mmmmsk mmmmsk mmmmsk

Where does the day go?

As I type I’m already (metaphorically speaking) on my knees and practically asleep at the wheel (of life) but oddly I still feel really really good.

The fact of the matter is that despite all of my worst impulses regularly arriving in the mornings day after day, trying collectively to stop me from getting up and going swimming I’m (we’re) still doing it every single day.

Now I’m not sure how long my partner and I’s streaks of enthusiasm for swimming will last – but for me at least something (motivation wise) has changed. Rather unexpectedly its a (quite vain?) side effect of my behaviour that’s feeding my willingness to continue – because at the moment I have pecs and guns that are harder than I’ve ever had in my entire life.

I’ll spare you a picture.

In reality I doubt they’re all that impressive and there’s always going to be someone trimmer and fitter than I am.

I’m no musclehead and you will never find me lifting weights in the gym for hours. I’m still a proudly wibbly wobbly blancmange of a man thanks to losing so much weight – but I’m also proud that underneath my oversized skin there is a rather buff torso taking shape.

It’s not just happening to me either because I can see the same physical changes happening to my partner in all the same places.

Rather amusingly we often find ourselves giggling and comparing biceps – which is a place I never thought either of us would find ourselves in.

Truthfully when we first met its fair to say that we both had an awful lot of body confidence issues – but as time has passed we’ve both learned to not only love who we are in the framework of a relationship – but also begin the process of liking what’s reflected in the mirror when we’re alone too.

There’s a lot to be said for having someone to remind you every day that you’re attractive and that they are attracted to you.

After a while you have to either call them a liar or accept (when they pinch your bum whilst tying your laces for the 1000th time) that they may be telling the truth.

I’m never going to be someone that is completely confident with who they are and how they look – but I feel at the moment like I’m closer to feeling good about my body than I’ve ever been – which is odd given that I’m currently out of target and lots of my shirts don’t fit.

The truth is though that when they did fit at my lowest weight many people commented that I was too thin. Quite a few also asked me not to lose any more weight and some even suggested I needed to put some back on!

Imagine that! Being told you’re too thin after being 35 stone!

It’s a major compliment and a really unexpected non-scale victory  – but it also left me in an odd place, because when I was smaller I also had more loose skin. Now I’m bigger I look in the mirror and honestly at 16st there are parts of me that look more ‘filled out’ and less gaunt than they used to.

I think I actually prefer them that way…

However – mother nature can be a complete bee hatch and whilst my biceps, legs and my butt currently look better, my stomach (in my opinion) does not.

I wrote a while ago about my feelings regarding tummy tucks (link) . It’s something I would never consider – so if I choose to stay a little on the cuddlier side I’m going to just have to come to terms with it.

For now though I’m still trying to lose weight and see how I feel at 15st (if I get there) but I’m not all that worried because even where I am at the moment there are still major victories to be had.

On my way home hand in hand with my partner the other day I spotted a neighbour from over the road with his two young girls. They were getting into their vehicle – and as the children bounced into the back seats playfully I noticed that on the rear offside of the car (out of the view of the driver) there was a flat tyre.

I called over and pointed it out as he was pulling on his seatbelt.

He got out, walked around the car, checked the tyre, kicked it forlornly and looked miffed.

‘I only had that looked at the other day…’ he huffed.

His daughters looked worried. They were dressed smartly with sparkly rhinestones on their white trainers and looked like he was about to drop them off somewhere.

‘Don’t worry.’ I said. ‘I have a foot pump in my boot. Let me grab it and we can put a bit of air in it.’

I dropped my bags off in the house and grabbed the pump while my other half filled the kettle to make a much needed tea and coffee. I then walked to his car and took the cap off his tyre, before attaching the foot pump and starting to pump it up and down.

It wasn’t until I looked up that I realised he seemed a bit surprised.

I don’t think he was expecting me to re-inflate his tyre. I think he fully expected me to just hand him the pump and let him get on with the job himself.

On reflection I would probably be surprised too, because in that moment it occurred to me that we had never previously spoken to eachother before and I’d just decided to do the job that needed doing because I could.

‘Hi – I’m Dave.’ I said – pumping away and sticking my hand out.

‘Hi – I’m xxxx’ he said. ‘Pleased to meet you. Thanks for this!’

To the right of me I noticed his young teenage daughter had started rhythmically dancing in time with the sound of the air cycling in and out of the twin barrelled pump.

I laughed. ‘It does sound like it’s got a beat doesn’t it?’ I said – pretending to dance along too and making ‘mmmmsk mmmmsk mmmmsk’ beat box noises.

‘Have you and your missus just moved in? xxxx said to me.

‘Nope.’ I said. ‘Lived here for 13 years.’

He looked at me with a very surprised expression.

‘Oh!?’ he said – half as a statement and half as a question.

‘I used to be 35 stone though. I lost almost 20 stone – so it’s no wonder you don’t recognise me.’

‘No way! he said. I thought you were both new neighbours!’

I grinned – and looked down at the foot pump. The tyre was now fully inflated, so I stopped pumping, released the valve, clipped the pump’s barrel back into place and screwed the plastic cap back onto his tyre.

I stood up, shook his hand again, said goodbye and headed off to get my cup of coffee.

It wasn’t until I’d walked away, waving to his smiling young girls as they jumped into the car that I realised throughout the whole encounter I’d been furiously pumping up a car tyre, whilst laughing and talking to all three of them, and had not once been out of breath or tired.

Furthermore I’d just walked up a hill prior to the encounter and before that I’d been swimming.

I absolutely love that my neighbour thought that the moribund lump he’d seen in the past struggling to squeeze in and out of his car was someone else entirely – and that the energetic and helpful guy that shook his hand was someone new that had recently moved in with his attractive blonde ladyfriend.

This is why the freezing cold, damp (and often rain soaked) mornings so far have completely failed to dent my enthusiasm for just being the strongest, fittest version of myself that I can be.

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I’m fit and dancing on the street to the sound of a foot pump!

Furthermore my girlfriend and I are giving pickle jars what for as we open them with barely a grimace.

I might be tired – but its a good tiredness…

Mmmmsk mmmmsk mmmmsk…

Davey

Groove in a Mercedes

As I begin this post it’s currently 6am.

Although there is rarely a brighter smile in the room during daylight hours it’s fair to say that my partner is not as ‘morning capable’ as I usually tend to be and as I type she is nursing a cup of tea next to me with her familiar ‘early doors’ expression.

It’s quite amusing when she’s of this persuasion though because I always enjoy the challenge of turning her frown upside down.

Since we pinkie promised to both have a specific loss this week on our Saturday weigh in (I opted for 3lbs) our joint objective is to go swimming in the morning three times this week to keep our activity levels up.

Body magic is important if you want to be slim and healthy and it’s not enough to just eat less.

My other half is totally in agreement with me – but at this time of day the well is often dry.

I’ve attempted to replenish it with her customary jump start (a cup of tea) and whilst I sip my double espresso I’m patiently waiting for ‘daytime mode’ to arrive.

For the time being while it gradually rumbles into the station I am periodically grinning like a loon and occasionally prodding her rib cage to provoke mirth.

I know.

I’m not irritating at all – just insanely loveable – and depending on how quickly she remembers this in the next five minutes I’ll either get a punch or a laugh.

One never can tell at 6am – but I’m feeling good either way because despite the cold and darkness outside we now have our costumes on under our clothes ready for walking straight into the pool when the doors of the leisure centre open at 6.30am.

(Author goes swimming and picks up the narrative a few hours later with yet another coffee)

As I blogged on Saturday (link) my drive is not YET where it needs to be with regard to weight loss – but I’m taking strides toward MAKING it that way.

It doesn’t happen by magic. You have to work at a good mood. Get one day at a time under your belt and gradually it gets easier.

As a starting point after my crappy weigh in Saturday turned out to be a good eating day – and I already felt less bloated when I went to bed.

I also managed to get a good (although it could have been better) amount of exercise in along with the right amounts and types of food.

Sunday however was rather epic.

Initially we had planned to do something else but instead opted to go for a long country walk.

The inspiration for this was mostly due to the weather.

Yesterday started as a lovely (but chilly) Autumn morning with barely a cloud in the sky and for the first time in living memory it wasn’t chucking it down with sideways rain.

Rather than going for a swim where we couldn’t spend quality time together (or natter endlessly) I could introduce my partner to a part of Warwickshire that she’s not yet seen.

I’m gradually helping her get the lay of the land in her new surroundings and instead I took her to explore around the back of Hatton.

The route we took led us through some lovely green spaces and then down to the cafe at the top of Hatton Locks (where we stopped for a cuppa) before threading its way back along the Grand Union canal and into Warwick before finally we headed home.

This route’s not for the faint of heart – as the total distance is almost 11 miles – but once it was completed it was certainly enough to give both of us a virtuous feeling for the rest of the day.

Since we had an excellent Sunday immediately after an excellent Saturday (we had almost no treats and consumed only totally on plan meals on both days) I think it’s fair to say that our weekend was a success.

It wasn’t the only success though.

I rarely have non scale victories these days – but oddly enough (maybe the universe recognised I needed a win) one came to call unexpectedly when I found myself unable to get into my car on Sunday afternoon.

I rarely use my car but I needed to nip to the supermarket for the weekly shop.

‘Can you move your car please?’ I shouted up the stairs to my partner – who was in the middle of some work. ‘I don’t think I can get into mine without scratching your passenger door.’

‘No problem…’ came the answer ‘…but have you tried getting in your passenger side?’

I almost replied ‘I can’t!’ but then realised that I’d actually never tried to climb into my seat that way.

‘Ok’ I replied and headed back to my car.

Parking used to be a major issue for me in 2016. Because I was so wide I always tried to park with the drivers door next to something static like a kerb, trolly park or wall.

I’d been doing this habitually for years because if I didn’t then i knew it could result in big problems.

This was predominantly because of an event in the past that had made me so paranoid about parking that I often drove home again instead of being unable to place my car both close enough to a shop or place of business (I couldn’t walk all the way around even a small supermarket if I didn’t park outside the door) and with enough room to ensure that there was no way I could be blocked in.

Logistically if I couldn’t get into my door and had to wait for another car owner to return I was pretty much screwed without a nearby bench.

I simply couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes at a time in one place without my back and legs being in agonising pain.

The chance that I could cause damage to another car though was always my prime motivation for parking so assiduously.

On the 21st April 2009 I was forced to get out of a colleague’s car with limited space in my workplace’s car park.

I was too embarrassed to tell him at the time that I didn’t have enough room to get out so instead I struggled and breathed in as best I could before squeezing out of the car as his door rested against another car.

Although I tried to be careful there was no way for me to gracefully exit his and after I’d closed his door my heart instantly sank.

I had managed to gouge a deep scratch in the door of my director’s Mercedes – which I quickly realised was who we had parked next to.

Although he was (and still is) a lovely man it’s also fair to say he wasn’t the type to suffer fools gladly – and was known for speaking his mind at all times.

Since he was such an equitable man (rarely are bosses so supportive) you always knew that if you got a the hairdryer treatment it was well deserved.

His Mercedes was his pride and joy and (I learned later) had been bought on a very special occasion.

Despite probably being the oldest of its kind in the car park (back in those days we all had generous car allowances and it wasn’t usual to see someone pull up in a new sports car) he loved it to bits and scowled at anyone brave enough to criticise him for not getting a company car with a more current registration.

The ensuing conversation where I had to explain what had happened to him was both embarrassing and painful.

He was justifiably miffed but ultimately very good about the whole affair and despite me offering to pay for the repairs required he declined to accept my money, opting instead to leave the groove in situ.

This state of affairs persisted until a few months ago he restored the entire car, and in the process of doing so finally removed the reminder of my tubby transgression.

He even noted when he did that ‘The Lancaster scratch‘ was finally gone.

I wish he’d allowed me to pay when I did it, because despite the fact it wouldn’t have been cheap to fix as a one off repair I wouldn’t have had to see it in the car park every day for the next seven years.

Each time I did I felt the associated guilt and shame about why it had happened in the first place.

This may seem like a pointless story to tell – but this event had lodged itself so firmly in my psyche that on Sunday when my partner suggested I enter my car from its passenger door, my instant reaction was panic.

I couldn’t do it.

I wouldn’t have enough room.

I wasn’t flexible enough.

I’d break my car or damage hers.

Then, all of a sudden I had a ‘Neo’ moment from the matrix and heard a voice saying ‘He’s beginning to believe…’

I went outside, got into the passenger side and without any trouble whatsoever climbed over the centre console and into the drivers seat.

Who knew it was possible?!

Not me that’s for sure – and on reflection I have no idea why because it should have been obvious.

The moments where I realise things like this have changed so dramatically are becoming less and less as time goes on – but when they hit they never diminish in terms of their surprise value.

In some respects I find it intensely irritating that there such blank spots remain in my self perception – however there’s no denying that when I notice them they can prove very useful indeed.

In this case it reminded me just how bad things can get when I don’t try, how low I used to feel at that size and (even though I’ve regained some weight temporarily) how much better my life is now.

I used this positive energy to propel myself out of bed this morning and because of this both myself and my partner benefited from some great exercise.

My 1k swim was far from my fastest time or longest distance (mostly because I’ve neglected my swimming a little of late which has no doubt contributed to my gains) but it’s also a milestone of its own – and a far cry from where I started.

Amazingly it’s now over one whole year since I first plucked up the courage to go swimming (link) on November 16th 2018.

Crazily at the time my self image was really struggling.

I was (in my mind) too fat and too much of a visual car crash without my clothes on to ever inflict myself upon the eyes of others.

Yet I did it.

I took that first step and gradually began to improve.

Consequently today I’m still swimming – even though I’m around 2 stone heavier than I was back then – but crazily I have nowhere near the same demons to deal with.

Sure – I still struggle with my perception of how I look but I’ve learned to swim better and with my head under water – which I could never do before.

I have lots of loose skin and a belly that’s never gone away – but up to this point I’ve never seen another PERFECT person swimming in the pool alongside me.

Everyone I meet is also there to improve themselves and they all have wrinkles or fat or cellulite or hairy backs or post pregnancy tummys or flat feet or knock knees.

I’m not alone.

None of us are.

No one I’ve met goes swimming because they’re already super fit or heathy.

They go to improve themselves, become fitter than they already are and feel better all the time because they have more energy.

So – here I am on day three of trying to re-set my thought processes and I’ve just complimented my swim with a couple of laps of the park.

