Cementing my future

It’s not difficult to feel good on a day like today. The sun is shining again during a week of glorious weather – and I’ve spent the entirety of the last week and a half doing things I love doing.

This roughly translates into being continually outdoors (in this case walking with Boris and his pet human) making the most of each and every single moment of my life.

Boy.

What a great time it is to be living it.

As well as more familiar haunts lately I’m also getting to know entirely new parts of the UK and while I do I’m in wonderful company.

My new partner in crime and I seem to have unnervingly similar interests at times (I cant fault someone that fully gets a casual geeky Kobayashi Maru reference in conversation) and the more time we spend together the more these synergies become apparent.

I’ve managed to fall into the orbit of a truly like minded individual and any worries I might have had about bending myself or someone else around divergent interests when I found a partner have completely evaporated.

As well as being unrepentant nerds we’re both extremely outdoorsy and both focused on continual self improvement.

It’s not just discovering new places to explore and getting exercise together that’s making me feel so at peace though.

Not only has being in a relationship that’s reciprocal and genuine kept me on the straight and narrow with regard to health but it’s made me realise how impoverished I previously was when it came to human contact.

I suddenly appreciate all its nuances acutely.

That’s not to say I felt lonely in the past – or that I was in deficit with regard to human interaction or lacked great friends – but I now realise that there’s absolutely zero replacement to be found for the feeling that you’re not only in love but that you’re being loved in return.

I have at times been accused of being a soppy git – and if this was a judicial statute with penal servitude attached I may well be doing porridge at her majesty’s pleasure – but I honestly don’t care.

I’ve come way too far in life to not appreciate everything good about my world – and at the moment it’s full of all the things I wanted but never thought I’d be able to obtain.

It doesn’t hurt in the least of course that while I walk hand in hand with my significant other she doesn’t bat an eyelid while I munch on a bag of carrots.

As if all of this soppiness wasn’t enough yesterday also marked something of a milestone – because (as regular readers may know) it represented 366 days since I hit my target weight on 24th February 2018.

Although in real terms I’m now a stone lighter than that day – I’ve now managed to maintain my weight for a staggering (at least to my mind) whole year without (major) incident.

This is the first time in my entire life that I’ve ever managed to do this.

I’ve lost significant amounts of weight many times in the past – but never so much and never for such a sustained period of time without immediately piling all of it (and more besides) back on again.

Losing weight (in some respects) is relatively easy mind you.

I know that this may sound like I’m trivialising it for those that still struggle but if you’re like me (even though mentally it can be a real battle at times) and you’re presented with a reward structure there is always a reason to succeed outside of just feeling physically and mentally better.

I like pats on the head.

In Slimming World you get pats on the head all the time if you’re a good boy.

If you’re not Slimmer of the Week then you can be Slimmer of the Month. Body Magic gives you bronze, gold and then platinum awards.

If you hit a weight loss milestone you get certificates as well as stickers (who doesn’t love stickers?!) and people comment continually on how different you look.

For the luckier men in groups we can get also a Mr Sleek or MOTY award.

Maybe eventually we might even become the national (3rd) greatest loser.

I became the National MOTY 2018!

There’s everything to play for, plenty to keep you motivated and I’ve experienced it all along the way.

For almost three years everyone I know (without exception) has had trouble recognising me as I rapidly changed shape – which was an addictive thrill quite like no other.

My clothes continually changed size and everything was a moving target.

Things were exciting and new all the time.

That’s not the case when you hit target though – because the ever present buzz of success (or occasional low of failure) is soon gone.

In many ways the only options are to fail or… well… to fail… because ‘winning’ is basically normality – and your success is something others take for granted in their own lives because they are (mostly) already sober or fit and healthy.

Now you’re just soberingly normal and without warning the pressure is really on.

Some will have you believe that your success is temporary – and if you listen to them it’s easy to believe their opinions.

After all – you’ve failed before so what’s stopping it happening again?

Now your journey has become the twin (often gruelling) battles of self belief and self perception and at times you find yourself waging war on a stage with only yourself present.

It can be very lonely no matter who is by your side.

The glamour of success has to be inside your own head and therefore a new internal struggle begins to view yourself and your life in a continually positive light.

You have to learn to erase years of self loathing and regrets and live in a new future of possibilities.

To enable this there have to be new challenges and new reasons to get up and each day you need to try just a little harder.

You can’t stay still.

If you do then you stagnate.

One of my distraction techniques has been the drive to reach my diamond target member status – and yesterday (after a week and a half on what can only be termed ‘holiday’ outside of my normal routine) I attended Angie’s Monday group and stood nervously on the scales.

If I’m perfectly truthful (whilst many consider me achieving this to have been a forgone conclusion) it was in doubt for me right up until the night before – and I was at the upper end of my current target range whilst standing on the scales in my pants at 3am after having absolutely zero sleep.

This is never good – as anyone that regularly weighs in will know.

You need to wear clothes for a start (society has many unreasonable expectations designed to thwart us) and also know that you’re not going to be out of range when you step on.

There’s an acceptable margin for error and all of us slimmers understand what their personal one is.

But you know what?

I only went and frikkin did it!

I weighed in a year after (in the last but one entry in my book – which now shows a complete record of my journey) bang on where I needed to be at EXACTLY TWENTY ONE STONE LIGHTER than when I started Slimming World in April 2016.

Wow.

It’s quite something.

I decided however that while the date is significant (I aimed for this day precisely because it’s exactly a year) my Saturday group is all important to me – and when I accept my diamond target member certificate and badge I want to be there amongst them this coming weekend – so I declined the opportunity to take it with me when I left on Monday.

The Saturday guys made it all possible and I wouldn’t have managed it without their support.

They’ve all lifted me up over and over again when I’ve felt like I was struggling and in my view proved to be the difference between a bad week and a good one many times.

