Difficult day

It’s a big day and if I’m brutally honest I’m struggling.

Today is the third anniversary of my mother’s death and for many reasons (probably not the ones you might expect) this is always a difficult time.

In my head there’s been a quiet countdown leading to this moment for a couple of weeks and as a consequence I’ve noticed my mood dip as well as my appetite quietly increase.

As much as I’d like to proclaim ‘I’m cured – it no longer affects me!’ This would be a total lie.

Even though I don’t miss my mom at all this is a time when I’m reminded of what I could or should have had in my childhood (and my relationship with her) but did not.

So – in an effort to exorcise some demons I decided that today was an appropriate time to get rid of the 30-40 odd framed paintings and photos that had I piled into boxes three years ago before hiding them away in a cupboard.

I’ve been holding onto them partly because I didn’t want to throw things away that she had created and partly because I thought my brother or father may want them even if I couldn’t bear to look at them.

Neither seems to be the case – and honestly I’ve never liked 99% of them so the only course of action that seemed to be left to me was to throw them away.

One or two (including all of the photos) I removed from their frames and kept – but everything else is now in a landfill or furnace somewhere.

I was hoping that this would make me feel good – but for the first time in years I’ve been confronted with my mom’s own unique brand of mental illness.

When I cleared her bungalow with my brother after she died it was exhausting (this is all documented in my blogs back when I first started writing).

This was not just because of the bereavement but because contained within each item there was another item, and within that another one.

Each was sellotaped into progressively smaller bags like little Russian dolls.

It took forever to unpack it all – and nothing could be arbitrarily consigned to the bin. There were tiny little caches of money hidden everywhere and I was acutely aware that there was a funeral to pay for.

Occasionally we also found small (or surprisingly large) bags of hair from different periods of her life that were labelled ‘for DNA testing‘.

Her picture frames it seems were no different – and underneath each taped up and nailed shut frame were more photos, scribblings and random (probably false) facts about family members.

Then I found the gut punch.

Hidden within a school photo of me was a draft letter, yellowed with age and dated October 1977.

This photo was taken a few years earlier – but in my mind this is the woman holding the pen.

The page detailed her feelings about her relationship with my father and contained intimate thoughts about their physical moments together.

Then it unexpectedly pivots into a passage regarding the sacrifice of Jesus and the relationship of this to her infant son.

Referring to me she says to my father:

‘He is our oneness. We dwell in him. He is our future on earth. The survival of our line. God will take him back to himself in time when all is fulfilled.’

I’m reminded immediately of her cadence in letters, her muddled allusion to both biblical scripture and other pseudo scientific thought processes.

I’m suddenly confronted with how her fractured and troubled mind worked and it momentarily takes the breath away from my lungs.

I sit on the edge of the bed in the quiet of my spare room.

At the end of the letter there’s a crossed out passage – which she’s noted did not get included in whatever version of the final letter was sent to my father.

Maybe it was too truthful and gave away far more information regarding her mental state than she was willing to share.

‘I am using too much adrenaline and the body I dwell in is suffering. The head aches and the singing in my ears gets worse. A quiet night is no longer a quiet night for me, my ears have their own noises of singing, ringing and bumps. Tonight the singing is a high pitched continuous note with occasional throbbing ever present. I have suffered this on and off since the age of 12.’

She continues – saying that she’s not good at looking after herself and is not eating. She’s losing weight, her bosom is disappearing and she says that she functions better when she has someone to look after.

The whole letter is like a selection of nails being hammered into me.

I’ve told myself many times (maybe to try and make sense of everything) that my mom wasn’t always the same person, and that time had slowly made things worse.

I like to think that when I was small she was a normal and loving mother – but the truth is she was exactly the same woman I had to deal with before she died.

I just never saw it as a child.

Her peculiar thought processes were my normal back then and because I learned early on to just accept her fragmented default state it took me many years to see her for who she really was.

It consequently took a long time to realise that the problems between us weren’t caused by me.

They were generated by her.

There was something profoundly odd about my mother. Although the words she used were English and seemed to link together, when you stood back (metaphorically speaking) the content of her sentences and paragraphs always left you confused or wondering why she had gone down one particular rabbit hole or another.

Usually the pleading side of her (evident in much of the draft letter I was reading) that begged for love (or more typically demanded it be given) came after she had done everything in her power to destroy any chance of it happening naturally.

More often than not letters like this came after significant rows – where her vitriol was at its worst and you were left scared to say anything in case it made things worse.

I’d be called evil, wicked, sick, ‘just like your father’ or ‘my biggest disappointment’.

The only route I had out as a child was to withdraw, go quiet and take it, hoping that it would stop eventually.

It never did though.

It would go on for hours and hours.

Occasionally she would let me go to sleep – thinking that the verbal beating was over.

Then she would wake me in the small hours of the morning stinking of tobacco, shaking with rage, shouting at me ‘…and ANOTHER thing…’ before she launched into the next part of her character assassination.

The following day when I returned home totally shattered from school after having had no sleep and dreading what was to come it was like nothing had happened.

She never referenced or apologised for anything she’d said – and instead expected full contrition from me.

If I mentioned anything about the night before I’d immediately start the whole sorry saga of ‘what I’d done wrong’ all over again.

Sleep was too precious at that point so I just stayed quiet and smiled or pretended.

Then without a word of apology or acknowledgement of the damage she’d caused, would arrive a demand for love.

When I was older and could get away from her afterwards this typically came in the post by letter until I moved and stopped providing her with my address.

When I did she continued to send letter after letter to my father – asking a man she wanted nothing to do with (but then professed undying love for) to pass her profoundly unbalanced thoughts on.

In the case of the letter I was holding the (very familiar) entreaty came written partly as a poem and partly as prose.

For my mother this was quite normal. I remember this kind of stream of consciousness all too well.

It was often stated in passages dripping with pain and symbolism that it was her ‘right‘ to receive love from her sons – that it should be given by her children ‘unconditionally‘ – just like she had given it to her parents before.

Back then I had always assumed that this was true and that as a child and adult she had been slavishly devoted to them. After all – it was what she continually told me was the case.

However after she died I learned from my uncle that the relationship she had with at least one of her parents was instead very different.

Her mother was scared of her and told her other children that she was frightened by her resentful and mercurial moods.

She didn’t know what would happen if she was left alone with her and in later years my grandmother saw my mother as a burden that was to be feared rather than relied upon for support.

As these thoughts flow through my mind I continued to take apart the yellowed picture frames and remove their contents.

In one photo (showing my uncle’s wedding reception) the picture has been trimmed. The background has been cut away, leaving only a collection of torsos and heads from the foreground.

Sealed and hidden away in another picture frame is the rest of the missing photo, depicting a pub wall without any people in front of it.

There’s nothing but wallpaper with cut out silhouettes.

Why keep it?

More to the point why chop it up in the first place?

Maybe it’s a part of the hoarder in her but I’ll never know because both her life and death remain frustratingly unresolved.

I’ll never understand who she was, why she thought the way she did, and why she manipulated and controlled rather than loved and nurtured.

I’m left with no good memories of her that she didn’t pollute over the years and I’ll never get an apology or an acknowledgement of the damage and heartache that she left in her wake.

Nevertheless I am glad of the final unwitting gifts that she left behind.

Firstly she made me want to be so unlike her that I finally found the power within me to break free of the self destructive behavioural loops that she left me with.

I gave up the drinking that I had consciously started to drown out her insults and I lost the weight I had gained through many years of eating away emotional and physical pain.

Secondly there’s practically the last thing she said to me before she died.

Unsurprisingly it wasn’t ‘I’m sorry’ because my mom never said that – and she never regretted anything.

Until that is she lay in A&E on the last day I saw her alive.

She was struggling to draw breath, in great discomfort and drowning slowly from the fluid collecting in her lungs.

Years of smoking had finally taken its toll – for which she was unrepentant. She smoked until the end and refused to acknowledge its impact.

‘I don’t regret ANYTHING.’ She said, and went quiet.

My brother and I looked at the wall.

Neither of us wanted to hear her voice any more. It was like nails being dragged down a chalk board.

‘Actually I DO regret something.’ She said, looking at me.

I turned my head.

This was new.

She’d never said anything like this before.

‘David.’ She said. ‘I regret…’

I listened to her stilted voice as she struggled to talk through her laboured and painful breathing.

‘…I regret that when you left home…’

The room was silent apart from the sounds of nurses passing outside the curtain.

‘… that you didn’t write to me and visit me more.’

I looked at her and then to my brother.

Honestly in that moment she released me.

