Batsford Duckskull

There are apparently tiny little creatures everywhere.

I can’t see them – but it seems they follow me all the time – and only those with the right mindset and equipment can track their movements. Unbeknown to me ‘Duskulls’ have been occasionally lingering in my shadow and watching me while I thoughtfully munch on apples.

They were following me in the Cotswolds just the other day…

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Thankfully I have a protector – and in an effort to catch all of the assorted creatures (there are also other far more outlandish ones!) that apparently congregate and float about my person she has recently invested in technology that hoovers them up in large quantities.

If you see her in out in the wild she usually has this weaponry to hand.

It’s called a Pokeball (who knew?!) and it’s now guarding our persons 24×7. Occasionally it vibrates on the coffee table or in her pocket to alert us that it’s automatically hoovered up a new captive. This buzzing also functions as a reminder that once caught they need to be properly cared for – because if such things aren’t exercised then they may stage a mass escape.

Consequently we must go out and regularly socialise them with others in the wild. This is rather useful when it comes to my willingness to go exploring, and so far the half term break has been characterised by plenty of park wandering with a little spherical cage.

Almost exactly two years ago (where does time go?!) I passed by Batsford Arboretum with a friend of mine (link) and we both thought that it looked lovely from a distance.

At the time we did say we’d go back but for some reason never got around to it.

That particular day of exploration was characterised by our usual tendency to get slightly lost (as well as discover deep mud) and although we meandered very close to the outskirts of this lovely little area of managed woodland we never actually ventured inside.

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I’ve meant to go back ever since, so on Tuesday we booked some tickets online and set off to explore.

It’s dependant upon your perspective as to whether this kind of outing represents good value for money (as well as the petrol it cost us almost £18 – which is actually cheaper than two cinema tickets) because it’s entirely reliant upon the time of year that you visit, the willingness of nature to yield a riot of colour when you do, and whomever beholds all this leafy goodness possessing an underlying interest in nature.

If you like staring at a myriad of little buds, sprouts, flowers and mushrooms (that are everywhere) then I suggest Batsford Arboretum is worth your coin.

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It is however worth noting that if you fancy visiting somewhere like this for a lengthy brisk walk then you’ll probably end up feeling disappointed – because to travel around the entirety of this little wooded park won’t take a very long time.

Even completing several circuits won’t add up to a massive distance – so if you’re a slow mover or not especially fit then this could be viewed as a bonus. There are some hills though – so just bear that in mind (you can rent a mobility scooter at the pay desk if you’re so inclined).

It’s all good though – because instead my usual ‘distance = virtue’ approach to walking on Tuesday was switched off and I was definitely in more of an exploration mode. This was fortuitous because Batsford Arboretum requires that you take the time to wander and explore – searching for all of the teeny tiny details – then there are some absolutely lovely things to see.

All in all we spent four hours there and every time we stopped there was something like this hiding in plain sight.

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If I’m honest (once new Pokemon had been captured and long term inmates exercised) we spent a lot of our time taking shameless selfies with the autumnal canopy as a backdrop.

The faux bokeh depth of field effect on modern smartphones with multiple focal depth lenses makes an area like this a real joy to play with – and I have to say these are some of the nicest photos I’ve taken of my partner, and that I think she’s taken of me.

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Of course – the arboretum itself is almost as lovely as my other half (who looked delightfully autumnal too) and both of us spent the majority of our time stopping, zooming, cropping, re-framing and generally fiddling with our nature photographs.

There’s also quite a lot in the arboretum that has a very oriental theme, and alongside the plantings (many of which come from Japan or the surrounding region) there are little architectural features all over the grounds that underpin the style of (then far away and exotic) landscapes that the architect was attempting to portray to those walking around the woods.

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As well a lovely Japanese house (which I sadly failed to take any pictures of) there are also lots of cute bridges above streams and some really really wonderful sculptures.

There’s a lot of more traditional Cotswold architecture to be seen as well – and on top of the delightful thatched sandstone houses and grand county mansion there is a wonderful little church (St Mary’s) that’s clearly loved by the local community because it’s in fantastic condition.

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You’d think that this kind of high brow day out would inspire lofty and reflective thoughts in those who immersed themselves in the surroundings of the sympathetically planted surroundings.

Most would imagine that the calm tranquility would have a similarly calming impact upon it’s visitors.

We however are not your average visitors….

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It’s true to say that although we both love nature we seem to love having a good time even more – and when we’re together a slightly… mischievous side emerges in both of us.

This can lead me to be quite naughty at times (as mentioned a few posts ago staying on plan with Slimming World has been a recent area where I’ve struggled) – but thankfully we can also inspire more virtuous behaviours in each other – and despite some treats such as a Sunday lunch with all the trimmings, a birthday party cake at the weekend (I only had a little sliver) and a couple of ‘skinny chicken burgers’ (basically two chicken breasts in a bun with some salad) at Wetherspoons we’ve collectively been doing rather well of late.

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I am stepping on the scales at group this coming Saturday, and whilst I am definitely going to have a relatively sizeable gain compared to my last weigh in eight weeks ago there is a positive takeaway, because on my own scales I have lost a significant number of pounds in the last two weeks.

This is something of a relief, because in just over one frikkin week’s time I am going to the Slimming World ball.

This morning (after some gentle persuasion from my partner in crime) I tried on my tuxedo, and it fitted. Well – maybe ‘fitted’ is something of a stretch. What I mean is that the buttons did up, but overall it was still a little snug.

However, in many respects this is immaterial, because although I thought I had my outfit all planned and laid out today the world threw me a curve ball, and I found the most wonderfullest thing ever in the whole history of ever with a cherry on top and took it home in a carrier bag.

My initial plan was ‘try to look half decent’.

It’s now (thanks to the contents of my carrier bag) changed to ‘I plan to look freaking awesome!!!

This goes double for my partner, who has also found a really cool outfit that fits her like a glove. I’d go so far as to say I melted a little bit when she tried it on – and every subsequent time since I’ve become more and more convinced that it’s absolutely perfect.

It’s been really cool to be looking for little things and trinkets together, and nattering regularly about what will go with what, which shirt will look best with which waistcoat, and which necklace, earrings or clasps will work to accentuate neck and backlines.

It’s (in many respects) a world away from this time last year, when I was planning outfits on my own and scouring charity shops buying more than I needed to make sure that I had what I wanted.

This time I’m going to be over target on the scales – but even though I’m a bit heavier I’m also going to be infinitely happier.

This may well be my last public appearance for Slimming World and I’m damned well going to make the most of it – I want to go out feeling good about myself and what I’ve accomplished and numbers on scales are only half the story.

Today I’ve spent a wonderful half term day off that started with me loudly waking the house up at 6.30 (dancing at the end of the bed in my pants to eye of the tiger was just what my other half needed to laugh herself out from under the duvet), swimming 1.5km, driving to Coventry, walking through Memorial park, into town, round town and back again, coming home, cooking tea, and now writing a blog.

At the start of January 2016 I could do none of this.

I had no-one to share my life with and I was busy drinking and eating myself into oblivion. Now, where there was despair and hopelessness there’s love and companionship underpinned with fitness and vitality.

I’m going to the ball with my head held high. I have nothing to prove because I have a life and a purpose.

That’s why – sober as a judge (nearly four years now!) I’ll be smiling my ass off and swaying back and forth with my significant other to the last song of the night on the dancefloor without a care in the world.

I may struggle to realise it sometimes but honestly life is good.

Davey

Three years sober

Anniversaries. They’re funny things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alcohol was the last but one thing to go.

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

Unlike booze though food will always be there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Booze didn’t care in the least.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davey

2019 and beyond

Good grief I’m cold.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How short my memory appears to be!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a joy.

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

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

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

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

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

I want to live for the future.

But what does that future hold?

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

Instead I want the following:

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

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

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

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

Davey

Growing a little

Unless you were blind when you read my blog entry yesterday you would have sensed a moment of personal crisis has arrived over the weekend – and that I was trying really hard to manage the fallout of feelings that I’d not realised were bubbling under the surface.

This was until all of a sudden they hit me like a tsunami.

I reached target in February 2018, have been changing and turning my life around for the best part of three years now and even now there are still moments when the fallout of years of self abuse and childhood memories of emotional neglect pull the rug right out from under me.

Thankfully I have good friends.

Friends who can hear words coming out of my mouth that don’t seem like things I would normally be saying, watch me melt down and then STILL put an arm around me, watch me cry and spend time talking me through it step by step and building me back up again.

God dammit I have a lot of baggage.

I’ve spent so many years isolating myself from the pain associated with being overweight and deferring the fallout from emotional losses that sometimes I have no words.

The legacy of a childhood with a continuously abusive parent that couldn’t show any real love is a long one, and even now in my mid forties I’m STILL struggling to come to terms with the fallout.

The 16 year old me in this photo was someone I used to think was at a great place in life. He was young, had starved himself thin after leaving school (losing five stone in a period just a little longer than the summer holidays) and was suddenly receiving attention for the first time in his life.

I recognise now that he was profoundly damaged but too naive to understand how badly.

He just lurched out into the world like a directionless man child desperately craving love and acceptance.

I feel like the last couple of days have been necessary ones – because although I’ve gone completely off the emotional reservation for a short while it needed to happen.

If it hadn’t I’d still be denying that the feelings I’ve been packing down for so long existed and trying to hide them or (even worse) resolving my thoughts in complete isolation.

No man is an island – and while I share myself and my vulnerability with the world much more than most there are many things that remain outside my blog.

These relate to people with no voice or events that I can never talk about openly.

It wouldn’t be right if I did.

Their legacy persists however and I’ve hidden behind food and drink to cope with that for so long that even now I do not know how to properly deal with some of them whilst remaining sober or without eating the entire contents of my fridge freezer.

I’m getting there though.

Today my blog’s sub heading feels even more prescient than usual because I’ve been reminded over the last few days that I, just like everyone else am just

learning to live life‘.

Sometimes I get it completely and catastrophically wrong – and thankfully this time that’s OK – because I haven’t damaged anything that can’t be fixed and I haven’t said anything that can’t be taken back – which is a blessed relief.

I will say this though.

My mother did a real number on me.

It’s unwise to speak ill of the dead – but her legacy haunts me even now.

The lack of any kind of childhood emotional support or help with development of coping mechanisms has led to an adult life lived full of best guesses, huge mistakes and a laundry list of regret.

In some ways this has been good as well as bad.

My experience is all the more valuable for my hard won insights.

When I’ve learned a lesson, even though it’s been painful to get there it means something in a way that it might not do if I’d just followed instruction.

As I mentioned to a lovely lady that came to visit me the other day (who really lifted my spirits as we twalked along the Kenilworth Greenway) there is no mileage living in the past.

My mother lived there all her life and her bitterness was all that was left by the time she finally died. When she did it was alone and surrounded by people paid to look after her instead of a loving family.

Her legacy though – for all the heartache it caused is still in many ways a positive one.

She may not have helped me be a good man, and she may not have demonstrated how to love and be loved in return – but she showed me the end game of a life lived like hers was.

Without ever trying to she made me want more for myself.

I’m not fixed. Not by any stretch of the imagination – but I’m learning how to live my life and I’m both asking for and accepting the help of people that care about me.

That’s all we can do I think.

Work through our pain, and wherever possible share it in forums like this so that others might see their own isolation or difficulties aren’t unusual or shameful.

They’re not broken or damaged like we so often tell ourselves we are.

They’re just human beings trying to find their way through life, love, self esteem, friends, family and everything else that fills your day.

It’s all unwritten, and I maintain that we’re exactly as good as we believe we can be. We can only try to have faith in our capacity to change and grow, do our best, help others and learn from our mistakes.

I feel good today.

Another life milestone has been reached and I think I’ve grown a little.

Davey

999 days sober

I’ve only got ten hours to go before one of the more significant milestones of my adult life arrives.

At midnight I’ll officially have been stone cold sober for 1000 days.

It’s something of a personal triumph that I’m very proud of – but in many ways it also represents something of a bittersweet victory.

Whilst I can’t deny that every aspect of my life has changed for the better since I gave up drinking and lost lots of weight I’m also still plagued by endless regrets.

I know that I could have been a better person for many years and for whatever reason I chose not to be – and that hurts.

The self-recrimination that comes with swathes of largely wasted time are legion, and sometimes I find it very difficult to turn off.

Today is one of those days.

Despite knowing that what I’m writing about represents a massive victory (and that it demonstrates conclusively to anyone caring to pay attention that profound change after lifelong failure is possible) I’m still sad.

I wish it hadn’t taken so long to overcome the pain that I buried and held close to me. I wish I’d been more present in people’s lives when instead I withdrew.

I wish a lot of things – but I can’t change any of it.

I know though that this sense of loss is something of a paradox – because part of the reason I managed to do what I’ve did is because I hated what I’d become so much.

I had to get to my lowest point before I could begin to rebuild.

I’d gotten to the stage where things had to change. If they didn’t then I’d either have continued to kill myself slowly or eventually taken a more active role in the event.

So – today is a victory.

It’s a win in the ‘rest of my life’ column and that’s something worth holding onto.

Maybe it’s also a win for other people reading this who are trapped in their own personal repeating cycles of self abuse – because if I can go from a 35 stone man drinking three bottles of wine a night that couldn’t walk to the end of his street to who I am now then they can too.

It’s all possible.

It’s not easy though – and sometimes every single day is a battle – but it’s right there for the taking if you want it enough.

You can’t change what’s already in the past – but you can fight for a better future.

If you do then there’s real, tangible hope at the end of what may be a long and difficult road.

You just have to take the first step internet – and then take another and another until gradually you become the person that you always wanted to be.

Davey

Edging back to target

Saturday has been uncharacteristically sleepy so far.

Thanks to a really late night and waaaaaaay too many cups of tea and coffee in the pub while my colleagues were downing Jaegerbombs I secured a whole two hours sleep – which meant that when I returned home from Slimming World this afternoon and had I bite to eat I pretty much immediately fell asleep in my armchair.

It was a nice thing to happen though.

The rain outside was (and still is) drizzling quietly away – and there wasn’t much to do otherwise.

It was cold out there, and my house was warm – meaning that when I awoke from my nap I felt both refreshed and cosy.

If I’m honest I was also pretty happy.

This is mostly because despite some questionable emotional eating choices during the week it seems that (broadly speaking) I’ve been good enough for the scales to be kind to me.

Of course it’s no accident.

Although I’ve made mistakes and chosen to eat a few things I shouldn’t have I’ve also been filling my slow cooker with speedy soups throughout the week, making salads, eating low calorie fruit in smaller quantities and snacking on speed instead of free food.

