Starting somewhere leads to sudden inspiration

Who knows where inspiration and motivation come from? I certainly don’t because oddly when I’ve looked for it (and by this I mean the true change inspiring kind that lasts) I’ve rarely found it.

I remain convinced that (like the chicken and egg paradox) you can’t have inspiration without some element of forcing yourself into the mindset to begin with.

Once you’re on the cusp of belief, and the ball starts rolling then it becomes a self generating phenomenon, and quite out of the blue you start to look in the mirror, feel upbeat, have a spring in your step and realise that you’re making progress.

Since Saturday this is what I’ve been doing – and it might be because there’s a phrase that’s been ringing in my ears. It was something (almost throwaway) that my consultant Angie said to me in Slimming World that’s been playing over and over in my head.

I popped into another meeting yesterday, not to weigh in but to keep my head in the game.

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Angie said to me in passing that I’m in a new phase of my life now, I’m happy and I’m settled, but that I haven’t yet found out what my new motivation is to stay at target – and that I just need to find something that works for me.

After the session ended I found myself walking and thinking about what she’d said.

My initial motivation to give up drinking in January 2016 (way before I joined Slimming World) was to be as unlike my mother as it was humanly possible to be. If I managed that then then the next thing on my list was to be was to still be alive afterwards.

The fact is I realised both objectives and more. I’m still here and I’m healthy (an emphatic tick in one box) and I’m also not a bitter, vindictive, manipulative or an isolated man (a tick in the other.)

The truth is though that whilst we may all arrive somewhere the journey is really only part of the experience. Settlers in a new land (after plonking down the contents of their wagons and pitching their tents) know instinctively that the process of remaining alive starts once they get to where they were going.

I would argue that it’s maybe the ability to survive upon reaching a destination that defines success rather than the difficulty of travelling from A to B – nomatter how epic the voyage was along the way.

Although I’ve always felt uneasy about the use of the ‘I’ word in the past to describe my path toward my target weight (link) I’ve also been very uneasy about people mentioning how incredible it was to lose 21st.

To be honest while I was doing it the numbers really didn’t mean much after a while. All I really cared about was that they were going in the right direction.

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Although I visualised them at the start by comparing them to physical objects in the real world (my favourite at the 7 stone mark was a fridge freezer – link) the truth was that although it was initially helpful to visualise my losses as time went on it became more and more nonsensical.

I tried to use things like a boat trailer and a huge gold ring that weighed 10 stone for their shock value (link) but objects I found online to provide these material representations of my milestone losses became so far removed from my everyday reality that (impressive as they were) they quickly ceased to be much of a personal motivator.

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By February 2018 I’d lost the weight of three fridge freezers or (rather mind bogglingly) two cement mixers (link) – but even now when I look at it knowing that it’s true such a thing doesn’t seem to be possible.

After a while it’s all just numbers, and nothing more.

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Then all of a sudden (around the time of the cement mixer) the unexpected happened. For the very first time in my life I had people telling me that I looked too thin and making me promise not to lose any more weight.

Instead of people being worried I’d eat myself to death they actually appeared to be voicing concern that I may diet myself to an early grave instead.

What does someone who’s struggled with weight all his life do with being told he should relax and that he needs to put weight on?

Well – obviously he relaxes and takes his foot off the gas – which brings me back to my original point.

How do make sense of all this mental spaghetti, deal with a weight gain and find the inspiration to turn it around so that you are motivated again?

Where do the inspirational go when they need to be inspired?

Many many people have asked me (and I think this often comes from the perspective of someone that’s never been seriously obese) ‘what was the moment that you decided to change?’ or ‘what was the straw that broke the camel’s back?’

Whilst I can understand the reason people ask things like this (they want a simple answer about to how to kick start their own route to success most of the time – or they simply want to have a concise and easy to understand soundbite to help grasp the enormity of it all) the simple truth is that almost none of the physical issues I suffered prompted me to change.

It was not wanting to be like my mother that started the ball rolling.

This for me has always been an issue – because I began a very positive journey from a place of emotional pain, and instead of moving toward the light I was instead moving away from the darkness.

This is an important distinction – because I didn’t start out in 2016 with the positive ‘can do’ worldview I have (more often than not) these days. I wasn’t someone that could. I was someone that hated the alternative so much he slowly began to change.

If you want to see how bad my life got without me doing anything to reverse course then have a look at my nonscale victories (link) and you’ll see how much I was capable of putting up with at 35 stone.

The fact is that when people ask why I didn’t do anything sooner (and as MOTY they did – a lot) they imagine themselves, already well and mobile. Then in their mind’s eye overnight they become the moribund lump that I was and they can’t conceive of how they (I) wouldn’t suddenly say ‘that’s enough – no more – I’m changing!’

Often people who ask me this question fail to recognise that cumulatively we can bear a lot and soldier on because ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back‘ often never breaks it.

The camel (in this case me) just got slower and slower and suffered more and more each day, never truly realising how bad things had become. It just accepted that is its life was normal because its memories didn’t stretch back far enough to remember a time of comfort or happiness. Pain has become all it knew.

It couldn’t believe things were ever otherwise and because of this change seemed impossible and the status quo inevitable.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve always been worried that my motivation wasn’t ‘to be the best me I could ever be’ or to ‘awaken my giant within’ (I hate Anthony Robbins and his square jawed face that so readily invites a rapidly moving clenched fist).

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I’ve always moved at light speed away from people like him.

You know…

The inspirational ones.

Maybe I’ve hit on another approach though – because in the absence of a stocky American in businesslike braces I think that the paradox of the chicken and egg is an important one for me to keep at the forefront of my mind.