Not only did she have no concept of what regret meant – but right up until the end she was incapable of recognising why I’d left home in the first place – and she still didn’t feel that she was in the wrong in any way.

I never had a chance.

I could never have understood her or fixed anything.

Right up until her last moments she was the same woman that it seems she was in October 1977 – and it’s most likely that she was well before I was born.

At least now all her paintings are gone.

Their cigarette smoke infused frames and canvases are no longer quietly lingering in my cupboard and I have the space back again – both in my home and (to an extent) my mind.

It’s taken me many many years but I’m slowly moving on. As well as I can I’ve tried to forgive her and hold no anger about our relationship – because there’s no point.

The only thing anger or hatred does is damage and pollute what’s left behind.

I refuse to let that happen because despite the destruction she caused her legacy is ultimately positive.

I’m now a different man to the one I was while she was alive and I hopefully have many many good years ahead of to make things ‘right’.

I feel like I wasted so much time dealing with the fallout of our relationship – but no more.

Despite her I want to life a good life, free from her legacy and (unlike her) being a positive voice in the world.

More than anything I’m glad that I’m capable of saying sorry or admitting that I’m wrong and that I still make mistakes.

To me internet that’s worth it’s weight in gold.

Davey

Three years sober

Anniversaries. They’re funny things.

They can be a cause for celebration, a reason for reflection, moments of triumph – or reminders of sadness.

Some are all of the above and today is definitely one of those days because it’s now (somewhat amazingly) three whole years since I drank any alcohol.

For some this might have always been their day to day reality and it may not mean much, but for me it’s everything.

My alcohol abuse is not something that gets a lot of airtime in my blog – and that’s because while it was always a problem to varying degrees in my life (from the age of 16 to my early 40’s) when I finally decided to end my relationship with it once and for all I always knew deep down that it had ceased to hold any power over me.

I don’t know why – but in many respects I’ve always been quite a binary person and as such I’ve tended to be able to do this kind of thing at various points in my life.

All‘ it takes is for me to start hating who I am or what I do to myself enough to just say ‘that’s it – I’m done.’

That’s been no small moment when it finally arrives though because when these watershed changes in mindset have occurred I’ve barely been able stand my own reflection in a mirror.

Consequently I remember every instance like this in my life – of which there have been four significant ones.

Each of them could have resulted in an untimely death if I hadn’t changed course, so they tend to stick in my mind.

Alcohol was the last but one thing to go.

The final one was (and in many ways still is) my relationship with food and my comfort eating.

Unlike booze though food will always be there.

I can’t just quit that like other substances – but I don’t think I’d have been able to address my eating disorder to the level I have if one by one I hadn’t removed those other crutches from my life.

I needed alcohol to be gone before I ended up on Slimming World’s doorstep.

However unlike food I’d never felt that I was physically dependent on alcohol.

I never shook without it or had any kind of withdrawal period – and I have no idea why – because when I stopped I was easily consuming three bottles strong of wine per night.

To put it in perspective that’s around 10.5 units a day.

If you add that up over a typical week then I was ingesting 220.5 units of alcohol.

According to the NHS health advice you should drink a lot less if you don’t want to not only damage your liver but avoid other health conditions too (link).

They say ‘men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.’

This means that per year I was consuming 11,466 units vs the recommended level of 728.

Oddly though I only ever felt emotionally tied to it rather than being physically addicted.

When I first gave up drinking I referred to my habit as ‘alcohol dependency’ for this very reason – and still don’t really like to think of myself as an alcoholic.

I’ve since come to the conclusion that the terminology I used probably mattered less than I originally thought it did though.

Honestly (although it still makes me feel rather uncomfortable) I’m ok these days with saying I was an alcoholic – because whether I was physically or mentally dependant on its effects is completely immaterial.

Booze didn’t care in the least.

No matter how I viewed my relationship with it or how I categorised its presence alcohol was still actively ruining my health.

I definitely prefer the life that I now have without it around.

In a similar way to my hope that by continually demonstrating what’s possible with regard to healthy eating and exercise I hope that my sobriety does the same.

I know many readers struggle with alcohol and its effects because they’ve reached out to me personally to talk about it over the years.

Some have fared better than others when trying to address their relationship with it and I know only too well that perceived failures in this area can sometimes make things (at least temporarily) worse.

However – as with weight loss there is another way – and as long as there remains breath in you body there exists the capacity for change.

It’s three years without alcohol and I’m still proudly counting each and ever day that I’ve been sober.

While I do I’m busy living a life filled with love and vitality and I know that whatever happens that little counter will just continue to go up and up.

Davey

Diabetes update 2019

Well – it’s THAT time of year again. I get to find out what my diabetes results are.

I know I’ve been a good boy (for the most part) and my logical mind tells me that everything will probably be OK – but the human body is a strange machine, and sometimes whether you want it to be healthy or not, it often makes up it’s own mind.

The only thing I can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Sometimes I’m not sure whether I continue to do this through obsessive habit, a love of exercise or a fear that if I don’t everything I love about my life now will just fall apart.

Truthfully it’s probably a bit of all three – however when I’m with a friend in a place of outstanding natural beauty then it’s definitely a love of life that keeps me putting one foot in front of the other.

On Wednesday I was once again in a place I adore with a superb twalking companion and was busy making absolutely sure that both of us got a good workout.

First thing in the morning it was tough sell mind you. The house was warm when I woke up – and it was a very cozy place to be as I stared at the ceiling from my pillow under a toasty duvet.

Outside I could hear cars crunching along the road over frozen puddles and people chipping frost from their windscreens. When I finally ventured out I had to forcibly yank my frozen car door open to reach my ice scraper.

Once it was in my grasp I needed a whole 15 minutes to hack all of the (really thick) ice off my car before I could drive over to pick my friend up.

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The journey after this was a nice one though – and the roads were well gritted with no accidents to impede our progress. By the time we arrived at Malvern the sun was out and the sky was a lovely blue.

Despite this the frost was far from melted.

As potentially treacherous as this makes walking around this area it’s undeniably beautiful – and even with a serious nip in the air it’s a really nice place to eat breakfast – which in my case was as Slimming World friendly as possible.

Wednesday represented probably the 2nd best day for weather in Malvern that I’ve ever seen from this vantage point – and as the morning wore on the views just got better and better.

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The absolutely wonderful thing about my life at the moment is (maybe unlike some who might have always been fit and healthy) I never cease to be amazed by what I can do and how far I’ve come.

When I look at the total elevation my friend and I accomplished during our day of walking I’m amazed that not only did I find it relatively easy – but that it represents well over two thirds of the total height of Snowdon (3500ft).

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By the time Wednesday had finished we’d managed (according to Apple Watch) to climb 186 flights of stairs.

The very first time I attempted walking around this region (at around 22.5 stone – having lost over 12) was February 2017 (link).

Since then things have changed quite a bit.

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It’s pretty insane what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it – and it never ceases to amaze me when I look at my past and current photos what the human body is capable of recovering from or adapting to.

My swimming is no exception to this – and whilst I’ve not said much about it lately I’m still regularly pounding out lengths in my local pool. This morning (completely unplanned) proved to be another example of what I can do now vs what I was previously (in)capable of.

I mean that in both a physical and self confidence sense – because whilst I may have previously been able to paddle back and forth I did not previously possess the mental fortitude to step into a swimming costume and try.

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Now I do.

I decided after a few lengths that I was up for trying to do two and a half kilometres (100 lengths of my local 25 metre pool) and irritatingly I would have done it if I’d only started ten minutes earlier.

The schools locally start to come in on a Friday at 9.30am and I ran out of time before I ran out of stamina.

How crazy is that?

I mean – it’s totally nuts when you think about it. I’ve changed from being a 35 stone moribund lump of a man into one that’s capable of climbing huge mountains, and swimming continuously for almost 2.5km.

How on earth is all of this possible?!

Honestly at times I have no idea. Somehow I’ve just ended up inhabiting the body and mind of someone who is both driven and focused.

I’m not perfect though – because despite all of this exercise (and maybe sometimes as a consequence of it) I can still overeat.

I’ve been quite good with the types of food that I’ve consumed however, and have been preparing meals as I always do. My slow cooker has been churning out chicken soup practically on a daily basis lately (it’s so nice to come home to on a cold day) and my usual standby meal (I flipping love a chilli) has been consumed with gusto on a number of occasions.

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However – regardless of these good choices when I stood on the scales for the first time in two weeks last night (which in itself this represents something of a personal success because I can get quite obsessive about this) I realised that I’ve moved a few pounds outside of my new target range.

Whilst I’ve mentally committed myself to going to group tomorrow to keep my head in the game I doubt that I will stand on the scales while I’m there.