Amongst their number (past and present) are many close friends now and I can’t imagine what life would be without the structure Angie and this group have provided.

Things may be changing for me (who knows where my future lies) but this little session will always mean the world to me.

It’s because of them for instance that I started using visualisations in the early days – and to pay homage to this habit I visited B&Q today and found a cement mixer.

It’s not instantly visible in the upper right hand side of the top photo – but this hefty plant machinery is 70.2 kg.

My own loss is almost 134kg – making me a mind boggling TWO CEMENT MIXERS SMALLER THAN I WAS WHEN I STARTED.

So how did I celebrate this milestone?

Well – frankly (since it’s been literally years since I had any) I decided to scratch an itch I’ve had for a long time and finally help myself to some Christmas cake.

Sure – it’s not Christmas – and it’s horrendously fattening but I don’t care.

I loved every single little last crumb of it – and it doesn’t matter because today I’m right back on plan.

This is the power of flexible syns.

You just accept whatever you’ve enjoyed – take it on the chin, forgive yourself if necessary and move right along.

No longer does a mouthful of food define me for ever.

No longer am I shackled to a fear that at some point I will inevitably backslide.

No longer am I the man that I was because my future is set in cement.

This is me internet.

Forever.

Davey

There forever

Friday night is always a tough sell for me when it comes to sleeping.

It’s usually related to weighing in on a Saturday morning but at the moment (as I sit awake in the dark early in the morning) I don’t have that excuse because I’m not standing on the scales tomorrow.

I’m planning to be elsewhere – busy enjoying my life.

I am however preoccupied (and have been for a couple of weeks now) with the upcoming anniversary of me reaching my target weight – which means that (if I’m still in range) when I next stand on the scales I’ll be a diamond target member.

I’ll be honest and say that in many respects remaining in this bracket (although I’ve lowered my target twice since then – making it a stone lighter at 13st 7lbs) has been in some respects harder than I first expected.

It’s not because the Slimming World plan has ceased to work for me – but because of the continued game of mental hopscotch that target members have to play in order to keep themselves out of the ‘now I can just relax’ mentality.

Sometimes I manage it and sometimes I don’t – and in truth there have been times where I’ve been easily half a stone (maybe a little more) out of range over the last 12 months.

It’s been a tough thing to deal with at times – especially because on top of the pressure that I already heap upon myself to be practically perfect when it comes to my weight I also have the added pressure of being the Slimming World’s MOTY.

Whilst precisely no-one has told me I need to do anything other than just be me (warts and all) the sense that I have a duty to be a role model to others is something that’s always present.

It’s something I’ve taken very seriously over the last seven months since I won because over time I’ve seen what my success has prompted in totally random people.

I’ve watched with amazement as they have used (and cited me) me as a source of inspiration and motivation and it’s honestly humbling.

For someone who felt like a failure for over 40 years to suddenly be viewed as a source of inspiration is a pivot that’s both mind boggling and still occasionally an extremely uncomfortable place to be.

At times it’s a heavy burden to bear because I really don’t want to make the right food choices each and every day.

On many days I do not.

Just like the rest of the world I can still be an emotional eater and I occasionally hugely over indulge with free food and consume massive portions at meal times.

Whenever I can however I mitigate this tendency with food optimising and make sure that I eat extremely large amounts of what SW refer to as speed or free foods.

My ‘syns’ are usually ‘savvy’ ones and are cooked into the foods that I eat. Consequently I tend to stay on track in maybe the same way others do when the consume smaller portions of more processed foods.

Typically I never eat junk food. Just lots and lots of freshly prepared meals or lots of fruit and veg.

If I’m out and about I don’t go nuts or slip into holiday mode – I try to be sensible.

When I can’t then I look at whatever transgressions I’ve made as flexible syn days, forgive myself and just move right along with a brand new tomorrow.

As much as you might expect me to continually babble on about food optimising and Slimming World’s plan however that’s not the whole story.

Since I started to appear more and more in social media I’ve tried very carefully to minimise how many pictures I post of the food I eat because my weight maintenance is about so much more than just what I put in my mouth.

Instead my image is one that’s about being outside.

Sure – I couldn’t have gotten to where I am without making the right choices when it comes to food but my life has been lived outdoors for the vast majority of the last three years – and it’s that element of my life that I feel is most fundamental to my continued success.

Whilst food intake is undeniably a massive part of my story I’ve also seen major health improvements (such as my diabetes reversal) that I am completely convinced would not have happened without my continued emphasis on exercise.

Furthermore I’ll go as far to say that without my willingness to go out EVERY SINGLE DAY and fill up my Apple Watch rings I’d not be where I am now.

Whether you refer to it as body magic or (if you too have the device I do) ‘filling your rings’ this is the key (in my view) not just to enable transformative change in the first place – but to ensure that once it’s taken place the benefits have permanence.

The truth is that whilst I may eat more than most I also do more than the average slimmer – and it’s not unusual for me to finish some days with around 5000 kcals expended.

A while back (just after winning MOTY) I read a mildly critical comment about my ‘obsessive’ walking (around 10 miles a day roughly) under an article regarding my MOTY success story in the Daily Mail.

It questioned why I bothered to do such a ridiculous amount of miles when the simple answer was that I should just eat less – because if I did then I’d need to do less.

For some time this bothered me – because I’ve continually felt guilt about my portion sizes being the ‘last bastion’ of problem eating in my life.

They’ve never really changed since I started my transformation – and instead of modifying quantity most of the time I’ve modified the content of a meal in order to compensate for my worst impulses.

I have wondered in the past whether my walking has been all about enabling such bad behaviour (if you can call it that) or whether I do it for another reason.

As time has gone on though and I’ve added swimming to my regular routine I’ve realised that my continued appetite is not just about greed – it’s because I need to replenish the stores of energy that I burn – and that I eat more to move more.

