Christmas Tree revisited

This may sound silly but although I make up titles for my blogs on the fly I rarely forget them. To me they’re often quite prescient and are rarely disposable words that mean nothing.

Sometimes I can hide things in plain sight with them and their meaning is only 100% obvious to someone in the know – because they’ve been lifted from a conversation and are openly private.

Someone I’ve known very well for many years does the opposite to me and always creates his titles before the content underneath – however for me the process is different. Usually I let creativity take its course and decide upon one at the end of writing a post. Consequently they’re typically based on what I consider to be the most important item of content and more often than not seem to fit.

One that I think I’ll never forget is called ‘Christmas Tree‘ (link).

If you want to have a look I’ll wait.

I’m in no rush.

Help yourself (sips coffee).

No – seriously – the rest of what’s coming will make more sense if you do.

(Sips coffee again)

Ok – now you’re all caught up I’ll continue.

This blog has undeniably been an extremely useful tool, because it’s not only helped me change my life, but it’s given a voice to many of the thoughts that I’ve experienced along the way and (on rare occasions) it’s also inspired true transformative change in others.

From time to time I get messages from people, just like me, who were lost and then found themselves again. They tell me that they managed to turn things around because they read about a man that had achieved something incredible – and that when he started he too didn’t believe he could accomplish what he ultimately did.

As they quietly followed what he wrote (never telling him that they were watching) they too realised that no-matter how bad thing had become, or how low they felt they’d sunk change was still possible.

It’s nice to think that words I’ve written have impacted, or even in a couple of cases changed lives for the better.

It’s extremely gratifying.

Up to the end of my last post (according to my cumulative stats) I’ve written a mind boggling 857,693 words on this site.

To put that in context Leo Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace contains a mere 587,287 (link).

I’ve almost written as many words as JK Rowling did for the entire Harry Potter series!!!

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Sadly mine have not yet proved anywhere near as lucrative – so I guess volume isn’t the only skill to work on if you want to make yourself rich with writing.

Even though there are a lot of my words out there they’ve all individually been very important to me at one time or another and they have taken many hours of agonising about where they sit in sentences to produce.

However, even after all that effort I feel I have to give them away to ‘the internet’ and I genuinely feel purged when I do.

Once they’re in a blog I just fling them out into the ether and the relief I experience is palpable – but I never know what will happen to them and can only hope that they’re received positively.

Sometimes they provoke comment, but at times there’s complete silence. Once in a blue moon (wonderfully) they change others – but occasionally (even more wonderfully) they can also change me.

My Christmas Tree post was just such an occasion – because it marked a turning point where a passing acquaintance (whom I met at Cheddar Gorge partly because I was looking for something to write about – link) decided to reach out to me.

I was in a moment of personal crisis and on that day I felt like an open wound.

I was alone and also in the process of realising that I was truly lonely. It had taken me many years to admit this to myself, and when I did the realisation hit me like a brick in the face.

Worst of all (despite trying) I felt completely incapable of fixing the problem.

In my head I was sure that I carried with me such huge volumes of baggage regarding the past that I was completely unlovable. I had no idea how to explain to someone new in my life who I was, why I was so physically scarred or how things had spiralled so out of control for me.

Every time I had attempted to it left me feeling diminished and broken.

How had I become this man and why would somebody want to inherit the wreckage that was left?

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How do you spin the narrative behind a picture depicting a man so vast?

When you’re a your lowest and you can’t see things for what they though are a blog can be useful. They’re two way streets – and sometimes when you need it the most a voice reaches out in the darkness. You’ve touched them somehow and they need to tell you that something you’ve said has resonated with them.

Or they want to help.

After writing about my tree I drove to a friend’s house, and on the way I did something unusual.

I screamed.

I did so until my voice broke and I couldn’t speak properly. I did so until the pain of loneliness seemed less and the frustration it caused was reduced.

I felt in that moment like everything I’d done to lose weight had been a waste of time. It all meant nothing. It didn’t resolve anything. It just made me like everyone else – but instead I was now decades behind everyone I knew and alone.

While I was busy screaming I received a message from the person I’d met in Cheddar. She was complimenting me on my Christmas tree, and ended her text with ‘You are welcome to call whenever you want a chat x’.

At the time it barely registered but I mentioned it to my friend when I arrived.

This was lost in anger though. I instead spent far more time ranting about how I felt regarding several other texts I’d received (from elsewhere) and why they were the cause of my screaming.

As I blew off steam over a cup of coffee in his living room I was completely focused on how much pain I was feeling rather than on a random message out of the blue.

He let me vent and then pointed out that the wording seemed kind and that I should pay attention to it.

Maybe I should even reply to it?

He made me promise that I would and so (while talking to him) I fired off a quick thank you note.

Once this was done he made me agree (and contacted me the next day to ensure that I was complying) that I would follow it up and get to know the person at the other end a bit better.

He couldn’t have known at the time how much difference that would make to my life.

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It turned out that this person, concerned for my well being, and reaching out to help someone in pain that she had begun to get to know through the words of his blog was my partner to be.

My blog had not only caused our first meeting, but had also enabled her to get to know me better, to decide whether or not she liked me and whether I was worth developing a friendship with. Everything changed that day – and as we gradually got to know eachother better the completely unexpected happened.

We found love.

My other half has a way with words too – and she often says things casually that end up sticking with me for a long time.

One of the most memorable was when (chatting about the circumstances in which we finally connected) I complained about how difficult it was to find anyone on a dating site.

It all seemed endlessly superficial – and all of the swiping left or right just reduced it to a volume based looks contest, meaning what you wanted from a life partner got lost in the need to scroll though thousands of pictures and reduced to thoughts about who had nice teeth or pleasing hair.

Even if you managed to get someone to respond things didn’t get better.

‘Often…’ I whinged ‘…people leave the truth about themselves out of their profiles and don’t tell you the full story until you’re already talking to them.’

‘They say that they’re single and without strings when actually they have an ex still on the scene with lots of children, or fib that they’re a social drinker when actually they consume a bottle of wine a night, or are homey when in fact they appear to be married to their career and will only be able to see you once in a blue moon.’

I sighed deeply.

‘I’m so glad I randomly found you face to face because I could never have waded through person after person on a website until you popped up.’

She laughed.

‘I couldn’t have used a dating site.’ She said.

I looked at her quizically. ‘No?’ I replied.

‘No – because even if I’d written down everything that I’d wanted to find it still wouldn’t have worked.’

I waited.

The punchline was coming.

‘I didn’t know what I wanted until I found all of the things I didn’t know I needed in you.’ She said whilst looking me in the eye.

The memory of these words still put a lump in my throat because I knew when she said this that she’d somehow managed to reach down deep inside me and pull my own thoughts out that I didn’t realise were there and give them form.

She was right.

The profiles I’d created and persons that I’d looked for were not her.

They weren’t even close.

Like many of us the mistakes we make are not based on us looking for what we really need – but what we think we want – when the two are often completely different.

I’d been so preoccupied with finding and fixing what had gone wrong in the past when I’d created dating website profiles that I’d missed who I was in the present. I’d failed to recognise what a man who was now very different to his younger self needed from a partner.

I know now.

At times I feel like I’m looking in a mirror when I stare at her – and it’s scary how alike we can be in so many ways.

As much as I’ve learned about how (and why) she ticks I’ve also learned about myself – and in the past year I’ve had to re-write much of my own internal narrative.

This is because I’m now being viewed through the lens of someone that loves and cares for me and this continually forces me to re-appraise my perception of myself. I can’t spout bullshit about being a bad person, tell her that I’m not worthy, or that I’m a failure without a swift incoming reality check, and I don’t allow her to do similar things.

When we see the worst in ourselves we also simultaneously see the best in eachother.

She’s made me realise with patience and compassion what’s possible between two people – and I’m amazed that I never understood the depth of it before.

To think it all began with some Cheddar and a Christmas Tree.

Here’s to the next year together and to many many more anniversaries after that.

Davey

Rage walking

I decided recently that I’d up the frequency of my posting again.

The truth is that I rarely run out of things that I want to explore in my mind – and writing my feelings down definitely results in a ‘release of pressure’ whenever I do it.

My blog means a lot to me partly because of this – but I also want it to be as authentic as humanly possible.

The biggest compliment I think I’ve been given regarding my blog (when I meet people for the first time in person) is that I sound the same in real life as I do on the page – and for me this equals success.

It means I’m being real and honest in everything that I write and for someone to ‘recognise me’ when I talk to them (after reading what I’ve written) is the highest form of flattery.

However in real life (just as with my blog) there are things that I often leave out of conversations.

I don’t want to appear miserable.

Self perception is a funny thing – and a long time ago I realised that although I considered myself a pragmatic realist others saw this as pessimism.

The flip side of this perspective is that these pessimists (realists?) can also consider optimists as deluded fantasists.

There’s no right or wrong way to think about things though and I’ve discovered the hard way that being relentlessly cheerful can cause just as much damage as being relentlessly negative.

If you don’t allow yourself to feel bad you can’t begin the process of dealing with whatever is getting you down.

I’m always hyper aware though that (in my view) I’m very much a down to earth realist and that my realism can often take the form of ‘expect the worst but hope for the best’.

To me it means not being wasteful with my resources or just expecting everything to go right – but I’m aware that it can also make me look more dour than Andy Murray talking about why he was beaten in a Wimbledon final.

I don’t like others to see my inner Murray and so (like most people I guess) I often self censor, so that my lows are mitigated in the eyes of those around me and I don’t get a reputation for being a miserable git.

This often means less blogs getting published – paradoxically at precisely the time I need to write more.

My recent spate of silence over the last few months has resulted from two things.

Firstly my personal life is very happy indeed – but it’s also quite private.

Secondly my work life is not so great.

The other issue is that the first point affects the second in a way that I really never expected it to before I was in a relationship. When I was single it was no-one’s business but my own if I couldn’t find my way in life and occasionally felt down about it.

If I couldn’t navigate through a down period then it only affected me and after a while it invariably sorted itself out.

Now (as well as being hyper critical of myself for my current inability to get the job I want) I have to navigate the guilt of how any moods I may experience in relation to this may affect someone else.

I want to be a productive and vital half of a couple, rather than someone that’s struggling and dragging someone else down.

However…

Before anyone highlights what a muppet I am – and that this is all in my head, let me assure you that I’m not only aware of this but I’ve been told on many occasions by my significant other that I’m just fine the way I am and that I have to let other people support me in the same way that I do for them.

I’m loved and I’m no island – and I need to continually remember these things.

It’s tough though – especially when you get ignored by agencies and employers (I feel as if I may as well post my applications into a furnace at times) or get turned down again after a another lengthy interview for a job that you know that you could do standing on your head.

‘Thanks – but no thanks’ is becoming a familiar refrain and this week it’s been in my face continually.

It’s also now been joined by ‘over qualified‘ (just to add insult to injury).

This continuing state of affairs has really dented my mood – and I went from standing on the scales yesterday morning and seeing a 2lb loss (compared to last week) to eating like there was no bottom to my stomach throughout the whole of Friday and this morning posting a 1/2lb gain.

I could look at this one of two ways.

I could say that I’ve failed and hammer more mental nails in the coffin of my already potentially downbeat mood or I could look at it as two weeks where I’ve lost a combined total of 9lbs.

I’m trying really hard to maintain the latter perspective – but it’s not easy.

Normally I don’t suffer from nightmares – but the night of my second employer refusal of the week left me with a doozy and I’m still struggling to shake the feelings it dragged to the surface.

It was definitely allegorical – but I really didn’t have to peel much away in terms of subtext to find the true meaning behind it.

My ex-girlfriend from many years ago was front and centre – and wanted to finally gave me closure about something that had been bothering me for a long time.

The dreamed revelation she delivered (although almost certainly fictional) was a kick in the teeth.

It turned out that she’d lied to me about moving on, finding someone else and getting married shortly after we broke up.

Instead she’d said this because she didn’t want me in her life.

In her eyes I was a failure and consequently there was good reason to lie and make sure that I had no more to do with her. In her mind the best way to do this was invent a fictional marriage – so told me she that she was in love with someone else and moved on.

I was a liability to be cast aside.

This has always been something that’s loomed large in my head. I couldn’t be the man I am now back then and the guilt drove me into the ground for years.

In the dream I also noticed that her skin tone was changing – along with other physical attributes.

