Regardless of where I am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So – as a consequence I’ve been overeating.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m gonna do it.

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

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

That’s all over now though.

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

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

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

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

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

I need to stop doing it.

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

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

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

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

It’s hard though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope it helps others too.

Davey

 

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

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

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

I’m an adult with adult tastes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It wasn’t cool at all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing good comes from feeling progressively unhealthier all the time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unlike the meeting and the consultant it was depressingly familiar.

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

‘I hate vegetables’ she said.

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

It gets my goat though.

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

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

thankfully I’m quite lucky in this respect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In my case I get vegetables right.

Almost everything else takes care of itself after that.

Davey

Leaning into Grassman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clutter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I finished my degree before the millennium…

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

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

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

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

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

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

This only slightly lifted my mood however.

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

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

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

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Sigh.

An alphabetised shelving unit is a thing of beauty.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a fact.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

So – it’s all about perception.

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

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

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

Honesty and truth are the only ways forward.

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

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

Lean into people internet.

They won’t let you down.

Davey

Difficult day

It’s a big day and if I’m brutally honest I’m struggling.

Today is the third anniversary of my mother’s death and for many reasons (probably not the ones you might expect) this is always a difficult time.

In my head there’s been a quiet countdown leading to this moment for a couple of weeks and as a consequence I’ve noticed my mood dip as well as my appetite quietly increase.

As much as I’d like to proclaim ‘I’m cured – it no longer affects me!’ This would be a total lie.

Even though I don’t miss my mom at all this is a time when I’m reminded of what I could or should have had in my childhood (and my relationship with her) but did not.

So – in an effort to exorcise some demons I decided that today was an appropriate time to get rid of the 30-40 odd framed paintings and photos that had I piled into boxes three years ago before hiding them away in a cupboard.

I’ve been holding onto them partly because I didn’t want to throw things away that she had created and partly because I thought my brother or father may want them even if I couldn’t bear to look at them.

Neither seems to be the case – and honestly I’ve never liked 99% of them so the only course of action that seemed to be left to me was to throw them away.

One or two (including all of the photos) I removed from their frames and kept – but everything else is now in a landfill or furnace somewhere.

I was hoping that this would make me feel good – but for the first time in years I’ve been confronted with my mom’s own unique brand of mental illness.

When I cleared her bungalow with my brother after she died it was exhausting (this is all documented in my blogs back when I first started writing).

This was not just because of the bereavement but because contained within each item there was another item, and within that another one.

Each was sellotaped into progressively smaller bags like little Russian dolls.

It took forever to unpack it all – and nothing could be arbitrarily consigned to the bin. There were tiny little caches of money hidden everywhere and I was acutely aware that there was a funeral to pay for.

Occasionally we also found small (or surprisingly large) bags of hair from different periods of her life that were labelled ‘for DNA testing‘.

Her picture frames it seems were no different – and underneath each taped up and nailed shut frame were more photos, scribblings and random (probably false) facts about family members.

Then I found the gut punch.

Hidden within a school photo of me was a draft letter, yellowed with age and dated October 1977.

This photo was taken a few years earlier – but in my mind this is the woman holding the pen.

The page detailed her feelings about her relationship with my father and contained intimate thoughts about their physical moments together.

Then it unexpectedly pivots into a passage regarding the sacrifice of Jesus and the relationship of this to her infant son.

Referring to me she says to my father:

‘He is our oneness. We dwell in him. He is our future on earth. The survival of our line. God will take him back to himself in time when all is fulfilled.’

I’m reminded immediately of her cadence in letters, her muddled allusion to both biblical scripture and other pseudo scientific thought processes.

I’m suddenly confronted with how her fractured and troubled mind worked and it momentarily takes the breath away from my lungs.

I sit on the edge of the bed in the quiet of my spare room.

At the end of the letter there’s a crossed out passage – which she’s noted did not get included in whatever version of the final letter was sent to my father.

Maybe it was too truthful and gave away far more information regarding her mental state than she was willing to share.

‘I am using too much adrenaline and the body I dwell in is suffering. The head aches and the singing in my ears gets worse. A quiet night is no longer a quiet night for me, my ears have their own noises of singing, ringing and bumps. Tonight the singing is a high pitched continuous note with occasional throbbing ever present. I have suffered this on and off since the age of 12.’

She continues – saying that she’s not good at looking after herself and is not eating. She’s losing weight, her bosom is disappearing and she says that she functions better when she has someone to look after.

The whole letter is like a selection of nails being hammered into me.

I’ve told myself many times (maybe to try and make sense of everything) that my mom wasn’t always the same person, and that time had slowly made things worse.

I like to think that when I was small she was a normal and loving mother – but the truth is she was exactly the same woman I had to deal with before she died.

I just never saw it as a child.

Her peculiar thought processes were my normal back then and because I learned early on to just accept her fragmented default state it took me many years to see her for who she really was.

It consequently took a long time to realise that the problems between us weren’t caused by me.

They were generated by her.

There was something profoundly odd about my mother. Although the words she used were English and seemed to link together, when you stood back (metaphorically speaking) the content of her sentences and paragraphs always left you confused or wondering why she had gone down one particular rabbit hole or another.

Usually the pleading side of her (evident in much of the draft letter I was reading) that begged for love (or more typically demanded it be given) came after she had done everything in her power to destroy any chance of it happening naturally.

More often than not letters like this came after significant rows – where her vitriol was at its worst and you were left scared to say anything in case it made things worse.

I’d be called evil, wicked, sick, ‘just like your father’ or ‘my biggest disappointment’.

The only route I had out as a child was to withdraw, go quiet and take it, hoping that it would stop eventually.

It never did though.

It would go on for hours and hours.

Occasionally she would let me go to sleep – thinking that the verbal beating was over.

Then she would wake me in the small hours of the morning stinking of tobacco, shaking with rage, shouting at me ‘…and ANOTHER thing…’ before she launched into the next part of her character assassination.

The following day when I returned home totally shattered from school after having had no sleep and dreading what was to come it was like nothing had happened.

She never referenced or apologised for anything she’d said – and instead expected full contrition from me.

If I mentioned anything about the night before I’d immediately start the whole sorry saga of ‘what I’d done wrong’ all over again.

Sleep was too precious at that point so I just stayed quiet and smiled or pretended.

Then without a word of apology or acknowledgement of the damage she’d caused, would arrive a demand for love.

When I was older and could get away from her afterwards this typically came in the post by letter until I moved and stopped providing her with my address.

When I did she continued to send letter after letter to my father – asking a man she wanted nothing to do with (but then professed undying love for) to pass her profoundly unbalanced thoughts on.

In the case of the letter I was holding the (very familiar) entreaty came written partly as a poem and partly as prose.

For my mother this was quite normal. I remember this kind of stream of consciousness all too well.

It was often stated in passages dripping with pain and symbolism that it was her ‘right‘ to receive love from her sons – that it should be given by her children ‘unconditionally‘ – just like she had given it to her parents before.

Back then I had always assumed that this was true and that as a child and adult she had been slavishly devoted to them. After all – it was what she continually told me was the case.

However after she died I learned from my uncle that the relationship she had with at least one of her parents was instead very different.

Her mother was scared of her and told her other children that she was frightened by her resentful and mercurial moods.

She didn’t know what would happen if she was left alone with her and in later years my grandmother saw my mother as a burden that was to be feared rather than relied upon for support.

As these thoughts flow through my mind I continued to take apart the yellowed picture frames and remove their contents.

In one photo (showing my uncle’s wedding reception) the picture has been trimmed. The background has been cut away, leaving only a collection of torsos and heads from the foreground.

Sealed and hidden away in another picture frame is the rest of the missing photo, depicting a pub wall without any people in front of it.

There’s nothing but wallpaper with cut out silhouettes.

Why keep it?

More to the point why chop it up in the first place?

Maybe it’s a part of the hoarder in her but I’ll never know because both her life and death remain frustratingly unresolved.

I’ll never understand who she was, why she thought the way she did, and why she manipulated and controlled rather than loved and nurtured.

I’m left with no good memories of her that she didn’t pollute over the years and I’ll never get an apology or an acknowledgement of the damage and heartache that she left in her wake.

Nevertheless I am glad of the final unwitting gifts that she left behind.

Firstly she made me want to be so unlike her that I finally found the power within me to break free of the self destructive behavioural loops that she left me with.

I gave up the drinking that I had consciously started to drown out her insults and I lost the weight I had gained through many years of eating away emotional and physical pain.

Secondly there’s practically the last thing she said to me before she died.

Unsurprisingly it wasn’t ‘I’m sorry’ because my mom never said that – and she never regretted anything.

Until that is she lay in A&E on the last day I saw her alive.

She was struggling to draw breath, in great discomfort and drowning slowly from the fluid collecting in her lungs.

Years of smoking had finally taken its toll – for which she was unrepentant. She smoked until the end and refused to acknowledge its impact.

‘I don’t regret ANYTHING.’ She said, and went quiet.

My brother and I looked at the wall.

Neither of us wanted to hear her voice any more. It was like nails being dragged down a chalk board.

‘Actually I DO regret something.’ She said, looking at me.

I turned my head.

This was new.

She’d never said anything like this before.

‘David.’ She said. ‘I regret…’

I listened to her stilted voice as she struggled to talk through her laboured and painful breathing.

‘…I regret that when you left home…’

The room was silent apart from the sounds of nurses passing outside the curtain.

‘… that you didn’t write to me and visit me more.’