Thankfully as a target member I only need to weigh in every 8 weeks – but I still need a visit to group to keep me focused.

I may weigh in at one of Angie’s Monday groups instead (I can’t on Saturday next week) but we’ll see. I’m not putting any pressure on myself because the truth is that I don’t really need to.

Whilst I used to hate the phrase ‘naturally thin’ this is one of those moments that I feel it’s really relevant.

I’ve always wanted to be the sort of person that can deviate a little to the left or right of the correct path in life, but who will always find my way back to the right course. So far for the last 11 months I’ve proven that I’m capable of this.

I’ve moved both above and below target weights – and I’ve come to accept that none of this represents either success or failure. All it represents is life and how things will always change from time to time.

Gradually I’ve recognised that judging yourself harshly based on small weekly deviations on the scales is an empty and pointless pursuit that will ultimately accomplish nothing but emotional corrosion.

Sure – if you’re trying to lose weight then the overall trend needs to be downwards, but the point is that beating yourself up over a misstep or two will do nothing but provide a reason to carry on with the self destructive behaviour that you are trying so hard to avoid.

It’s much better to accept that no-one is perfect, life is just life, and that tomorrow is just another day where you will probably feel stronger and more capable than you did the day before. You can only be the best that you can be at any one given moment in time – and thinking that anyone else is any different is pointless and damaging.

We all struggle and we all fall over – and accepting that you’re just as normal as anyone else is key to long term success.

The wages of this kind of ongoing attitude can be seen in my diabetic results – which yesterday I held in my hand, in black and white.

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My current HbA1c level of 26 is still way below what would be considered pre-diabetic.

My cholesterol is great, I’ve been assured that my blood pressure results are perfectly normal and ‘low’, my overall health is ‘tip top’ and all of the usual tests (sensitivity in my extremities and diabetic retinopathy results) show that I’m still holding diabetes at bay.

By making continually more positive than negative choices in life I’ve not only turned things around, but I’m proving to any casual observers that my continued health outcomes are not only possible but completely sustainable – even with an occasional mis-step.

Despite many many social media voices stating that everyone following Slimming World as a plan is destined to put all their weight back on I intend to stand proudly as an example of what’s possible long term.

Success in this area is not magic though.

It’s all about mindset.

The reality of it is that all of this is just continual hard work combined with an ongoing willingness to re-frame the negative internal voices that we all have.

Whatever mountain you have to climb internet, it’s all do-able.

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Davey

Learning things

You can learn something new every minute of every day.

Yesterday afternoon for instance I learned that the manmade concrete structures on some beaches (apparently used to prevent erosion caused by weather and longshore drift) are called tetrapods.

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Who knew?!

I’ve always abstractly wondered what they are – and now I know thanks to a knowledgable mine of information who explained what I was looking at as I admired the coastline in Seaford.

This is a wonderful part of the world – and one that I’ve barely scratched the surface of. So far I’ve been to the South Downs and Brighton (link) and I’ve loved both of them.

Seaford is just as charming and not much further down the coast. The character of it is very different though. It’s far less commercialised, a lot sleepier and way more picturesque.

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This town (as nice as it is) wasn’t the purpose of my visit though – because if you park up at it’s seafront, head up and along the nearby chalky cliffs above the tetrapods and take a delightful cliff walk to the nearby estuary you’ll find the seven sisters.

Making your way to Cuckmere Haven (by the arrows on the map) is pretty easy going. It’s only a couple of miles via some grassy and easily navigable paths (there’s a bit of elevation to deal with though) and when you arrive there you’re treated a lovely view.

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This region has some really interesting geological history – and a board at Hope Gap  (as well as my companion) answered a lot of the questions I had about why the landscape looked the way it did before I asked or even knew I had them.

I particularly liked the idea on the board of imagining where the cliffs used to be when the Normans invaded in 1066 and I bet it looked a lot different to he way it does now…

The whole place is filled with warning signs about chalk cliff falls – and the edge of the coastline is roped off to about 12ft back, so it’s clear that it’s eroding pretty quickly. It’s not advisable to get close to the edge, but if you stay well back it’s a great place for a picnic.

You peacefully can sit and admire the wonderful view whilst watching the various seabirds as they casually float past on the breeze along the cliff edge.

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When you’ve finished your healthy snacks and walked back along the cliffs to Seaford there’s also a lovely little snack and coffee shack at the end of the beach huts near a small museum – which was sadly closed when I visited.

This is a perfect place to have a coffee as you watch the sun slowly disappear into the distance. It’s even better if  you can chat with a twalking buddy.

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The whole experience makes for a grand day out and while I was there I learned a lot (much like the last time I visited).

It’s great to feel that there’s always something or somewhere new to suck into your brain – and this morning the theme continued when I learned yet another fun fact.

I discovered that it’s not a good idea to try and top up the oil in your car with the engine running. This results in everything under your bonnet and your lovely orange North Face snowboarding jacket being sprayed liberally with hot, dirty engine oil.

Sigh.

I’m clearly just not that smart.

It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

This epic personal faux pas was definitely a sub par start to my day. At any other time it may have managed to set the needle of my mood-o-meter to ‘grumpy and expecting the worst’ for the rest of the day.

However things like that only have an impact if your emotional reservoir is dry. Frankly that couldn’t be further from the truth because for the last couple of months I’ve almost constantly been in a great frame of mind.

It seems at times like nothing can dent my positivity and I’m wearing a full suit of emotional armour.

Today I felt particularly resilient though – and that was partially because in the dark of yesterday evening I had a sudden flash of blinding realisation. It hit me like a truck, and moved me profoundly – because suddenly, when faced with how at peace I am at the moment I had to accept something.

I’m no longer running a solitary race.

Something special has arrived and because of this I feel alive.

For the longest time I thought that there was no way out – and that my life would be curtailed early. I thought I’d die before I reached the age of 50 because of my lifestyle choices – and furthermore I actually wanted to.

I’d begun to believe that the only logical conclusion to my life was a huge early heart attack – and instead of working to avoid this I was actively trying to hasten its arrival. I was so low back then that I genuinely just wanted to eat and drink myself to death

Furthermore I had begun to believe that the world would be a better place without me in it because I contributed nothing and consumed everything around me.

I saw myself as a parasite.

Things change though and practically without any warning I suddenly gave up drinking. Then I started going to Slimming World. I focused all that I was and all of the strength that I could muster and funnelled it into turning myself into someone new.

While I was doing this though all I could see was the near horizon – and perched upon it was an award for reaching my target weight.

Maybe because I needed to believe that reaching this milestone this would fix everything in my life (how else do you find the motivation?) I didn’t really think past it.

All I knew was that I had to reach it.

I felt that my life depended on me getting there and if I didn’t then I was sure that it was definitely over. I couldn’t take another gradual climb back up to my previous weight and I couldn’t face yet another failure.

Deep down I knew that this was my last chance.

So I gave it everything – and because of that I made it.

I eventually stood on top of my own personal mountain as Slimming World Man of the Year – having lost almost two thirds of my body weight. I felt fit, alive, vital, strong, independent and successful. I was now a man who accepted awards, appeared in the media and spoke to groups of people who were inspired by his actions.

I’d done it.

I’d fixed everything.

Only I hadn’t.

Not really.

Right up until I hit target (and even for a little while afterwards) my literary brain had been constructing a fantastical narrative. I had always imagined my ‘Cinderella story’ as one that was bookended by a dark start rooted in death and then ended with life.

When I thought of my magical end point on the horizon I abstractly dreamed that reaching my goal weight would open up the world for me like a flower blooming in springtime.

I thought that all of this was happening when against all odds I became Slimming World’s Man of the Year. I thought I’d made it to the end of my journey and that everything good would now come my way.

This was all a delusion though – as anyone that’s lost a significant amount of weight will tell you – because life is still life and it’s still filled with both ups and downs.

When all the dust and hullabaloo settles you’re still left with your (often self critical) thoughts – but now you have removed all of the excuses you previously had for not living a full and complete life.

The ‘problem’ (if you can call it that) is that you then realise very few things around you make sense any more. Almost without warning you’ve woken up in someone else’s life and it appears to belong to someone else.

Your home and its furnishings seem like they were designed for another person.

You don’t know what kind of ‘style’ you have because you never had the ability to choose one before.

You can’t determine for sure what any of your opinions are because your choices in the past were almost all based on mobility and shame rather than personal beliefs of preferences.

Furthermore you’re confronted with the fact that in the past you just accepted a life that slowly grew like fungus around you as you sat inside the protective bubble of compulsive behaviour.

