Part Five: The road not yet walked

Before you start reading it’s probably a good idea that you recap on Part One (here) Part Two (here) Part Three (here) and Part Four (here). By now you know the drill. This time it’s gonna be a really long post. Get your cup of tea ready.

By the way – if you’re still reading after all those other episodes then kudos to you for your staying power. You rock.

(As before my ‘lightbulb moments’ will be in red.)

We start this time in 2014.

At this point I’m sick. Really sick – way more than I want to admit to myself. As I look back now I have no idea how I was still functioning in any capacity.

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I’ve already been referred to the obesity unit of Covetry hospital and they want to perform gastric sleeve surgery on me. This entails cutting 4/5ths of my stomach out of my body and throwing it in the bin.

I can’t face the horror of it and I’ve retreated even further into my self destructive drinking and eating habits.

I’m only a shade over 40 years old and my medicated and incidental conditions are:

  • Blood pressure shows signs of hyper-tension
  • High cholesterol
  • Sleep apnea so bad that I could only breathe lying on my left side or sitting upright in my armchair, but still woke up almost every hour in the night terrified I was suffocating
  • Odemas (water retention) in both ankles
  • The beginnings of gout
  • Cellulitis
  • Eczema everywhere (particularly on my hands and face)
  • Wrecked (and very painful) knees that couldn’t support my weight and constant lower back pain – meaning I was barely able to stand after a few minutes unless I was resting on a supporting surface
  • Type 2 diabetes

I’ve become a burden to the NHS and have been given a card entitling me to free prescriptions because I’m likely to need so many things as time goes on. When I return from the chemist this is the typical content of my (rather large) paper bag.

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Walking is agonising.

My feet and ankles are constantly alternating between a sensation of itching, burning or freezing. They almost never stop tingling and I keep getting breakouts of cellulitis (requiring lots of antibiotics) which are so bad that they confine me to bed for at least a week at a time.

The swelling in my feet only reduces when I lie down – which I can’t accomplish easily because if I do then I cant breathe properly. I can also only lie down on my bed because I don’t fit on my sofa.

If I sit in my armchair with my feet up then my huge stomach presses on the tops of my legs and my ankles steadily grow until I have to lie on the floor.

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I can barely get out of my armchair to stand up so that I can relieve the pressure on my legs. If I do I then I soon need to kneel or crouch down to relieve the pressure on my lower back.

I can no longer do this and stand back up because of my knees so I often find myself face down on the sofa with my knees on the floor which is sometimes the only position left to me where nothing hurts. Eventually it too becomes uncomfortable and I can’t breathe because I can’t rest for too long on my stomach.

I have my shopping delivered because I can’t walk the entire way around the supermarket without sitting down and it’s been years since I’ve been able to fit in my bath.

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I can only go places in my car but I’m so heavy that when trying to steady myself I have already managed to snap my steering wheel almost completely in half.

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I rarely go to new places because I’ve become scared that I won’t physically fit into the seats they have. Even if I can I worry that I won’t be able to park close enough to the location and find myself unable to walk there and back or trapped without a place to rest.

This worry starts weeks in advance of any appointment and I continually obsess over the potential problems until the stress is too much and I cancel.

I’ve even missed my brother’s wedding because of this.

However – out of all of these huge problems my diabetes is the thing that’s worrying me the most.

I’ve started obsessing over losing my eyesight (the diabetes hasn’t helped this at all and I need glasses to read) losing the sensation in my extremeties, becoming type one, needing to inject Insulin and eventually having to have things amputated.

When I was first diagnosed in January 2014 I was wetting the bed because I couldnt get to the toilet in time. I hadn’t slept more than 45 minutes at a time for over six months, was absolutely at my wits end and completely shattered.

When the results finally came back from my HbA1c test it showed a level of 94. If it was just a little higher it wouldnt have even been on my doctor’s wall chart any more.

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My daily pill organiser reflects how bad things have become.

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As I’ve mentioned in the linked posts above that even as a young man I was fully expecting to die.

Soon.

HOPEFULLY VERY SOON.

My life had become so agonising, restricted and small that I actually wanted it to happen.

At this point in time I start to admit to myself when I’m drunk (I never tell anyone else this secret) that this is because I am too much of a coward to kill myself. I just want to finally bring an end to the misery of every single increasingly impossible day.

(Autor’s note – I’ve been extensive and frank here because I want everyone to understand how bad things had become. I want them to know this because then I want them to recognise that they too can start to change.)

Now I’ve set the rather grim scene let’s jump forward a little to September 2015.

In order to ease the pain of dealing with my dying mother I engage in retail therapy and buy an Apple Watch.

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It only just fits with the longest of the two supplied straps on the last notch. I momentarily fiddle with it and then largely ignore it even though it sits on my wrist every day.

Now we skip on a bit more.

It’s February the 16th 2016.

I’m around 35 stone, my blood HbA1c is now reading 74 and it’s been just over two weeks since I had any alcohol. I’m still in denial about what its going to take to fix my many problems. However long held opinions about what I can or can’t do are starting to change in my head and my perspective is gradually shifting.

I try to walk to the end of my street (link). I barely make it but establish that my radius is around 400 metres if I take a break in the middle. A week later I try to walk around the block.

I tear both of my calf musles, pull the plantar tendon in my right foot and develop plantar faciitis – these injuries ultimately result in shin splints affecting both legs.

I realise later that the tendons in my legs have stortened because I spent years sitting down with my feet up.

I persist however and on the 29th of February 2016 I try my exercise bike instead. I can only pedal for five minutes before I have to stop (link).

On April the 16th I decide to join Slimming World and as the weight comes off I begin to feel a bit more sprightly – so on the 29th May I decide to get up and go to the park to see how far I can now walk (link).

The answer is ‘not very’.

It’s about 150 metres in my case – but there are a lot of benches so I start going to St Nicholas regularly. I like the swans there and name the cygnets swanlings. They keep me going back because I want to see how they progress. In a way I feel my own gradual growth mirrors the only survivor from a group of five babies.

I’ve been inspired by a man who mentioned in my group that he walks four miles in the morning before coming to weigh in.

He tells me that it takes him an hour.

In contrast I cant yet walk a mile without sitting every 200 metres or so. It takes me well over an hour to accomplish that and my plantar fasciitis is a constant issue – but slowly I start to get better.

Nevertheless it seems like a good idea to walk. I’ve been told at work I’m being made redundant so I won’t be able to afford a gym membership and walking is free. I also want to feel a part of the world again – and not scared to step out of my front door.

So I make a decision to make this ‘my thing’.

In order to try and track this I use an app on my phone called ‘Walkmeter’. It’s crap and crashes all the time – however Apple watch has been gathering a total of the distance I walk and it’s slowly adding up.

Walking also has another benefit.

I’ve lived in such a small world for so long where I just endlessly moved between work and home that I’ve become terrified that I’ll find myself trapped out in the open and unable to get back to my house if my car breaks down.

I very consciously start to try and walk the distances to places that I would regularly drive to by making half of the journey in my car and the rest on foot.

I park further and further away each time and bit by bit I extend my range and reduce my fear.

It’s now late August.

Around this time I realise that I no longer wear my glasses. I can’t remember the last time I put them on.

Bizarrely my eyesight has improved too.

My friend points out that I’ve almost walked the length of the channel tunnel in a week and I’m amazed when I add it up that she’s right (link). A while later I mention this in my group and another friend suggests that I plot my progress over a virtual route – and although I’m initially resistant (I never used to say yes to a lot) I decide to take the challenge on – and decide to calculate how far I’ve walked and compare it to Lands end to John o Groats (link).

It’s now September 2016.

I’ve realised three things.

  1. The whole time I’ve been walking I had a workout app on my watch and I never used it. I’ve now started and it’s really good. It’s saving not only my distance – but an accurate representation of my split times per mile.
  2. The green exercise ring on my watch is set at an un-modifiable 30 minutes because of a massive body of evidence suggesting that 30 minutes exercise a day has incredible health benefits.
  3. Point two is correct

I visit the doctor (link) and I’m told that the results for my HbA1c are now 30. All of a sudden I’m no longer on their chart and I’m told to discontinue one of the two medications I’m taking. My cholesterol levels have plummeted and I’m told my blood pressure is excellent.

I’m amazed.

Over the coming months I continue to up my walking. My increased level of exercise and radically improved diet has enabled something wonderful.

I’m feeling connected to people in a way that I never have before. Everyone seems to be swept along with my newfound enthusiasm to go twalking.

I make sure every time I go for a walk with someone that I’m proactive and try to organise the next walk at the end.

This means that my exercise is never a burden. I’m just meeting people I like to catch up with them about how they are.

I’m finding that is not only cementing good habits into my life but it’s quietly promoting little changes with other people too. I begin to see evidence that people are going for their own ‘twalks‘ and that I seem to be unconsciously promoting good behaviour elsewhere just by regularly doing something in public and showing how it affects me and my health.

By late October I’ve lost an entire fridge freezer in weight (link).

Things like this just motivate me even more and are a huge factor in me pushing myself to average almost five miles a day.

I still suffer from dark moods though – and even though the weight keeps falling off my mind can be my own worst enemy. I’m terrified that I’ll ‘plateau’ and get to a point where I give up.

Although I doubt she realised its significance a lady at my group (who loves the Pixar film ‘Finding Nemo’) picks up on the moods in my blog and in person – and every time she sees me downbeat tells me to ‘just keep swimming’ (link).

Sometimes little things like this make all the difference. Over time this has stuck in my head and I find that I’m saying to myself and others over and over again ‘just keep walking’ or ‘ just keep putting one foot in front of the other ‘.

This means that whenever I encounter a problem or an emotional rut I no longer retreat to a sedentary pursuit for answers and I instead try to think things through with a walk.

Even if I can’t find an answer it makes me feel better – and often realise that there is no answer needed. It’s just my mind playing games and building catastrophes out of nothing.

So I just keep walking.

The cumulatively increasing effort and distance means that by the end of December I’ve actually managed to do it.

I’ve walked the whole distance I wanted to and more besides.

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I’ve also begun to grasp how powerful the data is that my Apple Watch has been collecting on me since I put it on my wrist. It prompts me to work out how much I used to consume.

I’m stunned to read that I needed 7500kcal a day just to sit in my armchair (link).

Without understanding what I was doing when I put Apple Watch on my wrist I enabled myself to see an end to end view of my fitness. Even when I didnt care it still kept a tally and as time went on I was able to see the gradual progress I was making in almost every area of life.

The more I did the more it made me realise I could do.

It’s now late Ferruary/March 2017

I’ve started a new job in an office. I have to drive there and spend all day long sitting there.

It drives me instantly insane, and although through a combination of my exercise bike and walking during my lunch hour and after work I maintain my exercise levels I know instantly deep down that something has changed.

I can’t just drive to an office every day any more – so I leave after three weeks, feeling like a total failure – but I want a different life now.

Unable to resolve the problem in my mind I resolve to temporarily ignore it and ‘just keep walking’.

Since I started twalking with friends I’d been saying to them (often not fully believing that I would do it) that I’d climb Mt Snowdon, and I start training with little hills (there aren’t many in Warwick) to try and build my stamina.

I do this firstly with Burton Dassett (link) then the more challenging Malvern hills (link).

The latter absolutely kills my knees and I’m completely knackered by the end of the day – but I can do it! I can finally climb really challenging gradients!

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It’s now April 2017 and I have a HbA1c reading of 29 (link).

I’ve already discontinued my diabetes medication by this point and I’m managing my condition by diet and exercise alone.

Furthermore – by the time that my one year anniversary at Slimming World arrives (link) I realise that I’ve not only cumulatively walked from Lands end to John o Groats I’ve walked back again too!!!

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By June I’m regularly tackling gradients and working towards my goal. I spend more and more time in places like Burton Dasset and Ilmington downs (link).

All the time it’s becoming easier.

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When the big day arrives in July I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

I take the first day off Slimming World that I’ve had since I started and on Saturday the 22nd July (weighing around 19.5st) I climb Snowdon with my friend (link).

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Words simply can’t do it justice. It’s a truly fantastic moment. I’ve gone from a man who could hardly get out of his armchair to standing on top of a mountain. I’m quite literally on top of the world.

It’s now August.

I can’t stop now. I love walking so much that I’m incapable of not putting one foot in front of the other.

I use it for everything in life. It’s become part of my DNA and everyone I know asks if I want to go for a walk when they suggest meeting up. I mention it so often that twalking appears to have entered the vocabulary of everyone I know, and many that I don’t.

Furthermore I’ve found another job – and this time it’s local (link). I can walk to work every day and fit my exercise invisibly into what I do.

Once again the job turns out to be something that’s not for me – but during the time I’m there I realise that all the exercise I’m doing appears to have altered my mental capabilities.

I always considered myself to be someone that struggled in classrooms to pick things up and that information didn’t get retained quickly. I always felt that I wasn’t agile enough when others around me grasped new concepts or processes at work.

Whilst in this job I’m the top of the class. I pick everything up way quicker than I ever would have before and for the very first time I realise that my mind has benefited from all of the exercise too.

Not only am I more positive but I can think on my feet and adapt in discussions and meetings like never before. I feel instantly more capable.

I leave the job and with it I leave behind a fear of change that I’ve had my entire adult life.

If I can adapt to anything then there’s no longer a need to be frightened – so I trust that things will just work themselves out and keep walking.

I do it so much that now I’ve walked the cumulative distance from San Francisco to New York (link).

By this time I’m regularly forgetting that I ever had diabetes in the first place – but I’m still going for tests (link). When I do they report that my HbA1c readings have now dropped even further and are at a stupendous 28. My blood pressure is also excellent – but I’m still taking Statins.

If in doubt I just keep walking. Whatever the weather.

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It’s now January 2018

Thanks to Apple Watch keeping a dilligent eye on me since I put it on I can see how much I’ve improved over time. I’ve gradually moved from doing less than 5 minutes exercise a day in 2016 to an average of over two hours a day.

Furthermore, after 21 months of trying on the way to work one morning I finally mange to crack the fifteen minute mile (link).

I can now walk four miles in an hour – just like the man in group told me he could back when I started Slimming World.

I’ve never been so fit in my life and I feel wonderful.

February 2018.

I’ve finally found a use for my old clothes.

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I hit my target weight of 14 stone 7lbs (link) and when I do (after I stop crying and find a way out of my old trouser leg) the way I celebrate is with a walk around the park (link).

In a surprise move my friend marks the occasion by secretly arranging for almost everyone I’ve walked with along my journey to join us.

The exercise (twalking) that I have done over the last two years has meant that I spend more quality time with people that matter to me than I have at any other point in my life. My friendships have strengthened immesurably and I feel loved.

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A few days later In what may be my last but one HbA1c test (link) my results now show a reading of 25. My blood pressure resembles that of a much younger man, my resting heart rate is around 40bpm and I’m also told that my cholesterol medication can be discontinued.

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It’s not the only thing I can get rid of. My much hated pill dispenser can finally go in the bin along with my unused pills. It looks very different on its last day of employment compared to when I first started using it.

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So – what’s transpired here?

Well – these I feel are the lessons I’ve learned through gradually increasing and then learning to love my activity.

