Rome is burning and diabetes isn’t returning

A new phase of life started on Friday and although my new job is currently a temporary contract (even if it doesn’t last) it will definitely keep me busy.

My role is a technical support one – and it’s apparent to me that (like with many jobs of this nature) that the bespoke environment(s) I’ll be looking after have services that are simultaneously familiar and yet also completely alien to me.

They’re different enough to what I know already to make my learning curve a steep one – and I think it’s going to be a challenge to juggle the pace of the workload whilst at the same time asking lots of questions about what I’m doing and putting my hand in the air for help.

I don’t mind though – in fact I rather relish the challenge ahead because when I’d finished on my first day I felt a little bit of trepidation, but also a sense that I can definitely do well in my new role with some hard work and personal development.

Plus, time flew by.

One of the great things about being made redundant from a job I’d worked in for more than a decade and a half back in 2016 was that I had to face all of the fears associated with stepping out of a well entrenched comfort zone and learning something entirely new.

Like many of us who suffer all the time from imposter syndrome we can go to work day in, day out, do our jobs perfectly well and still come home feeling bad about our capabilities and thinking we could have done more.

Often it’s very difficult to appreciate just how useful you are, how much you know and what you’re capable of when you do it all day long next lots of others doing the same or similar things.

The only yardstick you have to gauge your effectiveness is to look at colleagues nearby and essentially decide whether you measure up to them and how much they know.

I never felt like I did.

However (after redundancy hit and I’d gotten fitter) when I started doing different jobs in different environments that required me to learn and adapt to new working practices and subject areas I realised that I was a lot more capable than I had given myself credit for – and that my experience made me a valuable employee.

Translating that into a CV or interview has proved hard at times however and there are as many downsides to redundancy as there are upsides.

Whilst it’s empowering to realise that when a job finishes it’s not the end of the world (there’s always something else to go to) it’s not so great to constantly have to ‘sell’ yourself over and over again to prospective employers if you don’t like the job you end up in.

I don’t think this is something I’ve ever enjoyed (or ever will) and have always been mystified by those that find self promotion to be a natural skill.

Going into a room and basically saying ‘I’m great!‘ over and over again is not pleasurable and after I’ve had to do so I never feel like I’ve struck an effective balance between self effacing honesty and what people want (or need) to hear from me.

Either way though I now have a new start – and I plan to try and make the most of it.

Only time will tell what comes out of it – but I had a great first day and have a positive feeling about the whole kit and kaboodle.

The people also seem really nice and that’s a very good thing.

I did find myself shaking my head as I walked home on Friday evening though – because I’m not sure how I managed to end up in this role quite so out of the blue.

I can’t go into too much detail, but the convergence of circumstances that led to me being employed again were actually very random and I was left thinking ‘how on Earth did that just come to pass?!’

For the longest time I’ve felt like I’ve been beating my forehead against a brick wall and feeling lower and lower about where I was going in relation to employment. Then – completely out of the blue things just pivot and turn right around!

Although I haven’t felt this way for a while I’m of the opinion that once again the universe has been listening to me and must have figured that by now I deserved a break.

I will try not to let it down.

I have good reason not to.

One of the side effects of my recent mood dip (related to unemployment) has undoubtedly been a willingness to eat too much both to alter my frame of mind and occasionally pass the time.

Now I’m gainfully employed again I’m hoping my weight will head in the right direction organically rather than with too much brute force and self denial. I’ve always felt that a huge part of weight loss is simply having a full calendar – because idle hands tend to open the fridge!

Sitting down for eight hours a day in an office isn’t ideal either though…

Thankfully I will be walking to work every day – so even if I can’t (or don’t) swim in the morning there’s activity that’s free for the taking built right into my new job.

On Friday when I made my way to work (a relatively leisurely 2.6 miles which took me 44 mins) I felt that the weather also confirmed the universe’s revitalised enthusiasm for my happiness.

The sky was a funny colour that I’d forgotten it was capable of becoming.

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I’ve been so used to seeing it grey and drizzly lately (there’s YET ANOTHER flood warning in effect in Warwick at the moment) that when it’s blue and bright I’m not quite sure what to make of it!

The only possible reaction is to smile like an idiot and take a selfie to prove it happened.

In other news… (minor rant ahead)

I have recently found myself ruminating over a train of thought that keeps popping back into my mind every time I think it’s gone. Fundamentally (and I suspect I’m not alone) I’m not sure I like the way the world is going.

Donald Trump and his lunatic approach to world politics is troubling enough – but I don’t mean that.

I’m talking about technology.

This is unusual for me because I’m an unrepentant geek at the best of times. I absolutely love anything with chips in it (apart from happy meals).

However things in the tech world seem to be getting to the ‘ridiculously pointless’ stage and a lot of new products and services on the horizon seem excessive even by my standards.

We seem to be creating more and more labour saving items that reduce our need to actually do anything productive at an ever increasing pace. Not only is this slowly turning us into a race of blancmanges but the environmental impact is immense.

Most of it will inevitably end up being shovelled into a landfill site in less than a year or two and the pace of this is only increasing.

I’ve been watching some YouTube videos from CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2020.

The recent event in Las Vegas left me shaking my head and wondering whether the Romans felt the way I do currently when they realised that the heights of excess they had begun to engage in were the beginning of the end.

They had a colloseum full of water and we have Televisions.

Thousands of televisions in fact – and each one is brighter and sharper and thinner than the ones that proceeded them.

Massive wall sized 8K TVs are now a thing, yet I still can’t see the point of 4K (there are virtually no TV channels that use it and most of them still don’t broadcast in 1080p) which is strange because I was deliriously happy when I got my very first HDTV.

I still am.

I love my TV and I’m not replacing it at the cost of thousands just to get more pixels in my living room.

It’s not just TV’s though.

The kitchen is the next battleground for the money in our pockets because fridges need to do more than simply keep our food cold. Chilly steaks don’t come close to wasting anywhere near enough electricity…

LG’s current smart fridge (whose door can turn transparent at the touch of a button and show everyone nearby your wilting lettuce and browning carrots) is something I’ve never wanted to buy.

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Not only is it ridiculously expensive (link) but it misses the whole point of a door. Rather than using a techno screen to let you look inside YOU JUST OPEN THE FRIKKIN DOOR!!!!

It works with my tiny little under the counter fridge (and my freezer) and that cost £50 from Tesco in their value range of home electronics 10 years ago.

It still keeps the milk cold even now.

LG’s new one (shown at CES) has an OLED TELEVISION panel that turns transparent (if you’re not too busy watching Love Island on it).

If this isn’t pointless enough there’s also a techno brain inside the all singing and dancing new model with a rudimentary AI. It’s continually watching all of the food in your fridge like the murderous HAL 9000 (link) from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001.

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Overnight it LG-HAL can quietly spring to life and order more overpriced crap over it’s wi-fi if it thinks you’re running low on caviar or vintage champagne.

This isn’t the only ‘innovation’ from LG though.

If you choose to invest in the wider wirelessly connected and self aware LG ‘Suite of useless stuff I don’t need but want because my life sucks’ then the food in your (Terminator in waiting) fridge has ordered can be delivered to A FRIDGE IN YOUR AI ENHANCED LG FRONT DOOR.

Of course the LG front door to your house will also have a TV on the inside so that you can see what the weather is like outside.

Amazingly my wooden (TV-less) door is also capable of this feat via the magical trickery of something called A WINDOW!!!!

The ridiculousness of this techno door pales into insignificance however when you consider one of the winners of some websites ‘best in show’ category.

The wi-fi barbecue (link) that you can control with your smartphone even when you’re not at home.

Clearly in the western world (where we have more money than willingness to get off our arses) there is an untapped market for this kind of crap and everyone wants to barbecue their meat whilst sitting in the office on a conference call.

Sigh.

The point is that all of this is scary.

I don’t want my fridge to be in charge of my shopping and I definitely don’t want it to be connected to the internet or using my credit card to buy expensive cheese and biscuits.

Fundamentally however I’m more concerned with why we as a society are so preoccupied with making things that continually inspire us to move less and consume more. We already barely have to move a muscle to get our shopping online and can remain in our houses without needing to venture outside more and more.

If some sort of cataclysm happens how many people will just expire in their homes because they’re physically incapable of leaving them?

Rome.

I’m telling you.

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I can hear Nero fiddling now…

Oh well – my job is making sure that if (when) the apocalypse arrives at least my partner and I have a chance of outrunning the fireball and out-swimming the flood and tidal wave.

We’ve been working hard on our fitness since well before xmas and have really really upped our games on the number of lengths we swim, the speed in which we complete them and the number of times that we’re going to the pool each week.

Although I never mentioned it in my previous post – when I had my positive outcome on my HbA1c result (link) my partner was (at the same time) receiving her results for the same blood test.

I’ve never discussed her diabetes in this blog before because I considered it private – but this morning (for the first time) I asked her permission to do so.

‘Is this ok with you?’ I said as we sat drinking our respective teas and coffees after a five mile walk and a 1k swim.

She thought for the briefest moment, sipped her tea, and then said ‘Yes – I’m fine with that. I think it’s a good idea to let people know what my results were.’

The reason that I wanted to bring it up is that when my partner and I met for the second time (though still just friends at this point) diabetes was a big topic of conversation. She told me for the first time on this occasion that she was a type two diabetic – and that her diagnosis had been much the same as my own.

I was 94 on the chart and she was 93.

However back then mine was in remission and hers was still unmedicated.

Later – when Metformin was eventually prescribed (as her levels crept higher) her focus began to shift and she became a lot more mindful of how much exercise she was getting and what kinds of food she was eating.

Gradually this has become more and more cemented into her way of thinking and combined with her also following Slimming World she does a lot more physically than she ever used to.

We also live together and part of that dynamic is that I’m the primary cook. This is mostly because I’m a bit of a control freak about preparing food – not because she can’t or won’t – but it means that I make sure that all of our meals are on plan and cooked from scratch.

I pack her off to work with lunch and breakfast too and those are no different.

I may overeat – but when I cook I overeat great food.

On top of what we consume we walk together every day and swim together as much as possible.

Our exercise levels aren’t identical – but since she too started becoming obsessed with her fitness goals on Apple Watch she’s made great strides. Today we’ve both walked around 9 miles and swum over a kilometre.

It should be no surprise then that her results came back on Thursday at 34 – and are now in the pre-diabetic range on the HbA1c chart.

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It’s difficult to say how proud of her I am – because I’ve watched her get fitter every day, competing with herself more and more with regard to her split times in the pool, and now (like me before her) she too can see the results.

I’m chuffed beyond words that the person I care the most about in the world has now begun the gradual process of reducing her Metformin.

In three months she’ll have another review and we both hope that her results will enable her to either reduce her drugs even more and one day eventually give them up altogether.

It’s particularly important for me to say all of this – because almost without exception when I’ve met people through Slimming World who are overweight and also suffering from type two diabetes (when they work hard and make the same lifestyle changes that I have) the conditions that they all suffer from are abating.

It’s hard work and you have to do it every day – but it’s worth it.

I live in hope that one day soon we shall be a household (and society) that is completely free of diabetes medication, and will have realised and also be maintaining all of our personal health goals.

So – hopefully self aware fridges won’t take over the world after forming an alliance with their evil barbecue brethren because currently I’m rather happy with the way things are.

I’m happy, employed again, working on getting to target, opening my own fridge door, looking out of windows, walking everywhere and generally in a very good place.

If I needed a cherry on the cake my weigh in on Saturday also worked out ok.

One can only hope I can continue this downwards trend. I have eight weeks of my countdown remaining and then I’m calling target- wherever I am.

