Rome is burning and diabetes isn’t returning

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

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

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

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

Plus, time flew by.

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

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

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

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

I never felt like I did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will try not to let it down.

I have good reason not to.

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_6735.jpeg

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

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

In other news… (minor rant ahead)

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

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

I’m talking about technology.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I still am.

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

It’s not just TV’s though.

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

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

fridge

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

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

It still keeps the milk cold even now.

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

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

hal2001.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh.

The point is that all of this is scary.

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

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

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

Rome.

I’m telling you.

Great-Fire-of-Rome-Featured-1280x720.jpg

I can hear Nero fiddling now…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was 94 on the chart and she was 93.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hba1c-chart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davey

Diabetes update 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

I guess my body is the same.

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

Sigh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That has to be good right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I start TOMORROW!

(Drums fingers whilst thinking…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a partnership thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope this job is the one.

I really do.

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

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

Diabetes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway. I need sleep.

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

Back later today…

(Author goes back to bed)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My HbA1c level is now twenty four!!!

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

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

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

Hmmm.

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

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

Let’s hope I can sleep!!!

Davey

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.

IMG_0390.jpg

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.

IMG_0400.jpg

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).

img_0455

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.

DD7A1A4A-1F07-4C5C-A54A-D679973DF879.jpg

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.

IMG_0454.jpg

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.

img_0450img_0382

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.

IMG_0441.jpg

hba1c-chart

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.

most hated photo 2 (1)

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.

img_0300

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.

blood pressure 17th jan 2019

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.

IMG_0259.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

choose to be healthier.

choose to be fitter.

choose to invite love and friendships into my life.

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

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

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

After all – what other motivation do we really need?

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

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

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

It’s why YOU should too.

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

Davey

2019 and beyond

Good grief I’m cold.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How short my memory appears to be!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a joy.

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

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

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

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

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

I want to live for the future.

But what does that future hold?

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

Instead I want the following:

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

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

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

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

Davey

Lontong Sayur

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did all this make you feel?

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

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

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

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

Sometimes sharing a memory is about reconnecting.

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

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

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

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

However – we’d need to get there early.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_9713.jpg

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

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

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

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

A taste of home.

A taste of her life as a child.

IMG_9716.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_9718

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

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

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

IMG_9720.jpg

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

Nostalgia and Comics.

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

IMG_9729

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

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

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

IMG_9730

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This place is part of the story of me.

It’s my Lontong Sayur.

Davey

Very damp

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

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

I’m very damp.

In no particular order…

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

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

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

IMG_8232.jpg

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

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

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

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

The whole meal came to around £3.50!

img_8206

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_8221.jpg

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

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

Watch this space internet!!!

Davey

Triggers and target outcome

I may be a target member (currently lapsed) but I’ll be completely honest and say that I’ve been like a cat on hot bricks about whether or not I’d be back in my target range this week.

I’ve been really really focused this month regarding my adherence to #onplanoctober and as I’ve previously mentioned this has paid dividends.

I’ve been closely monitoring and recording my eating, weight and exercise every day for the whole of the month so far. Even though I’ve not weighed in for the last two Saturdays I’ve barely taken my eye off the ball at all – and when I have I’ve forgotten about it and moved swiftly on the next day.

Whatever happened on the scales today would be by the skin of my teeth though – and I’m being completely open here when I say I even weighed my clothes before putting them on.

Furthermore I went for a long walk in the dark at 6.45am and I took ZERO prisoners.

Although for a while I’ve been able to easily get under the 15 minute mile mark what I’ve not really tried to do very often is sustain it lap after lap.

Since everyone needs targets, improving my 4 mile time has been something of a ‘thing’ for me.

When I first started Slimming World (some seasoned readers may remember) a guy casually mentioned that he walked four miles in an hour. Since it took me about an hour and a half to do one mile at the time this quickly became something I was obsessed with.

It took me a couple of years to get to the point where I could comfortably do the same – and now my breathing barely changes when I (regularly) crack the four mile hour.