So far the world has been very accommodating. It’s not thrown anything awful at me, it’s burped up a lovely sunrise for my post swim stroll and it’s reminded me who I am now as well as why I did what I did to lose over 20st.

This forgiving world also (eventually) put a smile on my other half’s face – which ultimately put a spring in my step too.

Everything is cause and effect – but it all starts somewhere.

Whatever your goal is you just have to remember that you can do it.

You have to work at it though – and remember that even though you might not feel it today or tomorrow or even the day after – eventually you will because trying to make a positive change feeds positive outcomes and doing so puts a smile on yours and other people’s faces.

So if you’re in doubt about what to do – just keep swimming.

Davey

(Otherwise known as Dory)

Maybe I can

Sometimes a holiday is in order.

In my case I haven’t physically been anywhere but I have been taking a break from social media.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been almost completely absent online and it’s been a very nice change of pace.

At some point a few years ago I made a conscious choice to become a very public person – and once I had it soon became my new normal. Blogging about everything I went through and sharing photos of my life soon felt as natural as a morning visit to the smallest room of my house.

There are times however (particularly in recent weeks) that I feel it’s just not appropriate or even very comfortable to write about how I feel and what’s going on in my life.

The really frustrating thing is that this (in something of a chicken and egg way) tends to coincide with a period where I don’t cope very well overall.

I’ve never fully figured out whether a lack of writing is caused by or in itself causes the mood dips I experience – but they definitely feed each other and quickly become related even if they don’t start out that way.

The other thing that gets fed in instances like this is my stomach. The hands I have connected to it decide that they will pass the time by picking up anything in the fridge and consuming it relentlessly until it’s all gone.

My efforts to stick with #onplanoctober (writing everything down and being good) lasted a mere 8 days – and then I just threw myself under the culinary bus. I ate and overate and then overate some more.

Once I’d done that then I grabbed a bit more food and overate it until it hurt a bit.

The net result?

Well I don’t really want to go into forensic detail because I’m ashamed and feel like I’ve been letting not only myself but the entire world down.

To add insult to injury none of my lovely lovely shirts fit properly at the moment and my waistband is noticeably tighter.

Some of my smaller sized jeans appear to have shrunk even further in the wash…

There’s a line that must be drawn – and on Sunday (where I inexplicably found myself awake early and feeling motivated) I drew it.

The truth is I have to weigh in soon at Slimming World.

I haven’t done so since the first week in September and need to do it every 8 weeks – and when I do it’s not going to be pretty.

Furthermore I have the ultimate ‘imposter syndrome’ moment looming in my calendar in the shape of the Slimming World ball.

The invites arrived in the post the other day and honestly they filled me with dread.

I’m invited as the outgoing MOTY and truthfully at the moment I don’t feel in the least bit worthy.

Instead I feel like a complete fraud because the suits I usually wear over all of my nice shirts that don’t currently fit don’t fit either.

I can sense what you’re all thinking though – and from experience I know what a post like this will provoke in terms of comments.

I’m pretty certain that people won’t take long to pick me up on my self deprecating tone and remind me that I should be kinder to myself.

I know I know.

If I was treating myself as a friend in crisis I would say what many people in my life have already said to me.

I’d tell myself that I have nothing to prove.

I’d tell myself that I still look good and that I’m still doing well in life.

I’d tell myself that no-one (including virtually every other slimmer of the year or weight loss prize winner ever) is perfect and that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.

I have it on pretty good authority that they are all a little heavier than when they won their award and they have mostly across the board found a weight that suits them, even though it may not coincide with what they thought they originally wanted.

I’d say to myself if I was a friend that it’s just a number and that I can totally fix any gains because I know how and I’m not the same person that I used to be.

In my mind however the ‘truth’ (if you can call it that) is poking me with a sharp stick.

When my back is against the wall I hate that I still use food to cope.

That’s never changed (although the types of food I teach for have) and I don’t think it ever will.

I’ll almost certainly be riding an emotional rollercoaster for many many years if not forever in this respect.

There are other considerations however because it’s not all about the ball.

I’ve taken my eye off the ball a little for a number of reasons.

Firstly there’s always the ever present ‘what to do about a career’. Thankfully I think I may have found a way forward on that score – so hopefully in that respect things will soon be on the up.

Secondly there’s having a new home dynamic.

Living alone allowed me to be obsessive in the extreme in some respects – but now I’m part of a couple rather than a single guy.

My tendency to punish myself isn’t something that I can easily do any more – and there’s nowhere to hide.

If I hurt myself then I hurt my partner and I don’t want to do that.

My relationship is frankly more important to me than anything I can remember in recent memory – and my ways of coping with stress have had to adapt because of this.

This has been going on for some time – but now we live together I’m trying to deal with some very entrenched habits (basically going quiet and withdrawing from the world) that can no longer exist in solitude – but that instead someone else gets to see and feel.

When my mood dips and I begin to retreat they also feel the impact of that – because happy Davey leaves the building.

We all have these moments – and they shouldn’t be stemmed or buried because they’re natural, but if (like me) you’ve been single or even with someone but not living together you’ll be more used than you think you are to dealing with emotions and problems by burying your head in the sand (or in my case cement) from time to time.

What used to be a period of quiet and solitary sulking and wound licking before a gradual return to the world several days later that affected no one but me now has an impact on someone else.

Consequently the temptation to hide my mood dips because of this is immense.

It’s not the way to go though.

Burying everything leads nowhere – and it’s been my policy to hide nothing.

It’s also selfish – because if I’m only ever giving help and allowing no one to help me in return where does their sense of satisfaction and self worth in a relationship come from?

So I allow myself not to cope and I force myself to show that sometimes I can’t ‘adult’ any more.

Sometimes I need to be carried – and part of learning to live together is remembering that’s OK.

I can’t say that I haven’t felt guilty about being (in my eyes) less than a positive force for a little while though – but the truth is that you have to let people step in and support you.

You’re stronger when you’re around others – despite the unease that you might feel when you realise that it’s someone else’s job all of a sudden to be a chirpy and cheery person.

On Saturday I could barely speak.

I was so mortified by what I saw on the scales at home that when I accompanied my partner to our Saturday group I could hardly talk.

I nodded at people and forced a smile or two but that was about the most I could manage.

It was an important moment though – because although every fibre of me wanted to run away I stayed where I was and sat to hear the group talk.

I’m not sure I would have been able to do this without someone holding my hand however – and to see my other half step in and take over conversations or feel the warmth of her thumb nudging my leg at just the right moment made it all doable.

In the middle of all this (making it all much harder) the entire country seems to have received a mail from the NHS with my face plastered all over it.

It’s busy proclaiming how successful I am at turning things around at precisely the moment I feel like I’m struggling to do so.

I regret nothing about being chosen to receive (and accepting) the MOTY title – but there are occasionally times that I wish I could put this particular genie back in the lamp.

No one else has ever put any pressure on me because of the award (especially not Slimming World who always ask rather than expect when it comes to publicity) but it’s been difficult to live with the knowledge that when I inevitably fail I have to fail publicly.

I suppose that someone has to though, and maybe the whole point of being a public face dealing with issues related to personal perception is that I am seen not to be perfect but continually trying to be better than I am.

Which I do.

I’m currently back to swimming daily after not dipping a toe in a pool for almost two weeks and also back up to an average of around 10 miles a day (it recently dipped temporarily below 6).

Although it’s probably not real weight loss (fluid etc has a big impact) my numbers on the scales have plummeted. Both the additional exercise and the positive progress since Saturday morning have caused me to feel a lot better and once again I think I’m winning.

I’m not only making forward progress in terms of my waistline mind you.

After boarding my entire loft I decided to try my hand at replacing my coal bunker door – which was in a bad way when I moved in to my house over a decade ago and hasn’t been touched ever since.

I’ve always wanted to do something about it but felt that I lacked the skills, confidence and tools to attempt the task.

After successfully completing my loft boarding I decided that it was time to have a go – and after purchasing some exterior pine cladding, a couple of lengths of wood for a frame, a few hinges, a latch and a bunch of screws I decided to rip the old door off and give it a go.

The first issue was that the coal bunker was full of crap…

Thankfully that wasn’t an issue for long – and after a small amount of dragging and yanking the detritus and rotten cardboard that I’d stuffed in there years ago (along with a ton of unhappy earth worms and spiders) sat forlornly on my patio.

I’m far from an accomplished carpenter – but I did do a year or so of woodwork at secondary school and (even if I do say so myself) made a pretty swanky pencil case that I still have knocking around somewhere.

The simplest thing to do seemed to be to copy what existed previously, and before I knew it I had a perfectly serviceable frame with a simple join to put my new door into.

Once this was done the tongue and groove cladding that I’d bought made creating a shape to fill this hole surprisingly easy and within another few hours I had a makeshift door already wedged in place.

I only made one small mistake and if you can’t spot it then I’m not saying anything!!!

This whole process was continually hampered though by the frankly atrocious weather (note the tarpaulin) which illustrated quite plainly what a complete pain in the arse sawdust is when it rains.

It sticks to everything and gets everywhere.

It also doesn’t help much with expansion or contraction of the material that you’re working with – and (as I learned later on) it’s worth making a door a few millimetres smaller than you think it needs to be so that it doesn’t expand in its new home and become completely wedged tight when you paint it and leave it open to the elements.

When I’d eventually finished trimming, sanding, generally tinkering with the hinges and modifying the fit of the door with a plane this was the end result.

I’m quite proud of this even if I do say so myself.

One by one the times where I tell myself I can’t do things as opposed to starting jobs with a mindset along the lines of ‘maybe I can if I try’ are diminished.

Proving I could lose weight and change my life altered a lot more than just my new waistline.

I seem to have found a new interest in DIY – which initially I used to fill the gap created by not having a job – but is now becoming something else entirely.

So – maybe I can get into a suit for the ball.

Maybe I can feel good about myself on the day.

Maybe I can also change the washer on my bathroom tap – which frankly scares the living s**t out of me.

Hopefully my next blog won’t be called ‘how I flooded my home’

Davey

Life and lofts

It’s been quite a while since I posted a blog – and in the meantime life has been rolling along at a rather sedate pace.

If I’m honest I’d prefer it to be a lot quicker – and the truth of the matter is that I’d prefer to be experiencing it whilst being gainfully employed – but that’s sadly still not the case at the moment.

In the absence of a job materialising I’ve been trying to make myself useful – and (rather out of character) have been engaging in some DIY.

In a similar way to how I used to tell myself that I hated exercise and couldn’t understand why people engaged in it (joggers are crazy right? I mean who RUNS voluntarily unless they’re about to miss a bus?) I still regularly tell myself that I dislike decorating or using power tools.

What I am actually saying in both cases is really ‘I am scared of looking silly and of making mistakes.’

The truth is that in exactly the same way that I never used to be able to swim with my head under the water or do any kind of exercise without drowning in perspiration I am woefully inexperienced when it comes to making or mending things with my hands.

To illustrate this further I’ve had a dripping tap in the bathroom for four years now because I’m terrified of changing the washer.

True story.

So – no one could have been more surprised than me when the closure of my local Homebase (and its subsequent stock clearance) catalysed me into action and I started buying (AND USING) items to improve my home.

Specifically my loft.

Although I bought and paid for this area of my house along with all the rest in 2007 (and it represents around 1/5ths of the total available space in my property) for over 12 years I’d never used it or even climbed up into it to have a look around.

Physically of course this used to be impossible.

First of all aluminium or wooden ladders typically only support up to 23st of body weight – and since I was 35st not only would it be dangerous for me to stand on them at height but I was completely incapable of doing so.

This was relatively immaterial however – because even if some temporary miracle of reversed gravity had propelled me up a pair my loft hatch above them would have been too small for me to get anything more than my head and shoulders through.

When my weight dropped I became a tiny bit more intrepid and ventured slightly closer to the rafters above my bedroom.

I purchased some sturdy stepladders, lifted the mysterious hatch, poked my head through and tentatively pushed some random planks up there next to the opening.

This enabled me to initially store one or two light boxes of cables and computer stuff.

Soon though I felt that I needed to put some more things up there so I pushed up a few extra bits of random wood I had lying around in my shed and slid a few boxes of paperwork in on top of them.

Everything up to that point was just within reach of the loft hatch, but soon after a few seasonal items like my Christmas tree and fans followed and things began to change.

It didn’t take long before I had begun to forget what I’d put up there – and since most of it had become quickly obscured from view (there was no light in the loft) I lost track of where things were.

Then – in the closing Homebase I saw these

The roofing section was labelled as 25% off – and try as I might I couldn’t find a pack of these boards cheaper online or anywhere in bulk or the same pack size.

It seemed like a bargain that was too good to pass up.

I guesstimated that 10 packs (30 boards) would probably be overkill – but that if I bought them I’d be compelled to use them and have enough to make mistakes too.

I piled them up on a flatbed trolly and went hunting for some decking screws.

However when I got everything through the checkout and home (along with several other purchases of wood, a long saw and linoleum for other jobs that needed doing) I realised that the boards would need to be cut with a circular saw if they were to fit the joists (and into eachother) successfully.

Now – this is where the panic set in because I hate using power tools.

They really scare me – and not because I’m inept or inherently clumsy but because I have no experience of using them.

No one has ever been around in my life to show me the best way to do such things and as such there’s no small level of worry associated with drilling holes, sanding things or (god forbid) cutting through stuff with motorised blades.

So I watched a few YouTube videos about how to do everything, nipped to Argos to buy what seemed like an appropriate instrument and dusted off my (unsurprisingly pristine) black and decker workmate.

The truth is that cutting wood with power tools is actually scarily simple and also rather fun!

The circular saw goes through high density chipboard like a warm knife through butter – and with some appropriate glasses and earplugs it didn’t feel like it was going to do me an injury or reduce my available digits.

I was on my way – and with my trusty partner in crime standing behind me as I made my first few cuts as well as holding the ladders when I dragged them upstairs (and occasionally pinching my ass when I had my head in the loft) I climbed up through the hatch and started to screw my trimmed boards into place.

I soon realised that ten packs of boards weren’t even close to the number I needed to do the entire loft.

My loft is split into two halves – with a big supporting beam in the middle that oddly stops half way along.

It has a total of 13 rafters end to end and on the side where the loft hatch is needs six planks per span (excluding the closed off eaves and odd places were there would be small bits of boards needed) meaning I required at least another two – three packs.

Even if I didn’t board the other half and worked around all of the random ‘sticky uppy’ bits of wood, pipes and cables that seemed to be up there under the insulation I’d need almost twice as much.