Over and over again after I reached target I looked in the mirror and struggled to determine who I really was.

As I grew bigger and my life shrank so did my aspirations. Before I knew it I’d lost sight of who I was, what I wanted, and how I really felt. I’d slowly closed myself off and all of my real emotions, desires and needs had gone into ‘low power mode’.

I ceased to feel the loss associated with having no-one to love, and I no longer recognised that I felt alone. I didn’t experience isolation or sadness any more though because I had constructed an excuse.

I was huge.

I’d eaten all of my pain away and no-one would want me anymore.

People ceased to ask why I lived alone because it was obvious – and that suited me just fine because I didn’t have to confront reality. My best friend (food) always had an answer to make my pain go away.

It filled emotional gaps for many many things – but it was a false prophet. It promised comfort and love when all it brought with it was destruction and pain.

Continually it told me that it would make everything better – it would soothe me temporarily – yet again and again it lied.

It made everyting worse and worse until there was no-where left to go but an early death.

I managed to turn it around though. I fixed everything.

I won.

Or at least I thought I had.

Suddenly I found myself, standing at the top of my mountain having tasted victory but feeling completely empty. After all what had I really achieved? In reality I’d just levelled the playing field and put myself right back at the start where everyone else was.

Sure – I now looked like everyone else and was anonymous for the first time in my life. I could walk into a room and no-one would pay any attention to me. I wasn’t a freak of nature and I didn’t invite lingering stares or insults.

However it quickly dawned on me that I was still twenty years behind everyone else. I had (what I considered to be) a ruined body, had never been married, had no children and I didn’t know how to begin fixing this problem.

I felt alone.

The realisation of this pushed me lower than I’d felt in a long time – and for quite a while I didn’t know how to get over it.

The universe listens though – and you just have to watch for the signs.

Yesterday I admitted to myself that almost a year after I reached my target weight things have finally changed. I have entered a new chapter of my life and here my whole story begins anew.

There’s hope, and with it comes a tangible sense that things are truly different. I’m beginning to feel long dormant emotions and think in ways that I haven’t for decades. Each day now seems to be fresh and new because of this and I finally feel I can begin move away from the wreckage of the past and live firmly in the future.

It’s better than that though because I don’t just have a future that didn’t exist before.

I have a future that doesn’t have to be lived in solitude.

I may be at the start again but I’m poised on the blocks, ready to run, with hope in my heart and a smile on my face.

The world is out there and I’m reaching out to take it every single day.

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Davey

 

Health outcomes and why you should try

It’s that time of year again. Around about now I’m reminded of the past as well as who I used to be – and for a number of reasons this can prove to be a mentally tricky period.

Firstly it’s time for my semi annual diabetes checks and I always get a bit nervous when these roll around.

This morning I headed off to the first of two appointments that I’ve got to attend over the next week with a nice warm urine sample tucked away discreetly in my bag.

It’s always nice to arrive with a present.

In some ways the checks are always a bit amusing – because each time I go there seems to be a new(ish) nurse. Typically this means that I have to plod through broadly the same suite of queries as they look me up and down and then do a double take on my medical history.

Firstly they think they’re looking at the notes for the wrong person – because lately my test results show no evidence of diabetes whatsoever. Secondly they do a double take when they see the history of my weight.

Then they also make me stand on the scales.

Sometimes twice.

Today it wasn’t so bad, and before the nurse started asking me questions I quickly explained how much weight I’d lost, how much exercise I do, and why my resting heart rate is so low (40 bpm).

She seemed surprised – but also very interested and as she took my blood pressure we chatted about how I viewed the whole process of weight loss – and in particular my opinion of Slimming World vs hers.

She wasn’t so keen on the plan because (she said) it ‘promoted large portions’ and ‘had a lot of carbs in it’ – which (to her) meant that people would inevitably regain the weight that they had originally lost.

It’s not the first time I’ve come across this argument.

I told her that I both agreed and disagreed with some of her points – because in my view whether you regain any weight depends firstly on your mindset and secondly on what you eat in terms of processed food.

I told her that the majority of my syns came from unprocessed natural food (olives or avocado etc) as opposed to things like chocolate.

I then said that I feel though (and always have) that it’s folly to have a diet plan that doesn’t allow for processed food like chocolate to be eaten (who these days would embark upon any plan if it completely denied them?) and occasionally I too eat these things – but in serious moderation.

The vast majority of the time I only have one item of processed food per day – and for around three days out of seven there’s often none at all. However (I told her) I’ve always felt that you can lose weight having processed food as part of your daily intake.

But did I think this was the right approach?

No I didn’t – because I personally feel that if you want a healthier life it’s not as simple as just counting ‘syns’.

Although it works for some people you will never catch me with a ‘syn bag’ full of crisps and chocolate in front of the TV in the evening.

Sure this can still see people lose weight – because ultimately it’s (at least partially but not exclusively) about being mindful of calorie intakes.

But what happens if you fall from grace and you still have a taste for these foods?

This is also why I don’t do ‘fakeaways’. I don’t want to crave these tastes any more and it often irritates the hell out of me that I still have a ‘need’ for cereal or hi-fi bars – which I’d much rather was completely replaced by fruit as a regular craving.

In my view you should aim to take as much processed food out of your life as possible.

At the very least you should diminish it to the point where your fridge is almost exclusively full of raw vegetables and (if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan) a small amount of meat and fish (particularly oily ones).

The nattering about the merits (or otherwise) of my approach to SW soon stopped however, because the first of the two appointments is only a short twenty minute one to gather data.

It’s not until next week that I get the HbA1c (average sugar levels fr the last 2/3 months based on my blood sample) results – which I’m most interested in.

They have recently been so low as to not register even as pre-diabetic, and I’m keen to keep them that way. I see diabetes as a beast waiting to pounce rather than something thats been cured. In my mind it’s always chasing me in the rear view mirror – and if I take my foot off the gas then it could come back at any time.

The one result I could get immediately though is my blood pressure – which irritatingly appears to be somewhat elevated since the last time it was checked – although I did arrive at the appointment after a rather brisk walk.

The last time I looked it was 116/68 – but today it was different.

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Since blood pressure isn’t something that’s typically on my radar I always end up having to google what these readings mean – and according to the NHS website I appear (at least today) to be annoyingly on the cusp of pre-hypertension.

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Their advice states:

Your blood pressure is described as being high-normal and ideally, it should be below 120/80mmHg. Known as the “silent killer”, high blood pressure rarely has obvious symptoms but, left untreated, it increases your risk of heart attack or stroke.

The good news is, it can be brought under control through lifestyle changes such as:

  • Losing weight (if overweight)
  • Reducing the amount of salt in your diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Cutting back on alcohol and caffeine
  • You may also need medication

There’s not really an awful lot left on this list to change other than caffeine which is my one remaining vice.

Truthfully it’s a big one – and I’ve often felt that my willingness to remove other more harmful things from my life has been at the expense of a significant increase in coffee consumption.

It’s my go to drink of choice – and as I type at 11.15 I’m already on my fourth one of the day.

Maybe I’ll have to change this aspect of my lifestyle, because heaven knows I can’t easily lose any more weight, reduce any more salt or do any more exercise (I’m currently burning a total of around 4500-5000 kcal a day).

Sigh.

How annoying.

This brings me to my second reason for remembering the past – because in just over a week’s time I will have been sober for three years.

This (now comfortingly regular) annual milestone is a double edged sword, because whilst it makes me feel no small amount of pride it also carries with it a deep sense of regret.

This is related partially to my inability to control myself in the past – but primarily to the death of my mother, which happened two days after I gave up drinking on the 26th of January 2016.

Although many may view the latter as the more significant of the two anniversaries I only tend remember it because of the former.

This subject came up today when talking to my nurse – because she asked me (as many people do) why it was I suddenly decided to change.

It came up in conversation earlier in the week when I was visiting a friend in Lichfield.

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As we walked around the town and explored the cathedral I chatted about this upcoming event (it’s been on my mind for a while if I’m honest) and how I can never seem to manage to separate my personal triumphs from their associated emotions of guilt and regret.

I feel guilt because (despite the fact that my mother was a continually detrimental influence in my life) I don’t miss my her at all – and I never feel sadness because someone that I loved is gone forever.

Typically I don’t think about my mom at all day to day. The anniversary of her passing (as significant as it should probably be) only provides an overwhelming sense of relief that the abuse I endured at her hands is over.

As well as guilt I also feel regret – because ultimately although she proved to be the catalyst for most of the positive changes that I made I wish I’d been able to do it for more positive reasons.

I ultimately chose to change because I didn’t want to be anything like my mother. I suddenly needed to move away from any possible correlation between me and her at a million miles an hour.

