I slept like a baby last night.
That’s not strictly true.
I actually woke up at 11.30pm on my sofa half way through an evening bowl of Weetabix (which I’d fallen asleep in the middle of eating around 9pm) before padding off to bed, where (once under a duvet) I lay motionless for the next 7 hours.
Today I still feel a little tired, but also very very content.
Yesterday I handed over the mantle of MOTY to another (very worthy) winner at the Slimming World HQ in Derby. As always the sparkly castle is a pleasure to visit – because the people there are always so nice – but if I’ve never been there without feeling a corresponding level of stress too.
Absolutely no-one makes me feel this way but me – and the reasons for feeling this way have been different every time. On this occasion I was mostly worrying about being out of target, not being quite as thin as I was when I attended last year and what I’d say to people.
It’s all in my head though.
All of the clothes I wore fitted just fine, people kept telling me I looked smart, fit and healthy and my partner kept reassuringly squeezing my hand and telling me I was definitely her cup of tea as well as pinching my bottom when no-one was looking.
Thanks to litres of coffee (only having had a few hours sleep) I think I managed to work through my concerns and pulled off the ‘fully functioning human being’ look long enough to shake a lot of hands, feature in a lot of selfies, speak to a lot of people, and then drive home without appearing manic.
Well – maybe not in all of the photos…
My smile can hide a lot though.
Sometimes in my head though I’m still the fattest man in the room and I’m not sure I’m ever going to get away from that.
It may well be with me for life.
Bizarrely though – despite feeling this way and desperately not wanting to be a disappointment to my assembled peers I was treated like a rockstar from the moment I arrived to the moment I left.
I lost count of the number of hugs and kind comments I received throughout the proceedings. Not only were the PR team and SW management all smiley and happy to see me again but the consultants and contestants all wanted to congratulate me on doing so well as well as ask me questions about how the year had been and how I’d found weight maintenance in the spotlight.
Consultants were even photobombing my selfies!
Things continued to be slightly surreal throughout the day.
When it was time for a bite to eat I realised I was on huge TV just inside the doors of canteen – meaning that I ended up watching myself on a loop whilst eating the lovely (Slimming World friendly) buffet meal they’d laid on for lunch.
As if things weren’t weird enough one of the PR team pointed out that things have changed a little since I last visited and that there’s now a MASSIVE life size photo of me (taken at the ball last November) on the wall in the Miles Bramwell suite!
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a static image of myself this big on any wall anywhere and I couldn’t help but take a photo.
My partner was also barely able to contain her glee and immediately bounded toward the wall like a Labrador chasing 20 tennis balls.
That woman absolutely flipping LOVES Rylan Clarke-Neal…
The day wasn’t about me (or him) though. It was about the selection of the new Slimming World Man of the Year 2019 – and everywhere I looked there were nervous hopefuls flanked by their anxious consultants. Every last one of them were desperately trying to remember their five minute speeches whilst no doubt dealing with their own inner demons.
The field of contestants was a little smaller this year than last. The 2019 crowd had already been whittled down to a group of 37 (although oddly I only count 34 here) before the day.
Crazily the same statistic from last year was in evidence – and the guys in this photo had lost an incredible average of OVER TEN STONE each.
As was the case for the MOTY event that I attended last year a random footballer (whom the ladies nearby had to tell me the name of) was the guest of honour. Apparently he’s quite famous – so I assume that my proximity will make other men rather jealous.
Truthfully I was completely clueless – although I will say that Ex England International Emile Heskey did seem (as did Ex England International John Barnes last year) like a lovely fellow – and had a killer handshake to go with his rather imposing stature.
You can’t see his feet here – but he was wearing heels.
I’m actually taller.
He’s a midget.
I have to say that the event brought back a LOT of memories – but this time the pressure was definitely a lot less than the first and second times I had visited HQ. Now I was standing there as the 3rd greatest loser 2018 and the returning Man Of The Year 2018, rather than a nervous contestant.
Now no-one could take anything away from me and instead this time around I got to sit where my judges sat before – which was behind the groups listening to the stories of the contestants.
Hearing these brought a lot of feelings to the surface.