I realised with horror that she was beginning to look just like my current partner – and as the nightmare continued it became more about what I could lose in the present rather than what I’d already lost in the past.

I awoke breathless and sweating at 4am in the dark and cold of a frosty morning.

I was both distraught and muted. I didn’t feel able to answer when an arm reached around me and asked if I was ok – I just held on tightly and told myself over and over that none of it was real.

It upset me though – and left me with a huge sense of dread and loss all day long.

I proceeded to eat both of my conscious and unconscious feelings – and started with popcorn for breakfast.

You know that the day isn’t going well when you’ve nailed 2000kcal of popcorn before lunchtime. Several tonnes of salad, cottage cheese, ham and fruit later and I still felt no better.

The truth is that this week hasn’t really resembled last week in terms of eating. Toward the close of it I’ve definitely been relying on my exercise to keep things under control.

On Thursday (whilst driving home after meeting a lovely friend in Oxfordshire) I received a call.

On it I was turned down by an employer for the first of two times this week – and upon reaching my front door found myself both angry and willing to harm myself with food.

I stood looking at the contents of the fridge for a while…

Rather than eat myself silly I elected instead to go for a ‘rage walk’ – which turned out to be a six mile route march in the rain around the streets of Warwick and Leamington Spa.

It’s rare that I get out of breath or perspire while walking – but when I got back later that evening I was soaked from both the rain and my sweat.

On the plus side these days I’m capable of walking 15 minute miles continually for at least 6 miles.

On the negative side I felt like I had to because I knew what was coming later that evening – and I also knew that the chances of stopping it were practically zero.

I was planning to fill my face and I did.

So – that’s how I feel currently.

Hopefully I don’t come across as too miserable – and you’re not all thinking that you should untick the ‘subscribe’ button on WordPress or block me on Facebook.

If there is hope and happiness to be found inside my head today it’s contained within the knowledge that tomorrow is a special day – and despite how I may feel about my (lack of) employment there are far more important things in my life to focus on.

I’m still getting up every day and trying.

I’m still loving life and loving my ability to physically move through the world every singe day.

I’m still in a good place – and a couple of crappy days does not equal a life of failure or days that others will follow it.

Tomorrow is as yet unwritten and I aim to try bending it to my will, and making it a good one. In the meantime I’ll just keep on keeping on.

Davey

Have you tried turning it off and on again?

I’m certain that it’s not just me it’s affecting but the weather currently is sapping my willingness to move. My usual enthusiasm for walking and getting out and about has been noticeably absent in the last couple of weeks. I’ve done it, but I’ve done less of it and I’ve not enjoyed it.

It’s not so much the rain that I’m bothered by – but more the cold that seems to be accompanying it.

To add insult to injury my boiler seems to be malfunctioning at the moment too – which to be fair is probably something that was inevitable.

Its usual reliable unreliability has been absent over the last couple of years -highlighted by the fact that its regular annual breakdown hasn’t materialised for a worryingly long time.

Yesterday (whilst shivering like a soaking wet lost lamb on a hillside) I realised that the heating that I’d put on an hour earlier had completely failed to materialise – meaning they washing that I was doing would not have a single warm radiator to dry upon.

After a while it did turn up – but only after a lengthy period where it was continually switched off and then back on again, which greatly amused my partner. I’ve managed recently to make her watch every single episode of The IT Crowd on Netflix and ever since she’s been quietly delighted by problems in life have been solved by this particular technical fix.

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We’ve also been bingeing episodes of Car Share together lately – and I think (despite her initial misgivings and general resistance to him) I have created a new fan for Peter Kay.

This mushroomed into us subsequently watching some of his stand up shows and now I’m not only able to deploy geeky IT Crowd jokes (is it plugged in?) and raise a grin, but when I reference garlic bread and double shovels I’m not left looking at a clueless expression.

It’s good that we have the ability to laugh about the same things because when we do it genuinely lifts my mood. I really need it at a time when the sky is grey and the mornings are dark, wet and cold.

I look out of the window when it’s like this and I just want to fill my face.

I know that there’s always an excuse for poor eating habits and lately the weather and being ill have been mine. In the past (when I lost an average of 3lbs a week for two years until I’d nailed 20st) I’d have been the first to metaphorically slap myself for making a listless excuse when I’d chosen the wrong type or amount of food.

I’d like to report that my ability to control my eating has been superb since the ball – and that I’ve been focused and on point – but if I did I’d be telling fibs because I haven’t.

I’ve not felt either motivated or in control – and annoyingly almost all of my excuses for bad behaviour are now gone. The cold I was suffering with appears to have finally shifted (sadly moving it’s place of residence to my other half) and since Wednesday I’ve begun to feel decidedly more human again.

My blood filled zombie eye is also returning to normal and I’ve been sleeping better again – which frankly is a blessing from the gods.

I can do with less sleep than most thanks to my already erratic nocturnal patterns but when it comes to getting only two hours a night every night it’s not long before I can’t cope anymore and begin to overeat.

I ummed and arred about whether to include my results on the scales today in this blog because frankly it all makes me feel like a colossal failure.Part of me wants to drift into anonymity now that I’m not MOTY but I have to remind myself that I was open and honest about my problems well before Slimming World gave me an award. This blog came before any such success and it (for better or worse) is a record of my highs and lows.

My weighing in book doesn’t lie, and neither will my blog.

I’m still struggling.

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The honest truth though is that if I hide from what’s happening it will only get worse – and although I don’t want people to reach out with advice or support (at this point it won’t really make me feel any better because I just need to get my head back in the game) I think that it’s only fair that I be open and frank about it.

I now have a lot of work to do but in the meantime its important for me to show others what’s happening in an effort to let them know that no-one is infallible, and even those who may appear to have discovered the magic formula for success are just as capable of falling from grace as the next person.

So – as grim and painful as it is to be failing in public it’s also important, because as soon as I do I feel the (literal and metaphorical) arms of others around me in exactly the same way that I’ve done for them in the past.

Going to group is the perfect place for that, and as always (despite really not wanting to face up to the scales) I went this morning for the love and support that I always find there.

It wasn’t easy though, and there was some tough love to be had – which to be honest I almost certainly needed to hear. My group leader Angie (always the concerned friend) shared with me some upsetting news today.

A male member of our group had passed away recently.

He had presented himself to her at the start of his journey with similar demons to the ones that I had (and in some cases I still have) but his path through life concluded more abruptly than mine. As she told me what had happened the tears were rolling down her cheeks.

It was a sobering moment, and watching the waves of emotion flowing through her as she told me left a huge lump in my throat.

It’s still there.

It’s been a tough time for things like this recently and as with the death of Gillian Woodward I discussed in my last post (link) this hit me where it hurt the most because four years ago I really wanted to die. It irks me even now that I had such a cavalier attitude to my own mortality – but back then things were very different. I had zero mobility, my life was all about emotional or physical pain management and I felt (probably very incorrectly) that if I passed away I’d leave nothing but a sense of relief behind me.

It was a convenient fiction however – and bizarrely existed because it was much easier to deal with than the truth – which was that ALL OF IT WAS FIXABLE – but I had to want to change and I had to work hard to do so. Gilllian’s death affected me because Glyn had been robbed of his life partner and the happiness that they had.

I now have someone to lose that I never did before.

With all of my newly found happiness comes a corresponding fear of loss.

I’ve joked in the past that it would be ironic if now, after all my efforts, a piano fell on my head and wiped me out – but in Glyn’s case the unthinkable actually did come to pass and when I spoke to him I couldn’t let go of his hand.

I wanted to take his pain away (even though I barely knew him) and reverse the tragedy he’d endured with every fibre of my being, but in that moment I felt guilt guilt wash over me. Rather than being completely selfless and compassionate I knew that I was also seeing myself reflected in his eyes alongside the potential for loss that I now have.

Angie reminded me today though (without saying as much directly) that it’s not just those I love that I can lose – but myself as well.

When I drop my focus I’m forgetting all of the pain and heartache that I caused myself in the past and neglecting fill my thoughts with the truth. I need to focus on the consequences that will come to pass if I choose the transient comfort of eating over health and well being.

It felt like crap to stand on the scales today and I didn’t enjoy it one little bit.

Am I therefore completely motivated to change?

Paradoxically not yet…

I do know though that this doesn’t happen overnight, and that if I have a good day, then another good day, and then another, followed by yet another that I will feel my positivity and drive return.

Motivation never comes out of thin air, and daydreaming about what you need to accomplish instead of getting up and making a start on doing it never resulted in anything.

You have to get off your ****ing arse, go for a ****ing walk, go for a ****ing swim, eat less ****ing food and make an effort to think more positive ****ing thoughts.

I need to take my motivation and turn it off, and then turn it on again.

I WILL BE LIGHTER NEXT WEEK.

Davey

Slimming World Ball 2019

History seemed to be repeating itself yesterday – and (for those readers with a long memory) I found myself once again really rather ill when I should have simply been enjoying the Slimming World ball.

Last year after the ball I ended up with vestibular labyrinthitis (link) and to say it was a terrible experience was a vast understatement because frankly when it hit with debilitating ferocity on the way home I have never been so scared.

When Saturday morning rolled around this year I was already at the tail end of a week where I’d barely left the house thanks to the onset of an awful head cold/flu which had slowly migrated to my chest.

I was also sure I’d put weight on rather than lose it – mostly because I’d barely moved and had been eating way too much in a fruitless attempt to cheer myself up. By Friday evening I felt like absolute crap and wasn’t feeling even mildly sociable.

Consequently my tuxedo trousers felt uncomfortably tight, meaning that my ever patient partner had to mollycoddle me as I moped about with an (even greater than usual) mess of paranoia and self deprecating thoughts.

People often say I’m way too hard on myself (they admittedly have a point most of the time) but despite deep down knowing this is true I can never stop the onset of impostor syndrome when I know people are likely to compliment me or call me inspiring.

I just don’t feel like I measure up to mine or Slimming World’s ideals lately (did I ever?) and rather than going out on ‘a low’ I’d wanted the whole event to feel like a triumph where I felt both comfortable and in target (which I’m not).

After practically no sleep on Friday night (as I tried to breathe through the phlegm on my chest and ignore the swollen feeling in my throbbing sinuses) I had given up trying to nod off and instead migrated downstairs to sit upright in my armchair. Time moves slowly in the dark when you can’t sleep and you know you have a long day ahead.

You think too much, and you rarely think positive thoughts.

My head hurt.

My eyes ached.

I felt fat.

The clock was still ticking though the time to leave the house was slowly approaching. My partner (aware that I was ill and stressed) was now sipping a cup of tea on the sofa nearby looking at me with concern.

I weakly smiled, passed her as her hand grazed mine and moved to the bathroom to trim my hair and beard.

It was at this point (half way through turning and trimming the left hand side of my head) that I noticed at least part of the reason why a painful sensation behind my eye had suddenly subsided when I had sneezed moments before.

It looks worse than it is – but it looks absolutely horrible.

Of all the days when I needed to feel confident about my appearance (where photos and selfies would be taken left right and centre) I suddenly felt that I looked my absolute worst.

My eye was filled with blood and my (usually dormant) eczema felt like it was in full swing.

I’m not going to lie. Standing in the bathroom, feeling ill with a half shaved head and looking like I was an extra from The Walking Dead the very last thing I wanted to do was be sociable.

I actually just wanted to cry.

Would I call someone and make my excuses?

I really really wanted to, and talked it through as my partner peered with concern into my eye.

However, much of the last few weeks has in some way or another been about both of us working toward a gradual ‘ball readiness‘ – so to just discard all of our preparation for the evening seemed like a major anti climax.

It had been an extremely enjoyable time doing this together (despite our often shaky self images) and one where we’ve demonstrated yet again how well we work together.When one is struggling the other effortlessly seems to notice and pick up the slack.

When we’ve been in and out and town we’ve been collaborating to find little bits and pieces for eachther that match our outfits and complement our personal styles. Often we spot things that the other one hasn’t – or even suggest a way around a problem that the other hadn’t considered.

Up until I fell ill this meant that (for the most part) it’s worked out really well – like this lucky spot of a delightful (and cheap!) sparkly necklace!

We’ve both relished the task of finding things like this in charity shops and reducing costs wherever possible. Some things we haven’t been able to find very easily though – and when we’ve met brick walls we purchased brand new things to fill gaps.

