how positive or negative I felt I needed to shake it off and immediately apply for more things – then chase up the ones I’d not heard back from.

I did this until quite late (another two CV’s forwarded, three previous requests chased and one mail from DHL telling me I am not what they’re looking for chucked in the trash). My brain was so alive with possibilities all of a sudden that I ultimately had to hop on my exercise bike to try and sweat it out of my mind.

That only tired me out for a little while though. After going to bed at 12.30 I was again wide awake by 2.30am and lay pondering the mysteries of the human condition in the dark of my bedroom whilst staring at the ceiling. I realised that perversely I was (in part) now being kept from sleeping by the very questions that were designed to lull me to sleep as I tried to answer them.

I’ve already spoken to some other people about one of the other things that’s going through my mind – but I’ve not really approached the subject in my blog. Some aspects of weight loss, despite my complete honesty about all the topics I post on are still difficult to write openly about.

‘Would you consider having surgery?’ My friend had asked me the other day.

The topic wasn’t out of the blue – but in reaction to my sudden shift in conversation topics as we talked about what we’d watched on TV the night before.

I’ve been dwelling a little bit more recently on the subject of loose skin and what I’m going to be left with when I’ve finished my weight loss.

This issue was (mostly) dormant in my mind until a few days ago until I happened to watch a rather gruesome documentary about celebrity cosmetic surgery. In it a woman was having excess skin removed from her stomach after dramatic weight loss. It was both a brutal and dangerous procedure that left significant scars and risks of serious complications.

She was willing to live with these. To her wearing a bikini with confidence was of paramount importance. Her fears about her appearance had overruled her fears of being cut open with a scalpel.

As I sipped my tea and stroked my friend’s snoring dog I had without realising it begun to share my own feelings on the matter.

Initially in my case my loose skin wasn’t noticeable as the pounds fell off – but I’m beginning to see it gradually developing in the mirror when I catch a glance of certain angles of myself. Although it’s not upsetting me at the moment it’s increasingly becoming something that I realise I’m going to need to deal with emotionally.

It’s going to become more and more noticeable as time goes on and I’m trying to decide how I will deal with this aspect of myself. Will I be strong enough to just carry on (to go swimming for instance) and not worry about it?

Part of me feels that if it’s just me that’s going to see it then honestly I couldn’t care less. This side of my psyche doesn’t mind having scars either physically or mentally.

After all – they contribute towards making me who I am.

However, another aspect of my personality views me quite differently. When I look in the mirror this side of me is evaluating the reflection of someone that it hopes will one day also be looked at by someone else.

Although I don’t think I’m yet in the right place to have a relationship again I can see a time on the not too distant horizon where this may no longer be the case. This is a good thing – as my previous certainty about continued solitude is gradually being replaced by hopes of future companionship.

However – in a similar way to how I ultimately reacted to the possibility of a gastric sleeve procedure a few years ago I don’t think I could face someone cutting bits off me and throwing them in the bin. It seems perverse to me to do this to myself (although I definitely don’t judge other people who have) just so that I can look more socially acceptable.

Cosmetic alterations seem alien to me. Every fibre of my being when I consider the subject feels nothing but a mixture of horror and revulsion about what it would really mean for my body.

The intensely graphic documentary that I watched the other night did nothing to change this.

‘No’ I’d replied to my friend. ‘I wouldn’t’.

‘Ok – how would you feel if the tables were reversed and you had a partner with the same issue?’ My friend then asked.

As with all of the best questions that friends point at eachother to help make sense of a problem this is the thing that’s been on my mind ever since. 

‘I don’t know’ is the honest answer, and that’s an uncomfortable thing to write down.

I’d like to think it wouldn’t matter. I’d like to think I’d see past things like something sagging a bit on a partner – but if I’m judging myself when I see my reflection in a mirror then how would I judge someone else?

I was suddenly struck with a fear as I drove home that I was afraid of what someone would think of me not because of the reality of how someone else would judge me when I’m naked – but instead because I might struggle to see past it in others.

Am I seeing my own prejudice in my reflection?

Does my opinion about how I look translate into the potential judgement of someone else – or is it just me having an opinion that is solely restricted to myself?

I don’t know the answer.

It’s an uncomfortable question because I don’t want to think I’m in any way superficial – but if I’m not then why do I notice my own flaws so much?

