Cheddar and the Picture House

Even by my recent standards I’ve been ridiculously quiet on the blogging front over the last week.

However whilst previously this may have left me with a nagging sense of guilt I really don’t feel that way currently because life is ridiculously and legitimately busy.

My new job has started and I’ve been trying to once again get used to manoeuvring all the ‘life stuff’ that I need to get done around working full time.

Thankfully I’m not something that’s such a distant memory that it’s hard to do – and even when I wasn’t working I’ve usually been up at the crack of dawn for a swim and a walk.

I’ve always been an early riser – but my sudden employment (it seemed to come out of nowhere after lots of fruitless applications) has been a rude reminder that I need to plan things like shopping and meals a bit more in advance than I have been for the past few months.

It’s been hard to stay on plan – but that’s not the only slightly jarring thing about working 9-5 again.

The start date of my new role (somewhat unfortunately) arrived right after a wonderful bank holiday period that’s been absolutely awesome.

Consequently I’ve had to pivot from ‘relaxed wandering and exploring whilst feeling excessive levels of chill’ into ‘sit behind this desk all day and learn new stuff’.

Consequently the bank holiday is already a distant memory and my brain feels like it’s been griddled like a BK Whopper.

Before I felt like my mind had been beaten black and blue though my fleeting moments of freedom found me once again in Cheddar Gorge.

It’s a special place for me – because it was there (whilst doing a random circular walk) that I first met someone who’s become really important to me.

At the top of this very hill at the exact moment I took a photo of myself the future arrived.

It was also slogging up a hill with a heavy pack on its back, doing exactly what I also love to do.

Thanks to my phone and my tendency to photograph absolutely everything I know the time and the GPS coordinates of that moment.

I’m pretty anal like that.

This time I’d not only returned to the scene of the crime – but I had that special person in tow with me – and we were both keen to experience the whole event all over again.

The difference was that this time it wasn’t a day trip, but a weekend in a camper van.

This is admittedly something of a new experience for me.

Not only had I never slept overnight in any kind of vehicle before but I’d never stayed at a camp site either.

I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the experience despite fully expecting the Carry On cast to appear and Barbara Windsor to start enthusiastically exercising in front of me in a bikini.

Sigh.

Childhood memories…

It was all great though – regardless of her absence.

Sure – getting up to go to the loo in the middle of the night wearing pyjamas when it’s around 300 metres away at the opposite end of a damp field isn’t ideal – but I stoically managed to go number 1’s in the dark successfully and otherwise slept like a baby.

This is mildly unusual – and as someone near and dear to me will attest I can be a pretty restless sleeper at times.

In a camper however (with significantly less caffeine imbibed than usual) I slept like the recently deceased – which was wonderful.

All of this grade A rest made the trekking associated with a visit to a place like this a lot more palatable – and over the two days while we were there we walked as much as we possibly could.

It wasn’t all plain sailing mind you.

Being a careful kind of fellow I liberally applied lots of sun cream – and consequently all of my exposed parts went a satisfying warm pink colour.

For me this is usually as good as tanning gets.

However – I neglected to account for unexposed areas and my shirt let liberal amounts of sunlight through.

It’s a rookie mistake because I actually have SPF rated North Face shirts for trekking and neglected to pack them, choosing instead a lightweight Berghaus one.

This ultimately meant that I ended up with a chest that resembled a red and white picnic blanket afterwards – which was less than ideal.

It didn’t matter though.

Sunburn fades – but I suspect that the memory of a day like this will last a lot longer.

Whilst I didn’t know it at the time I started changing a lot of thought processes when I first visited here.

I’d randomly chosen it as a destination in August last year partially because I was running away from negative feelings and I needed a fresh perspective.

I thought I might find it at altitude.

I needed to work stuff out and I couldn’t do it looking at the walls of my house glaring at a TV playing video games or binge watching box sets.

Walking and clambering over things is my process.

It fixed everything for me.

It often still does.

If things don’t make sense then I try not to worry. Just putting one foot in front of another repeatedly will make it all better.

As I walked and tried to make sense of my (pained) feelings and experiences (I’d just become MOTY) the world opened up and unfolded for me.

I’m very fond of the opinion that the universe listens and this was just such a moment.

I enjoyed going back.

It was a great bank holiday and no mistake.

Now however I’m back to Earth with a bump.

I have lots to learn in my work life, lots to do in my everyday life, lots of planning to get through for the future – and suddenly I’m bewildered by how little time I seem to have to accomplish it in.

There suddenly don’t appear to be enough hours in the day – and everything has to be squeezed into a frantic weekend.

That works well for some activities however – and on Saturday (having managed to avoid ALL spoilers) I went to see Avengers: Endgame.

