I call summer

Finally!!! The sun is out!!!

It’s been hanging in the sky unashamedly for a couple of days now – and it’s presence is beginning to feel oddly normal.

I’m so taken with it’s reappearance that today I took the rather unexpected (but completely welcome) step of digging my shorts out of storage, pulling on a brightly coloured shirt and stepping out for my usual walk to the leisure centre.

I’m calling it.

It’s officially SUMMER and I feel great because there’s something undeniably wonderful about sunny days.

I now appreciate their warmth in a way that I couldn’t a few years ago – although it’s (thankfully) becoming more and more difficult to remember just how uncomfortable such weather used to make me.

On the left is me this morning and on the right the picture of me represents probably one of the most painful and embarrassing days I can remember at (almost) the peak of my weight.

In the left one I’m ready to go for a walk and swim – and on the right hand side I could barely move and although I might be smiling I was sweating buckets and feeling very self conscious.

It might seem surprising given how I’m dressed that I was at a wedding.

Not only could I not wear smart clothes due to my size but I could barely waddle down the country lane to the reception a mile away afterwards.

When I did so I had the further indignity of making that walk to my destination with a ridiculously fit member of our army’s special forces.

As if that wasn’t humiliating enough after we I got there I was in so much pain and so drenched in sweat that I had to sit in my car for half an hour with the air conditioning on until I stopped breathing so heavily and began to look even vaguely socially acceptable.

It was only then that I felt I could join the other guests at the reception without looking like I was about to drop dead.

Life has become so different now though that I’m no longer regularly registering what I’ve become as ‘unusual’.

It’s just who I am.

Isn’t that wonderful?

Although (mostly because of some personal worries) I’ve struggled a little over the last couple of weeks with my sleeping and eating I’m still exercising all the time and have still been focused on the promise that I made to myself that I would go swimming 15 times in March.

I’m almost there.

The distance (you may have noticed) has slightly lowered however – and that’s because I’m still persisting swimming the breast stroke properly – and that means my head is continually under water.

Frankly doing this tires me out a lot quicker though – and I’m pretty sure that this is because of the regular breathing pattern that doing this requires.

Initially trying to do this made me struggle to swim at all – and since I’d managed to become quite proficient with my head out of water initially it was a little demoralising.

I was suddenly stopping at either end for a regular breather – which I hadn’t had to do for a long time.

I thought I’d become a lot fitter than I actually seemed to be in reality and once again I’d constructed a mountain to climb.

The truth of it is though that your body adapts really quickly if you persist with any kind of change to activity levels.

The same thing seems to hold true if you push your capabilities in something you already do regularly.

Now I’ve been swimming this way persistently for almost two weeks my average length time has fallen back in line with where it was before.

Overall it’s improved quite a bit from when I started swimming in November.

On my first tentative attempt (when my arms felt like lead after 25 metres) my average length time back then was a cripplingly slow two minutes thirty three seconds.

Today it was 47 seconds – but on Wednesday it was 45!

How cool is that?!

I’ll be completely honest though and say that at times I’ve struggled to maintain my focus with regard to swimming.

The sheen has definitely worn off the ‘newness’ of this activity – and a lot of the excitement associated with it was related to becoming more confident in a swimming costume rather than getting fitter.

However I still very much enjoy it when I go.

The truth is however that unlike walking I’ve come to the conclusion that this is very much a ‘brute force’ activity in the same sense as I’ve found going to the gym in the past.

In contrast I still walk pretty much everywhere – and have convinced myself that this is something that I have to do.

It isn’t hard.

Petrol costs money – which is something I need to conserve – so this is pretty much a reality rather than a conveniently constructed fiction.

in contrast I don’t need to swim anywhere.

Instead this activity is all about keeping fit and feeling good – which is something I have to keep at the forefront of my mind when my alarm goes off at 7am.

If I don’t get up do it regularly then I don’t feel good – it’s as simple as that.

Plus – in the absence of a job (I’m still looking in earnest!) having this kind of structure is good because staying in bed doing nothing did no-one any good in the history of ever.

It doesn’t matter what I do – I never sleep in (at least when on my own) and make sure I always accomplish something worthwhile with every single day.

Sometimes it’s only mundane stuff (job hunting is a daily and often miserable grind) sometimes it’s physical, and at other times it’s just looking after my home.

It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s constructive and leaves me with a positive feeling.

As I’ve previously mentioned I’m trying to get away from my life being all about weight loss – but I doubt that I’ll ever be able to fully step away from what I’ve accomplished into a ‘normal’ life that exists without any memory of it whatsoever.

Everywhere I look and everything I do is related in some way to the difficulties of the past and its next to impossible not to reflect on how good things are now vs how bad they got back then.

My garden is just such a reminder and if nothing else whenever I look at and work in it I’m provided with a great example of what staying in bed and doing nothing will ultimately result in – should I ever feel tempted to do so.

In June of 2017 this is how my back garden looked.

For a very long time I’d effectively become incapable of maintaining it myself – and the problem had become so huge in my mind (and in reality) that I simply didn’t know where to begin.

I’d even started throwing money at the problem and occasionally paying people to tend to it.

This eventually resulted in me being completely ripped off by a local shark and left me feeling extremely vulnerable.

I had mentally reached an impasse.

I didn’t trust anyone to be paid to do it for me and I couldn’t manage the task alone.