Davey

Diabetes update 2020

Sometimes it’s really difficult to know where to begin – because whilst I want to write about how I’m feeling and what’s going on in my life I’m also in one of those places where I have to self censor a little.

First of all – I’m feeling no small amount of relief that a recent blood test appears to be clear.

I had a health scare recently and without going into too much detail the worst case scenario appears to have been ruled out – which is nice – however I’m still none the wiser about the whole ‘event’ that caused me to visit my GP in the first place.

So far it’s not re-occurred (which is good) but I have no idea what caused it in the first place (which is not so good).

Still – if my car is anything to go by when you get to a certain age occasionally there are false alarms that clear themselves with no explanation.

My Passat’s dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree whilst driving to Coombe Abbey on New Year’s day and told me all traction control and ABS was offline. However once I’d ‘rebooted it’ (any tech worth his salt will try turning things off and on again) the issue disappeared without a trace and still seems reluctant to return.

I guess my body is the same.

Occasionally it will have ‘a senior moment’ and then get on with things as normal.

Sigh.

My advancing decrepitude means that I (like my car) will eventually leave more and more oil on the drive of life.

I may be paranoid – but one of the side effects of changing my body so dramatically (and having an occasionally pessimistic view of the world) is that I’m still waiting for the metaphorical piano to fall from the sky and flatten me.

Although life isn’t perfect there are times that I’m left breathless when I think about how many bullets I appear to have dodged over the years and that no-one who abused themselves as much as I did deserves the apparent good health that I now enjoy.

I do work hard for it mind you. It doesn’t just fall in my lap.

Although I’m out of target with Slimming World (and going nowhere fast this week with weight loss I’m sad to say) I still do a huge amount of exercise compared to most people that I know.

Since the 17th of December 2019 I’ve managed to go for a swim every day except on bank holidays (when the pool was closed) and walked almost 10 miles per day on average.

That has to be good right?

I’m over sixteen and a half stone at the moment and I’m constantly worried that I don’t do enough to maintain my health. However – when I look back to a time in 2018 when I was around the same weight but BEFORE I reached my target I did about a third less exercise than I do now.

I was still walking roughly the same amount but doing this alone meant that my average active daily calorie burn was much lower back then than it is now.

Back then I thought I was doing quite a lot – but it’s all relative and I was comparing myself to where I’d started.

In January 2018 I typically walked three miles to work, three miles back again and usually also took some kind of stroll at lunchtime or in the evening.

However when it came to January 2019 (after starting to swim in mid November 2018) things had noticeably changed.

Although my number of swims (and the distance I swam) tailed off a little (after my initial flurry of obsessive interest when I first started) I continued to swim at least 10 days a month.

More often than not I swim around 14 times a month (my record is 22) which is almost once every two days on average.

Mostly I motivate myself by using my obsessively frugal side to irritate me into action and try to drop the price per swim as low as possible.

A single dip in the pool without a membership costs £4.65 (or at least it used to – I can’t find the current price online) and a monthly swim only pass costs me £25.

If I swim 14 times it costs me £1.78 a go – but if I manage 22 visits it drops to £1.13 – which is a magical number because it’s cheaper than a £1.35 bottomless coffee in Wetherspoons!

I’m off to a flying start this year and my current energy output for 2020 reflects that fact.

As I type it’s 3am on the 9th of January and I’m going through one of those horrible nights when my mind is racing at 200 miles an hour.

I can’t sleep and my head is filled with numbers and words.

I’ve given up lying in bed trying to sleep and am instead attempting to calm my mind – by purging everything that’s flowing through it into spreadsheets and this blog.

I’m currently obsessed with balance sheets as well as this post because recently my bank account has only been heading in the wrong direction – and that’s downwards.

Thankfully that looks like it’s all about to change – because yesterday afternoon I finally found a job.

This is another area where self censorship conflicts with honest blogging because (like my health scare) the details of my employer and post have to remain private.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to blog about work or an employer whether one’s personal experience of them is good or bad – but I can say that (although it’s a temporary post) I’m hopeful it will lead to something more and I’m really happy that something has finally come up.

It’s also local (the holy grail!) and instead of having to drive I get to walk about six miles a day as I travel there and back!!!

The position is (once again) something relatively new to me in subject matter, so (once more) I have a lot to learn and a very short time to do so.

I want to be able to quickly demonstrate that I can be an effective member of my new team and whilst I’m sure I can do this there are always fears and worries at times like this that arrive to rob me of my sleep.

I start TOMORROW!

(Drums fingers whilst thinking…)

If nothing else my ‘outgoings’ spreadsheet looks a lot healthier now it has a rough projected take home salary on it – and since I decided not to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance whilst job seeking (I couldn’t face one more flipping time the way the whole process of signing on leaves me feeling) I’m no longer looking at monthly outgoings without any form of associated income.

It’s a good thing I’m frugal and don’t spend money unless it’s necessary because it’s been a lean (and sometimes worrying) few months.

Being unemployed (although by choice because I chose to leave my last post) for any period of time has not only had a destabilising impact on my bank balance but my mood too.

I’ve never been in any danger of real hardship – but the worry of what might happen if such a situation dragged on too long has meant that my moods have often been disproportionate to the true impact of the last few months.

I’ve managed to self-fund throughout my entire period of job searching and I’m proud that I’ve been a burden to no one but myself.

That at least has been something that’s made me feel good – but getting turned down a lot and not finding the work you want is tough going no matter what anyone tells you.

You question your personal worth all the time and how you’re perceived in the eyes of others.

More than anything I didn’t want to be watching my partner getting ready for work every day knowing that I wasn’t about to do the same.

This isn’t a man thing by the way – just in case anyone is wondering.

It’s a partnership thing.

I want to share the load, take the strain together in life and prove to her that she made the right choice when she took a chance on me.

I never want to be seen as a useless lazy lump on the sofa.

As much as I’ve made myself useful though I’ve not found that any amount of DIY, laundry, tidying or cooking for the home has made the persistent itch to be employed go away – and it’s been particularly acute now I no longer live on my own.

Back when I was first made redundant in 2016 (and my ‘crisis’ with what came next in life started) I was a bit more relaxed about this topic because the choices were mine to make and affected only me.

I can’t think that way any more though – because everything I do now affects my partner and I don’t want her to think negatively about our relationship for any reason.

I carry a lot of guilt about my failures in relationships as a younger man (although I’ve come to accept lately that problems in those were not entirely attributable to me) and I’m determined not to repeat my past screw ups.

Somehow though I need to simultaneously chart a course to being happily and gainfully employed again long term within the framework of US instead of just ME.

I hope this job is the one.

I really do.

It’s something small but it could grow into something really good – and there’s no way to find out whether it will or not without trying.

However – I digress – and run the risk of having a completely huge post (I’m probably already too late!) unless I pull myself back to the topic I originally intended to talk about.

Diabetes.

The blood test I mentioned earlier had a dual purpose – and it’s secondary function was for my regular HbA1c test to see how my diabetic levels are doing.

For those new to the blog I started as a type two diabetic (at around 35 stone) taking five tablets of two different medications and had a reading of 94 on this scale – which was ridiculously high.

My daily pill planner at that weight (particularly for a man in his early 40’s) looked awful.

As well as diabetes I took medication for high cholesterol as well as significant amounts of pain killers.

By the same time in January last year (as an unmedicated and much fitter man) my HbA1c was stable at 26.

Now (at 4am in the frikkin morning) I’m wide awake and wondering what my increased exercise will means when it’s combined with being almost two stone heavier than I was the last time I held these results in my hand.

I’m hoping that I haven’t undone my progress in any way – but only time will tell.

Anyway. I need sleep.

I have to get up in under two hours to get to the pool for 6.30am and I doubt I’ll be breaking any records when I arrive. So far I have just over two hours of restless tossing and turning under my belt and it’s simply not been enough.

Back later today…

(Author goes back to bed)

Well – maybe unsurprisingly I didn’t get to the pool at 6.30am – and instead a joint decision was made to have a little lie in until 7.

I did manage to make it to the pool though and squeaked in at 8.30am (just under the wire – the session finishes at 9) and managed to fit a quick kilometre in before the school swimming groups arrived.

The rest of my day has been busy busy busy and I’ve managed to touch base with a lot of people. This is pretty fortuitous – since I’m probably not going to be able to see them during the day for a while.

As always these meetings involved twalking and (I’m now sitting in the doctor’s waiting room after my diabetic review) I’ve managed to use my last day of freedom very productively.

Even before I reach home I have 14 miles on the clock – so I feel pretty pleased with my efforts.

My current active calorie burn is a satisfying 2200 and on top of that I have the results in my hand.

So – despite gaining a bit of weight my emphasis on exercise and not eating processed food (or at least doing so very sparingly) is still paying dividends.

My HbA1c level is now twenty four!!!

Somewhat annoyingly my Cholesterol has crept up again now that I’m off statins – but that appears to be genetic according to the doctor and my good cholesterol levels are a cause for celebration.

According to the doctor because of my lifestyle changes and continual emphasis on health it’s unlikely that this on its own will raise my risk of coronary heart disease.

So her advice (bless her) is to ‘just carry on with what you’re doing!’

Hmmm.

You can’t argue with advice like that!!!

So – it’s time to go home, cook something healthy and get ready for my first day at work tomorrow in my brand new job!

Let’s hope I can sleep!!!

Davey

My life now

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

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

It could go either way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But you have to.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The list depressingly went on and on and on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I refuse to ever go back to being him.

He’s someone else.

A mirror universe doppelgänger.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some things, I said, would never be shared.

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

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

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

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

We’re scared to try and scared to fail.

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

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

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

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

Davey

Diabetes update 2019

Well – it’s THAT time of year again. I get to find out what my diabetes results are.

I know I’ve been a good boy (for the most part) and my logical mind tells me that everything will probably be OK – but the human body is a strange machine, and sometimes whether you want it to be healthy or not, it often makes up it’s own mind.

The only thing I can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Sometimes I’m not sure whether I continue to do this through obsessive habit, a love of exercise or a fear that if I don’t everything I love about my life now will just fall apart.

Truthfully it’s probably a bit of all three – however when I’m with a friend in a place of outstanding natural beauty then it’s definitely a love of life that keeps me putting one foot in front of the other.

On Wednesday I was once again in a place I adore with a superb twalking companion and was busy making absolutely sure that both of us got a good workout.

First thing in the morning it was tough sell mind you. The house was warm when I woke up – and it was a very cozy place to be as I stared at the ceiling from my pillow under a toasty duvet.

Outside I could hear cars crunching along the road over frozen puddles and people chipping frost from their windscreens. When I finally ventured out I had to forcibly yank my frozen car door open to reach my ice scraper.

Once it was in my grasp I needed a whole 15 minutes to hack all of the (really thick) ice off my car before I could drive over to pick my friend up.

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The journey after this was a nice one though – and the roads were well gritted with no accidents to impede our progress. By the time we arrived at Malvern the sun was out and the sky was a lovely blue.

Despite this the frost was far from melted.

As potentially treacherous as this makes walking around this area it’s undeniably beautiful – and even with a serious nip in the air it’s a really nice place to eat breakfast – which in my case was as Slimming World friendly as possible.

Wednesday represented probably the 2nd best day for weather in Malvern that I’ve ever seen from this vantage point – and as the morning wore on the views just got better and better.

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The absolutely wonderful thing about my life at the moment is (maybe unlike some who might have always been fit and healthy) I never cease to be amazed by what I can do and how far I’ve come.

When I look at the total elevation my friend and I accomplished during our day of walking I’m amazed that not only did I find it relatively easy – but that it represents well over two thirds of the total height of Snowdon (3500ft).