I looked at her and then to my brother.

Honestly in that moment she released me.

Not only did she have no concept of what regret meant – but right up until the end she was incapable of recognising why I’d left home in the first place – and she still didn’t feel that she was in the wrong in any way.

I never had a chance.

I could never have understood her or fixed anything.

Right up until her last moments she was the same woman that it seems she was in October 1977 – and it’s most likely that she was well before I was born.

At least now all her paintings are gone.

Their cigarette smoke infused frames and canvases are no longer quietly lingering in my cupboard and I have the space back again – both in my home and (to an extent) my mind.

It’s taken me many many years but I’m slowly moving on. As well as I can I’ve tried to forgive her and hold no anger about our relationship – because there’s no point.

The only thing anger or hatred does is damage and pollute what’s left behind.

I refuse to let that happen because despite the destruction she caused her legacy is ultimately positive.

I’m now a different man to the one I was while she was alive and I hopefully have many many good years ahead of to make things ‘right’.

I feel like I wasted so much time dealing with the fallout of our relationship – but no more.

Despite her I want to life a good life, free from her legacy and (unlike her) being a positive voice in the world.

More than anything I’m glad that I’m capable of saying sorry or admitting that I’m wrong and that I still make mistakes.

To me internet that’s worth it’s weight in gold.

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

Learning things

You can learn something new every minute of every day.

Yesterday afternoon for instance I learned that the manmade concrete structures on some beaches (apparently used to prevent erosion caused by weather and longshore drift) are called tetrapods.

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Who knew?!

I’ve always abstractly wondered what they are – and now I know thanks to a knowledgable mine of information who explained what I was looking at as I admired the coastline in Seaford.

This is a wonderful part of the world – and one that I’ve barely scratched the surface of. So far I’ve been to the South Downs and Brighton (link) and I’ve loved both of them.

Seaford is just as charming and not much further down the coast. The character of it is very different though. It’s far less commercialised, a lot sleepier and way more picturesque.

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This town (as nice as it is) wasn’t the purpose of my visit though – because if you park up at it’s seafront, head up and along the nearby chalky cliffs above the tetrapods and take a delightful cliff walk to the nearby estuary you’ll find the seven sisters.

Making your way to Cuckmere Haven (by the arrows on the map) is pretty easy going. It’s only a couple of miles via some grassy and easily navigable paths (there’s a bit of elevation to deal with though) and when you arrive there you’re treated a lovely view.

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This region has some really interesting geological history – and a board at Hope Gap  (as well as my companion) answered a lot of the questions I had about why the landscape looked the way it did before I asked or even knew I had them.

I particularly liked the idea on the board of imagining where the cliffs used to be when the Normans invaded in 1066 and I bet it looked a lot different to he way it does now…

The whole place is filled with warning signs about chalk cliff falls – and the edge of the coastline is roped off to about 12ft back, so it’s clear that it’s eroding pretty quickly. It’s not advisable to get close to the edge, but if you stay well back it’s a great place for a picnic.

You peacefully can sit and admire the wonderful view whilst watching the various seabirds as they casually float past on the breeze along the cliff edge.

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When you’ve finished your healthy snacks and walked back along the cliffs to Seaford there’s also a lovely little snack and coffee shack at the end of the beach huts near a small museum – which was sadly closed when I visited.

This is a perfect place to have a coffee as you watch the sun slowly disappear into the distance. It’s even better if  you can chat with a twalking buddy.

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The whole experience makes for a grand day out and while I was there I learned a lot (much like the last time I visited).

It’s great to feel that there’s always something or somewhere new to suck into your brain – and this morning the theme continued when I learned yet another fun fact.

I discovered that it’s not a good idea to try and top up the oil in your car with the engine running. This results in everything under your bonnet and your lovely orange North Face snowboarding jacket being sprayed liberally with hot, dirty engine oil.

Sigh.

I’m clearly just not that smart.

It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

This epic personal faux pas was definitely a sub par start to my day. At any other time it may have managed to set the needle of my mood-o-meter to ‘grumpy and expecting the worst’ for the rest of the day.

However things like that only have an impact if your emotional reservoir is dry. Frankly that couldn’t be further from the truth because for the last couple of months I’ve almost constantly been in a great frame of mind.

It seems at times like nothing can dent my positivity and I’m wearing a full suit of emotional armour.

Today I felt particularly resilient though – and that was partially because in the dark of yesterday evening I had a sudden flash of blinding realisation. It hit me like a truck, and moved me profoundly – because suddenly, when faced with how at peace I am at the moment I had to accept something.

I’m no longer running a solitary race.

Something special has arrived and because of this I feel alive.

For the longest time I thought that there was no way out – and that my life would be curtailed early. I thought I’d die before I reached the age of 50 because of my lifestyle choices – and furthermore I actually wanted to.

I’d begun to believe that the only logical conclusion to my life was a huge early heart attack – and instead of working to avoid this I was actively trying to hasten its arrival. I was so low back then that I genuinely just wanted to eat and drink myself to death

Furthermore I had begun to believe that the world would be a better place without me in it because I contributed nothing and consumed everything around me.

I saw myself as a parasite.

Things change though and practically without any warning I suddenly gave up drinking. Then I started going to Slimming World. I focused all that I was and all of the strength that I could muster and funnelled it into turning myself into someone new.

While I was doing this though all I could see was the near horizon – and perched upon it was an award for reaching my target weight.

Maybe because I needed to believe that reaching this milestone this would fix everything in my life (how else do you find the motivation?) I didn’t really think past it.

All I knew was that I had to reach it.

I felt that my life depended on me getting there and if I didn’t then I was sure that it was definitely over. I couldn’t take another gradual climb back up to my previous weight and I couldn’t face yet another failure.

Deep down I knew that this was my last chance.

So I gave it everything – and because of that I made it.

I eventually stood on top of my own personal mountain as Slimming World Man of the Year – having lost almost two thirds of my body weight. I felt fit, alive, vital, strong, independent and successful. I was now a man who accepted awards, appeared in the media and spoke to groups of people who were inspired by his actions.

I’d done it.

I’d fixed everything.

Only I hadn’t.

Not really.

Right up until I hit target (and even for a little while afterwards) my literary brain had been constructing a fantastical narrative. I had always imagined my ‘Cinderella story’ as one that was bookended by a dark start rooted in death and then ended with life.

When I thought of my magical end point on the horizon I abstractly dreamed that reaching my goal weight would open up the world for me like a flower blooming in springtime.

I thought that all of this was happening when against all odds I became Slimming World’s Man of the Year. I thought I’d made it to the end of my journey and that everything good would now come my way.

This was all a delusion though – as anyone that’s lost a significant amount of weight will tell you – because life is still life and it’s still filled with both ups and downs.

When all the dust and hullabaloo settles you’re still left with your (often self critical) thoughts – but now you have removed all of the excuses you previously had for not living a full and complete life.

The ‘problem’ (if you can call it that) is that you then realise very few things around you make sense any more. Almost without warning you’ve woken up in someone else’s life and it appears to belong to someone else.

Your home and its furnishings seem like they were designed for another person.

You don’t know what kind of ‘style’ you have because you never had the ability to choose one before.

You can’t determine for sure what any of your opinions are because your choices in the past were almost all based on mobility and shame rather than personal beliefs of preferences.

Furthermore you’re confronted with the fact that in the past you just accepted a life that slowly grew like fungus around you as you sat inside the protective bubble of compulsive behaviour.

Over and over again after I reached target I looked in the mirror and struggled to determine who I really was.

As I grew bigger and my life shrank so did my aspirations. Before I knew it I’d lost sight of who I was, what I wanted, and how I really felt. I’d slowly closed myself off and all of my real emotions, desires and needs had gone into ‘low power mode’.

I ceased to feel the loss associated with having no-one to love, and I no longer recognised that I felt alone. I didn’t experience isolation or sadness any more though because I had constructed an excuse.

I was huge.

I’d eaten all of my pain away and no-one would want me anymore.

People ceased to ask why I lived alone because it was obvious – and that suited me just fine because I didn’t have to confront reality. My best friend (food) always had an answer to make my pain go away.

It filled emotional gaps for many many things – but it was a false prophet. It promised comfort and love when all it brought with it was destruction and pain.

Continually it told me that it would make everything better – it would soothe me temporarily – yet again and again it lied.

It made everyting worse and worse until there was no-where left to go but an early death.

I managed to turn it around though. I fixed everything.

I won.

Or at least I thought I had.

Suddenly I found myself, standing at the top of my mountain having tasted victory but feeling completely empty. After all what had I really achieved? In reality I’d just levelled the playing field and put myself right back at the start where everyone else was.

Sure – I now looked like everyone else and was anonymous for the first time in my life. I could walk into a room and no-one would pay any attention to me. I wasn’t a freak of nature and I didn’t invite lingering stares or insults.

However it quickly dawned on me that I was still twenty years behind everyone else. I had (what I considered to be) a ruined body, had never been married, had no children and I didn’t know how to begin fixing this problem.

I felt alone.

The realisation of this pushed me lower than I’d felt in a long time – and for quite a while I didn’t know how to get over it.

The universe listens though – and you just have to watch for the signs.

Yesterday I admitted to myself that almost a year after I reached my target weight things have finally changed. I have entered a new chapter of my life and here my whole story begins anew.

There’s hope, and with it comes a tangible sense that things are truly different. I’m beginning to feel long dormant emotions and think in ways that I haven’t for decades. Each day now seems to be fresh and new because of this and I finally feel I can begin move away from the wreckage of the past and live firmly in the future.