  • If you can’t go far it doesnt matter. Just try to go a little bit further either day. Start small.
  • Try to do it with friends if you can
  • Do something that’s free if at all possible. Gyms require willpower – but walking the dog or getting a pint of milk doesn’t.
  • Try and build it into your daily routine – then it won’t involve willpower. If you want to go for a coffee make a deal with yourself that you wont use the car when you do.
  • You can lose weight without exercise – but with it you’ll lose it faster, stand a better chance of keeping it off and feel positive and alive, meaning you won’t lose focus.
  • Get a fitness wearable if you can. Mine changed my life.
  • Track your progress and document everything that you can from the beginning even if you hate doing it. You’ll be glad you did afterwards.
  • Don’t lose hope. Not everything can be completely fixed but almost everything can be immesurably improved.
  • You can do more than you ever thought you could. It’s all about trying rather than doing nothing
  • Things might cumulatively creep up on you – and eventually you might suddenly realise that you’ve painted yourself into a corner. But paint eventually dries. You can gently step on it and make your way back from a place that seems hopeless.
  • Don’t end your life. You’re worth so much more.

Finally – this is my complete list of non-scale victories. I couldnt have done it without exercise.

Go HERE.

Davey

Part Four: Group love

Before you start reading it’s probably a good idea that you recap on Part One (here) Part Two (here) and Part Three (here). By now you know the drill. It’s gonna be a long post. Get your cup of tea ready.

(As before my ‘lightbulb moments’ will be in red.)

It’s now 16th April 2016. I’ve been sober for two and a half months and I’m considering my next step.

When I gave up drinking in my mind I had a blissfully ignorant vision of what would happen. This was because I knew alcohol was the cause of my type two diabetes and if I stopped it would go away. knew this not because anyone had told me it was true – but because I’d decided it was. 

Drink was also the sole cause of my huge weight and I knew that I only ate more when I was drunk. knew this too not because anyone had told me it was true – but because I’d decided it was. 

Once I had stopped drinking I also knew that everything would magically fall into place. Guess why…

In my fantasy the diabetes would gradually fade away, my weight would melt off, my high blood pressure would automatically reduce, my cholesterol would return to normal, I would be able to sleep properly etc etc etc etc.

It would all happen naturally and with minimal effort given time.

Yet two and a half months later nothing had changed.

My trousers maybe felt a little looser, my blood sugar had dropped a tiny bit and I didn’t have hangovers any more – but other than that I was just fat and sober rather than fat and drunk.

To quote a (very) over used cliché ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.’ Yet there I was, often still eating two large dominos pizzas in an evening and still expecting to lose weight because I’d stopped drinking three bottles of wine every night.

Oddly I began to accept quite quickly that I was still in denial about what it would take for me to get better.

Maybe because I was regularly exploring my feelings and motivations in my blog I (in retrospect) moved relatively quickly to my first level of acceptance.

I needed to get help with my weight in the same way that I needed it for my alcohol abuse. Just stopping one thing that’s bad for you and expecting everything else to magically fall into place is nuts.

At the time someone had quite wisely said to me ‘you can’t boil the ocean.’

They were right. Doing one thing at a time had been the right way to go. I needed the alcohol out of my life and I needed a clear head for what was to come – but now I had to accept that other things needed to change too.

The next step had to come and it had to come quickly.

One Saturday morning with this in mind I looked online for a suitable group – and there it was. My old next door neighbour Angie was still a Slimming World consultant – and quite unexpectedly she was running a session just around the corner.

In ten minutes!

I decided to attend and rushed over.

It was a tough morning.

Not only did the little red chairs in the infant school hall where the group was seem impossibly small to me but devastatingly I also weighed in at 34st 8.5lbs.

I’d never been so heavy in my life. The reality of the task ahead hit hit me like a truck when I returned home that day and I just sat sobbing and alone in my house.

(You can read the full events of that morning here link.)

Shortly after my father messaged me to give me some support. He too was overweight and was also planning to try and lose his excess. He was around 20 stone he said and was heading for the same 12st 7lbs that the NHS BMI calculator thought we needed to be.

He also casually remarked that I had to lose the entirety of him to get down to a BMI that was no longer classed as obese or overweight.

In private it suddenly felt like I was being crushed.

It all seemed so impossible. 

In public I was hopeful – but deep down I didn’t know how I really felt. I just kept writing and I tried to keep going. The food I was cooking was nice and I was enjoying eating the things on the plan.

I tried to keep my eye on the prize and not look at how far away the horizon was – however history had led me to believe that failure was a very real – if not very probable possibility and it was never far from my thoughts.

Previously I’d been a member of Weight Watchers on no less than three separate occasions before 1999/2000, losing 3 stone and then regaining it. I’d been on the Cambridge diet twice from 2007 – 2008, lost 10 stone and then put it all back on (and more) by 2009.

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Furthermore this wasn’t my first time attending a Slimming World group. I’d already attended Angie’s group in 2010, left and then rejoined in 2011. Neither instance ended very well.

I’d initially managed to lose 2 stone but then started backsliding like I always did.

I tried to recapture the impetus a couple of months later – but felt it had gone and decided to leave. Back then I felt like I was a complete failure and that this was the life I deserved. I thought I’d let everyone that believed in me down again and that I was meant to be fat.

I put it all back on – just like every other time I’d tried.

This third time around things would be different though. I would go into this with my head in the game and I’d power through. It would be mind over matter. I had the numbers all worked out. I’d lose 5 or more pounds a week and in 60 weeks or less I’d be thin. It would take just over a year. There was no room for failure. It wasn’t an option.

I was going on a diet.

Sitting in the pub a week or so later with a pint of diet coke I recounted my ambitious plans to a colleague from work.

‘I’m planning to lose about 5lbs a week.’ I told him – expecting him to be impressed.

‘If I lose any less than that I’m going to be really pissed off. I’ll be failing if it’s any less.’ I concluded.

He looked at me. ‘Why think like that?’ he replied patiently. ‘If you only lose half a pound a week you’re still losing weight. If you lose a pound a week that’s over four stone a year!’ 

I did the maths in my head.

He was irritatingly right.

This was one of my earliest revelations yet oddly also one of the biggest. It’s sometimes hard to apply to myself – but it’s as true today as it was back then.

Forward is forward. It doesn’t matter how big or small the steps are you’re still making progress.

Don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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This came in handy pretty soon – because it wasn’t long before I hit a speed bump (link) and in my fourth week I put some weight unexpectedly back on.

This just served to confirm all my worst fears in my scared little brain.

I was a failure again, just like I’d been before. I felt so angry and upset that I walked out of the group after standing on the scales. I couldn’t take sitting with everyone as a big lardy let down.

I thought everyone would think I was a fat, hopeless waste of space. I knew they would think this because it’s what I thought, and they MUST be thinking the same as me.

Wrong.

Three things happened here to make this a valuable lesson.

  1. I went home and felt like crap. I realised afterwards in the cold light of day that the things I was paying money for (support from my consultant and suggestions about how to succeed) were all denied to me because I walked out of the room. I have never missed another group since – except to climb Snowdon – and when I reached the top I texted the other members and Angie to say where I was and tell them that I’d done it.
  2. When I went home I sat there with no-one but myself. I was angry and upset – and all I could hear in my own head were voices of self loathing and criticism. I could instead have been surrounded by people that would have cared and told me in a nice way that I was being silly. Over time I’ve learned that when you sit in a room full of men and women like this and you feel at your most vulnerable, the person next to you almost certainly cares more about you than you. Not only that but it’s reciprocal. You care about them too and it’s almost certain that you’ll treat them better than you would yourself. You both need each other to remind you of the reality. Neither of you are failures and you can do it. 
  3. I had to admit that I hadn’t RTFM (Google it). I’d completely failed to spend time absorbing the Slimming World book and instead I’d cherry picked what I wanted to hear rather than listening to everything. When I was told that free food was unlimited I neglected to pay attention to speed food or the advice that free food shouldn’t be eaten past the point of contentment. Instead I thought ‘yay! I can eat tons of chicken!’ I’d been thinking I was on plan but instead I was eating all the right foods in all the wrong quantities. If I wanted to succeed I had to pay close attention. So I sat down with a strong coffee and read the book from cover to cover. I didn’t make the same mistakes again.

Over time other things also became clear. There’s no chronology here – this is just what worked for me.

I started to regularly use a useful feature of Slimming World’s web pages. If you’re not following the plan thats OK – you can do this yourself in a spreadsheet.

Make a graph of your progress.

Why?

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The graph over time will grow longer and longer and it will show you that occasional gains don’t really mean anything. They’re completely natural – and not the devastating failure you think they are in the moment where you see the numbers in a meeting.

The longer you do something for the more it just looks like a nice gentle curve.

If you focus on one bad result and walk away from everything then you do yourself a disservice. Success isn’t about how many times you fail – it’s what you choose to do afterwards. If you use that mistake to fuel your determination to get it right next week then it’s actually a success.

Now – here’s something that you don’t have to do – but I think it’s crucial to understand what’s in food – and by that I mean both it’s nutritional and calorific value.

I’m not advocating that everyone count calories – because I certainly don’t. What I’m saying is that every single thing you put in your mouth is fuel and it had a consequence.

A large strawberry is a speed food – but its average energy content is 33kcal. If you have a punnet of 10 strawberries you’ve just eaten 330kcal. Chicken and most lean meat is 100-120kcal per 100g. It doesn’t take more than a few mouthfuls to have another 300kcal on top of your strawberries as many pre-cooked packs of them are 200g plus.

You don’t have to count calories all the time but you do have to understand what you’re consuming. 

You can’t ignore it because many of us don’t understand the concept of eating until contentment and we need to face up to what we’re putting in our mouths.

On the subject of calories I can’t not mention syns. This bit is relevant only for people following SW.

In simple SW terms these are 20kcal of processed food (although other foods that you might not expect to also contain them – check the SW web pages or have a look in the app if you’re unsure). A man can have 20 a day and remain on plan, and a woman 15– although this varies with your starting weight.

I was initially told to have 30.

Syns aren’t a problem. They’re a clever way of tacking the most common hurdle people face when they want to lose weight and ask ‘can I still eat the foods I love?’ The answer to this on any mainstream plan has to be a qualified ‘yes’ otherwise no-one would start a diet.

After all why would they? It sounds horrible otherwise.

It would be nothing but total denial.

So – people can still eat crisps and chocolate and remain ‘on plan’ – but in my view this should be a starting point rather than a continuing life long policy towards weight loss and maintenance.

I think that the biggest problem we have with food in society at the moment is that we view the packaged refined and processed crap that we buy as ‘normal’. Our objectve shouldn’t be to try and bend our health around them but instead to eventally remove as much of them as we can from or lives.

I regularly walk down the street eating raw carrots – and often people look at me like I’m insane. They wouldn’t bat an eyelid if I was drinking a bottle of coca cola with thirteen spoonfuls of refined sugar in it or a Mars Bar with a bag of crisps – but that’s the crazy world in which we live.

Personally I feel that long term success means that if you have treats like this then you have then occasionally and make sure that they are in fact the exception rather than the rule.

The next bit in red is my opinion. You can choose to ignore it or agree – but it’s worked for me.

I avoid empty syns and calories with zero nutritional value.

If you want to lose weight then choose nutritionally rich foods that will fill you up rather than hit you with intense flavours and make you want more instead of satisfying you. If you’re looking for long term success then learn to cook.

Use your syns on an avocado, some nice olives or a drizzle of oil in your cooking. Better still flavour a stew with some chorizo or use a nice curry paste – just make sure that you count them the same way as you would anything else and don’t guesstimate.

Finally – if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that the only faliures you can truly have in life are not trying at all or giving up.

I ‘failed’ over and over again on multiple diets. I yo-yo’d back and forth and thought I was destined to be fat forever.

This is a lie I told myself to avoid the inconvenient truth.

Losing weight and keeping it off is hard work and there are no magic fixes or quick wins.Even if you have an operation to remove parts of your stomach you still have to stay on a calorie controlled diet. There’s NO EASY WAY TO DO THIS.

However – if you want it enough then it’s yours for the taking and you don’t have to worry about screwing up.

What I did over the years wasn’t failing at all. I just hadn’t realised then that slowly and surely I was learning how not to do things, and ALL of that experience came in useful when I finally began to learn how to do it RIGHT.

They enabled me to realise that the REASON I yo-yo’d for years was (amongst other things) because I built NONE of what I did into my life and I didn’t accept that there wasn’t an end goal.

I didn’t have to get into a certain pair of trousers, I didn’t have to wear a pair of speedos for my holiday – and I didn’t have to walk down the aisle with anyone.

Having goals like that are wonderful – but what happens when you reach them? What’s beyond the horizon?

I’d suggest that if you want to have lifelong success accept early on that it’s not a diet – it’s a change of lifestyle and it’s forever.

Try to focus less on short term ‘swimsuit’ goals (although they can help along the way) and more on building healthy eating into every single moment of every day. Don’t try and restrict yourself – just learn to love things that are good for you and come to terms with that being your new, longer, happier life.

Oh – and also you might need to move a little bit too intenet – but that’s what my next post is about…

In 2016 might have accepted that I needed Slimming World and it’s group in my life – but I could still hardly walk to the end of my street and I was still in denial about exercise…

Davey

Part three: Suppression

Before you start reading it’s probably a good idea that you recap on Part One (here) and Part Two (here). By now you know the drill. It’s gonna be a long post. Get your cup of tea ready.

(As before my ‘lightbulb moments’ will be in red. Time will also skip forward as we go on – because this particular lesson was learned in segments.)

Chronologically to start with we are in March 2016. At this point I’m a month into my journey (It started when I gave up drinking on January 26th) and little has visually changed.

This is how I looked.

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After almost completely screwing up by handing in my resignation at a job I’d held down for 16 years my manager allowed me to take some time out to deal with my alcohol issues. At the time I was regularly bursting into tears without warning and couldn’t understand why.

I wouldn’t miss my mother (who had passed away a month before) and I couldn’t explain the phenomenon – which was something I’d never experienced previously.

I didn’t feel like I was grieving.

Yet years and years of emotion seemed to be arriving all at once without any warning and it was scaring me. I felt out of control and needed to understand why.

With an agreement from my employer that I could take some time out of work I enrolled in a four week daily course in addiction recovery. I soon found myself in the cold and grim light of a March Monday morning in a bland meeting room surrounded by men and women in a circle.

They too had problems and all were nervously bouncing up and down in neutrally coloured Ikea Poang armchairs. They looked like they needed something badly.

This selection of people were dealing with alcoholism, heroin addiction and the far more visible and arresting effects of years of cutting, burning and self harm. Some were there under a court order to attend or had been compelled to join by the terms of their parole.

Others (such as myself) were voluntary participants with no criminal history.

I felt metaphorically and physically apart from all of them. Firstly, unlike them I didn’t identify with the label of ‘alcoholic’ or ‘addict’ (I preferred alcohol dependant back then) and secondly because I was relegated to a conventional seat – and sitting higher up.

At 35 stone I was too heavy to sit in the comfortable Swedish Poang simplicity enjoyed by the others and felt exposed.

Initially I also felt like a fraud.

I didn’t deserve to be there because I didn’t have the severity of problems that they had.

These people seemed to be way further down the rabbit hole than me. I’d stopped drinking – whereas others were either cutting down, using methadone or sporting fresh bandages from A&E the night before.

Many had also shoplifted, cheated, lied and brutalised their way though life and I felt that I was nothing like them.