When I went out for my leaving meal last night in Ask Italian I also chose a smaller, lighter meal than I could otherwise have gone for.

sure – it had both cheese and garlic bread – but life is for living.

I also had a nice garden side salad with this (not pictured) and it was pretty much the only meal I managed to get around to yesterday – although I did eat quite a bit of fruit from the healthy ‘last day haul’ I purchased for my workmates.

It’s also been rather amusing to see the text chatter today amongst my ex-colleagues about the night out yesterday evening – and the stories of their various hangovers.

They range from the apocalyptic to mildly inconvenient.

Me – I don’t have one at all.

In contrast to this I am genuinely excited to be exactly a month away from 1000 days of sobriety.

What an incredible thing!

It’s so close now – and a life where I was practically unable to live without alcohol seems both distant and unreal.

This post (link) is from March 2016 – and in it I’m still wrestling with the feelings associated with how to categorise my drinking and trying to find coping mechanisms to remain on the straight and narrow.

I’ve since conceded that I was an alcoholic – but back then (before joining Slimming World in April 2016) I wasn’t quite so willing to admit that.

Now everything seems so different and so full of possibilities…

Whilst the world may be filled with rain this recent photo best describes how I currently feel.

Standing on the top of a hill that I’ve painstakingly climbed, enjoying the view and wondering which bit in the distance to go and look at next.

Ultimately anyone can be whoever they want.

They can turn their lives into the image of whatever they visualise in their minds.

Once you believe you can do anything – because whilst flesh may occasionally be weak the most powerful organ in creation is the brain.

If you can convince yourself something is possible (even if you just admit it may be a possibility) then it almost certainly can be.

You only need to start somewhere.

Unless you think you can fly.

I urge you not to try that.

The sudden stop at the bottom is reportedly problematic.

Davey

Finding my way

This week I’ve been trying to keep my head down, stay focused and power through. I’ve needed to get my mind back in the game after my frankly epic gain on the scales last Saturday, and I don’t want to give any time to distractions that could potentially get me down or derail me.

I’ve seen a lot of the park this week too – sometimes in rather wonderful light…

I have good reason to be out and about a lot. I’m trying to steer clear of the scales currently.

Overall I definitely feel a little trimmer and lighter. From Monday onward I’ve also felt like a corner has been turned.

The psychology of weight loss is something that’s never far from my mind – and I’m always surprised at how easy it is to suddenly shift from a mindset where everything seems possible to one where each insignificant bump in the road appears to be an insurmountable obstacle.

I was discussing with a fellow slimmer during the week how (ridiculously) I’d begun to convince myself that I’d somehow lost the ability to lose weight altogether – and that my body (and maybe my mind) just wasn’t capable of it any more.

Oddly I’d concluded that this (totally illogical) thought process was unique to my brain – but it turned out she’d been thinking the exact same thing.

This frustrated me – because I should have known this.

I hate having to learn the same lessons twice.

When I first started writing about my weight loss experiences I felt completely broken and didn’t believe for one minute that anyone else would be quite as damaged as me. For years because of this I’d internalised almost everything that hurt and tried to hide my private shame about drinking and eating.

Then I began to share it via this blog and I realised that almost everyone that commented on my posts had similar kinds of issues.

They all varied slightly – but fundamentally I was struck by how flawed all of us were. It suddenly seemed to be the norm of the human condition rather than the exception.

This made me feel instantly closer to everyone and at the same time infinity less alone.

Suddenly our shared weaknesses made sense.

I began to notice that the same things that I’d been treating as unique personal burdens were present almost everywhere I looked and in everyone I met.

Almost overnight the weight of the problems I’d carried alone had diminished – and the the more I shared the lighter I became – both physically and emotionally.

Somewhere along the line however (probably because of my openness and honesty in this blog) I began to hear more and more of the ‘I word’.

Inspirational. (link)

I still don’t like it very much.

It’s really nice to know that I help people but honestly I don’t ever really feel like much of an inspiration. I just feel that I struggle as much as the next person (If not more thanks to my willingness to over analyse everything to within an inch of it’s life until I completely understand it).

I think I’ve realised though that this particular side effect of my success has been having a rather subtle and corrosive impact on me over time.

The more people looked to me for advice and guidance and used this word, the more (subconsciously) I came to feel that it was no longer OK to fail.

In contrast – when I was losing weight early on I was always learning.

I was continually trying to find ways to keep myself motivated and accomplish (what at one time I considered) the impossible.

If I screwed up then it didn’t matter because I was just one of many on the same path – and I just picked myself up, used it as fuel for the fire and carried on.

Then, in under two years I actually managed to accomplish the impossible.

Metaphorically speaking I found myself blinking in the sunlight as the clouds cleared. When everything came into focus I was standing on the top of a mountain that I’d been climbing all my life.

At the time in group I just cried.

I didn’t know what to do with that.

How do you process getting your life back – or grasp the enormity of the realisation that you’ve moved from what you considered to be a pathetic failure to a surprise success?

Mind bogglingly I ended up in the press, on the radio, was Slimming World’s third Greatest Loser of 2018 and even more unbelievably then became their Man of the Year.

At this point the avalanche of friend requests and queries about how I’d managed to do what I’d done on social media started. In the background pressure (that I heaped upon myself) started to build, and without realising it I’d started convincing myself that it was now my job to always portray an image of someone that had ‘cracked it’.

I was no longer allowed to fail.

(Author thinks for a moment)

It’s just hit me that the following has been slowly cementing in my subconscious thought processes since February.

    I must not fail.
    I must be in target every week.
    I can’t disappoint anyone.
    I can’t show weakness.

The list goes on – but you get the picture.

It’s stupid.

It’s really stupid.

I’m bound to fail here and there. I’m flipping human.

When it comes down to it life is complicated, and it brings with it emotional and sometimes physical pressures.

We all deal with them differently – and whilst I’m waaaaaaay better than I ever used to be I’m still not perfect.

(Sigh)

Ok.

Full disclosure time.

I stared fantasising about drinking alcohol about three weeks ago.

I really considered it on the way home one day.

It would have been so easy to disappear into one of the many pubs I pass on the way home.

No one would have even known. I could have hidden it and never told a soul.

But I’d have known.

Instead I took the brakes off for a while and ate myself silly.

Now the moment has passed and I’m STILL SOBER.

That is a MASSIVE VICTORY.

Yet all I saw was failure because I put weight on.

The reality is I put on half a stone and remained sober.

After almost 25 years of drinking – the last few (almost certainly) as a borderline if not full blown alcoholic I’ve now been without booze for 961 days.

It used to be highly unlikely that I’d last that amount of minutes in a day without having a drink.

My next major milestone in January is three years sober.

Holy crap.

When you look at it like that it puts things into perspective.

A week or two on the scales a few pounds shy of an arbitrary target weight vs sobriety.

A life full of lucidity vs one of anaesthetised oblivion.

I’m not perfect and neither should I strive to be because it doesn’t exist.

We all just do the best we can.

Tomorrow I’m going in to group and I’m probably going to be a little lighter but still out of target.

In the meantime I can do this on my walk to work and arrive without breaking a sweat.

I can smash four miles in an hour.

I’m in control of the vast majority of my life and that’s enough.

It’s ok to fall and it’s ok to pick myself up, dust myself off and carry on.

I’m just trying to find my way like everyone else.

Davey

Perspective and new shoes

Something that I still find rather surprising in WordPress is when I get lots of ‘single hits’.

Occasionally I’ll pick up a new subscriber who appears to have a lot of time on their hands (I do rather love these guys and gals) and for a week or two they almost single handedly account for the lion’s share of traffic hitting my site.

Typically I can spot this kind of new reader because my older blogs get sequential hits one by one. If I refresh my stats (although I can’t see who is doing this just in case you wondered) I know that someone is wading through my history in date order and following my journey as it unfolded.

It often makes me realise that the mind is a funny thing – because you can occasionally be lulled into thinking that life has always been the way it is at any one given moment in time.

It’s kind of like being in the dead of winter, standing in the snow and finding it impossible to imagine how it would feel if the sun was shining and you were wearing shorts and a tee shirt.

I’ve written so many posts now (584!) that I’m honestly forgetting what some of them contain.

This is a little unsettling because at the time I constructed these, each one was read, re-read and then read again MANY times before publication as I tinkered with the thoughts and wording.

Many remain delightfully imperfect (surprisingly I like that) and often I find punctuation or spelling errors that I’ve missed – but on the whole I thought that I knew each and every one of them.

They’re all little bits of me after all.

Each post contains the unvarnished truth of that particular moment (albeit in a literary container designed to be easily consumed) and in many ways when I pressed ‘publish’ it felt like I was watching little children wander out into the world and wondering if they’d be ok without me.

Not so long ago someone read ‘one to twenty’ (link) and when I saw this pop up on my phone I followed the link to look at the post.

I remembered the title – but not what it related to – and as I read the content it took me back to a time that I felt broken.

Back then I was struggling with almost everything in life and I still hadn’t mustered up the strength to tackle my weight.

I had been sober for just over a month and a ‘taste’ for alcohol was still in the back of my mind.

I was seeking help for what I now freely admit to myself was alcoholism and although not quite at my lowest I wasn’t that far off.

The power of writing moments like this down is very much like noting all of your body measurements when you embark upon a diet – because no matter how hard you try not to you’re almost certain to occasionally fail.

The question at the point of crisis then becomes (if you don’t say ‘screw it’ and press the self destruct button) ‘how do I recapture my drive and pull things back around?’

My blog (and old posts like this) fill just such a gap – because just like the days where you achieve inch loss instead of weight loss and thank your lucky stars you had the presence of mind to get that tape measure out when you really didn’t want to it allows me to step back in time and to stand in the shoes of someone I don’t know any more.

The gift of continued perspective just keeps giving – and I’ve learned that such insight is precious.

if I could give any advice when it comes to achieving anything in life it’s this:

You need to cultivate these nuggets wherever you can – because as uncomfortable as the truth of your past (or present) is it’s still the truth and you NEED to face it.

So – if you’re reading this and wanting to make a change to anything that you don’t like about yourself take time out to retain a snapshot of who you are now.

Even if it emotionally hurts to take a selfie, to measure your bingo wings, to check how fast you can walk a mile, to know how fast your heart beats when you climb up your stairs or how long you can stand before things begin to hurt JUST DO IT.

It’s often the difference between success and failure further down the line.

You might feel strong now – but we’re only as successful as our worst day – and when your back is against the wall you need to find some ammo in your almost empty clip.

I’ve realised that amongst many other things that I’ve changed about my life and outlook over the last few years it’s this that’s become a pivotal element of what I hope will be lifelong success.

In my case I’m everywhere now.

I’m my own top hit in Google and I can’t escape myself.

I’m plastered all over social media (despite my natural reticence in this area) and that’s a good thing.

Instead of feeling exposed and vulnerable like I expected to when I started I now feel the absolute opposite. My failures and struggles not only help other people but they help me too.

I can look back now with pride instead of regret because of this – and that’s something that’s infinitely more precious than wealth, status or material possessions.

Well – almost

I bought some new Clarkes shoes yesterday and they’re flipping awesome.

As I type I’m in the middle of a continued and prolonged footgasm.

They’re soooooo comfortable!!!

Granted I doubt they’ll win me the title of ‘trendiest guy in the universe’ but holy crap do they make me feel happy!!!

Here’s to perspective and new shoes internet.

May they both last forever!

Davey

Victory for sobriety

It’s funny how your mind decides to lie to you from time to time.

Mine is currently telling me half truths and outright fallacies surrounding daytime drinking in the sunshine – and serving up half baked romantic memories about how nice it used to be.

It’s at times like this that I have to metaphorically give myself a slap and remember what things really used to be like – because when you feel both fit and healthy it’s easy to forget the reality of it all.

It’s once again an absolutely smashing day in the UK and I’m sitting outside a pub with a coffee at midday. I’m wearing a cool pair of shorts, a short sleeved shirt, and I’m enjoying the sunshine.

This is more than enough to make me happy these days – but even though it’s been almost two and a half years since I stopped drinking there are fleeting moments when I genuinely miss it.

However – it took a lot of time and effort to become the person who today walked two miles into town for a coffee instead of a beer and it never hurts to be reminded of that.

I’ve been following a relatively new blogger’s posts lately (link) which – although far removed from the way I feel these days about drinking – have actually been really cathartic to read and served to remind me that my current state of mind didn’t happen by accident.

This blogger is coping very admirably with what (for the moment) is a very new phase of life – and that’s being completely alcohol free.

For the most part I’m thankfully past all of the mental noise associated with being locked into needing this particular drug to manage everything about my life – but very occasionally I’m drawn back to thinking about it being part of my day to day exstence.

There are lots of people sitting in the sun with cold beers nearby and the warm air is filled with an easy going lunchtime chatter. Lots of smartly dressed people with ID badges have nipped out for a break from the heat of their offices to indulge in a quick glass of wine and a plate of chips.

One could be forgiven for looking at them as the sole reality of drinking – and for many people it is. Their relationship with alcohol is casual, probably well managed and its consumption infrequent.

Others interspersed amongst them are in considerably more relaxed attire – and seem to be easing into what will probably be a lengthy day of drinking.

These people too are probably handling their relationship with alcohol quite well and for the most part they look fit and happy. They’re almost certainly just enjoying a day off work like I am – but you never have to look far to find someone for who that’s not the case.

Nearby there are other examples of what can become the reality of life for far too many people who can’t find the strength to say no any more.

If you’re not inclined to pay attention to the impact of alcohol on those sitting on street corners asking for spare change very nearby then it’s hard to miss the thousand yard stares and poignantly lonely expressions of men and women sitting deeper inside the pub in total silence.

They look tired, on the wrong side of too many hangovers to count and are probably here regardless of whether the sun is out or it’s pouring with rain.

I sometimes wonder if others see the same things that an ex drinker does in the people around him because I can’t help but look for the signs I used to see when I looked at my own face in the mirror.

Mostly it’s the eyes and hair I pay attention to. Both seem to show the most telling indications that things aren’t well inside or out.

One yellows and becomes progressively more bloodshot whilst the other just becomes more unkempt and begins to silently document the mood of someone who has begun to care less and less about themselves.

Thankfully my particular moment of fleeting weakness has passed.

Whilst I wasn’t anywhere near to choosing a pint over an Americano it’s always good for me to write my way through the impact of potential life choices and not ignore the reality of what they can mean.

Although I’ve come a very long way in the last two years I would be foolish to not remember occasionally that I’ve climbed out from under various rocks in the past and shown a rather unnerving capacity for eventually crawling right back under them.