It’s better than that though because I don’t just have a future that didn’t exist before.

I have a future that doesn’t have to be lived in solitude.

I may be at the start again but I’m poised on the blocks, ready to run, with hope in my heart and a smile on my face.

The world is out there and I’m reaching out to take it every single day.

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Davey

 

Who was that man?

There are days where your mood is so positive and so upbeat that pretty much any storm (metaphorical or literal) will fail to dent it.

Over the last couple of days I’ve had something of an extra spring in my step, and have caught myself smiling throughout the day. It’s a nice feeling to have such a sunny disposition when the weather is so grim and cold – particularly in the lead up to Christmas.

On Tuesday the weather was absolutely crap. It did nothing but rain.

I didn’t mind however.

It’s only weather and currently it can’t dampen my spirits.

On Monday morning the sky was a totally different colour though. When I left the leisure centre at about 9.15am (already feeling pretty awesome after my swim) the weather seemed to be reflecting my mood.

The day looked like it held a lot of promise.

When I’d hit the pool an hour and a half earlier though I’d initially felt rather tired – so instead of trying to go increasingly faster I just carried on at (what now seems like) a rather sedate pace.

In short I just resolved to enjoy myself.

The great thing was that rather than rousing my head from bed with an alarm (which I usually need when the mornings are so dark) I’d woken up darned early and arrived at the leisure centre with plenty of time to swim.

The distance I’ve been doing lately usually takes around 45 minutes.

In this time I can do about 50 lengths of the pool continuously and afterwards I feel like I’ve had a good workout.

After a few lengths though (and knowing that I had a longer window to play with) I wondered whether I could keep my sedate (but perpetual) back and forth going for over an hour – and if so how by how much?…

It turns out that I can keep it up for quite a bit longer.

I’ve found that once I relax into the rythmic nature of the task and focus on just breathing my mind slowly begins to wander.

I no longer look at it as effort – but relaxation instead.

Since I’d had a pretty great weekend on Monday morning my mind had plenty of places to go in this mood.

My swim passed by at light speed with practically no effort required on my part at all.

For the first time (without realising it) I stopped looking at the clock or checking the number of lengths on my watch.

I just focused on the ripples on the water and the people passing by while I drifted along. As I did so a glorious golden light was streaming in through the huge windows and reflecting from the surface of pool onto the walls.

The water was pleasantly warm and so was I.

Surprisingly the time window to swim finished (the local schools take over the pool at 9am) before my arms or legs began to tire.

In the space of just one month I’ve made some really tangible fitness gains!

As I look at this state of affairs I must admit to being somewhat mystified – but I’m not confused by what’s in these screenshots – because if you practice at anything then you will inevitably get better.

I’m just wondering why ten or twenty years ago I couldn’t see any of this.

I really don’t get how I’ve moved from not understanding how anyone could not only regularly participate in, but also ENJOY exercise to someone that continually plans his day around getting enough of it.

I mean – I know the effort that it took to get here and I know the points at which I did things. I know what I had to consume and I know how much I needed to move to become the man I am today.

I understand the dietary mechanics behind how I’ve changed.

It’s the pivot from ‘negative me’ to ‘positive me’ that I find so confusing.

How on Earth did my mindset change in such a wholesale manner?!

What amazes me even now is that the struggling and downbeat way of thinking I used to have is alien to me when I compare it to the person currently typing this.

I genuinely no longer recognise the man I was, despite occasionally being reminded that I inhabited his mind and body for most of my life.

Yesterday – at the suggestion of a friend I created this comparison shot for Instagram, and although it doesn’t represent the largest I was it does show me once again in emotional free fall – although you’d probably not know it to look at me.

I’m looking happy in the bottom photo because this friend has purposefully sought me out (she was seated on another table and came looking for me) so that we could get a picture together.

That friendship persists to this day and over time (in many ways helped by my changes) has matured continually.

We keep in contact far more than we used to and we now share quality time with exercise that benefits both of us instead of just instant messaging or drinking coffee.

The before and after picture is therefore less about weight loss in my mind and instead represents happiness.

It shows something that I consider to be permanent in my life and reminds me that what I’ve done has continued to make that possible.

The picture is multi layered though.

When I look at the old me I also see the glassy look in my eyes and feel the spiritual burden of the glass of wine in my hand.

Shortly before this was taken I’d been trying to lose weight, had been doing ok – and then a few months prior to the Christmas party had started putting it all back on again.

Mostly because of the shame of this (I hated looking continuously bigger each time I caught up with people I rarely saw) I was drinking to get drunk that night.

My strategy proved successful.

By the end of this party I was both hammered and bloated – and when I awoke the next morning felt like crap.

This morning though that man was barely even a memory.

He exists now only in photos and even then when I look at ones he’s in and create these comparisons I don’t really recognise him any more.

In January I’ll be celebrating three years without a hangover – and I can say that with supreme certainty because I know who I am now.

I may not understand fully how I can be so separate from the person I used to be but I know how happy I am currently and I love that today I wanted to get out of bed and do this.

I managed to swim sixty lengths of the local pool in under the time it previously took me to do twenty one month ago.

How flipping cool is that?!

The old guy is gone. His failures and weaknesses are almost all in the past and every day in every way I strive to be a better person – showing anyone that cares to read these posts what’s possible if you just try.

It’s good to be alive and healthy.

It’s good to be me.

I like me.

Davey

Whispering tree

It’s been a few days since I posted – and that’s not because I’ve had nothing to say.

It’s quite the opposite in fact – a lot has happened – but I’ve made a conscious decision to switch off my usual ‘document everything’ mode.

For several days I’ve not written anything and I’ve taken almost no pictures.

The reason?

I’ve just been living in the moment and enjoying life – which has unexpectedly (and in the nicest possible way) taken a turn for the better.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote this Christmas Tree post and at the time I felt genuinely lost and really quite sad.

I was wondering fundamentally whether everything I’d done recently to improve myself had been worth it – and I had been facing up (for quite a while by then) to the fact that I felt desperately alone.

Like a pebble in a pond however some blog posts create ripples that slowly radiate outwards until they touch something – and the feedback I had from many people about this entry both warmed my heart and made me feel the absolute opposite way to how I felt when I began to construct it.

Within moments of posting offers of Christmas dinners seemed to be everywhere and the personal feedback about similar feelings of loneliness weren’t far behind.

One response in particular proved ultimately to be a herald of great promise.

Christmas is a difficult time for a lot of people and although I previously thought I was immune to its negative effects that day reminded me that that I wasn’t any different to anyone else.

Once again I was shown that (where human beings are concerned) there is more that binds us together than separates us.

We all look different and sound different – but behind superficial looks the same worries, fears and needs exist.

The universe was listening throughout all of this – and it seemed it had been paying attention for quite a while – pushing me in the right direction.

Until that moment I’d just failed to interpret and understand the message.

The universe had already delivered positivity unexpectedly and unambiguously to my doorstep – and because of this today I could barely be in a better frame of mind.

Yesterday (for my third and final planned week off in a row) I missed weigh in and went walking along The Malvern Hills with a friend.

You needn’t worry readers. I’m still in target. My own scales report that I’m 13st 13lbs.

Missing group was in many ways ill advised though.

It was an awful day and Alexa said she didn’t want me to go.

Neither did Siri.

‘Heavy rain and sleet’ was the forecast and they both repeated it day after day, word for word.

For once my local AI were in agreement – which was a surprise.

Amazon’s relentlessly sunny disposition usually clashes with Siri’s more downbeat take on the weather and because of this they generally bicker like teenagers.

Within moments of starting out at British Camp the wind threatened to blow us off the sides of the hills.

The rain looked as if animals would soon be seen collecting in twos nearby to board a large boat.

I was so soaked on the second leg of the walk that I was wringing huge volumes of water out of my gloves at regular intervals.

Rain had penetrated the (ahem) delicate areas of my person and I was cold.

When my friend and I took shelter in a pub near the end of our walk we also managed to end up in the only seat with a ridiculously cold draft continually hitting our backs.

We shivered throughout our time there and spent the majority of it clutching hot mugs of tea.

All of the layers I was wearing were drenched, my wallet was full of water (thank goodness for plastic money!) my trousers and long johns were soaked through and my socks had begun to take on board water as well.

It didn’t matter though.

None of it mattered – because the day was about good company.

It was all about a renewed drive to spend time with the people in my life that are and have become extremely important to me.

The conversation never stopped, the smiles never ended – and even the ridiculously dangerous journey home on a waterlogged motorway failed to dent the mood as we chatted the time away.

Even when I stopped at a pub on the way home for a toilet break, slipped in the rain and banged my leg on a small metal fence (leaving a lump the size of an egg on my shin) it completely failed to remove my smile.

It was one of those excursions that remind you there is sometimes only good company and perspective that separate a good day from a bad day.

Thanks to both of these I filled up my happinesses reservoirs and I’m pretty certain that they’ll take a while to deplete.

The day ended (as all great days should) with a geeky sci-fi movie in a warm house with comfy slippers and a blanket.

In the background I couldn’t help but notice my Christmas Tree, just quietly sitting there.

Out of the corner of my eye as I relaxed into comfortable nerd heaven I couldn’t help but think that it was winking at me and whispering something.

It’s all imaginary of course internet – but if my tree could have talked I know what it would have said.

‘Told you things would get better’ it would have said softly and quietly.

It wouldn’t have been wrong.