This is the point of my social media presence on Instagram – which doesn’t contain endless pictures of every meal I consume – but instead contains images of a life that is being lived to its fullest extent.

I spend my time seeing all that the world around me has to offer, sharing that with others who are close to me and drinking deeply from the twin cups of nature and the human spirit.

I’m happier not just because I’m thinner (that just makes me like everyone else) but because I spend my spare time outdoors – and as much of it as I can with the people I love doing activities ensuring we will have long lasting friendships that enrich us all.

It’s because of this that I’m where I am in life.

Healthy eating alone is not the answer.

In order to have a sustainable and healthier future I need to continually chase the sunset.

That means swimming just a little more, walking a tiny bit further or just trying every day to be a better version of myself.

If I do then anniversaries like my diamond target membership or annual milestones regarding alcohol abstinence will eventually just come and go without any fanfare.

They are already my every day normal – and because of that I know that I will not only hold that award in my hand very soon but that I will carry on being the same man that got there in the first place.

Forever.

Davey

Three years on…

When I started writing this blog I had a hard time understanding what WordPress wanted from me. Components had to be presented in a certain format and I was unfamiliar with creating an online presence or persona for myself.

More worryingly I also realised that my fledgling site required a title.

What to call it though?

Back then I wasn’t losing weight – and in the beginning it wasn’t just about that. When I first tried to voice my feelings in public I was struggling to deal with the impact of a parental bereavement and this process had manifested itself as a sudden desire to rip everything in my life up and start afresh.

Somewhat precariously this impulse sat on top of an emotional tsunami that I’d inadvertently caused when I decided to stop drowning everything out with alcohol.

I was now sober, raw and in pain – dealing with things I’d suppressed for decades.

Although I wanted a better future, back then I was so buried by the past and present that I had no idea how to obtain it.

All this was pretty heavy subject matter however.

If I referenced the anguish I felt in the blog title and called it something like ‘man on fire‘ who would want to read what I created? Although I had decided to write for myself part of the catharsis of doing so was to ‘out’ my feelings to the world.

I wanted to stop hiding – so I also wanted people to read what I wrote.

A friend (after I’d started posting and he’d read a few entries) suggested a slightly more lighthearted ‘walkies with my doggy bloggy‘ title. This was based on my original objectives – which were to leave my job, become healthier and get a four legged friend along the way.

Did I want my blog to be just about dogs though? Who was my intended audience? What would happen if my focus changed or (heaven forbid) I failed to improve myself?

I decided to defer a decision on titles, and the social media handle I had used in many places elsewhere (daveywankenobie) to sign up to WordPress became a placeholder. 

Simply because WordPress wanted a sub heading I dutifully filled that in without a second thought – and in a few seconds I’d randomly typed in it’s empty box ‘learning to live life‘.

I didn’t think anything of this at the time. The phrase initially seemed to me to be a bit obvious and silly and I almost pressed backspace.

It’s almost immediate demise was statistically probable too because I hadn’t chosen a site ‘theme’. These are the colours and text justification or fonts available to make a page eye catching and WordPress provides bewildering amounts to choose from (even on a free plan).

On some it became completely invisible – and therefore I felt my sub heading to be rather redundant.

Thankfully I chose a theme that made it visible though and the more I saw it, the more I liked it.

The words seemed to capture what I was trying to accomplish – because until then I had been failing spectacularly in life – and for the longest time had simply wanted it to end.

But now things had changed.

My mother was gone and the stubborn determination that she had provoked in me before she passed away (I had resolved to be nothing like her) meant that in order to not go out the same way as she did I’d have to become someone that was very different.

Daveywankenobie would therefore have to learn to live life.

I’ve noted a few times over the last three years that there are some things that you say or do in passing (maybe because you don’t overthink them) that turn out later on to contain such monumental clarity and truth that they represent an irreversible pivot point.

Occasionally these tiny decisions herald the coming of revolutions – and ‘learning to live life‘ I subsequently realised was just such a phrase.

Time went on and as my priorities shifted my (now mythical) pooch never materialised – but nevertheless I continued to change for the better.

As I leaned more about myself and how I fitted into the world as someone new I experienced a near continuous supply of confusion, fear, joy, and wonder – but also began to realise that completely out of nowhere I was developing a lust for life.

Without realising it this throwaway sub heading was actually the real title of my blog

I was attempting finally to live it instead of wasting it – and was slowly discovering what this meant.

Now I wind forward three years and I’m further away from the man who started writing in February 2016 than I could have ever imagined I would be.

I’m monumentally happier, more fulfilled, confident and alive than I’ve ever been – and I’m finally beginning to live my life in every sense because it’s no longer a solitary one.

From a blog perspective that provides an interesting challenge- because while total honesty is my theme there are still things I will always want to keep private.

I’ve only ever written about myself (unless I have express permission to do otherwise) and have long felt that it’s not my right to include details about other people or the thoughts they may share with me.

What to do about a relationship then?

Well that’s mine – and as far as I’m concerned it will never be shared here in any detail.

It’s become (in a really short space of time) my safest and absolute happiest place in life.

The experiences it’s continually giving me occupy my thoughts most of the time – and there are moments (like now) where I can’t sleep because of the sheer avalanche of them.

They’re all good because I feel safe, secure and reciprocally cared for – but can I write about them?

No. I can’t.

Furthermore I don’t want to.

This time and these feelings are mine.

I earned them with hard work and determination and I want to have them (like millions of others do) just for myself.

So this is my way of saying to you dear reader that there’s nothing wrong. I just felt that I had to explain the decreased frequency of my musings.

I haven’t died, I’m not eating myself to death, and I’m still on track to get my diamond target member badge at Slimming World in a week or so.