My record for a mile walked (admittedly with a little jogging involved) is now 13 minutes 23 seconds – but I’m not really interested in short sharp bursts.

I want capabilities that enable sustained, effortless exercise and that means pacing myself.

Unfortunately that doesn’t yet equal shake free selfies in the low light conditions of the park at 7am or an expression that resembles a man that isn’t smuggling a coat hanger in his mouth.

But I digress – and I’m teasing you dear reader – because you no doubt want to know how I fared on the scales.

Since I have your undivided attention though I shall abuse it further and make you wait a little longer – because I have one more thing to talk about.

Triggers.

Angie was oddly enough talking about these in group today – which was prescient because it’s been on my mind all week long.

Hers was sugar – and in many respects when she became allergic to the stuff it was a huge tick in her personal win column.

She’s confessed both in private and in front of the group that since this happened she’s had to bulk up on other kinds of food because she’s struggled to keep weight on rather than lose it.

Without sugar in her life creating supplemental cravings (and the increased risk of diabetes) she flew down a dress size and is (in her words) ‘smaller than when she was born‘ now.

I’m not one to challenge a lady’s honesty – and I’ve never met her mother (who may be positively Herculean) but I struggle to wrap my mind around the logistics of that particular event.

I also can’t find any mention of it in medical text books, so I’ll just leave her tenuous statement (and mental image) alone for now and move swiftly along.

Personally I’ve never had a sweet tooth. My dad and my brother do – but it’s never been my Achilles heel.

I didn’t crave sugary food when I started Slimming World – and I haven’t had a chocolate bar for probably more than three years.

Instead my weakness is (and always has been) savoury food.

However – there’s one thing I do that completely undermines this blanket statement.

I doubt Angie noticed what was different about me as she talked about sugar being her weakness. If she’d been paying close attention she may have noticed that this week I wasn’t munching on a hi-fi bar.

They’re lovely.

I adore them.

I also usually eat an entire box of them on a Saturday morning during image therapy as my treat for doing well – and generally this is the start of a largely (or utterly) off plan Saturday.

I’m focused at the moment though. I’m having NO SUCH THING derail me and I’m making sure that I do as much as I possibly can to limit the days this month where I ‘screw the pooch’.

I didn’t buy any and therefore I didn’t eat any. When I walked into town for a coffee shortly afterwards I did so with (no joke) a pocket full of carrots.

So – my satellite objective this October is to avoid triggers.

When I do good things happen.

Like getting back into target baby!!!!

(Drops the mic, exits stage left)

Davey

Eyeballs

Today I have a digital eye screening for diabetic retinopathy.

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

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

Bright light will hurt.

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

It’s as pleasant as it sounds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had a HbA1c reading of 94.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe that’s a good thing though.

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

I don’t plan to any time soon.

Anyway.

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

Sigh.

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

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

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

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

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

Davey

Elvis is cute

The day stared with a bit of a surprise. I noticed a slip of paper by my front door telling me that a neighbour had a parcel for me.

I nipped over the road to collect it.

Without any fanfare it seems that the guys at Slimming World had sent me a really nice little care package with some bits and bobs for me to try out based on my interests.

In this case my love of cooking from fresh.

They had included a funky Slimming World apron and a copy of their new ‘Take 5’ cookbook – which is currently free in groups with a 12 week countdown.

(Yep – that’s a shameless plug. I believe in going to group and I believe in the recipes and plan. It’s not sponsored. It’s just my honest opinion which happens to match theirs!)

The truth of it is this is something of a timely arrival because while I was in London last week I couldn’t put my recycling out – and because I didn’t do that I now have three weeks worth of plastic waste awaiting collection.

It will be four by the time they collect it next Friday – and this growing little pile of pots that I’ve been diligently washing and stacking in my recycling bin on a daily basis demonstrates that I still have some compulsive behaviour patterns and I that at heart I’m still a creature of habit.

Not only do I feel happy when there’s regularity but I really like cottage cheese with onion and chives from Aldi.

It’s now become my daily treat rather than a kebab (2000kcal) or a bag of chips (1000kcal) and at around 170kcal a pot I think it’s a pretty darned great substitute.