I decided in that case that I’d be sensible. I’d do only half of the loft rather than the whole thing.

After all – why go nuts? This was already way more than I felt that I was capable of.

On the other side behind the beam were the pipes from my boiler to my shower and these sat above the rafters.

I didn’t want to disturb or damage them and it terrified me that I might fall through between the rafters.

The boarded half that I felt comfortable with would be more than enough to store things and would represent a significant step in the right direction.

As the boards went in though bit by bit my confidence grew and I realised that I was rather enjoying myself!

When I embarked upon this I’d waited until the weekend to begin.

Truthfully I needed my partner around to help boost my confidence and tell me I was doing ok.

This was without a doubt the tipping point between me not doing anything and not starting and making a shaky start.

However as I progressed I quickly realised that I was more than fit and nimble enough to cut, carry, lift, nail, screw and saw things in the confined (and dangerous) spaces where I needed to bend double, and crouch or kneel on slender rafters with heavy weights.

Honestly – this was all something of a revelation.

I was doing it! I was actually boarding a loft!!!

After the first day on the job I ached all over though.

My back hurt, my hands were frozen into claws from screwing screws into wood and my thigh, calf muscles and knees were screaming with indignation about being forced to crouch and bend for so long.

The second and third days I had to take things a bit more slowly and (as I was now alone all day long) made sure I was being very careful.

Then – almost as soon as I’d begun – I had reached all the way along to the wall.

I celebrated by buying a telescopic loft ladder so that I could make sure that not only I but the infinitely foxier other occupant of my house could get up there if she needed to.

There are actually few things that feel as satisfying as working all day long, then having someone come home to see you – then for them to look both pleasantly surprised at what you’ve achieved and beam with pride at your accomplishments.

The thing that was bugging me though was what to do about the pipes on the opposite side.

Although half a loft was more than enough to pile all of our collected things that weren’t needed day to day – the fact was that to get to them when we needed to would be problematic at best if our things were all stacked on top of eachother.

What was really needed was a larger space where everything was ordered and visible so that the loft wasn’t just a complete dumping ground.

I wanted it instead to be a place where things lived temporarily or were disposed of if we decided we didn’t use them any more.

That wouldn’t happen if everything was just piled up willy nilly in giant heaps.

So I decided that the other half had to be tackled as well.

The important thing was though that the pipes needed to be accessible in an emergency with a minimum of fuss and unscrewing.

The only way this would happen it seemed (after some further research and watching of yet more YouTube videos) was to use some form of loft leg to raise the boards higher up and create a platform where things could be stored above the pipes.

These would raise the floor by 175mm – but at a cost in terms of extra effort and money because they are £14 a box (before discounts) for 12.

Up to this point I’d screwed the boards to the rafters – but if I used legs I’d have to not only cut the wood even more precisely to fit on tiny little raised anchor points but secure each of the legs to the rafters with four screws.

To add insult to injury the holes in the bases of the legs were not pre-drilled.

This meant that each leg had to have four screws forced in by hand prior to being screwed into the beams.

I calculated that I needed five boxes (60 loft legs) meaning this would have to be done 240 times.

I’d already moved away from screwing the boards in by hand and gotten over my fear of using a power drill (fatigue is a great motivator) but this was still going to make the second half of the task immensely harder and longer than the first.

The only way to do it though was make a start – and so I did. Soon the first set of legs were in place and I began to tentatively place the newly cut boards on top.

All of this ‘pre screwing’ was taking a serious toll on my hands though – and after stabbing myself in the left palm with a screwdriver and almost popping a blister that was swiftly forming on my right palm I decided that the rather swanky Kath Kidson gardening gloves that materialised in my house around the same time my beloved arrived rather suited me.

Soon my flowery little begloved hands had produced a veritable production line of pre screwed legs – and although the task at hand got no less arduous with time as I plodded on it did become a little quicker.

Since I needed five per joist I prepared them by hand in batches of ten and then screwed them in with my power drill.

After around a week of climbing in and out of the loft, cutting planks in the garden, trimming joists and planks in my roof, disposing of junk I found hidden in the eaves (I’m looking at you random poster of Elvis) I’d actually managed to board out the whole FRIKKIN roof!!!!!

This meant that (at least in my mind) I’d fulfilled a promise to my partner that I’d made when she moved in with me.

This was that everything (with the exception of some larger furniture) she wanted to keep from her flat after the move could not only be kept but would be available and close to hand at a moments notice if it was needed.

I wanted nothing she owned to be hidden away and inaccessible – but if it wasn’t frequently needed it could be stored and safe – ready for when it was.

Of course – the same is now true of all of my belongings too – and once again I’ve proven that even though my default starting point may be self doubt I am capable of doing a lot more than I give myself credit for.

To say that I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished (even though I could have done a better job in some places now that Ive gone back and looked at all the little mistakes I made) is a vast understatement.

I’ve reclaimed one fifth of my house and in the process created an easily accessible and almost inviting space for both of us.

It’s so cosy that I actually fell asleep up there one afternoon on my beanbag while taking a break!

Maybe once again my theory about the universe listening was proven to be true because although I was chuffed beyond words with my DIY I wasn’t feeling quite so happy with my adherence to healthy eating principles.

Elsewhere a wake up call was working its way to fruition.

I think that it’s safe to say that for around two months I’ve been struggling to keep a lid on my appetite as well as not using a dip in my mood (related pretty much solely to my employment status) as an excuse to overeat.

I’ve frankly failed more than I’ve succeeded in this respect and this is always noticeable in the shirt department. Things are tugging around the waist – and I need to get back to ‘Davey’s happy waistline place’.

I decided on Saturday morning that I was going to do two things.

Firstly I was going to once again focus on #onplanoctober (where I commit to writing down everything I eat) and secondly that I was not going to look at any numbers on any scales until I absolutely needed to weigh in again as a target member.

I have been nailing myself into the floor with numbers on scales and whether they mean I’m a failure or a success.

It’s stupid and I’m sick of it.

If I fit my clothes and my waistband is loose then I know if I’m on track.

Half a pound here or there doesn’t make me a success or a failure and it’s about damn time I accepted that and instead started focusing on living a guilt free life that contains no continual self condemnation.

With this in mind I made an effort and dressed up smartly for Angie’s Slimming World 50th birthday party celebration on Saturday morning.

The theme was black and gold – and it was a great excuse to deploy a jacket that I bought a year ago but never found a reason to wear.

As always the 10.30 group was lively and friendly. All of the food tasting sessions usually are – but this week Angie has made an extra special effort with the decorations.

Before leaving in the morning I’d quickly made two big Tupperware boxes full of sweet potato and potato wedges (with garlic, rock salt and paprika) but everyone else had made some smashing recipies.

Of particular note were a weetabix loaf and some cheese and quinoa bites – both of which I secured the recipes for because they were ace!

One of the things I rather like these days is that I can kind of melt into the background at these groups and just be a member again rather than an inspiration.

I know it’s all in my own head and that no-one but me has an expectation that I have to be perfect or that I am not allowed to fail – but it’s never been any less than hard work for me to go to a Slimming World group when I feel like I’ve been letting not only myself down but everyone else that’s ever seen me in the magazine and in newspapers.

As great as this photo of me at the Ritz when I won the MOTY title last year makes me feel it also represents something of a pinnacle that often I feel I can only fall down from.

I looked and felt awesome on that day even though I was stressed and sleep deprived. I was on the top of my own metaphorical mountain – having climbed higher than I’d ever thought possible.

The thing about mountains though is that when you reach the summit eventually you have to make your way back down to carry on with real life – and make sense of what it all means.

My life has since taken other turns thankfully and in every measurable sense (other than my waistline and my job hunting) I’m in a happier and more secure place now than I think I’ve ever been in my entire life.

Slimming World will always be a part of my life and remain very important to me but it’s no longer my sole focus. Learning to live with different priorities whilst not going completely off the rails has become the next major challenge I am still trying to rise to.

Imagine my surprise then when I found out that an award I made for myself many many months ago (if it doesn’t exist you have to create it) had finally became a reality.

Angie called me out in group and when I was up front with her she gave me a golden envelope!

All of a sudden I was rather glad I’d made an effort to look smart!

Inside it was a £50 voucher and FINALLY an OFFICIAL award for losing over 50% of my body weight!!!

There really are no words.

The universe does indeed seem to be listening.

When I feel low and think that I can’t do things or that I’m not good enough then something comes along to remind me that I did and can.

More than anything else it also reminds me that I can’t do things totally on my own.

Just like I needed someone to hold my ladders to begin with as I started the loft I can’t bang my dietary head against a solitary brick wall and fix everything myself.

I’m stronger when I have the support of others and I’m happier when I’m surrounded by people because it brings out the best in me.

So – I’ve got five weeks left to get ready for the Slimming World ball.

I’m going to try and use all of them wisely and make sure that when (for the final time) I present myself to the great and good in the assembled crowds of consultants and their partners I feel both upbeat and positive.

Regardless of what happens though I’m sure I will be – because I will be hand in hand with my rock.

I aim to make absolutely sure that when the last dance finishes in November that we’re the last ones still swaying back and forth together next to the stage.

The last kiss of the night will be mine.

I may struggle to see what my place in the world is sometimes – and I’ve never ever looked forward to any sort of planed future before – but now I do.

I may not know what it holds but I know who I want in it.

Sigh.

Life and lofts eh?

All you can do is your best and hope that the universe listens and that everything works out in the end!

Davey

Four Hovags and a smokey Koppla later…

Yesterday was a bit of a nothing day.

That’s not to say that nothing happened – but I was left feeling a bit flat after a rather disturbed night’s sleep.

For about a week now I’ve been waking up hearing what sounded like a fly trapped behind a curtain and it’s been bugging the hell out of me. It’s seemed like there’d been a constant buzzing noise nearby and I had begun to wonder if it was just my hearing.

I’m a light sleeper at the best of times and had concluded that it was probably my imagination because my partner was continually fast asleep when I woke up.

In the morning she also looked quizzically at me when I kept pulling back the bedroom curtain to check the windowsill as we ate breakfast in bed.

No dead flies.

No live ones either…

Then yesterday (in a change to the scheduled programme) we had to decamp to downstairs to sleep on the floor and sofa thanks to an early morning mattress delivery (due to arrive any time from 7am onwards!!!) and a separate recycling pickup of my old one.

The problem is we had no idea which would happen first – the delivery or the pickup…

This meant that by 9pm on Sunday night our existing mattress was sitting in the hall propped up against the wall. This was only made possible with a strenuous dragging session that took both of us to heft it over the bannister, down the stairs (it only JUST fits floor to ceiling!) and into the hall.

Then – after we finally nodded off – I woke up shortly afterwards.

That damn fly was back!

I carefully stood up from my roll mat on the living room carpet in darkness and crept toward the buzzing near my armchair. My other half was fast asleep on the sofa – but I could still hear it!

Blinking flip!

It wasn’t a buzzing noise.

It was a crackling noise!

As I edged closer to the source of the disturbance I realised that it hadn’t been a fly – it was an electrical short – and the noise had followed me downstairs only because we were charging multiple devices with this Ikea Koppla USB plug.

The reason the noise was different (and louder) was because prior to sleeping downstairs this item (which is brand new – purchased only last week) had been plugged in under the bed on my partner’s side. Unlike me she sleeps like a log – but thankfully I’m much easier to disturb and thankfully also appear to have rather good hearing.

I immediately turned on the light unplugged the USB charger and sniffed it – and sure enough there was a smell of burning from within.

My unceremoniously woken partner (wondering what the hell I was doing sniffing our phones) leant over from the sofa and confirmed it. The charger smelt faintly of smoke.

My mind started racing.

What would have happened if I’d have missed it? Would the house have burned down? Would we have spotted it before it was too late?

The possibilities were horrifying.

Either way I’m taking this back to Ikea and I’m going to seriously complain about it because to say I’m unhappy is an understatement.

Cheap shouldn’t mean dangerous – and this most certainly is.

On the flip side however I can’t fault the mattress delivery and pick up guys who arrived shortly after I’d eventually calmed down and nodded off again. They were here (almost) when they said they’d be and we now have a brand new place to sleep – which is rather fitting now that we’re beginning a brand new chapter of our lives.

Since I’m often unexpectedly awake at all hours of the night more than anything I wanted a mattress stable enough so that I won’t wake up my dearly beloved if (or should I say when) I need to get up at 2am.

The other issue is that the old one was a real source of deep personal shame.

In 2007 (when I bought my house) I purchased a bed and a mattress from Ikea. Not long after I came to the the conclusion that their products were sub standard rubbish.

The bed broke.

A lot.

I snapped the metal cross member running along the centre of the bed not once but twice and then after replacing both of these (thank goodness you can buy spares) I sheared the metal bracket it clipped into at the bottom of the bed clean off.

I had to face facts.

It wasn’t the Ikea bed.

It was my 35st weight.

The mattress didn’t fare much better than the crossmember. It it was no match for my bulk and I ruined it in under a year – meaning that it too had to be replaced.

I decided to go to an independent bed warehouse near my house to research possible replacements – but whilst testing out their various products by sitting on the end of each I broke the slatted wooden frame of one and fell right through it (along with the splintered wood and mattress) onto the floor.

I was on my back with my legs (perhaps comically) high in the in the air and I couldn’t get out of the frame without the help of the shop owner – who was as apologetic as I was embarrassed about looking like a beached whale.

It wasn’t easy for either of us to get me out of that position and I was so mortified that I felt I had no choice but to buy something simply to make amends for the destruction I’d caused. With this in mind I asked the man to recommend a significantly more durable alternative to my sagging mattress.

The replacement he suggested was as formidable as it was expensive and would have to be specially ordered in. It had reinforced metal supports on the sides, was impossible to bend in half (like its flimsy predecessor) and it had a network of rock hard pocket springs all over it.

It cost well over half a grand – which was a price I felt happy to pay back then. Throwing money at problems seemed a lot easier than facing up to the fact I had to lose weight.

Somehow (and I don’t know how) after it was delivered I managed to get it upstairs on my own – despite it being around twice as heavy as the one it replaced and me being 35st.

The effort practically ended me. I was soaked with sweat and had agonising back pain (as well as being completely exhausted) by the time I finally managed to manhandle it onto my bed frame.

That seemingly indestructible mattress lasted almost two years before there was a noticeable Davey sized indent in the middle.

Despite flipping and turning it regularly I’d managed to kill that monster too.