Maybe there doesn’t have to be an answer or a motivator.

Maybe you just have to learn and accept that there are cycles.

Sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down. Sometimes you’re sad and at others you’re happy. Occasionally you’re rich and at other times you’re poor.

Life happens.

The trick is to remember that to recover from all such phases it takes is a starting point and a recognition that such periods are temporary. If you don’t start trying to be better or positive it’s highly likely that nothing on earth will make you that way. Even if people offer to help ultimately you have to be the one that wants it and chooses to accept it. In order for there to be happiness you have to create it or the conditions for it to arrive and then thrive.

Who knows where the first smile came from? They only seem to arrive when others smile at you first or do something to amuse you. I make a point of smiling at people to generate smiles in return because it makes me feel good – but I learned that behaviour from other people who did the same.

The first smile had to be created by someone somewhere – but where and how?

We’ll never know – and I will never know truly where inspiration (if there is such a thing rather then just a bunch of abstract moments and reactions) comes from – but I know that when I hit the swimming pool this morning I turned into a man on a mission.

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Currently as I type (it’s almost 9pm) my Apple Watch reports that I’ve also walked 11.16 miles and burned almost 3800 active calories today. Crazily that puts my overall expendature for the day at almost 6000!!!

Honestly the last time I did something like that was when I climbed Mt Snowdon (link).

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You might be worried that I’ve decided to go into austerity mode and starve or exercise myself to death in order to eradicate a gain – but nothing could be further from the truth. I really did’t intend to swim as far as I did until… well… I did.

I’m also cooking large, hearty meals that are full of speed and free foods for me and my other half. I’m just making sure that they’re all on plan and that they stop us craving the wrong things.

The point is I’m trying again and that alone makes me feel great.

Success is something else entirely and I just have to trust that this will eventually come if I keep working at it.

I can sense the self sustaining positivity starting to build and it’s a familiar and warm feeling that doesn’t involve me condemning myself or my inner monologue berating me for being a failure.

It’s almost positive enough to tell me that I look just fine in this photo taken before the ball last week with Alan Carr and Margaret Miles-Bramwell (which arrived today).

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It doesn’t really matter that in the photo I’m above my target weight – or that I felt awful and had a burst blood vessel in my eye. Weight is all just a number really. As long as I’m healthy who cares what it is – and I’m also not stupid enough to think that anyone could tell any of that just by looking at this picture.

They just think it looks like a great photo.

I suppose I do too.

So – here’s to not tying myself in knots, trying hard to be better and getting a respectable loss to start the ball rolling in group next Saturday.

Davey

Groove in a Mercedes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday however was rather epic.

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

The inspiration for this was mostly due to the weather.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It wasn’t the only success though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I couldn’t do it.

I wouldn’t have enough room.

I wasn’t flexible enough.

I’d break my car or damage hers.

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

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

Who knew it was possible?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crazily at the time my self image was really struggling.

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

Yet I did it.

I took that first step and gradually began to improve.

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

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

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

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

I’m not alone.

None of us are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davey

(Otherwise known as Dory)

Maybe I can

Sometimes a holiday is in order.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The net result?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know I know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secondly there’s having a new home dynamic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not the way to go though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Saturday I could barely speak.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which I do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It sticks to everything and gets everywhere.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe I can feel good about myself on the day.

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

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

Davey

What is my motivation?

Well as always I find it next to impossible not to beat myself up over what I perceive to be a total lack of impetus and progress on the whole ‘getting back to target’ question.

In real terms I’m currently only half a stone heavier than I was when I first hit target back in February 2018 – and in that respect I feel both fit and healthy.

That was a great day and I felt justifiably proud of my achievements.

I’ll never forget the overwhelming sense of accomplishment and how I cried when I got my target member certificate.

It meant the world to me then and it still does.

Logic tells me therefore that if I was a success in February 2018 then I must still be a success now – because I’m practically the same person.

There are however always other thought processes at work, because for a time after reaching my first target I carried on going.

I lost a further half a stone after that before I came MOTY, taking my weight down to 14 st – which (if I’m honest) became a real struggle to maintain.

Unexpectedly my life went and changed again – and before I knew it (flushed with the endorphins associated with a new relationship) I completely lost my appetite and dropped yet another seven pounds – taking my total loss to a rather mind boggling 21 stone.

For a while this seemed like a good place to be – but eventually I had to face facts. It happened because I was eating practically no food at all.

The same thing was going on with my new girlfriend and between us the weight flew off over a really short space of time.

Then things stabilised.

My appetite returned, I became less worried that occasionally I might fart in front of my partner and that if I did it would make her run for the hills.

She also confirmed that if I used the loo for a number two that I wouldn’t be ostracised from her life.

This came as a great relief – particularly as we had started to spend more than a couple of days together.

As my ablutions returned to normal and we started to have meals together I felt like I wanted to just enjoy life.

In some respects this meant that I also enjoyed it maybe a little too much because eventually several months later I found myself hovering around the 15st mark.

I will admit that this has some consequences – because a stone and a half means larger means that some of my ‘snug’ shirts and waistcoats (many of which were purchased at 13.5 – 14 stone) are now seem less than flattering and that’s a little depressing.

Fundamentally I’m a bit of a shirt addict.

However – these are just clothes and my body feels absolutely fine.

I’m still swimming, walking, spending quality time engaging in energetic activity in many areas of my life and just generally feeling as happy as a pig in poop.

Like most people however that sense of zen like calm quickly evaporates when I try on something that doesn’t fit.