My fellow geek and I decided to make it a special occasion and we booked a showing at a lovely little cinema called ‘The Picture House’ in Uckfield (link)

This is an absolutely lovely building built in 1913 and kept to a very high standard.

It has a small family feeling that multiplexes just can’t hope to compete with.

You don’t have to compromise though. The seating is modern, the image is Dolby 4K and the sound is Dolby 7.1

The movie looked and sounded every bit as good as any other modern cinema I’ve been to and in my view this place richly deserves the awards that it’s received.

I’d go so far as to say that it’s better than the Electric cinema (although it has no sofas the screen is better) in Birmingham that I visited a while ago (link) – which is high praise indeed!

If the lovely red velvet everywhere wasn’t enough there’s a restaurant directly opposite The Picture House to tittilate your tastebuds. However from a SW perspective there wasn’t much on the menu that wouldn’t completely screw me over.

Instead I made sure I ate a hearty on plan meal before going – but once in the foyer I did decide to make one small concession to naughtiness.

Life is for living after all.

It’s been aaaaages since I had some hot popcorn and I just couldn’t resist.

Yum!

If you’re looking for spoilers you will NOT find them here – but you will find a one word review.

Absolutelyfrigginawesomeineveryconceivableway!!!!

If you’re planning to go then you’re going to love it.

If you’re on the fence then hop right off and book a ticket because the answer is ‘YES. IT IS THAT GOOD!’

So that’s that.

This relatively short blog can’t hope to do justice to the complexity of other things going on my in life at the moment.

At times my brain has felt like it’s in danger of melting – but this doesn’t mean that what I’m thinking about is a problem.

Life is so good that my choices now boil down to ‘if I leap in one direction everything will work out but it will be complicated’ and ‘if I leap in the other it will be just as good and just as complex but will work out a little bit different’.

If only all of life’s decisions were like that eh?

Anyway. I better get a move on internet. My newly seated job requires that just like everyone else I have to fit my steps and miles in before or after work.

Off I go.

Davey

Sorted.

Well – I weighed in.

Thankfully a few weeks of austerity and positive food choices have resulted in positive outcomes.

Being back in tatget was by no means a certainty – and before I could contemplate standing on the scales at group yesterday morning I had to swim a kilometre and a quarter, walk several miles, enthusiastically visit the loo (waiting a while for all of the carriages of the train to arrive in the station) and then make sure I was wearing my absolute lightest featherweight outfit.

It all worked out ok though. I weighed in at exactly 14st and I’m back in target.

Oddly however I didn’t take a photo of my weigh in book to mark the triumph – which is unlike me.

I’ve done this every week I’ve been to group without fail – however the yesterday I didn’t stay, and therefore my routine was disrupted.

To be clear – I’m a staunch advocate of staying to image therapy, and when I weigh in I pretty much always remain for the talk as well as the company.

Both keep me on an even keel, leave me in the right mindset and remind me that I’m not alone if I feel like I’m struggling.

So – I’ve officially lost 5lbs but unofficially actually lost 1st 2lbs to get back into range.

Now all I have to do is maintain my good behaviour. This is going to be a completely new challenge because next week I start a new job.

Yep – I’m finally leaving the ranks of the great unwashed and rejoining the workforce.

This one is once again local – a big thing for me because I can walk to work instead of drive – and means I can still get my exercise in at the start or end of the day.

I will also be able to continue with my swimming too! Yay!

Hopefully the job I’ve chosen will also keep me mentally busy and I’ll be learning about something new in the process – which is my overall objective.

Well.

Maybe not completely – because this a temporary contract (initially at least) and will enable me to figure out what comes next in my journey.

I know what I want and I know who I want that with – but so far I’m not sure how that will pan out and where it will take shape.

In the meantime I’m just going with the flow and enjoying life – because I currently have everything I need in it.

After a long drive yesterday that was as simple as a little pitch on a camp site.

Here I sat happily with my partner in crime as we listened to the surrounding chatter and watched the dying embers of a log fire whilst the sun disappeared from view.

I’ll think about real life when I return to it.

In the meantime I’m just going to enjoy it.

Davey

My life now

It’s my ‘grace period’ weigh in tomorrow – where I have to be back in target if I don’t want to pay at Slimming World – and the whole affair couldn’t be a more close run thing. I really want a win from tomorrow morning – however according to my own scales I’m not there yet.

Given what what I saw on their readout this morning I’ll probably be just over target or bang on it.

It could go either way.

When I last wrote a post about my weight I was honestly in a shaky space about it mentally, and it’s taken me a couple of weeks to get myself back into a mindset where I feel like I’m doing OK again.

