100 percent of the shots

As I write it’s dark and cold outside – but the days seem to be just a teensy bit longer all of a sudden.

It’s no illusion. The shortest one of the year (Sunday the 22nd of December) is now behind us – and from this point on the UK will only get lighter and the days longer.

I can almost feel the warmth of summer on my back.

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That’s partially because (despite a rocky few weeks) I actually had a really active and on plan second half to the month.

It got worse before it started to get better though, because when I stepped on the scales at home on the 15th of this month (after some hefty emotional eating) they greeted me with a somewhat sobering 17st 9.5lbs.

I knew what was going on.

I’ve been quiet for a reason.

As well as encountering some unexpected health worries (which seem for the time being to be OK) the whole issue of not finding work has been eating away at my self confidence, and I’ve found it very hard indeed to not hibernate or eat away the upset it’s been causing.

That’s not to say that I’m not taking positive steps mind you. I’ve been working through a couple of self help books and looking at understanding what I really want rather than what I feel I have no choice about and should apply for.

It’s not easy though when you’v been turned down four times in a row for jobs that you know would be a walk in the park – but I guess if nothing else it’s character forming, and what will be will be.

It’s also Christmas, nobody is hiring and Brexit looms.

Even the job sites that were previously spamming me with unhelpful adverts have dried up over the last three to four weeks, and my inbox is mercifully devoid of mail reminding me that I’m not proving to be particularly successful in this area.

However – back to the scales.

Free from the self imposed guilt of being over target as man of the year I have now instituted a new regime.

I have up until recently focusing on my new project – which is feeling guilty about an out of target ex-man of the year.

The former guilt was because I should be a positive example of a man with a title and the latter because I don’t want to be seen to have ‘let myself go’ after everyone believed in me and looked to me for inspiration.

Sigh.

One day maybe I’ll stop doing this to myself…

However I know I’m not alone in such quagmires of spiralling thoughts – and it seems that as much as I’ve been amazed by the capability of fellow slimmers to change their shapes and life outcomes I’ve also been encouraged that they too struggle like heck at some time or another when it comes to maintenance.

Practically everyone of them I know (or just follow on social media) has posted some epic gains followed by a correspondingly epic loss – and almost everyone that’s achieved a measure of success is now differnent to the weight they were when they held aloft their local or national awards.

I’m not alone – so why feel any shame?

Thankfully at the moment I’m not.

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Over the last two weeks I’ve managed to lose an entire stone (even though it doesn’t look like that in my book) and it’s been through sheer hard work and effort.

Dropping weight over Christmas has been a challenge though – and I’m not going to lie – this could have gone either way. During the last week I ate Stollen, Gingerbread, Cheese, Christmas cake, biscuits, an entire layer of chocolates from a box of Milk tray and a rather hefty roast and three mincemeat wraps on Christmas day.

I’ll be honest – had I been on my own I might not have celebrated this way – but this has been my very first traditional Christmas as ‘family’ (or probably more accurately a ‘couple’) and as such I really wanted to enjoy the experience as everyone else does.

With great food and awful jumpers.

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The fact is though that whilst I enjoyed myself as much as I felt I could I also limited damage elsewhere as much as humanly possible (although it may not sound like it) as well as doing a rather epic amount of exercise.

Although I consumed a lot of naughty food on the 25th I also went for a TEN MILE WALK through the wilds of Warwickshire to make up for it.

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If I add my daily active (anything I burn with exercise) and standard (2500kcal for an adult male) calorie burn together then I’ve been averaging around 4500 per day for the last two weeks, which is the main reason I lost weight after packing away cheese and cake.

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A lot of this was due to swimming – which once again has proven to be my absolute saviour. This has been particularly gratifying when I look back on it because despite my reluctance to don my trunks and look like a human muffin in the mornings ( I hadn’t been for almost two whole weeks) I did it anyway.

It’s not been the only exercise I’ve engaged in though – and I’ve relied on an old friend to fill the gaps for me when the pool has been closed. My walking distance has remained consistently higher and at averaged over 10 miles a day for two weeks as well – despite driving to Sussex and back on Monday.

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So – life is (for the moment at least) on an even dietary keel again.

Both myself and my better half are really in the zone at the moment – and she has been swimming alongside me every day as well.