I closed my back curtains, tried to forget about it and just left the problem to get worse and worse.

In the end it took the helping hand of a friend to enable my first tentative steps.

I doubt I’d have started without him and I doubt I’d have had the confidence to continue unless he’d made me realise I’d lost enough weight not only to make the activity possible but amazingly to also turn it into something that could be enjoyable.

I still get a lot of pleasure from bringing order to this space – even though I don’t really use it in the way that I probably should.

I hardly spend any time out there – preferring instead to be out of my house doing other things.

Yesterday though I spent a good few hours tidying it up (great exercise in itself) and making sure that the lawn and borders were in shape for the next week or two.

My green recycling bin was comfortingly packed solid when I dragged it out to the front of my house afterwards.

Whilst I can’t ever envisage my back garden looking like it belongs in the Chelsea flower show, it’s a point of personal pride that I not only cleared it back then (mostly on my own after the initial helping hand) but that ever since I’ve managed to keep it neat and tidy.

I’m not too prissy about it mind you. At the end of the day it’s a garden, not a bowling green and I treat it as such. The pile of rotten wood I have to the right for instance is something I meant to use for a bug hotel – but it so far hasn’t happened.

It’s still on my ‘to do’ list.

If nothing else though these days I have a path to walk up and down that previously had been invisible for years – and a lawn that I can navigate without a machete.

So, summer is peeping its face through the clouds and I’m ready to greet it with open arms, short sleeves and bare legs!

It’s time to dig out the shorts Internet!!!

You know it makes sense!

Davey

Purged.

My blogging schedule has become rather erratic of late – and (although this may seem odd to those reading) I feel that I’m only just stepping away from the guilt that this caused me in the past.

My blog hasn’t exactly got a wide circulation – nor are (I suspect) the day to day comings and going’s of what’s happening in my life all that interesting to most people – but for whatever reason I feel that I have a responsibility to myself and others to write about my ‘journey’ and be open and honest.

The thing is, for quite a while I also linked that to ‘be prolific in my output.’

Initially when I started writing I wanted to see if I could maintain and nurture a creative streak that I’d previously pounded out of existence with food and alcohol.

I think I’ve managed to do that.

In the three plus years since I started writing I’ve penned around 700 posts and things I’ve written and photos I’ve taken have been viewed over 156,000 times by practically every country around the world.

I never thought that would happen and it’s been amazing to continually be reminded that people everywhere are so similar – and that they can be so kind and thoughtful.

I guess though that I’ve had to accept that ultimately life is for living and that each and every thought and moment doesn’t have to be pulled apart and examined.

Sometimes it just needs to be experienced.

I’m doing my best to make this my default lately – and although some things have made me linger and ponder ‘what everything means’ -for the most part I’m happier than I can ever remember myself being.

It’s not all about weight loss either – and if I’m honest the whole Slimming World thing has taken a bit of a back seat since I secured my diamond target member badge.

In my head that was always the moment when I wanted to withdraw from the limelight a bit and begin the gradual process of living outside of the shadow of my weight loss.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m proud of everything I’ve accomplished – and I can’t really imagine Slimming World or the people I’ve come into contact through it ever not being a part of my life. What I’m saying is that I don’t want to be defined by this one achievement (as big as it is) for the rest of my life.

I’d much rather be known as ‘that nice guy who’s my friend’ or ‘someone I met that seemed genuine and kind’ than ‘the guy with a massive pair of old trousers’ or ‘the man who was 35 stone and almost flushed his life down the toilet.’

There’s so much more to live for now and I’m bowled over by how tightly I want to not only hold onto, but develop my newfound happiness.

There’s now someone in my life that finishes my sentences – or just speaks out loud the thoughts in my head before I’ve managed to convert them into speech.

I’m blown away by how sitting in the park having a coffee with someone I care so much about (as she quietly takes a picture of me for herself) can lift my soul for days on end.

The future has never seemed so…. possible.

I’m continually confronted with thoughts about what the future could be and struck every day by the amazing truth that something with such a profound sense of permanence has appeared practically out of nowhere.

Now things are different.

The ‘adult’ side of me wonders whether I’m naive to feel the way I do – but I’m not an adolescent. I’m a grown up with a history of pain and regret.

The past has taught me what ‘the wrong person’ or ‘the wrong situation’ feels like – and how ignoring hunches or not being completely honest when confronted with an obvious truth just stores up trouble for the future.

I’m continually preoccupied with the realisation that my youthful avoidance of what was directly in front of me as well as my wilful impulsively is in the past.

I know what and who I want in my future.

Against all odds – and simply through trying to be a better version of myself I appear to have blundered into exactly what and who I need to continue my journey.

And it all happened at this exact moment.

I was outside, doing what I love to do and trying to figure out what to do as I came down from the highs and lows of winning the MOTY award.

Then the future literally arrived in front of me and began the gradual process of changing my life completely.

Since that moment I’ve made a few missteps and a few false starts – maybe even a few questionable choices – but ultimately realised that at the time I almost completely missed what was being presented to me on that day until months later.

Since then life has taken on new meaning and what was important years ago never seemed so irrelevant as it does today.

When confronted with something that’s suddenly so important and vital to your life (and continued emotional well being) it’s impossible not to look around you and quietly shake your head while you marvel at how on earth you ever found any measure of joy in the items and possessions you filled your life with.

I’m a totally different man now and so much of who I used to be seems alien and incomprehensible.