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It irks me a lot that the last entry on the last page of my SW book (which documents me losing 21 stone) now ends with a huge gain.

Such is life though – and we all have to take things like this on the chin and move along.

After agreeing with Angie to reset my target weight back to 14st I was faced with the sobering reality that I needed to lose 5lbs in less than two weeks.

That’s enough in itself (big losses do not come easy to me any more) but even that doesn’t reflect the true scale of the problem I’d saddled myself with a couple of weeks prior to the numbers in the back of my book – because I’d already been working really hard to get down to 14st 5lbs.

Not long before weigh in on April 8th I’d managed to get up to a significantly more depressing 15st 2lbs.

I’m not gonna lie – the need to lose this in the first place left me feeling rather unhappy with the behaviour that led to it.

After hitting my diamond target date all of the stress associated with getting there finally culminated in me taking the brakes off for a while.

I relaxed – and unfortunately I didn’t stop relaxing for a month or so.

At times being at target can be really difficult – because you have to subtly modify many of the behaviours that helped you lose weight.

Instead of relentlessly heading in a downward trajectory it all has to be repurposed and focused on staying the same.

When you finally manage to get a handle on this (sometimes depressingly tedious) task you realise that the difference between maintaining and gaining weight is frighteningly small.

If you lose the delicate balance and put some back on then there’s inevitably going to come a really tough moment where you have to make a pivot back into to weight loss mode.

That’s a crappy place to be, because every part of you begins to scream ‘we’ve done this already and we don’t want to do it again!!!’

But you have to.

If you don’t the only other course of action to take is ‘screw it – I don’t care’ – and that leads to bad things.

You can choose to throw everything you’ve worked for away, stop exercising, eat all of the nice food that you love so much, neglect going to group and just bury yourself until you’re right back where you started to begin with.

I have to continually choose not to do this because the consequences just are too dire to contemplate.

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Yesterday I had to fill in a mandatory health questionnaire, and it asked about current as well as pre-existing (or previously experienced) health conditions.

I don’t like completing these kinds of documents mostly because I find them invasive – but also because what I have to write in their hateful little boxes no longer reflects the man I am.

I had to admit that I’d suffered from type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gout, cellulitis, oedemas, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, poor eyesight, eczema, knee and joint pain and more besides.

The list depressingly went on and on and on.

Through nothing but willpower though I turned all of these things around.

I lost over 20 stone – and although I had lots of support from lots of people around me the real power to make it a reality had to come from within me.

I forget that sometimes, and I can all too easily fall into a trap where I diminish my accomplishments and talk it all down in my head – but I shouldn’t because what I did was massive.

When I started my journey I couldn’t walk to the end of my short crescent. Now I can walk for miles and swim 50 lengths of my local pool in around 35 minutes.

This is a huge improvement on my first attempt – where only 20 took me 50+ minutes.

Although swimming is a relatively new thing for me it’s yet another activity that I couldn’t imagine myself doing three years ago.

Hell – even after I lost all of my weight the fear I was left with surrounding the partial nudity that it required (and how people would judge me) was crippling.

These are significant physical and psychological victories – and furthermore they’re ones that I own. 

I’m in print everywhere as a man who changed his whole life and in doing so became someone completely new.

Not only do I no longer recognise myself or my old mindset in the above picture but I’m appalled at how alien I look.

The image (as well as the memory of the physical state I was in) truthfully disgusts me.

That man’s capability to give up and wreck his health had been demonstrated over and over again.

For decades I failed over to live up to my potential and was unable to be who I should have been.

I refuse to ever go back to being him.

He’s someone else.

A mirror universe doppelgänger.

Things are also so unbelievably different now that I no longer have to rely totally on myself for motivation and reinforcement of a positive self image.

As hard as it’s been to cede control of my moods and impulses there is no denying that in the last six months I’ve been less able than ever before to get away with the self condemnation and psychological punishment that I’d normally have put myself through with such weight gains.

Every time I’ve attempted to diminish myself I’m usually reminded by a gentle, warm and supportive hand slipping quietly into my own that there’s no need.

It’s connected to someone who makes there’s nothing I can’t accomplish because I’m continually confronted with a reflection of how they see me.

Often it’s not how I see myself in the mirror and I’d lost sight of how much I need someone like this to give me perspective.

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A while ago I said that a picture like this would never appear in my blog – and that my private life was private.

Some things, I said, would never be shared.

However – social media being what it is these days my relationship status is already ‘out there’ and so are the pictures – so (with the permission of my better half) I present the evidence of what my life has become because of my determination.

I also do this because there is a lot more to life than many people that were in my position (or still are) may believe.

Some may be convinced that their worth is small and that their deservedness of love and companionship is similarly sized.