Davey

Swimming update

So – yesterday’s post was pretty downbeat, and I’d be lying if I said that this morning I bounced out of bed like a happy puppy wagging my tail.

Sitting in bed feeling sorry for oneself did no-one any good in the history of ever mind you – and it will probably come as little surprise to anyone reading that I find it pretty difficult to do this at the best of times.

I’ve been hitting the swimming pool pretty regularly in the mornings, despite my butt strain (it’s still a thing annoyingly) and I’m slowly improving my fitness and stamina.

For those who didn’t see my original post when I first plucked up the courage to go swimming (link) I wasn’t that quick to begin with.

Although I didn’t feel I had a problem with general stamina at the time, I simply didn’t trust my arms to get me from one end of the pool to the other without failing half way.

I needed to pause between lengths for them to recover and at the time they really needed it.

I’m pretty a pretty determined guy at times though – and two factors (in this case) motivated me to stick at it.

Firstly – getting my money’s worth.

I’ve so far used my ‘pay up front’ subscription on 12 out of the available 14 days that I could have in November.

This means (bearing in mind it normally costs £4.70 per swim) that my new favourite activity has been coming in at a frugal 83p a day!

Consequently I not only feel like I’m getting my money’s worth but I now also have renewed confidence that my sphincter is unlikely to allow liquid ingress whilst it’s submerged.

Secondly – I need to demonstrate to myself that I’m continually improving with my stats.

Apple Watch is a powerful motivator – and I’m so glad that recently I replaced my original model with one that’s capable of tracking swimming workouts.

It was the added motivation to justify the cost of this (which I really struggled to do at the time) that eventually helped to wedge me into a pair of speedos.

Today this wonderfully pushy little companion tells me that I almost cracked the 18 minute barrier for 20 lengths.

I can now continuously swim a kilometre and a half without stopping.

This means that I am now capable of swimming almost THREE TIMES THE DISTANCE that I could originally do in almost the same time frame.

Whereas 500m could be completed in 51.06 two and a half weeks ago, 1500m is now do-able in 54.37.

To see this kind of tangible progress is really positive – and I couldn’t be happier with how things are progressing.

It’s not just numbers either.

Even though I started swimming half way through November it’s had a noticeable impact on my monthly active calorie burn.

(This is the figure that I burn through exercise over and above the normal 2500 kcal a man theoretically expends during a day)

Never in my life have I ever been able to swim this far or for so long.

Honestly I could have carried on – but by this time the pool had started to fill up with children and slow movers.

Instead I decided to float in the corner for a while and contemplate what to do with the rest of the day.

The weather is overcast and glum but I’m of the opinion that I need to consciously do something to lift my spirits.

I’m not really sure what that is yet…

We shall see internet!

Davey

Christmas Tree

My Christmas tree is up and dressed.

It looks all sparkly and bright – and when there are no other lights in my living room my tree adds a pleasing seasonal glow between my TV and book case that wasn’t there before.

It took me about an hour of casually attaching baubles and tinsel last night to get it to the point where it looked ‘balanced’ as opposed to ‘busy’.

I kept standing back and looking at it from different angles to try and gauge whether or not it looked ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ until I finally decided that it was a pointless exercise.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (in this case me) and I came to the conclusion that my tree looked nice.

After all – nobody but me will be looking at it for the next month so the only opinion that mattered was my own.

Liberated from deliberation I sat down in my armchair to enjoy the satisfaction of a room lit only by Christmas lights and quietly sipped my coffee.

It looked nice but…

It made me feel…

Sad.

And there it was.

A dark cloud was suddenly hanging above my armchair – and in its long shadow sat myself and my Christmas tree.

I’ve had my head buried in books all week – and rather than outputting to my blog I’ve been focusing on inputting to my brain.

It’s not my usual type of behaviour.

When I withdraw and do this kind of thing I realise (mostly after the fact) that it’s generally because something seems to be ‘missing’ or ‘off’ in my life.

I’ve been really rather enjoying ‘The pursuit of Happiness’ by Ruth Whippman – which is written in a humorous and engaging style that has really sucked me in.

Sadness was far from my mind when I started reading this current tome (despite its title) because I wasn’t really expecting to be confronted with the answer that it professed to have.

The book rather bravely gave away its conclusion quite early in the first chapter – with the author deciding instead to spend the remainder of her book supporting her initial hypothesis.

Her argument is that whoever studies suggest are the happiest individuals (be they in cultural groups, religions, family units or even cults) all happen to have one thing in common.

Fundamentally they provide happiness because they all have human relationships at their core.

Families often persist through the worst abuses and difficulties and members will forgive many transgressions, forgo short term freedoms and sacrifice personal happiness for one another in the hope that life will ultimately be better for their sacrifice.

Whilst situations like this may cause stress there’s an implied payday waiting at the end of it all.

Husbands, wives, children, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles will have an enduring family, companionship and love.

No matter how restrictive your religion is, however difficult you find parenthood, whether your philosophical clique requires you to work for free or give up your wealth in its service they all provide happiness because of the sense of community and belonging that they offer.

Some become oddly abusive relationships – such as homosexuals continually trying to exist in restrictive Mormon churches that consider them aberrations.

Even in these extreme situations – (despite a tradeoffs where they are required to make immense personal sacrifices) they can still come to believe that the pain is worth it.

Ruth Whippman argues that if we can bear to give up certain freedoms to remain part of a tribe – we can still legitimately and truthfully profess to be happy because the sense of belonging and support that other aspects of it give us still outweighs the ‘bad’ aspects of membership.

This is what keeps us coming back for more.

The need for human connections.

The pursuit of happiness makes some interesting and thought provoking arguments – and therein lay the origin of my Christmas tree related feelings.

I looked up from it’s pages in the warm and chatty coffee shop that I was sitting in.

My legs were crossed and my booted feet were resting on a low radiator which ran along the length of a large window looking out onto a street below.

Outside the sun had broken through the clouds of the early morning and it was shining.

My coffee tasted wonderful, my feet were warm, my clothes loose and comfortable and my surroundings were pleasing.

Like most things in my life though I was suddenly aware that all of these things were being experienced alone.

It all began to hit me there.

I was reading a book that was convincingly explaining why a huge chunk of the western world is fundamentally unhappy and it was describing me.

All of the people it described that were isolating themselves in mindfulness, yoga or spiritual retreats to find happiness were me.

Frustrated by other parts of my life that didn’t seem to be ‘working’ I was looking inward, trying to understand myself and gain insight into what would make me a more contented and loveable person, when in fact just being with other people made me feel and come across that way.

For many years I’ve actually been very comfortable with my situation.

Well.

Not really.

That’s not entirely true.

What I really mean is that I’ve learned to just exist on my own.

This isn’t because I dislike the company of others.

It’s quite the contrary in fact because I revel in it – but several (mostly self inflicted) factors led to me feel like it was ‘normal’ to live the way I do.

For the longest time I never really felt that there was an option to be otherwise.

My weight and health provided an excellent excuse for my lack of impetus to address this part of my life and was a really convenient cover.

After all – who would want a man that was so physically colossal and such a huge failure in life?

Compounding this internal thought process was part of the reason things had gone so wrong with my life in the last two decades in the first place. My last relationship (which ideally I wanted to continue forever) ended rather abruptly, and frankly when it did I felt cheated out of happiness.

I was angry and in pain – and I smoked, ate and drank to avoid dealing with it.

For many many years I treated this point in time the same way that others treat a bereavement. I felt like the part of me that could love and trust a partner ‘died’ the day that she left my life.

If I’d have been Queen Victoria this would have been the beginning of my humourless and stoic ‘black period’.

I isolated myself in self flagellating grief.

Honestly it wasn’t that hard to do.

I’d had a largely solitary childhood with a mother who was abusive and a father that was distant.

My nearest sibling was over a decade younger than me and school represented nothing more than a war of attrition. Looking back it feels like I only ever seemed to learn how to not show fear, pain or loneliness during the relentless bullying I suffered on an almost daily basis.

It wasn’t until the age of 16 that things started to change – and at this point I embarked upon a previously undreamt of period of popularity with friends and the opposite sex.

I remember at the time (by then having lost a lot of weight) that I was ‘fixed’.

The past was behind me and I was now free to bend the world into whatever I wanted it to be.

Furthermore I’d enjoy it in full technicolour and get as loaded as I possibly could.

Unpopular Dave became ‘party Dave’ and he did EVERYTHING to excess.

Ultimately though we all realise the folly of our personal delusions – and I now know that I smoked, drank and did many other mind altering things to paper over painful personality cracks.

I never once tried to repair one of them – mostly because I lacked the self awareness to see them for what they were in the first place.

I couldn’t see that every action was the result of childhood damage and the vast majority were either physically or emotionally self destructive.

Relationships were an extension of this – and were all designed to prove to the world that I was ‘normal’ and ‘deserving of love’ when deep down I felt I was neither.

If I’m truthful I didn’t love the majority of my partners.

I liked them a lot – but back then I was far more concerned with whether or not they loved me. If they did then they functioned as outward proof to the world that I wasn’t wicked or evil (my mom’s preferred way of describing me) or the odd little fat kid alone in the playground.

When the poor lifestyle choices related to the weight of my emotional burdens eventually translated into physical bulk it actually made things easier.

Now I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone.

No one expected me to have a relationship – and instead all I had to do was learn to manage my time and construct a framework to my life that would make loneliness instead appear to be ‘freedom’.

Now though things are different and physically I have a new lease of life.