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In most cases we’ve been lucky enough to find pre-loved bits and pieces but getting ball ready still hasn’t been what either of us would call cheap.

It had still been a blast though and I’d been hoping we’d enjoy the night purely because of the joint effort that we’d put in and how much pleasure it had brought us. Then the flu unceremoniously stepped in and when we set out for the Hyatt hotel in Birmingham (mercifully she agreed to be taxi driver for the occasion) on a rainy grey Saturday spirits were slightly deflated.

This is one of those instances however where we lift eachother up.

We ended up talked and laughed along the route into town, nattered about silly things and generally tried to look on the brighter side of life.

Soon after setting out (it was a relatively uneventful drive with no traffic) we had arrived, checked in and done our best to look smart (but casual) for a photo and cuddle with Alan Carr.

This particular part of the day was mercifully brief.

My interaction with people (despite my tiredness and somewhat downbeat mood) was actually rather painless.

For some unknown reason I finally moved from being largely monosyllabic to verbal diarrhoea when I entered the photo booth (no selfies allowed sadly) putting my arm around Margaret & simultaneously pointing out to Alan Carr (nestling in my other arm) that he had embarrassed himself by wearing the same blue felt jacket and denim combo as me.

He took it well but I’m sure his confidence was crushed – because despite my walking dead-esque eyeball horrors I think I edged ahead with my tie.

Alan went with open neck and casual.

IMAGE 11-11-2019 AT 10.34

#nailedit

The truth will be in the official photos, which I’ll hopefully get a copy of in a week or so – and then we’ll see how wasted or surprisingly alive I look.

After this we headed back to the hotel, got changed into some slightly more casual attire and headed to Wetherspoons nearby for a spot of lunch. Shortly after this (both dog tired) we plodded back to the hotel room and within moments could be found snoring away on the bed with the drapes closed and the lights off.

Thank goodness for blackout curtains and quiet daytime guests is all I can say.

After a fitfull snooze (which was no-where near long enough to make up for the awful kip I’d had two nights in a row) we hopped out of bed, had a shower and started to apply our respective war paint and clothes for the evening event.

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I think it’s fair to say that anyone would be proud to stand next to my better half.

I know I certainly was – and as we made our way across the skybridge from the hotel to Hall 3 of the ICC a lady (who I realised later the top target consultant winner Kathryn Cooke with her husband) asked us to take their photo – and in return she took one of us.

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The event was massive – and compared to last year an extra 1/5th bigger than 2018. As Margaret began her speech she told the room that there were another 500 guests in a third hall watching the event on a huge video monitor.

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In my case I was literally right at the front of the stage.

When the winning contestants (in this case the finalists for the 2019 woman of the year) were introduced by Margaret and led out to speak to Alan Carr there was absolutely nothing in the way to spoil my view!

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The whole event seemed to pass by much quicker than last year (Alan Carr was very funny indeed) and before long there on stage was my replacement.

Ben Muscroft – the 2019 Man of the Year.

For those of you that remember the event in November 2018, my consultant Angie announced on stage after I received my award that I was ‘single and ready to mingle’.

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It provoked a well meaning storm of hugs and later kisses that night (I even got a hug from Rylan!) and although being majorly embarrassing at the time (I never know how to accept compliments) was in its own way a big turning point – marking a shift in my emphasis from weight loss to the search for someone with which to share my life.

Unknown to me I’d already met that person and she was quietly reading my blog whilst making her own gradual decisions about whether she liked me. Consequently events directly related to that evening brought us together and because of that the 2018 ball is very significant to me.

You can imagine therefore how I felt then when Ben (someone who I’ve periodically been in contact with since the event in July) announced on stage that he had become engaged to his partner, having also found love and happiness with a fellow member of his local Slimming World group.

Alan called her up onto stage, and in a wonderfully life affirming moment they stood together looking as happy as it’s possible to be on a stage in front of 2500 screaming consultants and guests.

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As you might imagine with so many inspiring stories there were many moments during the evening that put a lump in my throat, but this was one of the two that meant the most.

I went over afterwards to tell them both how great they looked and how much happiness I wished them both.

‘To me it’s personal.’ I said.

‘I never thought that this was the way that my life would go. I thought it would end – and now I’m in love because of all of this – so I wish you all the best. Enjoy it because you deserve it.’

If they invite me to the wedding then I’m going.

The second poingnant moment came before the couple of the year 2019 were announced. I already knew what was coming because Angie had let me know some weeks before. The ABSOLUTELY LOVELY 2018 couple we’d met backstage at last year’s awards had suffered a tragedy.

Glyn was on my table, but his wife Gillian was not – having died a month prior from a sudden and unexpected illness.

He was there (I found out later whilst talking to him and holding his hand because I wasn’t sure how else to convey how I felt) that in the middle of the numerous and unexplained ‘events’ (I will not go into detail) she had suffered before she died she had told him that she wanted him to be happy, to live the life they’d both fought so hard for, to not be lonely and to go to the ball without her.

I honestly don’t know how to process how hard that must have been for Glyn, but there he was, smiling and getting on with things when deep down, with every hug and well wisher that came over to talk to him he must have felt like he was being pulled apart.

I had and still have a lot of respect for him. They deserved better – but I’m glad he and his wife got to win the award and have some really happy times before she passed away.

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In happier news I also got to speak to the 2019 winners (Katie and Tony Viney) and pass on my congratulations – despite Tony completely upstaging me in the most wonderful tuxedo jacket (and golden irregular choice shoes) I’d seen during the entire evening!

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Once all of the awards had finished and the massive tickertape parade after the 2019 Woman of the Year had exploded onto the stage we all headed up for one final moment facing the audience.

Once that was gone, I and all the others stepped off and breathed a sigh of relief. That was it for me. No more events. The MOTY 2018 experience was at an end – and what an experience it had been. Now it was time to enjoy the evening – and enjoy we did, because the rather delicious food arrived soon after!

By this time (around 8.30pm in a room full of people who love food) I think it’s fair to say that we were all hungry – and the masses quickly set about the business of eating and drinking. All around me those who had noticed a serious over abundance of blood in their alcohol streams developing began to set about returning Prosecco and Rosé wine to required levels.

In other news its nearly four years now since I touched a drop of booze – and despite what many may think I don’t miss it one bit!

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Once all was done the live music started – which turned out to be Scouting for Girls – a band who I’m familiar with but don’t really know any of their songs.

My partner on the other hand sang along throughout and was absolutely in her element!

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They were on stage for around an hour and did a quite varied set – although nothing that I felt I could bop along to.

I’ve always struggled with live music as an accompaniment to movement – but I can’t help myself when the DJ drops the right track at just the right moment on an old school set of decks.

The honest truth was that I never thought that I was the kind that could dance without some form of enhancement – but the fact of the matter is that it was just another thing I was scared of doing.

Now I don’t care what people think of me.

When the beats dropped (Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson was the rallying cry) I certainly stepped up – and with all said and done I must have been on the dancefloor (despite being filled with sudafed, ibuprofen and sucking strepsils) for around two hours.

In between this I also ended up having absolutely shedloads of selfies taken and people asking me for hugs – which was really really lovely!

Quite unexpectedly I bumped into a fellow blogger’s consultant – Amanda Bartlett Hill from Slimming World in Essex (Instagram link) after being asked to keep an eye out for her and grabbed hold of her to prove to my friend that we’d met and send her a pic!

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So – here it is! Proof – and a reminder of the promises made that evening 😉

Not all of the selfies were quite so flattering however – but none were more amusing than this one which I had to include just because

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Although the last dance was something I’d planned to have with my partner, when it came down to it we were so tired that we left before the song came on, walking back slowly and somewhat gingerly with ringing ears from the noise feeling more than a little elderly, but very very happy.

I said it to her that day and I meant it.

My partner was not only the main reason I ended up attended the ball (I don’t think I’d have made my own way on the train in the rain feeling as crappy as I did) but she was also the punctuation mark at the ‘end’ (nothing ever really ends) of this particular part of my journey.

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I’ve gone from a shut in recluse, drinking and eating my life away in an 8XL hoodie to dancing the night away with the focus of my world felling blissfully happy and complete even though I felt (and still feel) really ill.

We helped each other get ball ready – but ever since I met her she’s made me life ready.

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Davey

Batsford Duckskull

There are apparently tiny little creatures everywhere.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We however are not your average visitors….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davey

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

Target goal

After a few weeks where I seemed to be going nowhere fast with weight loss I decided on Saturday morning that enough was enough.

Slimming World ball or no ball in November I’ve come to the conclusion that at least for the time being I’m calling target and focusing on weight maintenance rather than trying to continually shed pounds.

I’ve therefore decided to re-set my target to 15 stone.

In some ways this feels like giving up – but in others it seems like I’m finally accepting that it’s not all about numbers on scales. As long as they don’t go up any more I think I’m happy with this weight.

Furthermore this decision reflects advice that I’ve been giving other people for quite a while (including reminding them that they should be their own best friends) but recently have utterly failed to take notice of it myself.

‘You look great at your current weight!’ I told a lady (very truthfully) at group the other day.

‘Previously I thought you lost a bit too much.’ I continued. ‘Don’t worry about clothes not quite fitting. They’re cheap as chips. Put the nice ones in storage, send the rest to charity and get a few more.’ I said.

At home, in the quiet of my bedroom, looking in a mirror it’s a different story though.

I think about myself in quite another way – and although there’s a man reflected back at me who is well over HALF the weight he used to be I frequently fail to love myself and what I see before me.

At 13.5 stone I had a lot more shirts (and jeans) that fitted me and they looked really nice.

But this was only part of the story.

I also had people remarking that I ‘looked a bit gaunt’ and that recently on some of my Instagram posts ‘I look better with some more weight’ on me.

It’s hard to take such well meaning feedback for what it’s clearly intended to be though.

Friends say ‘you look healthy’ but I hear ‘I notice you’ve put on some weight’.

The ladies at group told me this weekend they had planned to gang up on me after reading recent posts and get me to raise my target weight too!

Everyone seems to be in agreement but it’s hard to hear.

It’s not the way that they say it – because everyone that’s commented wants me to be happy and healthy – but years of hating myself for being a little bigger every time someone saw me after a few months (or a lot bigger after a couple of years) has led to some rather difficult mental hurdles to overcome if I gain even a modest amount of weight.

I’m trying to take it another way though – and this is partly why I’ve decided to stay where I am for the moment.

However setting a new target can only work if I take to heart the same advice that I’ve given to others and take my foot off the gas for a little bit.

I think I need to just enjoy the fact that I feel fit, I’m insanely active, I’m in a great relationship, I feel loved and that I have lots of good (and honest) friends.

So.

Fifteen stone.

That’s where I’m hanging my hat.

I still haven’t decided how often I will weigh in though. That’s the next mental battle…

So – what else have I been up to?

Well last week I was rather quiet mostly because I’ve had a fair bit on my mind – and it’s all been the kind of things that I don’t really feel are best discussed in public.

Nothing is wrong though – no one has a need to worry.

These thoughts didn’t stop me dropping in see Angie doing her thing at the National Slimming World golden bus tour – which is promoting SW as well as celebrating it’s FIFTY YEAR anniversary.

It finally hit Coventry city centre on Thursday last week and I felt duty bound to pop along – even if that visit was brief.

Although the PR people had formally invited me to several of these events in the Midlands I’d decided to not go along as their special guest and instead pass by and say hello.

I’ll be honest – I really don’t want the limelight at the moment, and it’s nice to just go along, wish people well and then go anonymously about my business (which in this case was going to the nearby indoor market for some cheap plums and then popping into IKEA).

The new man of the year (Ben) is a worthy successor – and he can enjoy his year without any fear of me treading on his toes.

There are many others who can step up and be fabulous at such events anyway. The crowds not only had a celebrity chef (I’ve no idea who it was) and an award winner or two that they could chat to without me boring them silly all day long.

Jodie Rigby-Mee was on the top deck (2017 ‘top target consultant’ award winner and all round fabulous lady) whilst Angie was downstairs with the crowds handing out flyers and goodie bags.

They both looked fabulous!

When I strolled away from the bus, the celebrity cooking demo and the seated crowds I was quite happy with my decision not to attend as a MOTY.

Although I’m insanely proud of all I’ve done to lose weight and change my life I really just want to be me from now on – and enjoy the life that I never thought it would be possible to have.