Not willing to replace it again so soon (and also not wanting to drag it back down the stairs on my own) I made do with it from that point onwards. I’d always abstractly planned to replace it at some point – and then (seemingly without warning) it looked like I may no longer be my bed’s sole occupant any longer.

The state of my mattress was something I immediately felt the need to apologise for when for the first time I hosted my current guest – and I’ve been hyper aware of it ever since.

It’s not just that I disliked it when I entered into a relationship – but because it’s been bugging me (along with many other similar things) since I lost my weight.

For the longest time I’ve felt that I’ve been inhabiting someone else’s home and sitting on his furniture – because almost all of the things contained within it are still items purchased by and used by a man over twice my current size.

So – although I’m not flush with cash it’s a good time to have a refresh – and after some joint investigations last week in Ikea Coventry we both settled on one of these and ordered it.

Despite the swift death of my last Ikea mattress I’ve decided to try again and see what happens.

The combined weight of me and my partner is significantly less than I used to weigh on my own (the difference is almost an entire person!) and since neither of us has plans to invite a 3rd party to join us any time soon this should hopefully do the trick for the foreseeable future.

In another frankly ridiculous realisation (after dragging this upstairs on my own) I was gobsmacked that the new mattress weighs approximately one quarter of the total weight I’ve lost.

Twenty stone is 280lbs – meaning I’ve lost over four times the weight of this Hovag.

How insane is that?!

It’s been quite a while since I’ve had such a tangible non-scale victory, but this is a corker!

Despite how difficult it’s been lately to make the right food choices this is a reminder of how important it is to keep on doing so. Since I now have two to cook for (and I’m more motivated when looking after someone other than just myself) it’s becoming easier once again.

I absolutely love cooking for someone else and making sure that the ratios of speed and free foods are in the right proportions.

IMG_4522

Granted – I’m still going a bit overboard with the portion sizes but it’s all good food.

So – things are going rather well at the moment – although I’m not sure that the same can be said for my shed roof – which (I discovered today) may be nearing the end of its operational life…

Admittedly I’m no expert in these matters (if I was then the outcome for my roof may be have been somewhat different) but I think that either some serious repairs (or an outright replacement) are in order.

So – bit by bit I’m making progress – both in life, and with my home.

There’s always something to do though isn’t there internet?

Thats just what makes life interesting.

I don’t mind though because at least I’m not doing it with four Hovags on my back.

Davey

Pax

It’s been a busy couple of weeks – and the work associated with moving and unpacking my partner’s belongings (related to her move to Warwick from down south) continues.

The transportation side of things is now completely done – but the unpacking and integrating of all our possessions is still an ongoing daily task.

Neither of us is quite sure when it will finally come to an end but we’re gradually chipping away at it whilst decorating around the various boxes and bags.

It’s both wearing and exciting in equal measure – because after each roller full of paint goes on and each box gets unpacked my home is beginning to feel more and more like our home.

It’s all very invigorating but nevertheless I earnestly look forward to the day where phrases like ‘I can’t find my underwear’ are a thing of the past.

Well.

Maybe not always 😏

Almost all of the clothing my partner owns is still in boxes and the wardrobe required to rectify this won’t be delivered for a week and a half.

That’s by the by though. It’s just a matter of time and there are many wonderful things going on.

There have been lots of non-scale victories to be had from the activities associated with moving – and I’m continually struck by how not only mine but my partner’s lives have changed beyond all recognition.

We’ve both had a few SW (and general life) milestones where we’re trying new activities, experimenting with new styles or just able to do waaaaay more than we ever did before.

It’s wonderful to see us both growing in confidence in lots of areas just because we’ve found eachother.

Some things are tiny, such as being encouraged to buy trainers for the first time

Others are (on a personal level) maybe more significant.

These are related to things that I would not have been capable of four years ago.

This is Davey in a van.

There were some final bits and pieces to be removed and recycled from the flat and in order to do this the only way was to hire a Ford Transit from Enerprise rent-a-car and then manually dispose of them.

A few years ago a vehicle rental of any kind was completely out of the question.

In the case of a van I was simply too big to fit behind the steering wheel because of the bulkhead behind me.

The seats didn’t go back enough to accommodate me and my stomach pressed into almost all wheels in almost all cars, including my own.

In my own car the seatbelt only just did up if I reclined it and dropped the seat back.

My car seat had also been tig welded with a strengthening plate after breaking under my bulk.

To add insult to injury I also managed to snap my steering wheel in half by putting too much weight on it when I exited the car.

Nowadays I can not only fit in a van seat (the new Ford Transit Custom is very comfy by the way – and I’m TOTALLY sold on Apple car play which is absolutely the future!) but I can fill a van with box after box ferried from the first floor of my partner’s housing complex to a car park below over and over again.

I’m rarely put off by the physical effort required in any task these days – and my whole mentality has completely changed.

In ikea Coventry this week whilst shopping for a bigger wardrobe (boys need space for shirts!!!) I realised that I’d left my phone in the car.

This made me instantly paranoid.

What if someone saw it? Would they smash the window? What else would they take?!

I had to go and get it.

For those that don’t know Ikea in Coventry (unlike the older flat layout in huge out of town spaces) it’s a six storey building in the heart of a city.

The (huge industrial sized) lifts make the high rise shopping experience possible but I find that they’re also irritatingly slow to arrive.

So – instead of taking one to the car park – I jogged down from the 6th to the 1st floor, grabbed my keys and then jogged back up again from my car to the 6th.

Rather amusingly I met a bunch of complaining teens on the way back up, who’d thought it might be a jolly jape to take the stairs.

Most of them had practically expired between floors three and four – rather like a Duracell advert comparing where competing cuddly toys powered by inferior batteries had given up the ghost.

One teen had ground to a halt half way between floors two and three and was languidly slumped on the stairs, complaining bitterly (and very loudly so his companions could hear his wails of distress) about what an awful idea the stairs had turned out to be.

I skipped up the stairs two at a time past the lot of them with a chipper ‘keep it up lads – you’re almost there!’ – all the while grinning from ear to ear.

They were about 14 and I’m the wrong side of 40!

By the time I’d returned to the Ikea restaurant the coffee I’d left behind was still piping hot.

My partner (nursing a cup of tea whilst catching errant Pokemon on her phone at the Ikea Pokestop) remarked that although I felt a little warm I wasn’t out of breath and was still raring to go – plus I was back waaaay quicker than she expected.

This is NOT the way things used to go down in Ikea.

I used to shop at their Wednesbury branch with my brother before Coventry opened nearby.

Compared to the new multi storey layout they appear to be favouring these days it was as flat as 10 day old Coca Cola.

Walking around it was a crippling experience. Mostly because of constant back pain (but also because I was out of breath) I spent much of the time there ‘testing’ armchairs, sofas, office chairs, and beds, before eating lots of meatballs.

Then I’d languidly drive home where I’d usually fall asleep almost immediately.

In contrast on Saturday I spent five hours wandering around the Coventry store and just felt a bit thirsty.

Whilst moving my partner in has so far been a busy enterprise (we are surrounded by boxes) it has also been a great opportunity to eat proper meals together and make sure that both of us are back on plan.

It’s been something of a struggle in the largely solitary lead up we’ve had to the move date.

We’ve had a lot to do at each end – (largely on our lonesomes) and this has resulted in some bad food choices for both of us.

Regular readers will remember my somewhat epic gain on the scales a week and a half ago – and I now have a long way to go to get into back target – which I’m still toying with the idea of re-setting to 14st 7lbs.

My partner still needs to reach her target – but this (I think) is awesome.

Now we both have a shared goal and are very much in it together.

There are no excuses any more and our combined push is toward regular, healthy and on plan meals.

I haven’t been stepping on the scales very often at all recently – but yesterday things appeared to be moving in the right direction when I finally summoned up the courage – and as long as I don’t decide to say **** it and dive into a giant bin of flapjacks in the next two days I will hopefully be looking at a loss on Saturday.

So – things are awesome in a way that they rarely have been in my past.

Not only do I have enough (svelte and lovely) shirts to fill a large Pax wardrobe now but I have a handy pocket sized (also svelte and lovely) girlfriend to check out the interior and make sure it’s suitable for them.

If anyone needs me I’ll be contentedly grinning like an idiot with my head in a cardboard box full of maps or balls of wool 😊

Davey

Food diaries

I’m going back to basics this week and I suppose that with this I need to fess up and ‘out’ myself a little.

I’ve been struggling to stay on plan for several weeks now – and a perfect storm of personal stress and more than a little avoidance about how to deal with it all has meant that (as many may have noticed over the last month) I’ve withdrawn from writing a bit.

This isn’t something I wanted or planned to make a permanent thing but the more my ‘unbloggable’ stress piled up (I won’t write about feelings relating to things like employment because it’s not professional) the more I retreated to food.

Not writing (and therefore not being completely honest) about all this didn’t help and it became all too easy to hide from the fact that (at least by my standards) things had gotten a little out of control.

Emotions have to go somewhere right?

When you’re packing them down continually and there’s no easy way of releasing them that will resolve the underlying issues then that’s where stress, worry, sleeplessness and depression come from.

At times over the last few weeks I’ve felt elements of all of these. With the help of my partner and my friends though I now feel like I’m finally making headway.

This step in the right direction is primarily represented by a food diary.

I haven’t written one of these for a while – but the truth is that without doing so it’s all too easy to just carry on ignoring what I’m putting in my mouth and overeat.

I took steps to reduce my stress over a week ago, and while one particular thing is becoming a distant memory it’s impossible to just flick a switch and say ‘I no longer feel like overeating’ because if you care to look for one there’s always a reason.

The tendency to find yet another excuse to put food into your mouth is all too easy – so on Saturday my partner and I fist bumped and committed to going back to basics, writing everything down and sticking to Slimming World’s plan 100%.

That means if it passes our lips we make a note of it and look up the syns for everything.

At the end of the day we send each other our completed diary and discuss how it went.

This is the perfect time to do such a thing because in two short weeks we start living together.

There’s still a LOT left to do if this is going to happen.

This weekend was spent exclusively sorting things at my partner’s home, helping to pack, stack, organise or recycle her accumulated memories and possessions.

It can be both physically and emotionally draining – and I know from my own efforts to streamline my existence that you occasionally unearth things you’d forgotten about or purposefully buried.

It’s definitely something that’s easier to do together – but since we live quite a distance away from each other that’s not always possible.

As soon as I got home yesterday and stood in the quiet of my hallway a mild panic began to set in.

How on Earth would I make enough space for all of the things that I’d just helped to put in boxes elsewhere?

Where would it all go?

I felt instantly hungry.

Thankfully I also needed to go shopping otherwise this could have been a really tricky moment. My fridge was almost completely empty.

I resolved to go for a swim first and try to relax – which helped when I reached Aldi and by the time I had a trolly in my hands I was in a much better head space.

I didn’t buy any treats because if they’re not in the house then I can’t eat them.

Once I got home (after packing my shopping away) I had a nice healthy lunch that consisted of a baked potato with cottage cheese and piri piri chicken pieces (with salad) and sat down watching the birds in my garden as I ate.

One of the things I can say is my food lately has been nice and colourful.

I’ve been food optimising whenever I can and having epic ratios of speed food.

One thing that I’ve always said to people when I talked as MOTY is that I consider myself to be very lucky.

Unlike many who I’ve met at various Slimming World groups I absolutely love the taste of both fresh and cooked vegetables and I could eat carrots and lettuce until I pop.

Oddly there are a lot of people that don’t feel this way. We live in a world of processed food – and some seem to live almost entirely on carbs – yet have still managed to lose weight.

At times I wonder how they’ve managed to get as far as they have by avoiding vegetables so diligently.

Even when I’m off plan I eat huge quantities of raw vegetables – so if you told me tomorrow that I’d only be able to eat salad and fish until the end of time then I’d be a pretty content man.

I do have failings however.

My weaknesses are mostly healthy free food (and snacks) that I overdo.

Cottage cheese is great but over the last few weeks when I’ve felt at my lowest I’ve occasionally eaten six tubs in one go.

It’s the same with things like hifi or Aldi Benefit bars. They’re great in small quantities but I struggle to contain my appetite as soon as I get anywhere near them.

One bar swiftly turns into one box, and then another and another.

Occasionally I’ve found myself eating ‘healthy seed flapjacks’ from Holland and Barrett. These are delicious, nutritious – but also insanely calorific.

Fruit consumption has also been a little out of control over the last month…

You can’t exercise your way out of eating the wrong things either – and lord knows I’ve tried!

I’m an active person and I’m proud of that.

It’s had an awesome impact on my life and I can see evidence of that in my blood pressure and resting heart rate – which I tested after walking up the hill to my partner’s doctor’s surgery the other day.

My blood pressure used to be 140/77!

I’m not so happy with my overeating though but – on the plus side there are no Dominos Pizzas, no kebabs and no burgers in my life.

I’m also thankful that (after three and a half years on the wagon) there’s no booze either.

It’s been an insane 1266 days since I last had alcohol of any description!

So once I’d eaten my baked potato, watched the birds in my garden, sipped an espresso and written it all down I made a start on my dining room.

Those who have been in my house will know that for a long time this space has been an unofficial walk in wardrobe – and since it’s close to the washing machine has also been where I iron, fold and dry my things.

Its purpose is changing soon though. When my partner arrives its new intended use is a ‘day room’ where we can sit together, admire the garden and indulge in our hobbies.

In order to make this happen not only do I need to re-home my clothes to our bedroom (I have a bit of a shirt addiction and this will be a challenge…) but there needs to be enough space on our moving day elsewhere to prop up flat pack items, pile boxes and dump luggage as well as enough room to unpack and work through it all afterwards.

It’s a challenge to say the least.

Overeating and putting on weight in the meantime will not help.

Making sure I get back to basics and maintaining a healthy lifestyle however will.

This means continually sticking to my objectives, going for walks, going swimming, food optimising, getting on with the job at hand and trying to make sure that regardless of stress I’m still the man I want to be (and that my partner deserves) at the end of it all.

In the meantime I can also take the occasional moment to remember how lovely the world is – and stop to look around me when I’m out and about trying to burn away calories.

It’s got life, colour and joy in it everywhere. All you have to do is stop for a moment and pay attention…

Davey

The Slimming World Man of the Year 2019

I slept like a baby last night.

Well…

That’s not strictly true.

I actually woke up at 11.30pm on my sofa half way through an evening bowl of Weetabix (which I’d fallen asleep in the middle of eating around 9pm) before padding off to bed, where (once under a duvet) I lay motionless for the next 7 hours.