I possess freedoms that I’ve fought hard to regain. It’s real rather than imagined – but all of a sudden I feel desperately alone in it.

Over the last couple of months I’ve quietly tried to fill it with personal entreaties and dating sites – but so far I’m not making much headway.

Up to this point I’ve just made choices that ultimately served to exacerbate my feelings of isolation and instead of feeling closer to anyone or anything have been left feeling generally alone and more disconnected.

I’m not really into writing ‘poor me’ blog posts – but I can’t deny that currently this is pretty much how I feel.

The Christmas tree with it’s glittering tinsel and baubles in front of me is a reminder of my problem – not the cause.

Life isn’t meant to be lived alone.

A Christmas tree is meant to be shared.

In some ways making ‘steps forward’ and trying to fix this has made the problem even more acute than it was before.

Whereas previously I felt like there was a gap that I probably needed to fill at some vague point in the future – now I’m just beginning to feel rejected and needy.

Every chat that I have on dating apps seems to put me in contact with people that are either not interested in me or that have omitted huge things from their profiles.

This is presumably in the hope that somehow people will never ask whether they’re actually divorced, if they have loads of children or a job that means they have around 1 hour a week spare if they’re lucky.

So far I’m at a loss.

I have also become painfully aware that whilst I’ve succeeded in transforming myself into a ‘normal’ man I still feel that underneath all my success lies an uncomfortable truth that even if I find someone I like that I’m never going to be accepted for who I am.

In the dark of my living room, in the half light of my tree I feel lost.

On the plus side though internet my Christmas tree looks nice, so that’s something at least.

Davey

Being a role model

So. October is once again a distant memory.

Hello November.

Last month’s legacy has been a mixed one. In one respect I feel like I’ve recently made genuine life progress and begun to confront something that I’ve been deferring for a long time.

In others I’ve been working hard to convince myself that I will indeed be slim for life – and that my history of continually yo-yo dieting is finally at an end.

At the start of the month I wasn’t at all convinced. My self confidence was faltering – and whilst winning an award for Slimming World was nice it didn’t really change the fact that I’m still trying to deal with and process many aspects of my new life.

I’ve moved from ‘pathetic’ to ‘successful’ in a relatively short space of time – but just because I’m ‘fixed’ on the outside it doesn’t mean everything is perfect on the inside.

One of the downsides to this newfound attention (as nice and exciting as it can be) is that when you’re losing weight in Slimming World groups you’re in a comfortable and supportive bubble.

Everyone’s in the same boat. We feel the other’s pain, and more often than not we navigate away from saying things to each other that we know may hit a nerve or that aren’t supportive.

We ourselves have a lifetime of learning what hurts our feelings and we don’t throw that in other group members faces.

In short there are many things in Slimming World you will never hear.

In the outside world though it’s all fair game – and you have to quickly develop a thick hide, because when you’re available on social media and appear in the press then the people contacting you for advice don’t necessarily share the same approaches.

Their goal is not to support you – more often than not it’s to get something from you – even if that’s with the best of intentions.

Often (because it’s the way of journalism or the public’s perception of how you should act if you’re present on social media) many people I’ve encountered since the award don’t bother to get into the preamble of getting to know me before lurching into some really quite intimate and personal questions.

If those relate to things that already occupy your thoughts or drive your fears then you’ve got to find a way of coping with lots of people asking you about them over and over and over again.

It doesn’t matter whether I’ve been asked about my journey by dieters or people who’ve never suffered with the same problem – the starting point always seems to be the same.

‘What do you do with all the skin?’

I’m not sure why this is the first thing on everyone’s mind because it was never the first thing on mine when I saw other people losing weight – but I’ll be really honest when I say there is a lot of it left, it does worry me that I’ll never be accepted or loved because of it and I don’t want to have to cut lumps out of myself to be feel better or because someone else wants me to be ‘normal’.

It undeniably hurts though sometimes to be questioned like this – and after the hundredth plus time (I’m not kidding – it’s probably a lot more) of politely answering this question whilst trying to be measured and helpful there have been moments where I’ve felt like screaming ‘it doesn’t matter – why don’t you just want to be healthy and to live a better life?!’

I don’t though.

Like many things this is something (for all the public wrangling I do with my feelings) that I internalise and I don’t usually talk about.

I’ve discussed it with a select few and shown parts of my body to only three other people since I started losing weight and I am terrified of how everyone else will look at me if they see me disrobed.

I can’t bring myself to wear short sleeved tops, shorts above the knee, or go swimming (yet).

I am not ashamed of who I am but I still feel that I don’t want to draw attention as a freak or curiosity like I have done for so much of my life.

I was bullied for so long in my past that the scars from it still run really deep.

Instead I want to blend, be part of everyday society and try to focus on the times that people say to me ‘you don’t ever look like you’ve been big’.

This worry about both acceptance and appearing ‘normal’ has contributed to a major meltdown recently – which as many of my worst ones tend to do – happened almost completely without warning and affected me (and I’m ashamed to say others) deeply.

I’ve been trying to convince myself that many things don’t matter – that’s it’s ok to still be alone at this point in my life, that the skin issue is immaterial, that I will eventually find someone that loves me, a life purpose that drives me like weight loss has, and that I have a future filled with health, vitality and companionship.

I also don’t want to be a fat, drunken failure again and my fear of this is always in the background.

Paradoxically this fear sometimes leads to me right back to the doorstep of comfort eating, and despite losing twenty plus stones I’m still capable of sliding backwards and ‘failing’.

The thing is that now (with my award) I feel much greater pressure to be ‘perfect’ than I ever did before.

Whereas prior to this I was just a guy in a little group in Warwick quietly trying to rebuild his life (albeit in a very public way) now I have the added status of being a role model to add to the mix (not my words – this is what people keep telling me I’ve become) and if you take that the wrong way it can be quite damaging.

The truth is that I’m having to continually confront and remind myself of the fact that to be a healthy ‘role model’ perfection is not required.

Unhealthy examples in social media of plastic smiles and perfect bodies make us all feel undermined and undervalued – and I’m just as guilty as anyone else of feeling like I’m less than I should be because I see a picture of someone who seems to have everything I lack.

I’ll never be Hugh Jackman or look like Chris Hemsworth.

The true role model though is NOT the airbrushed Superhero or Hollywood icon. It’s not to be found in the gym selfie with perfect skin tone and abs – and it’s not in the youthful swimsuit photo on a far away beach – because none of us can be that forever, and even if we are it’s just for a fleeting moment.

Life changes us and our bodies are reflections of the paths we take.

Our baby bellies tell stories of the joy that children can bring and our saggy parts often remind us that we’ve improved our health by losing the weight that once filled those spaces.

We’re more than visual perfection – we’re human beings and we are perfect just the way we are without cutting anything off, without colouring or bleaching our skin or burying our faces in makeup.

We have to make the best of what we have – and if we can do that with confidence then our smiles and our happiness become our social currencies – not the images of us without clothes or posing with a camera pointing down from the sky to get the best possible angles without chins.

So – October (for me at least) has been about getting back to dietary basics, of following the Slimming World plan, of writing a personal food diary every day, of going to group and facing the music or just going there because it helps.

#onplanoctober has worked.

Although I never told a soul this was how the month started on the 1st of October.

After a few really bad days (where if it wasn’t bolted down I ate it) the scales said I was ridiculously out of target.

Officially (in my mind) I was a failure again.

I’d not only taken the expectations of my friends but now also Slimming World’s officials and my blog readership and I’d failed all of them.

Catastrophe.

I was going to destroy myself again and it was all inevitable.

I couldn’t tell anyone the depths of how ashamed I felt that I thought I was once again eating the pain away.

These are all just things we tell ourselves when our negative inner narrative takes over though. None of it is true and none of it defines reality.

It just leads to bad decisions – of which I’ve made a few recently – and they all happen when I try to deal with things in isolation.

The truth of it is that on Saturday I will stand on stage and accept an award that in many ways I still feel I am undeserving of.

That’s not false modesty.

I know I lost huge amounts of weight. I’m not daft. I’m proud – and I totally killed that objective.

Yay me.

There’s more to getting an award like this though because it’s not about numbers. It’s about being judged ‘worthy’ – and how do you ‘win’ something with that criteria when surrounded by so many others who are just as deserving?

Not only do I struggle with being viewed as inspirational after years of being seen (by myself and others) as a failure – but I met many other men who were in line for the same award as me – and none of us were any less or more deserving of the award.

Yet for some crazy reason it ended up in my hands.

I want to be worthy of it.

I want to be a good example.

I want to be able to help people.

But flawless role models don’t help anyone.

They just show an image that seems to be completely unobtainable and convince people that the journey is impossible – that for whatever reason they will never have what that airbrushed social media personality has.

So I write about how much I fail as much as I feel I can in public- because I feel that my pain, regrets or insight might have value for others.

If they see my weakness they know it’s ok to feel their own – and believe it or not I’ve also found that this makes me feel stronger.

Sometimes I can’t bring myself to do it though and that last picture of me standing on the scales after a week of pigging out is one of those times.

I couldn’t post it or admit it a month ago. I just wanted to fix it without anyone knowing.

With some determination I’ve pulled it around however – and in doing so I’ve not starved myself. I’ve followed the plan, been honest with myself about what’s going in my mouth and I’ve done a LOT of exercise.

My record daily average distance (it’s now 12.5!) has been smashed due to my efforts and this month alone I’ve walked over 387 miles to reach my objective of being healthily under my target weight.