Until we started the mindfulness exercises and examined triggers.

These (it turned out) were common to ALL of us.

During these we sat in the dark, slowed down our breathing and went through some guided meditation. The point was to just experience the moment and filter out the mental noise caused by the chaos of addiction.

Most days I felt that this was just a method of relaxing before difficult discussions – and I simply enjoyed it on an abstract level – interested in how mindfulness seemed capable of slowing time down. Until the second week I just enjoyed the sensation of peace that it brought – but then one day the group leader quite unexpectedly said something along the lines of ‘now imagine that you want a drink.’

I did as I was told and imagined it.

I suddenly wanted a drink for the first time in weeks and felt instantly stressed.

‘Now follow the feeling.’ He said.

‘Where is it in your body?’

Amazingly I felt it! I could trace the actual thought moving through my body!

It was in my chest – right in the centre, behind my breast bone. As I zeroed in on it the sensation moved and began to flow upwards, through my neck, until it stopped and hung there – tingling in my cheeks.

I was absolutely gobsmacked. I’d known this feeling all my life. It was as familiar to me as my own face in the mirror – but I’d never noticed it before.

The difference was that this time it was paused under a microscope for examination. I’d been able to delay its progress for a brief moment and while it was slowly moving I could track the sensation and resulting thought process that trailed in its wake.

It was fascinating!

When I’d experienced this in the past I realised that it happened at the speed of thought. My mind had been reacting to happiness, sadness or anything in between and my body had experienced a corresponding physiological reaction. This had in turn triggered a quietly waiting mental process and I had instantly moved from the flush of adrenalin to a fully formed ‘I need a drink’ feeling. 

By then the choice was made and I always acted upon it.

How had I missed this for so long? More to the point how did I deal with it if it happened again?

Well – there was some help at hand to manage cravings in the form of the ‘Three D’s’ which we discussed shortly afterwards (link)

Delay, Distract, Decide.

  1. Delay the decision to give in to the craving for a set time. This could be 15-30 mins or an hour. Usually by this time you’ve forgotten about it.
  2. Do something that will occupy your thoughts and grab your attention. Perhaps do something physical to use the energy of the craving or read a book.
  3. After the set time decide what you want to do (there are no right or wrong answers, just balanced choices) – but in order to answer consider the following:
  • Advantages of not doing it
  • Disadvantages of doing it
  • Reasons I want to stop
  • My life goals

Like many things in life you take what you need from what you experience, and often leave behind what you don’t. In my case these two lessons were my ‘wins’ from attending that group.

At the time I felt that I’d been filled with wisdom and understanding. I thought I’d finally cracked it. I understood things about myself that beforehand had been invisible to the naked mind – and furthermore I now had a coping mechanism!

There was nothing I couldn’t do!

However – the only thing that you can know for certain is that you don’t know everything

I hadn’t realised back then that what I’d failed to ask myself was why that thought process existed in the first place. I was content to simply acknowledge that it was there.

It wouldn’t be until over a year later that I found a deeper insight into the reason it happened. This was thanks to a book lent to me by a lady that I met in my Slimming World group (link).

By this point I was definitely making progress. Externally and internally I was a very different person.

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The book was called ‘Living like you mean it’ by Ronald J Frederick link.

Honestly it wasn’t my kind of thing (it still isn’t) and at the time I only opened it up because this lady had become a friend and I respected her opinion. She had been kind enough to think of me in the first place and it was rude not to investigate something so freely given with the best of intentions – so I started reading the first chapter.

It irritated me.

I mean it really irritated me.

It was all about allowing yourself to feel things.

In my opinion I was more than capable of dealing with my feelings and I wasn’t afraid of talking about them. I wrote a blog for flip’s sake. I knew the value of exploring my emotions and I talked about them with anyone who wanted to listen.

It was kind of my thing. Always had been. I didn’t get why anyone wouldn’t. Even if I didn’t understand why I had them I wanted to talk to my friends about mine and theirs.

Initially I walked away from the book simply with an agreement that I would try to let myself feel down a bit more – and that in itself proved to be very helpful.

I’d not really accepted that it was OK to feel crappy and let it temporarily consume you. This was actually natural and normal – and it was the precursor to healing. If you denied the need to experience pain and sadness by relentlessly smiling through the bad times then all you did was defer it’s arrival – and when it finally hit (and it would) the force that it had gathered by that time would be of a much bigger magnitude.

Some thoughts are slow burners however – and the really good realisations – the ones that matter often take you a while to reach.

I still wasn’t there yet.

Sure. I talked about emotion. I wrote about it. I enjoyed pulling it apart and understanding why I felt what I did.

But why did I do that?

I realised out of the blue – some time after reading the book that I did all of my emotional investigation after the fact.

Every time I got round to talking about how I felt it was a historical analysis. I was dispassionately looking backwards at a moment in time and examining how something had happened, intellectualising the feelings associated with it and chewing through their constituent parts.

never ever talked about a feeing while it was happening – but oddly this fact had always escaped me.

Out of the blue I recognised that as soon as a thought capable of provoking strong emotion had entered my head it then instantly caused a physical reaction. This immediately resulted in my mind moving to one of several well practiced remedies – depending on what I was using at the time.

In these moments I would do one or more of the following:

  • Eat to excess
  • Get drunk
  • Have a cigarette
  • (Insert whatever poison springs to mind here)

What I’d never realised was that all of these activities were actually me moving to immediately suppress emotion – and I’d been doing it since I was a child.

But how had this happened?

Then I remembered a conversation with my Dad when I was very young relating to my mother. After a particularly abusive day where we’d both come under fire from her and I was in tears he had shared his own method of coping in such situations.

It went something like this:

‘Imagine that you’re inside yourself, and then curl up like a little ball and don’t listen. Nothing can hurt you if you withdraw. After a while you don’t feel a thing.’

I’d taken this advice on board and began to use it to deal with her behaviour.

It worked because it typically just made things worse if you reacted when she was on the attack. The verbal beatings just extended from 30-40 minutes to hours. Sometimes if you fought back they would meander into the early hours of the morning – even if you’d surrendered and tried to go to bed.

She would frequently wake me up in the middle of the night, filled with rage, stinking of stale cigarettes, spitting in my face as she shouted at me – adding ‘and another thing‘ (her favourite phrase) to the argument – whether it was related to the initial explosion or not.

A member of my family once woke up with her sitting on top of him, and she was punching him in the face.

It was better not to feel.

It was better not to react.

During the day I could eat a huge mountain of mashed potato and sausages – but at night I had to find another way to cope, and I retreated a little deeper each time. Over the years the mechanism ceased to be conscious and became so practiced that it moved to one that was completely unconscious.

In my later teens (after some experimentation) I learned that I was a placid and happy drunk. When I consumed alcohol it helped me to not react to my mother, and initially I even consciously started to use it to help manage my interactions with her.

When I was drunk time passed quicker and things hurt less.

This was just the start of it though. I realised that I hadn’t just been suppressing pain – eventually I was suppressing happiness too – because the physiological reactions associated with any extremes of emotion were so strikingly similar.

Over time I’d created a situation where if I thought bad thoughts and felt bad emotions then I immediately moved to suppress them by self medicating. By 2016 I’d been doing it for so long that I’d ceased to recognised it for what it was. 

I was eating, drinking and smoking my pain AND HAPPINESS away.

Feeling sad? Have a (insert crutch here). It will make you feel better!

Feeling happy? Celebrate with a (insert crutch here). It will make things even better still!

Incredibly it had taken me 45 years to understand this about myself – but one by one the dominoes were falling. Each time I wrote something new down in my blog it gained a sense of permanence – and as time progressed (and I discovered more about myself) the dots were becoming connected.

I was building a picture of who I was – and gaining a deeper insight what my motivations were than I’d ever done before in my life. I no longer just forget something after a revelation and moved on.

Instead I could refer back to them, build upon them and consolidate my gains.

However – back in March of 2016 I was only a sober man.

It wasn’t until April that the real work started….

Davey

Part two: The beginnings of honesty

Before you start reading it’s probably a good idea that you recap on Part One (here).

If you’ve already done that (and you have a cup of tea or coffee ready to go) then let me continue…

(note – bits highlighted in red are things I feel are important. In this ongoing little series they’re the lessons I think I’ve learned along the way.)

In early February 2016 I was just beginning to lift my head above water. I felt like I’d been drowning for the longest time and (by then sober for around two short weeks) I was also trying to deal with the mountains of stuff left behind when my mother died.

It was frankly more than enough to drive a man to drink.

Everywhere I turned there were hidden things squirrelled away. As well as piles of soap, detergent and hundreds of drawings or paintings in the most unexpected of places I was also discovering other, more disturbing things.

There were orderly manuals for how to interact with people (written by her many years before she became ill) and hair in little bags (collected for decades both from her and her children) that were chronologically labelled as DNA samples for testing.

Occasionally I also found more valuable items such as photos, correspondence, bills, stamps or money which meant that I couldn’t just throw it all in a skip. I had to wade through every single box and bag of it.

The process was both upsetting and unsettling, I was looking inside the chaotic mind of a woman that I had never understood. As well as as being a task that was mentally difficult to deal with it was a physical challenge too.

I wasn’t a fit man and it was wearing me out just looking at the scale of the problem in her bungalow.

 

Everything was in disarray – and as I was trying to withdraw from alcohol I realised that I’d probably chosen one of the most stressful times of my life to do it.

I didn’t feel like I was getting better.

I felt as far from ‘better’ as it was possible to be in fact – and it seemed that absolutely everything was wrong with my life. It was completely out of balance and even when faced with the death of a parent I was preoccupied with trying to understand the cause of a deep emotional numbness that had been with me as long as I could remember.

For many years I hadn’t even been able to ask why I felt it – because I couldn’t vocalise what it was. Frustratingly, even when I finally managed to put it into words I found that I was still no closer to an answer.

The question that I couldn’t resolve was ‘what do I love?

Sure – I could say that people fitted into this category – because I genuinely loved my friends and family – but I didn’t mean the love that came from a relationship.

No matter how many times I asked myself this there was no response. There was just a blank space – a placeholder for where the answer should be. An empty podium with no medal winner.

Then one day I accepted the truth and it was horrible. I felt like screaming because deep down I had always known the answer. It was way worse than not knowing what I loved because I hadn’t faced up to the bleak reality of what this really said about me.

I loved nothing. I had a passion for nothing. I existed to do nothing. My total contribution to the world if I had died immediately would have been nothing.

What I’d begun to recognise is that I was nothing more than a consumer. I had voraciously consumed everything around me for my entire adult life.

Throughout it I’d had an endless appetite for food, alcohol, cigarettes, ‘stronger substances’, video games, box sets, music, DVD’s, magazines, books, trash television – the list went on and on.

I spent my spare money on ‘things’ because I ‘loved’ the ‘things’ that I bought. I thought the ‘things’ gave me pleasure.

I didn’t really love them though, and they certainly didn’t make me truly happy. Buying a huge television and a games console with the latest game and a Blu-ray made me ‘feel’ for moments – and then I once again became just as empty as my wallet.

Films and television were providing my emotions for me – serving them up endlessly to be consumed. Conveniently I could also turn them on and off at will. If I wanted to feel happy I watched something funny. If I was angry I played a violent video game. If I wanted to numb myself I got drunk.

I managed everything with external inputs and nothing came from inside.

Living like I had for so long, being anaesthetised to the reality of what it meant to be part of the world around me made me question whether I could love anything anymore.

I’d been hiding how I felt about this and and other things about myself for so long that I felt like I was about to burst. Back then It seemed that for my entire time on earth I’d been trying to pretend that everything was ok when really it was as far from OK as it’s possible to be.

In public I was controlled, ordered, dependable and a known quantity. I was a reliable and safe pair of hands in the workplace where I was a team leader and tried to be outgoing, cheerful and gregarious as soon as I walked through the door.

In my personal life I made sure that I supported my friends and family whenever I could and wanted them to feel that if they needed me they knew they could call at any time of day or night.

I almost never asked for help though. Not because I thought they wouldn’t give it – because they would have, but because if I did then it meant not only that I was admitting I couldn’t cope – but because doing so would force me to deal with the causes – and that I was never ready to do. 

So I did two things.

One was a bad idea, and the other was one of the best decisions of my life.

Firstly I handed in my notice at work. This was the bad idea. Being unemployed whilst also a recovering alcoholic dealing with a bereavement and suddenly faced with endless free time on my hands wouldn’t have helped.

Secondly came the good idea – and after handing in my notice I wrote my first ever blog post (link).

Despite what people might think I didn’t start doing this in public because I wanted attention. The exact opposite is true actually – because most of the time I really dislike the focus being on me.

I did it because if I started airing my dirty laundry in a public forum then everyone knew. I didn’t have to painstakingly tell each and every person my darkest secrets and I didn’t have to sugar coat or change what I was saying depending on who would see it.

A post was a post. If people didn’t like it then they didn’t have to read it. If they didn’t like me then au revoir.

There were plenty more fish in the sea.

It also meant that it was now harder to change my mind. If I said I was going to do something in public then I also felt that I either had to follow through with it or come up with a very good reason why I couldn’t.

It didn’t really matter whether people liked me or my blog though – because I wasn’t writing it for them. I was writing it for me – and what I’d started doing was engaging in on my own very public private therapy. 

I decided very quickly upon some ground rules.

Above all else I wanted to be sure that my blog would do no harm. I wouldn’t talk about anyone else unless they explicitly agreed and I wouldn’t use photos of anyone but myself with the same criteria.

It was primarily about fixing myself – and learning to live life.

I would also cunningly hide my true name by adding a ‘Y’ at the end of it (for the first time I can reveal that my real name is actually Dave) and when I talked as Davey I wouldn’t talk to myself or to a person – but to ‘the internet’ – because the internet wouldn’t stare back at me disapprovingly.

Its job was simply to listen – regardless of what I had to say – and mine was to talk to it with absolute and unflinching honesty.

The first post was the hardest – not because I couldn’t write down how I felt – but because I knew the next thing that I had to do was send a link to it to absolutely everyone that I knew or worked with – including my family.

I had to ‘out’ myself and step outside of my own personal closet.

In it I admitted that I wasn’t coping. I admitted that I was a drinker. I told everyone about my health problems. I told them I had to discover what it was that I loved – but above all else I was truly honest and open for the first time.

Then thing that I really didn’t expect happened.

Firstly – no-one (not one single person) told me I was a total loser or a waste of space. Instead they actually applauded my fragility and my attempt to be open about what I was going through

Secondly – almost immediately (literally within minutes) the human traffic started come toward me in torrents. People I thought I’d known for years started telling me their deepest and darkest secrets. They began to open up (sometimes for the first time too) about their family issues, their own alcoholism, their cancers, their struggles with Autism, their unhappiness, their loneliness, their abusive relationships…

The list went on and on.

All of a sudden, standing naked in front of everyone for the very first time and expecting my honesty to be the defining moment of my life I was faced with a stark realisation.

Everyone else was broken too.

It wasn’t just me.

As I continued to write this became a theme. Without realising the power of what I’d enabled by clicking ‘post’ on that very first entry in my blog I’d started an honest two way conversation between myself and unlimited numbers of people which is still going on.

Plus – through it I found both a focus and an unexpected paradox.