It’s because of that impulse that I am now an infinitely better man than I ever was before.

The annoying thing is though I didn’t do it for love of myself or anyone else.

I did it because I had no love at all for her and I couldn’t stand seeing any element of my mother when I looked in the mirror.

If anything I hated myself way more than I disliked her and it was this personal revulsion that fuelled my actions.

I regret my reasons because I would have been delighted to have suddenly decided without any prompting that I needed to be a better man who deserved a future filled with love and happiness – but I didn’t. Instead it took other (far more negative) emotions to begin the process of becoming the man that I am today.

For some reason I don’t ever seem to let myself escape that fact.

The truth is that it makes it really really hard when people ask me for advice on how to change because I can’t suggest they wait until a parent who has mentally abused them for most of their childhood and adult life passes away before they change.

The truth is I don’t know if I would have ever become a different person without this event – and I might be the one that would have been dead now if she hadn’t beaten me to it.

However – what I do know is that although the even that created the man I am now was predominantly negative, the results were almost exclusively positive – because when the ball started rolling my mindset changed to a fundamentally better one.

I can now see many of the ‘truths’ I subscribed to back then as nothing more than self delusion. My approach to life these days is rooted making choices because they are the right ones – not despite the fact that they are.

choose to be healthier.

choose to be fitter.

choose to invite love and friendships into my life.

I choose to share my failures and successes so that they will help others.

So maybe (just maybe) I will give up caffeine too. Maybe it’s one of the final crutches I’ve been clinging on to, in the mistaken belief that I still need something that’s a ‘vice’ so that I won’t go quietly crazy.

The truth is that I don’t really need any substance to make me feel good any more. All I need is the security of knowing that my choices are the right ones, that I have people in my life that I care deeply about, and that I feel loved.

After all – what other motivation do we really need?

People not motivated by wanting to live longer arguably don’t fully appreciate the life that they have. Maybe this is because it’s never hung in the balance or because nothing has threatened to take it away prematurely.

In my case I nearly threw all of it away on a casual whim because I didn’t care about myself.

Now I do – and I want to do anything and everything that I can to keep feeling the way that I do because I love each and every day of my life. It’s why each morning I get up and start walking, swimming, hiking or making other healthy lifestyle choices.

It’s why YOU should too.

Whatever your reason to do so – choose to be better.

Davey

New target and new things

In my most recent post I was agonising about about what weight I should or shouldn’t be.

I know that pounds and ounces at this point are a largely arbitrary number and that in the great scheme of things it shouldn’t really matter that much (as long as I’m not going too nuts in either direction) but as soon as I’d dropped another half a stone over Christmas I was immediately paralysed with indecision about whether I needed to put it back on or not.

(scene notes – enter stage left ‘stressy Davey’. He’s pacing back and forth.)

I’ve been worrying (needlessly) about it in the background ever since.

No man is an island and I don’t do things alone any more though -so I’ve been asking a few people what they thought about my current state of affairs.

This can be a bit weird.

Am I too thin?‘ is honestly not a question I thought I’d ever be posing to anyone in my life. It ranks with ‘Do you think I need to put weight back on?’ as the least likely sentences I expected to be leaving my lips before I died.

The feedback I received was polite – and pretty much universally the same. It all went along the lines of ‘You look OK as you are, but don’t lose any more!

I couldn’t decide in some of these cases whether I was faced with a polite friend who already thought my weight was too low or whether they were being totally honest – which is what I needed.

Sometimes the subject of my size gets so knotted up in my head that I can’t see the wood for the trees, and when I go to weigh in on Saturday mornings even now I can be a bag of nerves.

Often I still don’t sleep properly the night before I have to stand on the scales.

My house guest this weekend saw the full extent of of my worrisome dithering yesterday morning – while I faffed and fretted about which clothes to wear (because jeans, a belt and a shirt weigh more than tracksuit bottoms and a tee-shirt) and whether or not to have another coffee before leaving the house (which would also slightly affect my weight).

All of this continued whilst I continually stepped on and off my bathroom scales to check and re-check. I’m not normally that bad – but potentially changing my target weight is a big deal for me.

It’s quite unsetting in some respects to share this more obsessive side of my nature with someone – but at the same time it’s important to let them see me for who I am, warts and all.

The truth is that I’m still very much the kind of guy that worries (too much) about whether or not he’s succeeding or failing when it comes to health and fitness. At times I think I’ve got it nailed, but at others I’m still full of doubt.

In my case the lion’s share of my stress was related to the fact that I really didn’t want to regain the weight that had pushed me into the bracket of being a 21st certificate holder.

There can’t be too many of those in the UK and I’m now one of the privileged few.

I’d already decided by Friday that I was going to reset my target weight – but the question was by how much and what to change it to. I also didn’t want to simultaneously set it to an unrealistically low level that would make it pointlessly hard to maintain long term.

Also – even before discussing it with my consultant Angie the other day I knew my options were limited by a number of factors.

Firstly (which I’ve already mentioned) there’s the opinion of people I care about.

Secondly I’d agreed when accepting my SWMOTY title (almost six months ago!) that I would not deviate from the weight I was when I won the competition by more than 7lbs. I suspect that this was mostly because Slimming World don’t want me to gain weight but I’m pretty sure that they don’t want me to end up looking too thin either.

At the time I felt that this margin for error would be a really helpful as a motivator. It also seemed pretty generous because having a 1st bracket in which to move around was much bigger than the standard 6lb (3lb either way) target member range (which I also have to stick to if I want my weigh ins to remain free of charge).

If I fell out of one (and had to pay) I’d still be in the other – but then life went and changed again – and definitely for the better. Over many months I finally found someone that I really care about.

At the same time I was busy getting even fitter than I was before thanks to my rediscovered love of swimming. I’ve been building muscles in places I’ve never seen them before as well as becoming leaner.

It’s a wonderful feeling to know that there is still so much scope for positive change left in life.

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On Saturday morning (after discussion with my new muse) I’d finally made up my mind.

I asked the girls at group to change my target weight to 13st 7lbs because at this weight my clothes feel good and I feel great. 

Crucially though I’m happy. Really happy.

Things are new and exciting – and there are little winds of change everywhere.

To illustrate this, immediately after attending group my house guest and I headed out for a meal together at one of my favourite places – Las Iguanas in Leamington.

The whole time I was walking there I was fantasising about their delicious veggie chilli – and I’d been talking it up to my special friend for over an hour.

‘It’s great!’ I enthused.

‘I think you’ll absolutely love it!’ I added, several times to hammer home the point.

However when we arrived and had a chance to look at the new season’s menu my companion drew my attention to something I’d previously have not considered. The previouly unavailable jackfruit burrito.

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This is what I love about spending a lot of time with someone new.

They remind you that you should try new things and experiment. Because of this over the last two months I’ve found several new areas of interest that I otherwise would never have considered.

Jackfruit is a FREE food on Slimming World’s plan rather than SPEED (it’s a carbohydrate) – and is a great vegetarian alternative to pulled pork – which in this case is what I think Las Iguanas were trying to provide for vegetarian (and I think vegan) customers.

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Although it didn’t have the same texture or taste as pulled pork I can heartily recommend it as a meat alternative and after my first ever time eating it I’m pretty darned happy that I let my companion influence my menu choice.

When I’m with someone – particularly someone so engaging – my eating habits seem markedly different.

I not only eat less, but consume it in smaller portions.

Furthermore when I do I’m talking and eating – as my digestion slowly churns away in the background. This gives my brain time to think about whether I’m really hungry when I want more or whether I plan to fill my plate again because I’m just eating too quickly or haven’t been taking on fluids with my meal.

Just when you think you have a routine, and life is sorted, something (or someone) comes along to shake that all up and add a totally new element to the mix.

Life is good.

Anyway – we’ll see how my new target fares in two weeks, when I’ll next be standing on the scales.

Fingers crossed that I’ve made the right choice!

Davey

Weston Subedge circular walk

I’ve been a busy boy over the last few days – and although I know that they have it feels like my feet have barely touched the ground.

As well as being quite busy in my personal life I’ve been in a strange dietary position this week – because in order to remain within my current target range I’ve actually had to try to put weight back on.

The problem is that such an activity is now profoundly counter-intuitive for me and although for a day or two I rather enjoyed a post Christmas ‘blow out’ (my increased intake was mostly related to protein, fruit and cottage cheese) now I’m getting closer to this Saturday’s weigh in I really can’t bring myself to eat way more than I need to before stepping on the scales.

Neither a Thursday nor a Friday are for stuffing my face.