If you wonder what I’ve been eating every day then here’s a typical diary.

Lunch

  • 200g baking potato
  • Tub of cottage cheese with onion and chive
  • Jar of gherkins
  • 3 Tomatoes

Dinner

  • 500g 5% fat pork mince
  • Red pepper
  • 380g mushrooms
  • Large courgette
  • Small onion x2
  • 240g Kidney beans
  • Bunch of broccoli
  • Can chopped tomatoes

Dessert

  • 100g blueberries
  • 250g frozen Aldi summer fruits
  • 250g natural yogurt

Snacks

  • 2x apples
  • 2x conference pears

The point that I want to get over here is that in doing what I’ve done in October I’ve not starved myself.

Far from it.

I’ve just eaten (a lot of) healthy food and burned more calories than I’ve consumed.

I drew one of those infamous ‘lines in the sand’ that we all make from time to time after a bad patch in Slimming World and promised myself I will not not cross over it.

My personal line was the screenshot of the scales above.

Yesterday the impetus this picture of personal dissatisfaction gave me meant that I finished with a bang.

After an epic ten mile walk around St Nicholas park (even by my standards this was huge) that had an average mile speed of 15 minutes and six seconds I went home and stood on the scales.

Although they’re my scales and not Slimming World’s I know that they’re accurate (the one in group is always identical) and because of that I have demonstrated once again to myself on an ‘every other day’ basis that over the course of a month if I eat well and work hard good things happen.

I’ve dropped nearly a stone and a half.

It’s worth pointing out too that during the last month things did go both up and down.

There were some odd lurches back up on the scales in October that I simply couldn’t explain – but I stuck to plan, followed it all through and kept going.

So – if anyone out there wants to refer to me as a role model or an inspiration I’m not going to say I feel any more comfortable with the position than I did a month ago – and I doubt I ever will.

I’m still filled in dark times with a crippling lack of self worth and a fear that I’m not going to measure up to peoples expectations of me.

I’m terrified that I’ll let myself down too (my standards are way higher) and I’m often paralysed by how I’ll move forward in life or find love and acceptance in the world.

However – if there’s one thing I can do that will make that fear and insecurity worthwhile its sharing it and making sure that others looking to me for answers will see it’s ok to not be perfect.

It’s ok to fail.

It’s ok to not feel like you can cope from time to time.

It’s ok to worry about who will love you and what they’ll see when they look at you.

You just have to try and take each day as it comes.

If you do internet then good things happen.

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

Still determined

I’m a man that feels he is need of a win today, despite (to all intents and purposes) already being someone that’s winning.

Outwardly things are often very different to what’s on the inside though, and I (like many people on the same journey) have times where everything tastes of ashes. I know that dark days are little more than fleeting moments though in the great scheme of things – and that all it takes is the gradual passage of time to get over anything – but occasionally perspective is elusive and there are times where I can’t seem to find it.

The last three days on and off  (despite what outward appearances may have suggested) have witnessed me feeling like this.

It doesn’t seem to matter how far I walk at the moment because there are thoughts that I just can’t escape easily. Elements of my emotional landscape that previously seemed secure and comfortable now feel like I’m trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole and I can’t understand why.

Some things can’t be changed though.

You just have to deal with them for what they are, try to accept them and focus on the things that you can make a difference with. I’ve learned the hard way via many many mistakes and failures in life that regardless of what happens there is always a way through it that doesn’t involve self destruction.

So many times in the past I told myself that because I felt down I deserved a junk food treat, or that alcohol was the answer to my problems, and not once did the bulging waistlines or epic hangovers do anything but make me feel even lower than I was before.

There are some days though…. Some days when I want to just say #### it and give in to my absolute worst impulses. Sometimes I do with regard to food – but that’s OK as long as I forgive myself and move on.

There are other times that I know if I start then I just won’t stop.

Thankfully I (mostly) understand now when my mood has an off switch and when it doesn’t. These days (whilst I still sometimes ignore my own advice) my coping mechanisms are also different.

In moments where I feel like I’m not managing very well I get up and I put in my shoes.

I look in the mirror in my hall and I tell myself that I’m worth more than my inner monologue suggests, and that I can be whoever I want to be in life.

Somewhere in the middle of my journey a friend told me that I was both ambitious and determined and I keep that at the forefront of my mind.

I keep telling myself it’s true – because up until that point (and sometimes even now) I’d never recognised these traits in myself, but they exist and I have to always hold onto them. 

I’m not unique though.

They exist in all of us.

So, on a day like today I pull on a warm coat and I head for a pavement, because there is always a world out there – and it needs us in it.

Sometimes our journey is solitary though, and that’s OK too because our inner determination (if properly nurtured) will remind us that regardless of what happens, no-matter how we feel, we can do it.

We can hit our goal and we can fit at least one square peg into a round hole.

In my case the peg is an average of 10 miles a day.

Every day.

Without fail.

It doesn’t matter if it’s freezing, and it doesn’t matter if it’s raining. The weather is immaterial. The miles are what count.

At the moment my daily average for October is 12.3 (a personal record) and during this month, regardless of how I’ve felt I’ve followed #onplanoctober almost to the letter.

It hasn’t been easy though. When it’s cold and dark and you’ve not been able to sleep or your negative thoughts will not turn off, the temptation to remain indoors and hide under a duvet by the TV is immense.

That’s not me though.

Not any more and never again.

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Whatever the world throws at me I intend to fight it and persevere, and to do that I need to be fit, healthy, vital and active.

It’s not just a walk to me though, because whereas previously the outside world had come to represent fear it’s now become my place of safety. I can travel anywhere I want completely unaided because the only limitations I have are the horizon and my mind.

My other place of safety is of course Slimming World, and when my mood is low I can always rely on it to lift my spirits, regardless of what happens on the scales.

Although Saturday was a day where I decided not to weigh in I have the Slimming World ball coming up next weekend, and because both me and my consultant will be there it would have been three full weeks (officially anyway) before I weighed in again.

That’s a really long time – and I’m not sure whether having that much leeway is a good thing for me at the moment, so today I went to a different group and weighed in on a different day at a different time.

It’s always great to see new faces and today the stories of the health improvements that the group had realised by following the plan and living better lives were legion.

Diabetes had been reversed, cholesterol was being beaten into submission, a pancreas had returned to life and the men and women seated in that hall were flourishing.

They gave me the win I needed.

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Some may say that my book ‘only’ says I lost half a pound – but if they do then they’re missing the point. It’s a win – and strangely this half a pound is one of my most personally impressive for a while because it means quite a bit more to me.

To do this took a lot more discipline than it may seem like it did on the page above.

Hell – even a maintain would have been a victory in my book.

Many of my Saturdays after standing on the scales are relaxed ones. Sometimes Sundays are too, and I tend to gradually address whatever damage the weekend has done from Monday through to Friday.

If it’s a bad week then bad things can happen.

I’ve seen it many times before.

Not this week. I’m determined not only to be firmly in my target range, but be as close to the bottom of it as possible when I climb into my suit and stand on stage to accept my Man of the Year award next Saturday, because this is something I can control.

Ignoring things and eating feelings does no good at all, and this is now how I cope in life.

I look at my Slimming World book and its numbers, my blog and its history, my health app and its cumulative miles and I have evidence of my determination, and what it can accomplish.

It’s why I’m sitting here now instead of dead – and why you are reading this.

So if you’re thinking you can’t then you’re wrong, because you CAN.

If you’re thinking you’re not worth it then you’re wrong, because you ARE.

If you’re thinking it’s impossible then you’re wrong because it’s NOT.

You too are determined, and you too have ambition. If no-one has ever cared about you enough to tell you this – OR TO MAKE YOU BELIEVE IT – then let me take their place.

It’s all true.

You can be whoever you want to be.

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

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

Six month milestone

Well – it’s Saturday.

For a long time now this particular part of the week has been something of a refuge for me and attending Slimming World an activity that I’ve genuinely looked forward to.

Today I don’t really feel like that though because August has been (at least from a mental perspective) one of the most difficult I’ve experienced yet when it comes to remaining on track and keeping focused on my long term goals.

For the first time in my Slimming World experience this month I’ve consciously avoided going to group because I’ve felt down and like I’ve screwed things up.

I’ve not felt like facing anyone to talk about this (and other things) and I’ve hibernated.

This stops today.

I’ve tried really hard this week to turn things around and I need to focus on that fact. Despite what the end result may or may not be I’ve won a victory on my mental battlefield even if it turns out that the war isn’t yet won on the physical one.

Whatever happens on the scales this morning I’m going to get the support I need to deal with it and then move on.

For the last week I’ve been (mostly) pescatarian.

I have really good results with weight loss when I lay off red meat in particular – and this usually also has a positive impact on both my mental well being so there’s more than one reason for the glimmer of hope rattling around my head.

Oily fish is something that I’ve long known has a direct correlation with upswings in my state of mind and when I consciously increase it in my diet the effects can be profound.

My advice to anyone asking whether they too need this in their diet is that you avoid Omega 3 at your peril.

It’s a fine balancing act though. Things like salmon and mackerel can be quite calorific – but like an avocado (also calorific) it’s a good use of syns if you’re careful with how you use them.

Fish is a protein too – so it keeps you feeling fuller for longer.

It doesn’t stop me worrying though.

Although I knew what I weighed a few days ago I’ve tried to steer clear of the scales and I have no idea how heavy I am this morning.

As I write (it’s 7.30am currently) I’m trying to not let my mind play tricks on me.