I’m trying to apply my friend’s pertinent check and balance questions to myself right now but temporarily I’m coming up short of answers.

I do know it’s not something I can change without medical intervention and that I would prefer to be fit and healthy with stretch marks (and unmolested) instead of the alternative.

I know that my friends would tell me I’m being stupid thinking about it and they’d probably be right.

However – although I’ve seen a lot of physical improvements in the last nine months the lion’s share of my weight loss journey has been more about the psychological after effects of being so overweight – and what happens when you dramatically change – than just all of a sudden being over the moon that I’m wearing smaller trousers.

Moving from being someone called names all the time in public (remember this post?) to being complemented on my appearance is something I’m still having difficulty dealing with at times.

(…)

The sun has now come up and the world is once more filled with people going about their daily lives. I’m in the warm with a hot beverage watching people pass the window of the coffee shop.

I’m almost one of them now.

I’m living alongside them and walking along the same paths that they do. Most of the time I’m anonymously hidden in plain sight, and they’re non the wiser. They aren’t seeing the fat man that I still am inside my head and they’re no longer shouting over the road calling me names.

The question is internet – when (if ever) will I stop seeing him in the mirror as well?

Davey

Fluff. Everywhere.

I’m hideously early for my job interview, I haven’t slept much due to thinking endlessly about it and the weather is absolutely awful. I’m also soaked and my car is parked in a place where I may have a ticket by the time I get back.

However I’m in an oddly good mood.

I awoke this morning to several texts from people wishing me all the best and other blog related comments from readers (old and new) on various posts that put a smile on my face.

As I sit in reception with my big yellow visitor’s badge (it has a HUGE ‘V’ on it) hanging around my neck watching the minutes tick by I’m actually still thinking about yesterday’s post.

At the time I wrote it with one particular friend in mind – but it seems to have resonated with many others as well – and once again I find sitting quietly in my various inboxes confirmation that fundamentally people are good. If you send positive vibrations out into the world then they tend to come back like boomerangs.

In the case of blogging it’s often deferred though – and people will read things that you wrote quite a while ago – when you may have been in a different mental space.

The consequence of this is that when you least expect it (and often when you are most in need of it) someone will say something positive and maybe even mention that they feel the same or that you’ve helped their own journey by sharing your thoughts.

I was reading and commenting on one lady’s musings on weight loss yesterday (you have to give support to others as much as you can) and her heartfelt, fragile feelings poured onto the page managed to take me right back to the start of writing my own blog – and the fears that I had of the unknown.

She didn’t know who she should tell in her family and friend circles about her weight loss plans and was agonising over an important and life changing decision. I felt exactly the same when I began – and her words brought back all of my own memories of the moment before I clicked ‘publish’ for the first time.

What would people say when I exposed my innermost feelings? How much abuse would I get? How humiliating would it be? Would they judge me? Would I be trolled?

Furthermore – why was I throwing myself willingly into what I expected was going to be a bear pit online when I already regularly received verbal abuse in public?

Completely unexpectedly 99.9999% of everything to do with my blog has resulted in nothing but positivity and friendship – and before I go into my first job interview since December 2000 (which is pretty scary) almost nine and a half stone lighter than I was I’m reminded of all the good that’s come from the choices in my life lately.

Being honest about who I am and what I feel to a wide audience has become one of the best things that I’ve ever done in my life. It’s as simple as that. Whatever happens in the next hour or so I am moving forward all the time. Every day gets a little better, even if sometimes it feels like it’s millimetre by millimetre.

Apart from having to wear a tie. I haven’t done that for a decade or more. It just feels odd. I haven’t made my mind up about THAT yet….

(Time for my interview… Please amuse yourselves in the meantime with this rare picture of me captured in the wild wearing a silk strangler. Cue elevator music.)

(hours pass)

Well – the interview seemed to go well – and for the most part I think I managed not to embarrass myself in front of the guys who were asking the questions.

As this was my first experience of a competency based interview I have to say I feel I repeated myself a few times – and I’m not 100% certain that I answered all of their queries satisfactorily, but you never know. They seemed like nice people anyway so the experience if nothing else serves to remove some of the fear of the unknown that’s been in the back of my head regarding the whole process of job hunting.