I’ve become very fond of my cargo trousers lately and I’m ashamed to say that it’s because I feel like they hide a multitude of sins.

This is patently nonsense mind you.

I am not fat any more.

This is something that I still occasionally struggle to remember and keep at the forefront of my mind.

I always worry that the guy above is lurking in the background – just waiting to reappear – and by being 7lbs out of target I’m more like him than ever.

Crazy right?

It’s midday and I’ve already walked 6 miles and swum a kilometre.

We couldn’t be further apart and I’m undeniably fitter than I’ve ever been in my life.

Yet some of my shirts don’t fit.

I promised myself that I would never go back and buy larger ones – but maybe I’m just being stupid.

Maybe a wardrobe with ‘options’ is what ‘normal’ people have and they just accept that they will go up from time to time as well as down.

Or is this me trying to excuse my gain (which I view in my mind as a consequence of bad behaviour) and get out of the disagreeable task of losing weight.

I’m struggling with this at the moment – and it oddly it is NOT because I’m eating the wrong food.

The meals that I’m preparing are being consumed by both myself and my partner and she seems to be losing weight currently (which is wonderful because it’s what she’s aiming to to) whereas I’m remaining totally static.

I’m practically taking on the appearance of a bowl of salad due to the amount of fresh vegetables I’m consuming and yet it seems to make no difference.

I’m remaining static on the scales.

Sigh.

So – I’m happy, healthy, comfortable, fit, settled, and in a very very nice place in life. I feel loved and because of that I also feel attractive.

The latter may have something to do with the fact that I have someone constantly pinching my bottom while I’m cooking or washing up – but also because it’s pushing me to face up to how needlessly hard I can be on myself.

Again and again I was told I was too thin at 13.5 stone and that now I look healthy and ‘just right’ – but I’m still struggling to believe it.

The reality is that the jeans in this picture appear to fit me.

I tried them on the other day in Debenhams (despite all of my mental barriers about wearing ‘slim fit’ anything) and they were pretty darned comfortable.

What’s more I actually ended up buying them and my other half definitely approved – because I can confirm that the number of impromptu ‘butt grabbery’ incidents whilst working in the kitchen and putting together garden furniture practically doubled yesterday compared to my experience whilst wearing cargo trousers.

So what do I do?

I want to get back to my old target – but at 14.5 stone many of my shirts will still not be as loose as I’d prefer or simply not fit at all.

Does that mean I just accept that I’m this weight for the time being and stock my wardrobe accordingly or do I keep beating myself up and pushing myself back to my current target of 14st?

I just don’t know – and I’m wondering what my real motivation is at the moment.

I don’t have an underlying health issue to fix.

I don’t feel unloved.

I don’t feel unattractive.

I don’t feel unfit.

I’m wearing slim fit jeans.

What on Earth is my motivation to be anyone other than who I am?

If anyone needs me I’ll be pinching the bridge of my nose and looking thoughtful.

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

Target is a tough place to be

If I’m completely honest the last couple of days have been something of a disappointment when it comes to weight and self perception.

They’ve been very positive and upbeat days otherwise – but my dreams haven’t been great lately so I know that deep down I’m bothered by not just this but a couple of other things too.

When I last posted on Saturday morning in group I was pretty happy – having stepped on the scales (twice just to make sure) and was greeted by the news that I was just about back in target.

The following day however (after eating only plums, salad and weetabix with frozen fruit) the scales told a totally different story.

What the effing eff?! They’ve never let me down like this before and I seriously cannot account for where another eight flipping pounds has appeared from.

This can’t happen overnight – which leads me to think that this is either fluid retention or the scales were telling me total lies on Saturday morning.

I stepped off, stepped on again and saw the same – just like the day before.

Cue a mini self effacing meltdown and several ranty texts to Angie where I railed against the injustice of it all.

The mad thing is that I usually know when this is going to happen. My body feels a certain way and certain ‘snug’ shirts usually tug a little at the waist.

At the moment everything shirt wise fits perfectly – and if anything I feel trimmer than usual.

That’s not reflected on Slimming World’s scales though – which show that despite some serious hard work this week I’m still not back in target.

Now – I almost typed ‘I’ve only lost a pound’ – but the truth of it is that I’ve told so many people at various meetings that there is no such thing as only losing anything.

You either lose or you don’t – and even a maintain is a victory, so I’m going to have to begrudgingly accept my own advice, reframe the narrative and take it on the chin.

Woohoo!!!

I lost a pound!!!

(Note – the author is still not feeling it – but he is working on it)

So – where is the smoking gun?

I’m not in diet mode – and I’m eating all the right foods – but if I’m brutally honest I’m also struggling with portion sizes.

However I’ve been mitigating this by mostly eating SP food.

I’ve also done a lot of exercise.

Since last Monday I’ve swum almost 9km and walked 63 miles.

I’m not blaming this on muscle gain mind you – but the exercise may well have a lot to do with why things feel trimmer.

Anyway – I have to get ready – I have a busy working day ahead of me and I need to get ready.

My next weigh in will be a Saturday in just under two weeks time (thanks to an ever changing work and personal life schedule) so I have to make sure that I remain committed and focused in the meantime.

Sigh.

This being at target business can be a tough place at the best of times – but currently I’m definitely feeling the (entirely self applied) pressure.

I see the 2019 SW MOTY handover point on the horizon and it’s less than a month away.

In the next few weeks so much change (almost all good) is happening that I don’t know what to think about first!!!

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

Armour

Where does the time go?!

It seems to be passing through my fingers like water at the moment and I have no idea how it’s flying by so quickly!