Aside from almost all of my photographic history no longer making sense I now look at every shelf and item in my house with an increasingly strong conviction that every single last bit of it is both transient and disposable.

As I’ve taken more and more items to charity and organised what remains I’ve realised that object related sentiments are often wholly misplaced – and in the absence of real feelings and love I filled (and overcomplicated) my life with all manner of clutter and crutches that neither made me truly happy or filled the hole in my emotions.

I assiduously collected and organised books, magazines, video games, technology and other such items – all the while telling myself that they’re ‘who I am’ – when in reality they were all just dead weight.

I possess books unopened for decades and magazines covered in dust as well as yellowed video games that I no longer have the time or inclination to play.

They may make someone happy in the future but I’m pretty certain that that this person won’t be me – because if I turn to them again it will only be if I’m in retreat.

Now all that they seem to represent is a cave – in which I hid for far too long and my current life is lived in sunlight.

Much of how I feel and why I feel it is deeply personal – and it’s one of the main reasons I haven’t written so much lately.

My barometer of happiness has been recalibrated and it’s gauge is elsewhere.

However I’m also addicted to words.

I love stringing them together and in many ways the impulse to do so is almost like a sudoku puzzle or crossword, because when I write I can feel an inner peace descending while I order and confront thoughts in the forefront and recesses of my mind.

Today I was going to write about my walk in Brighton on Saturday and the pretty shoes I looked at.

I was going to muse about how I fantasised about being brave enough to wear them.

But I didn’t.

I was also going to talk about the art prints I saw in a coffee shop and gallery that I thought looked really cool.

But I didn’t.

Feelings instead carried me away in a different direction.

They drifted to a happy place – to the warmth of the hand that I was holding when I looked at these things and to the mind connected to it that I shared the moment with.

The shoes and Marmite jars suddenly seemed less important.

The point is that I never really know what I’m going to say when I start writing – and I almost never know where it’s going to end up – but I do know that when I finish typing I’m always purged.

I don’t think I’m ever going to stop blogging – but now my life has become filled with something and someone that’s real and present.

All I want to do is experience everything it promises to offer.

So – please forgive me for my irregularity of late internet. I’m still here, wandering around in the background, stroking my chin and enjoying my life and everything in it.

Davey

Panting racehorse

Sometimes art leaves you totally cold.

The modern variety often make me feel this way (I’m a bit of a traditionalist if I’m honest) and I find that during visits to places like the Tate Modern I’ve been quite polarised by what I’ve seen.

Often I simply feel like I ‘ just don’t get it’.

Despite modern art’s sometimes bleak aesthetic I’ve found that sometimes (quite unexpectedly) I can be drawn in by a piece with ‘economic simplicity’. Sometimes a raw concrete wall is oddly beautiful – and there’s an undeniable honesty about a pile of bricks in the middle of a white room.

I can find it all irritatingly pretty without really wanting to – but I remain unconvinced that such examples are ‘art.

However – when faced with a jarringly violent postmodern statement (which is an unnervingly beautiful sculpture called the ‘Knife Angel’ link) when visiting Coventry Cathedral last week I found myself struck dumb for a moment.

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This is an installation with something profound to say about the world in which we live.

The 100,000 knives (link) that make up the vicious feathers of this penitent angel (an insane number to comprehend welding together) have been confiscated by the 43 forces policing the UK.

Each one represents a potentially fatal stabbing somewhere in the country and that alone is enough to give anyone pause for thought. Furthermore at the base of the statue were bouquets of flowers from people who knew recent local victims –  and on the rear were several inscriptions (link).

I was pondering this message when a group of youths taking photos next to me commented about the sculpture. ‘

They’re almost all kitchen knives – it looks like they’ve just been taken by people from home. I expected them to all be switchblades.’

I couldn’t help but turn and engage her and her friends in conversation. They seemed to be completely invested in the work and honestly interested in the significance of the constituent parts of the sculpture and amazed at the fact they were (mostly) all so ordinary.

I recounted a TV documentary I’d seen some time ago where an expert on knife crime had suggested that the problem wasnt so much the length of knives – but the design.

In particular their sharp points.

He’d stated emphatically that the way to reduce deaths wasn’t to ban kitchen knives from sale but instead to re-design the vast majority of them so that they had rounded ends. Whilst people might still be slashed or cut by such a blade they would be unlikely to die, since it was very hard indeed to penetrate deeply with what would effectively be a sharp butter knife.

Such a change would mean that kitchen knives would be almost universally unable to damage any vital organs.

They listened to me quietly and nodded, looking at the statue.

It was something they hadn’t considered before and as they chatted amongst themselves I thought how valuable such an installation can be. Art is particularly precient when bringing people together from many different walks of life and provoking debate – whilst at the same time providing a space where all are unexpectedly open to conversation and contemplation.

The whole experience left me in a pensive mood and I was rather grateful when my companion suggested afterwards that we have a look inside the Coventry Transport Museum.

I’ve never been there before – and that’s a shame, because the items contained within are both interesting and at times genuinely beautiful (in a very different way).

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As you might expect, the proximity of Jaguar Land Rover and its significance in the history and economy of the region means that there are quite a number of such cars on display related to that manufacturer.

As well as the E-Type above the very first car to carry the Jaguar name was in evidence and it was jaw droppingly lovely to look at – with a size and presence that leaves you feeling like you’re standing next to the Batmobile.