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By the time Wednesday had finished we’d managed (according to Apple Watch) to climb 186 flights of stairs.

The very first time I attempted walking around this region (at around 22.5 stone – having lost over 12) was February 2017 (link).

Since then things have changed quite a bit.

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It’s pretty insane what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it – and it never ceases to amaze me when I look at my past and current photos what the human body is capable of recovering from or adapting to.

My swimming is no exception to this – and whilst I’ve not said much about it lately I’m still regularly pounding out lengths in my local pool. This morning (completely unplanned) proved to be another example of what I can do now vs what I was previously (in)capable of.

I mean that in both a physical and self confidence sense – because whilst I may have previously been able to paddle back and forth I did not previously possess the mental fortitude to step into a swimming costume and try.

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Now I do.

I decided after a few lengths that I was up for trying to do two and a half kilometres (100 lengths of my local 25 metre pool) and irritatingly I would have done it if I’d only started ten minutes earlier.

The schools locally start to come in on a Friday at 9.30am and I ran out of time before I ran out of stamina.

How crazy is that?

I mean – it’s totally nuts when you think about it. I’ve changed from being a 35 stone moribund lump of a man into one that’s capable of climbing huge mountains, and swimming continuously for almost 2.5km.

How on earth is all of this possible?!

Honestly at times I have no idea. Somehow I’ve just ended up inhabiting the body and mind of someone who is both driven and focused.

I’m not perfect though – because despite all of this exercise (and maybe sometimes as a consequence of it) I can still overeat.

I’ve been quite good with the types of food that I’ve consumed however, and have been preparing meals as I always do. My slow cooker has been churning out chicken soup practically on a daily basis lately (it’s so nice to come home to on a cold day) and my usual standby meal (I flipping love a chilli) has been consumed with gusto on a number of occasions.

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However – regardless of these good choices when I stood on the scales for the first time in two weeks last night (which in itself this represents something of a personal success because I can get quite obsessive about this) I realised that I’ve moved a few pounds outside of my new target range.

Whilst I’ve mentally committed myself to going to group tomorrow to keep my head in the game I doubt that I will stand on the scales while I’m there.

Thankfully as a target member I only need to weigh in every 8 weeks – but I still need a visit to group to keep me focused.

I may weigh in at one of Angie’s Monday groups instead (I can’t on Saturday next week) but we’ll see. I’m not putting any pressure on myself because the truth is that I don’t really need to.

Whilst I used to hate the phrase ‘naturally thin’ this is one of those moments that I feel it’s really relevant.

I’ve always wanted to be the sort of person that can deviate a little to the left or right of the correct path in life, but who will always find my way back to the right course. So far for the last 11 months I’ve proven that I’m capable of this.

I’ve moved both above and below target weights – and I’ve come to accept that none of this represents either success or failure. All it represents is life and how things will always change from time to time.

Gradually I’ve recognised that judging yourself harshly based on small weekly deviations on the scales is an empty and pointless pursuit that will ultimately accomplish nothing but emotional corrosion.

Sure – if you’re trying to lose weight then the overall trend needs to be downwards, but the point is that beating yourself up over a misstep or two will do nothing but provide a reason to carry on with the self destructive behaviour that you are trying so hard to avoid.

It’s much better to accept that no-one is perfect, life is just life, and that tomorrow is just another day where you will probably feel stronger and more capable than you did the day before. You can only be the best that you can be at any one given moment in time – and thinking that anyone else is any different is pointless and damaging.

We all struggle and we all fall over – and accepting that you’re just as normal as anyone else is key to long term success.

The wages of this kind of ongoing attitude can be seen in my diabetic results – which yesterday I held in my hand, in black and white.

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My current HbA1c level of 26 is still way below what would be considered pre-diabetic.

My cholesterol is great, I’ve been assured that my blood pressure results are perfectly normal and ‘low’, my overall health is ‘tip top’ and all of the usual tests (sensitivity in my extremities and diabetic retinopathy results) show that I’m still holding diabetes at bay.

By making continually more positive than negative choices in life I’ve not only turned things around, but I’m proving to any casual observers that my continued health outcomes are not only possible but completely sustainable – even with an occasional mis-step.

Despite many many social media voices stating that everyone following Slimming World as a plan is destined to put all their weight back on I intend to stand proudly as an example of what’s possible long term.

Success in this area is not magic though.

It’s all about mindset.

The reality of it is that all of this is just continual hard work combined with an ongoing willingness to re-frame the negative internal voices that we all have.

Whatever mountain you have to climb internet, it’s all do-able.

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Davey

Health outcomes and why you should try

It’s that time of year again. Around about now I’m reminded of the past as well as who I used to be – and for a number of reasons this can prove to be a mentally tricky period.

Firstly it’s time for my semi annual diabetes checks and I always get a bit nervous when these roll around.

This morning I headed off to the first of two appointments that I’ve got to attend over the next week with a nice warm urine sample tucked away discreetly in my bag.

It’s always nice to arrive with a present.

In some ways the checks are always a bit amusing – because each time I go there seems to be a new(ish) nurse. Typically this means that I have to plod through broadly the same suite of queries as they look me up and down and then do a double take on my medical history.

Firstly they think they’re looking at the notes for the wrong person – because lately my test results show no evidence of diabetes whatsoever. Secondly they do a double take when they see the history of my weight.

Then they also make me stand on the scales.

Sometimes twice.

Today it wasn’t so bad, and before the nurse started asking me questions I quickly explained how much weight I’d lost, how much exercise I do, and why my resting heart rate is so low (40 bpm).

She seemed surprised – but also very interested and as she took my blood pressure we chatted about how I viewed the whole process of weight loss – and in particular my opinion of Slimming World vs hers.

She wasn’t so keen on the plan because (she said) it ‘promoted large portions’ and ‘had a lot of carbs in it’ – which (to her) meant that people would inevitably regain the weight that they had originally lost.

It’s not the first time I’ve come across this argument.

I told her that I both agreed and disagreed with some of her points – because in my view whether you regain any weight depends firstly on your mindset and secondly on what you eat in terms of processed food.

I told her that the majority of my syns came from unprocessed natural food (olives or avocado etc) as opposed to things like chocolate.

I then said that I feel though (and always have) that it’s folly to have a diet plan that doesn’t allow for processed food like chocolate to be eaten (who these days would embark upon any plan if it completely denied them?) and occasionally I too eat these things – but in serious moderation.

The vast majority of the time I only have one item of processed food per day – and for around three days out of seven there’s often none at all. However (I told her) I’ve always felt that you can lose weight having processed food as part of your daily intake.

But did I think this was the right approach?

No I didn’t – because I personally feel that if you want a healthier life it’s not as simple as just counting ‘syns’.

Although it works for some people you will never catch me with a ‘syn bag’ full of crisps and chocolate in front of the TV in the evening.

Sure this can still see people lose weight – because ultimately it’s (at least partially but not exclusively) about being mindful of calorie intakes.

But what happens if you fall from grace and you still have a taste for these foods?

This is also why I don’t do ‘fakeaways’. I don’t want to crave these tastes any more and it often irritates the hell out of me that I still have a ‘need’ for cereal or hi-fi bars – which I’d much rather was completely replaced by fruit as a regular craving.

In my view you should aim to take as much processed food out of your life as possible.

At the very least you should diminish it to the point where your fridge is almost exclusively full of raw vegetables and (if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan) a small amount of meat and fish (particularly oily ones).

The nattering about the merits (or otherwise) of my approach to SW soon stopped however, because the first of the two appointments is only a short twenty minute one to gather data.

It’s not until next week that I get the HbA1c (average sugar levels fr the last 2/3 months based on my blood sample) results – which I’m most interested in.

They have recently been so low as to not register even as pre-diabetic, and I’m keen to keep them that way. I see diabetes as a beast waiting to pounce rather than something thats been cured. In my mind it’s always chasing me in the rear view mirror – and if I take my foot off the gas then it could come back at any time.

The one result I could get immediately though is my blood pressure – which irritatingly appears to be somewhat elevated since the last time it was checked – although I did arrive at the appointment after a rather brisk walk.

The last time I looked it was 116/68 – but today it was different.

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Since blood pressure isn’t something that’s typically on my radar I always end up having to google what these readings mean – and according to the NHS website I appear (at least today) to be annoyingly on the cusp of pre-hypertension.

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Their advice states:

Your blood pressure is described as being high-normal and ideally, it should be below 120/80mmHg. Known as the “silent killer”, high blood pressure rarely has obvious symptoms but, left untreated, it increases your risk of heart attack or stroke.

The good news is, it can be brought under control through lifestyle changes such as:

  • Losing weight (if overweight)
  • Reducing the amount of salt in your diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Cutting back on alcohol and caffeine
  • You may also need medication

There’s not really an awful lot left on this list to change other than caffeine which is my one remaining vice.

Truthfully it’s a big one – and I’ve often felt that my willingness to remove other more harmful things from my life has been at the expense of a significant increase in coffee consumption.

It’s my go to drink of choice – and as I type at 11.15 I’m already on my fourth one of the day.

Maybe I’ll have to change this aspect of my lifestyle, because heaven knows I can’t easily lose any more weight, reduce any more salt or do any more exercise (I’m currently burning a total of around 4500-5000 kcal a day).

Sigh.

How annoying.

This brings me to my second reason for remembering the past – because in just over a week’s time I will have been sober for three years.

This (now comfortingly regular) annual milestone is a double edged sword, because whilst it makes me feel no small amount of pride it also carries with it a deep sense of regret.

This is related partially to my inability to control myself in the past – but primarily to the death of my mother, which happened two days after I gave up drinking on the 26th of January 2016.

Although many may view the latter as the more significant of the two anniversaries I only tend remember it because of the former.

This subject came up today when talking to my nurse – because she asked me (as many people do) why it was I suddenly decided to change.

It came up in conversation earlier in the week when I was visiting a friend in Lichfield.

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As we walked around the town and explored the cathedral I chatted about this upcoming event (it’s been on my mind for a while if I’m honest) and how I can never seem to manage to separate my personal triumphs from their associated emotions of guilt and regret.

I feel guilt because (despite the fact that my mother was a continually detrimental influence in my life) I don’t miss my her at all – and I never feel sadness because someone that I loved is gone forever.

Typically I don’t think about my mom at all day to day. The anniversary of her passing (as significant as it should probably be) only provides an overwhelming sense of relief that the abuse I endured at her hands is over.

As well as guilt I also feel regret – because ultimately although she proved to be the catalyst for most of the positive changes that I made I wish I’d been able to do it for more positive reasons.

I ultimately chose to change because I didn’t want to be anything like my mother. I suddenly needed to move away from any possible correlation between me and her at a million miles an hour.

It’s because of that impulse that I am now an infinitely better man than I ever was before.

The annoying thing is though I didn’t do it for love of myself or anyone else.

I did it because I had no love at all for her and I couldn’t stand seeing any element of my mother when I looked in the mirror.

If anything I hated myself way more than I disliked her and it was this personal revulsion that fuelled my actions.

I regret my reasons because I would have been delighted to have suddenly decided without any prompting that I needed to be a better man who deserved a future filled with love and happiness – but I didn’t. Instead it took other (far more negative) emotions to begin the process of becoming the man that I am today.

For some reason I don’t ever seem to let myself escape that fact.

The truth is that it makes it really really hard when people ask me for advice on how to change because I can’t suggest they wait until a parent who has mentally abused them for most of their childhood and adult life passes away before they change.

The truth is I don’t know if I would have ever become a different person without this event – and I might be the one that would have been dead now if she hadn’t beaten me to it.