I guess it’s a consequence of being employed full time again that ‘life’ is being crammed into ever decreasing little slots peppered around evenings and weekends.

This weekend is one where I have more time than usual on my hands (not necessarily a good thing in my experience) and I have no travelling at all to do.

This is pretty useful from a shopping point of view though – because my early morning bargain hunting habits at Aldi (which have been neglected for a long time!) were at the front and centre of my mind when I woke up this morning.

It never used to be unusual for me to be patiently waiting outside at 7.55am with my trolly at the ready whilst bopping back and forth to some upbeat tunes on my AirPods.

Today because I was able to get there super early I LOADED my basket with red sticker bargains (anything with one of these beauties is HALF PRICE) and now have enough meat in my freezer to feed a small army.

I did spend a little more than I planned to though – but hey ho. It’s all relative and at least I didn’t lose the plot in Waitrose!

To underline that I was shopping at the right place an unexpected benefit jumped out at me when I found the last few of these on the shelf.

It’s probably considered sacrilege if you’re a true Nespresso addict to buy 3rd party pods – but since Aldi sell 10 for £1.69 for vs £5 for official ‘speciality’ ones (and I can’t honestly tell the difference) I really can’t recommend the more expensive alternative with a clear conscience.

The caramel ones in particular seem to be rarer than rocking horse poop and consequently I swept the lot of them into my basket as soon as I saw them on the shelf.

Even if you stick to the standard pods it’s still £2.30 dearer to buy a pack of 10 direct from Nespresso.

These are therefore a flipping bargain!!!

The only guilt I harbour about buying them is that from an ecological perspective the disposable plastic in the 3rd party pods from supermarkets are crap of the highest order.

Nespresso have the right idea about recycling the aluminium in the ones that they sell and making it (theoretically) ‘easy’ to do so.

However I placed that descriptor in inverted commas for a reason.

If like me you’ve ever tried to return the aluminium ones via the couriers that drop the Nespresso pod deliveries off you’ll realise that they first of all don’t like filling their vans with recycling and secondly the drivers look at you like you’re Jimmy Saville if you insist that they take something that they’ve already been contracted to pick up on the order form.

It’s both stressful and annoying when they refuse and the whole situation of continual doorstep conflict eventually made me move away from their ‘solution’ and never go back.

Being skint helped too.

That was admittedly the final deciding factor.

I needed a nice coffee today more than ever if I’m honest – and these definitely fitted the bill. The one in the picture represented my third shot – and after a slightly slower than normal feeling when I awoke today I finally had a nice ‘get up and go’ buzz in my head.

On most days (since my heath improved)  I have this buzz regardless of whether I have coffee or not – but the last two nights have been characterised by a distinct lack of sleep.

I’m not having nightmares – but my thoughts are definitely unsettled at the moment and I’m having a silly recurring dream about my phone breaking into loads of little bits.

It will pass though.

I know why these thoughts are present and truthfully they’re not there for a bad reason. The future has never seemed brighter and I can’t seem to get aspects of it out of my mind. I can be pretty obsessive at times and although I can put this trait to good use if I bend it to my will it also means that I often overthink both the bad and the good things in life.

There are ways of diverting my attention though – and Slimming World is one of them.

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Although I didn’t weigh in today (since I only have to do this every 8 weeks now and I have decided to not stress and pressure myself every week) it was wonderful to see everyone and hear Angie chat to the group.

Saturdays have become increasingly difficult for me and what used to be something I went to religiously is now something that’s unfortunately more and more sporadic.

Even though I’ve been going to Angie’s groups for over three years (I started in April 2016) there’s always something new to learn and I never fail to walk away feeling anything less than positive.

It’s not just her though. The group raffle was won by a lovely regular there who I always have a good chuckle with – and since she’s not a huge fan of cooking she gave her winnings to me!

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How nice was that of her?!

I plan to cook it tomorrow and post a picture on the group’s page – so let’s hope I don’t screw it up!

Shortly after the meeting I headed out for a walk with another friend and had a wander around some shops in town, where we both found a couple of little bargains.

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I couldn’t resist these cufflinks (£4!) even though at the moment I don’t have a pressing need to wear any.

They represent something far more than a shirt sleeve fastening though – and when I put them on I will have a very personal reason for wearing them.

I know that they will make me feel happy because of that and these are special occasion cufflinks – meant to be worn when I need to feel confident and as if I’m not doing something on my own.

It sounds daft but these cufflinks are going to be armour.

I need it sometimes too – because whilst I feel that things are going well (better in fact than they ever have before in my entire life) tonight I can’t help dwelling upon moments where I should have done things differently in the past.

My choices led me down so many dark paths, and I slowed my progress in life more than I should have. In many respects I can’t completely blame myself for all of the daft decisions I took – but I wish I’d woken up to the reality of what I was becoming a lot earlier.

Now when I look at the changes that I want to carry on making it sometimes seems like I’ve wasted too much time – and that the journey to get to where I want to be will not only be harder still but really lengthy as well.

Still – no-one ever said that things worth having come easily, and having seen the capabilities and history of those close to me recently I realise that I need to make more effort to improve myself.

I’ve fixed the body and now it’s time for the mind, and if (in less than two years) I can move from this man:

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To this man:

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…then there’s nothing I can’t accomplish.

Davey

Ley line walk from Upton House

There are times when I really am my own worst enemy. I worry and stress about such silly things.

My recent internal struggle with what weight I must or must not be sits squarely in this camp. It really shouldn’t be on my mind though because life at the moment is good.

Very good.