It’s not all about cars though – and I was particularly happy to see a slice of my childhood represented in one of the halls.

The 1984 Raleigh BMX Burner.

I had one very much like this – although a slightly cheaper version (and far less exclusive than this beautiful chrome finished one) in red and yellow.

Many many years of my youth were spent in its (admittedly rather brutal) saddle and overall I must have travelled for hundreds of miles holding onto its rubberised handlebar grips, because I eventually wore through them and they needed to be replaced.

Sigh.

Memories…

Another more contemporary itch was also scratched – and my Dr Who fetish was piqued by an early version of a police public call box – or rather ‘shed’.

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The keenly observant will have noticed that (maybe rather unusually for me) I’m looking rather leisurely in this photo – and somewhat ‘yoof’ in my hoodie and sweats.

The truth is that I’d not long before been swimming – and this week I’ve been trying something new.

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Getting my head wet.

I’ve now been swimming for over four months, and throughout the whole time I’ve been going I’ve been engaged in breast stroke (or at least my version of it) with my head above water.

I really don’t like getting my head wet – or to be more specific – the idea of trying to breathe out underwater whilst remembering not to drown.

This important need for regular co-ordination seemed rather daunting every time I considered trying to do it.

Then a couple of months ago I bought some goggles (yes I’ve had them that long) and decided that I was going to give it a go. Since that moment they’ve remained steadfastly at the bottom of my swimming bag in a little waterproof baggie and I have found excuse after excuse not to give them a go.

I’m in a rush.

I left them in my locker and can’t get out of the pool to go back.

I’ll end up with goggle marks on my face…

What it really comes down to is being scared – and that’s not on. Fear is something to be overcome, and eventually (even if it takes a while) I try to get past the ones I have.

Oddly when I eventually did try them the issue wasn’t a fear of drowning but one of stamina, because once the breathing is sorted (it’s really not that hard) then it’s just a case of timing. The thing is that when your head goes underwater you have less resistance – meaning that you can swim faster – and that means that (at least in my case) you tire quicker.

I’ve suddenly found that I’ve had to diminish my distance (temporarily at least) to 1km at a time and focus on my technique – because at the end of this I’m panting like a racehorse thats survived the Grand National.

So – if nothing else I’m still moving forward in life, finding new things to contemplate and ways to improve…

With those thoughts internet I have to get a move on.

I’ve a lot to accomplish with the day and many things to get started on!

Davey

 

 

 

 

Not horrible cardboard

In my mid forties I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m quite a relaxed individual.

I don’t typically seek out noise, I like the peace and quiet of the countryside and whilst cooking or cleaning I listen to Radio 4 – considering the opinions of the day as I go about my business.

in other moments of contemplation I watch birds and sip my coffee from ever smaller little cups that contain caffeine in concentrated and targeted doses.

I’m an adult with adult tastes.

However today I feel the need to listen to Nirvana – Nevermind and regress into my youth.

When it was released this album hit me like an atom bomb and gave voice to all the anger and angst caused by my relationship with my mother and my family’s increasingly fractured and alienated state.

It fuelled many many self destructive (but in some ways extremely cathartic) sessions on dancefloors and in pubs.

It almost certainly also contributed to some temporary hearing loss, and back when I possessed much longer hair (and could ‘mosh’) it gave me many many aching necks.

I wasn’t really all that distraught about Kurt Kobain’s suicide however.

I felt that he’d let the world down and wasted his life – and I didn’t connect with the often nihilistic attitudes of my peers at the time who idolised and romanticised his suicide.

‘He will always be young!’ I remember one person saying – … Just like James Dean – it’s so cool.’

It wasn’t cool at all.

His drug addiction and his bleak outlook on life resulted in a senseless waste and in contrast to him (although my mindset was scarily similar for a while) back then I wanted to survive – no matter how bleak my future at times appeared to be.

In many ways his passing marked a mental watershed for me. Somewhere, deep down inside I began to think that there was more to life than I had in front of me.

I could achieve more than I was at the time in retail and I could also improve myself educationally.

I made a difficult choice not long after to do both, and in the process I began to move away from many close friends and a lifestyle of self abuse and excess that was all I’d known for a long time.

It wasn’t easy – and like many things in life it didn’t really work out well in every respect (we all know what happened with my weight and drinking) but it laid the foundations for much of my future – even if some of my hopes and dreams took a while to be realised.

So why am I listening to it today as I type?

As always – as soon as you’ve jumped over one hurdle in life another presents itself.

At the moment I’m frustrated because it seems like I’ve chosen precisely the wrong moment to throw myself onto the mercy of the local job market.

Thanks to a huge number of redundancies in the automotive sector locally there are suddenly way more applicants than jobs in Warwickshire – and after a chat with a recruiter yesterday it seems that unless I want sales roles (I absolutely do NOT) the current outlook is rather bleak.

Although it’s still early days in my search, today (and during the last week) I’ve felt quite crestfallen and at something of a loss in this area.

This has resulted in something of a withdrawal from almost everything except my relationship and for the most part an internalised narrative that keeps prodding me and suggesting I’m a bit of a loser.

Thankfully my partner is a stabilising influence in this respect and her continually uplifting presence in my life has ensured that I pull away from the often self destructive behaviours I would normally go through when I feel a bit low.

She’s a brick – and we’ve motivated eachother in the best ways recently.