I’m just currently swept up both by how glorious life can be and how happy I am.

I’m living life and currently it’s just fantastic.

Davey

Multi Dassetts

How time flies.

On Monday I spent my morning walking around between Burton Dassett and Avon Dassett. It’s a really lovely part of the world which I have to say I holds a special place in my memories because of what it represents.

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Whilst standing at the top of Magpie Hill (after the relatively brief stride to the summit) I started reminiscing about previous trips I’ve made there with my various twalking buddies.

It doesn’t seem like five minutes since I wrote this post (link) when I first visited Burton Dassett (I couldn’t remember the name of it at the time and kept calling it Bertie Bassett) with a friend, but amazingly it was Feb 14th 2017.

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This was two whole years ago!

Back then I was 23st 10lbs, but surprisingly I still coped rather well with the effort of making the journey to the top.

It had completely slipped my mind until I looked back at my post (one of the reasons I write them) that when I walked up to the windmill (or whatever it is – no-one seems to know for sure) I was trying for the very first time to add gradients to my walking capabilities.

Distance was becoming less of an issue, but hills had yet to become a firm part of my exercise lexicon.

Since there aren’t all that many hills of consequence in Warwickshire this represented preparation for an eventual attempt at climbing Snowdon – which back then seemed mind bogglingly far off in the future.

I eventually did it though (my various Snowdon exploits are here).

Much has changed since then – not least the fact that it was a LOT easier to burn calories – because after 38 minutes and 1.57 miles of relatively chilled out walking (at least by my standards today) I’d amazingly eradicated over 466 of them.

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The second time I visited was in July 2017 (link).

By then I was a lot fitter and quite a bit lighter (19st 11lbs). This meant that I was more than willing to extend the walk (as suggested by a more ‘off piste inclined regular twalker) to Avon Dassett.

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As was customary with this particular companion there were a few little mis-steps and our twalk ended up being slightly longer than originally expected – coming in at around six miles.

In total on my second visit I burned 1600 calories.

On Monday (in comparison) my heart rate was a LOT lower and I had to do a LOT more distance to get anywhere near this amount. In order to double my calorie burn compared to the first visit my companion and I had to walk THREE TIMES as far.

Although the distance I covered on Monday was nearly identical to my second visit I burned 600 less calories.

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To burn 1600 calories in one go these days I have to swim continuously for around two kilometres.

It’s not all about the miles and calories though – and it’s certainly not all about the stats – because these are (to an extent) becoming less and less relevant now I’m much fitter.

These days I walk for the friendship and the views – as well as it being something that I love to do.

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This is despite the mud mind you – because while the skies and surroundings looked beautiful on Monday by the time I reached Avon Dassett my boots were almost twice as heavy as when I’d started.

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The earth in the recently ploughed fields was like glue – and proved really tough to get off when we finally got to solid ground. No matter how many times I stood in puddles, wiped it on grass and stamped my feet it refused to budge.

In fact the only place to effectively scrape it away happened to be one of the two churches in the village.

Sitting at the top of the village, St John the Baptist (which is still not in use by anyone) has some useful little scrapers and a rough bristly mat in front of the doors. These prove to be a serious winner if you want to have a look inside without dragging half of the nearby fields with you.

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I was talking to a close blogging friend (Hayley – check out her site – its ace) the other day and sharing thoughts about how we’ve both changed thanks to our significant (and life altering) successes with Slimming World.

She is now barely recognisable in her ‘before’ photos (check this out! link) and is consequently someone that I regularly discuss the psychological aspects of weight loss with. We’ve both gotten rid enough of it to make our previous lives and attitudes practically impossible for us to relate to.

As we nattered I mentioned my return visit to this church. This started in the context of our shared love of photography – in particular how ‘bokeh depth of field’ effects are becoming easier and easier to accomplish with multi lens (or AI assisted single lens) smart phones.

She can accomplish these kinds of effects with a digital SLR (something I don’t have or know how to do) – but nevertheless I still like to play around and had been experimenting with my twalking buddy.

We’d taken a few example shots while we were in the church and I’d been showing him the really cool ‘portrait’ mode on my iPhone.

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I sent these faux bokeh images to my fellow blogger (as well as the ones above from 2017) and as we discussed them the conversation slowly shifted to self image – specifically how nowadays it seems really bizzare to both of us that we ever looked differently to the way that we do now.

As the anniversary of me reaching my target weight approaches I’m beginning to realise that I just accept what I see in the mirror these days and don’t really question it any more.

Like Hayley my current self image has slowly become my normal. When I look at photos of myself from before I started losing weight they now seem like someone else entirely – and the fear (that used to burn oh so brightly) of me falling back into old habits has almost completely evaporated.

That’s not to say I don’t still struggle at times – because I do. Despite my best efforts sometimes I’m more off plan than I’m on it – but crucially I’m always aware that at some point I’m going to have to fix any gains – and so far this has been something I’ve become quite adept at doing.

Cooking proper meals (of which I’ve been doing a lot this week for #freefoodfeb) and doing plenty of exercise is always the key.

I definitely experience my worst excesses when I pick at food, don’t cook meals and decide to stay in bed rather than getting up for a swim or an early morning walk around the park. This only ever results in a mood dip the following day followed by more picky eating, self recrimination, a lot more eating, yet more self recrimination.

Thankfully after all that nonsense is out of the way I usually then experience a major push to sort myself out.

I wish it didn’t happen like this – and maybe one day maybe it won’t – but I’m less inclined these days to view any of this as failure, because it most certainly isn’t. This (along with my self image) is the truth of my new normal. I screw up and then I sort it out.

Over and over again.

I’m often asked by people (particularly on Instagram) what the ‘secret’ of such massive weight loss is – as well as how to keep it off long term.