For the last two and a half years these have been my ‘be very careful‘ days – and consequently I automatically begin to start craving salad and fish as soon as Wednesday arrives in order to prepare for group at the weekend.

My ‘slightly lighter than usual’ weight is also further complicated in my mind by me rather liking how I look in the mirror at the moment.

Swimming is having some really tangible benefits – and I can definitely tell what two months of (near daily) breaststroke has done to my upper body.

I’m also still getting quicker too!

Things seem to be much tighter around my waist now I’m swimming.

My shoulders and arms have become noticeably more muscular as well.

I still have way more skin than I will ever need – leaving me with a decidedly flabby midriff that’s unlikely to ever completely disappear – but all of a sudden I can feel a set of abs (!) beneath it all that definitely weren’t apparent at the start of November.

Probably because of this I’m now comfortably able to wear many ‘medium’ shirts that I try on (depending on the retailer).

It’s a million miles away from where I started and it makes me feel absolutely fabulous to compare and contrast.

I’ve become trimmer still since this picture with Angie and Rylan Clark-Neal at the ball in November, meaning that when I tried on a 32in pair of Levi’s yesterday I could almost do the button up.

What’s more – I’m pretty sure that if I’d done this with a pair of Sainsburys TU clothing denims instead (they seem a little more generous) that I’d have been proudly zipped up tight.

The Levis weren’t comfortable sadly – and even if I’d have been able to do the button up I’d have probably cut off the blood supply to my family jewels and looked like a blueberry muffin.

I’ve never had any kind of definition from a muscular perspective and to see it when I look at myself in the mirror now is quite intoxicating.

It’s also nice to feel attractive as well as fitter – and I can’t lie when I say that in the back of my mind there’s a part of me that wants to be the best that I can be not just for my own satisfaction but for the new lady in my life.

I just want to look my absolute best and that’s never something I’ve been able to say about myself in a relationship in the past or that I’ve been able to ‘give’ to a partner before.

The only feeling that I’ve ever had related to romance and my body in the past is shame and I never want to go back to that state of affairs.

Therefore in my mind gaining weight is taking a step backwards in many many respects – especially when at my last weigh in I was still officially above my healthy BMI.

I have a tenuous relationship with these numbers mind you – because if I hit the official NHS lower end BMI of 9st 3lbs I think I’d look like a famine victim.

That’s absolutely not the way to go.

Heroin chic is SO 90’s.

Just to be clear though I have not been starving myself. I’ve been eating a lot because I’ve been doing a lot – as well as navigating the very new experience of occasionally cooking for two and what that means with regard to portion sizes.

On the whole they’ve definitely gotten smaller.

It’s a complicated time for me in all of these respects – but crucially I’m happy and I’m healthy.

I’ve discussed what to do about my weight with Angie (she’s the best consultant a boy could have!) and I’ll share with you all what I finally decide (I may lower my target slightly) and what the eventual outcome is on Saturday.

I’m very much on the fence at the moment.

In the meantime Slimming World have asked me to do an ‘Instagram Takeover’ on their feed (along with some other ladies – although I’m the only man apparently!) and yesterday I was busy documenting what I do during a normal day as well as putting together some photos and videos.

I’m a bit worried though that anyone looking at it (including the PR team) might think that The content of my day has been constructed just for the sake of their social media initiative – because it’s absolutely not.

Thanks mostly to swimming becoming a part of my daily routine this is my current normal and my monthly stats reflect that too.

Thankfully (totally not through any kind of planning) I actually had something that was visually quite lovely (as well as energetic) to document yesterday.

A friend had suggested a new walk.

After my morning swim he picked me up from my house and we headed out to Weston Subedge – which is about a 30 minute drive outside Warwick.

My twalking companion had downloaded and printed out a circular route that looked like it had a good amount of elevation in it – and would take in some excellent views.

To be fair he wasn’t at all wrong – and thanks to an unexpectedly lovely day we were treated to a practically endless vista of sky and fields.

According to the monument at the viewpoint Dover’s Hill is only 25 miles from the Malvern Hills and you can see them easily in the distance.

Thankfully the weather was perfect for views and the excursion was wonderful.

There’s very little that can beat the satisfaction of slogging your way up a steep hill and then finding this kind of vista at the end of it.

Although it’s probably quite challenging to most (from an incline perspective) the walk itself is relatively short (at least by my current yardstick) and over quite quickly if you put your back into it.

However there were lots and lots of little detours that you could easily take to extend a day out here – but be aware if you do give it a go yourself that there were some pretty muddy sections along the way.

Particularly on the final leg by Watery Gate Farm (as the name suggests!)

As we wound our way round behind St Lawrence’s church and back to where we’d originally parked up (on the OS map above) it definitely got boggier – so make sure to wear some sturdy boots!

So – life is good and I feel great.

Slimming World are still treating me like a rockstar too – and they keep sending me fruit baskets for occasional media appearances!

The other day I appeared in a supplement that came packed in with the Daily Star newspaper and almost immediately after a ton of bananas were on my doorstep with a thank you note!

In some ways I’ll be glad to hand over the title of MOTY to a new recipient because deep down I’m still a bit uncomfortable with being in the media so much.

I can’t deny though that it’s nice to inspire people.

When I spoke to Angie earlier today she told me that my name had been mentioned by at least one of the one hundred and thirty new members she’s welcomed to her groups since the new year started.

It’s great to know that my story made someone walk through the door and face her fears.

The fact that someone has read my story, been inspired to change and taken the first steps toward a better life fills me with joy.

It’s a great great feeling and I’m going to make the most of it while it lasts!

Davey

Forget the I word – it’s time for the J and G words

So – it’s January and the start of a new year.

2019 is stretched out in front of me – and as I type it seems to be pregnant with promise and possibility.

In my last post a few days ago I looked backwards, reflecting on some of the personal changes and life events that had taken place in 2018. It was a monumentous year for me by any personal yardstick, and I’m immensely proud of all that I accomplished.

There’s never an end point though. As I look forwards I’m reminded that the nature of life is change. Standing still is never an option and the quest for growth and personal development is one that should never end.

Recognising and celebrating my accomplishments (as well as accepting compliments) is something that has never come easy to me. I’ve found it far easier in the past to diminish my achievements for fear of tempting fate, but at the moment I feel proud.

My life has evolved in ways that it wouldn’t have if I hadn’t made conscious and focused decisions to improve my physical, intellectual and emotional health. It’s because of profound changes in these areas that I can now take my next steps to building the life that I ultimately want to live.

Firstly (but in no order of importance) comes the J word.

I need a job.

I promised myself that I’d start looking again in January, and as I type I’m taking a short break from brushing up my CV (I think it’s now looking tikkety-boo) whilst simultaneously applying online for a position that caught my eye.

It’s within walking distance and also seems ideally suited to my strengths and employment history.

I’m feeling pragmatic about it however.

Whilst this role seems like a good fit I’m also well aware since being made redundant that things rarely work out how you expect them to. Often finding the right job is a combination of random luck and an indefinable ‘suitability’.

If you’re qualified enough to create an opening for an interview even then nothing is certain, and I’ve learned the hard way that even if you get the job no-matter how good you are no-one is indispensable.

Ultimately job hunting is mostly a waiting game punctuated by moments of frenzied activity and a continued need to remain positive as well as believing in your own self worth.

Furthermore hopping onto the first train that rolls into your station will rarely result in you reaching your intended destination.

I’ll no doubt write more on this topic over time, and we shall see whether or not my current (rather buoyant) mood persists.

It seems highly likely to me though that it will.

The more eagle eyed subscribers to my blog have noted (and commented) recently that there has not only been a marked increase in my happiness but also a rather more erratic schedule to my postings.

Furthermore, those who keep track of my movements will have noticed that I’ve been less of a regular presence at my Saturday morning Slimming World meetings over the past weeks.

There’s absolutely nothing to worry about though (depending on how you view my current weight) because I’m as focused as ever.

Moreso in fact.

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When I stepped on the scales at home yesterday (I haven’t for nearly a week) the current situation was quite surprising. Rather than swinging back up to my target weight I’ve actually dropped down a little more.

The reason for this is that (quite unlike my usual approach to meals) I have been eating dramatically smaller portion sizes recently – whilst simultaneously doing a rather large amount of daily exercise.

But why you might ask?

What’s the root of this behaviour?

Well – that’s partially related to the G Word in the blog title.

The portion sizes that I’ve been consuming in the past have been almost exclusively in the evenings, often related to boredom or habitual behaviour, and almost always they have been way more than I needed.

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Cooking for two (in this case a new girlfriend) has focused my attention on the fact that I can easily feed two people with what I myself have previously been consuming.