Some of them are because I remember only too well the pain these guys felt in life. I’ve been bullied like they have. I’ve suffered the same health conditions they too have pushed into remission. I’ve been told I’m incapable of doing things because I’m too big and like them now I can do anything I want. I’ve struggled to find clothes but now walk into any shop and wear what I want just like them.
I’ve also felt the continual rebuke of a toxic parent like many had done, lived through the consequences of how worthless they made us feel and recognised the sense of lost opportunity and wasted time that many of them were still struggling with.
Every one of these personal humiliations and regrets are with me all the time in the background. They’re my continual dark passengers – and when life is hard they ring the bell on my bus, sometimes causing it to stop or swerve.
Occasionally they cause the wheels to fall off completely.
Just like me though all of these men chose another way – and whilst none of us will ever be ‘cured’ (who is?) they now have the tools to build a better life that’s free from pain and humiliation.
Furthermore they now have a platform from which they can shout aloud if they wish. They can go on social media and back to their groups with their heads held high and evangelise about what’s possible with loud, happy, positive voices.
Or if they prefer they can just quietly get on with life and silently inspire those who are watching from the sidelines.
They certainly inspired me – hopefully in the same way I’d inspired some of them.
We all need a reminder of why we try each and every day to be better people and these guys certainly did that for me.
My part in the proceedings wasn’t without it’s responsibilities mind you because my function this year was primarily to speak to the assembled crowd both at the start and near the close of events.
This is a difficult speaking engagement – because I didn’t want it to be about me and what I’d done to win the award last year. They already knew how hard it had been to lose weight.
I didn’t need to tell any of them that.
Instead I felt it was vitally important to get across the point that no-matter what happened that day every single man in that room has changed their life for the better and in doing so they had almost certainly changed the lives of others.
They were all already winners.
I had more to say though – because it what comes next for them (and many other target members who go to a group each week) is no longer about a race to a goal weight. It’s now about the start of an ongoing and never ending battle.
This award (and reaching target) isn’t the punctuation mark at the close of a journey. In many ways it’s capital letter on another page at the start an entirely new chapter – because now they all have to live with the sometimes difficult reality of getting what they’ve always wanted.
They’ve made it.
They’re standing on the top of their personal mountain.
But what comes next?
The bigger question they’ll all have to address now is how to live a life that wasn’t available to them before, and how live with being a source of inspiration for others without being undermined by their inner monologues. Each and every one of them has a new voyage to embark upon – and that’s one of weight maintenance combined with continual minute adjustments to their self image and self worth.
Now they rebuild.
They can all do it though.
I know they can.
They have the support of their groups and their consultants as well as people at home that love them.
I did make it a little personal though.
I couldn’t help myself.
I told the room that just after winning last year I randomly met my partner doing something I’d never been capable of without losing my weight. I told everyone listening that I was in love and that the greatest boon of the whole experience was not the award I’d received but what it had enabled for my future.
I got to tell them what it all meant, how happy it had made me and then I gave them all their awards and shook their hands.
It doesn’t get much better than that does it?
Not everyone can win though and shortly after the presentations the judges read out the names of the men that would move forward to the last part of the proceedings.
This was the final group of ten – and every last one of them was a worthy winner.
As is always the case it’s practically impossible to guess in advance of an announcement who will take home the title – but you can usually tell who’s in with a chance because they have the ability to make you laugh at the same time as make you cry and the eventual winner certainly did that.
I spoke to many, shook hands with all, and even gave out my phone number in one case, because (I have to be honest) I feel a sense of kinship with these people. If ever they need my advice or help they only have to ask.
I won’t be mentioning his name here, because that will soon appear in the media, but I will say that (along with many other guys yesterday) he truly deserved both the award he received and the recognition of his achievements from all those involved.
So – that’s almost the end of a my period as Slimming World’s MOTY 2018. Once I’ve been to the ball in November as the outgoing recipient I’ll probably be quietly getting on with my life in blissful anonymity.
I’ve handed the baton over to the next man. I hope he runs like the wind with it and I wish him all the luck in the world.
2019 and the rest of his life will never be the same again.