It’s a difficult question to answer – but I guess the easiest (and most truthful response) is simply that I no longer turn any gains into a catastrophe. Instead I just accept that sometimes my weight will fluctuate along with my mood – just the same as it does for everyone else in the world.

In truth there is no answer to it that fits everyone (or at least not one that I’m aware of) just an acceptance that everyone will struggle from time to time and that the quickest route to failure is believing that it will happen.

Anyway – it’s getting late and I have to walk home and cook the very kind of food optimised meal that I’ve just been writing about.

Whatever you’re doing internet please make sure it involves a little walk, a home cooked meal – and a sprinkling of self belief.

It it does we’ll all be golden 🙂

Davey

The battle continues

Even at the best of times it can be really hard to remain focused on one’s goals (regardless of how important they are) and in this case mine is to remain in target for the whole of February.

I weighed in earlier than usual (or later, depending on how you look at it) on Monday and managed to maintain my weight – coming in at exactly 13st 7lbs.

Honestly I went a bit off plan after that (don’t we all after weighing in?) and ever since I’ve been trying to slot myself back into ‘the zone‘.

When it comes to maintaining weight this is a difficult place to be because mentally you’re ‘already there’.

Often you feel like you’ve ‘done it’ – and all too easily this can translate into relaxing way too much.

In my case I did a bit – and it’s meant that I’ve eaten more than I normally would, walked a bit less, and occasionally stayed in bed listening to the wind and rain outside when I really should have gotten up and walked to the leisure centre for a swim.

It’s not been a completely ‘shut in’ week mind you. I’ve still been exercising.

For instance the other day I spent quite a while walking to, around and from Coombe Abbey.

This place always looks lovely.

It seems to also have intriguing little micro climates too – because whilst the duck pond was completely frozen over just metres away in the woods spring appeared to be in full effect!

I adore these little flashes of new life poking through the undergrowth – and it’s not just aesthetics that they’re good for.

I need to get outside in order to maintain a positive mindset – and regardless of how grey the skies are when I do (and see things like this) I’m always reminded that there’s something lovely to be found nearby.

It makes me feel connected to the world – and that I’m also alive and continually growing.

On other brighter days this week (when I’ve been out of bed early enough to see the sun come up) I’ve also been treated to some absolutely fabulous skies.

Being outside never fails to give me a sense of well-being and positivity.

There are other reasons to feel good too.

At the very least if I get up, go for a walk and have a swim then these activities offset at least some of my bad behaviour, and if I’m in a grump about over eating this causes my mood to lift.

However I have to be careful about thinking that exercise fixes everything because this is a potentially self defeating mindset to get into.

Ultimately no amount of it (at least in my experience) will make up for continually not sticking to plan.

Ultimately you’ll get sick of swimming back and forth or walking ever larger distances way before you ever get bored of eating nice food.

So this morning represents something of a line in the sand.

I really don’t like ‘drawing lines’ – because if I’m honest (for no good reason) the phrase irritates me intensely.

However today it seems appropriate. If I don’t rein in my overeating then when the end of the month rolls around I’ll be scuppered.

I decided therefore to make a stand against my own bad behaviour, get up early and go for it at the swimming pool.

Despite almost stopping and calling it a day after 60 lengths (I felt really tired!) today I pushed on and finally managed to do 100 continuous lengths at St Nicholas.

Thats 2.5km and it accounts for nearly 2000kcal burned before 9am!

I’m not chasing any records though.

I’ve stopped trying to beat previous times because I’ve pretty much plateau’d in that respect – and without significantly improving my technique (I still don’t put my head under water during the breaststroke) I doubt anything will change.

At least for the moment I’m happy to remain very much an amateur swimmer. It hasn’t hindered my ability to exercise one little bit and my average speed is still quite respectable.

There are several people doing front crawl in the ‘fast’ lane that I’m regularly keeping pace with – and so far I’ve noticed no-one at all swimming for as long or as continuously as I tend to do.

At the moment I have immense pride that when I swim in the morning I’m usually in the pool well before the usual regulars and get out well after them.

Furthermore, unlike many of them I don’t stop at all now.

The entirety of my time in the water is spent swimming, rather than pausing and nattering or taking a breather.

Whilst many people I see each day swim much faster than me almost none swim so continuously.

For those who haven’t been following my blog for a long time I only recently started swimming again (November the 16th – link) and the very first time I tried my arms simply weren’t up to the job.

I had to pause at each end of the pool for a minute or so to let the aching subside before going again.

It’s amazing how quickly this improved however – and within a couple of weeks things were quite different.

Not only am I chuffed to bits with my overall fitness and stamina gains but I’ve been really pleased with the visual and physical improvements over the last three months in my arms, chest, shoulders and back.

At times though it’s mildly disheartening – because whilst from a muscular perspective I am stronger than I’ve ever been, from a skin perspective I still have way more than I need.

However – when I embarked upon this path in life I never set out to look like a catalogue model.

I’ve always known that this will never be my reality.

My body has a history. For better or for worse I have to live with it and accept it, because there will never come a day when I decide to cut bits off for vanity.

The truth is I have learned to love some parts of myself and simply accept the bits that I currently can’t.

Then unexpectedly proof positive arrived not so long ago to remind me that this kind of thing really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

My new partner in crime has proved to me that I can still be loved regardless of my imperfections.

When someone you adore can look at you and not notice (or care about) all of the faults that you think are so huge it’s a timely reminder that there’s only one real competitor in any race.

Yourself.

Only you stand between where you begin and the finish line.

Your faults, failures, flaws and shortcomings are never as big as you think they are – and even if some of these seem larger than life it really only ever comes down to your personal opinion.

If self belief and self perception are aligned then you can accomplish amazing things – and it never hurts for me to remind yourself of this.

I continue to do this with comparison shots.