Variety is the spice of life however – so I’m gonna cook something NEW with all their ingredients and tell you all what I think.

Watch this space!

So – how did group go?

Well I had a great time!

All of the ladies were in fine spirits and one of them had even brought along her super cute French Bulldog to say hello.

Meet Elvis.

He’s a happy little two year old who has a real enthusiasm for investigation – and he spent most of the session meeting and greeting people by nudging his way between chairs and sniffing people’s bags, legs and hands.

How lovely is he?!

However – cute hounds aside you probably want to know what went on when I stood on the scales.

My weigh in today went well and was an (expected) gain – but I’m still well within my target range.

To be honest I thought it would be worse because this week has been a bit of a long one.

I was going to say ‘tough’ but that would be overselling it somewhat because it hasn’t been particularly hard in the great scheme of things.

I just feel a little ‘depleted’.

An ever present underlying tiredness when I wake in the morning has led me to eat a little more than I normally would and I also seem to have retained a bit more fluid.

Heat sucks in this respect.

The weather has also made the walk to work and back something of a sapping task and I’ve seen my split times for the miles I’ve covered decrease from just over 15 minutes to over 17 on occasion.

I haven’t walked that slowly for a long time – but crucially I’m still walking. The heat is a powerful motivator to sit down and do nothing – but I refuse.

Mostly because of sheer bloody minded obstinacy my current monthly average distance per day is sitting at an all time high and despite a historic heatwave in the UK that’s been going on for about six weeks by the end of yesterday I was up to 11.4 miles a day for July.

I have to say though that something has been playing on my mind regarding distance walked – and despite promising the PR ladies of SW that I wouldn’t read the comments at the bottom of online newspaper stories about me, one day last weekend I did.

The comment (on the Daily Mail site) was actually the only even vaguely critical one out of many many supportive ones (no-one could be more surprised than me) and I don’t know why it stuck in my mind – but it did.

He looks great, well done! That said, I do wonder where he finds the time. It will take most people 2 hours to cover 10 miles (16k!) ; that is 14 hours a week on top of work, commute, chores, errands and a substantial time spent on cooking from scratch. I am all for an active lifestyle, but for most people it would be easier and more maintainable to aim for 3-5 miles a day and just eat a little less.’

It’s actually quite a nice comment in its own way and what he/she says is all quite true – although the commentator clearly doesn’t realise that my mileage is partially thanks to my commute rather than in addition to it.

(For the benefit of newer readers I walk a total of six miles a day back and forth to work and two miles occasionally at lunch if I have a break.)

I guess it tugged at some buried guilt though.

This is regarding one of the things that I’ve written about a lot – but few I’ve been unable to ‘fix’ and still consider it to be a ‘weakness’.

So far I’ve been unwilling to address portion sizes in any measurable way.

The brutal truth is that compared to other people I still eat a lot.

Many would probably say I eat too much when compared to a suggested portion size – and in truth it’s only possible for me because of two things.

  1. I eat large amounts of speed food.
  2. I do large amounts of exercise.

After reading the comment though I started thinking a lot (too much I suspect) about whether I exercise so much because it allows me to indulge like this.

It made me realise that in weeks like this one when I’m tired and I eat a bit more I always have to try and keep a lid on my worst impulses.

Food and portion sizes aren’t the impulses I’m talking about though.

I’m talking about my tendency to over analyse things and look negatively on what I perceive to be my failings when what I should be doing is looking at my successes.

We all do it – and I’m no different.

The tendency to diminish your accomplishments when you’re feeling a bit tired or vulnerable is a thing I think all people who’ve suffered with compulsive behaviours share.

So as usual I’m outing myself.

The truth sets you free and when you tell the world how you really feel it ceases to have a hold over you.

The truth of it is that I don’t walk everywhere so that I can overeat – I exercise so much because I know it keeps me healthy and because I flipping love it.

If I’m honest I probably need to eat a fair bit to enable what has effectively become my single greatest passion in life.

Walking.