Whilst I feel like the self destructive side of me is very much under control these days I’m also of the opinion that it’s that way because (unlike before) I choose not to forget the past and instead regularly confront it.

Sometimes I could probably be accused of torturing myself needlessly – but honestly if re-living the painful parts of it every so often means that I don’t repeat the same pointless mistakes over and over again then I’ll continue to do it whenever I feel the need.

When I leave my coffee mug on the table internet I do so walking in a straight line, in control of my senses and have a clear head.

I put yet another tick against yet another day that’s yet another victory for sobriety and progress.

Davey

Part Five: The road not yet walked

Before you start reading it’s probably a good idea that you recap on Part One (here) Part Two (here) Part Three (here) and Part Four (here). By now you know the drill. This time it’s gonna be a really long post. Get your cup of tea ready.

By the way – if you’re still reading after all those other episodes then kudos to you for your staying power. You rock.

(As before my ‘lightbulb moments’ will be in red.)

We start this time in 2014.

At this point I’m sick. Really sick – way more than I want to admit to myself. As I look back now I have no idea how I was still functioning in any capacity.

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I’ve already been referred to the obesity unit of Covetry hospital and they want to perform gastric sleeve surgery on me. This entails cutting 4/5ths of my stomach out of my body and throwing it in the bin.

I can’t face the horror of it and I’ve retreated even further into my self destructive drinking and eating habits.

I’m only a shade over 40 years old and my medicated and incidental conditions are:

  • Blood pressure shows signs of hyper-tension
  • High cholesterol
  • Sleep apnea so bad that I could only breathe lying on my left side or sitting upright in my armchair, but still woke up almost every hour in the night terrified I was suffocating
  • Odemas (water retention) in both ankles
  • The beginnings of gout
  • Cellulitis
  • Eczema everywhere (particularly on my hands and face)
  • Wrecked (and very painful) knees that couldn’t support my weight and constant lower back pain – meaning I was barely able to stand after a few minutes unless I was resting on a supporting surface
  • Type 2 diabetes

I’ve become a burden to the NHS and have been given a card entitling me to free prescriptions because I’m likely to need so many things as time goes on. When I return from the chemist this is the typical content of my (rather large) paper bag.

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Walking is agonising.

My feet and ankles are constantly alternating between a sensation of itching, burning or freezing. They almost never stop tingling and I keep getting breakouts of cellulitis (requiring lots of antibiotics) which are so bad that they confine me to bed for at least a week at a time.

The swelling in my feet only reduces when I lie down – which I can’t accomplish easily because if I do then I cant breathe properly. I can also only lie down on my bed because I don’t fit on my sofa.

If I sit in my armchair with my feet up then my huge stomach presses on the tops of my legs and my ankles steadily grow until I have to lie on the floor.

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I can barely get out of my armchair to stand up so that I can relieve the pressure on my legs. If I do I then I soon need to kneel or crouch down to relieve the pressure on my lower back.

I can no longer do this and stand back up because of my knees so I often find myself face down on the sofa with my knees on the floor which is sometimes the only position left to me where nothing hurts. Eventually it too becomes uncomfortable and I can’t breathe because I can’t rest for too long on my stomach.

I have my shopping delivered because I can’t walk the entire way around the supermarket without sitting down and it’s been years since I’ve been able to fit in my bath.

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I can only go places in my car but I’m so heavy that when trying to steady myself I have already managed to snap my steering wheel almost completely in half.

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I rarely go to new places because I’ve become scared that I won’t physically fit into the seats they have. Even if I can I worry that I won’t be able to park close enough to the location and find myself unable to walk there and back or trapped without a place to rest.

This worry starts weeks in advance of any appointment and I continually obsess over the potential problems until the stress is too much and I cancel.

I’ve even missed my brother’s wedding because of this.

However – out of all of these huge problems my diabetes is the thing that’s worrying me the most.

I’ve started obsessing over losing my eyesight (the diabetes hasn’t helped this at all and I need glasses to read) losing the sensation in my extremeties, becoming type one, needing to inject Insulin and eventually having to have things amputated.

When I was first diagnosed in January 2014 I was wetting the bed because I couldnt get to the toilet in time. I hadn’t slept more than 45 minutes at a time for over six months, was absolutely at my wits end and completely shattered.

When the results finally came back from my HbA1c test it showed a level of 94. If it was just a little higher it wouldnt have even been on my doctor’s wall chart any more.

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My daily pill organiser reflects how bad things have become.

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As I’ve mentioned in the linked posts above that even as a young man I was fully expecting to die.

Soon.

HOPEFULLY VERY SOON.

My life had become so agonising, restricted and small that I actually wanted it to happen.

At this point in time I start to admit to myself when I’m drunk (I never tell anyone else this secret) that this is because I am too much of a coward to kill myself. I just want to finally bring an end to the misery of every single increasingly impossible day.

(Autor’s note – I’ve been extensive and frank here because I want everyone to understand how bad things had become. I want them to know this because then I want them to recognise that they too can start to change.)

Now I’ve set the rather grim scene let’s jump forward a little to September 2015.

In order to ease the pain of dealing with my dying mother I engage in retail therapy and buy an Apple Watch.

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It only just fits with the longest of the two supplied straps on the last notch. I momentarily fiddle with it and then largely ignore it even though it sits on my wrist every day.

Now we skip on a bit more.

It’s February the 16th 2016.

I’m around 35 stone, my blood HbA1c is now reading 74 and it’s been just over two weeks since I had any alcohol. I’m still in denial about what its going to take to fix my many problems. However long held opinions about what I can or can’t do are starting to change in my head and my perspective is gradually shifting.

I try to walk to the end of my street (link). I barely make it but establish that my radius is around 400 metres if I take a break in the middle. A week later I try to walk around the block.

I tear both of my calf musles, pull the plantar tendon in my right foot and develop plantar faciitis – these injuries ultimately result in shin splints affecting both legs.

I realise later that the tendons in my legs have stortened because I spent years sitting down with my feet up.

I persist however and on the 29th of February 2016 I try my exercise bike instead. I can only pedal for five minutes before I have to stop (link).

On April the 16th I decide to join Slimming World and as the weight comes off I begin to feel a bit more sprightly – so on the 29th May I decide to get up and go to the park to see how far I can now walk (link).

The answer is ‘not very’.

It’s about 150 metres in my case – but there are a lot of benches so I start going to St Nicholas regularly. I like the swans there and name the cygnets swanlings. They keep me going back because I want to see how they progress. In a way I feel my own gradual growth mirrors the only survivor from a group of five babies.

I’ve been inspired by a man who mentioned in my group that he walks four miles in the morning before coming to weigh in.

He tells me that it takes him an hour.

In contrast I cant yet walk a mile without sitting every 200 metres or so. It takes me well over an hour to accomplish that and my plantar fasciitis is a constant issue – but slowly I start to get better.

Nevertheless it seems like a good idea to walk. I’ve been told at work I’m being made redundant so I won’t be able to afford a gym membership and walking is free. I also want to feel a part of the world again – and not scared to step out of my front door.

So I make a decision to make this ‘my thing’.

In order to try and track this I use an app on my phone called ‘Walkmeter’. It’s crap and crashes all the time – however Apple watch has been gathering a total of the distance I walk and it’s slowly adding up.

Walking also has another benefit.

I’ve lived in such a small world for so long where I just endlessly moved between work and home that I’ve become terrified that I’ll find myself trapped out in the open and unable to get back to my house if my car breaks down.

I very consciously start to try and walk the distances to places that I would regularly drive to by making half of the journey in my car and the rest on foot.

I park further and further away each time and bit by bit I extend my range and reduce my fear.

It’s now late August.

Around this time I realise that I no longer wear my glasses. I can’t remember the last time I put them on.

Bizarrely my eyesight has improved too.

My friend points out that I’ve almost walked the length of the channel tunnel in a week and I’m amazed when I add it up that she’s right (link). A while later I mention this in my group and another friend suggests that I plot my progress over a virtual route – and although I’m initially resistant (I never used to say yes to a lot) I decide to take the challenge on – and decide to calculate how far I’ve walked and compare it to Lands end to John o Groats (link).

It’s now September 2016.

I’ve realised three things.

  1. The whole time I’ve been walking I had a workout app on my watch and I never used it. I’ve now started and it’s really good. It’s saving not only my distance – but an accurate representation of my split times per mile.
  2. The green exercise ring on my watch is set at an un-modifiable 30 minutes because of a massive body of evidence suggesting that 30 minutes exercise a day has incredible health benefits.
  3. Point two is correct

I visit the doctor (link) and I’m told that the results for my HbA1c are now 30. All of a sudden I’m no longer on their chart and I’m told to discontinue one of the two medications I’m taking. My cholesterol levels have plummeted and I’m told my blood pressure is excellent.

I’m amazed.

Over the coming months I continue to up my walking. My increased level of exercise and radically improved diet has enabled something wonderful.

I’m feeling connected to people in a way that I never have before. Everyone seems to be swept along with my newfound enthusiasm to go twalking.

I make sure every time I go for a walk with someone that I’m proactive and try to organise the next walk at the end.

This means that my exercise is never a burden. I’m just meeting people I like to catch up with them about how they are.

I’m finding that is not only cementing good habits into my life but it’s quietly promoting little changes with other people too. I begin to see evidence that people are going for their own ‘twalks‘ and that I seem to be unconsciously promoting good behaviour elsewhere just by regularly doing something in public and showing how it affects me and my health.

By late October I’ve lost an entire fridge freezer in weight (link).

Things like this just motivate me even more and are a huge factor in me pushing myself to average almost five miles a day.

I still suffer from dark moods though – and even though the weight keeps falling off my mind can be my own worst enemy. I’m terrified that I’ll ‘plateau’ and get to a point where I give up.

Although I doubt she realised its significance a lady at my group (who loves the Pixar film ‘Finding Nemo’) picks up on the moods in my blog and in person – and every time she sees me downbeat tells me to ‘just keep swimming’ (link).

Sometimes little things like this make all the difference. Over time this has stuck in my head and I find that I’m saying to myself and others over and over again ‘just keep walking’ or ‘ just keep putting one foot in front of the other ‘.

This means that whenever I encounter a problem or an emotional rut I no longer retreat to a sedentary pursuit for answers and I instead try to think things through with a walk.

Even if I can’t find an answer it makes me feel better – and often realise that there is no answer needed. It’s just my mind playing games and building catastrophes out of nothing.

So I just keep walking.

The cumulatively increasing effort and distance means that by the end of December I’ve actually managed to do it.

I’ve walked the whole distance I wanted to and more besides.

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I’ve also begun to grasp how powerful the data is that my Apple Watch has been collecting on me since I put it on my wrist. It prompts me to work out how much I used to consume.

I’m stunned to read that I needed 7500kcal a day just to sit in my armchair (link).

Without understanding what I was doing when I put Apple Watch on my wrist I enabled myself to see an end to end view of my fitness. Even when I didnt care it still kept a tally and as time went on I was able to see the gradual progress I was making in almost every area of life.

The more I did the more it made me realise I could do.

It’s now late Ferruary/March 2017

I’ve started a new job in an office. I have to drive there and spend all day long sitting there.

It drives me instantly insane, and although through a combination of my exercise bike and walking during my lunch hour and after work I maintain my exercise levels I know instantly deep down that something has changed.

I can’t just drive to an office every day any more – so I leave after three weeks, feeling like a total failure – but I want a different life now.

Unable to resolve the problem in my mind I resolve to temporarily ignore it and ‘just keep walking’.

Since I started twalking with friends I’d been saying to them (often not fully believing that I would do it) that I’d climb Mt Snowdon, and I start training with little hills (there aren’t many in Warwick) to try and build my stamina.

I do this firstly with Burton Dassett (link) then the more challenging Malvern hills (link).

The latter absolutely kills my knees and I’m completely knackered by the end of the day – but I can do it! I can finally climb really challenging gradients!

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It’s now April 2017 and I have a HbA1c reading of 29 (link).

I’ve already discontinued my diabetes medication by this point and I’m managing my condition by diet and exercise alone.

Furthermore – by the time that my one year anniversary at Slimming World arrives (link) I realise that I’ve not only cumulatively walked from Lands end to John o Groats I’ve walked back again too!!!

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By June I’m regularly tackling gradients and working towards my goal. I spend more and more time in places like Burton Dasset and Ilmington downs (link).

All the time it’s becoming easier.

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When the big day arrives in July I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

I take the first day off Slimming World that I’ve had since I started and on Saturday the 22nd July (weighing around 19.5st) I climb Snowdon with my friend (link).

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Words simply can’t do it justice. It’s a truly fantastic moment. I’ve gone from a man who could hardly get out of his armchair to standing on top of a mountain. I’m quite literally on top of the world.

It’s now August.

I can’t stop now. I love walking so much that I’m incapable of not putting one foot in front of the other.

I use it for everything in life. It’s become part of my DNA and everyone I know asks if I want to go for a walk when they suggest meeting up. I mention it so often that twalking appears to have entered the vocabulary of everyone I know, and many that I don’t.

Furthermore I’ve found another job – and this time it’s local (link). I can walk to work every day and fit my exercise invisibly into what I do.

Once again the job turns out to be something that’s not for me – but during the time I’m there I realise that all the exercise I’m doing appears to have altered my mental capabilities.

I always considered myself to be someone that struggled in classrooms to pick things up and that information didn’t get retained quickly. I always felt that I wasn’t agile enough when others around me grasped new concepts or processes at work.

Whilst in this job I’m the top of the class. I pick everything up way quicker than I ever would have before and for the very first time I realise that my mind has benefited from all of the exercise too.

Not only am I more positive but I can think on my feet and adapt in discussions and meetings like never before. I feel instantly more capable.

I leave the job and with it I leave behind a fear of change that I’ve had my entire adult life.

If I can adapt to anything then there’s no longer a need to be frightened – so I trust that things will just work themselves out and keep walking.

I do it so much that now I’ve walked the cumulative distance from San Francisco to New York (link).

By this time I’m regularly forgetting that I ever had diabetes in the first place – but I’m still going for tests (link). When I do they report that my HbA1c readings have now dropped even further and are at a stupendous 28. My blood pressure is also excellent – but I’m still taking Statins.

If in doubt I just keep walking. Whatever the weather.

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It’s now January 2018

Thanks to Apple Watch keeping a dilligent eye on me since I put it on I can see how much I’ve improved over time. I’ve gradually moved from doing less than 5 minutes exercise a day in 2016 to an average of over two hours a day.

Furthermore, after 21 months of trying on the way to work one morning I finally mange to crack the fifteen minute mile (link).