Since getting an Apple Watch she’s been upping her game with her stats and has ensured as she does that I do too.

We’re continually engaged in friendly competition and it’s made my day to day focus on my numbers and goals even more fun than it ever was before.

It’s particularly amusing that she too appears to be just like me when it comes to closing rings and stats – because she’s not missed a single day without hitting all of her goals so far.

In many instances she’s motivated me to go for a walk in the evening so that she can hit her objectives – and I love the way that I’m no longer alone in my activity goals.

It’s fantastic that when challenged we both resort to exercise – and it reinforces my already pretty inflexible attitude to how it should feature in my day to day existence.

I flatly refuse to be someone that stays in bed feeling sorry for themselves – so every day regardless of how I feel I get up, go for a long walk and a swim and make sure that I keep fit and active.

Nothing good comes from feeling progressively unhealthier all the time.

I’m also making good food choices – and every day has seen nothing but healthy food prepared either just for myself or for two.

There’s nothing like a plate full of roasted vegetables – and whilst my ever present tendency toward emotional over eating is always lurking in the background I’ve been doing my level best to diminish its impact with snacking alternatives that don’t destroy my progress.

For instance I’ve recently re-discovered Scanbran – which I’ve realised is sold in Holland and Barrett for £1.59 a pack.

Furthermore everything in store is currently ‘buy one get one half price’ – making it pretty reasonable value.

This is something of a ‘marmite’ item for many Slimming World followers – and whilst away from home last week I sat in on a SW meeting down south with a consultant I’ve never met before.

They proceeded to refer to Scan bran as ‘cardboard’ and ‘horrible’ – which regrettably seems to be a common approach by many to this item.

Half a pack represents a Healthy Extra however – and if you also have half a pack of Dairylea light cheese triangles on them (with Marmite of course!) then you get both a healthy A and B choice to snack on in front of the TV during that tricky evening period.

(Aldi’s own light cheese triangles are the same HE values for those who are interested in a cheaper alternative.)

Alternatively (as in the photo above) I’ve also been enjoying it as a sweeter dessert with pineapple cottage cheese (a free food).

If nothing else you definitely notice that such choices promote (ahem) regularity – and since I invited Scan bran back into my life my morning moments of seated contemplation have been extremely successful and supremely satisfying.

I do feel saddened though when I see a consultant referring to something that’s so healthy in such a negative manner.

This week I was interviewed by a journalism student who wanted to add a ‘take a break’ style piece to her portfolio.

For the record I intensely dislike magazines like take a break and agreed to do it on the proviso that it was for educational purposes and not to be used in print.

I have no interest in being a ‘look at all my excess skin’ dancing bear for any publication.

However some of the questions this student posed left me thinking on them for a while afterwards.

In particular she asked me something that I’ve been asked many times before.

‘What advice would you give to someone who wants to make a start at losing weigh?’

In the past I’ve mostly replied that joining a group is a great start – as well as trying to introduce exercise and cooking everything from scratch – but I think (having thought on the matter over the last year or so) that the ‘correct’ answer may be more fundamental than that.

I replied ‘learn to love vegetables before you do anything.’

Whilst at this unfamiliar SW meeting last week I also heard a fellow slimmer say something that I’ve heard many times before.

Unlike the meeting and the consultant it was depressingly familiar.

The lady in front of me was crestfallen about the food and recipe options that she’d been presented with and began to voice her discontent.

‘I hate vegetables’ she said.

The person I was with pointed out how visibly irritable I’d become when I heard this and noted that I don’t normally react to anything else like that.

It gets my goat though.

I have absolutely no idea how as a society we’ve managed to get to a point where people’s palates only understand (and crave) the texture and tastes associated with refined food – and in doing so actively avoid the constituent unprocessed items that make up many of their favourite dishes.

Again and again I hear things in meetings along the lines of ‘I don’t like tomatoes’ or ‘I can’t eat lettuce’.

thankfully I’m quite lucky in this respect.

Whilst I was eminently capable of eating crap as an adult I also grew up eating a lot of raw veg – and I never lost the taste for it – but there are some things (like Scanbran) that I learned to like for a reason.

It’s a healthy choice and it’s good for me.

in a similar vein when I started my journey I hated exercise – but look at me now! I had to learn to like it and now I can’t get enough of it.

In a normal week I swim 3-4 times on top of all of my walking.

You don’t have to go insane though and you don’t have to change everything overnight.

My point is that embarking on a ‘diet’ is not the way to do things.

The goal should be to embark upon a ‘healthy eating’ plan where you begin to diminish (or gradually remove entirely) the things that damaged you to begin with.

In the same way that I gave up drinking to prepare myself for the next step (joining SW) I would advocate that those with a grudge against fresh food and it’s taste or texture should attempt to overcome this during the early days of any shift toward a new lifestyle.

After all – if you do what you’ve always done you’ll get the results that you’ve always had.

Simply eating a smaller portion of crap is not the answer.

The right approach is not consuming the crap in the first place – because if you don’t then it makes the task at hand a lot easier.

Taking this approach means that you can eat very generous portions and still lose or maintain your weight.

Furthermore when you embark upon exercise you have energy in the tank that simply isn’t there (in my experience) if all you eat is refined food.

It’s this kind of thing that’s keeping me on an even keel at the moment – and regardless of what happens with mood dips and employment challenges the fact that this underpins my life has meant that I’m never far away from being ‘on track’ even if from time to time I still vary in weight.