However – what I do know is that although the even that created the man I am now was predominantly negative, the results were almost exclusively positive – because when the ball started rolling my mindset changed to a fundamentally better one.

I can now see many of the ‘truths’ I subscribed to back then as nothing more than self delusion. My approach to life these days is rooted making choices because they are the right ones – not despite the fact that they are.

choose to be healthier.

choose to be fitter.

choose to invite love and friendships into my life.

I choose to share my failures and successes so that they will help others.

So maybe (just maybe) I will give up caffeine too. Maybe it’s one of the final crutches I’ve been clinging on to, in the mistaken belief that I still need something that’s a ‘vice’ so that I won’t go quietly crazy.

The truth is that I don’t really need any substance to make me feel good any more. All I need is the security of knowing that my choices are the right ones, that I have people in my life that I care deeply about, and that I feel loved.

After all – what other motivation do we really need?

People not motivated by wanting to live longer arguably don’t fully appreciate the life that they have. Maybe this is because it’s never hung in the balance or because nothing has threatened to take it away prematurely.

In my case I nearly threw all of it away on a casual whim because I didn’t care about myself.

Now I do – and I want to do anything and everything that I can to keep feeling the way that I do because I love each and every day of my life. It’s why each morning I get up and start walking, swimming, hiking or making other healthy lifestyle choices.

It’s why YOU should too.

Whatever your reason to do so – choose to be better.

Davey

2019 and beyond

Good grief I’m cold.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How short my memory appears to be!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a joy.

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

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

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

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

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

I want to live for the future.

But what does that future hold?

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

Instead I want the following:

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

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

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

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

Davey

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

Lontong Sayur

There’s something about the tastes and sounds of a place (which you call home when you’re away from it) that can immediately pull you right back and remind you of all the things you’ve missed from there or that have come to form a part of who you are.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my history and wondering how best to explain ‘who is Dave’ to anyone that doesn’t yet know me.

Most of me is in the pages of this blog – but suggesting someone read it for this purpose (particularly when there’s nearly 700 posts of ‘me’ contained within this site) is not the same as personally leading someone through the highlights of events and decisions that led you to where you are now.

When you have a lot of well established friends who know you really well it can often have the unexpected side effect of making you feel rather lacking when it comes to explaining why you are who you are and where you come from.

Existing mates already know but explaining it all to someone new is complex – and it’s an entirely new skill to perfect.

In many ways this comes naturally. I am after all something of a chatterbox – but in other ways I find this quite hard to do – because there’s a lot about the new me that still doesn’t fully make sense or hasn’t ‘settled’.

In many ways I’m still discovering a new ‘self’ – although I’ve come to the conclusion recently that I’m not unique or special in this respect.

Everyone else is constantly learning who they are too. Just when we think we have a handle on who we are, life has a way of rocking your particular boat and making you rethink how you stay afloat.

So far I’ve found that explaining myself is actually (at least to begin with) a fairly generic box ticking exercise. For me at least it seems to keep returning to stringing songs or films together and then talking about the sense of place and memories that they bring back.

What was your favourite album – and where or who does it remind you of?

What movies do you love and where did you see them? Who were you with?

How did all this make you feel?

It seems that I’m more musical than I previously thought – or maybe I’ve just leaned into it as an interest to allow me to give things a sense of time or place. It’s amazing how these little tunes or iconic moments of celluloid become part of us and shape the story of ‘who we are’.

With them we write a conveniently packaged narrative of someone that’s ‘into electronic music’ or ‘a geeky sci-fi nerd’ (guilty on both charges) and our early choices in these areas form the basis of how we typically explain who we are to others.

Hopefully if we sling these classifications and likes out towards other people in the guise of interests they will resonate with them and we’ll uncover common ground. If they do relate to us then hopefully we will find a bond of shared experiences and eventually belonging to accompany it.

Sometimes though it’s not about getting to know someone new and connecting.

Sometimes sharing a memory is about reconnecting.

For my sister in law part of the story that explains her is Lontong Sayur.

I’d never heard of this before – but this warming Indonesian breakfast dish is apparently a big thing where she was born – and since it takes a long while to prepare it’s a food that tends to only get eaten on special occasions.

For one day only only a small artisan Indonesian coffee shop in the centre of Birmingham was serving it, and the number of available portions would be limited to thirty or so.

I’d been invited along by my brother to have a bite to eat and also indulge in the speciality coffee that they proudly roast themselves in the shop.

However – we’d need to get there early.

I didn’t mind. I’m usually up at the crack of dawn anyway.

I was on the way to the train station shortly after 8am, and before long at 9.30am I was standing outside of my destination – which was called Ngopi (link). This can be found half way down Dale End just opposite the NCP car park by Ikea in Birmingham city centre.

I used to spend a lot of time nearby in my youth.

The cafe is practically next door to a doorway that takes me back to a time and a place where I felt a part of my personality was formed. It’s definitely a little jigsaw piece of what made me… me.

Although it’s currently vacant it used to be a nightclub called ‘The Hummingbird‘ (link)

Here young Davey destroyed many many brain cells and also danced an awful lot whilst in the pursuit of both oblivion and the opposite sex.

I’m happy to say that I managed to successfully accomplish both objectives in that building and whilst many of the memories of my time there are unsurprisingly vague they are all universally cheerful ones.

Yesterday though I was just there for the coffee – and although it was rather tiny my Americano was undeniably lovely.

Unfortunately despite the early start – and being literally the first people through the door at opening time – we soon realised that the main attraction was still being prepared.

Lontong Sayur takes well over two hours to cook – and despite it usually being a breakfast treat we were informed by the lady on the till that it would not be served until midday.

So, since it would be rude to just sit doing nothing for two and a half hours we decided to have a light bite and come back a bit later for the main attraction.

On my brother’s advice (I have practically no experience of Indonesian food) I ordered Bakwan Bakst Malang as it seemed the most SW friendly item on the menu.

My sister in law chose the same, whilst my brother ordered the Chicken and Prawn Siomay Dimsum.

As a platter to share he suggested we also get a plate of Martabak (which came helpfully cut into little squares) and once it all arrived we began to tuck in.

I have to be honest – clear broth has always turned me off trying food like this – and on reflection I think I’ve been really missing out.

The beef in my dish was cooked to perfection and the flavours were delightfully delicate too! What’s more the Martabak we shared was flipping delicious and I think it was easily my favourite one of the three dishes.

Once we’d finished it was nearly 11am. The next course would be ready for another hour, so we decided to mooch.

Birmingham has a really nice Chinese quarter – and from an Indonesian perspective this area is basically Mana from Heaven. Every single unique item that you won’t find in a UK supermarket (vacuum packed chicken feet anyone?) can be found here, along with a selection of drinks that you don’t see anywhere else.

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I was very tempted by a cider flavoured Picachu – but eventually decided against it because the vast majority of this can’s contents appeared to be corn syrup and sugar. I’m particularly wary of the former (the latter is no good either) and anyone that suffers from or has previously had diabetes should be too. It’s really not good for you (link).

(example extract from this article – ‘…countries where large amounts of HFCS are used have diabetes rates that are “20 per cent higher” than countries where HFCS is less common…’)

I put the pretty little Chinese can of evil gently back on the shelf, briefly examined a bag of chicken feet and then we headed back to Ngopi.

We were bang on time – and once she had her bowl of Lontong Sayur in front of her the broad smile on my sister in law’s face said it all. She had what she’d come for.

A taste of home.

A taste of her life as a child.

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(from Wikipedia – link) In Indonesia, especially among Betawi people, lontong usually served as lontong sayur, pieces of lontong served in coconut milk soup with shredded chayote, tempeh, tofu, hard-boiled egg, sambal and kerupuk.[4] Lontong sayur is related and quite similar to Ketupat sayur and is a favourite breakfast menu next to bubur ayam and nasi uduk.

She wasn’t the only one smiling. The small coffee shop was filled with local Indonesians (many of whom looked like students) and for a brief moment we were surrounded by the sounds and people of her home.

The music playing, the cheerful people, the children running around, and the food (which every single one of them was eating) gave a sense of place. The dish united all of the cultures in the room and brought everyone together with a sense of belonging.

Food is a fantastic way to bring others in to your world  – and as we sat around the table she explained the dish whilst inviting us to taste the constituent parts – which were really really nice!

She looked happy and It was clear that the journey had been worth it.

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As we left (thanking the staff for their cooking) each of us seemed toasty both inside and out. The food had been lovely – but the sense of belonging had warmed parts in a way that nothing else could.

As we parted company and they headed back to the train station I headed off on my own further into the city centre to explore, whist thinking about my own past.

Dale End (as rough as it’s become lately) had brought back a lot of memories – and the rest of Birmingham was doing the same.

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After walking through the heaving German markets (which are less markets and more stand after stand encouraging people to buy huge amounts of alcohol in litre sized glasses followed by tons of fattening food) I found myself in another old haunt.

Nostalgia and Comics.

In here I am Batman and I used to be him every weekend without fail.

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As much as some things change others (like my geekiness) remain just the same.

As I walked upstairs to look at the dusty back issues from yesteryear and see if there were any bargains I turned to look behind me.

Even though the downstairs area is far cleaner and more sanitised than I remember it (it’s all bobblehead figures and rack after rack of really expensive graphic novels now) the same movie posters that I’d seen when I first walked in are still on the back wall.

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On the plus side there are way more women in the shop these days – and significantly less body odour – so there are at least two areas where definite progress has been made.

As I left (empty handed) and continued to wander through the city centre I soon found myself passing under a rather sad looking bridge.

I’m not sure why I stopped to look at this, but I did.

I was transfixed by its rusty rivets, peeling paintwork or its vaulted iron and brickwork ceilings – and for a moment I felt like I was just where I needed to be.

It’s not concrete. It’s not prefabricated. It was created with love, care and attention to detail, in an era where utilitarian things didn’t have to look bland or ugly.

They spoke to a sense that we can express ourselves even in the mundane, and in doing so this bridge still evokes a sense of place and history for me that a rebar infused flyover simply does not.

To me, at that moment in time, this tiny piece of urban decay felt like home.

It spoke to me of a youth that may have been wayward and lost in many respects – but in others it was creative, unfettered and hopeful.

This place is part of the story of me.

It’s my Lontong Sayur.

Davey

Very damp

Despite the absolutely awful weather today I’ve still been out and about putting in the miles.

The inclement skies have tested my recent statements about there being ‘no bad weather just bad clothes’ to the absolute limit, because it seems that not all of my clothes are… good.

I’m very damp.

In no particular order…

  • My trusty Berghaus walking boots seem to be leaking thanks to some epically deep puddles today and my feet are soaking wet
  • My ‘waterproof’ Peter Storm gloves (that I bought full price from Millets last year) needed around an eggcup of water (I’m not kidding) wrung out of each one of them when I sat down.
  • My Mountain Warehouse supercoat has (to be completely fair to it) kept water out of everywhere… Except its pockets
  • My waterproof Regatta overtrousers in contrast have been doing a grand job but the perspiration they cause when I wear them on longer walks undermines any upsides they might have regarding keeping rain at bay

When I started writing this post drinking whilst coffee in a pub (hiding from the rain with my overtrousers taken off and turned inside out) my outer clothing was all drip drying nearby.

By the time I reached home later in the afternoon the situation hadn’t really improved much and my feet were totally sodden and ‘pruney’ when my boots and socks came off.

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For the first time since maybe January I unclenched my wallet’s sphincter muscle and turned on the (cue drum roll) central heating…

Still – I may be wet and cold – but one thing I’n NOT is outrageously hungry after my 9 miles in the pouring rain. I’m not in the mood for food probably because I did a little bit of experimental cookery last night and the outcome was extremely satisfying.