I can now walk four miles in an hour – just like the man in group told me he could back when I started Slimming World.

I’ve never been so fit in my life and I feel wonderful.

February 2018.

I’ve finally found a use for my old clothes.

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I hit my target weight of 14 stone 7lbs (link) and when I do (after I stop crying and find a way out of my old trouser leg) the way I celebrate is with a walk around the park (link).

In a surprise move my friend marks the occasion by secretly arranging for almost everyone I’ve walked with along my journey to join us.

The exercise (twalking) that I have done over the last two years has meant that I spend more quality time with people that matter to me than I have at any other point in my life. My friendships have strengthened immesurably and I feel loved.

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A few days later In what may be my last but one HbA1c test (link) my results now show a reading of 25. My blood pressure resembles that of a much younger man, my resting heart rate is around 40bpm and I’m also told that my cholesterol medication can be discontinued.

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It’s not the only thing I can get rid of. My much hated pill dispenser can finally go in the bin along with my unused pills. It looks very different on its last day of employment compared to when I first started using it.

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So – what’s transpired here?

Well – these I feel are the lessons I’ve learned through gradually increasing and then learning to love my activity.

  • If you can’t go far it doesnt matter. Just try to go a little bit further either day. Start small.
  • Try to do it with friends if you can
  • Do something that’s free if at all possible. Gyms require willpower – but walking the dog or getting a pint of milk doesn’t.
  • Try and build it into your daily routine – then it won’t involve willpower. If you want to go for a coffee make a deal with yourself that you wont use the car when you do.
  • You can lose weight without exercise – but with it you’ll lose it faster, stand a better chance of keeping it off and feel positive and alive, meaning you won’t lose focus.
  • Get a fitness wearable if you can. Mine changed my life.
  • Track your progress and document everything that you can from the beginning even if you hate doing it. You’ll be glad you did afterwards.
  • Don’t lose hope. Not everything can be completely fixed but almost everything can be immesurably improved.
  • You can do more than you ever thought you could. It’s all about trying rather than doing nothing
  • Things might cumulatively creep up on you – and eventually you might suddenly realise that you’ve painted yourself into a corner. But paint eventually dries. You can gently step on it and make your way back from a place that seems hopeless.
  • Don’t end your life. You’re worth so much more.

Finally – this is my complete list of non-scale victories. I couldnt have done it without exercise.

Go HERE.

Davey

Part Four: Group love

Before you start reading it’s probably a good idea that you recap on Part One (here) Part Two (here) and Part Three (here). By now you know the drill. It’s gonna be a long post. Get your cup of tea ready.

(As before my ‘lightbulb moments’ will be in red.)

It’s now 16th April 2016. I’ve been sober for two and a half months and I’m considering my next step.

When I gave up drinking in my mind I had a blissfully ignorant vision of what would happen. This was because I knew alcohol was the cause of my type two diabetes and if I stopped it would go away. knew this not because anyone had told me it was true – but because I’d decided it was. 

Drink was also the sole cause of my huge weight and I knew that I only ate more when I was drunk. knew this too not because anyone had told me it was true – but because I’d decided it was. 

Once I had stopped drinking I also knew that everything would magically fall into place. Guess why…

In my fantasy the diabetes would gradually fade away, my weight would melt off, my high blood pressure would automatically reduce, my cholesterol would return to normal, I would be able to sleep properly etc etc etc etc.

It would all happen naturally and with minimal effort given time.

Yet two and a half months later nothing had changed.

My trousers maybe felt a little looser, my blood sugar had dropped a tiny bit and I didn’t have hangovers any more – but other than that I was just fat and sober rather than fat and drunk.

To quote a (very) over used cliché ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.’ Yet there I was, often still eating two large dominos pizzas in an evening and still expecting to lose weight because I’d stopped drinking three bottles of wine every night.

Oddly I began to accept quite quickly that I was still in denial about what it would take for me to get better.

Maybe because I was regularly exploring my feelings and motivations in my blog I (in retrospect) moved relatively quickly to my first level of acceptance.

I needed to get help with my weight in the same way that I needed it for my alcohol abuse. Just stopping one thing that’s bad for you and expecting everything else to magically fall into place is nuts.

At the time someone had quite wisely said to me ‘you can’t boil the ocean.’

They were right. Doing one thing at a time had been the right way to go. I needed the alcohol out of my life and I needed a clear head for what was to come – but now I had to accept that other things needed to change too.

The next step had to come and it had to come quickly.

One Saturday morning with this in mind I looked online for a suitable group – and there it was. My old next door neighbour Angie was still a Slimming World consultant – and quite unexpectedly she was running a session just around the corner.

In ten minutes!

I decided to attend and rushed over.

It was a tough morning.

Not only did the little red chairs in the infant school hall where the group was seem impossibly small to me but devastatingly I also weighed in at 34st 8.5lbs.

I’d never been so heavy in my life. The reality of the task ahead hit hit me like a truck when I returned home that day and I just sat sobbing and alone in my house.

(You can read the full events of that morning here link.)

Shortly after my father messaged me to give me some support. He too was overweight and was also planning to try and lose his excess. He was around 20 stone he said and was heading for the same 12st 7lbs that the NHS BMI calculator thought we needed to be.

He also casually remarked that I had to lose the entirety of him to get down to a BMI that was no longer classed as obese or overweight.

In private it suddenly felt like I was being crushed.

It all seemed so impossible. 

In public I was hopeful – but deep down I didn’t know how I really felt. I just kept writing and I tried to keep going. The food I was cooking was nice and I was enjoying eating the things on the plan.

I tried to keep my eye on the prize and not look at how far away the horizon was – however history had led me to believe that failure was a very real – if not very probable possibility and it was never far from my thoughts.

Previously I’d been a member of Weight Watchers on no less than three separate occasions before 1999/2000, losing 3 stone and then regaining it. I’d been on the Cambridge diet twice from 2007 – 2008, lost 10 stone and then put it all back on (and more) by 2009.

old weight

Furthermore this wasn’t my first time attending a Slimming World group. I’d already attended Angie’s group in 2010, left and then rejoined in 2011. Neither instance ended very well.

I’d initially managed to lose 2 stone but then started backsliding like I always did.

I tried to recapture the impetus a couple of months later – but felt it had gone and decided to leave. Back then I felt like I was a complete failure and that this was the life I deserved. I thought I’d let everyone that believed in me down again and that I was meant to be fat.

I put it all back on – just like every other time I’d tried.

This third time around things would be different though. I would go into this with my head in the game and I’d power through. It would be mind over matter. I had the numbers all worked out. I’d lose 5 or more pounds a week and in 60 weeks or less I’d be thin. It would take just over a year. There was no room for failure. It wasn’t an option.

I was going on a diet.

Sitting in the pub a week or so later with a pint of diet coke I recounted my ambitious plans to a colleague from work.

‘I’m planning to lose about 5lbs a week.’ I told him – expecting him to be impressed.

‘If I lose any less than that I’m going to be really pissed off. I’ll be failing if it’s any less.’ I concluded.

He looked at me. ‘Why think like that?’ he replied patiently. ‘If you only lose half a pound a week you’re still losing weight. If you lose a pound a week that’s over four stone a year!’ 

I did the maths in my head.

He was irritatingly right.

This was one of my earliest revelations yet oddly also one of the biggest. It’s sometimes hard to apply to myself – but it’s as true today as it was back then.

Forward is forward. It doesn’t matter how big or small the steps are you’re still making progress.

Don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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This came in handy pretty soon – because it wasn’t long before I hit a speed bump (link) and in my fourth week I put some weight unexpectedly back on.

This just served to confirm all my worst fears in my scared little brain.

I was a failure again, just like I’d been before. I felt so angry and upset that I walked out of the group after standing on the scales. I couldn’t take sitting with everyone as a big lardy let down.

I thought everyone would think I was a fat, hopeless waste of space. I knew they would think this because it’s what I thought, and they MUST be thinking the same as me.

Wrong.

Three things happened here to make this a valuable lesson.

  1. I went home and felt like crap. I realised afterwards in the cold light of day that the things I was paying money for (support from my consultant and suggestions about how to succeed) were all denied to me because I walked out of the room. I have never missed another group since – except to climb Snowdon – and when I reached the top I texted the other members and Angie to say where I was and tell them that I’d done it.
  2. When I went home I sat there with no-one but myself. I was angry and upset – and all I could hear in my own head were voices of self loathing and criticism. I could instead have been surrounded by people that would have cared and told me in a nice way that I was being silly. Over time I’ve learned that when you sit in a room full of men and women like this and you feel at your most vulnerable, the person next to you almost certainly cares more about you than you. Not only that but it’s reciprocal. You care about them too and it’s almost certain that you’ll treat them better than you would yourself. You both need each other to remind you of the reality. Neither of you are failures and you can do it. 
  3. I had to admit that I hadn’t RTFM (Google it). I’d completely failed to spend time absorbing the Slimming World book and instead I’d cherry picked what I wanted to hear rather than listening to everything. When I was told that free food was unlimited I neglected to pay attention to speed food or the advice that free food shouldn’t be eaten past the point of contentment. Instead I thought ‘yay! I can eat tons of chicken!’ I’d been thinking I was on plan but instead I was eating all the right foods in all the wrong quantities. If I wanted to succeed I had to pay close attention. So I sat down with a strong coffee and read the book from cover to cover. I didn’t make the same mistakes again.

Over time other things also became clear. There’s no chronology here – this is just what worked for me.

I started to regularly use a useful feature of Slimming World’s web pages. If you’re not following the plan thats OK – you can do this yourself in a spreadsheet.

Make a graph of your progress.

Why?

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The graph over time will grow longer and longer and it will show you that occasional gains don’t really mean anything. They’re completely natural – and not the devastating failure you think they are in the moment where you see the numbers in a meeting.

The longer you do something for the more it just looks like a nice gentle curve.

If you focus on one bad result and walk away from everything then you do yourself a disservice. Success isn’t about how many times you fail – it’s what you choose to do afterwards. If you use that mistake to fuel your determination to get it right next week then it’s actually a success.

Now – here’s something that you don’t have to do – but I think it’s crucial to understand what’s in food – and by that I mean both it’s nutritional and calorific value.

I’m not advocating that everyone count calories – because I certainly don’t. What I’m saying is that every single thing you put in your mouth is fuel and it had a consequence.

A large strawberry is a speed food – but its average energy content is 33kcal. If you have a punnet of 10 strawberries you’ve just eaten 330kcal. Chicken and most lean meat is 100-120kcal per 100g. It doesn’t take more than a few mouthfuls to have another 300kcal on top of your strawberries as many pre-cooked packs of them are 200g plus.

You don’t have to count calories all the time but you do have to understand what you’re consuming. 

You can’t ignore it because many of us don’t understand the concept of eating until contentment and we need to face up to what we’re putting in our mouths.

On the subject of calories I can’t not mention syns. This bit is relevant only for people following SW.

In simple SW terms these are 20kcal of processed food (although other foods that you might not expect to also contain them – check the SW web pages or have a look in the app if you’re unsure). A man can have 20 a day and remain on plan, and a woman 15– although this varies with your starting weight.

I was initially told to have 30.

Syns aren’t a problem. They’re a clever way of tacking the most common hurdle people face when they want to lose weight and ask ‘can I still eat the foods I love?’ The answer to this on any mainstream plan has to be a qualified ‘yes’ otherwise no-one would start a diet.

After all why would they? It sounds horrible otherwise.

It would be nothing but total denial.

So – people can still eat crisps and chocolate and remain ‘on plan’ – but in my view this should be a starting point rather than a continuing life long policy towards weight loss and maintenance.

I think that the biggest problem we have with food in society at the moment is that we view the packaged refined and processed crap that we buy as ‘normal’. Our objectve shouldn’t be to try and bend our health around them but instead to eventally remove as much of them as we can from or lives.

I regularly walk down the street eating raw carrots – and often people look at me like I’m insane. They wouldn’t bat an eyelid if I was drinking a bottle of coca cola with thirteen spoonfuls of refined sugar in it or a Mars Bar with a bag of crisps – but that’s the crazy world in which we live.

Personally I feel that long term success means that if you have treats like this then you have then occasionally and make sure that they are in fact the exception rather than the rule.

The next bit in red is my opinion. You can choose to ignore it or agree – but it’s worked for me.

I avoid empty syns and calories with zero nutritional value.

If you want to lose weight then choose nutritionally rich foods that will fill you up rather than hit you with intense flavours and make you want more instead of satisfying you. If you’re looking for long term success then learn to cook.

Use your syns on an avocado, some nice olives or a drizzle of oil in your cooking. Better still flavour a stew with some chorizo or use a nice curry paste – just make sure that you count them the same way as you would anything else and don’t guesstimate.

Finally – if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that the only faliures you can truly have in life are not trying at all or giving up.

I ‘failed’ over and over again on multiple diets. I yo-yo’d back and forth and thought I was destined to be fat forever.

This is a lie I told myself to avoid the inconvenient truth.

Losing weight and keeping it off is hard work and there are no magic fixes or quick wins.Even if you have an operation to remove parts of your stomach you still have to stay on a calorie controlled diet. There’s NO EASY WAY TO DO THIS.

However – if you want it enough then it’s yours for the taking and you don’t have to worry about screwing up.

What I did over the years wasn’t failing at all. I just hadn’t realised then that slowly and surely I was learning how not to do things, and ALL of that experience came in useful when I finally began to learn how to do it RIGHT.

They enabled me to realise that the REASON I yo-yo’d for years was (amongst other things) because I built NONE of what I did into my life and I didn’t accept that there wasn’t an end goal.

I didn’t have to get into a certain pair of trousers, I didn’t have to wear a pair of speedos for my holiday – and I didn’t have to walk down the aisle with anyone.

Having goals like that are wonderful – but what happens when you reach them? What’s beyond the horizon?

I’d suggest that if you want to have lifelong success accept early on that it’s not a diet – it’s a change of lifestyle and it’s forever.

Try to focus less on short term ‘swimsuit’ goals (although they can help along the way) and more on building healthy eating into every single moment of every day. Don’t try and restrict yourself – just learn to love things that are good for you and come to terms with that being your new, longer, happier life.

Oh – and also you might need to move a little bit too intenet – but that’s what my next post is about…

In 2016 might have accepted that I needed Slimming World and it’s group in my life – but I could still hardly walk to the end of my street and I was still in denial about exercise…

Davey

Part three: Suppression

Before you start reading it’s probably a good idea that you recap on Part One (here) and Part Two (here). By now you know the drill. It’s gonna be a long post. Get your cup of tea ready.