The building was surprisingly nice too. I’ve been working in very different surroundings for quite a while. This office in contrast to my previous one was very modern with a massive central atrium and loads of natural light with glass conference rooms and shiny lifts. I couldn’t help thinking that it would have made a great place for a selfie – but I doubt that hanging over the balcony taking one would have endeared me to a potential employer. I resisted.

So – we shall see.

In the meantime I am COVERED in black fluff. A thoughtful and already much loved Christmas present from a friend managed (before I realised what was happening) to shed black fleecy fluff all over my house, which in turn ended up all over the interior lining of my jacket and soft furnishings.

I tried to remove it all with a lint roller and the hoover the night before last – and thought I’d managed it – but it appears not. Thankfully I didn’t take my jacket off in the interview otherwise they’d have noticed that my shiny new white shirt was absolutely caked in black fur!

This evening therefore I’m on fluff patrol, and will do my level best to eradicate the scourge of fleecy dust bunnies from my house and clothes.

I’m sure you’ll agree I live a rock n roll lifestyle. I amaze myself sometimes at just how on the edge and dynamic I can be!

Tune in next week internet while I clear crumbs from my work surfaces with a damp cloth, and polish my dusty window ledge. It’s gonna be a blast!!!

Davey

It’s not a maze – it’s a choice

I imagine that the medical profession have a covert diagnosis for many that walk through their doors in January. 

IJFJ is the acronym that springs to my mind (I’ll leave it your imagination but three of the words are January, It’s and just) and the more I talk to people in my life the more I realise that this is about appropriate as descriptions get. 

Everyone has some form of cold or flu, most are missing the holiday period, some have relationship issues and others just feel a bit rough after several weeks of drinking Baileys and eating mince pies for breakfast. 

I’ve had some sleep for my part. Not great sleep if I’m honest – but cumulatively the chunks I’ve nailed down have steadied the ship and combined with yesterday’s loss I feel quite good. 

My new walking shoes however may ensure that tomorrow I will be hobbling into my job interview like a pensioner. They’re working muscle groups in my shins and calves that previously appear to have been chilling out in my (sturdy ankle supported) boots. 

I’ve done only three miles so far today and they’re on FIRE! 🔥 

This is great as I’m actually beginning to enjoy this kind of pain – mostly because it heralds the arrival of physical improvements that didn’t exist before it was there. 

Maybe it’s the sleep, maybe it’s yesterday’s weight loss, maybe the planets have aligned – or maybe the ham and tomatoes I had for breakfast had fairy dust in them but today I feel POSITIVE

What’s more I feel like sharing this with the world – and I’m a big believer in practicing what I preach. 

I’m making a conscious effort (and have been all day) to smile at everyone I meet and say positive things. 

Many years ago I realised that I had lost my happy face and that what I was seeing in other people was simply the reflection of my own less than positive demeanour. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again (and again) before I’m done with blogging but…

There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. 

It’s something of a confusing statement when you first hear it but I think few things in life ring as true as these words to me. I may sometimes fall short of my aspirations in this respect and forget my own advice – but every time I come back to them and consider what they mean it’s like a moment of mindfulness and they combine to spiritually uplift me. 

If you smile at people they invariably smile back. If you’re positive with them then they will often be positive back. Before you know it you’re consuming the harvest of the happiness you’ve seeded in others. 

I’m always amazed by people that see nothing but the worst in situations or others – and sometimes despair that they have such negative world views. However – more than that I’m struck by how poorer this ends up making them as their social circles shrink more and more until all they are left with are those that share their diminished world view.

This is the worst case scenario however. Most people (myself included) go through dips – but that’s all they are

Every fantastic rollercoaster needs to slowly climb from the bottom before it can see the world from on high and experience the rush of stepping off into the unknown. 

All of my slimming world buddies are doing just this. They’re putting reminders of past achievements on kitchen cupboards, clubbing together for exercise, posting pictures of new recipes they’ve tried and are gathering their happy thoughts to begin again. 

So – IJFJ internet. It’s not a big deal. 

The leaves will grow back on the trees, the sun will come out, the relationships will repair themselves or better ones will come along, colds and flu will disappear, friends will pop over for cups tea and soon, before we know it there will be more little swanlings in the park, struggling to survive and propelling fatties like me along the river with smiles on their faces. 


It’s not a maze. It’s a choice. 

Enjoy your day Internet 

Davey