I eventually realised that the very tool I’d employed to answer my question (writing) was something that I absolutely loved doing.

I now understand that the unexplainable feeling that had made me want to scream was an understanding deep down that I wasn’t giving anything back to the world. I was just taking from it all the time – and because of that I had begun to feel that I was a parasite.

With writing came honesty and through honesty I discovered that I could not only help myself but others too. 

At this point though I still had a long way to go – and in many ways I was still in denial. Although I’d stopped drinking I still thought that this alone was the answer and that everything would just naturally fall into place.

Back then I still didn’t really understand why I’d drank so much – just that I’d stopped and didn’t plan to start again.

I was still 35 stone, still slowly dying and I hadn’t accepted what the problem would truly take to fix.

Join me next time to find out what I mean…

Dave(y)

Part One: Where did all this start?

Firstly I apologise to those that have been here a while. I’m probably going to re-tread a lot of things because the story of how I came to lose all of this weight is pretty complex.

You might need a cup of tea.

If I go right back to the earliest time that I recall trying to drop some pounds it was after a visit to a childhood obesity clinic in Birmingham. I’m not sure how old I was at this time, but I’m guessing it was somewhere between the ages of 10 and 13.

It was a miserable experience.

I was referred to a special unit in a hospital that dealt only with what was then a relatively uncommon phenomenon. My dad took me there on the advice of our GP but I don’t really remember what happened in the consultation – apart from the fact that I was sent home with a single page A4 photocopied diagram of food groups that showed my plate looking like a pie chart.

I can’t remember anyone in my house ever putting this into practice though. Portion sizes were pretty big when I was growing up. The mashed potato on my dinner plate may have fitted into the segment on the diagram – but it would probably have been 12 inches tall with several Bernard Matthews turkey sausages sticking out of it.

Bootiful.

I do remember shortly after this though that my dad put me on a diet solely consisting of cabbage and bacon.

Mounds of it in fact. Pretty soon I was sick of cabbage and I was sick of bacon. I lost a little bit of weight during this – but after a while (as habits tendeded to in our house) things crept back to the status quo and I put the small amount of weight I’d lost back on.

That was my very first first faddy yo-yo diet.

This theme continued for some time over the years because what I’d started to do was view losing weight in terms of a restrictive diet. It was a short term exercise where my willpower faced down the problem at hand and turned it into a battle between the competing sides of my nature.

One side was insatiable, naughty and couldn’t stop consuming – whilst the other was austere, disliked the other side intensely and did nothing bad.

By holding one at bay with the other I could temporarily get results. However in order to do so this meant feeling like I was cutting out things I loved – and when I did it was only a matter of time before I rebelled.

When things went wrong in life food was there to ‘help’. This frequently ended with me metaphorically or literally face down in a kebab or pizza after falling off a dietary wagon and when I became old enough to pass for 18 alcohol joined the party too.

This constant restriction and resurgence had a pernicious side effect. I began to get really sick of my own behaviour – and I started using intense anger with myself to fuel change.

After leaving school (where I was mercilessly bullied every day) at 17 stone I starved myself for months – only eating a couple of slices of bread a day until I was 12 stone 7 pounds – and initially I thought I’d cracked it.

I thought I was ‘fixed‘.

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(Author note – this next bit is important and I’m going to highlight the pivotal bits in red – because these thoughts are the ones I think people need to concentrate on)

This was the first part of the problem – and something I see in other people a lot. They say (or think in private) a variation of the phrase ‘…all I need to do is lose weight and then I can go back to eating normally’.

Often because of this they fundamentally fail to realise that this is not possible without significant re-education – because in order to end up in a situation where they need to lose huge amounts of weight in the first place they’ve proven that they have no idea what ‘normal’ is to begin with.

By this point food is not about sustenance – it’s about emotion – and a gap created by pain is impossible to fill with food.

You will not stop because you’re full.

The main issue with my approach was that in order to make any kind of significant difference in my life I had to play a game of brinkmanship with whatever I was doing at the time. If I hadn’t done something to serious excess and emotionally sunk into the depths of depression then I was unlikely to pull back from the precipice.

I had to be so sick of myself and so full of self loathing that I just couldn’t take it any more.

To make matters worse this often yielded tangible results – such as successfully giving up smoking, and for a long time I was convinced that this was ‘my method’. Deep down I just hoped that sooner or later I’d become angry enough with myself to do something about my weight.

I now recognise that this was also a way of self harming – because when I periodically restricted my food intake I used the withdrawal as a punishment. I told myself that I deserved to have things I liked taken away. 

However – unlike cigarettes I needed food to live.

Although I could restrict it for a while and starve myself I never really ever faced up to what I was eating and why. This meant that when I fell off the wagon I kept falling back into exactly the same cycle. The only way I knew how to deal with anything was to either cut it out completely as punishment or do it until I was killing myself.

Then in July 2015 my mother came back into my life after a long period where I’d neither seen nor talked to her in many years.

It wasn’t the best time to be re-introduced. I was a morbidly obese heavy drinker with a lot of health issues (if you want to see how many have a look at my NSV’s in the main menu) whilst she was a heavy smoker who had been admitted to Heartlands hospital with pneumonia.

She was slowly dying from the complications typically associated with her habit.

The fractures (or coping mechanisms – depending on how you look at them) that already existed in my life were instantly widened – and my own habits immediately increased in severity to compensate. To make matters worse initially she (quite unexpectedly) recovered and I became burdened once again with the weight of her expectation and criticism.

In September of 2015 I looked like this – swollen with food and booze.

(There is one thing in this video that is worth taking note of – aside from my dimensions – and that is what for the first time is on my wrist – which I’ll return to in another post.)

If I wasn’t already by the time she re-entered my life I soon became what I now admit was an alcoholic.

Then one day (after a row with myself and my brother) she told me that she was misunderstood.

The context of this comment was that she had been discharged from hospital (after around 6 weeks of being in a chronic dependency unit for smoking related cardio pulmonary issues) and had lasted less than two days before she had started her habit up again.

Even when attached to pure oxygen she continued to puff away nonchalantly.

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This was just a teeny bit dangerous according to the big red sign on the machine that was keeping her alive and continually whirring away next to her…

My brother was angry – but I wasn’t. I understood her. I could see the truth of it. She knew she was invulnerable to explosions and didn’t see a point in stopping. The end was coming anyway and she saw it standing on a hill in the distance.

IT WAS INEVITABLE.

Unknown to her I’d also started thinking things were inevitable – and at the age of 44 I’d quietly started planning my own death.

I hadn’t been plotting to commit suicide – at least not quickly. I’d just come to view the heart attack or stroke that what was bound to happen at some point in the future as something I no longer had any power (or willingness) to change.

Instead of setting aside money for a pension (which I was convinced I’d never live to see) I was instead frantically trying to pay off my mortgage so that I could leave a house in a will to a brother nearly 11 years younger than myself.

In my head this reasoning had started to make complete sense – and I’d ceased to see it as madness. To me it was just history that hadn’t happened yet.

But…

There she was. A woman who I had no respect or love for, who’d emotionally abused me and the rest of my family for as long as I could remember. I couldn’t stand to be in her presence without a pre-prepared excuse to leave.

She was probably the one person in the world that I disliked more than myself.

I thought about alcohol from the moment that I walked through her door until the moment I bought some on the way home and I was only happy when I started to drink it and forget her.

Yet she was a mirror.

I was looking at what I already was and also what I’d eventually become.

Then the self loathing once again hit me with full force, and two days before she died I decided I didn’t want to be like her (or myself) any more. I accepted that my relationship with alcohol was the same as her relationship with cigarettes and I stopped drinking.

It wasn’t an ideal way to begin but begin it did – with its roots firmly planted in self loathing and self punishment.

Nevertheless it was my first tentative step outside of the closet of denial – but I left one foot in the door – because in my mind I thought that this would fix everything.

(Not true. I’ll come back to this later)

However – as massive a change as that was internet – it wasn’t as big as what came next…

Join me next time to see what happened.

Davey

Today is brought to you by the letters J and I

One of the side effects of doing what I’ve done with weight loss has been that I get a lot of people using the ‘I’ word when they refer to me.

It’s one of two words that have been ever present companions during my weight loss – the other beginning with ‘J’.

For different reasons I find that both cause me a certain level of discomfort depending on how I feel when I hear or write them.

‘Journey’ is my own cross to bear. The word pops up all that time when I’m writing and I have a love/hate relationship with it – often feeling like I’ve somehow been held hostage by its presence.

With the possible exception of ‘odyssey’ (which sounds somewhat grandiose) or voyage (too nautical) what do you use to describe the journey of self discovery that I’ve been on?

I’m continually frustrated by my linguistic inability to navigate around it – and now instead I’ve largely surrendered to its status as a hostage taker.

I’m even developing a level of Stockholm Syndrome and am beginning to grudgingly harbour an affinity for it.

Journey is inoffensive but irritating only because of my own idiosyncrasies.

On the other hand ‘Inspirational‘ is something I never really know what to do with.

In contrast this is a word that I have no control over and never use to describe myself – but that instead gets applied to me with increasing regularity.

There are worse things to happen of course – and to know that I inspire people is both invigorating and scary in almost equal measure.

The problem (if there is one) for me is that it seems to be applied to me at moments when I feel the weakest – and the absolute paradox of it is that I never feel particularly inspirational.

I just feel rather flawed.

It also had another dimension. When people say this to me I’m reminded that I now have a responsibility to present myself a certain way and to put across a positive message about how others can lose weight like I did.

If people are watching you and taking cues from what you’ve written then a negative and pessimistic view of life is something that (if you’re tempted to engage in this kind of thought process) is best navigated around.

I don’t shy away from genuine pain and problems – but I also don’t like to dwell on downbeat thoughts in public too much. Doing so helps no-one and ultimately it’s just maudlin naval gazing.

Eventually you just have to pick yourself up and move on after a mood has passed.

I don’t mind this self imposed requirement really – because on a slightly selfish level it keeps me focused on being the best version of me that I can be.

The only downside is that if you live, laugh and cry in public like I do with my social media presence (how on earth did this happen???) I can’t just go and hide in a corner when I feel I don’t want to do it any more.

If I try to then people come looking for me and ask me what’s wrong.

Their concern pulls me back from whatever metaphorical ledge I’ve been standing on and often allows me to see things from another perspective.

A while back I mentioned that I’d met someone online through Instagram.

He had recently been awarded his own Slimming World group’s biggest loser certificate and he too at times struggled with the weight brought to bear by the expectation of others. Being inspiring to the people that know you if you yourself are struggling is not always an easy space to inhabit.

This man has stuck in my mind because he seemed to be searching for an answer – and asked me ‘who inspires the inspirer?’

This has remained with me mostly because of the paradox of (to my mind) the only possible answer – which is ‘the inspired’.

The people themselves who look up to your achievements provide the impetus to carry on when you feel like you can’t.

Like a snake eating it’s tail the cycle becomes self perpetuating and after a while is almost like a chicken and an egg. It’s hard to imagine how one arrived without the other being there first.

Since I reached target I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me asking for help of one kind or another. Some want dietary advice and others want to know how to put lightning in a bottle – needing to understand how to find it within themselves to climb their own particular mountain.

I don’t think I can give anyone definitive answers in these respects. I can only give my own perspective (as flawed as it sometimes is) and hope that portions of it resonate with them and promote change.

It’s never been my policy to tell people how to live their lives because I know that 2 years ago if the man I am now had told the person I was then what to do then he wouldn’t have listened.

He’d probably have pretended he understood – but deep down he’d be resistant and unwilling to take on board the reality of what he would need to do.

He would need to change both mentally and physically in order to succeed and he didn’t feel like he was capable of that.

Then – out of the blue one day he was.

No-one could have been more surprised than him.

Seeing how far I’ve come people therefore naturally ask me for guidance and I feel a responsibility to respond.

When I do I genuinely want to help.

What’s really confusing is that often – despite wanting to know ‘the answer’, curiously many (not all) still don’t want to face reality and deal with the answer.

This is that what is essentially required is a complete change of perspective on many habits and beliefs that people have hidden behind (whether they realise it or not) often since they were children.

When they’ve managed that Herculean task (and realised that it will never be complete because they’re always learning about themselves) they’re faced with what comes next.

That’s continual and life long effort.

It’s a tough sell. Most want a quick answer and I don’t have one to give.

You’ve probably realised after reading my blog for a while that concise bullet points and bite sized chunks aren’t a Davey trope.

Many will not be required to lose the volume of weight that I did though – and they will be able to make little changes, lose a bit, gain a bit, lose a bit more – and carry on like this throughout their lives without ever letting the problem overwhelm them.

I’m not really speaking to them at the moment – they’ll do what they do regardless – and I’m happy for them.

If they can keep wine, kebabs and chocolate under control and still in their lives then I applaud them.

They already have things way more under control that I did.

I’m talking to the people whose lives have been detrimentally altered by habits or weight.

I’m talking to the ones who no longer feel in control.

As I write today I’m speaking to them – and because of this I’m briefly going episodic – because I’ve realised I can’t fit this into one post.

Over my next few updates I’ll be themed and looking at what I think made the difference.

Like OJ before me I’m going to examine how I did it in public (but without the implication of hypothesis).

This is self serving in some respects because I also at times need to remember myself and I’m still doing battle with my habits even as I type.

It’s never ending.

Last night I could have eaten a horse – but instead I stir fried an entire cabbage, a whole broccoli bush and a red onion with garlic to fill me up and stop my cravings.

So – if you fancy a slightly more in depths set of posts from me then you’re in luck.

Come back over the next few days Internet where I’ll be discussing amongst other things (in no particular order just as the mood takes me) the following.

  • What was the catalyst – where did the spark come from?
  • What did I have to realise about myself before I could move forward
  • What did I discover along the way
  • What I did right
  • What I did wrong
  • How I deal with failure
  • How I feel now

I’m hoping that this will satisfy a lot of the questions that less forward people want to ask – but don’t.

I hope you come back – because (as ever) I’m going to be as absolutely honest as I possibly can be.

Davey

Gone to charity

Well. I have a shedload of clothes.

It’s now 11pm on Sunday evening and after trying on a lot of things and making (what I felt) were some tough choices I’ve put the following aside for charity.

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These items range from 3XL items down to some unusually large XL’s, and from 46-40in waist and chest sizes.

  • 18 long sleeve shirts
  • 15 short sleeved shirts
  • 14 tee shirts
  • 4 pairs smart trousers
  • 2 suit jackets
  • 10 pairs of jeans/casual trousers
  • 1 pair of walking trousers
  • 2 moisture wicking tee-shirts
  • 1 pair of waterproof trousers
  • 2 hoodies
  • 2 fleeces
  • 2 raincoats
  • 3 jumpers
  • 2 long sleeve polo shirts
  • 4 polo shirts
  • 2 pairs of shoes
  • 2 pairs of trainers
  • 1 pair of flip flops

I should probably be surprised at the sheer volume of things that need to be given away – but honestly I’m not. I bought them all because I needed them at the time and to be able to finally wear nice things made me really happy.

They all were worth every penny – even if their residence was brief.

They served a purpose.

I’m genuinely a little sad to part with some them though if I’m honest. A few of these items folded up neatly in anonymous piles represent some cheerful memories and real moments of triumph.