Some may accept poor treatment from those who purport to love them because they fear being alone – but it’s all lies.

We’re scared to try and scared to fail.

However all we can do is keep trying – day after day after day – and in doing so be the best version of ourselves that’s possible.

When we keep doing this amazing things can happen – because human beings are drawn to people who love and care for themselves.

I still struggle – and tomorrow when I step on Angie’s scales I may still not be where I want to be weight wise – but I’m as close to whole and happy as I’ve ever been in my entire life.

This is my world now internet – and if I want it to continue I have to keep trying, because I love it.

Davey

Ley line walk from Upton House

There are times when I really am my own worst enemy. I worry and stress about such silly things.

My recent internal struggle with what weight I must or must not be sits squarely in this camp. It really shouldn’t be on my mind though because life at the moment is good.

Very good.

Sure – there are things I still need to fix – such as my employment status – but even this seems to have an unexpected sense of impetus surrounding it all of a sudden.

Maybe it’s just the right time of year.

Sunshine is becoming more and more a feature of daily life as the seasons gradually change and winter cements itself into spring.

The now longer days seem to have had a subtly dappled light within the last week or so and the keenly awaited warmth they’ve brought has been reaching deep down inside me.

With this I have a sense that my soul is slowly being replenished.

On Thursday I was out and about with a friend who likes to occasionally go ‘off piste’ and capitalise on rare moments of good weather.

It was a good day to get outside.

She had suggested we try a new walk (found on the National Trust website here) that we’d not done before. This stared at Upton House and looped around Edgehill – somewhere I’d only previously seen in the distance before from another place that I’ve regularly visited – Burton Dassett (link) (another link) (yet another link).

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We started our walk in the corner of the deserted car park of Upton House.

It’s a National Trust property, and (unlike many I’ve been to over the past few years) the parking is completely free. You just hop out of your vehicle, through a small gate and into a field to begin.

Initially the walk was anything but spectacular.

The field next to Upton House had recently been ploughed and although the light was nice the surroundings were flat, featureless and brown.

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It wasn’t until we’d passed over a road, through another field and down a little dirt track that the glory of where we were slowly came into view.

This is the site of The Battle of Edgehill – fought on the 23rd of October 1642 – and it marks (at least from a military engagement perspective) the starting point of the English Civil war, where Royalist forces first engaged Parliamentarian troops.

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According to the National Trust site the Malvern Hills could be seen in the distance to the left – but I couldn’t quite make them out with my naked eye.

I’m beginning to think that I need to get myself a little pair of trekking binoculars, because sights like this would provide an excellent justification for spending a few pounds.

Vistas like this make you both reflective and thoughtful – and as we stood pondering both the natural beauty and the significance of what had taken place all those years ago the conversation shifted to my feelings about the future and what it may hold.

At the moment all I see is potential and promise stretching out before me – and the marvel of this is that I’m in no hurry to do anything or make any decision about what my next steps should be.

I’m just trusting that everything will become apparent – and whatever is meant to happen will just naturally unfold over time.

The sky seemed to agree.

The clouds were lazily floating by on their way to somewhere else without a care in the world.

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After marvelling at the view for a little while we continued along the top of the (soon to be tree covered) ridgeline.

Fortuitously it benefits from a deciduous canopy and is therefore (at least for the moment) completely defoliated – which means there are currently wonderful views to be found all the time as you walk.

All you have to do is stop and peer between the bare branches and tree trunks surrounding the well worn path.

After about three miles of walking our mid-way (ish) marker came into view.

It was the turret of the Castle Inn – and as pubs go it’s a pretty nice looking one.

According to the sign outside, the turret contains fully ensuite guest quarters.

Therefore if one should so wishes they can stay here overnight, get treated to some (apparently delightful) hospitality and then wake up to a glorious view in the morning – which would look a little something like this.

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It’s a delightfully and very characterful little pub – and aside from the suit of armour on the wall, just inside the doorway is evidence that they like to think of things slightly differently.

On the wall to the right are the loveliest coat hooks I’ve seen for ages.

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Where you might hang up your jacket isn’t the only thing of interest mind you.

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The castle is dripping with history – and as we sat sipping coffee and ginger beer (you can probably guess which of the two belonged to me) I noticed a little piece of card by the drinks menu.

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I love little touches like this – and as I read it I was reminded that this is why certain items are considered collectible antiques that become particularly valuable and others do not.

Provenance.

Without it a building would just be a pretty collection of bricks and none of them would be listed for preservation. With some knowledge of the past though we begin to look at inanimate items or localities differently and build an image in our minds that forms part of such an experience.

Ultimately nothing is valuable unless we choose to place importance upon it.