It fixed my diabetes, it saw off my high cholesterol and it dropped my high blood pressure like a stone.

If I didn’t do it then I may still have the poor circulation that caused my oedemas and I may even still have gout.

I’d probably also still have bad eyesight and sensitive skin.

I’d probably not have had the success I did with weight loss.

It’s become so fundamentally tied to who I am now that it’s hard to imagine me any other way.

So – here’s to maintaining, looking at the positives of life, recognising when your mind is working against you and cute little French Bulldogs.

Ooozagubboyden?! Youare! Yezzyouare!

Davey

Something I love.

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

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

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

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

I love it.

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

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

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

It doesn’t matter.

The act of creation is enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have tears not of sadness – but absolute joy.

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

Even if it’s just a little bit.

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

Maybe that ripple will become a wave.

I really hope so.

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

Davey

The fast fix

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

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

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

It sounds good right?

Excellent subject matter!

It is – on both counts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They too would need drugs.

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

But I digress.

Back to the programme on my telly box.

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

Let me just say that again.

Over half of the participants.

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

Let me say that bit again too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I refuse to indulge.

My health is too important.

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

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

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

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

Anyway.

I’ve said my piece. Rant over internet.

Watch the programme if you can.

Thankfully life is different for me now.

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

Davey

 

Sausages and weight loss.

The human body is sometimes an opaque conundrum – and you can really tie yourself up in knots worrying about is confusing behaviour.

It really seems to do what it wants – and sometimes regardless of what you expect to happen your body goes awry and does the exact opposite.

I’m of course talking about weight (let’s face it – what else occupies my mind on a Saturday?!) and how it fluctuates for no apparent reason.

I’m writing this mostly because of some of the crestfallen faces around me in Slimming World today. These ladies were faced with a maintain, or even a gain that they genuinely seemed to think was completely unfounded.

I’m right there with them because sometimes my body is a complete mystery to me.

When the weather got warmer this week my weight suddenly went up.

Quite a lot in fact.

It’s true that I relax a bit at weekends now – but what happened seemed completely unwarranted.

When I stepped on the scales on Tuesday they reported a gobsmacking 15st 1lb. This came as a bit of a rude surprise – which is me really understating the situation.

This left me considering (right up until this morning) whether I was actually going to weight in at all or instead take a week off to fix things.

I only need to weigh in every eight weeks now I’m a target member – but because I live my ‘journey’ in public there’s sometimes a lot of (self imposed) pressure to go and do it anyway.

I feel like I’m cheating readers out of the truth if I don’t – which is probably the wrong way to think about things – but I’m paranoid about being honest with all I go through related to weight loss and maintenance.

So I have to be transparent with you all.

It seemed a lot.

An awful lot.

It hit me a bit hard.

I immediately got into a worried mental feedback loop about how on earth I’d manage to balance the books before Saturday.

However when I calmed down I realised it wasn’t the end of the world and I didn’t panic.

Instead of going into lockdown mode I carried on eating normally.

I just ahead with my planned meals – which are usually speedy salads and fish toward the end of the week anyway.

Then the next day the scales said 14st 12.5.

The day after they were at 14st 10, and after some walking and a rather light day of eating yesterday they dropped down again to a far more reasonable ‘normal’ Saturday weight.

Now there’s absolutely NO WAY that I’ve lost over half a stone of fat in the last 3 days – so this leaves mostly water or undigested food as the prime culprit.

It’s this that I’d like the people who read my blog to bear in mind – but planning ahead like this is a tricky proposition if you’re a Slimming World or Weight Watchers member that’s not yet at target – because when I was losing weight I was an evangelical advocate of never standing on your own scales at home.

If you’re not at a maintenance weight I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t caution against weighing midweek.

The only scales that should matter are the ones in your group on the day you climb on top of them.

However if (like me) you’re trying to stay in your range and understand how (or why) your body ‘normally’ works the way it does (in my view) they’re an indispensable tool – which is personally how I use them.

This morning after just getting on with things as normal for the rest of the week (standing in my pants) I was faced with the certain knowledge that things were a-ok.