I’m peeved with my (lack of) progress in other areas though – but currently Nevermind hits the spot and provides a channel for my angst to come out.

It’s propelled me a little faster on walks – and the memory of the trashing guitar has also been with me whilst I’ve swum.

Not every day can be filled with positivity or with victory though – and sometimes all you can do is focus on what you do manage to get right in life.

In my case I get vegetables right.

Almost everything else takes care of itself after that.

Davey

Leaning into Grassman

It’s been a little while since I felt like writing a post and this has been for a variety of reasons. Firstly there have been a couple of days where frankly I have been struggling a bit under the weight of a rather downbeat mood.

There are a couple of reasons for me feeling a tiny bit blue – but neither of them are serious and both pale into insignificance in the great scheme of things. However, in my experience (when it comes to emotional states) how you feel has very little to do with reality and is often just temporary perception.

Mine would have me believe that (in certain respects) I’ve not been doing as well as I could or should have recently and that because of this I’m less than successful in life than I would like.

The weather hasn’t really helped my frame of mind – and when I’ve tried to do things to that will bring positivity and order to my life – such as make my environment a tidy one – it’s dragged me down even further.

Summer can’t come back soon enough in my opinion.

I’m already sick of the inclement weather we’re enduring lately. Davey doesn’t do cold weather any more. His bones ache in lower temperatures and his hands quickly get cold without gloves or central heating.

Lord knows I’ve tried to be outdoorsy. Truthfully though I’ve not been ‘feeling it’ for a week or so and the damp, windy world outside my window has been a tough sell.

Despite it’s inaugural haircut of 2019 my back garden remains rather miserable looking at the moment.

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I’m very much looking forward to the return of green leaves and that odd yellow ball in the sky that makes everything blossom and generally look a little more inviting.

I’ve discussed planting herbs this year with a friend – since he’s pointed out that I’d probably use these a lot in my frequent cooking – but this will require significant clearing and weeding of my borders to do so.

That’s something to work on in the near future – but on a day like the one above I only just managed to get the job done and take a picture before the heavens opened and the world filled once more filled with puddles and mud.

Since many days recently have been too grim to venture out very far at all I’ve also been tackling another task that I’ve been putting off for way too long.

Clutter.

We all carry so much needless crap from place to place throughout our lives in the name of sentimentality that sometimes we have to step back and ask ourselves why the items that adorn our walls, fill our cupboards and populate our shelves are there in the first place.

What purpose do they serve any more and do they bring any joy or happiness?

Many things we hold on to do not. They just sit there staring lazily back at us day after day after day after day with absolutely no identifiable purpose…

In my case one of my Achilles heels has been books.

From an early age I was taught to revere these and treat them with care because they contain wisdom, they’re important, and only troglodytes or Nazis dispose of them.

I’ve held on to legions of these since my degree years and I can’t remember opening a single one again since the time their related essays rolled off the press and into my tutor’s pigeon to be marked.

I finished my degree before the millennium…

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Whilst leafing through one rather yellowed and dusty tome related to Arthurian literature (Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain – a great bedtime read for those crippled by insomnia) I couldn’t help but notice a bookmark, dating back (roughly) to the last time I paid it any interest.

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UCI cinemas haven’t existed for around a decade and a half (they were slowly merged with Odeon cinemas in the early 2000’s). This Solihull outlet in particular was bulldozed to make way for a car dealership in 2005/6 (link).

The film it showed (Chain Reaction link) is so old that at the time Keanu Reeves was still best known for Bill & Ted’s excellent adventure and Morgan Freeman still had (some) dark hair.

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So I had to ask myself why I was holding onto a book (and many other similar ones) that I hadn’t opened for 27 years…

Well the truth is that I didn’t need to – so I cleared out every book that had no current value to me, taking them to a charity shop along with a number of other items secreted around my house.

Bit by bit I spent a few days getting rid of a past that I no longer inhabit and haven’t for a very long time. 

This only slightly lifted my mood however.

There are some things I can’t bring myself to dispose of – despite not using them very much any more so instead I tried to bring order to their chaos. Films and video games are something that these days take up way more space in my home than they currently account for in my very much more active life.

I decided therefore to pack away much of my old console game back catalogue and combine my DVD & Blu-Ray collection in alphabetical order.

This supremely satisfying task took many hours – but now every film I possess is not only easily available but in the correct order.

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Sigh.

An alphabetised shelving unit is a thing of beauty.

Not even this act of neat freakery sorted my head out though and shortly after scratching this particular itch I found myself binge eating cottage cheese, apples and plums.

My post diamond target weight in eating has been (ahem) problematic – and despite trying hard to be good with a number of very on plan meals I’ve over indulged a bit more over the last two weeks than I should have.

 

I will admit to a bit of excessive relaxation that now has to be addressed by once more losing a few pounds.

I do wish that I didn’t have a tendency to deal with mood dips like this.

The behaviours they invariably give rise to are not only non-productive but now I also have to face my partner after such episodes (of which there have been several) when I feel like I’ve let myself down a lot – and admit that I’m not coping the way I feel that I should have.

People may laugh when I write that I’m overeating cottage cheese and fruit – but I can report that I have conclusive proof that it’s supremely possible to gain weight with healthy food.

If you eat too much of anything you’ll fill out.