At the moment (whilst I’m simultaneously searching for work) that means I’m looking after the home – and taking a real pleasure in taking care of my other half.

She has a very demanding job – and since I have extra time on my hands currently it makes sense for me to do as much as I can to lighten the load.

I’ll be honest – there’s not a lot going on in the employment market (particularly as I’m trying to be a bit more picky this time around) – so to have the time to make the home a nice place to be is something of a bonus.

I think it’s fair to say that at heart I’m happiest when I have someone to look after and care about – and I’m making the absolute most of being able to prepare meals, wash up and launder while I have the free time to do so.

Doing it for myself (at times in my life when things were out of control) seemed utterly pointless – and the truth is as much as I genuinely love looking after the needs of another there is also a personal benefit to be had.

I’m far more likely to look after myself when I’m looking after someone else – and knowing I’ve made their day more pleasurable with a roast dinner or a pile of neatly folded laundry makes all the difference.

I’ve said many times to my partner in our time together that when I was on my own it was the ‘mundane things’ that I craved – and that I currently love about our life together.

It may sound rather boring to many – but the simple pleasure of making someone a cup of tea and then delivering it whilst planting a kiss on their head as they work is really all I’ve ever wanted.

It goes deeper than just being described as mundane however – because as with most things in life there are layers.

The first layer is that I care enough about that person to want to make them a cup of tea – and when I plant that kiss it reminds me how lucky I am to exist in a conflict free, reciprocally loving relationship.

When I make the dinner or turn on the washing machine I don’t do it because I have to.

I do it because I want to.

the second layer relates to my childhood view of relationships. These continually demonstrated to me that little else but endless conflict resulted in extended periods of time together – and my own initial (hamfisted) attempts to find love only seemed to underline this.

They were ultimately about often crippling compromise, disagreements, an inability to be understood, and a complex set of compromises and half truths that both parties lived with in order to remain together.

To me then the mundane is effectively life with all of the above baggage and negative expectations removed.

It’s a massive weight that’s just gone from my life and I’m unbelievably grateful for that.

A good friend said to me not so long ago that after her first significant relationship ended very badly she fought hard to not need anyone.

Being the the determined type she ultimately accomplished this – becoming independent both emotionally and financially – and then once she was randomly bumped into a man that she wanted.

‘I am not with xxxxx because I need to be with him’ she told me emphatically. ‘I’m with xxxxx because I want to be with him.’

I doubt she could have vocalised the contents of my mind better if she’d tried – because that’s exactly how I feel now.

Both myself and my partner have run our own lives independently of outside help for a long time. We’ve had our own places, our own careers and our own way of dealing with the world.

We chose to be with eachother and step away from being alone because we wanted to – and to do so with eachother instantly made our lives better.

It’s because of this that for the first time I can ask someone other than the man in the mirror what they think about me changing my target weight and get an honest answer borne out of nothing but compassion.

This person sees me for who I am, clothed and unclothed – and even laughs when I accidentally (or purposely) fart.

I can change her mood simply by saying ‘Boop’ as I gently poke her with an index finger and she can lift my spirits simply by doing her impression of ‘grumpy cat’.

I can’t cook enough meals or do enough laundry to her for that – because it’s the way I always wanted things to be but never thought that they could be.

You see – in reality I’ve not changed my target – I’ve changed my goal in life.

It’s now ceased to be simply about numbers and it’s become a need to be present in a meaningful way throughout someone else’s life – and vice versa.

Only by continually trying to be fit and healthy can either of us make that happen – and I owe it to myself and her to be the best version of myself that I can.

I try to do this every day. Some are better than others but overall this means being as fit and healthy as I can.

I accomplish this by swimming and walking as much as possible as well as cooking on plan meals and trying to avoid binge eating.

This means at the end of the day (no matter how much I’ve already done) I’m always up for walking around the park together.

There’s nothing better than talking about the day and spending quality time together doing active things that improve our lives.

It means finally living our lives the way that we always should have done.

Davey

Kiril Valdez wants to be me

It’s been a while but today I’m back (just) in the fourteen stone bracket.

I’ll be honest – given the work I’ve done to lose the pound and a half represented in this picture I do feel a little dispirited.

I genuinely feel like I deserved to lose more – but when I break it down there is probably a very good reason that things are only just beginning to recover for me on the scales.

The last month – actually the last TWO – have been anything but ‘normal’ (if there is such a thing) and it has taken a while for new routines to bed in.

My house and my life are slowly becoming our house and our life together – and I’m continually amazed at how easy all this has been.

I’m sure that one day (when I stand on a Lego brick or slip in a mysterious puddle of tea) an apocalyptic argument or disagreement will arrive – but it hasn’t happened yet and I can’t see it on the horizon – even with the stress of unpacking.

All of the boxes are now gone but I’d be lying if I said I knew where half of my stuff was – and that’s not my usual norm.

I’m pretty sure that whilst all of the drawers and doors on our respective wardrobes and cupboards are closed neither of us has the foggiest where around 50% of our belongings are.

I completely forgot that there was a telescope under the dining room table.

Who knew?!

There is a semblance of routine edging in now though.

Meals, snacking and exercise seem to be all reassuringly under control once more and since my partner in crime recently obtained her gym and swim membership we’ve been to the leisure centre every day except for the bank holiday.

My other half also been investigating the classes and is once more getting her yoga fix – which made for a beamingly happy and bendy demeanour throughout the day.

Consequently our mutual results for for calorie burning this week have been very much improved and we both got a positive result on the scales.

Mine personal stats are definitely on the up now we’re into a routine that’s being carried out together.

Although this screenshot might not seem like a stratospheric amount of exercise I am now eating much less than I was previously.

Also the week before it without so much swimming was noticeably more sedate.

The ones before that were even less stellar…

The problem is that it’s always easy to eat the same amount that you normally do – but maintaining consistency when it comes to being active requires a more focused approach – and sometimes life just doesn’t promote it.

In my case I’ve only swum 12 times this month – and that has had a big impact.

Not getting into the pool represents 400-600 extra calories that usually get burned but simply haven’t been.

This has been a combination of injury (my shoulder is thankfully finally getting better!) and the process of combining two lives – but whatever the causes are I think I’ve conclusively proven that less exercise when combined with the same amount of (or more) food equals weight gain.

On the bright side being a little bit more porky doesn’t stop people wanting to impersonate me.

If there was ever a form of backhanded flattery it’s when the internet considers you interesting (or good looking) enough to use for catfishing some poor souls.

This week – once again my open online social media presence was used to create a fake Davey.

This probably should worry or annoy me but that’s never going to do me any good – so I’m looking upon it as a bonus.

No one would have wanted to impersonate me when I was 35st – so it’s a tick in the ‘win’ column from my perspective.

Whilst walking and swimming many many people contacted me to alert me to a scam account using my image.

I got out of the swimming pool and whilst changing unexpectedly met Kiril Valdez – my new alter ego.

Kiril (who I’m sure you’ll agree is a very handsome fellow with a rather dashing and debonair flair about him) had been sending everyone on my Instagram list friend requests until an eagle eyed person reported him and got the Instagram account banned.

Amazingly it seems 11 people responded to and accepted the friend request!

Regular reader may remember the first time this happened (link).

Incredibly is was almost a year ago when my image was last used to create a fake online persona – and on that occasion some evil sausage lured an unsuspecting woman into an internet tryst.

I was apparently in a committed relationship without my knowledge for three months before I was made aware that I had been horribly injured in an accident.

Shortly after this photo was sent to her the catfished lady in question was convinced to part with her savings. This was apparently to help me fictitious Davey out with hospital bills – so I was rather relieved to see that another similarly sorry saga had ended before it had begun!

Other than despicable fake me rearing his (rather handsome) head this week it’s otherwise been a rather blissful few days where we’ve been walking, talking, and doing things like gathering apples and blackberries from bushes and local trees.

You really can’t beat free food – and there’s rarely something that tastes better than when you’ve literally just pulled it from the branch or stem.

We’ve been using the (rather large) stash of now frozen berries that we brought home to make both breakfast (porridge) and desserts with.

Coupled with a yogurt maker (natural yogurt made with skimmed UHT milk is ace!) have been eating extremely cost effective and healthy meals.

I’m slowly working through the duplicate items in the cupboard too – and have been making use of rice, pasta and noodles way more than I normally would.

Although you can barely see it this naked chicken fajita was accompanied by some basmati and wild long grain rice.

Whilst this haddock and prawn stair fry had some Chinese dry noodles thrown in to soak up the stock in the wok.

I like using up things like this because not only does it cheaply bulk up a meal but I really want to recover a little shelf.

In other areas not so long ago it rapidly diminished…

My coffee storage cupboard – previously a place of highly caffeinated ‘Daveyness’ – suddenly became increasingly tricky to fill with packs of coffee machine pods.

This sudden lack of available shelving is a total mystery to me and I’m still trying to figure out precisely how it happened.

Thankfully very little gets past me and one day soon I’m convinced I’ll get to the bottom of it.

There isn’t a mystery out there that I can’t eventually solve.

Anyway internet. That’s my day so far. The rest of my evening will almost certainly be spent attempting to bring order to my study and resurrect an ageing PC that I built a long time ago. I’m currently kitting it out (on a tight budget) with some relatively new components.

It turns out that if you’ve been using a Mac for a decade though (instead of Windows) that things have moved on considerably in the land of Bill Gates.

To put it bluntly I have a lot to (re)learn.

Windows 10 seems almost as alien now as it did when I first turned on a PC with Windows 95 – although thankfully I still know my way around a bios.

On the bright side my 2nd hand (bargain) small form factor Geforce 1050ti arrived as expected this morning from eBay and despite all of my expectations worked first time when I installed it and it’s drivers!!’

I can only hope that the extra memory (which is still in transit from the internet) is recognised by my motherboard just as easily.

The online manual for it (an ASUS P6T) irritatingly contradicts itself on the topic of exactly what the maximum RAM is that I can put in the slots (intel’s XMS3 protocol in DDR3 is not a simple standard to understand or manage) and I’m fully expecting to be frustrated and thwarted by the experience when my new (old) modules arrive.

On the bright side all of my Steam games appear to have a new lease of life and a (frankly astonishing) frame rate boost in almost all cases.

Right. Geek update over. I’m off to the man cave.

Laters Internet.

Davey

P.S. Please try to refrain from pretending to be me.

Parks challenge

There has been a lot of inconsistency in my blogging schedule of late – and this is particularly galling when I think upon the subject because it’s quite a long way away from where I started off.

In February 2016 I began for the very first time writing down how I felt about life (link) and ultimately decided to set myself the challenge of writing down every day what was on my mind and (rather counter intuitively) sending it out for everyone to read without hiding behind a pseudonym or anonymous account.

Back then I had no one to talk about but me – and my life was as insular as it got.

I was recovering from the death of my mother, trying to take my mind off wanting to (but not actually) drink three bottles of wine a day and deal with a variety of health conditions.

Oddly though I was more preoccupied back then with an absence of love – and I didn’t mean romance.

That seemed impossible – and an issue for another day.

The problem instead was that I couldn’t say with any definitive truth what it was that I felt passionate about – because ultimately I didn’t really feel passionate about anything.

I binged on video games and box sets for my pleasure and consumed media in much the same way that I consumed food.

I gorged myself on it in an effort to feel the next emotion.

New game?

Great. I’ll preorder it because it will make me happy.

New season of xxxxx TV show?

Wonderful. I’ll get the wine in and do a marathon session.

Then through writing, (a small amount of) meditation, exercise and self improvement I began to see a new truth.

In trying to understand what it had been that was missing in my life by writing about the problem I unwittingly came to realise that the method of investigation was actually my passion.

I loved to write.

Furthermore I loved to be honest.

It was right there in front of me and I grabbed onto it with both arms and held tightly. Truth was my addiction now (although occasionally coffee took its place) and I was fast becoming a two a day man.

I dreamt blogs.

I spent all of my time writing them in my head.

Everything I saw was a new post just waiting to to take shape.

This was all wonderful – but you have to be careful what you wish for – because if you find out what you truly love then get it – what do you do once you have it?

If it’s there, in unlimited supply and all it takes is you being absolutely and completely truthful with the world then what would you do?

In my case I agreed (with myself at least) some ground rules.

I would write about no one but myself without express permission, I wouldn’t say bad things about others (even if they were tossers and deserved it) and I wouldn’t talk about my professional life.