To be honest it wasn’t really fine dining – but it did taste flipping delicious.

It consisted of a couple of packs of Aldi’s fajita chicken stir fry mix (which are admittedly 8 syns a pack according to the SW app – but they were half price – yay!) a punnet of mushrooms and a pack of Aldi sundried tomato and garlic flavour cous cous (0.5 syns a pack).

The whole meal came to around £3.50!

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I cooked the mushrooms, pre-marinaded chicken and stir fry veg (peppers and onions) for about 20 minutes, chucked in the sachets of sauce, stirred those in for 5 minutes – then sprinkled in the couscous and reduced the whole lot down for another five minutes until the couscous was swollen with flavour – then served it up.

Honestly this ended up being rather spicy but also felt like really comforting food for a cold and dark evening. Although it was definitely a bit higher in syns than meals that I’d usually cook frankly it made up for it by being so tasty that my tastebuds were practically ready to crown me emperor of the known universe for cooking it in the first place.

If there was ever a way to intelligently use syns with Slimming World then this is it in my view – because at least this way they’re filling you up rather than just hiding in empty calories like crisps or chocolate.

The truth is though that although I really enjoyed eating this I’m not really a fan of pre-prepared pack in sauces.

If you look closely at the ingredients for both the marinade that’s already on the chicken and it’s additional (admittedly optional) sachet of stir in sauce both have sugar in them.

The reason why this is included in any savoury food continually baffles me.

Why on earth does a fajita kit need sugar in it?

If I cooked this from scratch there’s not a recipe in the world that would say ‘and now grab a bag of silver spoon and start pouring‘.

Sometimes (like last night) I turn a blind eye to this kind of thing purely for cost and convenience’s sake as they’re usually one off’s – but honestly the presence of sugar in cook in sauces irritates the s&&t out of me. It’s no wonder the whole western world is lurching toward a diabetic and obesity armageddon when sugar is added to everything.

You may have seen my previous rants about this (and other similar food crimes) on Instagram…

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In many respects I don’t blame Aldi or it’s competitors for doing this though. Human beings are their own worst enemies.

Supermarkets taste test their products with consumers and then base their decisions on the feedback about what people prefer to eat. Sadly human beings seem to want more and more sugar. It’s just a fact of life I guess and I suppose that every now and then it doesn’t hurt to treat yourself.

Anyway – I’m very focused at the moment on eating the right kinds of things and accounting for all of it not just because of hidden sugar – but also because the Slimming World ball is coming up soon.

In early November I’m going to be up on stage to be presented with my Man of the Year award, and when I have everyone and their dog looking at me I want to feel (and look) my best.

I’m still not sure yet what ‘look my best’ will mean though…

Whilst I’ve been out today I’ve taken the opportunity to drip on the floor of some clothes shops and search for inspiration regarding colour and pattern combinations. I’m still no further forward with my decision – although I DO know that I’m almost certainly not going to pay the prices that high street shops are willing to charge me to do this.

I want to be frugally creative if at all possible and see what kind of an outfit I can pull together from ‘pre-loved’ sources.

This is considerably more stressful than just throwing money at a cashier when I find something nice – but on the plus side if I manage to pull it off I reckon I’ll be able to get a whole outfit for a similar or lower price than the (admittedly very nice) tie from Moss Bros (paired with the grey jacket in the last shot)…

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Either way – I find this kind of thing a fun challenge. Seeing individual items randomly in different places and then trying to mentally combine it with something else is a strangely addictive pastime…

Only time will tell whether I will be able to pull it off!

Watch this space internet!!!

Davey

Me forever

The weather has definitely taken a turn for the worse. There’s been rain, wind (a bit more rain) and dark cloud (with some more rain) to contend with today – but I really don’t care in the least (even though there’s also rain).

A friend remarked a while ago though (in a turn of phrase I’ve since adopted as my own) that ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather – just bad clothes.

I tend to agree. Grey skies are no excuse. Not when you have a lovely warm coat and a willingness to put one foot in front of the other.

By 9am I’d already managed to get five miles under my belt, and I often find that getting a chunk of exercise in early energises me and means that  i’ll probably end up doing more later too.

Regardless of what the weather decided to do for the rest of the day this meant it was definitely going to be a success.

I’m becoming quite fond of my ‘winter plumage’ too – and honestly (although I didn’t plan it this way) couldn’t have picked a better time to start pushing through some chin fur. Whether it’s going to stay or goes in the long term I don’t know – but it’s the first time I’ve grown once since hitting target and it’s great to compare it to bearded me back when I was at my heaviest.

This is something that always encourages me to keep my eye on the ball – and although focusing so much on how I look may appear vain I honestly don’t care. I actually like the new shape of my face now (which is wonderful when I consider that I used to hate it) and when I see the contrast to how it used to look it fills me with pride.

It’s the kind of thing that enables me to do what I did yesterday – which was speak to some upper sixth students at a school in Derbyshire about weight loss and the psychology behind transformative change.

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If nothing else when I go there they give me a fantastic food optimising lunch (a baked potato, salad, garlic mushrooms, green beans and asparagus with trimmed bacon!!!) and that is just one more reason to love speaking to the students.

There’s not much I won’t do for a free lunch!

It’s the second time I’ve talked at this institution in the last two years – and the teacher whose classes I met last time had been kind enough to invite me back to repeat the experience with a whole new set of fresh faces.

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I’m by no means an expert in this field – but doing this is something that gives me real pleasure. If even just one thing I say about my experiences in childhood, the mistakes I’ve made and the moments of insight that enabled me to correct my trajectory resonates with someone then that’s enough to make the trip worthwhile.

Maybe I’ll save someone else the pain and heartache that I went through.

It’s a wonderful thing to see a stifled yawn turn into a curious frown, and then eventually morph into a raised hand followed by an insightful question – because then you know that you’re speaking to the heart as well as the mind.

At that moment you’ve stepped into a shared experience, where something that you’ve gone through is similar to another person’s moment in time, and they’re temporarily pulled closer.

You can almost see their ears physically turn in your direction and a light go on in their eyes.

They may still be going through whatever it is  – or be searching (possibly without even knowing it) for a way of processing it. A spark ignites for the briefest moment and you know you’ve connected.

It’s really really cool.

However, the truth of it is that you never know with who or when you’ll make a difference. While you may speak to hundreds of people (I lost count a long time ago) it’s impossible to predict which ones your words or actions will resonate with or who will be truly inspired long term.

I couldn’t have predicted for instance that a woman would pull me aside recently (quite out of the blue) and tell me that a conversation I had with her almost two years ago in passing would have changed both her life and health.

At the time I was telling her that I felt Apple Watch (on top of Slimming World) had been instrumental in turning my life around. Its exercise statistics had enabled me to understand how I had made my diabetes retreat so effectively – and made it possible to connect the dots between increased cardio activity, weight loss and plummeting blood sugar levels.

Without its statistics I may not have.

I’d told her at the time that it wasn’t just a case of losing weight – there had to be a corresponding increase in activity too. Although I had no reason to think that she wouldn’t act on what I’d said, from a percentage perspective I find that very few people do.

That’s ok though.

I’m not attempting to convert anyone that’s not ready. If someone had tried to beat my metaphorical door down with unwanted advice back when I was in denial about everything then I’d probably have told them to get lost pretty sharpish.

Yet for some reason with her it struck a chord, and she was on the verge of tears as she told me about the impact I’d had. She’d absorbed my words after I’d left her that day and over time she too had used the Apple Watch I’d spotted on her wrist that day in the same way that I had.

She became stat and goal focused, and like me her obsession every day became filling the three little rings on her wrist.

The result?

Her type two diabetes is very nearly in remission. Her levels have dropped so significantly that her HbA1c reading is now in a ‘pre diabetic’ range. She’s lost several stone and she feels infinitely better.

She is also proud of herself – and justifiably so.

That makes every moment that I struggle, lose my way, find it again, climb back on the horse and try to be a better man worth it. It’s the difference between having a lunch of fried tomatoes and garlic (with a little brown sauce and pepper) as opposed to ordering a pizza or a kebab.

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Tomorrow I’m probably still going to be a little bit out of target – but for the whole of October I’ve gone back to basics. I’ve written everything down (apart from one day) and compared my exercise levels to my intake.

You know what?

It turns out that all the times I’ve told myself in darker moments that something has changed and I’m physically incapable of losing or maintaining weight were just nonsense. I just wasn’t facing up to what I was putting in my mouth.

I was temporarily eating too much and I wasn’t confronting it.

It’s that simple.

This isn’t me out to make anyone feel guilty though – because like everyone I speak to each of us is on our own path. I think I needed to step back from things for a moment. I needed to just not cope and retreat – even for a little while.

Oddly it helped. Maybe this helps other people too.

The thing is though that I know the old me is never coming back. The round face in the picture above that smiles but I know hid so much pain is firmly in the past. Even though my graph may go up as well as down it will always remain broadly constant.

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Rain or shine internet.

This is me now.

Forever.

Davey

Eyeballs

Today I have a digital eye screening for diabetic retinopathy.

Since I probably won’t be able to write much shortly I’m typing this as I walk to my appointment.

The rain that’s been a feature of the last two days has stopped and once again it’s sunny – which doesn’t bode well for my eyeballs afterwards.

Bright light will hurt.

For those of you unfamiliar with what I’m about to have done – it’s an ongoing testing regime for diabetics where you have drops put in your eyes to dilate your pupils before someone takes flash photographs of your retina.

It’s as pleasant as it sounds.

Your eyes are sensitive to light and your vision is blurred for hours afterwards.

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes though it’s essential because this test aims to give an early warning about any degradation in the small capillaries and blood vessels in your eyes.

In the long term this aims to reduce the complications associated with diabetic retinopathy – which can lead to premature blindness if undiagnosed.

Since my diabetes still appears to be in full remission I’m hoping that this will be the last time that I have to do this.

I really want to get a letter in the post afterwards saying that everything is still completely clear.

I’m also dearly looking forward to the day where my GP states categorically that I no longer need to be on the diabetic register.

Once I’m off it I’ll have to pay for my NHS prescriptions again – but honestly I’ve barely visited the doctor for any kind of illness since I started to improve my health and fitness two and a half years ago – so this really doesn’t bother me at all.

Although my overall health has dramatically improved (see my list of non-scale victories in my menu) the one that I’m MOST proud of is my reversal of diabetes.

On the 13th January 2014 my doctor first told me I had blood sugar that was way out of control.

I had a HbA1c reading of 94.

At the time I’d been unable to stop going to the loo every 45 minutes, could barely drive home in the time I needed between desperate visits to the toilet and had wet the bed twice because I couldn’t get up to go to the toilet in time.

I could also barely see (although I didn’t realise this was related until a while later) because my vision had become so blurry.

My glasses were making absolutely no difference by then and my job (which required me to be in front of a monitor for eight hours a day) left me with diabolically painful eye strain.

I’d also purchased a 55in TV to play video games on – not because (as most of my peers assumed) I was obsessed with the latest technology – but because looking at anything smaller made my eyes water after half an hour.

I was a mess – but I didn’t realise HOW BAD my eyesight had become until it got better.

(Author arrives at the doctor and goes to get some drops put in his eyes)

The fuzziness is beginning to gradually take over and it’s becoming more difficult to see my phone as I type in the waiting room.

After speaking to the nurse about no longer having to do this it seems that I’m on the screening register for life, unless I decide to voluntarily opt out.