In particular I will really miss my blue Penguin Jacket, a white raincoat, my camouflage shorts, a red check lumberjack shirt, a green Debenhams short sleeved shirt and a grey M&S suit jacket.

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The Penguin Jacket was actually my first charity shop purchase in mid July 2017 – and I had no idea that it was actually a real steal when I bought it alongside an aspirational pair of camo print shorts. The latter wouldn’t quite do up properly at the time (link).

The shorts did fit a few weeks later though and for a while I wore them with pride. They were the first ones I’ve ever worn in public (since I was at school!)

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I ended up taking the blue jacket with me to Snowdonia alongside the white Sainsburys raincoat on the list.

I stood at the summit of the mountain in the white jacket – absolutely drenched with sweat but supremely proud of what I’d managed to do. Both of these items in their own way represent tremendous moments of success – and I’m going to miss them.

My red check shirt came along at a point where I was just getting comfortable with wearing colourful things again – and I remember how happy I was walking along in the sunshine with it on as I made my way up the Grand Union canal to the Hatton Locks Cafe. I was going to walk there and back for the very first time (link).

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It was a really nice day – and I’d just stopped for coffee when I bumped into a fellow Slimming World member and her crazy dog – Molly. We walked along the canal together for a short while on my way back (with me holding Molly’s lead) and her spirited hound pulled and yanked her lead like crazy as we walked together.

This super keen pooch needed obedience classes according to her owner – but I didn’t care. I was just happy to be out and about walking a dog in the sunshine.

My green Debenhams shirt was a panic purchase, because I had secured a new job.

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I really couldn’t afford it (being one of the very few full price items I’d purchased) but I was adamant that I should look smart when I started my training and so I bought it anyway because I liked the material.

I made sure it was a bit loose so that I could wear a tee-shirt underneath in case I sweated too much.

Nevertheless I thought it suited me – and even though I only got to wear it a few times I still think it was worth the money. It made me feel good at a time when I was doubting my ability to do something new.

The job itself had also been the reason for my sentimental feelings about the suit jacket – and it was the first one I’d owned for many many years.

I’d found it by chance not long before I had an my interview for my previous (short lived) job – and although I felt a little self conscious in it I compared myself to some pictures taken in December 2016 and my confidence suddenly soared.

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My interview went well (link) and for the very first time I had secured a job that I could walk to and from instead of having to rely on my car. Although the position ultimately proved to be something I changed my mind about I’m still doing this today – and it makes a huge amount of difference to my life and fitness.

Oddly the Debenhams shirt was also the one I was wearing the very same day that I received a phone call offering me a better job while on the train back from Birmingham.

At the time I was writing a post comparing how I looked to the previous trip I’d taken to that destination and how hard it had been (link).

They’re all wonderful milestones for me.

You have to move on though. You can’t hold onto the past. I have the photos and the memories and they’re enough now.

I have new things to replace them too – and if I’m honest although everything that remains now fits I’m probably going to have to get to grips with the fact that I’m not getting any smaller now and that I can’t just keep buying things I like the look of.

I’ve become the shirt and tie equivalent of a Magpie, and because of this I have had to purchase a new clothes rail.

When I added up all the shirts (a lot of of which are not in the shot) that are either in my laundry basket or waiting to be ironed I now found that I have a rather ridiculous 44 of them…

To go with these I also have 32 carefully chosen ties and there’s a shirt that goes with each and every one of them! I need more red, pink, blue and gold ones though to balance it all out though…

(author goes to bed)

Well I got up early and bagged it all up.

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It’s all gone.

(insert sad face emoji with tear drop)

It’s without a doubt the single biggest drop off I’ve made to a charity shop during my weight loss. Today I decided that the Red Cross deserved my patronage, and gift aided the whole lot to them. They do good work in troubled times – and it’s a worthy cause.

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(insert happy face emoji with cheesy grin)

It seems like a more socially responsible thing to do than selling it all on eBay and I like to feel that someone somewhere will benefit from it at the same kind of time in life that I did.

Maybe they too will climb a mountain in it or go on a long walk whilst wearing it…

Now the only tops I have are either in a (surprisingly large) Medium, Large or (surprisingly small) XL and all of my remaining trousers or jeans range between 34 & 38in waists. Clearly sizes and numbers are completely open to interpretation in the eyes of manufacturers and I’ve learned to just go with the flow and wear what fits me.

If I can get it over my head or do the button up at the waist it all good!

Anyway internet – I must get on! I have things to accomplish with the day!

Davey

Not SAD in the sunshine

Some years ago in the late 90’s I was a care worker and I looked after adults with learning disabilities.

One of the guys I regularly supported was often pretty darned grumpy during winter months. It was around this period that I came across the term S.A.D. (Seasonal adjustive disorder) for the first time when his GP diagnosed him with it.

I have to admit back then I thought that it was absolute nonsense and yet another example of a medical establishment intent on medicalising pretty much everything.

The guy was – in my view – just naturally cantankerous and wasn’t a particularly nice person to support. He had a lot of physical as well as mental problems and if I was him I’d probably have grown up to be a bit of a swine to other people too.

I’d go so far as to say toward the end of my time in the job I’d developed a real dislike for him and his very challenging (and at times violent) behaviour and in retrospect I think this coloured my view of his diagnosis.

I also used myself as a yardstick.

I barely saw sunlight and I was just fine at home with the pallid glow of my games console shining through my TV thank you very much.

I got all the UV radiation that I needed right there.

Fast forward to today – and the sky is blue, it’s warmer and as I’ve been walking around my mood has been noticeably enhanced by the arrival of sunlight and colour.

Maybe there’s something in it after all – or maybe it’s natural for everyone to just feel a bit downbeat when everything is grey.

I’m definitely not alone in making the most of this brief interlude between the almost constant rain and snow lately.

Although still under house arrest my regular twalking buddy is currently making the most of her third week of incarceration.

Like Aung San Suu Kyi before her she’s realising that there are fringe benefits to being able to relax with an attentive prison guard (a rather nice Scottish fellow in this case) nearby to make occasional cups of tea…

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. That lady knows how to rock a hammock…

(Author ruminates briefly on the subject of hammock rocking then moves on)

As I mentioned yesterday I do have things to do today and I’ve already made a start on some of it. I’ve been going through some of my wardrobe overload this morning and being brutal with things.

If it’s loose then it’s gone is my motto currently.

There are one or two items that aren’t loose however, and although I can get into these trousers and jeans it’s virtually impossible to move when I’ve done so. Sitting down in them means it’s almost certain that (ahem) ‘man globe’ damage will occur and although they’re currently under utilised I still plan to employ them in the future.

My swanky Paul Smith jeans therefore must remain neatly folded in my wardrobe. One can’t be too careful when it comes to one’s special parts.

In all seriousness the truth of it is that there’s a bit of me that feels I might have stopped too early with my weight loss. I’m still in the process of deciding whether my ‘problem area’ (don’t we all have them?) around my waist is something that I’m happy to live with or whether I have to do some more work to lose it.

The issue is that the rest of me is now really skinny – and on my upper body around my biceps and shoulders I can’t pinch any fat at all. I can see the veins clearly in my arms and above them is basically just my skin.

My waist is different however. There I can definitely pinch some fat. Quite a lot if I’m honest – but people have told me over and over that I shouldn’t lose any more weight and I’ve tried not to be bull headed about it.

It doesn’t make me particularly unhappy – and I’m aware that losing more weight will probably make me look too gaunt – but part of me would really like to get rid of it.

I’ve pretty much ruled out any surgical options (before anyone asks – which they tend to do a fair bit) because I’m of the opinion that this is pure vanity.

Cutting bits of yourself off and throwing them in a bin sounds like the script of a horror movie rather than a way to approach life.

So – that leaves either more weight loss (I am after all still two stone above what the NHS considers to be a healthy BMI) or an acceptance that this is just me now.

I’m in no rush to decide either way.

I promised myself that I’d take some time to decide how I felt about being at target and my arbitrarily chosen weight of 14st 7lbs is the right one or not and I’m only one month in.

I’ve had some people (one guy in particular who I always thought was pretty fit and well proportioned) tell me that I’m now lighter than they are – which makes me feel decidedly odd because I’m still bigger in my head.

It’s nice to know that where I’ve stopped isn’t odd though – especially if I choose to remain there!

Anyway. The little fluffy clouds are beckoning me and I need to listen to their call. I have much to do with the day and I’ve barely touched my coffee whilst nattering to you internet!

Buh-byeee!!!

Davey

Pendulum vs plummet

Well – today I’ve had a gain on the scales, and a fairly significant one compared to where I was last week.

I knew it was coming – and not because I’ve been particularly naughty (although there was an episode a few days ago with some weetabix and bananas that’s better forgotten) but because despite what the scales said midweek I’ve felt bloated around my middle and that usually means bad news.

A couple of days ago things were absolutely fine.

Today things weren’t.

The scales at Slimming World reflected (as usual) what the scales of ultimate accuracy at home reported.

So – since I think that it’s unlikely that in a couple of days I’ve piled on around 3-4 pounds of fat. It’s much more likely to be something else – and consequently I’m not too bent out of shape about it.

My target weight is set at 14st 7lbs and I’m still within my boundaries.

A gain now means something a little different to what it used to, and I’m finding that because of that my approach to these numbers is quite positive.

The GREAT thing about having done this for a couple of years is that I know exactly how to handle this – and I know what to do both emotionally and physically.

Firstly – don’t worry about it. S&&t happens.

Secondly – I think I need more water. If I re-examine the week I’ve not been drinking that much – and this is usually a prime culprit for what’s just occurred.

Thirdly – I have a week to correct this – which is easily do-able.

In the meantime life just carries on in the same way that it does for other people who’ve never had weight problems.

As I sit typing (whilst drinking cheap coffee in Weatherspoons) I’m surrounded by people who are all ingesting massive amounts of calories – mostly in liquid and chip form – and I’m struck by the fact that all of them seem quite thin.

I suspect that many of these people (just like I am these days) are natural self modifiers rather than people who just endlessly fill their appetites until they can’t eat any more – and that’s the plus point in all this.

It doesn’t matter.

It really doesn’t. Not because it’s ok to gain weight – but because it’s totally normal.

All I have to do is give my body a bit less food and a bit more more water for a while, do a bit of exercise and then I’m back on target.

It’s as simple as that!

I’m now a pendulum and no longer needing to perpetually plummet downwards. This is the new normal.

So – on to other things.

Over the next week I really need to catch up on some basic household tasks.

Since I started working I’ve had a growing reluctance to ‘waste’ any free time I have fiddling with things around the house – and instead I’ve let a few things slide.

My dining room is always the first casualty in this scenario – and at the moment that’s definitely the case.

The huge heavy bin liner above is one of many and there are still plenty of things to bag up.

Tomorrow (or on Monday) I pledge to get this problems SOLVED.

I’ve been putting off and putting off taking things to charity shops and it’s now becoming quite a problem. Once again I can’t see my dining room table for clothes that need ironing.

Before I can completely clear it though I need to be brutal and commit to myself that no matter how nice the clothes that are too big are that I’m never going to wear them again.

This is something I’ve mentioned before in previous posts but honestly it’s not something that I’ve found easy to overcome.

I’ve spent so long living in such a small amount of clothes that all of a sudden I’ve become quite obsessed with holding onto pretty things to wear.

I’ve also yo-yo’d a lot in the past and I have to get it into my head that I’m no longer going to do that.

In parallel to working through this long established mindset (there’s 30 odd years of negative behaviour and associated habits to unpick and overcome) I’m slowly recognising hints of a hoarding mentality – and frankly it needs to stop.

I saw what the end result of an untreated fear of loss did to my mother – and frankly every time I see an echo of her in me I have to act.

I have no desire for anyone to spend several weeks dumping the contents of my house into a skip when I’m gone.

It all has to go internet and I need to make it happen now.

Anyway – it’s time to eat so I better get on with the task at hand!

Davey

Shirts, rabbits and hybrids

My day started this morning as any truly great day should – with a steaming bowl of coffee.

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I’ve not been in a rush to do anything today because unexpectedly yesterday I decided to hook up with a friend and take a last minute day off from work.

It’d nice to just occasionally say ‘nuts to it’ and just wind down a bit. Rather unbelievably I’ve been with my new employer for one third of a year now and time has flown by. There always seems to be something new to think about, learn or work out a way to do – and I like the fact that my mind is always active with the possibilities and challenges that it brings.

Everyone needs a change of scenery from time to time though – and I’m going to fully utilise a period of downtime that I now have up to and beyond the easter bank holidays.

Primarily I realised today that I need to make a start on my garden before things start growing in earnest (it’s supposed to be spring – although you wouldn’t think so given all the snow that we’ve been having) and also go on some lovely long walks with friends I haven’t seen for a while.

There’s much to do in my short period of freedom – and everyone with lots to do needs to make sure that they have enough shirts to do it in – which is fortuitous because I have far too many shirts at the moment.

I’m a self confessed addict. I don’t need any more. Not a single one.

So – after my coffee I spent the morning wandering around charity shops in Kenilworth and bought another seven

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I wouldn’t have purchased so many apart from the fact that I found a lovely mauve M&S luxury work shirt (a ridiculous £2.50), a practically new Marlboro Classics check shirt (£5) with a really cool rope pattern inlay (top pic) four brand new North Face shirts for £4.50 each and one brand new Berghaus shirt for £4 – all in my in perfect size.

Normally I wouldn’t buy so much in one go – but the usual retail price of North Face clothing is… well… lets just say it’s NOT £4.50…..

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All in all if I’d purchased these items off the peg in a department store (where I think they’d be slightly cheaper than the online price here) I guesstimate I’d have paid somewhere in the region of an eye watering £300 for the lot instead of the infinitely more palatable £27.50 I blew today.

These shirts are going to be particularly useful when the summer comes because they’re proper outdoor wear with quick drying fabric – and I think I’m going to get a lot of use out of them.

After this little excursion I headed over to meet my friend – who I’d agreed to go to Brandon Marsh wildlife reserve with.

You might remember two and a half weeks ago this particular twalking buddy face planted the car park when I visited the Lickey Hills with her (link) and badly damaged the ligaments in her leg.

Since then this has been her view…

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My buddy is thankfully on the mend – however she’s unfortunately stuck in this boot at home for another three and a half weeks (the injury was that bad – yet the crazy lady still walked two miles on it!) so it’s important to make sure she doesn’t go quietly nuts at home and whenever possible we try to go out for a coffee or have a natter.

We’ve been to Brandon Marsh before – and I always enjoy sitting in the window and watching the wildlife – although sadly today I forgot to bring my camera. Without an optical zoom things don’t look all that great – and even with my iPhone’s swanky dual cameras digital zoom has serious limitations…

On the plus side it did a fine job of capturing my dinner – which was a rather decadent baked potato topped with some rather sinful (but very tasty) tuna mayonnaise and a side salad.

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After watching the birds and chatting for a couple of hours I took my friend home and headed for my next stop – a car dealership.

I’ve become quite interested in hybrid vehicles recently and decided to pop into a showroom to have a look at the latest range. I’m not currently planning to buy anything as I really don’t need a car for any reason other than putting it outside my house as decoration, but I’m really fascinated in how the technology has developed over the years.

The other really cool thing about going to places like this is that I can now sit in and try all of the things in the showroom, which previously I couldn’t. Most cars used to be completely impossible for me to get into – particularly anything with a high sided ‘bucket-esque’ seat design.