It’s fair to say that her determination to improve both her swimming technique and stamina have been something of an inspiration to me – and on Sunday I found myself watching her swimming back and forth in the pool well after I’d stopped.

Consequently her loss over the xmas week was greater than mine (2.5lbs!!!) and she really deserved it.

I’ve been positively swelling with pride as I’ve watched her get better and better at swimming through sheer determination and grit – and there’s no small amount of warm fuzzy feelings inside me at the moment.

Christmas this year has been special in a way that no other Christmas has because although I’ve had long term partners before not a single one has ever resulted in a Christmas together prior to this point.

There’s always been a family reason or a break up to get in the way of that before and consequently words absolutely fail me when I try to encapsulate how much December 2019 has meant to me.

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It’s not been about materialism or nerdy presents (of which there have actually been quite a few thanks to a new and very generous extended family) – but togetherness.

This manifested itself recently when we both headed out to see a new film – and both of us chose appropriate attire for the occasion.

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It’s hard to overstate how much love a geeky guy can feel when he’s accompanied on a school night to a one minute past midnight screening of Star Wars by an adult woman not only voluntarily (and dare I say enthusiastically) wearing a Star Wars teeshirt but also a crochet’d Yoda ears beanie.

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I’m sure that everyone out there is already throwing up in their mouth a little bit – but I’m sorry – I have absolutely zero shame on this score because we totally owned it in The Rise of Skywalker.

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My Christmas has been everything that I’ve always wanted it to be but never dared to hope it ever would be.

For the longest time it looked like the picture below, and because of my habitual behaviour on this score I never once managed to get to the end of ET The Extra Terrestrial on TV.

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In contrast this year the strongest drink I’ve indulged in is a caramel flavoured coffee, and I’ve not been alone and sad for a single moment.

I’ve shared the walks, talks and occasion with someone I care deeply about. Together we’ve continuously supported one another whenever we’ve hit bumps in the road and continue to do so.

Sigh. Over the last few days I’ve been reflecting on my happiness – but also on my past.

That bottle of Southern Comfort seems a long long way away now and it’s been a long time since this was my reality.

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Other people may still be in a darker place though and as I type I’m conscious of this.

At this time of year there are many people on the cusp of giving up hope that life will ever hold anything for them but loneliness or despair. They suffer in silence and often succumb to darker voices that hide inside.

As well as hearing of other slimmers that have struggled recently I’ve also read about those that have been moved to other, maybe more destructive forms of self harm in the past and because of this as I write I’m left feeling sober in more ways than one.

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There was a time that I felt similarly and when I sat alone at home (not just around Christmas time) there were many many moments when I no longer wanted to be around.

Had I been ‘braver’ (stupider?) I may have crossed a line that would have seriously curtailed my time on earth.

I contemplated this more than once – and now (on the wrong side of my forties) I have so much to be grateful for.

I’m left at times feeling as if I have no right to be as happy as I am – like I’ve stolen the joy that must belong to someone else, because there are moments that it all still feels very alien.

Life though is all about context – and finding this to gain perspective is something we all struggle to do.

There are many of us who (despite there often being much evidence to the contrary) choose to label ourselves as ‘lonely’, ‘overweight’, ‘failure’, ‘alcoholic’, ‘addict’, ‘loser’, ‘stupid’, ‘weird’, or consider ourselves simply ‘unlovable’.

With the new year looming, and many people who read my blog coming from similar places to the one I did (physically and emotionally) all I can say is that there is hope.

If you’ve followed (or are just beginning to follow) my journey then I want you to see and feel what I feel and see. Hopefully if you’ve travelled with me through both the light and the dark moments in the last four years then I’ll have left you with a sense of positivity and optimism.

Maybe your life isn’t going the way that you wanted it to – but in this blog is all the evidence that you need that it can surprise you.

With effort and determination you can change things – and good vibrations sent out into the world inevitably come back when you least expect them to but most need them.

Life is a collection of moments where you can fail more often than not – where it’s easy to think there’s no point – or convince yourself that people don’t need you around, when in fact they really really do.

They gain as much from having you in their lives as you do from having them in yours.

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Although I’m not into sport particularly I can’t help thinking of a quote from Wayne Gretsky – the Canadian former professional ice hockey player and former head coach of their National team.