It’s all transient. Everything is either new or old, rare or abundant – and significance is completely subjective.

We can see beauty in many things and for some that may be a reason to ascribe importance – but the history of a place or object adds context.

It’s here the much of the value we ascribe to any object lies.

Just like my thoughts regarding the future – my happiness and satisfaction in life are completely based on my perspective and imagination.

I’ve decided that it’s bright because I have a narrative history in my mind about what preceeded it and what’s currently within it.

I see the present as better than the past and therefore I appreciate the present even more.

Together they give my life context and meaning and I choose to see that as positive.

To any casual observer nothing is different.

I still have the same head, the same brain sits within it and my body trails along behind it as it always has.

The positivity or negativity we experience when we consider the future are much like our imagination creating provenance in an object.

Sure – it might be truth – but it’s also the past. It’s gone forever and what remains is what we choose to see.

We continually construct our own reality and choose to live within it.

How many times have you told yourself you’re meant to be a certain way because you’ve always been like that – or that someone abused or treated you badly, and that this narrative still dictates your choices in later life?

Maybe this is why you’re unhealthy or feel unfulfilled?

What if your reality was different?

What if your own personal provenance was as easy to shift as writing a new history on the back of a piece of card and slipping it in between the menus of your life.

It’s totally possible.

The power of imagination and belief is within all of us – yet many choose to view it as dried cement rather than clay that they can still mould.

Not me.

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As we left the pub and continued on our way I couldn’t help but admire the little splashes of beauty everywhere.

Much of the walk took very little in the way of perspective and provenance to appreciate.

It was fabulous.

Sometimes all you need is a spot of sunshine, a handful of fruit and nut that your friend has given you – and a nice green field to stop and eat it in.

As we came close to the end of the walk and reached Uplands Farm it appeared that at some point either an overzealous landlord had covered up the right of way (or we took a wrong turn) because the path completely disappeared.

We were trying to figure out exactly how to correct our course when the yappiest (and cutest) little Jack Russell came out from the farm to ensure that we moved along.

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It continued to ineffectually bark and growl at us for a good five minutes until we finally submitted to it’s surprisingly compelling argument and moved along – choosing instead to hop over a locked gate and head for the country lane we new we had to be on slightly further down.

All in all the walk came to around 6.4 miles and was absolutely delightful.

Although we didn’t go in I also believe that (as well as the Rose and Crown pub along the way) further refreshments can be found at Upton House, should anyone wish to pop in.

Either way – it was a lovely little trek, and it helped me re-set and re-centre my perspective.

I’ll be going back there soon.

Davey

Red Kites and Waterfalls

Since I last wrote I’ve been out and about in Wales exploring my old university stamping ground.

Aberystwyth.

It’s for quite a while been my spiritual home in many ways – and I thought (that apart from family members) this was something relatively unique to my circle of friends – but it turns out that it’s not.

Lately more and more people have mentioned that they too have a connection to the location and both bloggers (and a more intimate partner in crime) have told me they also love it.

It’s been almost three years since I’ve seen its sea and countryside and I’ve honestly missed it – so I spontaneously decided late last week that I had to go back for a short weekend break.

On a nice day the view is to die for – and when you climb Constitution Hill (which I did shortly after arriving on Saturday afternoon) in the right weather there are few things that are more lovely.

This place has a lot of memories for me – but although many of them are happy ones there are also more than a few that have a tint of sadness or pain associated with them.

I was last in Aber in August 2016 (shortly after starting Slimming World link).

Once my initial joy about being able to walk along the promenade with my father and climb the 300ft up to the top of  ‘Consty’ I was faced with a different and all too familiar reality (link) when I was shouted at on the street and called names because of my size.

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In some ways I managed to lay those demons to rest this weekend because I not only did I return as the man I’ve always wanted to be (both fit and healthy) but I did so with my partner – which underlines just how much my life has changed for the better.

Although we both have ties to this region I think it’s safe to say that we found ourselves experiencing it with a fresh perspective thanks to the benefit of a second set of eyes and memories.

Despite thinking we both knew what was in store there were quite a few nooks and crannies that one of us had visited in the past, but the other hadn’t. As we strolled and reminisced throughout the weekend we were never short of thoughts and experiences to share.

It was all somehow different and new because of this.

I’ve walked along the promenade before and watched the sun go down on the beach many times – but rarely had I done it feeling as happy and contented as I did on Saturday evening.

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Aside from my ‘mushyness’ (which I am from time to time prone to) there’s much around Aber to explore – and after a lovely night’s sleep in a quiet hotel deep in the Valleys outside the town (with it’s own waterfall in the back garden!) we awoke to a busy Sunday itinerary.