I’ve got three hours before I stand on Angie’s scales and time is moving very slowly.

The annoying thing is that today (well yesterday actually) represents exactly six months at target – if that is I’m still there.

It would be pretty annoying to reach this milestone (something I always hoped would be a triumphant half way point to diamond target member status) and be outside of my range.

It’s a real possibility though – and I can’t call it.

I have a pair of scales downstairs that could tell me – but I really don’t want to stand on them.

I’m as nervous as hell, and if I do and it’s bad news then I’m just going to spend the time kicking myself.

I’m trying to resist – but I may not be able to. Today is (no joke) going to come down to whether I have a spirited visit to the smallest room of the house, or a (ahem) less successful morning routine than usual.

(Author potters around, has a couple of espressos, goes shopping and spends a little while playing video games to take his mind off matters before going to group)

Ok. I can’t lie.

I cracked and stood on the scales before I left.

I was pacing like a panther in a cage wondering about what would happen – and the news on my scales of ultimate accuracy matched Angie’s in group exactly.

In my usual weigh in clothes I am still in target after six months – although closer to the upper end of my range than I’d like to be.

I’ll be more honest still.

This represents a significant loss compared with this time last week when I was busy trying to get things under control.

Whilst it’s a two pound gain on the page in my SW book the reality of these numbers is that last week I really screwed up. In contrast this week I did really really well and I’m immensely proud of myself.

That’s not meant to be self aggrandisement or grandstanding.

This result means a lot to me.

I’m also going to try my level best to carry on with the same mindset over the coming bank holiday weekend and not relax into three days of constant snacking.

If I do I’ll just end up with yet another flipping mountain to climb and I’m sick to death of how that’s made me feel for the whole of August.

So – this is me, planting a flag in the ground and saying that August is soon to be in the rear view mirror and September will be be better.

I know already that it has its own challenges in store and on paper it’s probably going to be just as difficult (if not more so) than this month – but the last thing in the world that will help that is comfort eating.

I’ve not come to this conclusion alone mind you – and today was great for more than one reason.

I spent some time talking to my consultant Angie after group and went through some of the things that have been going on.

I feel a lot lighter for having done so and I’ve agreed that more often I’m going to come to group but maybe avoid the stress of weekly weigh in’s and allow myself to get the support of being there without the stress of standing on the scales every single week without fail.

Many others have a week off and it’s perfectly normal.

It’s about time I started treating myself the same way I view them – because the only person I consider abnormal when I see this behaviour in action is me.

If I give myself nowhere to hide and my expectation of is nothing short personal of perfection week after week then I’m doomed to eventually disappoint myself no matter how hard I try.

This isn’t sustainable and it’s not healthy.

That’s not to say I want to reduce my focus though – because in order to overcome challenges in life you need to be as healthy and fit as possible – so that’s my aim.

To weather any coming storms and come out a bit damp but otherwise OK on the other side.

At the moment the stormy allegory is less of a metaphor and more of a reality however.

It’s absolutely battering it down with rain outside – and I’ve taken refuge in a pub to have a coffee in town.

I was hoping that today would be a good one for walking but sadly it doesn’t look like that’s going to be the reality of my Saturday.

Instead I’m going to listen to the world, take the win that’s sitting in front of me, remain focused and maybe watch a movie instead later on.

At the half way point to diamond target member status I’m feeling more myself again internet – and that’s as good as it gets.

Davey

Batteries

‘It’s all about batteries…’ my friend said.

She checked her rear view mirror, indicated, overtook the car in front and after doing so merged back into the left hand lane.

I looked at the sky.

It was starting to rain and there were spots of water on the windscreen.

Batteries… Right… Not sure where she’s going with this…

‘When you’re down and you find that one area of your life has flat batteries you can draw on other areas that have fully charged ones.’

Ok…

‘They keep you going.’ She said.

I nodded.

‘Uh-huh.’ I replied.

‘…but the problem is that if you have flat ones in other areas too then there’s no power anywhere and that’s when you start to feel run down.’

Hmmm…

Maybe she had a point…

‘You may have a point.’ I said.

We were on our way to the Peak District – but if I’m honest at the time it didn’t really matter we were headed.

It turned out to be a fantastic day for walking – and while drizzly weather was a mixed bag at times it was mostly warm and breezy – meaning that the scenery could be experienced in its natural state (damp, cloudy and dramatic).

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As delightful as the day in the countryside turned out to be (for me at least) it was pretty immaterial – because although we both love the outdoors we go on our road trips for another reason entirely.

We’d been looking forward to the day out because it meant that we could get some completely uninterrupted twalking time in.

It’s rare that there’s a moment of silence when my friend and I go away for the day together – and I often find insight is never far away as we chat.

I really needed it.

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately and the truth is that I’ve largely been hibernating in my personal life for a few weeks.

It wasn’t until this weekend that I chose to admit to myself that my behaviour has been out of character (for ‘new Dave’ at least) and took steps to address it.

Whilst withdrawing a bit hasn’t stopped me doing exercise and going about my life I know that deep down I’ve not been myself.

I’ve desperately wanted to shy away from groups of people (even those that that I know well) consciously restricted some activities or one to one interactions, found myself playing video games for the first time in many many months, bingeing on Netflix and YouTube and (possibly worst of all) making frivolous purchases of things I don’t really need to cheer myself up.

Then of course there’s eating.

Once more I’ve struggled to find an off switch – and no matter how much walking you do, if you eat huge amounts of (even healthy) food you’ll put weight on.

I know I certainly did – and at the moment I’m once again trying the best I can to turn around a crappy result on my home scales before I return to the ones at Slimming World on Saturday.

This is the second time in three weeks that I’ve found myself trying to turn things around and it’s a new phenomenon that I could really do without.

Maintenance came easy to begin with – but it isn’t at the moment.

Maybe a few months ago when I hadn’t experienced the very public success that came out of the blue in the Man of the Year competition I might have felt differently – but now all I can think about is not only a personal failure, but letting other people down too.

To underline this even the Slimming World app is a stark reminder that I can’t log onto the website to look for recipes without being reminded of it.

So – although my silence over the last week has been for multiple reasons other than this I guess I have to admit (once again) that I don’t have all the answers in life and that despite trying to be a role model that champions continuous attendance – last week I couldn’t face going to group.

The whole week before last Saturday was definitely off plan and I really couldn’t bring myself to face the music.

That’s not to say I ordered a pizza or stopped off at the kebab shop – nor did I buy or consume any alcohol or demolish several tubs of Haagen Daas.

Almost no crap passed my lips.

In my diminished frame of mind I was still eminently capable of emptying my kitchen cupboard, fridge and freezer though.

All of them are now largely bare thanks to a concerted effort last week to soothe an imaginary vacuum inside me, created by emotion.

Unsurprisingly it proved to be absolutely impossible to fill up with food and frivolous purchases or Netflix.

Furthermore the realisation that two and a half years into my Slimming World journey I still have the capacity for epic self sabotage frightened the hell out of me and at the time it pushed my mood even further down than it was before.

However – I know I’m being cryptic.

I apologise.

There’s a real tension between my social media life ( where I’m intent on being absolutely honest about how I feel – which is very important to me) and being open about why I feel that way – because while I’ve chosen for much of my day to day experience to be very public there are some things that just can’t be – leaving me in a situation that’s difficult to reconcile when I write.

So for the moment this is as honest as it gets.

I’m out of target at the moment.

This is my current weight and a few days ago it was a few pounds more.

I might have won a competition – but in common with the vast majority of other people that read my blog – I falter and stumble just like everyone else.

The main difference between who I used to be though vs who I am now is that while for a brief period I may be filled with hopelessness and doubt I know that I can change things in a positive way for myself when I decide to lift my head because I’ve done it already.

It doesn’t matter how many times I stumble because that is not the measure of me or anyone else in life.

The test is how quickly you can recognise problems, how quickly you seek help and how hard you try to fix them.

I’ve seen this time and time again in social media feeds from other Slimming World members and just like some people look at me for inspiration I too look for it in them.

It’s never far away – and I find it in both from fellow members and close friends.

So – some of my batteries may be depleted internet, but you can be assured that I’ve taken all the necessary steps that I feel are needed in my life to kick start their re-charge cycles.

Normal service will hopefully be resumed soon.

Davey

Fallible

When your day starts with spilling hot coffee all over your back and shoulder (a feat in itself when the coffee in question is your own) it’s difficult to tell whether it’s a portent of things to come or bad luck just helpfully getting itself out of the way before the good luck arrives.

I try and be positive – so I prefer to think that it’s far more likely to be the latter and so far the day isn’t disappointing me.

The morning didn’t start too badly though – and after some food shopping I headed to an earlier Slimming World group than usual.

The weather forecast suggests that at 6pm it’s going to start raining and that it’s not going to stop again for the rest of the weekend.

I wanted therefore to make the most of the clear skies while they lasted – which is why at 10.45 (when I’d normally be on the scales) I was already on a train to Birmingham.

Before I continue though I feel that I must be completely honest.

I’ve found the last two weeks probably the hardest yet with regard to staying on plan.

My worst comfort eating impulses have been triggered over the last two weeks since I last weighed in – and I’ve known for a few days that I’ve been out of target for the first time since I reached it in February.

Up until now I’ve not had a problem maintaining – and with some small exceptions it’s been a relatively natural thing to do.

I accidentally discovered ‘maintenance’ eating before I reached my goal weight and had to dial back my eating to push myself over the finish line before going back to what I felt was a comfortable norm.