He’s probably said a lot of forgettable things – but one that for some reason really struck me was this one.

You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.’

It’s true.

If you don’t try to be better then it won’t happen by magic.

So – 2020 is fast approaching.

What do you want it to be?

Personally I’d like it to contain everything you desire and need and wholeheartedly believe that it can do if you want it enough.

So – what are you waiting for?

Get up, put your coat on and make it happen.

Davey

Christmas Tree revisited

This may sound silly but although I make up titles for my blogs on the fly I rarely forget them. To me they’re often quite prescient and are rarely disposable words that mean nothing.

Sometimes I can hide things in plain sight with them and their meaning is only 100% obvious to someone in the know – because they’ve been lifted from a conversation and are openly private.

Someone I’ve known very well for many years does the opposite to me and always creates his titles before the content underneath – however for me the process is different. Usually I let creativity take its course and decide upon one at the end of writing a post. Consequently they’re typically based on what I consider to be the most important item of content and more often than not seem to fit.

One that I think I’ll never forget is called ‘Christmas Tree‘ (link).

If you want to have a look I’ll wait.

I’m in no rush.

Help yourself (sips coffee).

No – seriously – the rest of what’s coming will make more sense if you do.

(Sips coffee again)

Ok – now you’re all caught up I’ll continue.

This blog has undeniably been an extremely useful tool, because it’s not only helped me change my life, but it’s given a voice to many of the thoughts that I’ve experienced along the way and (on rare occasions) it’s also inspired true transformative change in others.

From time to time I get messages from people, just like me, who were lost and then found themselves again. They tell me that they managed to turn things around because they read about a man that had achieved something incredible – and that when he started he too didn’t believe he could accomplish what he ultimately did.

As they quietly followed what he wrote (never telling him that they were watching) they too realised that no-matter how bad thing had become, or how low they felt they’d sunk change was still possible.

It’s nice to think that words I’ve written have impacted, or even in a couple of cases changed lives for the better.

It’s extremely gratifying.

Up to the end of my last post (according to my cumulative stats) I’ve written a mind boggling 857,693 words on this site.

To put that in context Leo Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace contains a mere 587,287 (link).

I’ve almost written as many words as JK Rowling did for the entire Harry Potter series!!!

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Sadly mine have not yet proved anywhere near as lucrative – so I guess volume isn’t the only skill to work on if you want to make yourself rich with writing.

Even though there are a lot of my words out there they’ve all individually been very important to me at one time or another and they have taken many hours of agonising about where they sit in sentences to produce.

However, even after all that effort I feel I have to give them away to ‘the internet’ and I genuinely feel purged when I do.

Once they’re in a blog I just fling them out into the ether and the relief I experience is palpable – but I never know what will happen to them and can only hope that they’re received positively.

Sometimes they provoke comment, but at times there’s complete silence. Once in a blue moon (wonderfully) they change others – but occasionally (even more wonderfully) they can also change me.

My Christmas Tree post was just such an occasion – because it marked a turning point where a passing acquaintance (whom I met at Cheddar Gorge partly because I was looking for something to write about – link) decided to reach out to me.

I was in a moment of personal crisis and on that day I felt like an open wound.

I was alone and also in the process of realising that I was truly lonely. It had taken me many years to admit this to myself, and when I did the realisation hit me like a brick in the face.

Worst of all (despite trying) I felt completely incapable of fixing the problem.

In my head I was sure that I carried with me such huge volumes of baggage regarding the past that I was completely unlovable. I had no idea how to explain to someone new in my life who I was, why I was so physically scarred or how things had spiralled so out of control for me.

Every time I had attempted to it left me feeling diminished and broken.

How had I become this man and why would somebody want to inherit the wreckage that was left?

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How do you spin the narrative behind a picture depicting a man so vast?

When you’re a your lowest and you can’t see things for what they though are a blog can be useful. They’re two way streets – and sometimes when you need it the most a voice reaches out in the darkness. You’ve touched them somehow and they need to tell you that something you’ve said has resonated with them.

Or they want to help.

After writing about my tree I drove to a friend’s house, and on the way I did something unusual.

I screamed.

I did so until my voice broke and I couldn’t speak properly. I did so until the pain of loneliness seemed less and the frustration it caused was reduced.