When I sat in a car in early 2016 I filled it.

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I recently went out of my way to prove to myself that there wasn’t a single tiny car that was inaccessible to me (link) and believe it or not I really needed to do that just to get it straight in my mind that I actually really DO fit in any car now.

Sometimes I genuinely forget and panic a bit.

Nowadays however they feel impossibly comfortable – and I totally get why people prefer this style of seat. It’s insanely comfortable!

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My friend remarked when I sent her this picture that I had a very serious face when I sat in a Lexus.

However – I assure you I was thoroughly enjoying trying out new cars that I can’t afford, don’t really need and would almost certainly never buy.

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I’ve not owned a luxury car at any point in my life and I probably never will. I truly don’t see the point if I’m honest. Why spend so much time working to afford something that ultimately ends up sitting in an office car park all day long?

For me safety and economy are my chief concerns and if those were both covered in a car that looked like it was made of Lego I’d probably drive it in a heartbeat.

There’s a part of me though that does really appreciates the effort that goes into designing and making something that is of undeniably high quality and that is also insanely nice to look at.

If I’m honest the everyman car will always be the way to go for me – and even though it’s a bit quirky I found myself really rather liking the Prius in the Toyota dealership next door.

On a practical level I could control my entire life from the insanely multi function steering wheel, hide numerous bodies in the rubberised and easy to clean boot should I choose to become a serial killer – and get incredible miles per gallon whilst disposing the corpses in remote regions of the country.

But I digress…

It’s weigh in day tomorrow – and whether I decide to step on the scales or not will be a decision that’s made by my own scales of ultimate accuracy in the morning.

I’ve felt a little bloated today – and only time will tell whether my mid week check in (whilst in my underwear) has remained the same.

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I suspect not.

Either way – I’m settling into an understanding with my body. Some days it goes up in weight for no apparent reason – and then with equally baffling regularity it then decides to go back down again a day or two later.

The trick dear internet is getting the latter part of the cycle to co-incide with a Saturday – and I will see whether that’s happened bright and early tomorrow…

Davey

Under fourteen

Sometimes I have a really distorted view of what I do well and what I’ve not done so well at.

Often I find myself wracked with guilt over daft things such as a feeling that I haven’t walked far enough or a perception that I’ve overeaten when I should have just nibbled a carrot – but then I realise that the opposite is actually true.

I am (like I’m sure many other people are) clearly my own worst critic.

Yesterday for instance I had a business trip to go on and because of this I got up extra early to spend time on my exercise bike. I was fully aware that if I didn’t then I probably wouldn’t have any time to go walking or doing anything fitness related.

It bothered me so much that at 5am I was already pedalling away like a hamster on a wheel. To be clear this didn’t fill me with joy one little bit – but I did it anyway.

Maintaining my current weight is that important.

As it turned out I was right to worry. I spent most of yesterday sat in a car moving (at times) 10mph through heavy traffic. When I wasn’t trapped in the (heated) leather seated opulence of my boss’s Lexus I was stuck in a meeting room.

Although I view a day like this where I can’t do much as a personal failure (I feel the same when it snows) the reality is that it often forces me to give myself a rest.

I probably don’t do this as much as I should and it’s daft because my body needs to from time to time.

It was clearly pining for a rest too because last night (helped by the miracle of my new electric blanket which I bought on a whim in Aldi yesterday for £17.99) I had the best night’s sleep I’ve had in flippingages.

When my eyes opened at 5.30am this morning I felt great!!!

As I stepped out of the house I was practically bouncing along – still feeling absolutely tip top – and it soon showed how much difference this rest and sleep had made.

Today, whilst on my way to work on mile 3 I managed to crack the 14 minutes a mile walking speed!!!

Back in January I was absolutely amazed that I’d broken the fifteen minute barrier (link).

Since then I’ve lost almost a whole stone and it’s clearly made activity a lot easier because whilst wiping more than two whole minutes off my personal best walk to work time today I barely managed to get out of breath.

My average heart rate was 89bpm.

Back in Jan it was 95!

This in itself is absolutely fantastic news – but it doesn’t stand in isolation, because I’d also been beating myself up about (what in my mind) was a weekend where I felt that I’d eaten too much.

When I stepped on the scales in the end the reality was quite different. I was pretty much exactly the same weight that I was last Saturday – and once again I’m reminded that even in instances where I do overeat a bit I’m still food optimising.

When I reach for more food (that I don’t need but wantwhich is still a problem at times) crucially the choices that I’m making are good ones.

When I remember the reality of my situation (that I’m doing really well and that I shouldn’t be self critical) I take a photo of my current self and place it side by side with one from the past – because even now I need to be reminded of the positive changes that I’ve made and compare the new vs the old me.

Images like this keep me on point and focused on maintenance because they represent moments of failure vs moments of success.

Believe it or not on the right I was at a wedding – and although I’d have loved to be able to wear a suit and not stand out like a sore thumb in my casual 8XL shirt and 66in waisted black jeans I couldn’t.

On the left I’m just throwing on one of several jackets I now own for work not because I have to – but because I can.

If you’re on the same path as I was I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to take photos of yourself throughout your journey even if you hate what you see.

I’d go so far as to say as it’s the difference between failure and success. When you have a dark moment it’s really crucial that you can remind yourself of where you came from and where you are.

I highly recommend that if you do nothing else on your weight loss journey that you consider doing this.

Well. Maybe not just that.

Get a slow cooker too.

I filled mine today. Absolutely stuffed it actually.

First I tossed in a can of chopped tomatoes, 400g of diced beef, a stock cube, 50g of chopped chorizo (6 syns) 2 bay leaves, chilli flakes, 3 cloves of garlic, some mushrooms, a sprinkle of lentils, a red onion and a courgette.

Then I added some sweet potato and butternut squash.

Then topped it off with potato and carrots.

Only when it looks like the lid will never go on do I actually try and force it on. Usually I pack it all down by hand and then pop it on high before leaving the house.

When I arrived home later in the day this is what greeted me.

So internet – even though I’m at target it seems that there are still mental battles to be fought and victories to be won.

Each day is still a little adventure in understanding who I am and what I can become!

I’m honestly loving my life right now!!!

Davey

Nerd things

Maybe it’s an age thing or maybe it’s a ‘skinny’ thing but these days when I look out of the window and see snow my heart completely sinks.

Another day where I can’t feel my fingers beckoned yesterday and I had to cancel my plans for a walk in the countryside with a fellow Slimming World’er and her dog.

This means that not only was my day of freedom disrupted before it had even begun but I didn’t get any pooch time at all. On the bright side though the snow did clear a little later on and I strolled into town for a coffee with my brother and to get a little bit of shopping (how did I exist before discovering unsweetened Almond milk and weetabix?!).

Surprisingly for me however I found that yesterday I simply couldn’t face walking back to my house in the bitingly cold wind (my fingertips and face were actually hurting) and so I caught the bus.

This is the first time in about a year and a half that I’ve used public transport to get home instead of my feet – and although it was actually really nice to get home quickly in the warm I’ve been feeling guilty ever since.

My daily mile target didn’t even come close.

This morning as a consequence I took a longer route to work to make up for it and before I’d reached the office I had a pretty satisfying 4.5 miles under my belt. It was a pretty nice morning too, and nowhere near as cold as the previous day. The snow was quickly on the way out and for a good portion of the hour and 10 minutes I was walking the sun was peeking in and out of little fluffy white clouds.

I also managed some good split times as well (mile two involved a stop at the post office) and by the end of the day I’m comfortingly back into my usual 10 mile bracket which makes me feel quite positive!

For the last two days (since the weather has been awful) I’ve mostly been geeking out with various bits of technology – and throwing a little time into learning a few things that I didn’t know much about before.

Attempting to prove that I’m still a party animal, the other day I bought myself an ‘Excel 2013 for Dummies‘ book in an attempt to put an end to the dull feeling of ineptitude that hovers over me every time I do more than open a spreadsheet to look at it.

Whenever I have a need to start adding formulas and creating tables I’m completely out of my depth.

I’ve resisted pretty much anything like this my entire life and honestly used to find my mind instantly switching off every time I ventured into such territory.

Lately though I’ve come to realise that I’m the exception to the rule in my new peer group and although I’ll never be as deeply invested it as some of those that I work with I want to at least be able to talk to them on a level where I don’t feel like a total caveman.

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The really great thing is (and this is no joke at all) my mind works a million times faster as a fitter and healthier man than it ever used to work beforehand. Not only can I soak up information faster than I ever could before – but I find I can use it more effectively too.

Exercise and healthy eating for the win!

So – thats nerd objective number one.

The second is to understand the mildly bewildering eco system of Android phones.

I have for many years now been almost exclusively an Apple user – and while I don’t have any appetite to get rid of my (pretty darned awesome) iPhone at the moment there are a few things that a Google based device can do that an Apple one annoyingly can’t.

Apple’s strengths (being idiot proof and relatively secure) are also a weakness – and when you really need to ‘get under the hood’ their devices (at least in terms of tablets or smartphones) don’t let you do many things that people with Google based phones just take for granted.

To this end I bought myself a Huwawei P8 Lite (2017 edition – LINK) second hand from eBay the other day – and this evening I’ve been leaning how to program NTAG 215 NFC tags with it.

I won’t go into the reasons why, because I suspect many will be bored to death before I finish typing the sentence – but what I WILL say is that I’m pretty astonished at what less then £100 buys in terms of a phone these days (I paid £88 second hand but it’s £130 at Argos brand new – link).

The P8 Lite is a completely gorilla glass covered device (slippery!) that runs Android 7.0 (customised) and frankly it’s stunningly good for what is essentially a phone near the bottom end of the market.

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It’s 5.2in full HD IPS screen is vibrant and colourful with superb viewing angles, and its (blisteringly fast) fingerprint reader leaves my iPhone 6 Plus (now a relic sitting in a speaker dock thanks to it’s mauling at the hands of iOS 11) in the dust.

Granted – the optics are a bit basic when judged against my current iPhone’s dual camera standards but there’s absolutely nothing about this device that isn’t perfectly usable by anyone that needs a basic smartphone.

Yay for Android – and I never thought I’d find myself saying that…

Anyway – I think it’s way past my bed time. I have a very early start indeed tomorrow and frankly I’m expecting to feel like death warmed up for most of the day as a consequence – particularly because at the moment (despite being on de-caffinated coffee all afternoon) I feel wide-a-flipping-wake.

Sigh.

It’s going to be a long night internet.

Think I’ll play with my new toy until i nod off…

Davey

Ticketty Boo

Thanks to the miracle of WordPress yesterday evening many readers might have discovered a phantom menace of a post in their inboxes.

The post was no ghost however.

It was in fact a work of lyrical genius.

This moment of intellectual enlightenment captured in print was finely crafted, interlaced with wit as well as erudite wisdom and had been painstakingly constructed by this painfully modest (but insanely good looking and diabolically engaging) writer to enrich humanity.

Then…

Boom.

I felt a great disturbance in the force.

It was as if 1000 words cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I feared something terrible had happened…

It turned out that WordPress deleted everything but the title when I’d uploaded it.

Everything happens for a reason though – and the moment has passed. There’s no point being miffed.

Today my thoughts are elsewhere – and have moved away from annoyances relating to food advertising- which was the predominant theme of my last missive.

I’d been ranting about posters on bus stops – and the pernicious and cynical advertising that’s often targeted at children or their tired parents (one of their five a day without the drama? SERIOUSLY?!) but this morning I’m focused elsewhere.

In this case my mind has returned to getting back to my target weight – or at the very least remaining within my allotted bracket – and I have to say it’s been like herding cats in the last seven days.

My weight has done its usual midweek yo-yo impression and I’ve been continually trying to balance some busy (and occasionally stressful) elements of life alongside the urge to face plant a mound of mashed potato and not stop till I’ve licked the pattern off the plate.

On Wednesday I was in no mood for anything diet related and came very close to (for one evening) throwing in the towel and just emptying the fridge.

Thankfully I didn’t (instead I ate a kilo of carrots) and by the end of the week my impulses were under control.

Plus – for a brief moment the sun peeked out from behind a cloud to say hello.

Today of course it’s a distant memory and the all too familiar floaty little snow flakes are back in the air.

It’s FLIPPING FUDGING FRIKKIN FREEZING AGAIN!!!

Traditionally that’s been a trigger to eat to excess in the evening so this morning after a trip to the supermarket I’ve been preparing ahead with a slow cooker that’s absolutely stuffed with goodness.

This monstrous cavalcade of speed, protein and free food is designed to fill what promises to be a very cold evening with some on plan and filling bowls of tasty goodness – and I’m already looking forward to it.

It contains:

  • 400 diced stewing steak
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Stock cube
  • An inch and a half of chopped chorizo
  • Leek
  • Red onion
  • Potato
  • Mushrooms
  • Courgette
  • Swede
  • Butternut squash
  • Sweet potato
  • Chopped tomatoes

I was actually tempted to toss the kitchen sink in too but decided not to at the last minute…

I’m also prepared for a treat at lunch and I’m going to have chips!!!

Not just any chips mind you – butternut squash ones – which are my absolute favourite thing lately because they’re less than 40kcal per 100g. This means that I can pop a couple of these 250g punnets onto a baking tray, slam it in the oven and fry up some cod fillets in spray oil on the hob in the meantime for some healthy fish and chips.

All of this emphasis on food optimising is definitely what it takes to remain within the target member ‘Goldilocks zone’ – and it’s as much of a challenge as actually losing weight ever was.

Some days I feel a bit tired of thinking about food all the time and playing mental hopscotch around ideas about meals that I can or can’t eat on any one given day if I’m to remain consistent with my energy intake.

The plus side of all this obsessing and diligent counting however is that this morning (whilst wearing my weigh in clothes) the scales of ultimate accuracy appear to be smiling back at me.

This is all good news because I really want to become a diamond target member at Slimming World.

It’s not because I’m obsessed with badges and stickers or anything (ok so maybe I am a bit) but it’s because this will keep me totally focused and give me something to shoot for.

I really need an objective because in terms of what used to keep me on point I’m no longer going anywhere at all.

Bizarrely that’s now a good thing.

Anyway – time to go to group. Angie is sick today and there’s a fill in consultant, so it’s important to go along and stay in the meeting to make her feel welcome!

(Author goes to group)

Well – plans change. Butternut chips will have to wait until tomorrow.

As is usual with a guest consultant not many people stayed – but that was ok because in these cases there’s often opportunity for people to natter a little more, and that’s sometimes quite a nice change of pace.

Also today the boy did good and is happy.

Slimming World’s scales were even better at than the ones at home!!! I’m now my lightest weight ever which is something I’m not going to be able to say for much longer. I can’t lose much more after this.

Fourteen stone 6!

To think that back in 2014 I was over 35 stone, could barely move from my armchair and looked like this…

Bolstered by a good result and keen to socialise I headed out instead with a friend from the group into town to indulge in some dinner.

Initially our objective was Coffee Architects. It was (not unusually) besieged by customers who were queuing on the pavement outside.

We moved on to Cafe Royale. Also filled with people waiting.

Down the road Fat Birds had loads of tables but a 50 minute (!) wait for food.

Leif tearooms told us that there was standing room only.

Nando’s has 20 minute wait just to sit at a table.

Then we stopped at Las Iguanas.