(As before my ‘lightbulb moments’ will be in red. Time will also skip forward as we go on – because this particular lesson was learned in segments.)

Chronologically to start with we are in March 2016. At this point I’m a month into my journey (It started when I gave up drinking on January 26th) and little has visually changed.

This is how I looked.

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After almost completely screwing up by handing in my resignation at a job I’d held down for 16 years my manager allowed me to take some time out to deal with my alcohol issues. At the time I was regularly bursting into tears without warning and couldn’t understand why.

I wouldn’t miss my mother (who had passed away a month before) and I couldn’t explain the phenomenon – which was something I’d never experienced previously.

I didn’t feel like I was grieving.

Yet years and years of emotion seemed to be arriving all at once without any warning and it was scaring me. I felt out of control and needed to understand why.

With an agreement from my employer that I could take some time out of work I enrolled in a four week daily course in addiction recovery. I soon found myself in the cold and grim light of a March Monday morning in a bland meeting room surrounded by men and women in a circle.

They too had problems and all were nervously bouncing up and down in neutrally coloured Ikea Poang armchairs. They looked like they needed something badly.

This selection of people were dealing with alcoholism, heroin addiction and the far more visible and arresting effects of years of cutting, burning and self harm. Some were there under a court order to attend or had been compelled to join by the terms of their parole.

Others (such as myself) were voluntary participants with no criminal history.

I felt metaphorically and physically apart from all of them. Firstly, unlike them I didn’t identify with the label of ‘alcoholic’ or ‘addict’ (I preferred alcohol dependant back then) and secondly because I was relegated to a conventional seat – and sitting higher up.

At 35 stone I was too heavy to sit in the comfortable Swedish Poang simplicity enjoyed by the others and felt exposed.

Initially I also felt like a fraud.

I didn’t deserve to be there because I didn’t have the severity of problems that they had.

These people seemed to be way further down the rabbit hole than me. I’d stopped drinking – whereas others were either cutting down, using methadone or sporting fresh bandages from A&E the night before.

Many had also shoplifted, cheated, lied and brutalised their way though life and I felt that I was nothing like them.

Until we started the mindfulness exercises and examined triggers.

These (it turned out) were common to ALL of us.

During these we sat in the dark, slowed down our breathing and went through some guided meditation. The point was to just experience the moment and filter out the mental noise caused by the chaos of addiction.

Most days I felt that this was just a method of relaxing before difficult discussions – and I simply enjoyed it on an abstract level – interested in how mindfulness seemed capable of slowing time down. Until the second week I just enjoyed the sensation of peace that it brought – but then one day the group leader quite unexpectedly said something along the lines of ‘now imagine that you want a drink.’

I did as I was told and imagined it.

I suddenly wanted a drink for the first time in weeks and felt instantly stressed.

‘Now follow the feeling.’ He said.

‘Where is it in your body?’

Amazingly I felt it! I could trace the actual thought moving through my body!

It was in my chest – right in the centre, behind my breast bone. As I zeroed in on it the sensation moved and began to flow upwards, through my neck, until it stopped and hung there – tingling in my cheeks.

I was absolutely gobsmacked. I’d known this feeling all my life. It was as familiar to me as my own face in the mirror – but I’d never noticed it before.

The difference was that this time it was paused under a microscope for examination. I’d been able to delay its progress for a brief moment and while it was slowly moving I could track the sensation and resulting thought process that trailed in its wake.

It was fascinating!

When I’d experienced this in the past I realised that it happened at the speed of thought. My mind had been reacting to happiness, sadness or anything in between and my body had experienced a corresponding physiological reaction. This had in turn triggered a quietly waiting mental process and I had instantly moved from the flush of adrenalin to a fully formed ‘I need a drink’ feeling. 

By then the choice was made and I always acted upon it.

How had I missed this for so long? More to the point how did I deal with it if it happened again?

Well – there was some help at hand to manage cravings in the form of the ‘Three D’s’ which we discussed shortly afterwards (link)

Delay, Distract, Decide.

  1. Delay the decision to give in to the craving for a set time. This could be 15-30 mins or an hour. Usually by this time you’ve forgotten about it.
  2. Do something that will occupy your thoughts and grab your attention. Perhaps do something physical to use the energy of the craving or read a book.
  3. After the set time decide what you want to do (there are no right or wrong answers, just balanced choices) – but in order to answer consider the following:
  • Advantages of not doing it
  • Disadvantages of doing it
  • Reasons I want to stop
  • My life goals

Like many things in life you take what you need from what you experience, and often leave behind what you don’t. In my case these two lessons were my ‘wins’ from attending that group.

At the time I felt that I’d been filled with wisdom and understanding. I thought I’d finally cracked it. I understood things about myself that beforehand had been invisible to the naked mind – and furthermore I now had a coping mechanism!

There was nothing I couldn’t do!

However – the only thing that you can know for certain is that you don’t know everything

I hadn’t realised back then that what I’d failed to ask myself was why that thought process existed in the first place. I was content to simply acknowledge that it was there.

It wouldn’t be until over a year later that I found a deeper insight into the reason it happened. This was thanks to a book lent to me by a lady that I met in my Slimming World group (link).

By this point I was definitely making progress. Externally and internally I was a very different person.

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The book was called ‘Living like you mean it’ by Ronald J Frederick link.

Honestly it wasn’t my kind of thing (it still isn’t) and at the time I only opened it up because this lady had become a friend and I respected her opinion. She had been kind enough to think of me in the first place and it was rude not to investigate something so freely given with the best of intentions – so I started reading the first chapter.

It irritated me.

I mean it really irritated me.

It was all about allowing yourself to feel things.

In my opinion I was more than capable of dealing with my feelings and I wasn’t afraid of talking about them. I wrote a blog for flip’s sake. I knew the value of exploring my emotions and I talked about them with anyone who wanted to listen.

It was kind of my thing. Always had been. I didn’t get why anyone wouldn’t. Even if I didn’t understand why I had them I wanted to talk to my friends about mine and theirs.

Initially I walked away from the book simply with an agreement that I would try to let myself feel down a bit more – and that in itself proved to be very helpful.

I’d not really accepted that it was OK to feel crappy and let it temporarily consume you. This was actually natural and normal – and it was the precursor to healing. If you denied the need to experience pain and sadness by relentlessly smiling through the bad times then all you did was defer it’s arrival – and when it finally hit (and it would) the force that it had gathered by that time would be of a much bigger magnitude.

Some thoughts are slow burners however – and the really good realisations – the ones that matter often take you a while to reach.

I still wasn’t there yet.

Sure. I talked about emotion. I wrote about it. I enjoyed pulling it apart and understanding why I felt what I did.

But why did I do that?

I realised out of the blue – some time after reading the book that I did all of my emotional investigation after the fact.

Every time I got round to talking about how I felt it was a historical analysis. I was dispassionately looking backwards at a moment in time and examining how something had happened, intellectualising the feelings associated with it and chewing through their constituent parts.

never ever talked about a feeing while it was happening – but oddly this fact had always escaped me.

Out of the blue I recognised that as soon as a thought capable of provoking strong emotion had entered my head it then instantly caused a physical reaction. This immediately resulted in my mind moving to one of several well practiced remedies – depending on what I was using at the time.

In these moments I would do one or more of the following:

  • Eat to excess
  • Get drunk
  • Have a cigarette
  • (Insert whatever poison springs to mind here)

What I’d never realised was that all of these activities were actually me moving to immediately suppress emotion – and I’d been doing it since I was a child.

But how had this happened?

Then I remembered a conversation with my Dad when I was very young relating to my mother. After a particularly abusive day where we’d both come under fire from her and I was in tears he had shared his own method of coping in such situations.

It went something like this:

‘Imagine that you’re inside yourself, and then curl up like a little ball and don’t listen. Nothing can hurt you if you withdraw. After a while you don’t feel a thing.’

I’d taken this advice on board and began to use it to deal with her behaviour.

It worked because it typically just made things worse if you reacted when she was on the attack. The verbal beatings just extended from 30-40 minutes to hours. Sometimes if you fought back they would meander into the early hours of the morning – even if you’d surrendered and tried to go to bed.

She would frequently wake me up in the middle of the night, filled with rage, stinking of stale cigarettes, spitting in my face as she shouted at me – adding ‘and another thing‘ (her favourite phrase) to the argument – whether it was related to the initial explosion or not.

A member of my family once woke up with her sitting on top of him, and she was punching him in the face.

It was better not to feel.

It was better not to react.

During the day I could eat a huge mountain of mashed potato and sausages – but at night I had to find another way to cope, and I retreated a little deeper each time. Over the years the mechanism ceased to be conscious and became so practiced that it moved to one that was completely unconscious.

In my later teens (after some experimentation) I learned that I was a placid and happy drunk. When I consumed alcohol it helped me to not react to my mother, and initially I even consciously started to use it to help manage my interactions with her.

When I was drunk time passed quicker and things hurt less.

This was just the start of it though. I realised that I hadn’t just been suppressing pain – eventually I was suppressing happiness too – because the physiological reactions associated with any extremes of emotion were so strikingly similar.

Over time I’d created a situation where if I thought bad thoughts and felt bad emotions then I immediately moved to suppress them by self medicating. By 2016 I’d been doing it for so long that I’d ceased to recognised it for what it was. 

I was eating, drinking and smoking my pain AND HAPPINESS away.

Feeling sad? Have a (insert crutch here). It will make you feel better!

Feeling happy? Celebrate with a (insert crutch here). It will make things even better still!

Incredibly it had taken me 45 years to understand this about myself – but one by one the dominoes were falling. Each time I wrote something new down in my blog it gained a sense of permanence – and as time progressed (and I discovered more about myself) the dots were becoming connected.

I was building a picture of who I was – and gaining a deeper insight what my motivations were than I’d ever done before in my life. I no longer just forget something after a revelation and moved on.

Instead I could refer back to them, build upon them and consolidate my gains.

However – back in March of 2016 I was only a sober man.

It wasn’t until April that the real work started….

Davey

Part two: The beginnings of honesty

Before you start reading it’s probably a good idea that you recap on Part One (here).

If you’ve already done that (and you have a cup of tea or coffee ready to go) then let me continue…

(note – bits highlighted in red are things I feel are important. In this ongoing little series they’re the lessons I think I’ve learned along the way.)

In early February 2016 I was just beginning to lift my head above water. I felt like I’d been drowning for the longest time and (by then sober for around two short weeks) I was also trying to deal with the mountains of stuff left behind when my mother died.

It was frankly more than enough to drive a man to drink.

Everywhere I turned there were hidden things squirrelled away. As well as piles of soap, detergent and hundreds of drawings or paintings in the most unexpected of places I was also discovering other, more disturbing things.

There were orderly manuals for how to interact with people (written by her many years before she became ill) and hair in little bags (collected for decades both from her and her children) that were chronologically labelled as DNA samples for testing.

Occasionally I also found more valuable items such as photos, correspondence, bills, stamps or money which meant that I couldn’t just throw it all in a skip. I had to wade through every single box and bag of it.

The process was both upsetting and unsettling, I was looking inside the chaotic mind of a woman that I had never understood. As well as as being a task that was mentally difficult to deal with it was a physical challenge too.

I wasn’t a fit man and it was wearing me out just looking at the scale of the problem in her bungalow.

 

Everything was in disarray – and as I was trying to withdraw from alcohol I realised that I’d probably chosen one of the most stressful times of my life to do it.

I didn’t feel like I was getting better.

I felt as far from ‘better’ as it was possible to be in fact – and it seemed that absolutely everything was wrong with my life. It was completely out of balance and even when faced with the death of a parent I was preoccupied with trying to understand the cause of a deep emotional numbness that had been with me as long as I could remember.

For many years I hadn’t even been able to ask why I felt it – because I couldn’t vocalise what it was. Frustratingly, even when I finally managed to put it into words I found that I was still no closer to an answer.

The question that I couldn’t resolve was ‘what do I love?

Sure – I could say that people fitted into this category – because I genuinely loved my friends and family – but I didn’t mean the love that came from a relationship.

No matter how many times I asked myself this there was no response. There was just a blank space – a placeholder for where the answer should be. An empty podium with no medal winner.

Then one day I accepted the truth and it was horrible. I felt like screaming because deep down I had always known the answer. It was way worse than not knowing what I loved because I hadn’t faced up to the bleak reality of what this really said about me.

I loved nothing. I had a passion for nothing. I existed to do nothing. My total contribution to the world if I had died immediately would have been nothing.

What I’d begun to recognise is that I was nothing more than a consumer. I had voraciously consumed everything around me for my entire adult life.

Throughout it I’d had an endless appetite for food, alcohol, cigarettes, ‘stronger substances’, video games, box sets, music, DVD’s, magazines, books, trash television – the list went on and on.

I spent my spare money on ‘things’ because I ‘loved’ the ‘things’ that I bought. I thought the ‘things’ gave me pleasure.

I didn’t really love them though, and they certainly didn’t make me truly happy. Buying a huge television and a games console with the latest game and a Blu-ray made me ‘feel’ for moments – and then I once again became just as empty as my wallet.

Films and television were providing my emotions for me – serving them up endlessly to be consumed. Conveniently I could also turn them on and off at will. If I wanted to feel happy I watched something funny. If I was angry I played a violent video game. If I wanted to numb myself I got drunk.

I managed everything with external inputs and nothing came from inside.

Living like I had for so long, being anaesthetised to the reality of what it meant to be part of the world around me made me question whether I could love anything anymore.

I’d been hiding how I felt about this and and other things about myself for so long that I felt like I was about to burst. Back then It seemed that for my entire time on earth I’d been trying to pretend that everything was ok when really it was as far from OK as it’s possible to be.

In public I was controlled, ordered, dependable and a known quantity. I was a reliable and safe pair of hands in the workplace where I was a team leader and tried to be outgoing, cheerful and gregarious as soon as I walked through the door.

In my personal life I made sure that I supported my friends and family whenever I could and wanted them to feel that if they needed me they knew they could call at any time of day or night.

I almost never asked for help though. Not because I thought they wouldn’t give it – because they would have, but because if I did then it meant not only that I was admitting I couldn’t cope – but because doing so would force me to deal with the causes – and that I was never ready to do. 

So I did two things.

One was a bad idea, and the other was one of the best decisions of my life.

Firstly I handed in my notice at work. This was the bad idea. Being unemployed whilst also a recovering alcoholic dealing with a bereavement and suddenly faced with endless free time on my hands wouldn’t have helped.

Secondly came the good idea – and after handing in my notice I wrote my first ever blog post (link).