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Our first port of call was to be Devil’s Bridge.

This is an absolutely spectacular slice of nature where majestic waterfalls meet endless wooded views filled with wildlife. Furthermore – if you get there before 9.30am it’s also a bit of a bargain.

The turnstile leading down from the (free) car park is coin operated – and unlike paying when there’s an actual person on the till it costs £2 (2x £1 coins) as opposed to £3!

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If you want to do the Waterfall Walk (which I highly recommend) just remember that it’s a bit of a steep climb at times – with the steps that you navigate being both deep and uneven – so I wouldn’t suggest doing this when it’s raining or if you struggle with mobility.

However – if you’re able to do it then it’s totally worth the effort because as you wind your way around the valley the view continually surprises and delights.

There are many many carefully placed viewing platforms that provide the perfect spots to watch the raging torrents of water as they flow down from under the road bridge into the valley below.

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It’s easy to lose time here – and we did.

All in all we spent a blissfull hour and a half in the completely deserted natural beauty of the location lazily watching the water roaring downwards and peering at all of the interesting plants and rock formations.

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If you’re a geography geek it’s magical!

However – all of the rocks and plant life pale into insignificance when faced with what I spotted in a tree just before leaving. Red Kite numbers have been carefully nurtured back up to a really healthy population in the surrounding hills and they are everywhere.

However – even though you regularly see them circling the valley and floating on the currents high above where you walk I’ve never seen one this close or in it’s natural habitat feeding.

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(if you want to see a video of this head over to my instagram feed here)

After we’d spent a while watching this majestic bird eat it’s (rather unfortunate) lunch the next port of call was Nant Yr Arian – which is another local Red Kite haunt, and it was in this location that we’d planned to watch their daily feeding show – but only after a walk, bite to eat and cup of tea.

Once we’d fed and watered ourselves (I had a delicious baked potato with rather decadent looking filling of tuna that was heavy with mayonnaise) we headed off for a hike.

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It’s fair to say that visiting this place represents another milestone – because on my way home from Aber in 2016 I decided to give walking around the hills a go.

As a heavier man it was really really hard work (link) and throughout my time there I was continually boiling hot and sweating buckets. In contrast on Sunday I wore three layers and a wooly hat and was still chilly in the shade!

When I started on my weight loss journey back then I wasn’t really au fait with what Apple Watch could do for me – and I hadn’t started exercising in any serious way – nor did I realise that I could track my walks with workouts.

I was wearing it because I thought it looked cool and at the time was more concerned with being able to move rather than travelling further and faster or keeping a note of where I was going or what I was burning off.

The wonderful thing is though that Apple Watch didn’t care. It was paying attention the whole time and keeping a historical record of the day for me to look at later.

All in all on the 15th August 2016 I walked (in between lots and lots of sitting, puffing and panting) 3.52 miles and took 7,200 steps – yet despite this relatively short distance (at least compared to my current standards) my overall expenditure for the day was an incredible 5,630 kcal.

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Back then I walked only the yellow route (the mid distance and difficulty route) and ignored the green and red ones.

In contrast on Sunday (as well as walking all round Devil’s Bridge in the morning) my partner and I explored everything.

Instead of just one path, we walked the green, yellow and red routes that criss-cross the hillsides and woods near the visitor centre.

During Sunday I (we) covered 8.64 miles, took 18,504 steps and climbed the equivalent of 96 flights of stairs.

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In contrast – even though I did around two and a half times as much on Sunday compared to that day in August 2016 I burned less than 2/3rds of the calories – underlining just how much more effort it took to move around when I was 31st.

The joy of exploring Nant Yr Arian these days is when we’d finished I also had plenty of energy in the tank to do other things.

It’s truly incredible how much I can do now compared to what I could accomplish in a day back then.

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My current level of fitness also meant that I also got to experience the entirety of what the location had on offer – and the views are just stunning.

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When you choose to venture deeper into the forest it’s no less wonderful – and as you stroll around it, the delightfully dappled light of a sunny day continually dances over the soft, mossy floor that you’re surrounded with.

Once we’d finished walking (and treated ourselves to more coffee and tea) the only thing that remained was the red kite feeding display, and we seated ourself on a grassy hillside to watch.

I’d never been around for this before – and I’d seriously been missing out. There were in fact so many Red Kites that the air seemed like it was filled with flies.

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Everywhere you looked they were swooping and diving to collect the food from the small  patch of land that the staff were throwing it onto.

This swarm of birds persisted for around 45 minutes – and while they were all together they performed arial display after arial display, all the while continually calling to one another and looping endlessly around in breathtakingly intricate flight paths.