Whilst I still have an uneasy relationship with pictures of myself from the past and present nothing makes me prouder than contrasting a practically immobile man that I no longer recognise in an 8XL shirt and 66in waist trousers with a guy wearing a medium jacket and 34in jeans.

It’s also worthwhile remembering when I look at these that I’ve effectively lost more than an entire overweight father (sitting to the right of me) who told me when I started in April 2016 that I had to lose more than his (at the time) 19st frame to get to where I needed to be.

It’s also something of a personal triumph to know that his confessed irritation with seeing me drop from almost 35st to below his weight proved to be a catalyst for him to take action.

Consequently he lost pretty much all of his excess too – and my father (who is not far away from his 80th annual increment) now weighs in at a lower weight than I do – having lost somewhere between 6-7 stone.

So – the (endless) battle continues.

For all of us.

Just like my dad I’m still working towards my goals, still trying to get better, and still challenging myself to do new things.

Hopefully by the end of February internet this attitude will pay dividends and I’ll get my diamond target member badge.

You’ll have to come back and see if I do closer to the time!

Davey

Shared flamboyance

(Author sips coffee and sighs…)

February so far appears to be going pretty well.

Life is coming together very nicely – and with the possible exception of employment still being AWOL I have to say I’ve rarely been happier. This is more than mildly surprising because it’s fair to say that there was a time when I felt I’d never truly be accepted by the world or fit into it.

The truth is that I now feel a part of my surroundings and community in a way that I honestly never have before.

It’s never completely plain sailing mind you.

I guess it’s a feature of life (if it goes on long enough) that just when you think you’re sorted, on an even keel and have dealt with all of your demons that you find more of them popping out of the closet completely unannounced.

Amazingly – as painful (and deeply personal) as some of these can be to face up to – this time there is a significant difference. Now I’m not only, fitter, stronger, and more resilient – but I’m no longer dealing with them alone.

With a new relationship has come a gradual realisation that I no longer have to be the sole guardian of my self worth and belief – and that (in the same way as I hope I am in return) someone else now has a spare set of keys to my emotional vault.

That doesn’t mean they’re controlling of that element of me – it means that they are demonstrating again and again that they’re capable of not only enhancing but supporting me too.

Already I’m acutely aware that this is regularly making me think in ways that otherwise I would not have if I’d been left in splendid isolation.

It’s a pleasure (although sometimes also challenging) to see parts of myself that have been dormant for so long slowly whir back into life as I explore what it’s like to become ‘us’ rather than just ‘me’. Furthermore it’s great to have someone with many of the same – but also a continually surprising and divergent range of interests.

Again and again though I’m confronted with a pleasingly similar set of likes and dislikes.

I’d always thought in the back of my head that my taste in clothes (which is developing into a more colourful and flamboyant one all the time) would be a tough sell for a person that liked a more ‘buttoned down’ mode of dress.

All the designs I covet in shops however seem to not only meet with approval – but are greeted with enthusiasm – which is something I’m completely unused to.

Furthermore I’ve been introduced to a new set of clothing passions – which are (in some cases) things that I would never have previously considered – but now I find that I’m an ardent fan of as well.

Whilst I’ve never been particularly keen on high heels (the potential damage they can do to feet has always scared the living heck out of me) if they’re worn occasionally and they’re both unique and beautiful I find that I am inexplicably drawn to them.

At the weekend I was introduced to ‘Irregular Choice‘.

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Oddly a regular twalking buddy had mentioned the online version of this shop before – but until I’d walked through the physical door of its premises in Brighton I’d not connected the dots and realised that it was the same place.

As regular readers will know I’m a seriously thrifty person.

My charity shopping habits are a matter of public record and I don’t like paying high street prices. Something has to either be heavily discounted in a sale or ‘pre-loved’ for me to consider buying it.

This has enabled a lot of experimentation – and I’m still going through a ‘developmental’ period in this respect.

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However – there are some things that are so individual and beautiful that their cost is offset in my mind.

Sure – very little has changed in the ‘can Davey afford this kind of thing’ stakes (the answer is I cannot) but honestly there are some items that with the benefit of a regular income I’d definitely consider worthwhile.

Although I can wear nothing in this store (I saw no shoes at all for guys) it represents taste choices that I’ve never really considered – but that I suddenly love to bits. These shoes are the kinds of truly wonderful little pieces of art that I’d happily mount on my living room wall and admire from afar – yet they’re not much different in price from a pair of Clarkes or a mass produced pair of brand name trainers.

It blows my mind that I not only think this way – but that my opinions are shared. Not only is my experimental side okay but it’s suddenly something that’s being embraced with gusto.

Furthermore the nerdy geek in me (which represents a HUGE part of my personality) no longer feels the need to lurk in the background – which if I’m honest has not always been the case in the past.

Now when I linger peering excitedly into cabinets such as this there’s a murmer of approval nearby – and it’s nice to not feel like there’s any element of my personality that appears to need muting or modifying. The newly collaborative element in my life is also compatible when it comes other things too too – and thats great because something that I cannot do without is twalking.

This is so fundamental to who I am that without it I immediately feel like things are sliding in my life – or that I’m somehow heading for failure. It’s been so instrumental in my recent success that it’s forever going to dominate who I am as a person – and to know that I don’t have to hammer someone else’s square peg into my round hole is a joy that’s next to impossible to explain in words.

To know that when I’m navigating through a rainswept, muddy, miserable landscape framed by a grey sky with someone by my side that really doesn’t care what the weather is like as long as they’re outdoors is fantastic.

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It’s much better though when the weather is just right and you can enjoy a cloudless blue sky while you sit down to look at the view whilst you sip your respective flasks of coffee and tea.

This weekend I’ve been exploring Birling Gap and the Seven sisters a little more.