Despite what people might think I didn’t start doing this in public because I wanted attention. The exact opposite is true actually – because most of the time I really dislike the focus being on me.

I did it because if I started airing my dirty laundry in a public forum then everyone knew. I didn’t have to painstakingly tell each and every person my darkest secrets and I didn’t have to sugar coat or change what I was saying depending on who would see it.

A post was a post. If people didn’t like it then they didn’t have to read it. If they didn’t like me then au revoir.

There were plenty more fish in the sea.

It also meant that it was now harder to change my mind. If I said I was going to do something in public then I also felt that I either had to follow through with it or come up with a very good reason why I couldn’t.

It didn’t really matter whether people liked me or my blog though – because I wasn’t writing it for them. I was writing it for me – and what I’d started doing was engaging in on my own very public private therapy. 

I decided very quickly upon some ground rules.

Above all else I wanted to be sure that my blog would do no harm. I wouldn’t talk about anyone else unless they explicitly agreed and I wouldn’t use photos of anyone but myself with the same criteria.

It was primarily about fixing myself – and learning to live life.

I would also cunningly hide my true name by adding a ‘Y’ at the end of it (for the first time I can reveal that my real name is actually Dave) and when I talked as Davey I wouldn’t talk to myself or to a person – but to ‘the internet’ – because the internet wouldn’t stare back at me disapprovingly.

Its job was simply to listen – regardless of what I had to say – and mine was to talk to it with absolute and unflinching honesty.

The first post was the hardest – not because I couldn’t write down how I felt – but because I knew the next thing that I had to do was send a link to it to absolutely everyone that I knew or worked with – including my family.

I had to ‘out’ myself and step outside of my own personal closet.

In it I admitted that I wasn’t coping. I admitted that I was a drinker. I told everyone about my health problems. I told them I had to discover what it was that I loved – but above all else I was truly honest and open for the first time.

Then thing that I really didn’t expect happened.

Firstly – no-one (not one single person) told me I was a total loser or a waste of space. Instead they actually applauded my fragility and my attempt to be open about what I was going through

Secondly – almost immediately (literally within minutes) the human traffic started come toward me in torrents. People I thought I’d known for years started telling me their deepest and darkest secrets. They began to open up (sometimes for the first time too) about their family issues, their own alcoholism, their cancers, their struggles with Autism, their unhappiness, their loneliness, their abusive relationships…

The list went on and on.

All of a sudden, standing naked in front of everyone for the very first time and expecting my honesty to be the defining moment of my life I was faced with a stark realisation.

Everyone else was broken too.

It wasn’t just me.

As I continued to write this became a theme. Without realising the power of what I’d enabled by clicking ‘post’ on that very first entry in my blog I’d started an honest two way conversation between myself and unlimited numbers of people which is still going on.

Plus – through it I found both a focus and an unexpected paradox.

I eventually realised that the very tool I’d employed to answer my question (writing) was something that I absolutely loved doing.

I now understand that the unexplainable feeling that had made me want to scream was an understanding deep down that I wasn’t giving anything back to the world. I was just taking from it all the time – and because of that I had begun to feel that I was a parasite.

With writing came honesty and through honesty I discovered that I could not only help myself but others too. 

At this point though I still had a long way to go – and in many ways I was still in denial. Although I’d stopped drinking I still thought that this alone was the answer and that everything would just naturally fall into place.

Back then I still didn’t really understand why I’d drank so much – just that I’d stopped and didn’t plan to start again.

I was still 35 stone, still slowly dying and I hadn’t accepted what the problem would truly take to fix.

Join me next time to find out what I mean…

Dave(y)

The truth

It’s a nice morning for a walk – and at least temporarily there is a blue sky to be found if you look upwards.

If you keep your eyes focused in this direction things seem very pleasant – however if you adjust your gaze downward then things on the ground aren’t quite so rosy.

I wasn’t thinking about this subject when I woke up and I certainly wasn’t when I set out for a walk – but at the moment I can’t help but remember the days when every morning held the promise of a hangover.

These days I rarely talk about my past drinking habits because they seem so far away – and maybe because I’m also lucky enough to really not miss either the taste of alcohol or the sensation of being drunk.

I do occasionally miss the ability to shut my mind off however – but the difference is that I now recognise that it was this aspect of my habit that caused me so many problems.

There are others that aren’t so fortunate however – and the private hell they appear to be trapped in is all too apparent when you walk around the bottom of town in Leamington Spa.

Here the pubs open early – and while the nearby shops are still closed some of the people inside these establishments are enjoying the first (maybe even the second or third) pint of the day.

Although for many years I never spent any time in pubs and didn’t usually drink during the day (except maybe sometimes at the weekend) a drinker is a drinker. We can spot one another – and as I pass people smoking on the doorstep of Weatherpoons I immediately recognise the haggard and yellow eyed look of a hangover in their faces.

It typically greeted me every morning when I looked in the mirror – although if I’m honest after many years of heavy drinking I’d ceased to recognise it as such. It was just my face.

I’m mercifully free of this self destructive cycle now and I’m ridiculously thankful that the events of a very dark period of my life eventually resulted in positive change.

They didn’t initially though. In fact they had the opposite effect.

I used to regularly consume 3-4 litres of 5% abv cider every other night – or two bottles of 13% abv wine but when I hit bad times this worsened dramatically.

By the time I stopped I was easily drinking around 5 litres of cider (if I could tolerate the physical volume) or 3+ bottles of wine every single night.

I feel no shame about it any more. It’s in the past – but at the time I felt the need to hide the extent of my habit from everyone.

I took bottles to the recycling centre regularly or dropped flattened cardboard wine boxes off at the nearby collection bins near my local shops. I also squished up all of my empty plastic cider bottles so that they were teeny tiny in my refuse bags.

As I type I find that I remember particularly strongly the smell of stale alcohol as it escaped from the from the plastic cider bottles when I flattened them.

Oddly I came to rather like this smell. It wasn’t pleasant – but it was part of my daily life and it represented a release, comfort, emotional numbness, pain relief, the ability to sleep – and the blessed relief of forgetting (even if just for a moment) the reality of how miserable my existence had become.

I don’t type all this because I’m dwelling – or feeling at all down.

Quite the opposite is true actually.

Honestly I feel a sense of relief and freedom – and that enhances the happy mood that I’m already in.

I’m in control of my destiny once again instead of being controlled by my addictions.

(Author pauses. Looks out of the window of the coffee shop he’s in and takes a sharp intake of breath)

I suppose when it comes down to it that’s really what it was.

An addiction.

I don’t like to admit that about myself. Instead my internal narrative is about a man who was ‘alcohol dependant‘ and for the longest time I’ve only felt comfortable with this self applied label.

I chose to identify with ‘alcohol dependant’ because it enabled me to step away from the reality of what someone drinking to the extent that I did truly was.

That person was an alcoholic – and I guess if I’m absolutely truthful with myself that’s what I was.

Although it hadn’t completely ruined my life or stopped me working it was only a matter of time until it did and when I recognised that fact I finally found it within myself to take action.

There’s no point denying it to myself any more. 774 days ago I was an alcoholic and that was my reality.

I’m not punishing myself with this statement. I’m releasing myself.

There’s nothing to hide from any more. It’s the past and it’s gone. The reality now is very different.

You may one day find me a repentant member of coffeeholics anonymous – but not today internet. I’m on my second large Americano and I very much doubt it will be my last.

This is as drunk as I get. Life is enough now. The sky is still blue outside and I’m clear headed and happy.

I’m also fit and healthy, grateful that I have a second chance and that I stopped with enough time left to begin my life again.

I write this not just because it’s part of my process of coming to terms with my past but because it’s true – and in truth there’s power.

Within it lies the capability to provide understanding to anyone reading and associating with this or similar behaviour that it’s not too late.

In fact it’s never too late – no matter how desperate things may seem. Even if there’s not much time left you can make what remains a better place to be – and live life free from things that control you.

Today is entirely what you want it to be.

Bend it to your will internet. You can do it if you want to.

Davey

Two years sober today.

It’s December 31st 2010.

Like many years that preceeded that one I’m indulging in a festive tradition, which involves drinking to excess.

For some unknown reason on this occasion I take photos of me in my games room with my feet up on a footstool in front of the television. Both the bottle I’m drinking from and the glass in my hand have piqued my interest for some reason and I’ve documented them.

 

I remember waking up the next day, looking at my phone and wondering why I’d taken these photos. The bottle was empty and sitting in the recycling box next to several other flattened 3 litre bottles of cheap cider in the red bag beside it.

When I drank I made sure that I did the job properly. I never once opened a bottle of Southern Comfort during the holiday season without finishing it in one sitting and then moving onto something else.

In the forground of these snapshots my chubby fingers clutch a tumbler – and in the background I can see my badly swollen ankle. My leg doesn’t seem much better.

In a spearate, grainy and jerky video of the same scene I can hear my laboured breathing behind the camera.

I can’t believe I used to sound like that just sitting in my armchair.

I don’t breathe like that now when I’m climbing a mountain.

I continue to scroll through the December pictures and then find myself in 2014. I’m drinking again. It’s not surprising. I did it pretty much every night by then. My ankle looks worse.

A lot worse.

Compared to how it looks tonight it’s incredibe that by this point in 2014 I was still managing to walk anywhere – even if it was just hobbling to my car so that I could go to work. I remember cleary how painful it was to have my skin stretched so tight.

It felt like the surface of a snare drum and it itched all the time. The feeling alternated between a sensation that felt like frost before switching without warning to intense heat.

 

I continue scrolling and all of a sudden I’m in December 2015.

I’m drunk again and at my lowest ebb.

My mother was dying and I couldnt cope with life. My heath was rapidly failing and honestly most of the time I was hoping that a heart attack would just end it all and take away the pain.

Although emotionally I was hurting deep inside, physically there wasn’t a part of me that didn’t continually scream for relief. I was so heavy at around 35 stone that everything was painful all of the time and nomatter where I stood, sat or lay there was no relief to be found.

I could no longer sleep without being blind drunk and when I did I woke up panicking every hour during the night because I couldnt breathe.

For the man on the left every day was hell – and for the man on the right every day is a gift.

Sometimes the one on the right still struggles and tries to find the right path in life – but for the vast majority of time he’s winning.

The man on the left is someone that I loathed and couldnt look in the eye when I caught his reflection in the mirror.

The man on the right isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination but I’m proud of who he’s become. I like him. I’m amazed continually by his energy, positvity and zest for life.

The man on the left has been drunk for months and has no idea anymore what a day without a hangover feels like. The man on the right has now been sober for exactly two years this evening.

Those other photos are of someone else. Someone that I don’t remember.

That Dave is dead internet.

Long live Davey

Anniversaries on the horizon

After the euphoria of adrenaline that my short attempts to run produced on Sunday (link) I’ve been dealing with the after effect – which is raging cramp in my quads.

It’s not apocalyptically awful if I’m honest (I can still move) but it is surprising because it took a couple of days for the full effects to be apparent.When I climbed out of bed this morning it definitely wasn’t with my usual zesty spring and I’m sure I heard a creaking noise that sounded like a tree about to fall over in a haunted Disney forest.

Unsurprisingly this didnt dissapear with a couple of stabs at the ‘snooze’ button and after geriatrially pottering around for half an hour I headed off to the office. My walk to work was waaaaaaaay more of a chore than it usually is.

I felt sluggish throughout and didn’t enjoy it at all.

In a way this is good mind you – rather masochistically I like cramp. It means things are improving. I’m still not sure what to do with all this though. I’m cautious about what it means, and I’m still reluctant to give myself any goals that I potentially won’t keep. In the past doing that has proved to be both self defeating and demoralising – so I’m just going to see how I feel when I recover and decide what I want to do based on how I feel.

In the meantime I still seem to be subject to a rather insatiable appetite in the evenings – and whilst I’m eating good food I’m still eating too much of it.

21st Jan
Tub of cottage cheese
4 apples
Chilli con carne made with pork mince, kidney beans, onions, broccoli, tomatoes, red pepper
Yogurt and frozen berries

22nd Jan
Chilli leftovers + couscous
4 apples + tub of cottage cheese + 200g ham
Two bowls of slow cooker beef stew
Yogurt and frozen berries

23rd Jan
Slow cooker beef stew leftovers
500g carrots and 6 tomatoes
Chilli con carne + half a pouch of microwave basmati rice
Yogurt and frozen berries

I know that this doesn’t seem like a bad day on the page but I’m hyper aware these days that if I want to lose weight I have to do a lot more and eat a lot less, because I’m no longer benefiting (if you can call it that) from carrying around all that extra timber.

It’s way easier for the weight to fly off when you’re carrying lots of baggage on your person everywhere you go – and in many ways I’ve not significantly modified my eating habits for at least a year.

Maybe I’m being a bit hard on myself though. I’m suddenly aware that I’m being critical of my successes and looking down on what I’ve done…

I’m probably eating a bit less overall than I used to – but I feel that things (broadly speaking) have remained the same. This is almost certainly because every time I consider how I feel about reducing my portion sizes a tiny (yet uncontrollable) part of my brain begins to panic somewhere in a corner.

On the plus side (even though I’m judging myself harshly when I shouldn’t) I seem to have found a rough ‘maintenance’ amount of food for when I get to target…

However I still need to get to target!

Today it’s been all that’s on my mind – and to try and stop myself overeating in the evening I’ve been munching carrots and tomatoes at my desk and had some lovely healthy leftover slowcooked beef stew for lunch.

(author pauses)

Oh screw it. Who am I kidding?

I’m preoccupied by more than food – and I’m feeling self critical and a little maudlin because two anniversaries are on the horizon.

Although I didnt join Slimming World until April 2016 the turning point in my life that started all this was the death of my mother on the 28th of January, and my decision to finally stop drinking myself to death two days before she died on the 26th of that month.

 

IMG_20160308_0014 (1)

For all of the water that went under the bridge between us it’s sometimes easy to forget that when I was born she was a young woman of 28. Although I know a lot of her troubled history now at that moment in time she was just a young mother with a newborn infant in her arms and there was nothing was written in stone for the future.

For all she knew the bond that she had with me would be unbreakable and we would be inseperable forever.

Time changes many things though and that potential relationship never came to pass. At the end we were barely on speaking terms and communicating with her (at least from my perspective) felt agonisingly painful.

Even close to the end I counted the moments until I could leave her company and get blind drunk.

Maybe somewhat paradoxically today I found myself, sitting alone in my lunch break looking at a photo of her death certificate.

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It says ‘exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease’ as the cause of her death – and in the other significant conditions section the words ‘breast cancer’ in black biro sit there staring back at me from otherwise empty dotted lines.