Sure – there are things I still need to fix – such as my employment status – but even this seems to have an unexpected sense of impetus surrounding it all of a sudden.

Maybe it’s just the right time of year.

Sunshine is becoming more and more a feature of daily life as the seasons gradually change and winter cements itself into spring.

The now longer days seem to have had a subtly dappled light within the last week or so and the keenly awaited warmth they’ve brought has been reaching deep down inside me.

With this I have a sense that my soul is slowly being replenished.

On Thursday I was out and about with a friend who likes to occasionally go ‘off piste’ and capitalise on rare moments of good weather.

It was a good day to get outside.

She had suggested we try a new walk (found on the National Trust website here) that we’d not done before. This stared at Upton House and looped around Edgehill – somewhere I’d only previously seen in the distance before from another place that I’ve regularly visited – Burton Dassett (link) (another link) (yet another link).

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We started our walk in the corner of the deserted car park of Upton House.

It’s a National Trust property, and (unlike many I’ve been to over the past few years) the parking is completely free. You just hop out of your vehicle, through a small gate and into a field to begin.

Initially the walk was anything but spectacular.

The field next to Upton House had recently been ploughed and although the light was nice the surroundings were flat, featureless and brown.

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It wasn’t until we’d passed over a road, through another field and down a little dirt track that the glory of where we were slowly came into view.

This is the site of The Battle of Edgehill – fought on the 23rd of October 1642 – and it marks (at least from a military engagement perspective) the starting point of the English Civil war, where Royalist forces first engaged Parliamentarian troops.

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According to the National Trust site the Malvern Hills could be seen in the distance to the left – but I couldn’t quite make them out with my naked eye.

I’m beginning to think that I need to get myself a little pair of trekking binoculars, because sights like this would provide an excellent justification for spending a few pounds.

Vistas like this make you both reflective and thoughtful – and as we stood pondering both the natural beauty and the significance of what had taken place all those years ago the conversation shifted to my feelings about the future and what it may hold.

At the moment all I see is potential and promise stretching out before me – and the marvel of this is that I’m in no hurry to do anything or make any decision about what my next steps should be.

I’m just trusting that everything will become apparent – and whatever is meant to happen will just naturally unfold over time.

The sky seemed to agree.

The clouds were lazily floating by on their way to somewhere else without a care in the world.

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After marvelling at the view for a little while we continued along the top of the (soon to be tree covered) ridgeline.

Fortuitously it benefits from a deciduous canopy and is therefore (at least for the moment) completely defoliated – which means there are currently wonderful views to be found all the time as you walk.

All you have to do is stop and peer between the bare branches and tree trunks surrounding the well worn path.

After about three miles of walking our mid-way (ish) marker came into view.

It was the turret of the Castle Inn – and as pubs go it’s a pretty nice looking one.

According to the sign outside, the turret contains fully ensuite guest quarters.

Therefore if one should so wishes they can stay here overnight, get treated to some (apparently delightful) hospitality and then wake up to a glorious view in the morning – which would look a little something like this.

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It’s a delightfully and very characterful little pub – and aside from the suit of armour on the wall, just inside the doorway is evidence that they like to think of things slightly differently.

On the wall to the right are the loveliest coat hooks I’ve seen for ages.

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Where you might hang up your jacket isn’t the only thing of interest mind you.

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The castle is dripping with history – and as we sat sipping coffee and ginger beer (you can probably guess which of the two belonged to me) I noticed a little piece of card by the drinks menu.

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I love little touches like this – and as I read it I was reminded that this is why certain items are considered collectible antiques that become particularly valuable and others do not.

Provenance.

Without it a building would just be a pretty collection of bricks and none of them would be listed for preservation. With some knowledge of the past though we begin to look at inanimate items or localities differently and build an image in our minds that forms part of such an experience.

Ultimately nothing is valuable unless we choose to place importance upon it.

It’s all transient. Everything is either new or old, rare or abundant – and significance is completely subjective.

We can see beauty in many things and for some that may be a reason to ascribe importance – but the history of a place or object adds context.

It’s here the much of the value we ascribe to any object lies.

Just like my thoughts regarding the future – my happiness and satisfaction in life are completely based on my perspective and imagination.

I’ve decided that it’s bright because I have a narrative history in my mind about what preceeded it and what’s currently within it.

I see the present as better than the past and therefore I appreciate the present even more.

Together they give my life context and meaning and I choose to see that as positive.

To any casual observer nothing is different.

I still have the same head, the same brain sits within it and my body trails along behind it as it always has.

The positivity or negativity we experience when we consider the future are much like our imagination creating provenance in an object.

Sure – it might be truth – but it’s also the past. It’s gone forever and what remains is what we choose to see.

We continually construct our own reality and choose to live within it.

How many times have you told yourself you’re meant to be a certain way because you’ve always been like that – or that someone abused or treated you badly, and that this narrative still dictates your choices in later life?

Maybe this is why you’re unhealthy or feel unfulfilled?

What if your reality was different?

What if your own personal provenance was as easy to shift as writing a new history on the back of a piece of card and slipping it in between the menus of your life.

It’s totally possible.

The power of imagination and belief is within all of us – yet many choose to view it as dried cement rather than clay that they can still mould.

Not me.

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As we left the pub and continued on our way I couldn’t help but admire the little splashes of beauty everywhere.

Much of the walk took very little in the way of perspective and provenance to appreciate.

It was fabulous.

Sometimes all you need is a spot of sunshine, a handful of fruit and nut that your friend has given you – and a nice green field to stop and eat it in.

As we came close to the end of the walk and reached Uplands Farm it appeared that at some point either an overzealous landlord had covered up the right of way (or we took a wrong turn) because the path completely disappeared.