It seemed a suspiciously quiet… There were plenty of places to sit… Attentive waiters… No delay for food…

So ……. what was the catch?

Well absolutely NOTHING it turned out. I had one of the most DELICIOUS meals that I’ve had for a very very very long time.

This was a vegetarian chilli from the veggie/vegan menu with a side of sweet potato mash and two small soft tortillas.

There wasn’t a trace of oil that I could find in any of it – and the ingredients were both wholesome, warming and extremely filling. What’s more – they didn’t break the bank from a lunchtime menu perspective either!

I couldn’t find any of the dishes from there in the Slimming World app – but I’m pretty confident that I made the best possible choice – and to be honest I’m definitely going back!

So internet – with that may I finish by thanking all of those readers that contacted me wondering why I’d removed a post and asking if I was ok. Hopefully with the resumption of normal service they’ve been collectively reassured that everything is ticketty boo and that life is trundling along very nicely thank you very much 😊

Davey

Sugarpocalypse

I noticed the other day (whilst indulging in my usual passion) that Starbucks have changed their shelf edge product labelling and are now displaying the sugar content of their pastries in grams.

This has been available for some time on their website (link) but it’s the first time I’ve seen it explicitly stated at the point of sale.

It’s quite an arresting thing to see if (like me) you’re paranoid about hidden sugars and carbohydrates in foods. I’ve been a victim of diabetes, and although it’s currently in remission I’m always afraid it will return.

Starbucks appear to have no fear though. They’re racing full speed ahead to sugarpocalypse…

If you decide to have some luxury fruit toast then you’re choosing to eat an insane 39g of sugar!

Thankfully these days I’m an idle spectator, and you’ll find me shaking my head with disapproval in the queue for a black coffee rather than eating anything like this.

Although I no longer consume things like this anymore (I used to adore the fruit toast) the hidden sugars in foods are a scandal that’s just sitting in plain sight – and we as a society appear to have little willingness to tackle the problem.

Although putting clear indications of what food contains on product labelling helps people who want to take action it’s (in my view) quite cynical – because as a society we’re largely ignoring the damage we’re doing to ourselves.

I noticed not so long ago that all of a sudden the calorie content of the Starbucks’ pastries went up rather than down. When I mentioned this to a barista I was informed that they’d changed supplier for these items and as a consequence many of them had become less healthy. It seemed that taste was the primary consideration, with healthy eating being a distant second.

It’s all very well to highlight sugars on labelling (and I applaud moves to do so) but surely by now there should be a legislative approach to limiting them – especially when there are alternatives such as Stevia which do far less damage.

(For those interested there are quite a few different ways to sweeten foods – although not all are necessarily healthier – link)

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of sugar for an adult male is still a contentious issue and the NHS (Link) suggests a higher amount is ok (30g) compared to the volume that the World Health Organization would have you consume (25g link).

The UK’s health service website states:

Added sugars shouldn’t make up more than 5% of the energy (calorie intake) you get from food and drink each day. This is about 30g of sugar a day for those aged 11 and over.

Even then according to the UK guidance the aforementioned fruit toast (without the accompanying pot of jam) is way over what people should be eating in a snack – and that doesn’t even factor in what’s lurking around within the beverage that would probably accompany it.

Drinks in particular are also a big problem. If you want a shocking visual image of what people can absorb in a few tasty gulps then a quick Google search will result in lots of pictures just like this one.

Coffee shops aren’t much better than canned drinks (in some cases they’re far worse) and there was recently a feeding frenzy in the media regarding this exact subject.

There’s no one chain thats worse than another though and the trend for sickly sweet frothy stuff seems to be common to all of them.

I suspect that at 68.8g of sugar for a Costa Mint Hot Chocolate most people’s sweet tooth would be satisfied several times over.

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If you followed the W.H.O.’s guidance that’s almost THREE DAYS worth of sugar being pushed into your body in less than the time it takes to catch up on your Instagram feed.

So – what if you decide to not go to a coffee shop and stay at home instead?

Maybe cook a nice meal and steer clear of sugar?

How about using a ready made sauce to speed things along?

It may surprise you to learn that some popular pasta sauces (which come in 500g sizes) contain the same amount of sugar as a Mars Bar (42.6g)…

At the end of the day it sadly still comes down to personal choice – and although I fully support self determinism and the right to make our own decisions in life (be they good or bad) I feel that there’s an uncomfortable tension that still exists for me around what choice really means.

Do we REALLY choose?

Companies that push sugar, alcohol, nicotine and other addictive substances make vast profits from what they sell and they use them to fund advertising – particularly to the younger generation – in order to ensure that these profits continue.

I wonder what it will take internet before we all truly wake up to the disaster that’s unfolding before our eyes.

How many limbs will have to be amputated because of diabetes, how many cancers will happen because of obesity, and how many people will die of completely preventable diseases before we collectively realise that that the chocolate bar, cake or latte that we think we can’t do without is actually slowly killing us?

Davey

The truth

It’s a nice morning for a walk – and at least temporarily there is a blue sky to be found if you look upwards.

If you keep your eyes focused in this direction things seem very pleasant – however if you adjust your gaze downward then things on the ground aren’t quite so rosy.

I wasn’t thinking about this subject when I woke up and I certainly wasn’t when I set out for a walk – but at the moment I can’t help but remember the days when every morning held the promise of a hangover.

These days I rarely talk about my past drinking habits because they seem so far away – and maybe because I’m also lucky enough to really not miss either the taste of alcohol or the sensation of being drunk.

I do occasionally miss the ability to shut my mind off however – but the difference is that I now recognise that it was this aspect of my habit that caused me so many problems.

There are others that aren’t so fortunate however – and the private hell they appear to be trapped in is all too apparent when you walk around the bottom of town in Leamington Spa.

Here the pubs open early – and while the nearby shops are still closed some of the people inside these establishments are enjoying the first (maybe even the second or third) pint of the day.

Although for many years I never spent any time in pubs and didn’t usually drink during the day (except maybe sometimes at the weekend) a drinker is a drinker. We can spot one another – and as I pass people smoking on the doorstep of Weatherpoons I immediately recognise the haggard and yellow eyed look of a hangover in their faces.

It typically greeted me every morning when I looked in the mirror – although if I’m honest after many years of heavy drinking I’d ceased to recognise it as such. It was just my face.

I’m mercifully free of this self destructive cycle now and I’m ridiculously thankful that the events of a very dark period of my life eventually resulted in positive change.

They didn’t initially though. In fact they had the opposite effect.

I used to regularly consume 3-4 litres of 5% abv cider every other night – or two bottles of 13% abv wine but when I hit bad times this worsened dramatically.

By the time I stopped I was easily drinking around 5 litres of cider (if I could tolerate the physical volume) or 3+ bottles of wine every single night.

I feel no shame about it any more. It’s in the past – but at the time I felt the need to hide the extent of my habit from everyone.

I took bottles to the recycling centre regularly or dropped flattened cardboard wine boxes off at the nearby collection bins near my local shops. I also squished up all of my empty plastic cider bottles so that they were teeny tiny in my refuse bags.

As I type I find that I remember particularly strongly the smell of stale alcohol as it escaped from the from the plastic cider bottles when I flattened them.

Oddly I came to rather like this smell. It wasn’t pleasant – but it was part of my daily life and it represented a release, comfort, emotional numbness, pain relief, the ability to sleep – and the blessed relief of forgetting (even if just for a moment) the reality of how miserable my existence had become.

I don’t type all this because I’m dwelling – or feeling at all down.

Quite the opposite is true actually.

Honestly I feel a sense of relief and freedom – and that enhances the happy mood that I’m already in.

I’m in control of my destiny once again instead of being controlled by my addictions.

(Author pauses. Looks out of the window of the coffee shop he’s in and takes a sharp intake of breath)

I suppose when it comes down to it that’s really what it was.

An addiction.

I don’t like to admit that about myself. Instead my internal narrative is about a man who was ‘alcohol dependant‘ and for the longest time I’ve only felt comfortable with this self applied label.

I chose to identify with ‘alcohol dependant’ because it enabled me to step away from the reality of what someone drinking to the extent that I did truly was.

That person was an alcoholic – and I guess if I’m absolutely truthful with myself that’s what I was.

Although it hadn’t completely ruined my life or stopped me working it was only a matter of time until it did and when I recognised that fact I finally found it within myself to take action.

There’s no point denying it to myself any more. 774 days ago I was an alcoholic and that was my reality.

I’m not punishing myself with this statement. I’m releasing myself.

There’s nothing to hide from any more. It’s the past and it’s gone. The reality now is very different.

You may one day find me a repentant member of coffeeholics anonymous – but not today internet. I’m on my second large Americano and I very much doubt it will be my last.

This is as drunk as I get. Life is enough now. The sky is still blue outside and I’m clear headed and happy.

I’m also fit and healthy, grateful that I have a second chance and that I stopped with enough time left to begin my life again.

I write this not just because it’s part of my process of coming to terms with my past but because it’s true – and in truth there’s power.

Within it lies the capability to provide understanding to anyone reading and associating with this or similar behaviour that it’s not too late.

In fact it’s never too late – no matter how desperate things may seem. Even if there’s not much time left you can make what remains a better place to be – and live life free from things that control you.

Today is entirely what you want it to be.

Bend it to your will internet. You can do it if you want to.

Davey

Keep going

Taking the pressure off myself a bit yesterday resulted in something wonderful.

Sleep.

Beautiful, delightful, invigorating and refreshing sleeeeeeeep.

I was so wrapped up with worry and stress that I hadn’t noticed I wasn’t getting enough of it – and that this was probably layering itself cumulatively on top of other negative thoughts. Somewhere along the way it probably turned into the continuing reason that I felt unable to sort things out in my head as well.

This morning I awoke to the sound of rain – but honestly felt as if somewhere inside me there was a little ray of sunshine – and I lay in bed just listening and feeling quite relaxed. Part of that which came from (broadly speaking) knowing what to expect when I weigh in – which I think I’m going to today.

This morning I checked the final tally of damage without clothes – and then with.

So it looks like I’m set for a 2lb gain on the SW scales – but that’s still within the 3lb margins of maintenance. If I carry on with the right mindset next week I’ll hopefully get myself back to being exactly on target or hopefully slightly under.

I have to admit – in my dark moments last weekend (and honestly it did get surprisingly grim) I was filling my head with thoughts of how I’d piled all my weight back on in the past. A decade or so ago I just started eating and didn’t stop after losing 10st.

I clearly still have the capacity to massively overeat when I’m in the wrong head space – but (and this is a big BUT) I also now have the mindset that I know how to turn it around and I’m don’t run away from dealing with it.

It’s not failure any more, it’s just something I can fix and one bad result on the scales does not confirm all my worst fears. All it does it present a challenge – and that’s one I’ve proven to myself time and time again that not only am I up for but that I can meet it head on AND WIN.

Internet – you don’t know how hard it is for me to remember this fact sometimes and how important it is for me to believe it.

Anyway, enough waffle – I better get ready – time’s a wasting!

(Author gets ready and goes to group)

Well – as always today I was reminded (truthfully no-one needed to tell me this) that when you go to group everything seems better.

I was really happy to see a few faces there that haven’t been for a while too and it’s great to be able to support them the same way that they’ve supported me. Group love is a wonderful thing!

It seems odd to say this – but I had a victory on the scales. I only put on a pound and a half and I’m still in target! Yay!

How odd that this is now cause for celebration?!

It just goes to show that this is all about perspective – not just dropping pounds…

I also took home my group’s Greatest Loser 2018 award today.

Angie then confirmed to the group that she’s entering me for the national competition too – and I could be in with a chance of winning!

It’s amazing what a difference a day makes. Imagine how I’d have felt this morning if I hadn’t tried to turn things around midweek and put the effort in to get back on track?!

Furthermore lets just imagine just for a moment how I’d have felt if I had just carried on eating and said ‘screw it – I no longer care.’

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The answer is ‘pretty damn awful’.

Anyway – it’s now raining outside, the sky is grey and it’s cold. It’s not the kind of weather to go out in. The street I live in is deserted apart from recently emptied wheels bins.

So what to do?

Well – GO OUT of course. Continued success doesn’t happen by magic. You have to keep chipping away at it and doing a bit more every day towards it, so I’m going for a walk internet.

Who knows – if you live nearby and look out of your curtains you may just see me skipping along with a spring in my step.

Before I go though I feel I need to make an honourable mention of the ladies today (you know who you are) who made it to group despite (in some cases) feeling more than a bit blue. Instead of staying at home you chose to carry on regardless and surround yourself with friendly faces and people that care.

From your attempts to fill the exercise ring on your fitness devices, to your dealing with hospital emergencies, personal crisis and epic business trips you all still made it to the session.

Regardless of your results and no-matter of how you feel deep down you’re ALL winners in my eyes and you keep me coming back each and every week.

Keep going girls – each day is a brand new one x

Davey

Be more kind

Firstly – thanks to everyone that contacted me after my last post.

Secondly – I apologise if for the most part I’ve been less communicative than usual. I’ve not completely emerged from my ‘blue period’ this week – but today I definitely feel a little better.

Not only is it Friday but in between periods of self imposed isolation this week I’ve been actively trying to turn my frown upside down.

There’s definitely mileage to be had in allowing yourself the space to feel bad here and there – but dwelling on negative thoughts for too long does no-one any good. At some point you have to give yourself a stern pimp-slap and just get on with things.

The world doesn’t stop turning just because you decide to be glum and sometimes it just comes down to a simple personal choice.

Am I going to be happy or miserable?

I’m really trying to consciously choose happy and (because I recognise that putting on weight also equals being completely miserable) for the last few days I’ve been working hard to turn around a gain on the scales.

I’m making progress. Whether I decide to weigh in or not tomorrow morning is another question entirely.

I’m in an unusual ‘informal’ place as a target member now. Officially I only have to weigh in every four weeks to keep my membership alive – so on paper the pressure is off.

However what I don’t want to do is enter into a ‘boom and bust’ cycle where I yo-yo up and down all the time because I feel that no-one’s watching me (although honestly that’s pretty hard to do when you have a blog like mine) and in this respect my scales of ultimate accuracy have been a life saver.

Believe it or not on Tuesday night (after a particularly hefty pig out) they suggested that I had edged back into the 15 stone bracket by 1/8th of a pound.

I’m sure a lot of this was undigested food and water – but even so – when I saw what I’d managed to do I was pretty annoyed with myself.

Without these unflinching arbiters of the truth I probably would have buried my head in the sand until Saturday morning. At this point I’d have been confronted with an impressive gain – which no doubt would have caused my frame of mind to dip even further.

Instead by midweek I was aware of what I’d done and after having a bit of a stern word with myself was able to take steps to address it.

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By the time I stepped on them this evening (in socks and pants) I had made a significant impact – which is a real comfort. It lifted my spirits quite a bit.

However – I also decided to remind myself of where I was and where I am now – and first thing this morning decided to mind myself of the GOOD in my life. At the same time it was a great opportunity to spam the feeds of the poor fools that follow me on Instagram with another comparison shot of me now vs me from early February 2016.

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The me on the left is still drinking heavily whilst trying to deal with the slow demise of his mother – who would be dead less than three weeks later.

He’s in emotional free-fall, self medicating as much as humanly possible and prone to bursting into tears in front of anyone without warning.