The issue is that if the things on your mind are all of the above how do you carry on doing what you love?

My quiet periods are therefore moments where I choose to say nothing instead of something bad (or maybe even something good if it’s private) about a job, a personal relationship or finances.

When those things are pretty much the only things on my mind it leads to a kind of forced mental constipation – where I feel like I want (or more specifically need) to write but can’t.

No matter how much I strain or agonise the end result is always the same. I won’t break my rules and I won’t lie about my life just to force one through the gates.

However lately my life is in a good place and it’s given my posting schedule a laxative effect.

I’m feeling less backed up.

Everyone I want to write about is ok with me including them, every event is relevant and (at least in my mind) worth writing about and the weather is lovely.

Today (since I have a partner in crime with a new swimming subscription) I hit the pool early on and we hammered out a few lengths.

Very pleasingly (after around 40 mins of swimming) I was reminded by her that we both had to do Apple Watch’s bidding to get our badges for the ‘national parks challenge’.

I love that there’s someone else in my life just as addicted as I am to our little wrist mounted miracles and their motivational objectives.

In this case we had to walk three miles in a single workout (let’s face it this is hardly a problem for me) and there couldn’t really have been a better day on which to do it.

We wound our way around St Nicholas Park, along the river Avon, down the Grand Union canal, through Victoria Park and around Jephson Gardens before finally coming to a (rather sweaty) stop outside the park cafe where we took on tea and coffee.

The fabulous thing is that it’s not just me now.

We’re planning activities together, working towards objectives together and all of our goals in life appear to align in a way I’ve never experienced before.

I don’t care if the world is sick of hearing that I’m really happy because I am.

On the plus side it means I feel that all of the things that would normally cause me to curl up into a little ball and not write are completely absent.

On the downside part of that is because I’m deferring some of my problems and worries until later – so this particular state of affairs may not remain the same forever.

Next week and the week after will no doubt see me once again beginning to agonise about what I want to be when I grow up – and I’m really not looking forward to that.

Many things in my life are sorted and settled in a way that they never ever have been before.

Others seem more broken than ever – and their resolutions appear to be so far away in the distance that I’ll never find my way to them.

However – for the meantime I feel great.

My diet is good, my life is good, the weather is smashing and I couldn’t be happier.

Here’s hoping that you guys out in internetland feel the same way too.

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

Epic

My initial response to my weigh in today was that it was ‘brutal.’

I said as much when I texted the galling news out to various interested parties.

They all responded supportively (as did my lovely SW group) and without exception started to re-frame the narrative for me and provide words of consolation.

In the words of one dear friend however it wasn’t brutal.

It was instead ‘epic‘ – and on reflection I think I prefer her wording – because whilst my gain can’t really be looked upon as a entirely positive trajectory it can (in the great scheme of things) be termed a victory of sorts.

It’s been three weeks since I last officially stepped on the scales and things have clearly changed.

However my victory comes not from the result scribbled in my book but from the attitude I have towards it.

I sat smiling throughout my group knowing that firstly yesterday morning (before eating pretty much all of my shopping stuck in various traffic jams for around four and a half hours on the way home from Sussex) I was weighing in at 15st 2lbs.

Therefore this isn’t all a gain that’s ‘real’. It’s the cumulative impact of lots of carrots, ham and plums.

It’s also related to several rather nice (reduced) Waitrose salads that disappeared at Oxford services around tea time.

I blame the evil woman with all of the little yellow stickers that compelled me to impulse buy all of the nice things and I blame the traffic for boring me into eating like a porky pig all afternoon!

However I’m not getting too bent out of shape about this.

I could have gone to KFC instead and experience tells me that the impact of this little blow out will be gone fairly soon.

Secondly I’m no longer Man of the Year.

This doesn’t make gaining weight my new goal, and it definitely doesn’t make it ok – but it DOES mean that when I slip up I no longer feel the added pressure to be perfect.

I’m just me, going to a group (relatively) anonymously again and having to look for support rather than being an example of relentlessly good behaviour.

I wish yesterday hadn’t unfolded quite the way it did though.

Irritatingly until then I’d been totally on plan all week and had been preparing and consuming wonderfully speedy meals for two every day while I’ve been down south helping my partner with her packing.

(These are baked stuffed peppers – which I highly recommend – the recipe is here link)

In some ways though my gain has been totally called for because I’ve done a lot less exercise recently due to being busy rather than active.

My right shoulder has been giving me problems ever since I pulled it three weeks ago carrying shopping and it’s not been quite right ever since.

It’s not like me to be kind to myself and rest up – but this time (having learned the hard way) I decided to just back off and stop pushing myself so hard.

Swimming regardless of the pain in my shoulder wasn’t going to repair a damned thing. In reaity there was more of a chance it would make my recovery even slower and until I hit the pool this morning it had actually been over a week and a half since my last swim.

Even though I’ve been doing less, in all truth I’ve carried on eating like a man swimming around a kilometre a day.

Regardless of whether or not you eat good or ‘bad’ food you can still eat too much of it.

I’m back on the case now though and with regard to my swimming my pace has thankfully only dropped a teeny bit since I last went.

I might be heavier but my cardio fitness is still there!

So – what else have I been up to?

Well – truthfully I’ve been relaxing a little over the last couple of days.

There’s still a LOT to do with regard to the move (there’s only 6 days to go!) but there’s only so much packing and stressing a boy (or girl) can take – and as such my partner and I disappeared to Brighton on Wednesday and then caught up with family and friends on Thursday.

Brighton was amazing – and on (almost) the hottest day of the year so far we wandered up and down the beach, stopping only to drink tea and coffee or admire the endless beach and blue skies.

When it got too hot we found shade behind some gabions on the beach covered in local photography.

There’s also a really cool little cafe on the prom near the i360 now which is a really amusing little bit of architecture.

I can’t help but admire the way that Brighton manages to be a little bit left-field, even in the traditional seaside cafe space.

There’s plenty to geek out to as well – and a mooch around the snooper’s paradise market is absolutely guaranteed to make a certain Dr Who obsessed person a little perkier.

(If you want to imagine a voice over to this picture it’s basically ‘got this, got that, have the audiobook of that, that’s good, got that, want that…’ etc etc etc.)

I also found a pair of dungarees that a I knew certain fellow blogger would love – and I wasn’t wrong.

It took a mind bogglingly long five minutes for her to order them online from the moment that I sent through a photo on WhatsApp!

She’s slipping lately.

I would have expected a much faster turnaround previously.

As well as bee themed clothing being a thing in the shops (they seem to ‘bee everywhere’ 😏) it’s also getting close to pride week and consequently everything is a little bit more rainbow 🌈 than it usually is.

I just love the inclusiveness and diversity that this brings out in people and the vibrancy of the clothing that it promotes in Brighton.

It just makes me happy whenever I’m surrounded be people just letting it all hang out and being completely truthful to who they are inside.

In the spirit of the place (and because I probably need to get a sun hat – my bald noggin got absolutely frazzled on Wednesday) I couldn’t help but try some alternatives a little outside of my usual comfort zone…

As well as rainbow hats I couldn’t help but marvel at all the beautiful shoes (and shirts) that the town has to offer – and thankfully it doesn’t take much to get my partner to have a look in Irregular Choice.

I can never quite figure out whether I’m dragging her in there or whether she’s dragging me….

The pair that grabbed my attention this time around were more suited to her than myself – but I love the clear sole and the pattern underneath (although I gulped when I saw the price – hence the rapid thumb movement!).

(Link to Instagram video of them)

I’m also quite taken by a pair of pumps in Schuh that I really think would suit my other half – but again at £75) they’re outside of my current comfort zone.

Every time I see a pair of Adidas superstars like these I’m transported back to the 80’s where I’m sitting watching (in black and white because we didn’t have a colour tv when I was little) Run DMC’s video with Aerosmith of ‘Walk this way’.

(Skip to 2.32 for the bit where they walk down the stairs in their bright white superstars! I just LOVE this moment!!!)

The pair I picked up are slightly different though. They have some really funky pearlescent stripes which add a cool ‘zing’ to their retro look when you see them moving.

I think they’re great – but are they worth the price? Personally I think not – but then again I’m pretty frugal.

Thankfully so is my other half so we left empty handed rather than £75 lighter.

We have more than enough to collectively shell out for at the moment with the upcoming move – and I’m really aware all of a sudden that I don’t want to make any impulsive purchases that aren’t needed.

It’s a bonus that we’re completely aligned in this respect.

This afternoon, when I was listening to a radio four trailer for a programme called ‘the money clinic’ (it’s on next Saturday link) I couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief that this is the case.

There’s so much conflict to be found in relationships with regard to money, the lack of it, the way it should be spent or because one half of a partnership is more materialistic than the other.

I know from experience that this can be really damaging over time.

In a previous life I had a serious mis-alignment with a partner about how I should (or should not) spend my money and it caused more than a little resentment to develop between us.

It was also the reason for more than a few arguments and prolonged periods of frosty silence.

In many ways I tentatively entered my current partnership half expecting many of the issues I’d previously encountered in past relationships to once again be present.

Part of me assumed that it was only a matter of time before I found something that worried me, and I’d convinced myself before we met that a huge amount of compromise in any relationship was just a hidden reality waiting to make itself apparent.

I was certain that I’d never be able to be myself and that I’d only be accepted if I played a part rather than be truthful about what I needed and who I was.

When I began to fall for my partner I was ultra diligent (having been burned before) about looking for what I call ‘smoking guns’.

By this I mean that without fail every time I’ve had to look back and evaluate why relationships failed I’ve realised that I knew pretty early on (within the first few weeks typically) what the ‘straws that broke the camel’s back’ were going to be.

Without exception I thought ‘I can live with or change that later’ and in every instance that conclusion proved to be naively delusional.

In the cold light of day I usually had no-one to blame but myself because I realised that I’d known from the very start what the issues were – I just chose to ignore them.

I found out the hard way that if you go into a partnership wanting someone to be any different to the way they are when you meet them them then you’re already setting yourself up for a potential failure.

If you love what they are from the beginning and don’t expect them to change for any reason other than their own ambitions and hopes for the future then it makes life a lot easier.

Saying this is all well and good though.

When it came down to it I never expected this to be the reality of any relationship I found myself in. It seemed like an unobtainable idea that I’d ultimately have to compromise on if I wanted to find anyone.

Against all of my expectations it seems to have become a reality though because I love what I have right now and I don’t need anything to be different.

Something else had to change though to make sure that the same was true in reverse.

I don’t want anyone to see me as a ‘fixer upper’.

I’ve had to change in many ways in order to be capable of having a productive partnership.

Not only did I have to get rid of many bad habits but I’ve had to accept that in past relationships that I’d more often than not completely failed to communicate how I really felt about certain things until they became major issues.

I don’t do that any more.

I’m up front about what I like or don’t like and I try and be forthright and truthful.

I’m as honest in my real life as I am in my blog. There’s nothing hidden in the confines of my relationship, even if it’s painful, paints me in a bad light or is embarrassing to talk about.

One can only hope that the future is bright because of this because I certainly can’t control it.

It’s lunacy to think you know how anything is going to turn out. All you can do is build solid foundations, throw truth out there and hope that it brings love back with it.

So despite my gain I feel epic today Internet – and not just because my friend re-framed my wording – but because the future seems ridiculously bright.

Davey

Surrounded by boxes

There have been a few watershed moments in my life over the last few years. Some of them I’ve very much seen coming and have actively worked to achieve – however others have been less predictable and maybe because of that have been infinitely more significant.

I knew (at least after a while of proving to myself by giving up alcohol and losing weight) that I’d get to target.

I became single minded enough for this to be a foregone conclusion.

The only question left unanswered to me was the one of how long it would take.

I expected to reach my goal.

What happened when I reached that was totally unexpected. My success with Slimming World and the awards I subsequently won came completely out of the blue.

Once they’d happened in many ways my certainty evaporated and I tried to make sense continually of what it all meant. After much (over) deliberation I thought that I knew how they would impact me.

I expected to be more visible in marketing campaigns for SW. I hoped it would enable new career opportunities and I fully embraced anything of this nature when the opportunities arose.

There was no sudden cataclysmic ‘bang’ however.

I had a trophy and a title – but I was still me.

That ‘me’ as many readers will know is someone with a lot of baggage.