We were trying to figure out exactly how to correct our course when the yappiest (and cutest) little Jack Russell came out from the farm to ensure that we moved along.

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It continued to ineffectually bark and growl at us for a good five minutes until we finally submitted to it’s surprisingly compelling argument and moved along – choosing instead to hop over a locked gate and head for the country lane we new we had to be on slightly further down.

All in all the walk came to around 6.4 miles and was absolutely delightful.

Although we didn’t go in I also believe that (as well as the Rose and Crown pub along the way) further refreshments can be found at Upton House, should anyone wish to pop in.

Either way – it was a lovely little trek, and it helped me re-set and re-centre my perspective.

I’ll be going back there soon.

Davey

Regardless of where I am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So – as a consequence I’ve been overeating.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m gonna do it.

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

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

That’s all over now though.

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

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

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

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

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

I need to stop doing it.

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

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

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

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

It’s hard though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope it helps others too.

Davey

 

Leaning into Grassman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clutter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I finished my degree before the millennium…

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

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

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

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

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

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

This only slightly lifted my mood however.

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

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

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

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Sigh.

An alphabetised shelving unit is a thing of beauty.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a fact.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

So – it’s all about perception.

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

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

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

Honesty and truth are the only ways forward.

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

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

Lean into people internet.

They won’t let you down.

Davey

Diamond target membership award

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In contrast the diamond target membership is different.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today internet I’m a happy boy.

Davey

Cementing my future

It’s not difficult to feel good on a day like today. The sun is shining again during a week of glorious weather – and I’ve spent the entirety of the last week and a half doing things I love doing.

This roughly translates into being continually outdoors (in this case walking with Boris and his pet human) making the most of each and every single moment of my life.

Boy.

What a great time it is to be living it.

As well as more familiar haunts lately I’m also getting to know entirely new parts of the UK and while I do I’m in wonderful company.

My new partner in crime and I seem to have unnervingly similar interests at times (I cant fault someone that fully gets a casual geeky Kobayashi Maru reference in conversation) and the more time we spend together the more these synergies become apparent.

I’ve managed to fall into the orbit of a truly like minded individual and any worries I might have had about bending myself or someone else around divergent interests when I found a partner have completely evaporated.

As well as being unrepentant nerds we’re both extremely outdoorsy and both focused on continual self improvement.

It’s not just discovering new places to explore and getting exercise together that’s making me feel so at peace though.

Not only has being in a relationship that’s reciprocal and genuine kept me on the straight and narrow with regard to health but it’s made me realise how impoverished I previously was when it came to human contact.

I suddenly appreciate all its nuances acutely.

That’s not to say I felt lonely in the past – or that I was in deficit with regard to human interaction or lacked great friends – but I now realise that there’s absolutely zero replacement to be found for the feeling that you’re not only in love but that you’re being loved in return.

I have at times been accused of being a soppy git – and if this was a judicial statute with penal servitude attached I may well be doing porridge at her majesty’s pleasure – but I honestly don’t care.

I’ve come way too far in life to not appreciate everything good about my world – and at the moment it’s full of all the things I wanted but never thought I’d be able to obtain.

It doesn’t hurt in the least of course that while I walk hand in hand with my significant other she doesn’t bat an eyelid while I munch on a bag of carrots.

As if all of this soppiness wasn’t enough yesterday also marked something of a milestone – because (as regular readers may know) it represented 366 days since I hit my target weight on 24th February 2018.

Although in real terms I’m now a stone lighter than that day – I’ve now managed to maintain my weight for a staggering (at least to my mind) whole year without (major) incident.

This is the first time in my entire life that I’ve ever managed to do this.

I’ve lost significant amounts of weight many times in the past – but never so much and never for such a sustained period of time without immediately piling all of it (and more besides) back on again.

Losing weight (in some respects) is relatively easy mind you.

I know that this may sound like I’m trivialising it for those that still struggle but if you’re like me (even though mentally it can be a real battle at times) and you’re presented with a reward structure there is always a reason to succeed outside of just feeling physically and mentally better.

I like pats on the head.

In Slimming World you get pats on the head all the time if you’re a good boy.

If you’re not Slimmer of the Week then you can be Slimmer of the Month. Body Magic gives you bronze, gold and then platinum awards.

If you hit a weight loss milestone you get certificates as well as stickers (who doesn’t love stickers?!) and people comment continually on how different you look.

For the luckier men in groups we can get also a Mr Sleek or MOTY award.

Maybe eventually we might even become the national (3rd) greatest loser.

I became the National MOTY 2018!

There’s everything to play for, plenty to keep you motivated and I’ve experienced it all along the way.

For almost three years everyone I know (without exception) has had trouble recognising me as I rapidly changed shape – which was an addictive thrill quite like no other.

My clothes continually changed size and everything was a moving target.

Things were exciting and new all the time.

That’s not the case when you hit target though – because the ever present buzz of success (or occasional low of failure) is soon gone.

In many ways the only options are to fail or… well… to fail… because ‘winning’ is basically normality – and your success is something others take for granted in their own lives because they are (mostly) already sober or fit and healthy.

Now you’re just soberingly normal and without warning the pressure is really on.

Some will have you believe that your success is temporary – and if you listen to them it’s easy to believe their opinions.

After all – you’ve failed before so what’s stopping it happening again?

Now your journey has become the twin (often gruelling) battles of self belief and self perception and at times you find yourself waging war on a stage with only yourself present.

It can be very lonely no matter who is by your side.