However on Sunday I started at the other end of their span (last time I began my walk in Seaford – link) and I’ve decided that not only is it a really pretty little part of the world, but that I’m rather falling in love with it.

Despite my amorous inclinations though it’s also rapidly becoming the place in the world that I’m most likely to fall on my ass.

Although I never mentioned it in my previous posts this is the second time when I’ve unceremoniously felt my legs slip out from under me in the chalky mud around these parts. This glue like covering on the cliffs and in the nearby estuary has the habit of gumming up the tread on your boots and making it much harder to maintain a reliable grip.

When it’s combined with ice (as it was in the shaded parts of the seven sisters on Sunday) then it can result in a sore posterior and wrists – both of which invariably take the brunt of any sudden downward trajectory.

Thankfully it seems that another major benefit of me being a lot smaller these days is that my arms and ass remain unbroken when this occurs. All that gets damaged is my pride or the material in the rear of my trousers.

I don’t care though.

Muddy pants and boots are badges of pride – and I actually find it quite amusing that recently I’m slipping and sliding more than usual. As I headed home with the sun slowly going down over Cuckmere Haven the event barely even registered in my memory of the day.

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My train of thought only moved on from the wonderful light and reflections when I started to think about what I was going to cook for dinner – which in this case was going to be for two.

This is a really positive new element in my life – because when I am preparing meals for someone other than just myself I eat noticeably less than I normally would when I’m on my own.

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Not only am I more likely to keep to plan when I’m in company but during such evenings I typically spend much less time trying to modify or deal with the inevitable impact of solitary ‘boredom eating‘ – which if I’m honest has always been a big problem for me. It’s something that’s never really changed in all the time I’ve been attending Slimming World – or since I reached target.

My evenings have at times been a wasteland of cottage cheese pots, Aldi Benefit Bar wrappers and plum seeds or apple cores. I’m no different to anyone else with dietary demons in this respect.

It’s never really been a case of whether or not I will go off the rails – but how much I can limit the damage when I do.

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Replacing this is a new push into making lovely meals that someone else can enjoy too – and thanks to many Slimming World food tasting sessions (and a willingness to experiment a little when they come around) I have a number of easy to make but delicious healthy meals in my cooking lexicon.

This ‘baked stuffed peppers’ example is something I first cooked (following guidance in a SW magazine) back in June 2016 (link) and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone that likes its ingredients.

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I can confirm that it went down very well with its intended audience – and it’s so nice that this recipe is actually the reason that I started using 5% fat pork instead of beef mince in my chilli con carne.

It proved beyond a shadow of a doubt at the time that not only was it a significant upgrade from beef (I find that it’s far less chewy for one thing and almost identical in terms of calorie content) but the resulting taste was way better.

Furthermore its value (usually around £1 less than beef per 500g) seemed far more appealing because – since I cook a chilli every week without fail – this represented a saving of £52 per year – which for me is an entire week’s shopping in Aldi.

With all this good behaviour I’m well on track to being in target for my diamond member award – and last night when I attended one of Angie’s groups locally in Warwick I hit the weigh in nail squarely on the head.

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After nearly a month out of group gallivanting around the country I managed a maintain – meaning I’m still smack bang on my target weight. 

I’m still squarely in the middle of my target range – and this also means that the last entry in my book will hopefully be when I secure my diamond target member status.

I’m not sure I could have planned that if I’d tried – but when I do my Slimming World book will contain an entire and complete record of my journey from my first weigh in to this very significant milestone.

If you want to see the entire history of my losses (and occasional mis-steps) you can find them here (link) or have a look in my homepage menu.

If you’re on your own journey then I can’t overstate how important it is to keep a log of what you’ve done right (and wrong). If you’re following Slimming World I also urge you to take the time to update your progress online in the app or on their web page.

Their graphing tools have kept me on the straight and narrow throughout my time following the plan – and it never fails to fill me with a sense of pride when I see its variations slowly smoothing out into one long gentle curve downwards – followed by a (relatively) straight line.

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Looking at a history of where you’ve come from and where you’ve ended up – as well as recognising that sometimes things will go a little topsy turvey and that if they do it’s totally normal is a real help in times when you really don’t feel like you can be strong or focused.

Anyway – my day is ebbing away internet and I need to get walking. I can’t sit here talking to you all day long, regardless of how nice it is to catch up.

Let’s do coffee again later in the week x

Davey

 

The next milestone

So – January is over.

As innocuous as it seemed at first, this turned out to be a completely fantastic but also extremely challenging month. I enjoyed almost every moment of it, but from an emotional perspective I’m still glad it’s over and done with.

 

All of a sudden the calendar has flipped over and presented me with a fresh page containing 28 new little blank squares. Only one is filled at the moment and it’s a biggie.

On the 24th it will be ONE WHOLE YEAR since I hit target at Slimming World.

This is particularly significant because there has NEVER been a single period of my life where my weight has remained stable for so long. Try as I might I can’t actually remember ANY length of time when it didn’t immediately rebound upwards after any transient period of healthy eating or weight loss.

I always crash dieted then started ‘eating normally again’.

The truth was that I’d always failed to recognise previously that I never ate normally in the first place, and therefore all that I was really saying was ‘I’m about to return to bingeing on crap and drinking myself to death’.

I don’t do this any more though and I’ve had to admit over the last few years that even now I occasionally still struggle with the definition of ‘normal’.

The war is therefore not won.

I’m still trying to balance my food intake – thanks largely to recent changes in my usual daily exercise regimes (which make me even more hungry than usual) and a more varied personal schedule that’s reduced attendance at my normal Saturday group.

This Saturday is no exception (I’m not weighing in today) and if I want to be in target by the 24th I’m going to have to watch myself like a hawk in the coming weeks.

Once I’ve done that will I get to hold a diamond target membership badge – which represents proof positive (to me at least) that I’m capable maintaining the health and fitness levels I have now for the rest of my life.