If I do this means that I’ll not be tested again for three years – and I’m not sure how I feel about this.

On the one side I’d love to never have to go through this again – but maybe it’s stupid of me to opt out just because I want to be free of something in my head.

What if in doing so I stop getting tested and miss something that has begun to degrade regardless of how careful I’m being with my diet and exercise?

I’m going to have to think about this at length. I have struggled with my eyesight for many years (because I’m largely unable to see through one eye) and I’ve always been hyper paranoid about the possibility of blindness.

If something happens to my good eye then it would change my life dramatically.

(Things become too blurry to type so I just sit and wait for my test)

Now it’s much later in the evening. The vague nausea and headache that I always get after these drops is beginning to subside and I’m still thinking about diabetes.

I’m annoyed at myself a little for wanting it to just magically disappear in a puff of smoke and I guess I’m having to face up to the fact that to some extent it will probably always have to be a feature of my life.

Maybe that’s a good thing though.

Maybe I’m better off that way – because if it’s an ever present fear then I always have a reminder of what might happen if I take my foot off the gas.

I don’t plan to any time soon.

Anyway.

Enough with the contemplation. I get my results in four to six weeks. Hopefully they’re all clear and then we can move on to my HbA1c test.

Sigh.

I really wish that I hadn’t done this to myself in the first place.

It would have been nice to have grasped what was really important in life before I damaged myself do much – but I guess everything happens for a reason.

If nothing else for others I’m both a cautionary tale AND an example of how to attempt self repair.

I guess it’s much better than being a name carved in granite and for that Internet I’m really grateful.

I’m going to sleep now, happy in the knowledge that I’m well and that when I wake up this cruddy sensation will be gone.

Davey

Something I love.

Occasionally something happens at just the right moment in time – and at precisely the juncture that it’s needed in your life to remind you why it’s worth doing something that you feel passionate about.

Some time ago I was nothing but a consumer – and there was nothing about my life that included an act of creation. I created this blog to understand myself better and in part to document the search for the mythical ‘thing I loved doing’.

It terrified me that not only could I not resolve the question in my mind at the time – but that I didn’t know how to begin the process of finding an answer.

Ironically – whilst searching for this within its posts – I realised that the blog itself was the answer and it’s why I write it so frequently even now.

I love it.

I love writing it with all of my heart and when I click ‘Publish’ it’s like I’ve plucked a little feather from my side and sent it careering out into a strong breeze.

I never know where it will land or what it will do.

I don’t know whether it will come back now, or later – or at all.

It doesn’t matter.

The act of creation is enough.

The world contains just a little more of me trying to be the best version of myself that I can – and I know that printed version of me is trying to be honest, open and human while he does.

I’ve often wondered about the impulse to write though.

Is it borne of the need to explain or the need to be understood?

The difference is subtle – but (at least in my mind) the former is an exercise in eloquently pouring out the why – whereas the latter is a need to be read by others, become relevant and maybe also to be accepted.

I don’t want to write solely because I want other people to read it (the purist in me thinks that is pure vanity) but I’ve come to learn that it has to be part of the process.

After all – if you don’t know whether you provoke feelings in others what’s the point of life?

Touching lives in a positive way is what we should all strive to do. The world is a better place if we try to send good thoughts and actions out into it.

So – the thing I’d found and realised I loved became something I wanted others to love too and then (as I improved my health) morphed into a tool to be a positive force in the world.

It’s only a tiny blog and it hasn’t cracked the atom or discovered a cure for cancer – but occasionally I find that it has changed someone’s life for the better – even just a little bit.

This makes everything worthwhile and actually makes me want to cry a little right now because it’s so far away from who I used to be.

A little while ago I wrote this (slightly angry) post about type two diabetes.

https://daveywankenobie.blog/2018/06/16/the-fast-fix/

In it I talked about a programme I’d been watching and my own struggles (and subsequent success) with reversing the condition in myself.

People occasionally keep coming back to my old posts and leaving comments – and tonight I received this from a wonderful reader.

So – as I lie in bed typing this before I fall asleep I’m reminded that there’s a realpurpose to doing it.

My journey started with trying not to die like my mother.

It began in the midst of pain and loss, and a lack of personal awareness. Now it’s enabled me to make a positive difference in other people’s lives and because of that I’m now crying as I write.

I have tears not of sadness – but absolute joy.

Instead of playing video games whilst drinking myself to death I helped by putting myself out there.

Even if it’s just a little bit.

Maybe that little bit will turn into a lot – maybe others will also make similar changes that will affect their journey through life in a positive way.

Maybe that ripple will become a wave.

I really hope so.

Thanks for reading internet. You’re the absolute best.

Davey

The fast fix

It’s been a while since I wrote a post where I felt anger was the motivating factor – but as I type I must admit that my baser instincts are in the background.

After a friend recommended I have a look at it I’ve been watching a programme called ‘The fast fix – Diabetes’ – which has been on ITV (if you’re in the UK) this week. (link)

In it a mixture of normal people and celebrity guests have been guinea pigs for a university research project that aimed to prove type two diabetes is not only reversible – but the process can be done without ANY drugs – and within eight weeks.

It sounds good right?

Excellent subject matter!

It is – on both counts.

However the reason that I’m ANGRY is that watching it makes me feel seriously short changed. When I was originally diagnosed my healthcare professionals (probably under pressure – and maybe without the benefit of the latest research to hand) told me the opposite to what I’ve seen in this programme again and again.

From the moment I was handed the news that I was type 2 I was told face to face and within the literature I was given the same lies. These were firstly that whilst I could manage my condition with a better lifestyle the type two that I’d developed would always be a part of my life and secondly that it was inevitable this would eventually turn into insulin dependent type one.

Others outside the medical profession suggested it might have been reversible – and I was battered to death with well meaning link after link after link – but medical science seemed to think otherwise.

not knowing what to do for the best I deferred to the advice of my practice.

Honestly though I have to be truthful. At that point in my life it’s entirely possible (probable even) that no matter what anyone would have said I’d have been the same man with the same behaviours. Back then I had complex emotional and physical issues and I had convinced myself it was impossible to overcome them.

The thing that I’m angry about is that at a time when I felt there was absolutely zero hope the people in charge of my care failed me.

  • My initial results were lost and I went misdiagnosed for quite a while
  • My appointments for blood tests only materialised if I pestered my surgery
  • A diabetes forum at the local hospital remained closed to me after repeated requests for membership over a two year period
  • My condition was monitored only every six months (this isn’t a dig at the practice – this is standard for the NHS).
  • My blood glucose monitor (standard for type 1) was not something normally offered to type 2 patients – and even though I was prescribed the device I had to argue the case for why they should give me further testing strips so that I could monitor my condition at home.

Now – whilst I recognise that diabetes (something that I fully admit my own poor choices in life caused) puts an enormous strain on an already creaking and burdened health service the truth is that I feel I wasn’t really ‘looked after’ in any meaningful sense.

Instead of being shown step by step how I could fix this condition I was left almost completely in the dark with only the internet and forums to help me understand my problems.

My diabetic nurse was nice but 30 mins with her every 6 months was not a lot – and it was only when I took control of my own life that things started to change.

To be clear – I’m not annoyed that no-one took control for me – because I’m a grown up and it was my choice to eat and drink like a moron for years on end.

What I’m annoyed about is that the advice and prognosis was so shockingly bleak and poor and I feel I was given NO hope and NO reason in my mind to try.

My daily pill dispenser was going to be FULL forever and that was just a fact of life. Furthermore they’d given me a card entitling me to free prescriptions forever because this was the best they could do. It seemed like the NHS was rolling out a red carpet of money forever because they didn’t have the time to do anything else.

I’d need drugs – lots of drugs and most likely more illnesses would be on the horizon.

They too would need drugs.

I was now a pharmaceutical company’s wet dream and facing a no expenses spared trip to the bottom of the u-bend.

But I digress.

Back to the programme on my telly box.

Out of all the participants (who were subjected over 8 weeks to brutally restrictive calorie intakes and increased levels of exercise) over half found themselves in a blood sugar range that was no longer considered to be diabetic.

Let me just say that again.

Over half of the participants.

Furthermore in a long term study over the course of a year well over 80% of the people subjected to this regime continued to remain unmedicated and diabetes free.

Let me say that bit again too.

Well over 80% of the participants remained unmedicated and diabetes free.

With figures that convincing it’s hard to understand how the western world has largely sleep walked into a situation where it’s convinced itself diabetes is the new norm and is almost as common as getting the flu.

I’m not normally a conspiracy theorist but given the amount of money spent on advertising unhealthy food I can’t help but come to a sad conclusion.

This is that somewhere along the line people are being paid to look the other way while sugar and refined food pushers (I use this word for good reason given the addictive nature of sugar) go about the business of ruining lives for profit.

The last two coffee shops I’ve been into today, along with pretty much everywhere else in the universe is intent on pushing sugar – and often the first hit is free.

Costa and Coffee#1 clearly aren’t selling enough refined carbs. Currently they’re just giving them away.

I refuse to indulge.

My health is too important.

Five years ago I was wetting the bed because I couldn’t stop going to the toilet every 30-40 mins to flush out the blood sugars.

I was constantly thirsty, lethargic, and could barely read anything without glasses.

All that’s gone because of the healthy eating plan and exercise I’ve followed whilst with Slimming World – but this programme proves that you can do it without a group at home if you prefer – for free. Where there’s a will to change there is most certainly a way.

If this much can be done in just eight short weeks to improve health outcomes and to reverse life changing conditions like fatty liver disease and diabetes why is it not being done everywhere?!

Anyway.

I’ve said my piece. Rant over internet.

Watch the programme if you can.

Thankfully life is different for me now.

I’m a healthy and happy diabetes free man with everything to live for, and as well as continually walking everywhere I’m in control of my life and condition.

Davey

 

Fitness and life

I’ll be honest – I’ve felt a bit off my game this week.

I’ve had a fair bit on my mind and combined with some rather thundery nights and a dog that’s intent on waking me up at ridiculous o’clock in the morning I’ve lost a fair bit of sleep.

It’s meant that when I have been nodding off it’s been at weird hours and consequently emotionally I’ve felt a little sub par.

I’ve been trying to walk it off all week and first started trying to get it off my chest in earnest on Monday whilst twalking with a friend on the Kenilworth Greenway – but it wasn’t until Thursday or Friday that I began to feel the weight of a few things lift.

I’ll write more early next week about one of the things that’s been occupying my thoughts – but over the last couple of weeks several other more important life related issues have been increasingly competing for my conscious and subconscious attention. Some have been more serious than others but all have equally been making me ask the question ‘what’s it all about?’

I’m being vague and evasive about these because whilst honesty is a theme of my blog, undermining myself or betraying the confidence of others is not – so unfortunately I’ve been left without my usual WordPress outlet. Consequently I’ve found myself writing words that will never be posted in an effort to understand and balance my thoughts.

So – you’ll have to forgive me that for the recent gap in my musings and just trust me when I say that I’ve had good reason – and that not all of it has been bad.

In the middle of all of it I’ve found that the one thing that’s been keeping me on an even keel is a willingness to remain on track health wise. Exercise fills a gap in my life that a few years ago I didn’t even realise existed. Now it’s importance in my day to day existence is something I would never have thought possible and my (maybe obsessive) walking continually provides me with a sense of physical AND mental well being.

I’ve been able to get out during my lunch breaks for a walk now the sun is finally peeping out from behind the clouds – and when I do this takes me away from an office and out into nature.

On my daily 2 mile constitutional I’ve seen some of my favourite things – and just around the corner from where I work there are some new neighbours that have moved in.