The glamour of success has to be inside your own head and therefore a new internal struggle begins to view yourself and your life in a continually positive light.

You have to learn to erase years of self loathing and regrets and live in a new future of possibilities.

To enable this there have to be new challenges and new reasons to get up and each day you need to try just a little harder.

You can’t stay still.

If you do then you stagnate.

One of my distraction techniques has been the drive to reach my diamond target member status – and yesterday (after a week and a half on what can only be termed ‘holiday’ outside of my normal routine) I attended Angie’s Monday group and stood nervously on the scales.

If I’m perfectly truthful (whilst many consider me achieving this to have been a forgone conclusion) it was in doubt for me right up until the night before – and I was at the upper end of my current target range whilst standing on the scales in my pants at 3am after having absolutely zero sleep.

This is never good – as anyone that regularly weighs in will know.

You need to wear clothes for a start (society has many unreasonable expectations designed to thwart us) and also know that you’re not going to be out of range when you step on.

There’s an acceptable margin for error and all of us slimmers understand what their personal one is.

But you know what?

I only went and frikkin did it!

I weighed in a year after (in the last but one entry in my book – which now shows a complete record of my journey) bang on where I needed to be at EXACTLY TWENTY ONE STONE LIGHTER than when I started Slimming World in April 2016.

Wow.

It’s quite something.

I decided however that while the date is significant (I aimed for this day precisely because it’s exactly a year) my Saturday group is all important to me – and when I accept my diamond target member certificate and badge I want to be there amongst them this coming weekend – so I declined the opportunity to take it with me when I left on Monday.

The Saturday guys made it all possible and I wouldn’t have managed it without their support.

They’ve all lifted me up over and over again when I’ve felt like I was struggling and in my view proved to be the difference between a bad week and a good one many times.

Amongst their number (past and present) are many close friends now and I can’t imagine what life would be without the structure Angie and this group have provided.

Things may be changing for me (who knows where my future lies) but this little session will always mean the world to me.

It’s because of them for instance that I started using visualisations in the early days – and to pay homage to this habit I visited B&Q today and found a cement mixer.

It’s not instantly visible in the upper right hand side of the top photo – but this hefty plant machinery is 70.2 kg.

My own loss is almost 134kg – making me a mind boggling TWO CEMENT MIXERS SMALLER THAN I WAS WHEN I STARTED.

So how did I celebrate this milestone?

Well – frankly (since it’s been literally years since I had any) I decided to scratch an itch I’ve had for a long time and finally help myself to some Christmas cake.

Sure – it’s not Christmas – and it’s horrendously fattening but I don’t care.

I loved every single little last crumb of it – and it doesn’t matter because today I’m right back on plan.

This is the power of flexible syns.

You just accept whatever you’ve enjoyed – take it on the chin, forgive yourself if necessary and move right along.

No longer does a mouthful of food define me for ever.

No longer am I shackled to a fear that at some point I will inevitably backslide.

No longer am I the man that I was because my future is set in cement.

This is me internet.

Forever.

Davey

The battle continues

Even at the best of times it can be really hard to remain focused on one’s goals (regardless of how important they are) and in this case mine is to remain in target for the whole of February.

I weighed in earlier than usual (or later, depending on how you look at it) on Monday and managed to maintain my weight – coming in at exactly 13st 7lbs.

Honestly I went a bit off plan after that (don’t we all after weighing in?) and ever since I’ve been trying to slot myself back into ‘the zone‘.

When it comes to maintaining weight this is a difficult place to be because mentally you’re ‘already there’.

Often you feel like you’ve ‘done it’ – and all too easily this can translate into relaxing way too much.

In my case I did a bit – and it’s meant that I’ve eaten more than I normally would, walked a bit less, and occasionally stayed in bed listening to the wind and rain outside when I really should have gotten up and walked to the leisure centre for a swim.

It’s not been a completely ‘shut in’ week mind you. I’ve still been exercising.

For instance the other day I spent quite a while walking to, around and from Coombe Abbey.

This place always looks lovely.

It seems to also have intriguing little micro climates too – because whilst the duck pond was completely frozen over just metres away in the woods spring appeared to be in full effect!

I adore these little flashes of new life poking through the undergrowth – and it’s not just aesthetics that they’re good for.

I need to get outside in order to maintain a positive mindset – and regardless of how grey the skies are when I do (and see things like this) I’m always reminded that there’s something lovely to be found nearby.

It makes me feel connected to the world – and that I’m also alive and continually growing.

On other brighter days this week (when I’ve been out of bed early enough to see the sun come up) I’ve also been treated to some absolutely fabulous skies.

Being outside never fails to give me a sense of well-being and positivity.

There are other reasons to feel good too.

At the very least if I get up, go for a walk and have a swim then these activities offset at least some of my bad behaviour, and if I’m in a grump about over eating this causes my mood to lift.

However I have to be careful about thinking that exercise fixes everything because this is a potentially self defeating mindset to get into.

Ultimately no amount of it (at least in my experience) will make up for continually not sticking to plan.

Ultimately you’ll get sick of swimming back and forth or walking ever larger distances way before you ever get bored of eating nice food.

So this morning represents something of a line in the sand.

I really don’t like ‘drawing lines’ – because if I’m honest (for no good reason) the phrase irritates me intensely.

However today it seems appropriate. If I don’t rein in my overeating then when the end of the month rolls around I’ll be scuppered.

I decided therefore to make a stand against my own bad behaviour, get up early and go for it at the swimming pool.

Despite almost stopping and calling it a day after 60 lengths (I felt really tired!) today I pushed on and finally managed to do 100 continuous lengths at St Nicholas.