I know, I know.

I casually dropped the G word in there as if it was nothing when it’s definitely something.

After almost twenty years of being a bachelor without anyone even vaguely pinging on my radar as a person that could not only live with my faults but simultaneously excite my mind and heart it seems like someone has arrived.

Furthermore they’ve been right under my nose for a while – and just like me they’re ridiculously ‘outdoorsy’.

When the qualities that they embodied (which extend way past an ability to put one foot in front of another oudoors) slowly dawned on me I found that I was less surprised that they were there in the first place – and instead more amazed that I hadn’t clocked what they all represented from the beginning.

In retrospect it all seems so obvious.

It’s early days though – but I feel it only fair (since the underlying theme of my blog is honesty with myself and the world) to finally explain that this is the predominant reason behind why I’ve been feeling immensely more positive than usual.

Whatever happens in the future, over the past weeks I’ve proven to myself (and hopefully someone else too) that feelings I’d believed were long dead not only still exist but are bafflingly more powerful than they ever were.

However now, rather than these being undermined by the emotional immaturity of youth, and an inability to escape my past they are now augmented by the very pride in myself and my achievements that I previously felt incapable of realising or unworthy of accepting.

At this point I’m a solvent, fit, independent, emotionally aware grown man, with a wholesome and rich life.

I’ve built a world around myself that I can welcome someone into without embarrassment and now that now someone has finally stepped into it I feel I have a lot to offer them.

I know from mistakes in my past that trying to build a partnership on the foundations of anything less than total openness and honesty is a failure waiting to happen. Now I’ve faced up to and dealt with my worst faults I can finally see a future where a relationship can be based upon true equality.

For the first time in my adult life I’ve learned to not only like but love who I am – and I don’t need that validation to be provided by someone else.

Furthermore I recognise that profound shame over my continued inability to make important changes damaged and polluted any chance that I ever had of happiness.

All of my previous partners had the unenviable job of managing and navigating the perpetually corrosive effects of my diminished self worth and emotional baggage.

Things are different now.

I’ve now proven that I am capable of amazing things – and I know that I can inspire others not just with what I say but the choices I’ve made and the actions I continue to take on a daily basis.

I see that the last three years have (rather than an exercise in reaching an end point or goal) actually been extended preparation for my real life to start.

I’ve come to recognise that it’s not only possible to care about someone again – but that I have the right to be cared for in return.

It’s a fantastic feeling internet – and I want it to continue – because with this particular wind beneath my wings I can finally see a future that no longer has me framed, looking into a sunset with no-one at my side.

Instead I see my hand holding someone else’s – and this new picture in my mind looks absolutely right.

Davey

2019 and beyond

Good grief I’m cold.

Although I love having a significantly smaller posterior these days what I’m not so keen on is having hands and feet that continually resemble animated ice cubes.

Still – there are worse things. Gloves help and occasionally I come into close proximity of a radiating heat source – which I’m only recently rediscovering the pleasure of.

There are few things better than this – and sucking up some precious warmth before heading back outdoors is a definite pleasure at this time of year.

Some of this heat can be found in the swimming pool, and yesterday I found myself totally alone in the water at the leisure centre for around 30 minutes.

With this calm serenity (and lack of backwash) came a sudden and serious determination to beat my previous personal best times.

I know it might seem like I’m doing this all the time – but truthfully I’m not normally going full tilt when I’m in the pool.

I’m instead trying to maintain a good pace at all times that will ensure I enjoy the experience whilst burning a generous amount of calories.

Yesterday though I really went for it and was sweating buckets when I stopped.

This meant that I reduced the time it took me to do 1.5km by ten minutes compared to the very first time I managed to swim it continuously on the 3rd December.

Being hot and sweaty in a heated swimming pool is currently something that’s infinitely preferable to standing outside in the cold.

There’s not much cover to be found out and about at the moment – and my morning walk today around the grounds of Coombe Abbey proved that the woods are a seriously draughty place when there’s a complete absence of foliage around.

The local wildlife appears to agree and the bugs have been industrious.

Since the last time I visited they appear to have opened a new hotel.

It’s got all the mod cons (including a log that watches your every move as well as a hedgehog hole at the front to keep the spikier neighbours happy) and reminds me that I meant to make one of these in my own back garden last summer – but completely forgot to do so.

I’ll have to add that to the numerous jobs that have been building up around the house – most notably some painting and decorating.

This is something I’ve sorely neglected for some time – but lately I’ve felt the need to spruce things up a bit – and think in the next few weeks (since it’s a brand new year) I’m going to start making some thrifty attempts to feather my nest.

If nothing else it makes it more welcoming for visitors – and I’m all for promoting that.

Currently my mind is filled with more than just guests though.

Yesterday I was toying with the idea of a retrospective post (it appears to be the done thing in blogland) that would look back over 2018 and highlight all of the significant events that have occurred.

Oddly when I sat down to think about it all and create a collage of images for Instagram I actually said to myself ‘well – not much happened really…’

How short my memory appears to be!

2018 has actually been filled with so many things that even the three separate collages above failed to scratch the surface.

When I sat and thought about it 2018 has probably been one of the most interesting and amazing of my whole entire life!

From a Slimming World perspective I came third in the Greatest Loser competition, won the Man of the Year title, stayed in the Andy Warhol suite at the Ritz for a press call, appeared extensively in the UK national and local press, turned up on Fox News in the US as well as German media, did three radio interviews, had my trousers mentioned by Anne Diamond on breakfast TV, worked briefly with Public Health England, went to the Houses of Parliament, accepted a MOTY trophy at the SW awards in Birmingham NIA (and spoke in front of 2000 people), appeared in the SW magazine, gave many many motivational speeches to hundreds of people at SW groups in Warwickshire (and at a school in Derby), got my twenty one stone award, met Margaret Miles Bramwell, John Barnes, Rylan Clark-Neal, Floella Benjamin and a whole host of genuinely lovely SW PR and support staff.

This would be more than enough on its own – but it doesn’t take into account I what went on in my personal life…

I decided to move on from my job (the replacement for which is still to be determined), delved into the dating scene, wore swimming trunks in public for the first time in twenty years, walked 3686 miles – including one outing which saw me make my way all the way from Warwick to Coventry and back again (22.5 miles!), take 7,105,090 steps, increase my stamina enough to continuously swim two kilometres, got into a sauna and a whirlpool spa with people I don’t know, massively improved my self confidence in social situations, hit 1000 days of sobriety, told everyone that means something to me why they’re so important to my life as well as spending quality time with them, made and met new and existing friends from blogland, and discontinued all of my remaining prescription medications.

Although 2018 in many ways represents the culmination of quite a few years of really really hard work I can’t see it in any way shape or form like a full stop or a line under my life.

I’m now fitter than I’ve EVER been in my entire life on planet Earth and can do things with my body and mind that were previously impossible.

What’s happened though is that I’ve simply returned myself to a level playing field and enabled public anonymity.

This is a joy.

No-one notices me when I walk by and deep down I feel like I’m almost normal when I’m lost in a crowd or standing somewhere with other people.

I say ‘almost’ though because there are still some battle scars that remain.

Underneath all of this positivity and outward success is still a man who occasionally struggles with a positive self image, who even now can doubt his self worth, and physically carries significant evidence of a wasted past with him.

The excess skin remains along with a demon or two – but I’m always trying to be a better man.

I don’t want cosmetic surgery – I just want to be comfortable enough to expect people to accept me as I am and move on from events in my past.

I want to live for the future.

But what does that future hold?

Well in the short term I don’t really have any 2019 New Years ‘give stuff up’ resolutions – because if I remove any remaining habits else (all I have left is coffee!) then I might as well join a monastery and be done with it.

Instead I want the following:

  • To have love in my life and make sure that my future isn’t one that’s solitary any longer.
  • A satisfying career with genuine and good people to work with.
  • Become stronger and fitter, challenging both my body and my mind to improve every day.
  • To inspire men and women who meet me, read about me or find what I’ve written by proving that no matter how impossible a significant change may seem that it can be achieved.
  • Emphatically disprove some people’s opinions online (I’ve had some spirited private arguments with rather belligerent fitness people) who believe I’m certain to regain all the weight I’ve lost and that Slimming World’s plan does not work long term.

Fundamentally though I just want to just be a good man in clean underwear so that if a metaphorical bus ever screeches around a metaphorical corner (heaven forbid!) people will say that I lived a good life, cared about my fellow humans and ended my days in spotless pants and a fetching floral shirt.

I plan to live a long life though internet. You’re not getting rid of me that easily.