It’s a fact.

The only real bonus is it’s not crap food full of empty calories and in the great scheme of things it’s doing way less damage than pizza, kebabs or chips ever caused in the past.

As well as dealing with the usual self loathing related to over indulging I now also have to continually remind myself that my related (habitual and well practiced) behaviour patterns are of no help in a relationship whatsoever.

I am no longer just a single guy who can metaphorically stomp back to his man cave, retreat from the world and bury his head in a video game.

Neither do I want to if I’m honest – because it’s never really worked for me in the past.

This means that for the first time in twenty odd years I’ve been going through a low patch – but also trying to share my more vulnerable elements openly with the person that I care about.

It’s tough though when you’re not feeling in the least bit lovable – what you really want early on in a relationship is to show yourself at your absolute best.

It’s early days and you don’t want to come across as an emotional cripple.

I’m an open person for better or worse now though and regardless of it being inconvenient I made a commitment to myself three years ago to be honest about who I am and how I feel about myself with everyone – and that goes double for people that I care deeply about.

Radio silence does no-one any good and instead I’ve tried to broadcast on all frequencies whenever possible – accepting help and welcoming a different points of view.

In the past I’d have simply buried myself (alone) in a TV box set or a lengthy video game.

When I look for another way I’m often pulled into positive spaces – such as a Dodgy (link) concert at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London, which is definitely outside my normal comfort zone.

Via my partner’s taste in music I’ve slowly begun to get into this band (some of their tracks I really love) and when she suggested we go together, rather than umming or arring about whether or not I’d like it I just said ‘yes.’

Saying ‘yes’ is way more powerful and positive than ‘no’ – which if you make it your default response (it used to be mine) means that your perspective never alters, and your mood or opinions never change.

In contrast ‘yes’ means opening yourself up to new experiences and potentially enjoying something that you normally wouldn’t have had a chance to.

Even if you don’t get pleasure from it (which I very much did) the act of doing something new alone can totally lift you out of your malaise and enable new thoughts and feelings.

In my case when I say ‘yes’ and headed off to London with my girlfriend I got to see a truly awesome group of musicians (and a couple of OK support acts – Terrorvision and Babybird) at the top of their game and experience the joy of dancing the night away alongside someone that I love to be with.

 

So as I type I’m in a much better head space.

My fellow traveller has managed to stop me turning tiny problems into a complete crisis, helped me reign in my excessive eating, enabled me to see things with a fresh perspective, and just reminded me that it’s OK to not be 100% all of the time.

It’s nice to be shown that someone wants to be there for you as much as you want to be there for them – and that you’re able to lean into their supportive arms when you don’t feel capable of standing tall on your own.

So – it’s all about perception.

A bad mood might not seem like it has any value when it hits, but it’s still an important emotion and arrives for a reason.

We can’t be 100% happy all the time, and there’s a value being vulnerable.

In doing so we can allow other people to show that they care, reminding us that we’re not alone in life, and that occasionally downbeat assessments of the world around us are simply a passing phase.

Honesty and truth are the only ways forward.

Internalising things did no-none any good in the history of ever – and my new life is continued proof of that. The more I welcome change and the more I share it the easier and more pleasurable it becomes.

Unexpectedly it’s led me from an existence where I was closed off and alone to singing the lyrics of Grassman aloud whilst swaying in time to an all encompassing wall of sound in my partner’s arms.

Lean into people internet.

They won’t let you down.

Davey

An oar each

Ok – so my diamond target member badge is in the bag. I’ve managed to maintain my weight for a year.

Now I’ve reached yet another milestone though I have to consider what the next one will be.

Maybe it’s just the nature of my particular beast – or maybe it’s because I’m capricious – but now I have what I’ve always wanted I feel slightly deflated.

The problem (if you can call it that) is that when you focus all of your energy – and pour the essence of your whole being into a task until it completely dominates your day to day life – there’s often a noticeable dip in your mood when you achieve what you’ve set out to do.

When you arrive at the finish line (after the initial relief and happiness washes over you) you’re left asking ‘so what the hell comes next?’

In the past I’d have moved immediately from one health goal to another – but I have to be completely truthful and admit that Slimming World is no longer the sole focus of my attention it once was.

Whilst I’m still continually following the plan things in my overall priority list have changed significantly.

Since late 2018 my gaze has definitely shifted towards other (in my view more important) things in my private life and I now have some brightly lit beacons in the distance that have nothing to do with weight management.

In my mind’s eye they’re represented by a glow that’s emanating from a distant island in a big ocean – and I’m currently in a little boat rowing in their direction.

The sea is calm and there’s a warm sun above me in the cloudless blue sky.

However – as forgiving as the gentle waves beneath me are there’s still a lengthy distance between where I am now and where I want to end up. Furthermore when I look down I’m only holding one oar.

However instead of the boat going in circles I’m still heading toward my objective, because sitting in it to my left is someone else holding the other oar pulling in time with my strokes. The longer we sit side by side the closer they become, and the quicker the boat moves.

I know where I want to go and my companion does as well.

It turns out that we’re heading for the same island and are focused on the same beacons.

This journey and shared objective is only one part of the puzzle though, and I can’t ignore my progress with SW at any point. Whilst it isn’t my only guiding light any more I need to remain fit and healthy enough to get to my destination. When I reach it (and I will) I have to continue to build and enjoy a full life.