They are not only beautiful beyond words – but next to impossible to capture with my current hardware – so you will have to imagine the spectacle we were treated to rather than endure the ridiculously blurry shots I captured with both my phone and compact camera.

If I’m honest though – even with all of this amazing beauty surrounding me I’d been preoccupied throughout the weekend with one thing.

Weighing in at Slimming World.

It’s fair to say that I’ve been avoiding this for a while – and doing so had meant that the reality of what my scales told me around a week and a half ago was pretty sobering.

In the evening, after a rather large blow out they had reported that I was a depressing 15st 2lbs.

Taking this as a wake up call I began to try and work my way back towards some semblance of being back on plan, reducing my food intake, and choosing speed food over free food as well as cutting down on anything that could be classified as a syn.

This was also my approach whilst on holiday and whilst I did choose to indulge (having museli as well as a cooked breakfast for instance) I cut the fat off my bacon, refused toast or fried bread and left behind the fatty, unappealing sausage that would probably have made me feel sluggish and guilty for the rest of the day.

In a similar way – when out for a meal in the evening – I chose a baked spud (instead of chips) a side of roast veg and had it topped with a low fat beef chilli. At all other times my partner in crime and I munched on carrots and fruit as we explored.

None of this made my underlying worries go away though – because I’d commited to Angie that I’d weigh in on Monday I returned from holiday – and being away from home, eating food that I hadn’t cooked and not being able to weigh myself meant that sleep was at times hard to come by.

I’m a worrier and no mistake.

When I finally rocked up at group on Monday though the exercise and good choices had meant that I’d managed to turn things around quite a bit – and had dropped from 15st 2lbs to a far more reasonable 14st 5lbs.

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However – I wasn’t out of the woods.

Since I’d recently re-set my target weight to 13st 7lbs this good result still represented a need to lose a further 9lbs in order to get into the upper end of my target weight. Furthermore I’d left myself just over a week and a half in which to do it if I didn’t want to pay at the next meeting (you get one week of grace to get back to where you should be at SW before fees apply).

God bless my consultant though. She’s an absolute diamond.

She sat down next to me before image therapy started, rubbed my arm, looked me in the eye and was completely honest.

‘You look great the way you are.’ Angie said.

‘You were a bit gaunt before. I think you should raise your target weight back up a bit.’

Honesty – the relief was like a hod of bricks had been lifted from my shoulders when she said this. To have someone whose opinion I trust (and she’s not alone) tell me this helped me realise that I’ve been burying myself with guilt over a few pounds.

In reality I’ve managed to keep all of this weight off and still continually live an active and healthy life at the same time.

I’m not a failure dammit. I’m a success!

So – I agreed with her that I will re-set my target to where I was when I won the MOTY competition and go for 14 stone. At this weight all of my clothes fit perfectly and I feel both vital, confident and alive.

Anything else is just a number.

So internet – my next weigh in is Saturday 20th April – and by then I have to get rid of 5lbs.

I can so do this – and what’s more I once again feel in control.

Davey

Regardless of where I am

I suppose that if there’s anything certain about life it’s that it’s uncertain.

I can think of quite a few times when I’ve sat back with a rather self satisfied feeling and thought ‘crikey – I’ve finally cracked life.’

Honestly though you’re only as strong as you feel in any one given moment – and my capability to backslide is just as much a feature of who I am as it ever was. I have always viewed it (perhaps somewhat melodramatically) as a predator pacing back and forth in the back of my mind that’s forever waiting for a moment of weakness to pounce.

It’s clearly found one recently – because I’m quite a bit out of target at the moment and I have been for a couple of weeks.

This is a difficult place to be, but I know why I’m where I’m at and why.

Firstly I relaxed after getting my diamond target member certificate. This was a huge moment for me and honestly when I achieved this milestone I felt worn out. I told myself that once I’d realised my goal I deserved a break from worrying about what I was eating, why I was eating it and why.

Secondly the process of getting a job, being interviewed, being turned down afterwards or just hearing nothing back at all from pretty much everything I’ve applied for is a state of affairs that’s often difficult to remain buoyant about – particularly after a few months of the same thing day in and day out.

Thirdly I don’t really want to come across to anyone as a negative person – and this often causes me to withdraw when I feel this way. I don’t want the world to view me as someone that’s got nothing good to say – so when I feel particularly glum I’d much rather say nothing at all.

So – as a consequence I’ve been overeating.

I’m honest ‘overeating’ is also something of an understatement, because when I stepped on the scales about six days ago I was just over a stone above my target weight.

This makes me feel like a fraud, a failure, a loser and a number of other rather bleak self assessments that I’ve been casually throwing at myself as I stare at the ceiling late at night. Probably because of this I’ve increasingly struggled to nod off (or stay that way) recently and that is also part of the problem.