I’ve not looked at this picture since the day it was taken – and it occurs to me that it was around this time that I began to accumulate documents, photos and paintings that I never really wanted to be in posession of or to own.

Like this piece of paper they’re all just scribbled words on a page but they hold a power.

Even now though for some reason I can’t bring myself to dispose of them, despite how they make me feel. They remain buried in drawers for another day filled with greater fortitude.

(sigh)

I’m not sure why anniversaries are so important.

It really shouldn’t matter that another year is about to pass by without her in my life – and I probably by now should have shaken off the ever present nagging sense of guilt that it’s not her death that I remember the most about those awful days, but my decision to stop drowning my problems in alcohol and to reach out for help.

It’s been 727 days since I put down my glass after finishing that evening’s third bottle of wine and never picked one up again.

26th Jan.jpg

I’m still struck by the paradox that such an awful event caused so many positive things to happen in my life – and despite it not really being the true anniversary of either big moment I dedicate the rest of this post to her memory and what’s changed about my life since she died.

It’s all been seen here before – but I don’t care. It’s my blog and I’ll post what I like. I’m proud of it all, and also more than a little sad that things ended the way that they did before I made what sits below this paragraph happen.

Despite knowing that if she was still alive she’d probably find some way of undermining these achievements the fact is is that I owe every single one of them to her passing.

 

  • I was unable to sleep in any position other than my left side or sitting upright at 34st 8.5 lbs. Now I can sleep on whichever side I choose (including my back) and no longer wake up in a panic because I think I’m suffocating
  • I’ve walked the cumulative 3000 mile distance from San Fransisco to New York (and almost 1000 miles more) since joining Slimming World
  • I overcame Plantar Fasciitis, two torn calf muscles, ligament problems in my left thigh and shin splints caused by my weight and persisted with my walking and exercise
  • I’m no longer taking medication to control my (type 2) diabetes – and have a HbA1c reading of 28 compared to 94 when first diagnosed
  • My blood pressure is down from borderline hyper-tension to that of someone 20 years younger than myself
  • The usual resting heart rate of an adult male in his mid 40’s is around 70bpm. Thanks to all the exercise I do now mine is currently around 40bpm.
  • I’ve dropped from the 8xl shirt and 66in waisted trousers I was wearing to XL shirts/large coats and waist size of 34-36in (depending on the retailer)
  • I can put my socks on
  • I haven’t broken any furniture by sitting or lying on it for over a year and a half
  • I can buy clothes from pretty much any supermarket or high street store. They cost approximately 75% less than they used to at specialist retailers
  • I can now fit into cars and taxis, including the smallest ones available in all my local dealerships AND get the seatbelts on (I tried them ALL!!!)
  • I can take the train or the bus because I fit into public transport and can walk to and from where it stops
  • I can fit in my bath
  • I don’t get out of breath walking up hills unless they’re really steep
  • I can mow my lawns without being in agony – and maintain my gardens
  • I can stand up without grunting or straining from pretty much any position
  • My skin no longer burns instantly when exposed to the sun (often it doesn’t burn at all now) and I don’t have dry eczema all the time like I used to
  • I no longer wear glasses for reading and have dramatically improved eyesight due to my diabetes being under control
  • I can sit in restaurant or cafe booths – in fact ANY kind of fixed bench or table seating is accessible – as well as garden picnic tables and plastic chairs.
  • I can go to the cinema and not have to pay extra for premium seating because I don’t fit in the standard seat or am worried that they will break
  • I can walk up to 17.5 miles a day and average 20,000 steps daily and 70+ miles every week. Previously I couldn’t walk to the end of my street 200 metres away
  • I can concentrate for much longer periods and take in (and retain) information a lot faster
  • I need less sleep – usually 5-6 hours is enough now. I used to need at least 10 because it was so hard to get rest with sleep apnea
  • I can now walk a mile in 14 minutes and 51 seconds. When I first tried to do a mile it took well over an hour to an hour and a half with continual rest stops. I usually have to stop every 7-8 miles now.
  • I can jog up stairs
  • I can jog back down stairs
  • I’ve taken large amounts of outsized clothes to charity and by donating with gift aid have helped other people by doing so.
  • I haven’t had an alcoholic drink since January 26th 2016
  • I’m now able to buy clothes from charity shops as well as deposit them and when I do they cost around 1/8th of what I previously was forced to buy
  • I can take a selfie without hating myself
  • I have climbed Snowdon
  • I no longer have constant oedemas (fluid retention) in my ankles
  • I can go outside wearing shorts without feeling self conscious
  • I don’t need to get my shopping delivered and I often walk two miles to the supermarket and carry it miles back home in a rucksack
  • I can stand for long periods without crippling back, knee and tendon pain
  • My knees no longer hurt all the time. They used to be painful even when I was seated
  • I can’t hear my own laboured breathing when I sit and relax
  • I no longer sweat all the time regardless of the temperature and I need to wear thick socks, gloves a coat and a hat to go outside in the cold
  • I regularly meet lots of new people through my efforts, Slimming World and my blog
  • I’m now confident enough with my appearance and fit enough to stand and speak in front of groups about my weight loss. Previously this would have been impossible because I quickly became breathless and physically shook from the effort of standing upright
  • I no longer get publicly bullied and called names related to my weight by youths (and adults) on the street
  • I’ve gone from eating (and burning) 7,500 calories per day to around 2000 and because of this my shopping costs around 2/5ths of what it used to.
  • I can ride a bicycle again
  • I can sit in an IKEA Poang armchair without fear of breaking it
  • I can do press-ups
  • I can do sit-ups
  • I can climb ladders and use stepladders (none held my weight before) to get into my loft
  • People I know frequently fail to recognise me in the street until I speak
  • I’ve never spent more quality time with friends, family and people that I care about in my entire life – and when I do we’re usually exercising so I seem to be promoting positive behaviour in those that mean something to me
  • I no longer make excuses not to meet up with friends I haven’t seen for a while (or don’t see them at all) because I feel embarrassed about putting lots of weight on since they last saw me
  • My friends and family can hug me and put their arms all the way around me
  • I’ve appeared in the Leamington observer (link)
  • I’ve appeared on BBC local radio to tell my story
  • I can run (although not very well yet)

Davey

Productive Sunday

Although I’m used to filling my day with things to do, sometimes it hits me just how much I can fit in now that I’m no longer wiped out after just waddling to my car and back.

After my less than stellar result on the scales yesterday I decided to go for it today and (probably much to the annoyance of my neighbours) was out mowing my back garden at 7.45am.

I haven’t much choice in the timing really. I had a lot to do today and I haven’t been able to do it for a while. It’s dark when I get home in the week now and I’ve been meaning to get the last mow of the year in for a couple of weeks – but have ended up putting it off again and again.

Today though it hadn’t rained. Instead there was just a lot of dew and most of it was freezing. I’ve never mowed frosty grass before – and to be honest it was a laborious task, requiring a lot of periodic poking underneath the blades with a stick to scrape off all of the clogged up grass.

The back lawn looked a bit soggy and clumpy afterwards (grass clippings don’t like collecting in my lawn mower basket when the grass is frozen solid apparently) but crucially it was done.

The next mow shouldn’t be needed until springtime.

One thing that I actually really like about my back garden is its complete lack of perfection. It’s got things growing in odd places, flaking paint, moss and a healthy population of frogs.

Whenever I investigate the little overgrown or dilapidated bits there’s always something I like the look of.

IMG_0694IMG_0701Although I need to do some weeding around the borders the garden has (for the first time since I moved in) remained well managed and accessible for the whole of summer and autumn.

I’m determined that (whilst I really don’t care about it looking like a bowling green) it will remain in this well maintained state forever more – and never go back to the apocalyptic mess that I let it become when I wasn’t coping very well.

I’ve said before that mowing the lawns used to be a major undertaking for me.

That’s actually a vast understatement- it used to be agony and I often did it whilst rather drunk or drinking with that objective in mind for precisely that reason – because it didn’t hurt so much emotionally or physically during or afterwards.

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I found this gem of a photo that I took of myself mid way through mowing my back lawn in 2012 – far from my heaviest weight. I was sitting on a stool at the time because I was in agonising pain. My back was screaming, I was drenched in sweat and (from memory) already half way down a bottle of strong white wine.

The expression on my face (I think) speaks volumes.

This morning however I finished the mowing, bundled away my tools, grabbed a hot drink and headed off for a coffee with a friend in Kenilworth, which is a four mile walk from my house.

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It was a pretty energetic four miles too.

I’ve been chasing a 15 minute mile ever since I started Slimming World thanks to an offhand statement by a guy there in the early days who said he walked four miles in the morning. When I asked how long it took, he casually said an hour – which I was completely gobsmacked at (at the time a mile took me about 60-90 minutes) so I made it my mission to do the same.

Although almost nineteen months later I’m still not quite there, what I can do instead is demonstrate a lot more stamina.

Whilst I haven’t broken the 15 minute mile sound barrier (yet) I’m still trying and in the meantime getting a lot better at keeping a continued and consistent pace up for a pretty respectable distance.

really enjoyed the walk (and the coffee and chat I had whilst in Kenilworth) but otherwise on a Sunday the place is mostly a ghost town.

Everything is closed.

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However (praise be!) there was a single charity shop open in the precinct near Waitrose – and right at the back, hidden amongst the coats and jackets was a Peter Storm combined fleece and raincoat in a large size.

I was a bit miffed.

It was in excellent condition and it was only £8. Furthermore it was just what I need at the moment as it gets progressively colder and wetter – but annoyingly it was in a large. I have a raincoat and I also have nice fleece – but I haven’t had a combined waterproof and warm jacket since I gave my 3XL supercoat to my dad.

Sigh. I miss supercoat.

We had some good times together.

I decided to try some shirts on instead – but nothing took my fancy.

Although they were nice I have plenty of shirts that fit currently – and there was no need to buy them just for the sake of it. After putting a other nice lumberjack shirt back on the rail I reached down to grab my jumper and gilet.

As I lifted my jumper I stopped.

I thought ‘I wonder how tight it is? Maybe I should try it anyway….’

So – I pulled it off its hanger, threw it over my shoulders, pulled the zip ends together and began to draw it upwards.

I fully expected it to stop at my waist, but the zip kept moving. It passed my belly button and I genuinely felt a flush of excitement. Would it fit? A coat in a large size?

Then the zip stopped dead.

It would go no further. 

….

….

At this point I’d usually sigh inwardly and put the item back on the rack, thinking ‘maybe tomorrow’.

Not today.

THE ZIP HAD STOPPED BECAUSE IT WAS UNDER MY CHIN!!!

THE COAT ONLY FLIPPING FITTED ME!!!

So I bought it.

I am now the proud owner of a new (old) large supercoat. It’s currently drying on the radiator after a spirited turn in the washing machine, so photos will have to wait for the time being – but it doesn’t just fit (and is now florally fragrant) it fits me properly!!!

So – with my super flipping excellent wonderful bloomin fantastic smashing great purchase swinging back and forth in a carrier bag I practically skipped back to Warwick in the late morning sunshine.

The day couldn’t end there however.

I had a bite to eat when I got back, did another hour in the garden and then headed off for a walk to Sainsburys in Leamington on another errand. By the time I got there I was still floating on air and (after getting what I needed and having another coffee) I headed back home – and what a lovely walk it turned out to be.

There was a terrific slow motion sunset that seemed to fill the world with orange and yellow hues – and as I passed the river on the way back to my house a couple of swans decided to float into a perfect position below me just in time for my camera.

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Sigh.

Does life get any better than this?

I think not.

I have so little in material terms nowadays – but I feel like I’ve got everything sometimes. Even a Disney themed carrier bag makes me feel happy.

I miss almost none of the stuff that I used to fill my life with to avoid negative thoughts. It was all just a parade of distractions designed to stop me truly living my life and making the most of every day.

At the time of writing I’ve walked just under 17 miles and in doing so have smashed my calorie burn and cardio requirements for the day.

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Hopefully this will go some way towards making up for my little gain – and maybe even help me have a loss next week.

Either way internet – nothing can take away the fact that today I stood in a charity shop that I walked four miles (in just over an hour) to get to, and zipped up a coat in a size that I’ve never worn in my entire adult life.

That’s a great way to end the day.

Hugs to all.

Davey

It’s not a plateau

I don’t like the ‘P’ word. Not one little bit. I refuse to think about it most of the time because I’m now convinced it’s just a state of mind and that like anything in life it can be overcome with enough effort and perseverance.

The ‘P’ word in question is of course ‘Plateau‘.

This (from the perspective of a man who has struggled with weight all his life) was the point at which mythical forces aligned in your body during the process of weight loss and like an internal Gandalf stood on the edge of a dramatic precipice and shouted ‘No further. You shall not pass!’

In the past I felt I had evidence of this phenomenon and that I’d personally encountered it on more than one occasion.

It wasn’t fiction. Far from it. It was fact.

However – in reality (as with most things) there’s more going on with a belief in something like this than initially meets the eye.

If I’m brutally honest with myself the points where I ‘plateaued‘ in the past were the points where I lost my way, where I slipped into old habits and when I became comfortable.

Underlying all of these (if they aren’t already bad enough) was something I’d never truly admitted to myself back then. Although I think that I knew this on some level or another I couldn’t face up to it. This was that the fundamental beliefs and values that I held all my life had remained unchanged.

This of course didn’t apply just to food.

It applied to many things – and one by one, in order to make genuine progress (that I aim to be permanent) I’ve had to admit the truth about all of them to myself.

  1. When I tried to give up smoking for the longest time I still thought I could smoke occasionally – and that having an occasional cigar wouldn’t hurt on special occasions. Lies – even one is too many. If you’re addicted you’re addicted and there’s no such thing as ‘a little bit of cancer’.
  2. There was nothing wrong with my drinking. Drinking to get obliterated was just fine if I felt like it, and if I did so in the privacy of my own home it was perfectly OK. I didn’t need to drink – I did it because I enjoyed it and because I deserved it after a hard day at work. Lies. I drank to stop myself feeling pain or emotion and I also drank because I was addicted to the physical sensation it produced. I felt less when I was drunk and that enabled me to not face up to most things in life.
  3. My eating habits were ok – I just needed to eat ‘a little less’ of all the things I already ate – after all everyone else ate them – they were just ‘naturally thin’ or had ‘faster metabolisms’. All I needed to do was loose the weight somehow and then I could start eating normally again. Lies. I ate like a pig. Anyone eating 8500 calories a day is not eating normally. No-one is naturally thin. They simply do more and eat less. Anything else is a self deluding fantasy people such as me used to torture themselves with and as an excuse for their behaviour. I’ll never be able to eat like that again and I wouldn’t want to if I could.
  4. I was in touch with my feelings and I had no problems dealing with emotions or talking about them. My smoking, drinking and eating was completely unrelated to anything ‘below the surface’ – they were just things I enjoyed – and there was no inner conflict to resolve. Lies. I had been papering over the cracks with cigarettes, food and alcohol for so long that I genuinely couldn’t see myself hiding pain or sadness any more. It happened so fluidly and without conscious thought that it was gone before I could register that it had ever existed. In reality I only dealt with emotions through a process of detachment and use of logical analysis after the fact.