Today I still feel a little tired, but also very very content.

Yesterday I handed over the mantle of MOTY to another (very worthy) winner at the Slimming World HQ in Derby. As always the sparkly castle is a pleasure to visit – because the people there are always so nice – but if I’ve never been there without feeling a corresponding level of stress too.

Absolutely no-one makes me feel this way but me – and the reasons for feeling this way have been different every time. On this occasion I was mostly worrying about being out of target, not being quite as thin as I was when I attended last year and what I’d say to people.

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It’s all in my head though.

All of the clothes I wore fitted just fine, people kept telling me I looked smart, fit and healthy and my partner kept reassuringly squeezing my hand and telling me I was definitely her cup of tea as well as pinching my bottom when no-one was looking.

Thanks to litres of coffee (only having had a few hours sleep) I think I managed to work through my concerns and pulled off the ‘fully functioning human being’ look long enough to shake a lot of hands, feature in a lot of selfies, speak to a lot of people, and then drive home without appearing manic.

Well – maybe not in all of the photos…

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My smile can hide a lot though.

Sometimes in my head though I’m still the fattest man in the room and I’m not sure I’m ever going to get away from that.

It may well be with me for life.

Bizarrely though – despite feeling this way and desperately not wanting to be a disappointment to my assembled peers I was treated like a rockstar from the moment I arrived to the moment I left.

I lost count of the number of hugs and kind comments I received throughout the proceedings. Not only were the PR team and SW management all smiley and happy to see me again but the consultants and contestants all wanted to congratulate me on doing so well as well as ask me questions about how the year had been and how I’d found weight maintenance in the spotlight.

Consultants were even photobombing my selfies!

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Things continued to be slightly surreal throughout the day.

When it was time for a bite to eat I realised I was on huge TV just inside the doors of canteen – meaning that I ended up watching myself on a loop whilst eating the lovely (Slimming World friendly) buffet meal they’d laid on for lunch.

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As if things weren’t weird enough one of the PR team pointed out that things have changed a little since I last visited and that there’s now a MASSIVE life size photo of me (taken at the ball last November) on the wall in the Miles Bramwell suite!

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I don’t think I’ve ever seen a static image of myself this big on any wall anywhere and I couldn’t help but take a photo.

My partner was also barely able to contain her glee and immediately bounded toward the wall like a Labrador chasing 20 tennis balls.

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That woman absolutely flipping LOVES Rylan Clarke-Neal…

The day wasn’t about me (or him) though. It was about the selection of the new Slimming World Man of the Year 2019 – and everywhere I looked there were nervous hopefuls flanked by their anxious consultants. Every last one of them were desperately trying to remember their five minute speeches whilst no doubt dealing with their own inner demons.

The field of contestants was a little smaller this year than last. The 2019 crowd had already been whittled down to a group of 37 (although oddly I only count 34 here) before the day.

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Crazily the same statistic from last year was in evidence – and the guys in this photo had lost an incredible average of OVER TEN STONE each.

As was the case for the MOTY event that I attended last year a random footballer (whom the ladies nearby had to tell me the name of) was the guest of honour. Apparently he’s quite famous – so I assume that my proximity will make other men rather jealous.

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Truthfully I was completely clueless – although I will say that Ex England International Emile Heskey did seem (as did Ex England International John Barnes last year) like a lovely fellow – and had a killer handshake to go with his rather imposing stature.

You can’t see his feet here – but he was wearing heels.

I’m actually taller.

He’s a midget.

True story.

I have to say that the event brought back a LOT of memories – but this time the pressure was definitely a lot less than the first and second times I had visited HQ. Now I was standing there as the 3rd greatest loser 2018 and the returning Man Of The Year 2018, rather than a nervous contestant.

Now no-one could take anything away from me and instead this time around I got to sit where my judges sat before – which was behind the groups listening to the stories of the contestants.

Hearing these brought a lot of feelings to the surface.

Some of them are because I remember only too well the pain these guys felt in life. I’ve been bullied like they have. I’ve suffered the same health conditions they too have pushed into remission. I’ve been told I’m incapable of doing things because I’m too big and like them now I can do anything I want. I’ve struggled to find clothes but now walk into any shop and wear what I want just like them.

I’ve also felt the continual rebuke of a toxic parent like many had done, lived through the consequences of how worthless they made us feel and recognised the sense of lost opportunity and wasted time that many of them were still struggling with.

Every one of these personal humiliations and regrets are with me all the time in the background. They’re my continual dark passengers – and when life is hard they ring the bell on my bus, sometimes causing it to stop or swerve.

Occasionally they cause the wheels to fall off completely.

Just like me though all of these men chose another way – and whilst none of us will ever be ‘cured’ (who is?) they now have the tools to build a better life that’s free from pain and humiliation.

Furthermore they now have a platform from which they can shout aloud if they wish. They can go on social media and back to their groups with their heads held high and evangelise about what’s possible with loud, happy, positive voices.

Or if they prefer they can just quietly get on with life and silently inspire those who are watching from the sidelines.

They certainly inspired me – hopefully in the same way I’d inspired some of them.

We all need a reminder of why we try each and every day to be better people and these guys certainly did that for me.

My part in the proceedings wasn’t without it’s responsibilities mind you because my function this year was primarily to speak to the assembled crowd both at the start and near the close of events.

This is a difficult speaking engagement – because I didn’t want it to be about me and what I’d done to win the award last year. They already knew how hard it had been to lose weight.

I didn’t need to tell any of them that.

Instead I felt it was vitally important to get across the point that no-matter what happened that day every single man in that room has changed their life for the better and in doing so they had almost certainly changed the lives of others.

They were all already winners.

I had more to say though – because it what comes next for them (and many other target members who go to a group each week) is no longer about a race to a goal weight. It’s now about the start of an ongoing and never ending battle.

This award (and reaching target) isn’t the punctuation mark at the close of a journey. In many ways it’s capital letter on another page at the start an entirely new chapter – because now they all have to live with the sometimes difficult reality of getting what they’ve always wanted.

They’ve made it.

They’re standing on the top of their personal mountain.

But what comes next?

The bigger question they’ll all have to address now is how to live a life that wasn’t available to them before, and how live with being a source of inspiration for others without being undermined by their inner monologues. Each and every one of them has a new voyage to embark upon – and that’s one of weight maintenance combined with continual minute adjustments to their self image and self worth.

Now they rebuild.

They can all do it though.

I know they can.

They have the support of their groups and their consultants as well as people at home that love them.

I did make it a little personal though.

I couldn’t help myself.

I told the room that just after winning last year I randomly met my partner doing something I’d never been capable of without losing my weight. I told everyone listening that I was in love and that the greatest boon of the whole experience was not the award I’d received but what it had enabled for my future.

I got to tell them what it all meant, how happy it had made me and then I gave them all their awards and shook their hands.

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It doesn’t get much better than that does it?

Not everyone can win though and shortly after the presentations the judges read out the names of the men that would move forward to the last part of the proceedings.

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This was the final group of ten – and every last one of them was a worthy winner.

As is always the case it’s practically impossible to guess in advance of an announcement who will take home the title – but you can usually tell who’s in with a chance because they have the ability to make you laugh at the same time as make you cry and the eventual winner certainly did that.

I spoke to many, shook hands with all, and even gave out my phone number in one case, because (I have to be honest) I feel a sense of kinship with these people. If ever they need my advice or help they only have to ask.

I won’t be mentioning his name here, because that will soon appear in the media, but I will say that (along with many other guys yesterday) he truly deserved both the award he received and the recognition of his achievements from all those involved.

So – that’s almost the end of a my period as Slimming World’s MOTY 2018. Once I’ve been to the ball in November as the outgoing recipient I’ll probably be quietly getting on with my life in blissful anonymity.

I’ve handed the baton over to the next man. I hope he runs like the wind with it and I wish him all the luck in the world.

2019 and the rest of his life will never be the same again.

Davey

The road to the Man Of The Year 2019

So it’s been a while.

How have you been?

Ok I hope?

Good.

I’ve missed you – but haven’t felt like I wanted to talk for a while because there’s been a lot going on that I didn’t feel I could share with you.

In many respects the last few weeks have been quite difficult, but in others they’ve also been extremely enjoyable. I’ve still been talking and sharing but recently I’ve been doing it in an entirely different way.

You see – whilst I’ve not been exhaustively blogging my hopes fears and dreams like I have in the past I’ve still had an outlet for my musings and I’m in a good place.

I now have someone to share everything with and we never miss an opportunity to talk when the need arises.

In this respect I’m more than OK.

I’m actually in a terrific place when it comes to matters of the heart and find myself to currently be insanely happy and fulfilled. Things seem to keep going from good to even gooder and if I was looking at me from the outside I’d probably be vaguely irritated by how contented I must appear because at times I’m positively floating.

My partner moves in with me in less than a month and therefore a lot of our mutual calendars have been (and still are) filled with the very real and very pressing practicalities of what it means to combine two lives that have been solitary for many years.

We’re joining mature households containing a lifetime of possessions, and in doing so simultaneously jettisoning items and approaches to life that we no longer need. We’re holding onto only the best and bringing those traits and posessions together to form something infinitely better than that which existed beforehand.

Consequently my mind is continually alive with the possibilities of it all and my heart genuinely skips a beat when I think about the enormity of it and what it means for the future.

It’s no longer me.

It’s US.

Much time lately has been spent in charity shops (admittedly this will not come as a surprise to many) but almost none of it has been to purchase anything – because bag after collective bag of DVD’s CD’s, clothes, electrical appliances, bric a brac and even furniture have now been donated or simply given away.

In some ways it’s galling.

How could we have spent so much on things?

In others it’s just confusing.

Why do these things mean so little to us now?

Mostly it’s just liberating.

We’re no longer reliant on things to make us happy.

Even if we decided against our current plan of action to live together (which doesn’t seem in the least bit likely) we would already both be in a much much better place because a lot of the deadweight and needless clutter (that neither of us really appreciated had been filling our homes) has already been jettisoned in favour of a leaner and more focused existence.

We need so little in reality.

There’s still a lot more to do but I’m enjoying the process of finding true worth in my possessions immensely.

At the moment I can’t sleep though.

As is sometimes usual with me – it’s 2am on Sunday morning and all I can think about is washing up my used tupperware and tidying the kitchen.

I’ve also pulled a muscle in my right shoulder and it’s niggling me. As I type the ibuprofen gel that I’ve just smeared all over it is thick and sticky on the surface of my arm.

I can feel it tugging like a second skin as my fingers play over the keyboard in front of me.

Whilst matters of the heart have been going well other things have not been so good and there have been some aspects of my life that (once again) aren’t making sense.

As of Monday I’m starting the hunt for another job.

As much as I was hoping that my role would be a good fit for me things didn’t work out so I took steps to move on – which of course has prompted my usual avalanche of self doubt and soul searching.

I’ve fixed so many aspects of myself but I still seem perpetually unable to find the same measure of happiness that I once found in my working life and it’s gnawing away at me deep down.

Why can’t I be satisfied? Why do I now question everything? Why do I want more from life but not understand what ‘more’ actually means, where to find it and how to achieve it?

It’s tough.

Something isn’t clicking job wise and it hasn’t been ever since I started to lose weight and gain independance.

I’d dearly love to know what the answer is – because in the meantime the stress and worry this causes me means that I can slip from grace and return to old habits. When I do I still have an unnerving capacity for over indulging to compensate for emotional dips.

Consequently my current weight is above where I wanted it to be.

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Thankfully I know deep down that while I may occasionally have my wobbles I’m never going to go back to the man I was.

Results like the one when I stepped on the scales last week and realised I’d gained 6.5lbs may occur from time to time, but now I deal with them and accept that life will just happen and when it does you have to cope with it the best way you can.

That may mean you struggle for a little while in some areas (such as dietary discipline) but then things will eventually get better. When they do you you will invariably find a way around whatever the issue was and afterwards you pick up the pieces, start doing the best that you can again and move right along.

The truth is that there’s no such thing as being ‘naturally thin’.

There’s just continued effort, and an underlying willingness to try (over and over again) to be a better person.

I beat myself up a lot when I shouldn’t – but even I know that my approach to health is so radically different from what it used to be that my current excesses seem comical in comparison.

So what do I feel guilt about these days?

I have eaten a lot of Weetabix. I have consumed waaay too much fruit, I’ve over indulged in cottage cheese and I have a definite weakness for scan-bran with Primula and Marmite.

It’s almost hilarious when I lay it bare on the page like that.

In one respect it’s proof that no-matter what you consume (good or bad) it’s possible to over indulge and screw up – and I could get down about once more proving that I still eat too much.

But…

It’s definitely not the same as what I used to do.

I used to be the guy who’s wheels fell off the bus each and every night of the week.

Again and again and again (link) I did this to myself.

Way to work (1130kcal)

  • Two double sausage and egg McMuffins – 1130kcal

Sandwiches eaten at desk (1725kcal approx)

  • 6 thick slices of hand cut bread (usually this was half of an in-store supermarket bakery 800g wholemeal loaf) (952kcal)
  • Benecol light spread – I guesstimate approx 20g (64kcal) per slice (total 384kcal)
  • Two packs of 125g ham – 290kcal
  • 3x tomatoes (67kcal each) and cucumber slices (10kcal) – (201kcal)
  • Two packets of Mccoys crisps (multipack ones are 141kcal each) (282kcal)

Evening meal (1595kcal)

  • Sainsburys 800g Taste the difference shepherds pie  (850kcal)
  • Approx 500g oven chips (McCain Home fries) (745kcal)

Snacks and drinks (3023kcal)

  • Sainsburys house Soave 2.25l (I would typically drink all of this – per 125ml Soave is approx 79kcal so it totals 1422kcal)
  • 200g ‘sharing’ bag of Doritos (894kcal)
  • Ginsters large Cornish pasty (707kcal)

Total (if I didn’t have an evening takeaway instead of a ready meal) – 7473kcal

That meant I lost control of everything – and that loss nearly extended to my life.

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These days my excesses are held in check by the structures I’ve incrementally built to support myself.

First and foremost these are represented by people.

I’m never far away from them and they keep me grounded. I always talk about and share what’s happening – be it good or bad – and this keeps me on an even keel.

 

I generally try and do this with exercise involved and when I can’t see them I walk or swim alone as regularly as possible.

In this respect I find that my addiction to the endorphins my activities provide is my new treat mechanism. Whereas in the old days I used food and alcohol to deal with good and bad times, now (whilst food can still at times be an issue) I use walking and swimming.