I dropped a bit more weight in the same way just before the MOTY competition, established a new 14st target with Angie and then once again just carried on as normal.

It all seemed to be working perfectly until shortly after I came back from London I hit a (totally unrelated) mood dip.

Life things (as they always do) just happened and I felt sad.

Such events (in terms of my eating plan) hadn’t been too bad before – and I’d largely moved away from guilt.

However now if I comfort ate I suddenly felt that wasn’t just letting myself down I was letting down Slimming World, all of the other people that could have won instead of me, my friends, my group, everyone that knew me and anyone that’s picked up a newspaper article about me or commented on my blog.

Before anyone tries to re-educate me I know that feeling this way is complete nonsense and that I’m putting pressure on myself to be perfect when I don’t need to.

I don’t even have to weigh in any more than once every eight weeks as a target member rather than the weekly one I aim for.

I get it.

I totally do.

Logic doesn’t always work so well in such instances though…

Rationalising what’s going on seems next to impossible inside an unsettled mind – and when you’re struggling to smile and finding it hard to lift your head off the pillow NOTHING makes any sense.

You just feel like a failure.

The difference here is that more than ever before in my life I write and I talk about these things.

I do this both with my audience here and with close friends that know me and call me out on any instances where I’m talking nonsense.

So all week I’ve been standing on the scales in the evening and sending my friend a picture of the good or bad results (it’s been up and down) as I’ve tried to pull things back round.

As well as sending me unexpected presents she’s been talking me down from my emotional ledges (as I’ve occasionally done in the past for her) during this time – and rather than not wanting to be a burden I’ve just kept telling myself that this is what friends are for.

We share the good times and the bad.

No-one is an island – and we need friends and groups to be at our best.

When we can’t see what’s in front of us they help us sort truth from the lies that we tell ourselves in dark moments and order everything so that we can move forward.

Attending group this morning was an extension of this – and even though it wasn’t my usual timeslot the same kinds of friendly faces were evident as soon as I walked through the door.

I love going to group. It never fails to cheer me up.

The relief when I stood on the scales (in my mind at least) was like a waterfall washing over me because I was back to where I needed to be.

Once again I was bang on target.

(Author gets off the train and wanders around Birmingham looking at trainers before sitting down for a little while in the museum and art gallery to continue his blog and rest his feet)

So far the weather is holding steady and the sky is blue. It’s pleasantly cool with a nice breeze and I feel good.

I still haven’t made up my mind how to spend a JD Sports voucher that’s burning a hole in my pocket but I have some ideas…

I feel like I need a treat.

Something that makes me feel… silly and vibrant.

A big, ostentatious pair of trainers designed for someone much younger than myself seems to fit the bill.

I don’t want to overplay this – but my weigh in result wasn’t easy for me to accomplish – because I spent the vast majority of my week convinced that (for some reason unbeknownst to science) I’d completely lost the ability to lose weight.

It’s nuts I know – but when you get into a strange headspace you can tell yourself any number of things that are total bobbins.

You can look in the mirror – and although ALL of your clothes fit PERFECTLY a mean voice in the back of your mind still says ‘you’re putting it all back on.’

Why we all seem to have this capacity for self torture is totally beyond me – but it’s important for me to say to everyone that’s also struggling that they aren’t strange – and they’re not at all weird.

I know this because throughout the entirety of an interview about my recent success with a local newspaper earlier this week for the article in the image below (link) I felt exactly as I’ve described above.

I didn’t feel successful at all – but the headline later in the week ultimately suggested something totally different.

Unexpectedly I’m also in the Coventry Telegraph (link) too.

Anyway…

Negative thoughts aside I’m back on track – and this morning, having stepped on the scales and silenced my inner demons for a while I feel more positive.

I’m also currently looking at a neon cement mixer and the sheer absurdity of it just makes me smile.

I have no idea why this cheers me up – but I guess that’s the point of modern art.

It’s meant to provoke a feeling and then challenge you to examine and understand why – which is a pretty good thing to do when you need to change your point of view.

In an art gallery you never quite know what’s around the corner.

In one room there’s a gaudy neon post-modern juxtaposition and in the one next door you’re confronted with religious iconography.

In the room following that there’s a landscape.

I guess that it’s a good metaphor for how my week has been.

One minute I’ve felt overwhelmed and unable to cope – and then when I’ve consciously stepped outside of the thought process and moved elsewhere my mood has changed.

However it’s not happened by magic and it’s required hard work.

If anything my result on the scales is a reminder that nothing occurs by accident – and that things worth having (that are truly important) require you to develop new support structures and coping mechanisms.

Ideally once you have they will be capable of recognising (and reacting to) moments when you’re slipping.

If there’s a message underlying this entire post that I’d like every reader to take away it’s that it’s OK TO FAIL and that the first step if you do should always be ask for help.

Just keep swimming.

Davey

Waking up happy

Moments of success are precious. They don’t always come along with great regularity, so when they do they’re worth noting down and sticking in the ‘bank’ for later.

My non-scale victories page (link) serves just this purpose for me and I look at it from time to time when I’m low.

That way when things seem dark you have evidence that your worst fears are nonsense. You can say (out loud if needed) ‘I’ve come a long way – and despite how I feel today I’m a good person that good things happen to because I try hard.’

This is sometimes difficult to achieve but I’m getting better at this as the months and years pass since the start of my journey.

As evidence mounts to contradict a view that’s been in the back of my mind for many years (that ultimately I’ve been a failure and my life hasn’t amounted to much in the grand scheme of things) I’m finding that the moments where my chin hits the floor happen less and less.

They still occur from time to time – but that’s how I deal with them.

However the waking mind is one thing – because (depending on how disciplined you are) you can control that with rational and practical structures such as the one above.

With practice you can bend your negative self perception to your will and see the warning signs of depression and negativity arriving.

When you do they can be addressed before you get into an ‘I’m crap’ downward spiral.

Once you learn how to – YOU set the tone.

Something that’s difficult to control though is what happens in dreams – and this is where the buried fears we all keep locked away tend to leak out.

Without warning I can wake up after a dream where I’ve caved in to all the negativity that’s followed me around for decades and I’m convinced I’m a piece of crap again.

Often it takes me the whole day (sometimes longer) to recover from dreams like that because they tug at loose threads you can’t always see – but that are suddenly real and raw.

You’re frustratingly sabotaged by a subconscious mind that’s almost completely out of your control and it can be vicious in its self condemnation.

I’ve suffered from recurring dreams for years – and thankfully one by one the worst ones have fallen by the wayside.

I used to dream that I could run like the wind – then realise it was a lie and look down and see how fat I was, suddenly slow to a crawl and become immobile.

At times I’d dream of suffocation and drowning – that I was fighting for life – then wake up to realise my that my sleep apnea was stopping me breathing because I’d turned over – and that I was and I was in genuine danger.

My imagination also continually painted me in public without clothes (usually trousers and pants missing) and I had to try and walk home naked when I was too fat to move.

These dreams were (pun intended) a nightmare.

But they were not the worst ones.

The absolute worst were when my ex girlfriend visited.

If I’m honest I never came to terms with how the relationship ended and those who know me well understand how deeply this affected me.

She appears regularly in my sleeping life and without warning.

The dreams often start off pleasantly because I’m transported back to myself as a younger man and I’m once again in love.

I feel secure and like there’s an unbreakable bond between us that’s as much a part of me as my own limbs.

In that moment it seems like there’s nothing we can’t accomplish together and I’m a hundred feel tall when I hold her hand.

Then she notices my weight.

Then the recriminations start about how I can’t find it within myself to change for her – and although I’m often let off the hook (she was pretty kind usually) I’m left feeling like I don’t measure up and that ultimately I’ll never be to her what she is to me.

I’ll never be what she wants.

Then I wake up and have to face the realisation that even the happy part of the dream is a fallacy.

I’m confronted with the reality that she’s gone – and the security and happiness associated with her love and companionship exits with the fading memory of a face I’ll probably never see again.

I’m alone in bed, sometimes tearful – but always feeling isolated.

Just now though I awoke with a jolt – and I was laughing. I had a smile on my face because the narrative in my dream had radically shifted.

It started the same – she was with me and we were happy – but THEN things changed.

She’d taken my hand, looked into my eyes and said ‘I’m so proud of what you’ve achieved. You’ve really done it.

I hugged her and drew her close before the dream ended and I woke up.

Instead of feeling the way I usually do after she’s been a participant in my sleep I now feel energised.

Something has changed.

Deep down something is different!

Tonight – when I woke up I felt a weight lift that I’ve carried for years.

I think I know why this happened – because someone I’d only just met looked me in the eye and asked me recently ‘do you feel like a success?

The question was an uncomfortable one because normally I try to brush things like that off – but the situation was hard to escape.

I surprised myself when I began to reply because my bottom lip trembled and my voice started break slightly.

‘Yes.’

I replied, swallowing.

‘Yes I do.’

I paused.

‘It’s taken a lot of hard work and effort to get to where I am.’

‘I AM proud.’

I don’t remember my exact words but around that point I stopped talking and marshalled myself so that I wouldn’t cry.

I’d said it out loud though and realised that it’s not something I’ve ever had to confront or respond to in quite the way that she asked me.

Having to admit that I’m happy with my own success was something of a surprisingly life affirming moment and it clearly had a profound impact because it’s now entered my dreams.

Boy do I hope it stays there internet because waking up feeling as good as I do right at this moment in time is flipping awesome.

Yay for waking up happy!

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