I know now that the ‘plateau’ wasn’t ‘a thing’ – it was a collection of issues layered on top of issues, smothered in more issues and topped with further issues.

I was continually doomed to failure with diets because I failed to make the true, lifelong changes in both mind and body that were required not only for continued short term success, but also for lasting lifelong results.

Instead, for most of my life, I took the path of least resistance to avoid conflict of any kind and refused to deal with one problem after another until the consequences of this physical and mental inaction became so toxic to my health that my choices finally boiled down to life or death.

This is a rather dramatic way of saying I don’t believe in plateaus any more – because for the first time in a long time I can stand back and see them for what they were.

They were just me – in denial.

For a number of reasons unrelated to food (more to follow on that subject in another blog probably) I suspect that I’m heading for a maintain on the scales come Saturday. After last week’s unexpected gain I want to be sure that if I have a ‘bad’ result two weeks in a row that somewhere deep down in my psyche I’m not going to slip into this pattern of thinking again.

The truth is though that the more I type and the more I explore my feelings on this topic I know I’m not going to.

But why am I even thinking about all this?

Someone helped me recently, probably more than they realise.

They have enabled me (through patient and careful support) to gradually see myself in a new light. This has had a huge part to play in enabling me both figuratively and literally to look at myself and appreciate my worth in ways that I’d stopped doing long ago.

It’s an ongoing and gradual process for me – but this individual just reminded me that there aren’t really any plateaus. There are just obstacles.

You can choose to be honest and open with yourself about what they are and any pain that they represent before you clamber over them, or you can use them as an excuse to go no further and as something to hide behind.

There are lots of things that could get me down related to my life – but I realised something this evening that I don’t think I’d appreciated the true depth of before.

My attitudes -which for so many years I believed were formed by logical analysis – were often predicated on similar lies to the ones above.

Lately I’m surprising myself regularly by making the absolute opposite choices about almost everything in life compared to the ones I used to make.

Yet the world around me hasn’t changed dramatically.

The people in it haven’t changed.

Places remain the same.

The fundamental shift is in me – and whilst it began with a mental choice in January last year the continued ripping up of my long held rule books isn’t really a mental process it’s a physical one.

I’m fitter, and I’m healthier. I’m more vital and energetic. I’m happier, I generally sleep well. I don’t feel pain every moment of every day in my back or legs. I don’t have a constant dull hangover. My ankles aren’t swollen and my calves don’t feel tight and itchy. I can breathe quietly and deeply without sounding out of breath. I sweat less. I smell better. My skin has a healthy colour. I have better eyesight. The whites of my eyes aren’t continually bloodshot. I’m more alert and I think quicker.

Physically the list goes on and on.

It’s this that’s driving the differences my decision making process – and it was this list of problems (and many more besides) which – without me knowing it drove every other judgement in my past life for years.

So there it is internet.

Sometimes even if you’re struggling to make headway you have to step back and see the obstacle for what it is.

It’s an opportunity to overcome something and reach your goal.

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Davey

Peeky

Well, for a Saturday this is a late posting.

Normally I’d have done this ages ago – but today I’ve had to make a straight choice between squeezing the pips out of life and writing about it – and sadly my blog chicken cannot come before my escapades egg.

To be truthful when I awoke this morning I wasn’t sure how the day would end up – but I suspected it wouldn’t be good.

Whatever’s wrong with me is lingering – but not in a way that I can really put my finger on. My balance is just ever so slightly off. My is hearing slightly decreased too. This made me think I had an inner ear issue – but my stomach still feels odd (even a little bloated) and I’m still experiencing continually broken sleep.

Today I just felt odd. Peeky even.

This was confirmed by a fellow Slimming Worlder as I walked to my meeting.

‘You look peeky.’ She said, confirming my suspicion that I did indeed look ‘peeky’ as well as feeling it. She’s also a medical professional. They can tell right away.

‘I feel peeky.’ I replied – unable to muster much enthusiasm, probably due to my now confirmed diagnosis of peekyness.

I dragged my peeky body to the scales, which decided then and there that they hated me. They said that I had gained three and a half pounds after eating less this week than I have for a very long time, and throwing about a third of it up.

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They too confirmed I was really peeky.

Angie underpinned their opinion shortly after in group therapy, whilst I sat with my arms folded in front of her, probably looking a bit glum.

She had no idea about my earlier clinical diagnosis of peekyness, or of its potential debilitating impact.

‘Dave’s not himself today bless him’ she said, glancing at my face and then to the info of my gain on her Slimming World tablet. In truth (oddly enough) that was when the day turned around.

Group therapy always cheers me up. 

Although honestly the gain wasn’t going to get me down anyway.

It’s just a number, and it matters very little. That number will change next week, or maybe even the day after tomorrow. It will on balance always show a downward trend however, because that’s what I will it to be.

Nothing can be gained from feeling frustration about being unable to control my body occasionally. It will do what it wants.

As long as I keep treating it right as much as I can I’ll win.

It was while I was thinking just like this that Angie started talking about syns related to alcohol, pointing out as she did that I probably wouldn’t be interested because I don’t drink.

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It still seems odd to me at times that people see me as a tee total, completely sober person – but it’s true. It’s almost 585 days since I last had any alcohol – and my life is infinitely better since I made that choice.

I can also see how far I’ve come when I look at a gain and just know that it’s only an inevitable part of the whole process of losing weight.

It’s not the end of the world. It would be if I decided it was and grabbed a kebabbut I won’t. Back when that and excessive daily drinking was my response to crisis I looked like a different man.

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I don’t do self destruction any more. I have moved into the business of self renovation and instead I met up with my friend, headed to the outskirts of Coventry (near Coombe Abbey) and went for a five mile twalk with her in the Warwickshire countryside.

Boy – what a day we picked for it!

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Everywhere I looked there were blue skies and little fluffy clouds and sunflowers

None of these were within video games, or on a nice bright HDTV sitting behind a closed curtain – they were out in the real world, where I live now, instead of my living room or my bed.

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Even being diagnosed with full blown (and probably terminal) peekyness couldn’t dent my mood today. The world is stuffed with people I love, places I adore, people to talk to, things to learn or understand, choices to make, wonderful plants and wildlife to see and spiritual mountains to climb.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

Life is a gift. 

I recognise this maybe more acutely than some other people because what they may see as ‘just a walk’ I see for what it truly is.

It’s freedom.

It’s a time filled with possibility and detail, surrounded with an infinity of nature and growth and I can move in or out of it as I please, without pain, discomfort or difficulty. I can climb and jump and put one foot continuously in front of another – or I can just stop and drink it in – freeze a single moment and hold it like a droplet of water on the end of a melting icicle and then watch it go.

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There are some days I’m filled with remorse.

Days where I look at images of myself years ago and feel anger over the sheer criminal waste of a life that I lived.

I stand naked in a mirror looking at the destruction it caused and often it makes me feel the same way too – but then I stop that train of thought and realise that the gifts of my pain and sense of loss are profound.

they allow me to appreciate what I have for what it is and see the riches in my current life for what they are – and that no amount of the money I used to have could have purchased them.

On paper I don’t have much anymore. No well paid job, no new car, no new technological toys.

No wealth.

But instead I have everything.

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This evening I went to some friends’ house for a meal.

They’re always good company. It was great to see them and their chirpy children – and as as the evening progressed I told them about my day, my progress recently, my love for what I do with my time now, the joy that my journey (and writing about it) brings and my plans for the future.

They’ve never heard my plans before.

It’s not because I’ve secretive.

It’s because I never thought I had a future before. I thought I’d die. I thought I’d have killed myself by now.

I didn’t though. By some miracle 585 days ago I chose to live.

Peekyness be damned. I’m not wasting a moment any more.

Davey

Falling pianos

Something that I (shamefully) used to say to close friends and relatives was that I fully expected to die in the very near future, and that I was resigned to never reaching a pensionable age.

The odds related to my weight seemed to support my often bleak approach to life and I was in retrospect doing everything humanly possible to ensure that this was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As surely as if I’d hopped into my bath with a toaster I was killing myself – but ironically I could no longer fit in it – with or without electrical appliances because I’d instead chosen the slower ‘death by eating and alcohol abuse’ approach.

To my eternal shame I remember saying all this to someone with cancer and instantly thinking to myself how perverse my attitude to life had become. I was throwing good health away on a whim whilst someone close to me was fighting to stay alive.

Even then I failed to change. 

That came later.

In the meantime I actively avoided going to see my doctor (if at all possible) and buried my head in the sand about multiple developing health issues. However, despite my glib attitude to what I then thought was an inevitable future (that I ‘knew‘ would happen with absolute certainty) I was as much in denial as it’s possible for a man to be about the reality of how my end would probably come.

I may not have died like John Candy did (at his reportedly heaviest weight of 325lbs he was around ten stone lighter than me when I started Slimming World at 485lbs) which was quickly, of a heart attack, in his sleep at around the same age as me.

I’d be just as likely to suffer for a long time with ever decreasing mobility, joint pain, sleep apnoea, insomnia, incontinence, diabetic fogginess, wrecked knees, oedemas swelling my legs, deteriorating eyesight from retinopathy etc etc. The list goes on and on, and it still upsets me to think about it. I experienced all of the above to some extent by the time I had reached nearly 35 stone.

Despite being a really happy person now I’m often still pulled back to the past by unexpected feelings or events. In these moments I feel intense anger about what I used to do to myself – or at the very least have a burning sense of wasted opportunity and regrets over a life not fully lived.

I ruminate on this a lot when I’m twalking with friends. It’s good to explore these feeling and (in doing so) to somehow purge them. I started writing firstly because I wanted a record of who I was but also to excise the pain that I felt both emotionally and physically as I pored it out onto the page.

I still use this blog primarily as a diary and it’s partly why I’m so honest despite regularly having the opposite impulse. I started writing this post a few days ago but couldn’t bring myself to publish it. I don’t aways want to tell people about my more introspective moments – but if I lie then I feel that I betray only myself. The memories that my posts contain continually get used as fuel to push me forward. Once they’re out there in public I can’t deny or ignore them, and have to follow through on my convictions.

However – although I’m doing well emotionally these days it’s physically where I came from still bothers me. One of the things that’s always in the back of my mind is what might be lying in wait for me underneath my skin.

Over the years I’ve done a lot of awful things to my body and there’s always the possibility that my past smoking, drinking, lack of exercise, crappy diet or even my genetics are still going to me cause problems in later life. I know that to an extent I can’t control this. I can only try to be a better man from now on.

The thing is – I don’t just want to live a longer life – I want to live a fitter and more active one – and I’m determined to keep getting better in every respect that I can.

There is a part of me however that thinks that if the universe had a sense of humour similar to my own it will probably drop a piano on me the same day that I reach my target weight just to prove that I got away with nothing and that everything has a consequence

I live in hope though.

My health is very good lately – and unlike my ‘previous life’ I recently promised myself that I would go to the doctor for a check up if anything seemed untoward now that I’m on the right track.

Currently something seems a little off and has been for about a month.

I keep getting what seems to be (according to my online research) postural hypotension – which is a really light headed feeling and dizziness when standing up from being seated or bending down.

This is currently annoying more than anything else and usually passes quickly – but a couple of times I’ve had to hold onto something to stop myself from falling backwards. Amongst my immediate peer group it seems that I’m not alone in experiencing this – and from what they’ve said most people I know have this from time to time.

However part of my brain (a paranoid and worrisome bit tucked away in the dark at the back) is wondering if this is nature calling time on my energetic fun and telling me that there’s something that I’ve not managed to fix with my new lifestyle.

When I had my blood pressure checked in January 2014 it was 140/77. I didn’t think much of it at the time (my doctor said simply that it was a ‘little high’) but looking it up I know now that this is stage one hypertension (high blood pressure) and that if left unchecked it has some pretty serious implications.

During the pre-testing before my last diabetic review in March 2017 it had dropped to 124/70 – (which is a really good range to be in) but yesterday when I went to the doctor to discuss this phenomenon I appeared to be on the slightly lower end of normal at 110/70.

This in itself is not cause for concern and it also isn’t necessarily the reason for what’s happening – so I have to have a supplementary blood test booked in a couple of weeks (there’s a waiting list as usual).

My friend asked me as we walked around Brandon Woods (talking about this unpublished post) yesterday ‘Do you normally suffer with low blood pressure?’

I had no answer. It’s impossible for me to say.

My body is (currently) always changing and I no longer have any idea of what ‘normal’ feels like. Everything is always new to me and I’m learning day by day as I get fitter and smaller what it does when it’s no longer encumbered by excess fat and expending all it’s energy on retaining equilibrium.

Do I ‘naturally’ have a pre-disposition to this?

Who knows? I certainly don’t.

On the plus side my blood work is going to be a full one to check my kidney function (problems here can apparently lead to these symptoms) my cholesterol and my glucose levels (HbA1c).

From what I read on the NHS Choices website slightly lower blood pressure isn’t necessarily a bad thing though – and I have quite a long way to go before it’s actually considered low:

‘As a general guide, low blood pressure is a reading below 90/60. If you have low blood pressure according to this guide, you don’t need to worry. Naturally low blood pressure rarely causes symptoms or needs treatment. Having low blood pressure is considered healthy because it protects you from the risks and diseases of high blood pressure.’

So – I’m probably worrying about nothing – and I went to the doctor just to be sure I was fit and healthy – but I as I explore here why it’s on my mind so much I realise that my underlying fear that something might be amiss is because I now love life. 

I have moved from not caring at all about dying (and in some respects wanting it to happen just to end the cycle that I was trapped in) to clinging onto my newfound vitality as tightly as I can so that I can experience everything that I missed when I didn’t have it.

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Each moment has become incredibly precious.

If anything internet it’s a good thing being reminded of mortality and the fact that you’re not superhuman. It ensures that there’s always a reason to keep trying – even if your less energetic inner voice would prefer to sit on the sofa.

On that note I need to go to bed…

Davey