I wasn’t really prepared for what it all meant emotionally and how much I’d look upon it as a ‘weight of responsibility’ in the coming months.

It started to unravel a little in my mind fairly quickly if I’m honest – and after a particularly awful week of wondering ‘what it all meant’ on top of ‘where I should go next in life’ at the start of August 2018 (a little over two weeks after a press call at the Ritz in London) I found myself significantly outside of my target weight.

I couldn’t face my Slimming World group that Saturday morning, and instead I decided to go for a day trip to somewhere I’d never been to before and get some exercise.

If I couldn’t face the scales at least I could do something to help shake off my gain.

That walk on the 4th August last year turned into a random conversation with a Geography teacher on the top of Cheddar Gorge and it changed everything.

It couldn’t have happened without all of the other changes in my life – and even then – if not for a random convergence of circumstances it may never have happened at all.

If I hadn’t won the award I’d have never felt the added pressure and I may have attended my group instead.

If the sun hadn’t been forecast I may have stayed at home.

If I hadn’t had a second cup of coffee in Starbucks at the motorway services my life would have probably taken a different course,

As the chance decisions stacked up on my side, elsewhere on a camp site someone else had woken up in a camper van and was making her way slowly to the same spot that I was.

She was trying to make her own decisions in life and was also wandering and contemplating.

We consequently met on the top of a hill in the middle of the countryside doing something we both loved to do and just started talking.

We didn’t say much at first – and it was only the briefest of encounters – but it was enough to plant a seed.

That took a while to germinate but when it did it grew virulently and has taken root in every aspect of our lives.

I worried for some time about who I would be if I was no longer losing weight.

It’s all very well to say you’ve lost over 20st. It’s not easy to do, and consequently there are few that can lay claim to such a statement.

Sadly there are fewer still who can say it’s gone for good but if you can say these things should they define you?

Did I really want this accomplishment to be sole focus of who I was?

For a time it felt (through necessity) that it had to be that way. If I hadn’t made losing weight the fulcrum of my existence it may never have come to fruition.

I never wanted it to be all I was though and as I got closer to my goal I became increasingly concerned that this was what I’d unwittingly engineered.

Would I ever be able to disengage from what I’d done?

I have an uneasy relationship with my accomplishments relating to weight and fitness because whilst they represent proof of what I can do if I put my mind to it they also represented failure.

That might sound crazy to many – but think on this.

It’s impossible to have achieved such a milestone in life without first flushing everything away so epically in the first place.

I destroyed myself so diligently that by January 2016 I stood on the verge of death.

I was unable to care for myself and in comparison to everyone I’d ever known I was drunken a 35 stone disgrace.

When your ‘success’ is based on your ability to simply begin to do what everyone else around you has already done for the vast majority of their lives how can you not feel shame every time someone pats you on the back and calls you inspirational?

I did.

I was only too aware that what I’d done was reset my personal clock to zero.

In life terms I was now where I always should have been.

I was fit and healthy – but now also middle aged, single, unsure what to do with my future, and behind the curve in almost every measure of my life.

Externally I was suddenly a success, but internally

What was I left with?

What would happiness be?

Where would I find it?

In many ways this angst was the real gift that I received when I hit target and won my awards – but whilst it could have destroyed me, instead it propelled me.

I wanted more.

I wanted to feel the world and the life I’d missed out on during all those years of self destruction.

I wanted to say yes to all the possibilities that I’d said ‘no thank you’ to before – so I did.

In doing so something special happened.

Now I’m just days away from the next step in my journey because in just over a week my home becomes mine and my partner’s home.

‘Mine’ will be ours.

It’s been a stressful road to get to where we are now though – and at the moment I’m sitting in a flat full of boxes after a lengthy few days of packing, meeting family, DIY and boiler installations.

Her life is packed and almost ready to go.

She’s upended all of it to take a chance on me and move to Warwick and as I look around words fail me.

I had no idea how I’d ever step away from my losses and live a normal life (if such a thing exists) yet here I am.

I’m surrounded by someone else’s life in crates – packed solely because she needs me as much as I need her, and because neither of our lives make sense any more when we’re apart.

The crazy thing is though that while these contain possessions of a life the same length as my own I’m confident that much of it fills a mental space that’s similar to the ones back where I live in Warwick.

I’d push them all off a cliff tomorrow without hesitation if I had to make a choice between having this person in my life and not having her.

I know she feels the same – and it lifts my soul.

Her life is contained in these boxes – and she’s turned the rest of it upside down for us.

She’s telling me with everything she is and owns what she wants.

It makes me want to go back to the hillside on which I met her and shout aloud to the world how happy I am to be alive how lucky I feel.

This was my true gift to myself back in January 2016 I began to care about myself once more.

Inexplicably, and against all expectations I started to crawl out of the pit I’d dug for myself.

Now I’m here.

Now we’re here.

Life is beginning anew and I feel joyous.

Surrounded by boxes.

Davey

Shirts, stress and butterflies

Try as I might I can’t seem to stop feeling a little stressed at the moment.

There seems to be so much to do all of a sudden and so little time in which to do it.

Things need to be moved, cleaned, decorated, purchased, planned, implemented, fixed, fiddled with and just generally manipulated so that everything from my partner’s life fits neatly in with my own.

Combining the lives of two adults that have lived alone with their separate hobbies and tendencies to collect both furniture and trinkets is really tough at times.

What do you get rid of and what do you keep?

Rather shockingly I appear currently appear to be in possession of 99 beautiful shirts and of all the items that I can face getting rid of these appear to be the most impossible to separate myself from….

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I’ve resolved therefore (instead of discarding them) to hunt for better storage options – but currently there appear to be no immediately obvious answers with regard to where to put them whilst only in possession of  a modest budget.

Despite spending almost three hours wandering around IKEA in Coventry yesterday looking for solutions I came home empty handed.

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Well almost empty handed.

If you want free parking then you have to buy something – and if IKEA has one ability above all others it’s to present you with a useful little solutions to problems you never knew you had.

Whilst looking for ideas for my bathroom (my beloved has more of a requirement for shampoo and conditioner than I do in the shower) I found this useful suction cup holder.

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I have a habit of buying things in twos for some reason – which in this case is a good thing – because it didn’t occur to me until this morning that this item also made a great under kitchen cupboard spice rack!!!

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Not only had I found an unexpectedly joyful use for this I’d also managed to solve another more pressing issue – and that’s the continual hassle of making myself two espressos in the morning.

Typically the pesky conundrum of how to insert as much weaponised coffee into myself as possible involved me making one espresso, drinking it and then making another.

Imagine my surprise when I realised that there are larger cup sizes out there?!!!

Who flipping knew?!

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£1.25 for a double sized espresso mug?!

Shut up and take my money IKEA!!!

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(The author is well aware that in the background of this highly caffeinated selfie there is also a rotating spice rack sitting on top of his cupboard that is completely unused – but in his defence he won it in a Slimming World raffle and he never liked it. So there.) 

But I digress.

I have 99 shirts and nowhere to store them.

The irony is that the overwhelming majority of these have come from charity shops – and although I’ve been very thrifty (usually it costs me around £4 – £6 for a shirt) the reality has now hit me that I will also have to shell out for somewhere to store them.

My current wardrobe is woefully insufficient.

When I was fat (although I was a reclusive diabetic cripple on the verge of a painful death) life was much easier in some respects. I had one pair of 66in trousers and about 3-5 8XL shirts that fitted me.

Most of of the time I resorted to a purple one of them and stayed in that for pretty much every occasion.

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most hated photo 2 (1)

My previous inability to express myself through clothing has now produced a rather unintended side effect, and from a shirt perspective I’m very often very much like a child in a sweet shop.

If I find a hat or shirt that’s bright and vibrant I want to wear it – and I prefer to look a little dandy when I’m out and about.

I also notice that my significant other seems to encourage the ‘peacock’ side of my personality.

Occasionally I suspect it’s because she too has this side to herself…

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This means that the wardrobe space required for me is significantly more than my partner needs. When I had the house to myself it wasn’t a problem. I just decided that I would put aside a room for my clothes and it wasn’t an issue.

Now it’s not so simple.

This is something I feel quite acutely because I really dislike imbalance, or feeling as if I’m overwhelming someone else with my possessions.

My huge volume of shirts therefore make me feel uneasy.

In an ideal world I would have a bigger house and something like this would be an option.

It’s not though – so the hunt is still on.

I’m not yet ready to part with my pretty things so I might just (at some point in the future) have to convert the loft into a dressing room…

There are worse worries in life mind you – and I’m aware that this is very much a first world problem.

Worrying about having too much of anything is not the life I was born into, so in that respect I count myself as fortunate. I have relatively simple tastes and the world I live in provides for those in plentiful abundance.

It’s still hard to decide how to manage all of this and (diet wise) this has made me want to eat. In truth lately most things do – but I’m trying.

I really am.

IMG_3882I have to make good choices because I’ve been struggling a little with my back and my shoulder.

It’s made swimming something thats painful rather than relaxing so I’ve missed a few days recently (which also doesn’t help with my weight).

These injuries are mostly related to moving and lifting heavy items that are also unwieldy and (even though I’m bending my knees whenever possible) pulling something when I get into an awkward position.

Despite being told that I shouldn’t do such things on my own this includes rather dimwitted feats like dragging an IKEA Billy bookcase up my stairs alone on Monday.

My lower back hasn’t been quite the same ever since.

In my defence it needed to happen. The pending influx of boxes and furniture that’s arriving at the end of the month is making me rather obsessive about organising things so that I can relax and sleep properly – which last night (and the night before) didn’t really happen.

I had a fevered dream that it was all off because I hadn’t prepared enough – causing my partner to reverse her plans to move in with me.

Clearly I also have my own subconscious set of groundless worries about possible rejection that I’ve been pushing to the back of my mind.

All of my supermarket purchases this week have therefore had to be of the profoundly ‘good choice’ variety and I’ve been eating lots and lots of vegetables and fish.

However – it’s still the ‘lots‘ bit that’s tripping me up. My food diary (which I’ve stuck to diligently) is much longer than it really should be.

13th July

  • 2x oranges 
  • Half can of mackerel
  • Half a pack of chicken slices
  • Olives (2-3 syns)
  • Salad with mint sauce and whole grain mustard
  • 3 squares Lindt chocolate (6 syns)
  • Chilli con carne with rice
  • 1/4 melon
  • 1 Apple
  • 2 plums
  • Half a nectarine

14th July

  • 40g oats 
  • Nectarine
  • Plum
  • Half apple
  • Milk (HE)
  • 3.5 syns of cashews
  • Apple, plum, nectarine
  • Quorn/soya super small snack
  • Carrots
  • Chicken pieces
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • M&S Greek style strawberry yoghurt (0.5 syns)
  • Butternut squash chips, sweet potato wedges and a green pepper, garlic red onion, courgette, mushroom, chicken, smokey bacon and Quorn

15th July 

  • 40g oats 
  • Half Nectarine
  • Plum
  • Half apple
  • Baked potato
  • Tub of cottage cheese
  • 360g Piri piri chicken pieces
  • Lettuce
  • Gherkins & Tomatoes
  • 4 peaches
  • Tub of pinepple cottage cheese (3 syns)
  • 2 corn on the cob
  • Large mackerel salad with olives (15) (3 syns)
  • Aldi dominion sugar free sweets & Sugar free mints (12 syns)
  • Natural yogurt and frozen berries with pineapple cottage cheese (3 syns)

16th July 

  • Jacket potato with tub of cottage cheese and chives pickles and lettuce
  • 2x corn on cob
  • 4 peaches
  • 2x tubs of pineapple cottage cheese (6 syns)
  • Aldi Piri piri smoked mackerel salad with olives (11 syns)
  • Berries and natural yogurt
  • 6 apples
  • Frozen berries and 500g natural yogurt
  • Carrots

17th July 

  • Banana 
  • Tuna and mackerel salad with some olives and two corn on the cob
  • Gooseberries
  • 4x nectarines
  • Chicken salad with beetroot and olives – 1 syn
  • Aldi sugar free sweets (2 packs) 12 syns
  • 6x apples

My problem (as always) is that when I ruminate over things I eat – and even when it’s good food it’s still too much.

However – I’m keeping a diary and I’m being honest with myself about what I’m eating – as well as trying to limit the damage whenever possible.