 

This means I’m always getting fitter ( I still average 8-9 miles a day every day) and compared to the first time I managed to swim 1250m (50 lengths of my local pool) I am now a stronger and more capable person in the water as well as in life.

So why am I contemplating this in the dark whilst my partner sleeps elsewhere?

Well it’s primarily because it’s been a year since I became the Slimming World MOTY – and I’m asking myself what it all means.

 

Have I been a good example? Have I lived up to both my own and other people’s expectations? Did SW make the right choice when they chose me?

I have no idea.

I really don’t know.

I’m currently out of target by half a stone but I’m also fitter (and noticeably more muscular) than I’ve ever been in my life. I’ve tried hard to be the man I believe I should have always been and in doing so I’ve heaped pound ofter pound of pressure to be perfect upon myself in the dark of many mornings and sleepless evenings just like this one.

I’ve privately and endlessly agonised over whether I’ve matched up to the impossible standards that I set for myself.

I do this mostly because of this photo.

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You see – when I won my award a year ago I didn’t feel simply like I’d gained an accolade.

Instead I felt for the longest time that what I’d actually done was deny it to 50+ other men who had each proven insanely worthy in their own right. Every one of them had a heart wrenching tale to tell that day and I felt every drop of the personal pain that they shared.

In fact I went further than feeling it.

I took it, made it my own and used it as a motivator – telling myself that I had to live up to the MOTY title because if I didn’t then I was betraying everything not only I but they had achieved in their lives.

I still see many of them doing it each and every day on social media. They run marathons, inspire others, help their communities, do things for charity and have rich, rewarding lives.

The average loss per man in the room that day was over 10st.

How can you even begin to calculate what that means to a life?

I couldn’t and I still can’t.

I remember thinking at the time that the total represented a woman per man that could have been standing by the side of each and every face in the photo.

I didn’t understand back then that the thought probably reflected more about what I wanted from my own future than I realised – and it showed that deep down I’d started to hope that my future would no longer be a solitary one.

Although my award alone didn’t mean that I found love (and I believe I have) it sparked the events that caused me to meet the woman I now want to share my life with, and it was instrumental in starting the conversation on the top of Cheddar Gorge that ultimately drew this person toward me.

The words I wrote about my experiences relating to my involvement with Slimming World were read by her and the actions I took (and still take) to live up to the standards I’d set for myself seem to attract her even now.

Consequently this past year has been incalculably important to me.

With a marked increase in the weight I heaped upon my own shoulders however also came a lot of opportunities to inspire and touch people’s lives in a way I don’t think I otherwise would have.

I became a noticable presence in the press for a time, and my social media footprint (as well as traffic on this blog) took off in a completely unexpected manner.

Some conversations (often the most random and out of the blue ones) stopped me in my tracks because they’ve showed me time and time again that other peoples lives have been changed for the better because of what I’ve achieved.

Sometimes because of the words that I’ve written or said and on other occasions simply it’s simply the example that I’ve set. My father for instance (who was not previously at a healthy weight) is now 2/3rds of the man he was before I won my title.

I’ve proven that even when you’re close to death you can pull back from the brink, rebuild and have a life that’s worth living that can enrich the lives of others.

Later today (at Slimming World HQ in Derby where I’m attending the MOTY 2019 finals) I will hand that responsibility to another man.

If I’m honest it’s with a mixture of relief and sadness that I see this chapter draw to a close.

I feel relief because I can finally let go of the (self imposed) pressure, and sadness because it’s been wonderful and it’s changed my life.

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It’s given me a future with someone that I care deeply about, and along with my own carefully laid foundations has proven to me what I and others are capable of in life.

It’s been an amazing year.

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It’s going to be an amazing life.

Back soon internet.

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Davey

Im trying

If I’m honest I’ve probably been rather hard on myself this week.

You can tell people over and over when giving advice that they should focus on the things they do well and ignore others – but when it applies to yourself it’s all too easy to focus solely on the bad.

I’m just as guilty of this as the next man (or woman) and I do it far too often – even at this stage in the game.

Sometimes it’s hard though to step away from feelings that somehow (despite all evidence to the contrary) that you will return to the habits of the past and that everything will fall apart.

Life’s good – but is it too good?

Is this just the peak before the fall?

It’s silly isn’t it – but I’m sure that we all do it from time to time.

I just wish my fears didn’t manifest themselves when I’m trying to regain my mojo – because I’d much rather just hit a task head on with positive vibes in my mind.

Regardless of that (even though I don’t have to weigh in until Monday) I’m currently standing in line at Slimming World waiting to get some positive inspiration.

The truth of it is that weighing in on a day other than a Saturday really screws with my internal treat/austerity matrix.

The weekend – which is usually something of a ‘relaxed’ part of my dietary week – is a real danger period if I go into it ignoring the fact that I’m due to step on the scales in only two days time.

I’ve not stepped on the scales since the last official weigh in and regular readers will know that it wasn’t a positive one.

I’ve been in a ‘struggling member’ place for the last couple of weeks – and honestly my good behaviour mojo has been practically impossible to find at times.

The very best I’ve been able to accomplish is ‘hold my worst impulses at bay’ on some days – so I’ve attempted to compromise with myself this week.

I’ve accepted that I’m not fully ‘there’ with regard to my mindset.

Instead of giving up though I’ve done the best I can with food when I’ve felt able but also tried to increase my exercise activities in order to offset anything awful.

So far it appears to be working – and both my significant other and I have been leaning on eachother from afar in moments of weakness.

It’s nice to never have to hide your behaviours or excesses from someone – especially as we come from so many of the same places in life.

In my past life my behaviours were way more furtive than they are now and I hid smoking, eating and drinking from previous partners.

I couldn’t really modify any of those habits at the time and consequently many flashpoints occurred that seriously damaged trust between us.

I roll my eyes in shame and frustration now when I think of how I used to hide cigarettes in the spare wheel of my car, drink when my other half visited family, and buy kebabs on the way home from work while she was making a healthy meal.

Everything was self inflicted damage and I regret each and every time I told little white lies in order to cover up my inadequacies.

It’s not that way any more though.

My policy is absolute honesty – even if that highlights a failure.

Storing up crap for the future is a fool’s game because it always comes out in the end.

Even if a white lie is never found out the burden of remembering what you said instead of the truth will eventually catch up with you.

That may even result in stress or depression – but it can all be avoided.

Ever since I started weaponising honesty in my blog and wider life everything changed for the better.

My achievements in life have multiplied beyond anything I could ever have imagined.

My friendships have strengthened, and I’ve met many many new people who seem drawn to my willingness to expose all of my faults for the world to see.

It doesn’t hurt in a relationship either.

You can’t build a home on crappy foundations and these are no different. Start as you mean to go on.

So – when I stepped on the scales at home this morning I was pleasantly surprised.

Now – this is me in my pants, not in clothes – but it shows what a week of hard work (I’ve been swimming every day in the morning and walking almost every evening) can do if you put your mind to it.

The thing is that I still have two days to go before I can officially say I’m back in target – so I have to be good.

To add insult to injury (thanks to an ever changing schedule) I have to do an early weigh in on Monday instead of an evening one like I did last week.

Sigh.

#life

Ah well. I’m in the right place. The room is buzzing. There’s music in the background and I’m feeling positive.

Angie is welcoming her new members behind me and there’s the occasional cheer of slimmers standing on the scales and getting the result they want.

The other who aren’t so happy are chatting with friends, looking through their recipe books and planning strategies for the week ahead.

The fact is regardless of what happens I’m trying – and that’s what separates old Davey from new and improved Davey.

Although we were both hard on ourselves he never ever believed (or had any evidence) that he could succeed.

These days a failure isn’t what it used to be.

I used to be able to flush my life down the toilet in a way many would marvel at.

So – regardless of the moments where I re-brand my success as failure or look to the floor rather than the sky things are better.

I’m continually trying to be the best version of myself – to be a good role model to those I love – and at the end of the day that’s enough.

No one is perfect, we all falter and we all look down on ourselves.

Whether you pick yourself up and move on or not is the differentiator between someone that’s becoming unhappier and unhealthy or someone that’s ultimately pleased with who they are and loving life.

I’m the latter.

Now and forever.

Davey

I call summer

Finally!!! The sun is out!!!

It’s been hanging in the sky unashamedly for a couple of days now – and it’s presence is beginning to feel oddly normal.

I’m so taken with it’s reappearance that today I took the rather unexpected (but completely welcome) step of digging my shorts out of storage, pulling on a brightly coloured shirt and stepping out for my usual walk to the leisure centre.

I’m calling it.

It’s officially SUMMER and I feel great because there’s something undeniably wonderful about sunny days.

I now appreciate their warmth in a way that I couldn’t a few years ago – although it’s (thankfully) becoming more and more difficult to remember just how uncomfortable such weather used to make me.

On the left is me this morning and on the right the picture of me represents probably one of the most painful and embarrassing days I can remember at (almost) the peak of my weight.

In the left one I’m ready to go for a walk and swim – and on the right hand side I could barely move and although I might be smiling I was sweating buckets and feeling very self conscious.

It might seem surprising given how I’m dressed that I was at a wedding.

Not only could I not wear smart clothes due to my size but I could barely waddle down the country lane to the reception a mile away afterwards.

When I did so I had the further indignity of making that walk to my destination with a ridiculously fit member of our army’s special forces.

As if that wasn’t humiliating enough after we I got there I was in so much pain and so drenched in sweat that I had to sit in my car for half an hour with the air conditioning on until I stopped breathing so heavily and began to look even vaguely socially acceptable.

It was only then that I felt I could join the other guests at the reception without looking like I was about to drop dead.

Life has become so different now though that I’m no longer regularly registering what I’ve become as ‘unusual’.

It’s just who I am.

Isn’t that wonderful?

Although (mostly because of some personal worries) I’ve struggled a little over the last couple of weeks with my sleeping and eating I’m still exercising all the time and have still been focused on the promise that I made to myself that I would go swimming 15 times in March.

I’m almost there.

The distance (you may have noticed) has slightly lowered however – and that’s because I’m still persisting swimming the breast stroke properly – and that means my head is continually under water.

Frankly doing this tires me out a lot quicker though – and I’m pretty sure that this is because of the regular breathing pattern that doing this requires.

Initially trying to do this made me struggle to swim at all – and since I’d managed to become quite proficient with my head out of water initially it was a little demoralising.

I was suddenly stopping at either end for a regular breather – which I hadn’t had to do for a long time.

I thought I’d become a lot fitter than I actually seemed to be in reality and once again I’d constructed a mountain to climb.

The truth of it is though that your body adapts really quickly if you persist with any kind of change to activity levels.

The same thing seems to hold true if you push your capabilities in something you already do regularly.

Now I’ve been swimming this way persistently for almost two weeks my average length time has fallen back in line with where it was before.

Overall it’s improved quite a bit from when I started swimming in November.

On my first tentative attempt (when my arms felt like lead after 25 metres) my average length time back then was a cripplingly slow two minutes thirty three seconds.

Today it was 47 seconds – but on Wednesday it was 45!

How cool is that?!

I’ll be completely honest though and say that at times I’ve struggled to maintain my focus with regard to swimming.

The sheen has definitely worn off the ‘newness’ of this activity – and a lot of the excitement associated with it was related to becoming more confident in a swimming costume rather than getting fitter.

However I still very much enjoy it when I go.

The truth is however that unlike walking I’ve come to the conclusion that this is very much a ‘brute force’ activity in the same sense as I’ve found going to the gym in the past.

In contrast I still walk pretty much everywhere – and have convinced myself that this is something that I have to do.

It isn’t hard.

Petrol costs money – which is something I need to conserve – so this is pretty much a reality rather than a conveniently constructed fiction.

in contrast I don’t need to swim anywhere.

Instead this activity is all about keeping fit and feeling good – which is something I have to keep at the forefront of my mind when my alarm goes off at 7am.

If I don’t get up do it regularly then I don’t feel good – it’s as simple as that.

Plus – in the absence of a job (I’m still looking in earnest!) having this kind of structure is good because staying in bed doing nothing did no-one any good in the history of ever.

It doesn’t matter what I do – I never sleep in (at least when on my own) and make sure I always accomplish something worthwhile with every single day.

Sometimes it’s only mundane stuff (job hunting is a daily and often miserable grind) sometimes it’s physical, and at other times it’s just looking after my home.

It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s constructive and leaves me with a positive feeling.

As I’ve previously mentioned I’m trying to get away from my life being all about weight loss – but I doubt that I’ll ever be able to fully step away from what I’ve accomplished into a ‘normal’ life that exists without any memory of it whatsoever.

Everywhere I look and everything I do is related in some way to the difficulties of the past and its next to impossible not to reflect on how good things are now vs how bad they got back then.

My garden is just such a reminder and if nothing else whenever I look at and work in it I’m provided with a great example of what staying in bed and doing nothing will ultimately result in – should I ever feel tempted to do so.

In June of 2017 this is how my back garden looked.

For a very long time I’d effectively become incapable of maintaining it myself – and the problem had become so huge in my mind (and in reality) that I simply didn’t know where to begin.

I’d even started throwing money at the problem and occasionally paying people to tend to it.

This eventually resulted in me being completely ripped off by a local shark and left me feeling extremely vulnerable.

I had mentally reached an impasse.

I didn’t trust anyone to be paid to do it for me and I couldn’t manage the task alone.

I closed my back curtains, tried to forget about it and just left the problem to get worse and worse.

In the end it took the helping hand of a friend to enable my first tentative steps.

I doubt I’d have started without him and I doubt I’d have had the confidence to continue unless he’d made me realise I’d lost enough weight not only to make the activity possible but amazingly to also turn it into something that could be enjoyable.

I still get a lot of pleasure from bringing order to this space – even though I don’t really use it in the way that I probably should.

I hardly spend any time out there – preferring instead to be out of my house doing other things.

Yesterday though I spent a good few hours tidying it up (great exercise in itself) and making sure that the lawn and borders were in shape for the next week or two.

My green recycling bin was comfortingly packed solid when I dragged it out to the front of my house afterwards.

Whilst I can’t ever envisage my back garden looking like it belongs in the Chelsea flower show, it’s a point of personal pride that I not only cleared it back then (mostly on my own after the initial helping hand) but that ever since I’ve managed to keep it neat and tidy.

I’m not too prissy about it mind you. At the end of the day it’s a garden, not a bowling green and I treat it as such. The pile of rotten wood I have to the right for instance is something I meant to use for a bug hotel – but it so far hasn’t happened.