Here’s to 2019 and beyond – May it be wonderful for all of us 🤗

Davey

Sussex and a Twenty One Stone Award!

I’ve been quiet.

I know I know.

It’s all good though. Whilst a period of radio silence on my blog usually indicates either a lack of worthwhile content or a pronounced dip in my mood neither could be further from the truth this time.

I’m both really happy and have a lot to write and think about – although not all of it fits in with my strict criteria for blog inclusion, so I’ll gloss over some of what’s been going on for the time being.

I’ve been on a holiday of sorts over the week between Christmas and New Year and have been exploring the wilds of Sussex – which have actually turned out to be rather lovely.

I was told by one of it’s denizens that this is something that I must not talk about publicly however, because if I do then people would soon start flocking to its beauty spots in much greater numbers – and the sense of supreme tranquility that I observed would be ruined.

Instead I was told to say that Sussex is a monstrous carbuncle of concrete covered with traffic and urban decay – but it’s difficult to tell such horrendous fibs – especially when it looks this lovely.

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After getting intimate with the beautiful but rather muddy countryside near Cuckfield  on Thursday I went on a rather longer (and seriously picturesque) walk on Friday to explore the South Downs.

They frankly have some pretty wonderful views.

On a clear day (which this thankfully turned out to be after some rather grey clouds disappeared) you can see all the way to Brighton and Hove on the coastline and the North downs (a future destination for  sure) in the opposite direction.

I’m reliably informed by a rather spirited local (who appeared inexplicably to know rather a lot about geology and geography) that the long ridges of the downs used to actually be a giant dome, stretching from the white cliffs of Brighton to the North downs in the distance.

The whole region comprises of a thick band of porous chalk – deposited during the Cretaceous period around sixty million years ago. Movement of the landscape over time caused the top to gradually crack ‘like the chocolate surface of a mars bar being bent in the middle’ (or so they said). Subsequent weathering and erosion during the last ice age then sculpted its landscape into these rather lovely valleys, hilltops and ridges.

They’re really really beautiful.

The endless views of the downs are a major contrast to nearby Brighton though – which I had never visited before.

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This well known resort’s plurality seems to be part of its character – and nothing underlined its sometimes contradictory facets better than the rather rustic looking piano near the entrance of its (quite lovely Victorian) train station.

When I disembarked from my short train journey on Saturday this was the very first thing I spotted, standing there like an ambassador for the charms to be found in the nearby streets. It looked like it was simply aching to be played – but simultaneously it was not in the mood to be touched in any way shape or form.

Nothing says ‘don’t you dare fiddle with me’ better than a giant padlock

I had no idea that Brighton was actually a city until I started exploring – and had always just assumed (underlining my woeful lack of southern geographical knowledge) that it was a seaside town.

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On the one side is tradition – with its pier and pleasure beach harking back to a stubbornly bygone era of British holidays and postcards – and on the other there’s modernity.

The rising glass viewing donut of the British Airways i360 is an impressive sight for sure – although I hear that it has something of a reputation for getting stuck at the top, so I resolved not to chance it on this particular occasion…

Despite its occasionally unreliable visitor attractions Brighton is otherwise a bustling metropolis with consumerism standing side by side next to alternative counter culture.

It consequently has interesting and pronounced contrasts between seaside tackiness (it’s practically impossible to avoid the scent of burgers and chips wherever you walk) a very bohemian area, clear problems with homelessness and extremely aspirational retail outlets contained within an extremely well to do shopping mall.

I like the mix though – and not just because there are some particularly well named shops (look closely) in the windswept and interesting parts.

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Not only is the more ‘hessian and unshaven’ area of the town a great place for geeks (who seemed to be constantly in evidence as I browsed) but it’s an excellent location to have a mooch around if you like Star Wars.

As well as there being absolutely masses of figures, comics and statuettes in the stores there was some really cool bespoke art to be found in the nearby galleries too.

Sci fi seemed to be a theme that ran throughout the day like letters in Brighton rock – and I couldn’t help but explode in a shower of nerd joy when later on I saw a Millennium Falcon the Lego shop in the exclusive Churchill Square shopping arcade.

In particular I marvelled not only at the detail (look at the little lego Mynock on the hull!) but the frikkin price!!!

£650!!!

How on earth can parents justify a Christmas present with a tag that huge?!

I guess the answer is that it’s not just children who are obsessed with Lego these days.

I know this because I overheard a conversation with a seriously crestfallen nearby man. As I passed he was receiving clearly distressing news from a surprisingly earnest store assistant that a certain edition of the Lego Batmobile was now a discontinued item.

Obviously the staff knew the upset such news could cause.

This was no joke.

‘Oh……… Oh………’ Came the response, as the guy processed this unexpected information.

‘Right…. OK….’ He said, clearly trying to deal with what sounded like a sudden bereavement in his family.

The assistant nodded with both hands clasped in front of him as if he were a Lego pall bearer. For a moment I half expected him to place a reassuring hand on his customer’s shoulder – but he stopped short and remained in quiet attendance of the man in front of him.

The guy next to me really wanted that Batmobile.

I can understand it though – because if (like me) you’re a fan both Lego and of something like Marvel films and comics then a massive version of the Mark 44 Hulkbuster Armour from Avengers: Age of Ultron is a huge bucket list item.

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Coming in at an infinitely (no pun intended) more reasonable £120 (!) the only reason I didn’t buy this (apart from preferring to eat food rather than Lego bricks and not having endless money to waste) was because my head was turned by the MOOHASSIVE Harry Potter Hogwarts diorama nearby.

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I know of at least two regular commenters on this blog that would probably donate organs to own and play with this.

With an asking price of £350 they may well have needed to…

Saddened by the absence of a bottomless wallet in my pocket I moved on from shop to head turning shop – all full of items that I consider both lovely but also way too expensive to buy.

Practically the only thing I could have justified in that whole arcade was the delightful handfulls of Lego sitting in huge bins like cinema pick and mix.

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Talking of cinemas – this turned out to be the reason for my second visit to Brighton the following day – when myself and a fellow geek decided to see the seriously cool Into the Spiderverse animated film.

 

It’s rare that you can go to a movie that’s classified as ‘Universal’, has kids on booster seats nearby and still have the entire audience so captivated by the subject matter that there’s barely a peep out of anyone in the auditorium until the end credits.

I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone that likes Spider-Man (or indeed animated movies) and not only because it’s a great film with a brilliant storyline, but because it contains a really really poignant little cameo from the late and great Stan Lee (may he rest in peace).

It’s worth te trip for anyone (and their kids) – so make sure you go before it’s no longer showing on a big screen!

I’m quite sentimental so this particular cinema ticket is a keeper.

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Sunday was sadly my last evening in Sussex though – and the following day I reluctantly headed back to Warwick – only focused by the fact that on Saturday I’d missed yet another weigh in at Slimming World.

I don’t like doing this – particularly as I’ve now got plans for next Saturday too (if my group are reading – sorry guys!), so I resolved to weigh in at Angie’s Monday group instead.

However – before I could do this I had to cater to another borderline OCD habit. My mildly obsessive side was also in need of a swim – and it had been a few days since I’d enjoyed one.

I do find though that taking a break from exercise for a little while often means a surprisingly effortless performance increase when I do. Both my stamina and endurance seemed to have been recovering/building while I was away, meaning that I managed to shave almost five minutes off my previous time for a two kilometre swim.

What’s more – I did it with a lower average heart rate too!

When I finally arrived at the Monday group’s 4pm New Year’s Eve weigh in session (which unsurprisingly seemed to have a lot of new members joining with resolutions to lose weight in the new year) I already suspected I was a lot lighter than before I’d headed off to Sussex.

I’d been pleasantly diverted the whole time I was there by many different things, and for once my focus had not been food. I’d managed to occupy myself far better than I normally do in the evenings and as a consequence had eaten significantly less than I normally would – whilst still maintaining a good level of activity during the day.

When I stood on the scales therefore I was out of my target range – but for the FIRST TIME EVER this was because I was way below the 13st 11lbs minimum I needed to be rather than way above it.

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This is the lightest I have ever been in my adult life!!!

Although I’ll need to put some weight back on (hardly an awful problem to have at this time of year) by some kind of wonderful Christmas miracle I managed to lose a frankly ridiculous six pounds over the festive period.

On top of that I only went and got a TWENTY ONE STONE AWARD!!!!

How wonderful is that?!

Happy flipping New Year!!!

I’m sure you’ll agree internet that my time away has been time well spent!

Over the coming days I have more things planned, and this may also mean a period of radio silence – so stay frosty people.

Just like The Terminator ‘I’ll be back.’

Davey