When (not if – because I’m going to do it) I pin this to my lapel it will prove emphatically that I can deal with both the highs and the lows of life and not turn to the wrong things for comfort.

It will state in no uncertain terms that I have finally changed for good. I’m on a mission and it doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing because I need to remain focused.

Once again this week I’ve been in Sussex (a long way away from my usual routines) and trying hard not to slip into a holiday mode. So far I’ve been a good boy – and have kept one thought at the forefront of my mind.

Where there are pavements there are opportunities to burn calories.

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At the moment the ones in Sussex may be a little slippery and treacherous but they’re absolutely beautiful.

When there are sunrises like this framing a frosty treeline it’s not really that much of a hardship to get out and about – even early in the morning.

For once the temperature isn’t really getting to me. Whilst it’s really really cold at the moment a few months ago I invested in a pair of thermal long johns – and boy was the purchase worthwhile!!

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When I arrived in Sussex on Wednesday it was just a teeny bit frosty – but eventually (just like everywhere else in the UK) snow arrived to properly whiten my surroundings.

I’m just thankful that we aren’t experiencing the same kind of conditions as parts of America mind you – because they seem to have it bad.

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Even though I don’t have to deal with minus twenty six degrees in Hell it’s at times like these that I’m really glad that I’ve learned the importance of layering outdoors gear.

While a big thick coat might seem like the answer in weather like this, more often than not when you’re walking it really isn’t. Invariably you’ll always get hot and want to take something off (as one of my regular ‘thermostaically challenged’ twalking companions will attest to.)

If all of your warmth potential is contained within one item then you’ve just lost the lot. Now when I’m out and about in this kind of weather (as well as my long johns) I wear a moisture wicking long sleeved Berghaus top, a light long sleeved zip neck fleece pullover and a down (roll packable) jacket with a hood.

When it comes to a place like Brighton (which I visited again on Thursday) this is REALLY worthwhile because around the shops and city centre there’s only the temperature to contend with – but when you hit the seafront the wind is relentless.

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At times it threatened to take me off my feet – and capturing a selfie with my phone wobbling back and forth in my hand was actually rather difficult to do.

Despite its climactically capricious nature though I’m starting to rather like the place.

I’ve come to the conclusion (particularly now that I’ve found all the charity shops) that there are few real (what I would call) bargains to be found within its city limits. There are however many many kitsch things to fill your life with if you have peculiar enough taste and the shelf space to accommodate them.

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Prices down south definitely do not mirror the ones in the charity shops of Warwickshire. All you have to do is glance in the window of an estate agent to see why this is.

There’s a huge disparity between the social classes there – and this is most apparent both in the cost of real estate and the tastes of those that inhabit it.

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Here flamboyant wealth often stands side by side with grinding poverty (as the vagrants hoovering up the free coffee in Waitrose demonstrated) but the more well off residents of Brighton and Hove don’t like to appear too wealthy.

Their clothing choices (mirroring their furnishing ones) seem markedly different to the infinitely more reserved Warwickians that I’m used to. People with money in this region prefer to dress with more a more… bohemian vibe, and often the well off ones look pretty much the same as the poor ones.

Often the only thing missing from the rich ones seems to be a can of strong cider and a sleeping bag.

Those with enough money to look poor and eccentric make significant effort to do so – and the vendors in places like ‘Snoopers Paradise’ are keen (at a price) to cater to their lower rent tastes.

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Because it’s so varied I tend to love pretty much everything I find in Brighton but sadly I can afford virtually none of it – and I’m definitely going to need a job before I can develop a different attitude toward the markets and stalls I’ve found so far.

All in all I walked about eight miles around the various different parts of Brighton on Thursday – and whilst this is was partially due to my willingness to explore thrift stores it’s also because I’m driven by my stats.

As always I’m pretty obsessive about what I do every month – and even while I’m away from home the idea of my averages slipping is something that drives me quietly potty.

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Thankfully there’s a leisure centre with a swimming pool near to where I’m staying – and on Thursday morning I popped in for a dip. Oddly this is a variable length pool with a large boom at one end that can be moved up and down the breadth of its run.

This changes the distance you swim from 33m to 25m or back again, depending on the time of day you visit. In the space it creates when shifted up a bit (when I visited) there was a spirited aquafit class led by a very loud woman bouncing back and forth in gaudy leggings and trainers on the side of the pool. On Thursday morning her group was positively crammed with pensioners waving pieces of foam around their heads and under water.

It’s quite unusual to have music pumping away in the background while I swim – but not entirely unwelcome. Since I still don’t do breaststroke with my head under the water it meant that I could rhythmically paddle away to the beat.

Time consequently flew by while I was there.

One thing this definitely made me realise was just how good my local facilities are after their recent refurbishment. Whilst water is water and I’m happy to just pound out the lengths anywhere the changing rooms, lighting, fixtures and general tone of The Dolphin pale in comparison to St Nicholas.

Either way – using it has enabled me to maintain my average daily distance total for swimming – which I’m very pleased to report is for January is just under 1.5km per day.

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I’ve let things with my walking slide a little since November because of the extra swimming I’m doing – and whilst I really wanted to keep it at the same level the truth is it’s simply unsustainable.

If I do I’ll just end up running myself ragged trying to do too much, losing all enjoyment in it – or even worse pull or strain something.

Even so I think I’m still doing pretty darned well with my mies per day average…

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Overall this means that whilst my daily exercise minutes are roughly the same, my average active calories burned has increased noticeably from where it was in October.

Compared to March last year I’m burning almost 800kcal extra per day.

So – all is good – and I’m on track for my diamond target member badge. Over the coming weeks you can probably expect to hear much much more about this as I near the moment and at some point have the occasional worry or stress!

Watch this space internet!

Davey