It’s still on my ‘to do’ list.

If nothing else though these days I have a path to walk up and down that previously had been invisible for years – and a lawn that I can navigate without a machete.

So, summer is peeping its face through the clouds and I’m ready to greet it with open arms, short sleeves and bare legs!

It’s time to dig out the shorts Internet!!!

You know it makes sense!

Davey

Diamond target membership award

Days really don’t get much better than today, because after what’s been (not counting the last three years) a lifetime of continual failure I finally planted the flag of success in my Slimming World journey.

Today I collected my diamond target member certificate, sticker and badge at my usual Saturday group and I couldn’t be happier.

Although some may think that winning Man of the Year might be what I’d consider to be the highlight of my Slimming World journey they’d be wrong.

without wishing to trivialise my award the MOTY title is something decided by others and it’s based upon their assessment of my worthiness rather than my own.

In many ways I’ve felt conflicted about that award ever since receiving it.

To start off with it’s very difficult to feel like you deserve something when you have considered yourself to be a screw up for so long.

It’s also hard to deal with such a monumental moment for another reason.

I saw so many other people on the day I was chosen that were clearly just as worthy as I was that the title became (at least in my mind) less of a confirmation that I was successful and more about needing to continually justify being given it.

I felt that if I let myself down that I was also letting down all of the other people that could have won in my stead.

The only way I could honour their achievements was to remain worthy of what I’d been given last July – and at times this has been very hard.

I don’t want to fail anyone and at times I feel like I’ve fallen short.

Although occasionally being a few pounds out of target isn’t the end of the world, in this context it can mean a lot more to me (in the great scheme of things) than it should.

Learning how to deal with this has been part and parcel of the limelight that I agreed to step into though – and I was aware that this was a probable side effect of such ‘success’ from day one.

In its own way this has been useful in though and I’ve learned a lot about how to manage such emotions since July last year.

In contrast the diamond target membership is different.

It’s not a matter of a choices made by others but a representation of my continued focus and long term success. It’s therefore something that’s entirely for me and the battle to obtain it has been one that I’ve been fighting my whole life.

When I hold it in my hand it carries with it the weight and gravity that many many years of pain have heaped upon my shoulders yet simultaneously lifts a burden that I never thought would leave me.

It’s proof positive that I can not only lose weight consistently but that I can keep it off.

It also demonstrates that I am capable of dealing with the occasional normal fluctuations that just happen to everyone throughout their entire lives.

This moment is therefore significant because to me it represents the positive culmination of every single bad and good experience throughout my entire life.

I’m not only going to treasure this certificate – I’m going to mount it on my wall in a frame.

Today internet I’m a happy boy.

Davey

Three years sober

Anniversaries. They’re funny things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alcohol was the last but one thing to go.

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

Unlike booze though food will always be there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Booze didn’t care in the least.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davey

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

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

Trying new things

There are times that I’m tempted to not write something down in a post – mostly because I think it will sound silly – but on occasions like today I really don’t care.

Something small has made me really happy.

Ages ago I went for a long walk in the cold with a friend along a frozen canal – and along the way we stopped at a friendly looking pub.

It was traditional and cozy – with a roaring fire next to some red leather seating in the window.

I crouched in front of the burning embers as the barman put another log in the centre and attempted to drink in the warmth as quickly as I could.

Then I realised something.

I’d avoided fires for years because I was always too hot already.

I never appreciated the warmth that they could bring to cold hands – and it was intoxicating.

I really didn’t want to move from that position – but eventually (reluctantly) we had to get a move on and headed out into the cold again.

It’s a happy memory of a cool little non-scale victory.

Today I woke up a little late – after a late visit to the Showcase in Coventry to see the Queen biopic before it was no longer on general release.

It’s a great film (although everyone but Freddie in the band comes across as a bit two dimensional) and the music is wonderful but it made me oversleep past my usual swimming slot.

Looking at the online timetables I decided that I’d give the leisure centre at Newbold Comyn a go instead of my usual pool at St Nicholas.

It’s a longer walk to this location too and it ticks another box exercise wise because currently I am really focused on being in target for my Saturday weigh in!!!

After a 45 minute brisk stroll I was there – and the first thing that I noticed was that there are a lot more facilities.

For one there’s a climbing wall…

I’ve never tried this kind of thing – (and I’m pretty sure my arms aren’t currently strong enough to do it) but today I added it to my mental bucket list!

As I walked through to the nearby pool viewing area I realised that the benefit of coming here to exercise is that there’s a leisure pool as well as an exercise one, meaning that you’re far more likely to not be slowed down by kids playing or adults standing oblivious to everything in the middle of a lane (it’s a thing trust me).

My swim was largely uneventful.

For the most part I had the second small ‘medium lane’ entirely to myself for the hour that I was in the water and absolutely no one to swamp me with butterfly or front crawl waves.

So far so mundane right?

Yes.

It was.

Until I got out.

I’ve never ever sat in a whirlpool spa. Not in my entire life.

I’ve always been far too self conscious about how I look – so even when I’ve stayed at a hotel where I’ve paid a premium for the additional facilities I’ve never actually used them.

There was a lady already sitting in it – but I thought ‘what the hell!’ And just went over and sat in there too!

I flipping love whirlpool spas!

After an 10 minutes of being gently lifted off the shelf on which I was perched by jets of water being shot up my butt I noticed ANOTHER interesting thing.

A sauna….

Now – you might have wondered why earlier I mentioned the log fire – but it was because this fits into the same category.

I have never had a problem with finding a way to get excessively sweaty in the past (it was my default state) and always considered saunas to be completely irrelevant.

My body back then clearly didn’t need it and I hated heat in every permutation that it arrived in.

I got straight out of the spa and walked over to the sauna, reading the ‘it’s really flipping hot in there – make sure you don’t drop dead’ warning on the wall – and also noted the supplemental advice that the higher you sit the hotter you are.

Moments later I was sitting on the top shelf!

OMFG!!!

How nice are saunas?!

Wow!!!

They are my new favourite thing!!!!

After an hour’s exercise transitioning to a room where the very air around you seems to massage every muscle in your body is flipping heaven!

Furthermore I couldn’t help but notice that after 15 minutes I seemed to be the only one in there that was drying out rather than sweating profusely.

Everyone around appeared to be huffing away and breathing harder – yet I was just relaxed and comfortable.

The only reason I decided to go back outside was that I noticed my Apple Watch was absolutely roasting.

It was probably a good call – because when I looked at the Apple forums afterwards they say the following things are best avoided (if you want your watch to remain water proof).

  • Dropping Apple Watch or subjecting it to other impacts.
  • Exposing Apple Watch to soap or soapy water.
  • Exposing Apple Watch to perfume, solvents, detergent, acids or acidic foods, insect repellent, lotions, sunscreen, oil, or hair dye.
  • Exposing Apple Watch to high velocity water, for example while water skiing.
  • Wearing Apple Watch in the sauna or steam room.

Either way – watch or no watch this is not my last time in a sauna or a spa pool.

So this day represents not one but two brand new non-scale victories.

These may be mundane or insignificant to other people but to me they both represent huge strides in my self confidence and yet another example of my default behaviour now being ‘I like to try new things’ instead of ‘I fear the unknown’.

That’s all folks.

Today it’s that simple.

I did new stuff and I feel flipping awesome!

If you were all here I’d give you a big hug to mark the occasion. Make sure you’re in my proximity soon and you can claim this non expiring voucher for tactile celebrations!!!

Love and hugs

Davey

Working really hard

I’ve been in an inexplicably good mood today.

On paper there’s no particular reason why I should be. It’s cold, windy, rainy, there are no leaves on the trees any more and frankly my butt strain is still hurting – but honestly I don’t care.

I feel like the world has a slightly more golden hue to it at the moment and I’d be the first to say that it’s a perception filter that I’ve applied solely because I wanted to.

The sunrise looked rather excellent this morning though even without rose tinted spectacles – and even though it was soon hidden by somewhat grimmer skies maybe it set the tone for my mood.

I was (as had been the case for most days over the last few weeks) on my way to the leisure centre for a swim and was dosed up once more with ibuprofen and paracetamol. Once I get some pills in me and start moving my ass complains less and less.

For the first mile or two of each day currently my right glute is particularly vocal when it’s heading downhill. Since I actually live on a hill this is annoying, but manageable if you put on some cheerful tunes and just get on with things.

This morning I’m listening to Pogo – one of my favourite YouTube artists – and someone that I keep coming back to. He samples the oddest things and turns them into really catchy tunes that I can’t stop playing over and over again.

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I know of at least one person that I’ve spoken to recently that (from the perspective of being a fellow nerd) may also rather like this particular track – but I’ll concede it’s a bit niche. Personally though I think it’s a real grower and it definitely helped me to forget the aches and pains of the day’s first mile as I walked toward the waiting pool.

Friends who I’ve walked with recently have reminded me that taking things easy is the sensible thing to do – and (against my usual impulses) I have actually tried to take their advice.

On Tuesday I barely moved – hoping that this would present tangible benefits – but the absolute opposite appeared to happen because on Wednesday morning (when I practically crawled out of bed) my rear felt like I’d been attacked by a particularly horny bull.

I was really struggling to hobble about.

Lesson learned. 

This particular injury shouldn’t be allowed to seize up.

There was a time not so long ago when I’d have been happy to do absolutely nothing though – and would never seen the difference between movements being made vs me doing nothing at all.

Back then when a pain came there was only one approach.

Total stillness.

Mind you this was my preferred remedy for everything. Old Davey with any kind of strain would have usually been found attempting to prove that man and armchair could eventually become one, given enough time to get to know one another.

(I still wonder whether I’d have been able to prove that….)

My approach to life now reminds me of a really great friend that (as long as I’ve known her – which is a LONG time) has been insanely into fitness.

It often mystified me how we could be so unalike in this respect and still be friends, but we were. I also wondered what it was about her psychological makeup that made her so ridiculously pre-disposed to exercise when I was so against it.

I still don’t know exactly why we had this key difference.

We did grow up with totally divergent parental approaches to activity – but regardless of this I still told myself for many years that she did more because she was naturally physically predisposed to sports.

She has the type of build that you would typically associate with an all round athlete and I (wrongly) assumed back then that she had just fared better in life’s genetic lottery than I had.

It’s amazing how time reshapes perceptions though – because I realise now that not only did she work at what she had, but that I too was a winner in this area.

I’m not entirely sure how my body endured over 40 years of the self abuse I put it through and still somehow emerged the other side in the shape it’s currently in – but I do know that whilst part of the outcome is probably related to solid genes – the rest is simply getting stuck in.

I didn’t really see it back then, but my friend simply worked really hard.

When she was a competition swimmer she trained so much that she consumed around 6000kcal a day and had an amazing physical strength even when I first met her.

As time went on she ran, swam, played rugby at international level, skied, snowboarded, joined various volleyball teams, got really good at cross fit, and even became good at tennis too.

Honestly it used to wear me out just watching her – because it wasn’t like after she’d completed these activities she was dead to the world.

It was quite the opposite in fact. She’d enthusiastically get involved in many other hobbies (like making stained glass windows for heavens sake) and was a nutcase when it came to DIY.

She re-wired a whole house on her own.

Almost none of it was genetic.

Almost all of it was determined hard work.

She had learned way before I did that if you give something your all, then if you’re lucky you eventually cross a boundary between an activity being a chore and it being both pleasurable and (occasionally) addictive.

I think I’ve made an unexpected pivot recently – where my obsession with walking has been (at least for the time being) rivalled by my sudden enjoyment of swimming.

I have to be careful though because I don’t want to ruin or jinx it.

It’s early days for my new favourite thing and I’s relationship.

I’m already aware that I’ve started to compete with myself on split times and that I’m regularly chewing over the stats associated with my progress in my mind.

The speed gains are diminishing rapidly now though. I seem to have temporarily settled into what appears to be ‘my speed’ – which is 20 lengths in around 18 minutes. I can keep this pace up continually now for an hour or so – by which time I’ve swum a kilometre and a half.

While I’m doing this my heart rate is around 120bpm and I burn around 1200 active calories.

Whilst I’m still walking – I’m not walking quite as much as I was – because on a time vs energy and fitness expended transaction swimming is allowing me to absolutely smash my usual daily fitness goals.

Since I started swimming and walking (apart from the two days that I’ve rested) according to Apple Watch I’ve burned between 4200 – 5500 kcal (total) per day.

That’s just nuts. On average it’s around 800 to 600 per day more than I was expending with walking alone.

It’s not all bout energy burn though – because thats not why I’m so taken by this.

Although I already feel fitter (and this has really surprised me because I felt great beforehand) the big boost comes from the sudden normality of it all.

Now wearing a swimming costume in public seems perfectly natural to me.

I’ve gone from someone terrified of this to fully embracing it – and this is one of the more significant non-scale victories I’ve had for a some time.

It’s not the only one though. Things are currently looking up – and next week I have a lot of plans and lots of activities to do with lots of people.

Sadly something has to yield though and all of this means that the next two weeks will be without a visit to Slimming World – but you can rest assured that I’m focused and on the case.

As well as being still within my target range I’m a salad eating machine at the moment an as driven as ever – because I mean to not only be still in target for Christmas – but also when February rolls around. When that does (if all goes to plan) I am hopefully going to get my diamond target member badge!!!

So that’s me. Walking, swimming, reading and doing my laundry(ing) through the end of a rather grey and dull week of miserable weather.

As a wise person once said though internet – there is no such thing as bad weather – just bad clothes (and maybe also bad moods).

Davey

Swimming update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Firstly – getting my money’s worth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not just numbers either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m not really sure what that is yet…

We shall see internet!

Davey

Slimming World Parliamentary Reception

A couple of days ago (on Wednesday) I went to the House of Commons for a Slimming World reception hosted by Baroness Benjamin.

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I know her better as Floella – because throughout my childhood she was a huge presence on children’s television – and also a quiet beacon (although I never really recognised it at the time) for racial diversity on a BBC that was largely populated by white men.

In person she’s quite something.

She seems eternally youthful – and possesses seemingly endless energy. During the two hours I was next to or near by her she never appeared to be anything less than continually animated and engaging.

Even when I presented myself in front of her and gushingly shook her hand later in the afternoon she was gracious and cheerful.

This was despite me making a ham fisted Oscar Wilde reference regarding whether or not she had a picture of herself at home going mouldy in the loft (the Picture of Dorian Grey).