Instead of having to worry about a colossal gain I was instead looking (bizarrely) at a loss!

I see this kind of ebb and flow a lot on the scales now (although not quite this extreme) and I’m beginning to recognise just how ‘normal’ it is.

However I still need to be aware of what’s going on (I can’t bury my head in the sand) which is why on a Tuesday or a Wednesday I ‘check in’ with the scales to see what’s happening and decide what I need to do to re-adjust.

Sometimes I need to eat a bit more – sometimes a bit less.

I know from speaking to other target members I’m not alone in this.

Typically (like those others in my group who have also reached target) my weekends have become more relaxed and my weekdays are where I balance the scales. For the last three months I’ve found that this (at least in my case) works.

So – I’m pretty sure that what the scales show is NOT fat.

This is what I’d like all of the crestfallen people that didn’t get the result that they wanted on the scales this week to remember.

They should remain focused on the fact that (whatever result they had) that few seconds on the scales is just a snapshot – and if you stay the course and carry on as you were the overall trend will always be downwards.

I know the power of this because one of the people I’m referring to in my group (just like me) announced today that his doctor has told him that he can also stop taking his diabetes medication.

He’s discontinued his metformin and I couldn’t be happier for him.

We now BOTH manage out diabetes with diet and exercise alone – and this is the power of positive choices and keeping a level head.

The lesson (as always) is…

Just.

Keep.

Swimming.

For my part after group I swam off into town for my usual Saturday caffeine hit and I’m currently in colourful company.

Coffee may be cheap in Weatherspoons but at the weekend my fellow clientele are often a little more fruity than the denizens of Starbucks.

As I started typing a table of middle aged ladies celebrating someone’s birthday sat down with drinks.

One of them (after much merriment and loud chatter) got up to take a group photo.

As the group fell silent and smiled at the camera in unison I caught her eye and asked ‘would you like me to take a photo with you in too?’

‘Oh no dear.’ She replied. ‘I only have nude photos taken of myself.’

I think this comment would have been really useful when I wanted to lose weight a few days ago because almost as soon as the words left her mouth I nearly lost control of my bowels – mostly because she was looking me unwaveringly in the eye.

Feeling very much like a deer in car headlights I withdrew nervously from the conversation and looked at the floor.

Her camera (I suspect) has seen a lot of action.

As I type she’s loudly comparing the large sausage with her dinner to her vibrator at home – which apparently is coming up short in comparison – with the sausage streaking away in a clear first place.

I suspect her weapon of choice at home has an easier life however as it’s edible competition is currently impaled upon a fork and being waved in the air.

Sadly all I can think at the moment about this airborne phallic pork product is ‘that sausage probably has a lot of syns in it.’

Maybe this is why I’m still single – or possibly this is why I don’t have a sausage on my dinner platter and why I’m still in target.

So internet – my advice is don’t worry (unless you’re confronted with a well oiled sausage wielding lady with a camera) and if you don’t get the result you expect this week just keep swimming.

Davey

Part Four: Group love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet two and a half months later nothing had changed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In ten minutes!

I decided to attend and rushed over.

It was a tough morning.

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

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

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

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

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

In private it suddenly felt like I was being crushed.

It all seemed so impossible. 

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

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

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

old weight

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

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

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

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

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

I was going on a diet.

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

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

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

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

I did the maths in my head.

He was irritatingly right.

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

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

Don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

img_5497

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

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

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

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

Wrong.

Three things happened here to make this a valuable lesson.

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

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

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

Make a graph of your progress.

Why?

IMG_2833.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was initially told to have 30.

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

After all why would they? It sounds horrible otherwise.

It would be nothing but total denial.

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

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

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

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

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

I avoid empty syns and calories with zero nutritional value.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davey

Sugarpocalypse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The UK’s health service website states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

NotSoSweet_4.jpg

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

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

Maybe cook a nice meal and steer clear of sugar?

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

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

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

Do we REALLY choose?

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

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

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

Davey

Yay for maintenance

I slept like a log last night.