Sometimes the best you can do is just try and take your mind off things by doing something else – and to this end yesterday morning I headed out with a friend to a place nearby that I’ve never vistied before.

Ufton Fields – which (according to the notice board) is a site of special scientific interest.

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Although this isn’t my usual kind of walk (it was short and meandering as opposed to brisk and lengthy) it was a welcome change of pace.

Ufton Fields was just the ticket, because if you march through a place like this without stopping then you’ll miss everything that the beautiful meadows and woods have to offer.

At first glance one may be forgiven for thinking that there’s nothing there.

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It initially looks pretty but quite unremarkable.

However – when you stop and look closer at what’s around you things start to move

There are all manner of little crickets and flies buzzing around the place – and for the first time ever I managed to get close enough to a meadow grasshopper (this is the predominantly green one, whereas the brown one is a field grasshopper link) to film the noise that it makes with it’s back legs.

(Please do watch the above one with the sound turned up, I apologise for the camera shake!)

Other little things are no less interesting – and the common red soldier beetle (link) is (in my view at least) a truly gorgeous little creature.

Where the real spectacle lies however is in the myriad of butterflies that were simply swarming around the bushes and meadows nearby.

I’d seen none of them before.

I dearly wish that I’d brought with me my ‘proper’ camera rather than just my iPhone as it has a much better zoom lens. However it’s all swings and roundabouts. My phone can do 4K video, whereas my camera cannot.

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Although I thought that this one with two sets of wings was a moth – it turns out (according to my diligently researching companion that day) that it’s a female large skipper (link).

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This slightly fleabitten (but no less wonderful) specimin is called a gatekeeper (link)

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This is a ringlet (link).

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This one is a female meadow brown (link)

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This comma (link) In my view stole the show though- and although I couldn’t quite get close enough for a good cameraphone photo I adore it’s colouring.

I was absolutely buzzing by the time we’d finished our (unbelievably short 1.5 mile) walk.

I was also unaware at the time that my attempts to document the wildlife were in turn being recorded themselves….

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However I’m not averse to some furtive photography and am always aware that at some point I may have to fight fire with fire…

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So – there we have it.

Some busy days have passed and there are even more busy ones ahead.

I need to get on internet!

Time’s a wasting

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

For the rest of my life

It’s a lovely day.

The sun is shining, the birds are tweeting and I’m already in my shorts and tee shirt.

The day has started early today and I’ve just attended a Slimming World group down south with my partner.

It’s the earliest I’ve ever been to a meeting – and these guys are hardcore because they kick off at 7.30!

I wasn’t actually weighing in myself today – as in SW terms Saturday is the last day of the week.

I weighed last Monday with Angie and although I never got around to writing a post about it the result was that I’d gained 5.5lbs over the 5 weeks since last standing on the scales.

I was sitting 2.5lbs above my target weight at 14st 5.5lbs.

I may have looked at this differently a while back – but in real terms I’m still lighter than when I first hit target in Feb 2018 (14st 7lbs) and I have had a few days (and the remainder of this weekend) to try and pull things around.

The motivation to get back into target so I don’t have to pay for the next meeting is huge (my wallet functions in a similar way to a camel sphincter when faced with a sandstorm) but I’m also more mindful of the fact that in July I have to go to Derby again to hand over the MOTY title to the new 2019 winner.

I want to be an example of someone who hasn’t slipped from grace rather than coming over as a cautionary tale of someone who lost the plot.

The truth is that I’m being flippant though.

I know that’s never going to happen – but in contrast a while back I had no evidence to back it up in my mind (link)

My belief that I wouldn’t slide back into the hell of obesity was based solely on what I had to keep telling myself.

I didn’t know whether or not it was self delusion though – because over and over again since I was born I’d managed to yo-yo up and down in size, and always ended up a little bit bigger than when I started.

Now I have stats that have been gathered over time to back my self belief up and I am certain that after spending nearly a year and a half being exactly where I should be with regard to weight and fitness that I will be this way for the rest of my life.

My fitness wearable also allows me to understand how things have changed – and even now still continue to do so.

I’m maintaining my exercise levels regardless of the fact that I’ve had less time now that I’m working and travelling a lot more.

I do this because it’s important to me – and anyone who wants to get fit and lose weight will do so if they want it enough.

Although I only ever used to walk for my daily exercise I now swim too – and for a while have done so around 15 times a month – meaning that almost every other day I get up, walk to the leisure centre, swim anywhere between 1-1.5km and then go to work.

Usually I also fit in a mile and a half walk at lunchtime (weather permitting) and then a few evenings a week I also go for another longer one.

I’ve not been as restrained as I probably should have been with my eating – but in all honesty recent weeks have been a stressful period with regard to whether my living situation would or would not change.

I had no idea whether or not I’d end up living with my partner in Warwickshire or elsewhere.

Would she get the job nearby that she’d applied for or wouldn’t she? What would it mean if she didn’t?

It’s one of those times in life when there’s nothing at all that you can do to alter the outcome of events. You just have to watch them unfold and hope for the best.

In the meantime the fridge is always capable of offering occasional solace and the store cupboard has recently also stepped in to do some of the heavy lifting.

I’ve had a weakness for crackers, marmite and cheese triangles lately that’s become something of an obsession – and like many of my old eating habits some foods or meals have suddenly and inexplicably occupy my thoughts endlessly and (like any other problem eater) I sometimes feel incapable of resisting when the hunger pangs strike.

As always though even when I’m eating too much I’m eating too much of the right kinds of foods rather than guzzling bottles of wine and hammering down pizzas and kebabs.

The changes regarding my ongoing levels of exercise stand as one of two pillars of personal strength – with the second being what types of foods I now eat.

Although many following slimming world may disagree I feel that this food related strength has been in no small part possible because I don’t do fakeaways and I eat very little processed foods or ready meals.

Although I do have a weakness for artificial sweetener in my coffee, and I love hi-fi and cereal bars pretty much everything else that I consume is made from scratch and completely natural.

This means that when tougher times hit I’m far less likely to do significant damage than I ever used to be.

I no longer treat gains as catastrophic disasters and I recognise that failing is not inevitable.

It’s a choice – and I continually choose not to.

It’s also nice to inspired by my other half – because while I know that many others see me as an inspiration when it comes to weight loss I’m just the same as anyone else.

I struggle all the time with self perception and feelings of guilt or self condemnation.

Going swimming and looking at myself naked in the mirror has never really become something I’m comfortable with – even though I do and accept the reality of both.

Having someone that seems to love the flaws I have whilst at the same time being on their own fitness journey inspires me.

If she can go to weigh in knowing that there’s a gain waiting for her then so can I. Last week she made the difference between me avoiding the task and taking a gain on the chin.

What many who I talk to fail to recognise is that I’d never be inspired or inspiring without people around me doing the same for me.

My partner isn’t the only one.

My blogger friend Hayley for instance inspires me every single day (link).

She’s been moving mountains (but often viewing them as mole hills) to change her life as long as I’ve known her.

Our journeys have been different – but we’re kindred spirits.

I’m proud to have been able to support her walking on her own road to a better life.

She will make an awesome consultant.

So this is why I get up and carry on every day.

I’ve learned from myself and others that failure is a combination of perception and choice. I’ve also come to realise that there’s no way to keep eating the same crap that caused all the problems in the first place and have a different outcome.

I’ve changed and I continue to change.

That means (hopefully) that I will be back in target on Monday.

Even if it doesn’t it then I will be there pretty damn soon and will remain there or thereabouts for the rest of my life.

Davey

Everything led to this

I started writing this post a week ago and then left it alone to simmer for a while.

My apologies.

Some blogs begin to touch painful nerves and occasionally I decide to pull back from where they appear to be leading me. Although I might start writing them in a happy place, I realise occasionally that my train of thought is leading me elsewhere.

There are some things that quickly remind me of the past – and when I began clearing items from my home recently I was reminded of the catharsis that came with shedding baggage and it’s history when my mother died.

For quite a while I felt that I was very similar to her because years passed when items and possessions in my life seemed to only flow in one direction.

Into my house.

Rarely did they leave again.

I purchased and accumulated many things – but I almost never let go of them.

This was partly because I had been conditioned early on in life to never throw items away that may one day have a use.

Gradually this attitude shifted – and after a while I was able to see that if something hadn’t been used (or read) for years then it was irrelevant to my life.

Occasionally I began to place things in this category on eBay, took them to the recycling centre or (later on) donated them to charity.

It wasn’t until I returned to my mother’s orbit (after many years estranged from her and barely a year before she passed away) that I saw where things could have gone.

She had continued to live in the three bedroomed house of my childhood until ill health and long term hoarding (making carer support and repairs impossible) had led the council to push her out of it and into a bungalow.

This had been inevitable for a long time.

Her three bedroomed semi-detached house had been crammed for decades with masses items that were now faded, rotten, saturated with decades of tobacco smoke or that had become simply too old to be of any use at all.

Much of it just fell apart when you touched it.

Nevertheless my brother, his wife and my father tried to help make sense of it when she needed to move by putting as much of her items as they could into boxes and onto a van.

There were simply too many things though.

Much of her hoard was ‘saved’ but the rest had to be left where it was.

Ultimately the council authorities turned up with a skip and emptied over half of her material possessions into it without a second thought.

A lot of things that she could never let go of were just taken from her against her will through simple necessity.

Despite her protests there was nothing she could do and no amount of ranting, bargaining or arguing saved any of it.

Here was a stark life lesson – because eventually everything is impermanent. Ownership of property or possessions is a nothing more than a temporary illusion.

At her new bungalow my (now desperately ill) mother found herself surrounded by mountains of anonymous boxes that she was far too unwell to unpack.

She also hadn’t been capable of filling them herself and therefore had no idea what they contained.

Swinging regularly between accusations of theft or other fantasies she accused everyone of stealing or moving her things whenever the opportunity arose.

She couldn’t let go of her stuff even when most of it was already gone – and ironically appeared to me more trapped than ever by the reduced amount left behind.

Although her possessions were greatly diminished by then there were still more than enough of them packed and stacked to form imposing cardboard walls throughout her one bedroomed bungalow that restricted her ability to move as well as blocking out natural light.

Even if she had managed to open them and sort through the contents there was nowhere to put the items they contained, so until she died (always tantalisingly near to all of her things) she was completely unable to use or see any of it.

Then one day she left the house in an ambulance for the final time, and a few days later the weight of her hoarding passed to mine and my brother’s shoulders.

We had no compelling reasons to keep any of it.

In fact the exact opposite was true.

What it represented to both of us was a woman that had abused us both for many years.

We resented every last item and ended up throwing almost all of it into bin liners and then into an anonymous landfill.

When we did I felt a massive weight lifting that felt like it had been upon my shoulders for my entire life.

The mountains of nothing were finally gone and I vowed that they would never ever return.

Although I am still by no means a Zen living kind of guy (I still have stuff) I no longer live with clutter – and lately I’ve been trying to get rid of yet more of it.

It’s no bad thing though because I’m not the only one doing it and there’s a good reason.

Now my house is becoming a home.

After many years when I thought I would die within its walls – alone, huge and unable to cope with life now it’s going to be filled with happiness.

Soon I’m going to be living with my partner.

She has secured a new job locally, has agreed to move in with me – and we’ve already begun the gradual progress of shedding our duplicate or useless items.

It’s a wonderful time of my life.

In a couple of months when we finally combine our living spaces we will move forward with only the best of our previous lives in tow.

By then it will be almost exactly a year to the day since we first met – which is amazing because I already can’t imagine how it’s possible to be happy and content without her being near me.

Therefore shedding items and throwing things away or recycling them has taken on a new meaning.

This activity is no longer exclusively associated with the pain of my childhood or the death of my mother – but instead is now intertwined with thoughts of my partner’s smiles and the laughter we’ve already shared within the walls of my home.

Bit by bit bad memories are being replaced with good ones and I feel that baggage (both literal and metaphorical) is being shed.

She makes me laugh, smile, feel warm inside and I know that the feelings I have are reciprocated.

There’s not a single thing I own that I wouldn’t throw away tomorrow to make space for her in my life.

And there it is.

Human beings don’t need things.

None of it is ultimately worth anything without people, friendship and love.

Even if you don’t have a partner you’re rich if you’re surrounded by good people – and in this respect I count myself amongst some of the wealthiest people on the planet.

Somehow – against all odds – I chose not to slide into oblivion in January 2016 and instead to change my life for the better.