As vocal as these little guys are I think we’re going to get along just fine.

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Swanlings aren’t the only local residents I’ve been meeting for the very first time too – and I’ve bumped into a species that in all my years I’ve never ever seen before.

This is a Cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae) that I found just chilling in the grass near the park. It has such amazing colour on its wings that I honestly thought someone had spray painted it by accident until I got up close.

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It’s truly lovely to see all of these little flashes of nature – and I’d be aware of precisely none of it if I was sat at home with the curtains drawn.

I’m 1000% sure that today as I write I’d feel 1,000,000% worse if I’d just stayed in bed for a week feeling glum whilst playing video games.

In fact I’m now back up to my 10 mile a day average thanks to the much improved weather (the rain has mostly held off this week despite some gloomy forecasts) and after setting myself a goal to hit that metric again by the end of May on the 31st I came in bang on target.

Last month I walked 310 miles.

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This means that my step count is getting back up to an average that I’m happy with – and once more I’m in the 20,000 a day zone after a bleak winter which saw me fall well below.

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Of course all of this movement means that the one thing thats actually the most important (and the one metric that I almost solely attribute my reversal of type two diabetes to) is also looking excellent.

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I’m now once again nearing an average of two hours of cardio based exercise per day – which I’m super pleased about.

This means that hopefully a healthy heart and a long (and illness free) future lies ahead of me – AS LONG AS I KEEP IT UP.

You see – there’s always a ghost in the rear view mirror – and I see my rather massive shadow continually looming when I look over my shoulder. As slow moving as it is I feel that every time I think of slowing or actually slow down it gains a little ground.

I often feel that it’s my sole job in life to make sure the distance between us either remains constant or grows ever wider.

Currently I seem to burn (not through exercise) the calories that are expected of a normal man – around 2,500.

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The crazy thing is that even now – with as much as I do every day – I don’t even come close to burning the amount that I used to – and back when I first began my Slimming World journey (just slumped in my armchair at about 33 stone at the end of May 2016) I could eat and burn off a LOT more resting calories than I do now by waking 10 miles a day.

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You can take this with a pinch of salt or not based on how much you believe the widely accepted ‘wisdom’ that a man needs 2,500kcal (and a woman needs 2000) to survive and not lose weight.

I have limited confidence in these figures as absolute fact. 

However – even if they’re only broadly correct they show the obvious strain that being so overweight and unfit had on my overall health.

Now I have to work much harder to expend the same amount of energy and because of my increased fitness, my lower weight and other improvements I have a another stat that I am insanely proud of.

My resting heart rate.

This really really makes me puff up with pride, because it’s still 41bpm and has been at this level or slightly lower ever since Apple Watch’s iOS finally started watching it back in September 2017.

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In many ways (whilst I’m still really focused on it) my weight has ceased to be the thing that’s my ‘daily driver’. Now I’m just focused on always being outside, and being the best version of me that I can.

Thankfully this also has the (pretty ace) side effect of keeping me in target.

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Today I maintained – and (given how I’ve felt this week) that is a massive cause for celebration.

‘How does one mark such success?’ you might ask internet…

‘With a nice long walk’ is of course the answer…

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Davey

 

Part Five: The road not yet walked

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

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

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

We start this time in 2014.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Walking is agonising.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My daily pill organiser reflects how bad things have become.

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

Soon.

HOPEFULLY VERY SOON.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now we skip on a bit more.

It’s February the 16th 2016.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The answer is ‘not very’.

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

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

He tells me that it takes him an hour.

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

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

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

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

Walking also has another benefit.

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

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

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

It’s now late August.

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

Bizarrely my eyesight has improved too.

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

It’s now September 2016.

I’ve realised three things.

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

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

I’m amazed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I just keep walking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s now late Ferruary/March 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the time it’s becoming easier.

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

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

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

It’s now August.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It’s now January 2018

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

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

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

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

February 2018.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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So – what’s transpired here?

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

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

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

Go HERE.

Davey

Part Four: Group love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet two and a half months later nothing had changed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In ten minutes!

I decided to attend and rushed over.

It was a tough morning.

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

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

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

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

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

In private it suddenly felt like I was being crushed.

It all seemed so impossible. 

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

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

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

old weight

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

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

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

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

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

I was going on a diet.

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

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

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

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

I did the maths in my head.

He was irritatingly right.

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

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

Don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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

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

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

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

Wrong.

Three things happened here to make this a valuable lesson.

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

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

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

Make a graph of your progress.

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was initially told to have 30.

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

After all why would they? It sounds horrible otherwise.

It would be nothing but total denial.

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

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

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

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

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

I avoid empty syns and calories with zero nutritional value.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davey

Sugarpocalypse

I noticed the other day (whilst indulging in my usual passion) that Starbucks have changed their shelf edge product labelling and are now displaying the sugar content of their pastries in grams.

This has been available for some time on their website (link) but it’s the first time I’ve seen it explicitly stated at the point of sale.

It’s quite an arresting thing to see if (like me) you’re paranoid about hidden sugars and carbohydrates in foods. I’ve been a victim of diabetes, and although it’s currently in remission I’m always afraid it will return.

Starbucks appear to have no fear though. They’re racing full speed ahead to sugarpocalypse…

If you decide to have some luxury fruit toast then you’re choosing to eat an insane 39g of sugar!

Thankfully these days I’m an idle spectator, and you’ll find me shaking my head with disapproval in the queue for a black coffee rather than eating anything like this.

Although I no longer consume things like this anymore (I used to adore the fruit toast) the hidden sugars in foods are a scandal that’s just sitting in plain sight – and we as a society appear to have little willingness to tackle the problem.

Although putting clear indications of what food contains on product labelling helps people who want to take action it’s (in my view) quite cynical – because as a society we’re largely ignoring the damage we’re doing to ourselves.

I noticed not so long ago that all of a sudden the calorie content of the Starbucks’ pastries went up rather than down. When I mentioned this to a barista I was informed that they’d changed supplier for these items and as a consequence many of them had become less healthy. It seemed that taste was the primary consideration, with healthy eating being a distant second.

It’s all very well to highlight sugars on labelling (and I applaud moves to do so) but surely by now there should be a legislative approach to limiting them – especially when there are alternatives such as Stevia which do far less damage.

(For those interested there are quite a few different ways to sweeten foods – although not all are necessarily healthier – link)

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of sugar for an adult male is still a contentious issue and the NHS (Link) suggests a higher amount is ok (30g) compared to the volume that the World Health Organization would have you consume (25g link).

The UK’s health service website states:

Added sugars shouldn’t make up more than 5% of the energy (calorie intake) you get from food and drink each day. This is about 30g of sugar a day for those aged 11 and over.

Even then according to the UK guidance the aforementioned fruit toast (without the accompanying pot of jam) is way over what people should be eating in a snack – and that doesn’t even factor in what’s lurking around within the beverage that would probably accompany it.

Drinks in particular are also a big problem. If you want a shocking visual image of what people can absorb in a few tasty gulps then a quick Google search will result in lots of pictures just like this one.

Coffee shops aren’t much better than canned drinks (in some cases they’re far worse) and there was recently a feeding frenzy in the media regarding this exact subject.

There’s no one chain thats worse than another though and the trend for sickly sweet frothy stuff seems to be common to all of them.

I suspect that at 68.8g of sugar for a Costa Mint Hot Chocolate most people’s sweet tooth would be satisfied several times over.

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If you followed the W.H.O.’s guidance that’s almost THREE DAYS worth of sugar being pushed into your body in less than the time it takes to catch up on your Instagram feed.

So – what if you decide to not go to a coffee shop and stay at home instead?

Maybe cook a nice meal and steer clear of sugar?

How about using a ready made sauce to speed things along?

It may surprise you to learn that some popular pasta sauces (which come in 500g sizes) contain the same amount of sugar as a Mars Bar (42.6g)…

At the end of the day it sadly still comes down to personal choice – and although I fully support self determinism and the right to make our own decisions in life (be they good or bad) I feel that there’s an uncomfortable tension that still exists for me around what choice really means.

Do we REALLY choose?

Companies that push sugar, alcohol, nicotine and other addictive substances make vast profits from what they sell and they use them to fund advertising – particularly to the younger generation – in order to ensure that these profits continue.

I wonder what it will take internet before we all truly wake up to the disaster that’s unfolding before our eyes.

How many limbs will have to be amputated because of diabetes, how many cancers will happen because of obesity, and how many people will die of completely preventable diseases before we collectively realise that that the chocolate bar, cake or latte that we think we can’t do without is actually slowly killing us?

Davey

Yay for maintenance

I slept like a log last night.

I wasn’t stressed or worried about losing weight at all – which I’m honestly not sure how I feel about. I already miss the anticipation a little bit of getting a new, lower number in my book – because now I have a range to adapt to rather than a target.

There’s a magical 6lb bracket (3lbs either side of 14st 7lbs) that I have to stay within as a Slimming World Target Member and so far this week I think I’ve remained comfortably within this ‘goldilocks zone’.

Although (from a SW perspective ) I suppose really shouldn’t talk about them I’m absolutely chuffed to bits with my decision to buy the Weight Watchers Scales of Ultimate Accuracy the other day. They do exactly what they claim to and it’s been a huge help to finally be able to see the ebb and flow of body weight – rather than avoiding the scales altogether all week long and then nervously rolling my dice on a Saturday with absolutely no idea of what to expect.

You could argue that this takes the point out of going to a group – but honestly the scales alone are no longer my motivation to attend mine.

It’s the people that I go for -and the fact that they keep me focused.

Honestly as far as that focus goes today I really needed it to attend anything because it’s bitterly cold outside.

I’ve kept the heating on in my house pretty much continuously at a low level this week (which is unheard of) mostly because I don’t want any pipes to freeze – but also because I simply cannot take feeling like i’m on the brink of hypothermia anymore.

Thankfully I’m no longer unemployed so I guess I can treat myself to warmth.

(Author goes to group)

Well – if there was ever a confirmation that the scales I bought tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth today reiterated it.

Whilst in nothing but my pants the scales showed the following…

In my weigh in clothes they said…

And at Slimming World the result was…

So – it looks like I have a really useful tool that can enable me (hopefully without getting too obsessed) to make adjustments during the week to my food intake and land at a pre-determined point on the scales at the weekend.

In theory this will result in me getting less stressed overall and losing less sleep – and I’m cautiously optimistic that I can do what’s required to make this a reality.

Honestly I’m still not sure that this is my end weight because there’s still a problem area around my waist that I’m really unhappy with – but I’m not obsessing over it.

My body is now far from perfect and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I’m left with an awful lot of excess bits and bobs and because of these I can’t imagine ever being able to look in the mirror and be truly satisfied with who I am – but for the most part I’m good with that.

I’m fit and healthy and that’s what I focus on.

The things that I’m NOT so good with relate to how (or not) I ever manage to disrobe in front of someone ever again – and that part of the future (should it ever come to pass) fills me with dread.

However I’m not alone in this and that gives me comfort.

Through my writing I’ve come to know a lot of people with their own private battles that are fought (often on a daily basis) over hidden scars (self inflicted or otherwise) that have dogged them on an emotional level throughout their entire lives.

I draw strength from the fact that they’ve been able to work through this and find love when it arrives.

I hope one day I’ll work through this just as they have (and still do).

This is on my mind partially because I’ve been asked by a couple of people to go speed dating with them recently – but honestly I can’t face it. I don’t know how to even begin to mentally approach the subject of romance and for the time being I’d rather not face up that particular demon.

In the meantime there’s lunch to be had.