I wasn’t stressed or worried about losing weight at all – which I’m honestly not sure how I feel about. I already miss the anticipation a little bit of getting a new, lower number in my book – because now I have a range to adapt to rather than a target.

There’s a magical 6lb bracket (3lbs either side of 14st 7lbs) that I have to stay within as a Slimming World Target Member and so far this week I think I’ve remained comfortably within this ‘goldilocks zone’.

Although (from a SW perspective ) I suppose really shouldn’t talk about them I’m absolutely chuffed to bits with my decision to buy the Weight Watchers Scales of Ultimate Accuracy the other day. They do exactly what they claim to and it’s been a huge help to finally be able to see the ebb and flow of body weight – rather than avoiding the scales altogether all week long and then nervously rolling my dice on a Saturday with absolutely no idea of what to expect.

You could argue that this takes the point out of going to a group – but honestly the scales alone are no longer my motivation to attend mine.

It’s the people that I go for -and the fact that they keep me focused.

Honestly as far as that focus goes today I really needed it to attend anything because it’s bitterly cold outside.

I’ve kept the heating on in my house pretty much continuously at a low level this week (which is unheard of) mostly because I don’t want any pipes to freeze – but also because I simply cannot take feeling like i’m on the brink of hypothermia anymore.

Thankfully I’m no longer unemployed so I guess I can treat myself to warmth.

(Author goes to group)

Well – if there was ever a confirmation that the scales I bought tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth today reiterated it.

Whilst in nothing but my pants the scales showed the following…

In my weigh in clothes they said…

And at Slimming World the result was…

So – it looks like I have a really useful tool that can enable me (hopefully without getting too obsessed) to make adjustments during the week to my food intake and land at a pre-determined point on the scales at the weekend.

In theory this will result in me getting less stressed overall and losing less sleep – and I’m cautiously optimistic that I can do what’s required to make this a reality.

Honestly I’m still not sure that this is my end weight because there’s still a problem area around my waist that I’m really unhappy with – but I’m not obsessing over it.

My body is now far from perfect and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I’m left with an awful lot of excess bits and bobs and because of these I can’t imagine ever being able to look in the mirror and be truly satisfied with who I am – but for the most part I’m good with that.

I’m fit and healthy and that’s what I focus on.

The things that I’m NOT so good with relate to how (or not) I ever manage to disrobe in front of someone ever again – and that part of the future (should it ever come to pass) fills me with dread.

However I’m not alone in this and that gives me comfort.

Through my writing I’ve come to know a lot of people with their own private battles that are fought (often on a daily basis) over hidden scars (self inflicted or otherwise) that have dogged them on an emotional level throughout their entire lives.

I draw strength from the fact that they’ve been able to work through this and find love when it arrives.

I hope one day I’ll work through this just as they have (and still do).

This is on my mind partially because I’ve been asked by a couple of people to go speed dating with them recently – but honestly I can’t face it. I don’t know how to even begin to mentally approach the subject of romance and for the time being I’d rather not face up that particular demon.

In the meantime there’s lunch to be had.

(Author joins his family for some food at the Fat Bird’s Cafe in Leamington Spa)

Well if nothing else I’ve learned to admire the iron clad digestive tract that one member of my family possesses today. I tried a tiny bit of this frankly apocalyptic sauce on some salad leaves and I have to say that Davey isn’t Ghost Chilli compatible.

I’ve no idea how people eat food with this kind of thing on any more. I used to like it when I was younger, but somewhere along the line I completely lost my tolerance for it. Now it just represents pain and burning rather than nice tasting food.

In contrast my lunch was far more sedate and came with a minted yogurt sauce – which I was quite happy to smother my food with.

I found myself bargaining internally about whether I should have the bread and butter that came on the side of the plate – and ultimately chose to leave it where it was.

I also passed the croutons onto someone else that wanted them.

Although I’m not against carbs (free foods like rice and potatoes are a big part of my meals) the refined nature of white bread and my previous brush with diabetes makes me (possibly very over) cautious about it.

I’ve zero need any more to introduce needless fat or highly processed food like that back into my diet.