Furthermore he’s around 35 stone, type 2 diabetic, has high cholesterol, borderline hypertension, sleep apnea, crippling back and joint pain, and can’t walk much further than from his front door to the car 20ft away.

He also can’t fit in his bath and can’t bring himself to tell that secret to anyone in his life.

The guy on the right has pretty much everything he’s aimed for. He is medication and pain free and can walk over 22 miles in a day. He’s demonstrated that in two years he can do things that he never thought possible in a million years, and despite not being perfect he recognises that there’s no such thing. All he wants is to be happy and fit into the world around him.

In almost every area in life (apart from the occasional blip) he is happy and when it comes to the world he most definitely does fit.

There’s not a single item of clothing in his (ridiculously extensive) wardrobe that doesn’t fit, and his spare room contains several bin liners full of items that are now huge on him.

Sometimes it might take him a while to gather perspective but overall his lows last far less time than they ever used to and there’s never a hangover awaiting him in the morning after an awful night’s sleep filled with fears of suffocation and breathing difficulties.

My preoccupation earlier this week with suddenly feeling alone is something that’s ridiculous.

I’m no more alone today than I was the day before, or the one before that. The only thing that temporarily changed was my outlook. In truth I’m less alone now than I’ve ever been. I’m surrounded by people that care and I’m succeeding at life in all the areas that count.

I’m loved by others and I love them too.

I’m not paid a fortune, but then I don’t need one.

I don’t have a huge house full of expensive things because I don’t want them.

I’m not crippled with debt because I don’t need to buy items to make me happy.

I no longer bury my pain under layers of food and alcohol because I’ve moved past that. I experience things, embrace them (with the help of others) and move on.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that occasionally I have to remember to be more kind to myself and that’s what I’m doing.

Frank Turner knows what I’m talking about.

I like the cut of his jib.

Songs like this help because they send the right message. We have to be kind not only to other people but ourselves. It’s been my anthem today and I’ve had it on a loop in earphones as I’ve been working at my desk.

I urge anyone feeling a bit low to listen, follow it’s advice and be more kind to yourselves and each other internet.

Davey

The summit

One of the most important things to me is honesty in my posts and even though my natural impulse is to hibernate when I feel down I think it’s important to share things with the world be they positive or negative.

Too many people hide away when they feel down and it does nothing but make matters worse.

As painful and as counter intuitive as it can be to publicly admit weakness – I have seen again and again that when I do it’s helpful both to me as I write it all out and readers that struggle themselves.

I post now – not because I really want to (I really don’t if the truth be told) but because every time I’ve suppressed or glossed over my feelings in the past they’ve eventually come back to bite me sooner or later.

So – I feel very low – but why?

Honestly I’m not completely certain – but I think I know what started it.

There are a lot of people over the last two years that have said to me being a target member is an odd place to be. Many have also said how difficult they’ve found it.

I’m only in my second week (in many ways because of this I feel I should just shut up and get on with things) but I’m beginning to believe that the way I currently feel is caused by this new phase in ‘my journey’.

This week (and maybe even a little bit of last week) my thoughts associated with this have been quite complicated. I’ve kept a lot of them to myself or only talked about parts of them to friends as the topics have arisen.

I’ve been very conscious that voicing what could be perceived as negativity in a period that should be reserved for celebration is probably not something that’s expected.

After all – who complains about winning the lottery?

There’s so much to process though.

No-one gives you a manual for how to deal with an event like this. I didn’t really know what to expect from it and even though I’ve now experienced it I still don’t.

I couldn’t make sense of it then and I still can’t now.

When it happened I cried. Then I felt numb. Then I felt a sense of release. Then I felt happy. Then I felt overwhelmed. Then I felt muted. Then I felt strangely complete. Then I felt disappointed. Then I felt lonely. Then I felt down.

I’ve been left with a sense that I’ve climbed a massive mountain, and after doing so found myself sitting proudly at the top.

Whilst looking at the view I began to recognise that the only remaining courses of action were to remain where I was or to climb back down.

When you’ve defined your success in terms of one thing for so long it’s a very strange place to find yourself right where you dreamed of being.

Was it what you expected? What does it mean? What comes next? Do you climb another mountain?

More importantly does it make you happy?

The last week and a half has prompted me to dwell on many deeper thoughts about the world (and my place in it) that I’ve deferred for a long time.

I have completely out of the blue begun to feel really really alone – which is extremely unsettling.

This made me wonder why I suddenly felt that way – and I came to the conclusion that for a while it seemed that everyone appeared to be saying to me ‘now all we have to do is find you a partner’.

Normally I laugh this off.

After all – I didn’t need to think about this until I was ‘fixed’. The problem is that now theoretically I am – so what’s my excuse? Do I want it or do other people want it for me?

Am I feeling this way because I’m really worried about this or is it just other people’s thoughts about who or what I should be that are causing me to linger on such emotions?

I genuinely don’t know.

What do I do with my new body? Do I offer it to someone else? Do I do anything at all with it? Do I carry on as normal? Do I force the issue?

What DO I do?

I feel all of a sudden like I’m frozen in amber and paralysed by the options in front of me.

As always over thinking isn’t necessarily helping. Naval gazing and my sudden need anaesthetise myself by eating everything in sight is something that can’t continue.

Irritatingly I thought I was past this kind of behaviour.

Clearly not.

This week the scales have reacted angrily to my current (and thankfully now very much out of character) method of coping with a downward mood swing and when I stepped on them today I was reminded that nothing is without consequence.

I’ll find myself out of target by Saturday unless I’m very focused and careful over the next few days – so to add insult to injury now I’ve re-added stress about weight loss to my other negative thoughts.

Tonight though I still feel a dark mood lingering and it shows no signs of dissipating any time soon.

I’ll keep you updated on where this goes but in the meantime I’m just going to try and work through it.

Hopefully normal service will be resumed ASAP. I don’t like feeling this… blue.

Aaaaaanyway – onto other news.

It seems I’m not the only one feeling a bit glum. My recently injured twalking buddy is also still under the weather.

Since there were many well wishers on my blog, Facebook and social media sending her their collective hugs (I passed them on) I thought it only fair (with her permission of course) to let you know the latest.

After a follow up visit to the hospital today it seems that the prognosis is far from improved and that she is now the owner of some new footwear to match her shiny sticks.

Unlike a nice pair of boots from a swanky boutique however this particular inflatable one must remain in situ for 6-8 weeks.

In the meantime she has orders to stay off her feet.

Knowing how much she loves the outdoors I’m sure that this hasn’t done much for her frame of mind so she can rest assured that I’ll be popping over for coffee and a chat as often as I can.

Think good thoughts everyone. Hopefully she’ll be mended soon!

Davey

Hurty boo boo at Lickey Hills

I’d say that the best laid plans of mice and men invariably fail but now I sit and think about it I’ve never met (or heard of) a mouse that adequately planned ahead.

Honestly I’ve never been particularly good at doing this either and for the most part I just go where the mood takes me and hope for the best.

It usually works.

Sometimes it doesn’t.

When faced with a full on attack of ‘the Mondays’ yesterday I decided at the last minute to book the day off today and do what I used to do all the time – go for a random walk in the countryside.

Thankfully my regular twalking buddy isn’t hard to convince when it comes to suggestions of outdoor activity and she positively jumped at my idea that we explore the Lickey Hills. We’ve never been there before and it’s supposed to be quite pretty.

She arrived to pick me up at 9.30am and I was unusually (almost) ready to go. Whilst we nattered I put the finishing touches to my packed lunch (cous cous and mackerel with sweetcorn) and then we left the house.

Whilst I’m happy to drive I have to admit I also rather like to be driven when it comes to this particular friend. I recently discovered that her large techno armchair with wheels comes with heated seats and when a man regularly gets as cold as I tend to there’s very little that’s more enjoyable than hot buns.

Part of me abstractly worries that I’m rapidly beginning to associate a pleasant feeling in my bottom with time spent around her – but hey ho.

Worse things have happened.

When we arrived at the visitor centre it was fairly clear that we’d arrived in the ‘off season’ – although truthfully I’m not sure that the visitor centre has an ‘on season’ judging by it’s interior.

It appeared to be home to some of the sorriest examples of taxidermy that I’ve ever seen – none of which would be out of place in a Harry Potter movie…

They’re so bad that I find them unintentionally hilarious!

In contrast to the exhibits that were (ahem) ‘experiencing a serious love deficit‘ the lady behind the enquiries counter was extremely attentive and helpful. When we asked about the best route to take around the hills she took the time to highlight it for us on a printed handout of walks that was free to visitors.

As we left the building and headed to the corner of the car park we checked our gear.

Packed lunch. Check. Water. Check. Emergency banana. Check. Coffee. Check.

We seemed ready for the six mile walk – and headed for the start with our engines revving. There was no stopping us!

The day would be one of adventure and exploration! This was FREEDOM!!!

The little red arrow pointed the way to territories unknown that were filled with both wonder and delight!

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At which point my friend unexpectedly tripped over an unusually pointy pebble and face planted the muddy floor.

I immediately stooped to grab her arm and help her up.

‘No no – hang on – I’ve hurt my leg.’ She said – and I took my hand away. She didn’t want to be moved, and instead picked up her glasses and rolled around to sit on her bottom.

A particularly nonchalant dog walker stepped around us without offering a single word of support, and was quickly followed by a visitor centre employee casually passing on a tractor – who also appeared to be very disinterested.

So much for the milk of human kindness…

Meanwhile my friend was catching her breath and I was a little worried.

She had mud all over her face and arms and was busy putting her spectacles back on while the seat of her trousers absorbed the muddy floor. She looked like she was in a lot of pain.

‘I’m ok – it’s not bad. I just need to sit for a bit.‘ she said – wincing and screwing up her eyes.

Given that what she was sitting in must have been both cold and very unpleasant I took this to actually mean ‘it really hurts but I’m being a big girl about it.’

After a few minutes of grimacing and further wincing she allowed me to help her to her feet and began to gingerly put weight on her ankle. It was clearly very painful.

‘We can go back if you want. It’s ok – I don’t mind.’ I said. ‘We could do a pub lunch or a coffee instead?’ I suggested.

‘No it’s ok – we’ll carry on. I think it’ll walk off.’ She replied.

‘Are you sure?’ I said again.

‘Yes – it’ll be ok.’ she replied.

I know better than to argue – especially with people who’ve experienced childbirth and already demonstrated to the world that they have a significantly higher tolerance of pain than men – so at a markedly slower pace than usual we began to follow the route that the lady had highlighted.

It was actually a really nice day for a mooch – although honestly a bit muddier than I’d prefer. The view and the sky was (at least intermittently) pretty lovely!

As we continued on our way chatting and talking about her mishap (and me continually asking if she was really ok) I began to see real live examples all around us of the desperately sad stuffed animals in the visitor centre.

Although I couldn’t get very close there were a couple of Jays ferreting around in the undergrowth and hopping in and out of the bushes.

The woods at Lickey Hills are actually really nice. There are lots of little branch teepees in evidence when you pass clearings, and it’s clear that there’s a quite a bit of activity around this area in the school holidays.

However I’m not entirely sure that the local council’s choice of carefully camouflaged bird boxes are completely in keeping with the colour schemes of the area.

Despite their uncanny, chameleon like ability to blend into their surroundings occasionally we still managed to pick one out against the forest canopy thanks to our miraculously keen eyesight…

It was at this point that something even more amazing happened.

My friend has for ages been saying almost everywhere we go that she sees Nuthatches.

However – mysteriously whenever I turn and look there’s nothing to be seen – leading me to question her obviously infirm and frequently tenuous grasp on reality.

This topic was also quite useful when it came to deciding on an appropriate Christmas present…

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Then – out of the blue, in the undergrowth…

Could it be?

Say it’s not so!!!

A frikkin Nuthatch!!!!

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We’d only both seen a REAL LIVE ONE!!!

However – it was at this point (as I was intermittently stopping to take photos) that I noticed my companion was gradually limping more and more.

After anther short chat I convinced her that now was not the time to be daft and that resting her ankle could in fact prove beneficial. She finally relented and we headed back to the car to go and get a spot of lunch (an unlimited salad in my case!!!) at a nearby Harvester instead.

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It seems that it was just as well – as shortly after arriving home this afternoon (I walked into town for a coffee to get my step and mile count up) I got the bad news. Her husband had insisted on a visit to A&E and everything wasn’t completely tickety boo.

‘There’s nothing broken – but I do have a damaged ligament.’ my friend said, and forwarded the photographic evidence.

The poor lamb is now on crutches!

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So – the day didn’t work out quite how either of us planned it to – but on the bright side internet it’s thankfully nothing that won’t heal with time – and we’ve also FINALLY seen a Nuthatch together – so it hasn’t been a completely awful day!

So I’ll sign off today by sending massive hugs to my twalking buddy and wishing her a super speedy recovery!

xxx

Davey

Flashes of colour on a lazy Sunday

The awful temperatures and weather seem to be slowly receding back to Siberia and the world today appears to have been quickly thawing.

The endless snow and wind (which at the time seemed strangely permanent) has now become a more recognisably British intermittent drizzly rain. All of the troublesome white stuff that made walking anywhere so darned sapping is now quickly heading for the nearest drain.

It’s amazing how one day the world seems to be completely drained of its palette and the very next morning all the colour is back!

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Talking of colour today I’ve been in in a terrific mood – and it’s mostly stemmed from being able to fit into all the nice clothes that I’ve been painstakingly collecting over the last few months.

The new/old shirt (depending on how you view charity shop purchases) that I bought yesterday unexpectedly put quite a spring in my step as I walked into town this morning!

Not only does it fit perfectly but it goes really well with my (beloved) Levi’s and a lovely snug blue gilet that a fantastic friend thoughtfully gave me for my birthday.

I really love little splashes of bright colour here and there. I used to avoid them at all costs to make sure I didn’t draw any unwanted attention to myself – and now I really don’t care who looks at me.

I’m dressing purely for my own pleasure and the concept of this is still new enough to me to be exciting and fun.

Bit by bit I’ve started to collect things that mix and match really well and I absolutely love figuring out which random item will go with another eclectic piece of clothing that I find.

Thanks to my birthday (and an eBay purchase) I also have some new cufflinks too – which I can’t wait to use!

Although my clothing has been bright, and my mood perpetually upbeat today in every other respect this Sunday has been quite mundane.

I spent a compressed couple of hours early in the morning rushing to do all the things that I couldn’t do yesterday.

One of these vital weekly tasks is ensuring that there was nochance whatsoever of me running out of cottage cheese during the week.

Once this potential disaster was averted the afternoon was then spent cooking, avoiding the rain, generally relaxing – and occasionally nodding off too.

I’ve rather enjoyed having no structure or plan today. It’s quite unusual for me to have a sole objective for the second half of the day to do pretty much nothing.

I do have one thing in the back of my mind though. This week Angie has set the group a challenge to use more fish in our Slimming World meals and I added a couple of items to my shopping to help this objective along.

I’m also aware that I need a new ‘regular meal’ or two.

I tend to cook the same things a lot – firstly because I’m damn good at certain ones and really like the taste of them – but secondly because I can make them quickly and virtually with my eyes closed.

This week my objective is to do something a little new… and fishy

Watch this space internet!

In the meantime I hope your Sunday was as cheery and chilled as mine was! x

Davey