This requires me to maintain a solid focus on multiple areas – but I’m determined that whatever else is on my mind I will not shift my gaze away from health maintenance. In the short term therefore I have given myself an objective and have decided to dedicate March to exercise.

This is mostly because February saw a noticeable dip in my stats. They’re not bad by any stretch of the imagination – but they’re not where I wanted them to be.

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It’s worth noting two things at this point.

Firstly – the swimming stats are an average of the distances I swam in February – but are not a DAILY one as the title suggests. I’ve realised that Apple’s health app is actually giving an overall average for the days I’ve swum – rather than an average for the whole month, including days that I didn’t go swimming.

Secondly (when I interrogate my workout history) in January I can see that I went swimming on 18 out of 31 days.

In contrast February ‘only’ saw me go 11 out of 28.

So – my first objective for March is to complete at least 15 swimming workouts.

Apple Watch (maybe sensing my mood) has also set me a challenge to walk 236 miles, which is 7.61 per day. Therefore my second objective therefore is to walk an average of 8 miles a day.

My third is that I want to make three days of each week an SP day (Slimming World’s uber weight loss approach which focuses on speed and protein food groups only.) This should enable me to strike a comfortable balance between relaxation and focus – which since I started swimming has been something of a tricky thing to do.

I’m also going to up my focus on cooking super healthy and filling mealsbecause February had way too many days where I went overboard eating free foods (as well as some marathon hi-fi bar munching sessions that are best not discussed) and then had to pull everything back into line afterwards.

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My slow cooker is one of many great ways to achieve this aim with as little friction as possible.

The above insanely filling and warming dinner was made with 500g of diced lean beef, a can of chopped tomatoes, a Tesco butternut squash and red onion stew pack, a carrot and swede stew pack, two leeks, 4 cloves of garlic, a stock cube, salt, a few bay leaves, some couscous and a can of (drained) baked beans.

If you decide to make it yourself  my advice is that you put the last two ingredients in at the end rather than the beginning – because otherwise the couscous sticks to the bowl and the beans just turn to paste.

If you don’t feel full up after a couple of bowls of that then I suggest you have some (speed) fruit and fat free natural yogurt with a bit of stevia and some cinnamon for dessert.

If you haven’t had your healthy extra then bung in 40g of rolled oats too (my trusty fry light cap measures out just about the right amount – which is 7 syns if not a HE).

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It’s worth noting that this picture has Sainsburys Basics low fat natural yogurt in it – which is synned on Slimming World’s plan at 0.5 per 100g whereas fat free is lower in calories and ‘free’.

As you can see from the nutritional info (low fat on the left and fat free on the right) there’s a difference of around 100kcal for a 500g pot.

Personally I can’t tell the difference in taste but others I know prefer the slightly more decadent alternative!

Anyhow – enough typing.

I need to get walking.

I’ve got two swims under my belt for March so far (one of which was 50 lengths early this morning) and I need to get another five miles of pavement pounding tacked onto my stats before I can even think about making myself a super sized salad later on this afternoon.

Here’s to new goals and re-focusing on objectives internet!

Davey

Diamond target membership award

Days really don’t get much better than today, because after what’s been (not counting the last three years) a lifetime of continual failure I finally planted the flag of success in my Slimming World journey.

Today I collected my diamond target member certificate, sticker and badge at my usual Saturday group and I couldn’t be happier.

Although some may think that winning Man of the Year might be what I’d consider to be the highlight of my Slimming World journey they’d be wrong.

without wishing to trivialise my award the MOTY title is something decided by others and it’s based upon their assessment of my worthiness rather than my own.

In many ways I’ve felt conflicted about that award ever since receiving it.

To start off with it’s very difficult to feel like you deserve something when you have considered yourself to be a screw up for so long.

It’s also hard to deal with such a monumental moment for another reason.

I saw so many other people on the day I was chosen that were clearly just as worthy as I was that the title became (at least in my mind) less of a confirmation that I was successful and more about needing to continually justify being given it.

I felt that if I let myself down that I was also letting down all of the other people that could have won in my stead.

The only way I could honour their achievements was to remain worthy of what I’d been given last July – and at times this has been very hard.

I don’t want to fail anyone and at times I feel like I’ve fallen short.

Although occasionally being a few pounds out of target isn’t the end of the world, in this context it can mean a lot more to me (in the great scheme of things) than it should.

Learning how to deal with this has been part and parcel of the limelight that I agreed to step into though – and I was aware that this was a probable side effect of such ‘success’ from day one.

In its own way this has been useful in though and I’ve learned a lot about how to manage such emotions since July last year.

In contrast the diamond target membership is different.

It’s not a matter of a choices made by others but a representation of my continued focus and long term success. It’s therefore something that’s entirely for me and the battle to obtain it has been one that I’ve been fighting my whole life.

When I hold it in my hand it carries with it the weight and gravity that many many years of pain have heaped upon my shoulders yet simultaneously lifts a burden that I never thought would leave me.

It’s proof positive that I can not only lose weight consistently but that I can keep it off.

It also demonstrates that I am capable of dealing with the occasional normal fluctuations that just happen to everyone throughout their entire lives.

This moment is therefore significant because to me it represents the positive culmination of every single bad and good experience throughout my entire life.

I’m not only going to treasure this certificate – I’m going to mount it on my wall in a frame.

Today internet I’m a happy boy.

Davey