Bless her.

She just stared blankly at me and unleashed a huge smile before warmly hugging me.

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Despite my clearly refined sense of humour falling largely on deaf ears with Floella the day went well and the themes she raised clearly resonated with many in the room. 

The topic was the startling increase in childhood obesity (something Floealla is extremely passionate about – she’s heavily involved in related charities) and what the government are doing to look at this from a strategic perspective.

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There were a few speeches – from the great and good within Slimming World and also a representative from government.

In no particular order we heard from the young slimmer of the year Charlotte Randall (link) (Instagram),  2017’s Top Target Consultant from Warwickshire Jodie Rigby-Mee (link) (Instagram) Slimming World’s head of external affairs Jenny Craven (link) and Conservative MP Andrew Selous (link) speaking as part of the health and social care committee. 

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I met a lot of people and shook a lot of hands, discussing many topics that were important to me and listening to other people’s opinions on what mattered to them.

There was also something of a treat for me – because one of the more personally interesting people I bumped into was a guy called Kennneth Fox. He’s an emeritus Professor at Bristol University (link) and has written and consulted extensively on the links between physical activity and psychological wellbeing.

These are subjects that have become very close to my heart – and I know from first hand experience how activity can change physical and emotional darkness into hopeful rays of light.

Kenneth has been working with Slimming World for around 20 years and (I discovered) was heavily involved in formulating their ‘Body Magic‘ plan.

For those unfamiliar with Slimming World this part of the plan aims to encourage members to get involved in regular exercise – and in its literature illustrates the benefits it can have when combined with healthy eating.

I’m proudly a Platinum Body Magic certificate holder.

I chatted to him and his lovely wife for quite a while – but finally I couldnt resist asking him about a burning question that had been on my mind from the moment I saw his name badge.

I wanted to know (when he had come into contact with people such as myself that have had extreme weight loss) how their heart health was afterwards.

What did he think about my resting heart rate?

Very encouragingly Ken didn’t seem at all surprised my my RHR (which readers will know has been a minor preoccupation of mine for a while since it’s typically 40bpm). 

When I told him that I ‘only’ walked (as opposed to spending ages in the gym, running marathons or climbing mountains) he replied with ‘Well I bet that you don’t walk slowly.’

‘No I don’t. Not any more anyway.’ I replied.

‘I tend to be quite brisk.’

‘You’d be surprised how quickly the heart reacts to moderate increases in exercise.’ He said.

‘It can drop down to the mid forties in next to no time – and what you’ve been doing probably has much more in common with the heart profile of an athlete than you realise. Regular cardio activity has an almost immediate corresponding impact on heart health.’

He sipped his red wine thoughtfully and watched my response.

I was listening intently.

‘When I get into my fitness my resting rate quickly drops into the forties.’ He continued, smiling at me.

I nodded. He was telling me just what I needed to hear.

This was really encouraging – because my GP had said that he had next to no experience of extreme weight loss and how it affects the body. Therefore (despite his assurances last week that my RHR was normal) I’ve still remained a little worried that my heart has its rate because I in some way damaged it when I was so obese.

Thankfully everyone is telling me the opposite lately. 

It’s very encouraging, because it means my long term health outcomes are really really positive

I’m really not sure how I’ve dodged so many health related bullets – and I’m of the opinion that in many ways I really don’t deserve the outcomes that I’ve had over the last two years

Not only do I feel lucky – but I also sometimes feel quite guilty, because I know quite a few people that have looked after themselves way better than I every did – and yet they suffer much more with ill health than I do now.

Life isn’t fair – and if anything their struggles continually remind me that I have a duty to keep doing what I’ve been doing – if for no other reason to show them that I appreciate what I’ve got and I don’t plan to throw it away again.

I need to persist with my exercise for THEM and focus on my continual self improvement.

Before long though the pleasant conversation (and the event as a whole) was coming to a close.

All that remained was to grab a few quick photos to mark the occasion.

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The one above also has the 2018 Greatest Loser Shaun Carrington – (link) (instagram) and 2018 National Mr Sleek Dan Sullivan (link) (instagram) in it on the right. Both of these guys posted their own images of this moment on Instagram and and I was amazed when they pointed out that this photo represented a total combined loss of over 58 stone!

(I also rather like it because of the rather amusing photobomber in the background who made me laugh out loud when I spotted the cheesy grin behind Jodie. She knows who she is!)

I walked away from the day filled with thoughts about how to formulate a post related to all this – as well as how to do it justice – but the truth is that my thoughts were elsewhere.

The Parlimentary event had been very interesting and it was lovely to meet everyone – but I find that sometimes when I sit down to write about my day the main events are often not the ones that bring my thoughts into focus.

There were a couple of things about that day that were a lot more important to me.

Firstly my friend – who also accompanied me to the Ritz – joined me on again on Wednesday. For this I was extremely grateful – although I doubt she grasped quite how much.

Being trapped in Solihull by Vertigo a week and a half ago on my own really dented my confidence because I didn’t see it coming. I was just stuck, out in the open and alone, feeling vulnerable and incapable.

It wasn’t nice.

Having a close friend with me that could look after me if something bad happened was a real comfort – and although I seem to now be over the worst with my inner ear infection (I didn’t have any attacks at all on Wednesday!) her being there made all the difference.

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The great thing about spending time with my friend (like many of my other really close ones) is that she knows how I think

Although I could have easily charged taxis from the train station to the Houses of Commons and back again to Slimming World’s expenses for the day nothing could have been further from my mind.

She instinctively knew this without me having to say a word.

We twalked the whole way from London Marleybone to the Houses of Parliament and back, and thoroughly enjoyed every step

The selfie of us is on the blue bridge in St James Park – and it was taken before we arrived at the reception.

It’s round here that the real point of my blog entry today can be found.

Here, all of the considerations about an event in a musty old building in the nation’s capital just fall by the wayside when I think back to Wednesday, because here the true ‘moment’ arrived. 

I honestly think that if I remember anything about this cold day in November 2018 it will be standing by a man feeding wildlife near the lake.

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I initially noticed him because of the bright green parakeets next to him competing for attention amongst the squirrels and pigeons (a known phenomenon in London – link).

Their plumage seems instantly out of place and it’s hard not to marvel at their strikingly beautiful colours and inquisitive personalities.

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I stepped over a couple of fences to get closer and record the moment, navigating around the man holding handfuls of nuts and trying to get a good photo for my blog.

Nearby though a couple of squirrels were trying hard to make sure my focus became them rather than the brightly coloured birds.

To the left of me I became aware of a little pair of watchful brown eyes…

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As I took photos one of them moved further to my left. As it did behind me I could hear my friend laughing.

What was so funny?

At the same time as I noticed a tugging sensation on my right trouser leg.

I looked around. 

What was causing that?

Then I felt the same tugging sensation on my left trouser leg…

All of a sudden I realised I was being besieged by squirrels!

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I looked down at my left thigh (as I felt the squirrel clinging to my right heading for my crotch) and started to take pictures.

Amazingly (unlike the more skittish residents of my local park) this seemed to be business as usual for these delightful little creatures, and he/she was happy to pose if there was the vague promise of food at the end of it.

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As I type the physical sensation of the warmth from this little squirrel’s stomach is still present on my leg, and it’s something that has been occupying my thoughts for the last two days.

This event has taken pride of place above everything else relating to my trip to London.

I’ve been trying to figure out why it means more to me than meeting a celebrity and standing in the seat of our democracy as an honoured guest and the truth is that this little creature represents (with the warmth of it’s under carriage) the connectedness that I now have with the world around me.

Honestly as I type these thoughts are almost moving me to tears – because every single element of the day that I experienced would have been impossible not so long ago

Even if I’d split the day into segments and tried to experience them on individual days (when I was at my emotionally lowest and physically heaviest point in life) I doubt I’d have been capable of completing one of them. 

Yet now my life is very different.

By the time I went to bed on Wednesday, after walking home from the train station my activity stats looked like this:

  • I’d swum 1km (in the time it took me to swim 500m only a week ago)
  • I’d walked 13.5 miles
  • I’d taken 25,984 steps 
  • I’d managed 211 minutes of cardio exercise
  • I’d spent 20 out of 24 hours standing or moving about
  • I’d climbed the equivalent of 15 flights of stairs
  • I’d burned 2,374 Active and 4,885 Total calories

These are all just numbers though.

Occasionally I look at them and forget their significance, instead thinking simply (and maybe self critically) ‘you could do more’. 

However – there are days (Wednesday being one of them) where I’m just profoundly grateful because I have a life that’s full of wonder.

I’m in awe of the fact that I can not only walk the distances I do, but sit on trains next to someone in complete comfort and pull down the little table in front of me without it resting on my stomach.

I get lost in the magnificence of being about to stand in a queue for an hour, followed by a reception for two hours, and then follow such things with a walk across London for another hour and a half without feeling any pain whatsoever.

I want to cry with joy because my pictures of a squirrel crawling up my leg are unimpeded by a massive stomach, and my leg is now small enough for a tiny little squirrel to hold on to.

I love that every day I can put one foot in front of another and see another wonderful part of the world, nomatter how pedestrian and mundane it may seem to other people.

Every moment of my life is now filled with the significance of insignificance and the wonder of the mundane, because to me all of it is fresh and new.

I don’t know how long my life will go on for, and I don’t know whether or not my health will always be this good, but I want to do everything I possibly can to make absolutely sure that I not only maintain it but show other people by demonstrating how fantastic life can be that they too can be something different.

I want the world to realise that without any surgery even a man who looked like this:

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…can change into this:

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I feel so much joy that instead of the ever present weight of an enormous stomach continually pressing into my giant thighs I can now feel a squirrel. 

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This, internet is the product of a life that is no longer being lived with limits.

It’s the kind of life that needs to be treasured and held onto because I’ve wasted so much of it – and I want to cherish every remaining second that it has to offer. 

I’m still learning to live life – and while I do I’m loving every single moment of it.

Davey

Massively small

It’s been a quiet few days and I’ve (so far) had no further incidents of vertigo since last Monday – which is a blessed relief.

The slightly worrying thing though is that there’s a noticeable ‘offness’ still present in my ears – so I don’t think whatever caused it in the first place is completely gone.

I’m hoping it’s receded far enough for a long train journey though because tomorrow I have to travel quite a distance.

I’m hoping that the day out isn’t going to be derailed (no pun intended) in the same way that pretty much everything else I’ve wanted to do since last week has been.

Health wise in every other respect I’m cooking on gas though.

It never ceases to amaze me what the human body is capable of when you push it or try to do new things.

When I first tried to swim on Friday (the last time prior to this was 20 years ago) it took me 51 minutes to do 20 lengths.

My arms were tiring quickly and I had to wait a while at either end while they recovered because I was scared that they’d run out of steam half way.

I really don’t want to be rescued!

I’m still not able to do length after length without stopping – but the down time in between them is rapidly decreasing.

Annoyingly today Apple Watch decided to ignore my first length in its count – but trust me when I say that this morning I did 20 lengths in almost half the time that it took me when I first started.

Furthermore when I’d finished, (since I had more time than expected before meeting my friend for a planned twalk nearby) I decided to carry on.

Again I was cheated out of the first length in my stats (I have no idea why this is happening and it’s annoying!) but this means that I can now do 30 lengths in around 38 minutes.

An extra 50% distance in 4/5ths of the time!!

How cool is that?!

It just goes to show how moderately sustained period of exercise (this is only my fifth consecutive day) can yield tangible improvements. You just have to stick to it and be a bit determined.

So why am I suddenly doing this and why am I so focused on the results?

Well honestly I have decided that I want to lose more weight – but as MOTY I cant deviate too much from the point where I won the title while I hold it.

However there is absolutely nothing to stop me replacing the fat I lose (there’s a fair bit left around my waist – a common problem area for guys) with muscle.

I want to see whether I can change my body shape – which outside of fat loss is not something I’ve earnestly tried to do before.

Currently in my mind’s eye I look like this.

But I’d really really like to look like this.

I’m pretty sure that my walking has afforded me quite muscular legs – but since they were always covered in fat as I developed their shape I’ve no idea whether they look better now than they otherwise would have done if I’d always been thinner.

My arms and shoulders however are another story entirely.

They’re pretty skinny now (there’s no fat at all in this area) and I’ve done next to no work on them over the last three years that I’ve managed to sustain.

Dumbbells suck.

Press-ups suck.

Pull-ups suck (and are also currently impossible.)

Swimming on the other hand does not suck so the likelihood that I’m going to carry on with it is (hopefully) high.

I should be able to see tangible physical changes too as I develop the muscles needed to swim continuously.

I’ve also got another incentive to change my shape further – because on Sunday I went charity shopping with a friend.

I like going hunting for new things with her because I feel that we tend to push one another outside of our comfort zones – and we get eachother to try new styles and colours that otherwise we may have completely ignored.

This picture is a new high point in my clothes buying career – because it represents something MASSIVE.

Or SMALL.

It depends on how you look at it.

For me it’s a MASSIVE milestone because the size label in this jacket reads SMALL.

Honestly I’m still not 100% sure how I feel about wearing clothing that’s so fitted (because frankly it makes me want to reduce my waist even more) but the honest truth is that I trust her opinion and she said that I don’t look stupid.

I’m not naive enough to think that everything ‘small’ will suddenly fit me (and I suspect that this Animal jacket is probably more of a ‘smaller medium’ than a true small) but I don’t care one little bit.

It is without a shadow of doubt the smallest item of clothing that I ever remember wearing as an adult (even my fitted waistcoats have more give) and it makes me happy – because even now I can see scope for improvements in my body and I want to work to achieve them.

It’s going to be a difficult balancing act mind you – because I’ve noticed that arriving hand in hand with significantly increased daily exercise is a growing appetite.

I’ve been rather hungry over the last few days and having stepped on the scales this morning I can confirm that a I’ve moved a couple of pounds in the wrong direction.

This is all good though – and I’m not worried.

Facing up to the consequences of what I do and what I eat is a continuous project – and figuring out how much my body needs (or doesn’t need) when I become more active is a learning curve like any other.

All I have to do is track what I burn, track what I consume and it will all eventually come out in the wash.

Anyway.

That’s the sum of the last few days.

Tomorrow promises to be infinitely more blog worthy because I’m attending a reception at the Houses of Parliament!

Tune in next time when hopefully there will be some pics of the event and interesting musings.

It could equally be a harrowing description of a vertigo attack whilst stuck in London miles from home.

Hopefully it’s the former internet….

Davey