Now it’s wonderful.

I’ve achieved more than I ever thought possible – but one part in particular is soon drawing to a close.

In early July I hand over my man of the year title to the next worthy recipient for 2019 – and I’m actually looking forward to it.

I was immensely proud to accept the accolade when it was offered and it will always be a defining moment in my life.

Now however it’s time to move on because my life needs to be about far more than how big and out of control I became.

After far far too long I’m truly living my life the way I always should have.

I want the rest of it to be a new adventure that’s defined not by who I was – but by who I can be.

Who knows what that man looks like or what he will accomplish?

I certainly don’t.

There are still plenty of things to fix but despite them the guy looking back at me in the mirror this morning just keeps grinning and smiling.

He has no idea what’s coming tomorrow or the day after and he doesn’t care.

He just knows that when he returns to bed and puts his head on his pillow in the early morning light of the day there will be the gentle breathing of someone else sleeping beside him.

It’s all been worth it.

All of the pain and hardship of every self inflicted or endured abuse.

It all brought me here – to a place I never expected to be.

I’m wiser, older, more confident, more capable, more contented, more understanding, more patient and more alive than I’ve ever been.

I’m truly happy.

Davey

Biscuit tea

The bank holiday weekend is over and I wish it wasn’t – because the (non bank holiday) ones in the near future are likely to be something of a slog.

Thanks to other commitments I’m going to have less opportunity than usual to do the things I want to do – and in particular this means not being able to see the people that I want to see.

In the past that this has often translated into a danger zone for me when it comes to eating so I’m going to have to be really really committed if I want to keep in target.

I plan to try my best mind you.

If there’s one thing that carried me through the last three years it was my willingness to throw myself into a darn good walk or swim and wear out any my self destructive side before it does too much damage.

My new job (which is once again an office based and seated one) hasn’t managed to completely derail my fitness objectives so far – and although I’ve not managed to force myself out of bed every morning for a swim before work I’ve still managed to keep a good level of exercise going.

Surprisingly (although it feels like I did way less) I covered 65 miles over the last week as well as completing two swims to keep me relatively in the green as far as my stats go.

My activity has still dropped off overall however – which is an irritation.

I miss my freedom and my ability to exercise my ass off whenever I felt like it but I also don’t miss the voice inside my head (that was increasingly self-deprecating) telling me that I should have a job.

Since my position is a temporary one I’m still not sure what the future holds with regards to long term employment, but have (after some in depth chats with my partner in crime) for the first time come to think that there may be a way forward.

Furthermore the way forward doesn’t just potentially improve my future – but has the capability to improve it for both of us.

The next six months will be an exciting time – and I feel that while the next few weeks may be difficult – the future has never been brighter.

The weather was doing it’s best to disagree this weekend at the Leamington 2019 eco-fest where I was foraging with friends for a local honey stall.

I don’t normally buy honey – but this particular variety was something that a friend had tasted once before. They liked it so much that they decided to get some more as soon as possible.

Since it’s not available in the shops the only option is to go and grab some from their pop up stalls whenever they’re in town.

For my part I also bought some rather lovely beeswax hand cream – which was really really nice smelling and also seems to last for ages!

It was a bargain at £2.50 and the lady that sold it seemed absolutely lovely.

She definitely believed in her product – and who can argue? My hands have felt awesome ever since!

I love the vibes of events like this (although I can’t bring myself to pay £5 for a gong shower) and now that the Pump Room Gardens are open again and the bandstand is nearly refurbished the air was filled with chatter and ambient live jazz music.

It made up for the sun disappearing behind some irritatingly persistent cloud – and the day passed by with a lovely vibe and only the slightest spots of rain.

After spending a while here I moved along for a bite to eat on my absolute favourite place to have lunch.

Las Iguanas.

The food here is never less than totally awesome – and it’s somewhere where I often choose totally vegetarian options – mostly because they taste as good (if not better) than the meat alternatives.

They also leave me feeling like I’ve not screwed up anything diet wise.

The colours on the plates also reflect the wonderful tastes that they deliver and things (for once) always taste as good as they look.

In other news (after a rather awful mishap with my electric trimmer two weeks ago) a familiar furry friend is almost back again.

I missed my beard.

I used to have a strained relationship with its presence, despite the fact that many seemed to rather like it.

Originally I grew it not because I particularly wanted one per-se – but because someone long long ago told me they didn’t want me to, so I pushed out an experimental goatee as a ‘screw you’ apostrophe to their departure from my life.

As time went on and I expanded into both sides of the sofa I began to use it to hide my face from the world.

I was convinced it covered my chins and would convince anyone caring to look in my direction that I was healthy and fit.

That may have been at least partially true with regards to my face – but it did very little to hide anything else.

In all of my selfies back then I not only look miserable but I look otherwise totally huge.

Even with impressive plumage it’s hard to engage stealth mode when you’re 35st.

When I shaved it off (half way through my Slimming World journey) practically no-one recognised me.

For a while that was a wonderful feeling. Everyone said I looked lots younger and alone that made me happy.

The truth is though that, like an old friend I rather missed it.

Last winter was harsh and my face wasn’t ready for the cold winds now that my chins were gone.

Thankfully an entrepreneurial (and rather talented) reader made me a Star Wars wind cheater – and for a time all was well.

Oddly when I grew my facial fur back after leaving my last job an unlikely ally for it arrived shortly after.

Despite some original misgivings about beards (and fun poking comments from other nearby quarters regarding hipsters) I noticed that in quieter moments my furry face was being thoughtfully stroked by hands other than my own.

Dogs appear to like it too – and they’re rarely wrong.

So – the beard is back, and this time I think it’s here to stay.

You know what else is back?

My mojo.

The future is coming – and although I don’t know when it’s arriving I’m looking forward to inviting it to hang it’s hat up and join me for a cup of biscuit flavoured tea.

Davey

Cheddar and the Picture House

Even by my recent standards I’ve been ridiculously quiet on the blogging front over the last week.

However whilst previously this may have left me with a nagging sense of guilt I really don’t feel that way currently because life is ridiculously and legitimately busy.

My new job has started and I’ve been trying to once again get used to manoeuvring all the ‘life stuff’ that I need to get done around working full time.

Thankfully I’m not something that’s such a distant memory that it’s hard to do – and even when I wasn’t working I’ve usually been up at the crack of dawn for a swim and a walk.

I’ve always been an early riser – but my sudden employment (it seemed to come out of nowhere after lots of fruitless applications) has been a rude reminder that I need to plan things like shopping and meals a bit more in advance than I have been for the past few months.

It’s been hard to stay on plan – but that’s not the only slightly jarring thing about working 9-5 again.

The start date of my new role (somewhat unfortunately) arrived right after a wonderful bank holiday period that’s been absolutely awesome.

Consequently I’ve had to pivot from ‘relaxed wandering and exploring whilst feeling excessive levels of chill’ into ‘sit behind this desk all day and learn new stuff’.

Consequently the bank holiday is already a distant memory and my brain feels like it’s been griddled like a BK Whopper.

Before I felt like my mind had been beaten black and blue though my fleeting moments of freedom found me once again in Cheddar Gorge.

It’s a special place for me – because it was there (whilst doing a random circular walk) that I first met someone who’s become really important to me.

At the top of this very hill at the exact moment I took a photo of myself the future arrived.

It was also slogging up a hill with a heavy pack on its back, doing exactly what I also love to do.

Thanks to my phone and my tendency to photograph absolutely everything I know the time and the GPS coordinates of that moment.

I’m pretty anal like that.

This time I’d not only returned to the scene of the crime – but I had that special person in tow with me – and we were both keen to experience the whole event all over again.

The difference was that this time it wasn’t a day trip, but a weekend in a camper van.

This is admittedly something of a new experience for me.

Not only had I never slept overnight in any kind of vehicle before but I’d never stayed at a camp site either.

I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the experience despite fully expecting the Carry On cast to appear and Barbara Windsor to start enthusiastically exercising in front of me in a bikini.

Sigh.

Childhood memories…

It was all great though – regardless of her absence.

Sure – getting up to go to the loo in the middle of the night wearing pyjamas when it’s around 300 metres away at the opposite end of a damp field isn’t ideal – but I stoically managed to go number 1’s in the dark successfully and otherwise slept like a baby.

This is mildly unusual – and as someone near and dear to me will attest I can be a pretty restless sleeper at times.

In a camper however (with significantly less caffeine imbibed than usual) I slept like the recently deceased – which was wonderful.

All of this grade A rest made the trekking associated with a visit to a place like this a lot more palatable – and over the two days while we were there we walked as much as we possibly could.

It wasn’t all plain sailing mind you.

Being a careful kind of fellow I liberally applied lots of sun cream – and consequently all of my exposed parts went a satisfying warm pink colour.

For me this is usually as good as tanning gets.

However – I neglected to account for unexposed areas and my shirt let liberal amounts of sunlight through.

It’s a rookie mistake because I actually have SPF rated North Face shirts for trekking and neglected to pack them, choosing instead a lightweight Berghaus one.

This ultimately meant that I ended up with a chest that resembled a red and white picnic blanket afterwards – which was less than ideal.

It didn’t matter though.

Sunburn fades – but I suspect that the memory of a day like this will last a lot longer.

Whilst I didn’t know it at the time I started changing a lot of thought processes when I first visited here.

I’d randomly chosen it as a destination in August last year partially because I was running away from negative feelings and I needed a fresh perspective.

I thought I might find it at altitude.

I needed to work stuff out and I couldn’t do it looking at the walls of my house glaring at a TV playing video games or binge watching box sets.

Walking and clambering over things is my process.

It fixed everything for me.

It often still does.

If things don’t make sense then I try not to worry. Just putting one foot in front of another repeatedly will make it all better.

As I walked and tried to make sense of my (pained) feelings and experiences (I’d just become MOTY) the world opened up and unfolded for me.

I’m very fond of the opinion that the universe listens and this was just such a moment.

I enjoyed going back.

It was a great bank holiday and no mistake.

Now however I’m back to Earth with a bump.

I have lots to learn in my work life, lots to do in my everyday life, lots of planning to get through for the future – and suddenly I’m bewildered by how little time I seem to have to accomplish it in.

There suddenly don’t appear to be enough hours in the day – and everything has to be squeezed into a frantic weekend.

That works well for some activities however – and on Saturday (having managed to avoid ALL spoilers) I went to see Avengers: Endgame.

My fellow geek and I decided to make it a special occasion and we booked a showing at a lovely little cinema called ‘The Picture House’ in Uckfield (link)

This is an absolutely lovely building built in 1913 and kept to a very high standard.

It has a small family feeling that multiplexes just can’t hope to compete with.

You don’t have to compromise though. The seating is modern, the image is Dolby 4K and the sound is Dolby 7.1

The movie looked and sounded every bit as good as any other modern cinema I’ve been to and in my view this place richly deserves the awards that it’s received.

I’d go so far as to say that it’s better than the Electric cinema (although it has no sofas the screen is better) in Birmingham that I visited a while ago (link) – which is high praise indeed!

If the lovely red velvet everywhere wasn’t enough there’s a restaurant directly opposite The Picture House to tittilate your tastebuds. However from a SW perspective there wasn’t much on the menu that wouldn’t completely screw me over.

Instead I made sure I ate a hearty on plan meal before going – but once in the foyer I did decide to make one small concession to naughtiness.

Life is for living after all.

It’s been aaaaages since I had some hot popcorn and I just couldn’t resist.

Yum!

If you’re looking for spoilers you will NOT find them here – but you will find a one word review.

Absolutelyfrigginawesomeineveryconceivableway!!!!

If you’re planning to go then you’re going to love it.

If you’re on the fence then hop right off and book a ticket because the answer is ‘YES. IT IS THAT GOOD!’

So that’s that.

This relatively short blog can’t hope to do justice to the complexity of other things going on my in life at the moment.

At times my brain has felt like it’s in danger of melting – but this doesn’t mean that what I’m thinking about is a problem.

Life is so good that my choices now boil down to ‘if I leap in one direction everything will work out but it will be complicated’ and ‘if I leap in the other it will be just as good and just as complex but will work out a little bit different’.

If only all of life’s decisions were like that eh?

Anyway. I better get a move on internet. My newly seated job requires that just like everyone else I have to fit my steps and miles in before or after work.

Off I go.

Davey