I felt in that moment like everything I’d done to lose weight had been a waste of time. It all meant nothing. It didn’t resolve anything. It just made me like everyone else – but instead I was now decades behind everyone I knew and alone.

While I was busy screaming I received a message from the person I’d met in Cheddar. She was complimenting me on my Christmas tree, and ended her text with ‘You are welcome to call whenever you want a chat x’.

At the time it barely registered but I mentioned it to my friend when I arrived.

This was lost in anger though. I instead spent far more time ranting about how I felt regarding several other texts I’d received (from elsewhere) and why they were the cause of my screaming.

As I blew off steam over a cup of coffee in his living room I was completely focused on how much pain I was feeling rather than on a random message out of the blue.

He let me vent and then pointed out that the wording seemed kind and that I should pay attention to it.

Maybe I should even reply to it?

He made me promise that I would and so (while talking to him) I fired off a quick thank you note.

Once this was done he made me agree (and contacted me the next day to ensure that I was complying) that I would follow it up and get to know the person at the other end a bit better.

He couldn’t have known at the time how much difference that would make to my life.

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It turned out that this person, concerned for my well being, and reaching out to help someone in pain that she had begun to get to know through the words of his blog was my partner to be.

My blog had not only caused our first meeting, but had also enabled her to get to know me better, to decide whether or not she liked me and whether I was worth developing a friendship with. Everything changed that day – and as we gradually got to know eachother better the completely unexpected happened.

We found love.

My other half has a way with words too – and she often says things casually that end up sticking with me for a long time.

One of the most memorable was when (chatting about the circumstances in which we finally connected) I complained about how difficult it was to find anyone on a dating site.

It all seemed endlessly superficial – and all of the swiping left or right just reduced it to a volume based looks contest, meaning what you wanted from a life partner got lost in the need to scroll though thousands of pictures and reduced to thoughts about who had nice teeth or pleasing hair.

Even if you managed to get someone to respond things didn’t get better.

‘Often…’ I whinged ‘…people leave the truth about themselves out of their profiles and don’t tell you the full story until you’re already talking to them.’

‘They say that they’re single and without strings when actually they have an ex still on the scene with lots of children, or fib that they’re a social drinker when actually they consume a bottle of wine a night, or are homey when in fact they appear to be married to their career and will only be able to see you once in a blue moon.’

I sighed deeply.

‘I’m so glad I randomly found you face to face because I could never have waded through person after person on a website until you popped up.’

She laughed.

‘I couldn’t have used a dating site.’ She said.

I looked at her quizically. ‘No?’ I replied.

‘No – because even if I’d written down everything that I’d wanted to find it still wouldn’t have worked.’

I waited.

The punchline was coming.

‘I didn’t know what I wanted until I found all of the things I didn’t know I needed in you.’ She said whilst looking me in the eye.

The memory of these words still put a lump in my throat because I knew when she said this that she’d somehow managed to reach down deep inside me and pull my own thoughts out that I didn’t realise were there and give them form.

She was right.

The profiles I’d created and persons that I’d looked for were not her.

They weren’t even close.

Like many of us the mistakes we make are not based on us looking for what we really need – but what we think we want – when the two are often completely different.

I’d been so preoccupied with finding and fixing what had gone wrong in the past when I’d created dating website profiles that I’d missed who I was in the present. I’d failed to recognise what a man who was now very different to his younger self needed from a partner.

I know now.

At times I feel like I’m looking in a mirror when I stare at her – and it’s scary how alike we can be in so many ways.

As much as I’ve learned about how (and why) she ticks I’ve also learned about myself – and in the past year I’ve had to re-write much of my own internal narrative.

This is because I’m now being viewed through the lens of someone that loves and cares for me and this continually forces me to re-appraise my perception of myself. I can’t spout bullshit about being a bad person, tell her that I’m not worthy, or that I’m a failure without a swift incoming reality check, and I don’t allow her to do similar things.

When we see the worst in ourselves we also simultaneously see the best in eachother.

She’s made me realise with patience and compassion what’s possible between two people – and I’m amazed that I never understood the depth of it before.

To think it all began with some Cheddar and a Christmas Tree.

Here’s to the next year together and to many many more anniversaries after that.

Davey