Thats 2.5km and it accounts for nearly 2000kcal burned before 9am!

I’m not chasing any records though.

I’ve stopped trying to beat previous times because I’ve pretty much plateau’d in that respect – and without significantly improving my technique (I still don’t put my head under water during the breaststroke) I doubt anything will change.

At least for the moment I’m happy to remain very much an amateur swimmer. It hasn’t hindered my ability to exercise one little bit and my average speed is still quite respectable.

There are several people doing front crawl in the ‘fast’ lane that I’m regularly keeping pace with – and so far I’ve noticed no-one at all swimming for as long or as continuously as I tend to do.

At the moment I have immense pride that when I swim in the morning I’m usually in the pool well before the usual regulars and get out well after them.

Furthermore, unlike many of them I don’t stop at all now.

The entirety of my time in the water is spent swimming, rather than pausing and nattering or taking a breather.

Whilst many people I see each day swim much faster than me almost none swim so continuously.

For those who haven’t been following my blog for a long time I only recently started swimming again (November the 16th – link) and the very first time I tried my arms simply weren’t up to the job.

I had to pause at each end of the pool for a minute or so to let the aching subside before going again.

It’s amazing how quickly this improved however – and within a couple of weeks things were quite different.

Not only am I chuffed to bits with my overall fitness and stamina gains but I’ve been really pleased with the visual and physical improvements over the last three months in my arms, chest, shoulders and back.

At times though it’s mildly disheartening – because whilst from a muscular perspective I am stronger than I’ve ever been, from a skin perspective I still have way more than I need.

However – when I embarked upon this path in life I never set out to look like a catalogue model.

I’ve always known that this will never be my reality.

My body has a history. For better or for worse I have to live with it and accept it, because there will never come a day when I decide to cut bits off for vanity.

The truth is I have learned to love some parts of myself and simply accept the bits that I currently can’t.

Then unexpectedly proof positive arrived not so long ago to remind me that this kind of thing really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

My new partner in crime has proved to me that I can still be loved regardless of my imperfections.

When someone you adore can look at you and not notice (or care about) all of the faults that you think are so huge it’s a timely reminder that there’s only one real competitor in any race.

Yourself.

Only you stand between where you begin and the finish line.

Your faults, failures, flaws and shortcomings are never as big as you think they are – and even if some of these seem larger than life it really only ever comes down to your personal opinion.

If self belief and self perception are aligned then you can accomplish amazing things – and it never hurts for me to remind yourself of this.

I continue to do this with comparison shots.

Whilst I still have an uneasy relationship with pictures of myself from the past and present nothing makes me prouder than contrasting a practically immobile man that I no longer recognise in an 8XL shirt and 66in waist trousers with a guy wearing a medium jacket and 34in jeans.

It’s also worthwhile remembering when I look at these that I’ve effectively lost more than an entire overweight father (sitting to the right of me) who told me when I started in April 2016 that I had to lose more than his (at the time) 19st frame to get to where I needed to be.

It’s also something of a personal triumph to know that his confessed irritation with seeing me drop from almost 35st to below his weight proved to be a catalyst for him to take action.

Consequently he lost pretty much all of his excess too – and my father (who is not far away from his 80th annual increment) now weighs in at a lower weight than I do – having lost somewhere between 6-7 stone.

So – the (endless) battle continues.

For all of us.

Just like my dad I’m still working towards my goals, still trying to get better, and still challenging myself to do new things.

Hopefully by the end of February internet this attitude will pay dividends and I’ll get my diamond target member badge.

You’ll have to come back and see if I do closer to the time!

Davey

Difficult day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then I found the gut punch.

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

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

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

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

Referring to me she says to my father:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I just never saw it as a child.

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

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

They were generated by her.

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

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

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

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

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

It never did though.

It would go on for hours and hours.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s nothing but wallpaper with cut out silhouettes.

Why keep it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My brother and I looked at the wall.

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

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

I turned my head.

This was new.

She’d never said anything like this before.

‘David.’ She said. ‘I regret…’

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

‘…I regret that when you left home…’

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

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

I looked at her and then to my brother.

Honestly in that moment she released me.

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

I never had a chance.

I could never have understood her or fixed anything.

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

At least now all her paintings are gone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davey

Three years sober

Anniversaries. They’re funny things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alcohol was the last but one thing to go.

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

Unlike booze though food will always be there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Booze didn’t care in the least.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davey

Diabetes update 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Despite this the frost was far from melted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Since then things have changed quite a bit.

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

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

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

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Now I do.

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

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

How crazy is that?

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

How on earth is all of this possible?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Success in this area is not magic though.

It’s all about mindset.

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

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

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Davey

Learning things

You can learn something new every minute of every day.

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

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Who knew?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh.

I’m clearly just not that smart.

It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

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

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

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

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

I’m no longer running a solitary race.

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

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

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

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

I saw myself as a parasite.

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

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

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

All I knew was that I had to reach it.

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

Deep down I knew that this was my last chance.

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

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

I’d done it.

I’d fixed everything.

Only I hadn’t.

Not really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was huge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I won.

Or at least I thought I had.

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

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

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

I felt alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Davey

 

Health outcomes and why you should try

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

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

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

It’s always nice to arrive with a present.

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

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

Then they also make me stand on the scales.

Sometimes twice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But did I think this was the right approach?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Their advice states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh.

How annoying.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

choose to be healthier.

choose to be fitter.

choose to invite love and friendships into my life.

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

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

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

After all – what other motivation do we really need?

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

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

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

It’s why YOU should too.

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

Davey