(Author joins his family for some food at the Fat Bird’s Cafe in Leamington Spa)

Well if nothing else I’ve learned to admire the iron clad digestive tract that one member of my family possesses today. I tried a tiny bit of this frankly apocalyptic sauce on some salad leaves and I have to say that Davey isn’t Ghost Chilli compatible.

I’ve no idea how people eat food with this kind of thing on any more. I used to like it when I was younger, but somewhere along the line I completely lost my tolerance for it. Now it just represents pain and burning rather than nice tasting food.

In contrast my lunch was far more sedate and came with a minted yogurt sauce – which I was quite happy to smother my food with.

I found myself bargaining internally about whether I should have the bread and butter that came on the side of the plate – and ultimately chose to leave it where it was.

I also passed the croutons onto someone else that wanted them.

Although I’m not against carbs (free foods like rice and potatoes are a big part of my meals) the refined nature of white bread and my previous brush with diabetes makes me (possibly very over) cautious about it.

I’ve zero need any more to introduce needless fat or highly processed food like that back into my diet.

Besides – there’s more to it than that. I also have no wish to be bloated by bread – especially when a ridiculously funky and superb quality shirt presents itself in a charity shop.

Who in their right mind would choose a lump of crappy bread over the truly wonderful feeling that picking a LARGE shirt off a rack and knowing that it will fit gives them?

Not me that’s for sure.

If you need me I’ll be looking loud and proud in my new pink check item of clothing.

Yay for maintenance internet. I think I rather like it!

Davey

Diabetes and medication update – the results are in!

Although the day started in the dark with dawn bringing only rain and grey skies it’s turned into an afternoon that’s infinitely more palatable.

The sun has finally come out and I’m enjoying its warmth as I walk.

After a meeting down south this morning I’m finishing work a little early – which suits me just fine because I have somewhere to go.

I have to admit to being a little nervous about my destination though. I really don’t like visits to the diabetic nurse – but some things really can’t be avoided.

Today I get the results from my semi annual test and find out whether all of the hard work that I regularly put in has been worthwhile or whether my pancreas is once again waving a little white flag.

I’m hopeful that the results are positive – because the thing that pushed my type two into remission and enabled me to stop taking medication for the last year or so is something I’m continually focused on.

Sadly though at times the rest of the world seems to be blind to what can be achieved and conventional medical science really doesn’t help with that.

The NHS would have you believe that there’s no way out from under the rock of type two diabetes and that eventually it always turn into type one.

They prescribe instead pill after pill and largely let you get on with the ‘reality’ that they’ve sold to you.

This is bad enough – but when you combine it with a human being’s capacity for living in denial it’s a dangerous mix. Even when faced with a laundry list of changes that need to be made and a clear path to better health people often choose to ignore reality completely.

From time to time I meet someone who (like I was) is in the process of bargaining with themselves. They (like I did) avoid at all costs coming to terms with the truth of their situation – and (like I couldn’t) don’t seem able to face up to the reality of what change really requires.

I mean by this that few people grasp the (sometimes bitter but in my view unavoidable) truth that when you’re dealing with a slow death sentence like diabetes tweaking just one thing is not even close to enough.

When I meet these people I truthfully want to shake them by the shoulders and make them understand the reality of what’s going on – to save them the wasted time I experienced – but it’s often pointless.

I know I wouldn’t have listened so why should they?

In my case I thought ‘if I give up drinking my diabetes will be sorted’

It was delusion.

It got a bit better but my levels were still ridiculously high.

Then I told myself ‘ok ok – that hasn’t worked but if I give up drinking and eat healthy food then my diabetes will be sorted.’

Also delusion.

Once again there was marginal improvement but overall little happened and I still needed medication.

Then I started exercising – and almost immediately I could see the benefits. I’ve written about this a lot – but I repeat it because it’s vitally important.

My sugars dropped quicker than with any other tweak that I’d made up to that point and the last time I had it checked in August (link) my Hba1c level was 28.

I started at 94 – and exercise enabled this to change.

So – because I know that I wouldn’t have listened I choose not to preach to people who I feel are stuck in this loop.

It’s pointless and just makes them switch off or feel pressured.

Instead I write about the reality of it – in the hope that people will read it and see for themselves what can be done rather than having someone tell them what they should do.

I walk and exercise all the time – each day trying to improve – and get better so that I can instead demonstrate what’s possible.

Yesterday (with this continued progress in mind) I managed to shave another 25 seconds off my previous best walking time for a mile.

Only recently did I break through the 15 minute barrier (link) and amazingly I’ve now managed to get it down to 14 mins and 26 seconds – which I’m insanely proud of.

(Author stops drinking coffee and realises the time. He goes to his appointment)

Well – as is usual these days the nurse (who I’ve never met before) quizzically looked me up and down as I headed to her room for my diabetic review.

She clearly didn’t expect the man in front of her.

She checked my stomach area, looked at my legs, looked at my face and then looked at her notes.

‘I was expecting a much bigger man!’ she said. ‘You’ve lost even more weight…

‘Yep. Almost 20 stone now.’ I replied.

She looked at me in disbelief.

‘Wow. I wish all of my patients with diabetes were like you! Your results are amazing!

She pointed at her screen.

‘Your levels are 25… In fact I’ve recommended to the doctor that we take you off the diabetic register – however he would like to leave you on for 12 months just in case.’

‘Fine by me!’ I replied.

(As nervous as these things make me I like to be sure things are ok. I prefer to keep focus on it.)

‘Everything else is great too!’ She said.

‘How’s my cholesterol?’ I asked.

Now – this has been one thing I’ve never had much success reducing – despite my good behaviour. This time I had been expecting a telling off because if the truth be told Davey has been forgetting to take his statins regularly for a while now.

‘It’s actually really good!’ She said – sounding a little surprised.

‘Ummm… could I possibly try without the medication?’ I asked.

She looked at the results again and pondered.

‘Sure. Why not. Let’s have you back in three months for a check up. You can stop taking them.’

I was a little stunned.

Two years ago I was taking about 8-9 pills a day. I had Naproxen for my constant back or joint pain, Omeprazole to protect my stomach lining from the Naproxen, Glimepiride and Metformin for my diabetes and Simvastatin for my high cholesterol.

Now – as of today – I take no prescription medication at all!!!!

To top it all off my blood pressure was just fine (amazing since I’d had four Americanos in Wetherspoons prior to my appointment and briskly walked to my appointment) and my heart rate was 41bpm.

All in all I am supremely healthy and a world away from this guy – who now seems so distant and alien to me

So – it’s the start of a new chapter. I’m no longer a burden on the NHS for ANYTHING.

Now all I have to do is get to target internet and I’ll die a happy man 😂

Davey

Davey on the wireless

As days go today has been a good one.

I’d go so far as to say it’s one I’ll remember for quite a while – because today was the first time I’ve ever been on the radio.

(If you want to listen to the interview on BBC iPlayer it’s here. This recording is available for 29 days, and the segment I’m on starts from about 1hr 16mins into the program and lasts for approximately 30 minutes.)

When I arrived at the BBC studios in Coventry today I was initially asked ‘what organisation are you with?’

‘Ummm…. I’m here on my own.’ Was my reply. ‘I’m the guest for the Connor Phillips show.’ There was a blank expression for a moment, then my name was confirmed and I was invited in, where I proceeded to take shameless selfies whilst the receptionist made me a hot drink.

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After a brief coffee I was ushered into the studio and met the (very nice) producer and assistant – both of whom thanked me for my time but also seemed mildly surprised at who was standing there.

I pointed them to my blog, which they brought up on their studio computer. As they both looked at my before and after photos they periodically looked over their shoulders to compare and contrast me with what was on their monitor.

Slowly the penny seemed to drop. I was the man in the photos.

It seems quite surreal when I’m faced with individuals that become temporarily speechless while processing how much weight I’ve lost. Now I’m getting close to target, it’s becoming a ‘thing’ that people can’t quite believe that I’ve done what I’ve done – unless they’ve known me for a while or have photographic evidence.

This of course just seems like my normal now. It’s not really odd to me because I’ve lived it.

I suppose that we naturally process what’s in front of us – and if what’s presented to us is a fifteen and a half stone ‘normal’ man then you don’t automatically think ‘I bet be used to be 35 stone, and I know just what he’d have looked like’.

The interview went well. Connor Phillips (the presenter) seemed both genuinely impressed with what I’d done – and also keen to find out more about my motivations and thoughts on what made it possible. He was also keen to probe about what my catalyst for change was in the first place.

I explained as best I could…

The interview (partially fulled by coffee and no small amount of nervousness on my part) went by pretty quickly – and before I knew it had ended.

As he walked me out Connor was kind enough to pose for a selfie with me shortly afterwards.

(he kindly granted me permission to use this on my social media)

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I’d been on the air only for around 30 minutes and as we wrapped up and I said goodbye to the team I tried to recollect what I’d talked about – but my mind was blank. As I walked back through Coventry a couple of miles to the outskirts where I’d parked (you need a good walk before an interview) I reflected on the content of what I’d said as it slowly came back to me.

I realised that there were lots of things that I had wanted to say – but that I’d lost the thread of half way through. This felt like I’d missed opportunities – but in other areas I think I also said more than I expected to.

Two aspects that were really important to me that I think I did manage to get across were (firstly) that diabetes doesn’t have to be an automatic slow death sentence – that you can make a change if you put in the effort and change what you eat and do, and (secondly) that when we do something significant like this we’re better in groups.

Something that so few (I think) fail to come to terms with is that mass produced food is crap whether you eat it in small or large quantities. It might be an unpopular view – but I don’t think that eating whatever the hell you like (but in ever smaller quantities) is the way forward.

Granted – not everyone has the problems I had – but I view myself as a magnified and extreme version of many smaller scale issues that I see other people struggling with. Although my condition got way out of hand none of it is unique. Basically I ate crap and drank too much.

Sound familiar to anyone? I bet it does. Maybe only the quantity is different…

The view I have now is that you need to change all of your habits in order to get better. You dont have to do it all in one go – but if you want to live longer and have better health while you do, eventually you have to cut out all the things that harm you.

This means accepting exercise into your life – and also eating ‘proper’ food – not mass produced junk like crisps and chocolate.

I’d rather get my calories from olives or an avocado than a curly wurly and a packet of french fries.

That way if I do then when I (inevitably) have a bad day and eat too much (which everyone does from time to time) I’m not eating the awful things that I used to because I no longer crave them and the damage isn’t so bad.

Sure – this isn’t the approach for everyone (in fact probably not many people at all) but then you have to ask yourself ‘how much do I want to change?’

However I still like eating some things in packets – I can’t lie. The fact is though that these kinds of foods no longer make up the majority of my food intake and are instead a very tiny minority.

The second point was about groups. Without mine I’d be no-where. My consultant facilitates an atmosphere thats both supportive and non-judgemental. It’s a safe space where you can make friends (of which I’ve made many) and just be honest.

It should be somewhere where you can go regardless of whether you feel you’ve done badly or brilliantly because the power of the group is that they support you. They’re there to make you feel better when you can’t do it on your own.

They’re the ones who at that exact moment when you need it the most care more about you than you care about yourself.

Anyway internet – that’s my day. After all that standing on my soap box I’m sure the universe will have a kick in the boy parts for me tomorrow and penalise me for relaxing a little at Christmas.

Thankfully Boris doesn’t care. I went over to my mate’s house to fuss this lovely little frenchie silly after the show.

He likes me no-matter how I look.

He even loved me back in February 2016 at 35 stone just after I ditched booze, and before I cut out junk, joined Slimming World and started trying to love myself.

The difference is now I can go on walks with him. and he has a lap to jump up onto.

How things change…

Davey