When you’re worn down by a lack of quality sleep everything seems more difficult.

The truth is this though – In real terms I’m currently almost exactly the same weight that I was when I first hit target in February 2018, so the endlessly looping narrative of personal failure thats been in my mind for two weeks is completely at odds with reality.

If I’m a failure now then how was I a success back then?

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Nevertheless for this period I’ve still been picking away at myself with liberal doses of self recrimination.

It’s not like I don’t have support. There are plenty of people in my life willing to tell me frankly that it’s nonsense (which they have) or a group of like minded individuals waiting at a Slimming World meeting (who I’ve so far avoided out of personal shame) to help re-frame the narrative for me.

It’s all just been difficult to work through in my mind – so I’m sitting here trying to write it all out, because not doing so is not working.

That’s not to say I’m still in complete catastrophe mode however – because for the last 5-6 days since I began to face up to my behaviour and stepped on the scales at home I’ve been pretty much back on plan diet wise.

Regardless of pulling things back a bit (and having lost a good few pounds in the process)  I haven’t felt good about myself. If I’m being honest the motivation I’ve found to do what I’ve done has been solely rooted in being apocalyptically annoyed with myself when I look in the mirror.

I’m writing today though because I’m aware that this is not healthy and can’t go on.

I’ve got to re-frame the narrative and be kind to myself.

  • I’ve not resorted to processed or fast food. No sweets, chocolates, pasties, pizzas, kebabs or bags of chips have entered my home or passed my lips.
  • Instead of going out and buying wine these days (and honestly the thought has fleetingly crossed my mind) I have a coffee – or a big cup of tea.
  • I haven’t had a single day without some form of exercise, and my current ‘move streak’ (where I hit daily goal) in my Apple Watch stats is currently 583 days straight. I’ve not failed to accomplish it (or my stand or exercise goals) since I last had a debilitating bout of the flu in August 2017.

I’m also on track for my current Apple Watch April challenge – which is to burn 46,800 active kcal on top of my base metabolic amount. In order to do this I have to average an extra 1560 kcal per day for 30 days.

I’m gonna do it.

So – there are always things to pat myself on the back about. I’ve over indulged on good foods rather than crap, and largely stuck to the core principles of my healthy lifestyle.

I’ve just pressed pause on caring about too much about it for a little while.

That’s all over now though.

I committed to Angie (who contacted me – concerned over my radio silence) that I’m coming back to her group ASAP even though I’m out of target, so (because I have plans on Saturday with someone special) I will be standing on the scales regardless of where I am on Monday.

Hopefully when I do this it’s not going to be too ridiculous – but whatever the result is I’m going to take it on the chin. Once I’ve stepped off then it’s out in the open and I just have to deal with it like I have many times before.

Lord only knows why I tell myself it’s not OK to fail, because it’s the absolute opposite of what I tell anyone else that I talk to.

All too often my success and awards related to Slimming World translate into a continually present weight of personal expectation. This eventually becomes a thought process along the lines of ‘you should be better than this and you’re now a failure‘ when I make mistakes or my willpower wanes.

When I do this I make it harder and harder to accept that I’m just like anyone else and that it’s perfectly reasonable that I should struggle to stay on track from time to time in exactly the same ways that others do.

I need to stop doing it.

When I succumb to these thought processes I wish that I’d never become Slimming World’s MOTY – because ever since this happened I’ve quietly been telling myself that I have a responsibility to everyone not to screw up.

Again – this is total crap because I don’t need to be an example of perfection.

If that’s what I aspire to then I’m doomed to be disappointed.

The truth is that if I don’t want to ‘let people down’ (if this is even possible rather than just being something that I torture myself with) then I need to be real – and that means that when I’m not strong I admit it so that other people can see that their own struggles are perfectly normal.

It’s hard though.

I’ve recently lived my life with a very open online persona and created an expectation (certainly in my own mind if no-where else) that I will continually be truthful and at times it can be a tremendous burden.

There have been times recently that I’ve seriously considered archiving my entire blog and closing down all of my social media accounts.

For the time being however that’s not going to happen – because if I do it when I feel like I’m not coping then I’m going to do myself and others a disservice.

If I ever withdraw from writing my blog it must be for positive rather than negative reasons – otherwise I think I’d be left with a scar that will be hard to deal with.

Until then internet I’m here – in triumph or in failure.

As difficult as it is to admit when I’m not coping I feel I need to, because for some ridiculous reason admitting this in public (regardless of whether anyone reads it or not) gives me the strength that I often need to carry on, pick myself up and continually re-frame how I feel when I look in the mirror.

I hope it helps others too.

Davey