Besides – there’s more to it than that. I also have no wish to be bloated by bread – especially when a ridiculously funky and superb quality shirt presents itself in a charity shop.

Who in their right mind would choose a lump of crappy bread over the truly wonderful feeling that picking a LARGE shirt off a rack and knowing that it will fit gives them?

Not me that’s for sure.

If you need me I’ll be looking loud and proud in my new pink check item of clothing.

Yay for maintenance internet. I think I rather like it!

Davey

Diabetes and medication update – the results are in!

Although the day started in the dark with dawn bringing only rain and grey skies it’s turned into an afternoon that’s infinitely more palatable.

The sun has finally come out and I’m enjoying its warmth as I walk.

After a meeting down south this morning I’m finishing work a little early – which suits me just fine because I have somewhere to go.

I have to admit to being a little nervous about my destination though. I really don’t like visits to the diabetic nurse – but some things really can’t be avoided.

Today I get the results from my semi annual test and find out whether all of the hard work that I regularly put in has been worthwhile or whether my pancreas is once again waving a little white flag.

I’m hopeful that the results are positive – because the thing that pushed my type two into remission and enabled me to stop taking medication for the last year or so is something I’m continually focused on.

Sadly though at times the rest of the world seems to be blind to what can be achieved and conventional medical science really doesn’t help with that.

The NHS would have you believe that there’s no way out from under the rock of type two diabetes and that eventually it always turn into type one.

They prescribe instead pill after pill and largely let you get on with the ‘reality’ that they’ve sold to you.

This is bad enough – but when you combine it with a human being’s capacity for living in denial it’s a dangerous mix. Even when faced with a laundry list of changes that need to be made and a clear path to better health people often choose to ignore reality completely.

From time to time I meet someone who (like I was) is in the process of bargaining with themselves. They (like I did) avoid at all costs coming to terms with the truth of their situation – and (like I couldn’t) don’t seem able to face up to the reality of what change really requires.

I mean by this that few people grasp the (sometimes bitter but in my view unavoidable) truth that when you’re dealing with a slow death sentence like diabetes tweaking just one thing is not even close to enough.

When I meet these people I truthfully want to shake them by the shoulders and make them understand the reality of what’s going on – to save them the wasted time I experienced – but it’s often pointless.

I know I wouldn’t have listened so why should they?

In my case I thought ‘if I give up drinking my diabetes will be sorted’

It was delusion.

It got a bit better but my levels were still ridiculously high.

Then I told myself ‘ok ok – that hasn’t worked but if I give up drinking and eat healthy food then my diabetes will be sorted.’

Also delusion.

Once again there was marginal improvement but overall little happened and I still needed medication.

Then I started exercising – and almost immediately I could see the benefits. I’ve written about this a lot – but I repeat it because it’s vitally important.

My sugars dropped quicker than with any other tweak that I’d made up to that point and the last time I had it checked in August (link) my Hba1c level was 28.

I started at 94 – and exercise enabled this to change.

So – because I know that I wouldn’t have listened I choose not to preach to people who I feel are stuck in this loop.

It’s pointless and just makes them switch off or feel pressured.

Instead I write about the reality of it – in the hope that people will read it and see for themselves what can be done rather than having someone tell them what they should do.

I walk and exercise all the time – each day trying to improve – and get better so that I can instead demonstrate what’s possible.

Yesterday (with this continued progress in mind) I managed to shave another 25 seconds off my previous best walking time for a mile.

Only recently did I break through the 15 minute barrier (link) and amazingly I’ve now managed to get it down to 14 mins and 26 seconds – which I’m insanely proud of.

(Author stops drinking coffee and realises the time. He goes to his appointment)

Well – as is usual these days the nurse (who I’ve never met before) quizzically looked me up and down as I headed to her room for my diabetic review.

She clearly didn’t expect the man in front of her.

She checked my stomach area, looked at my legs, looked at my face and then looked at her notes.

‘I was expecting a much bigger man!’ she said. ‘You’ve lost even more weight…

‘Yep. Almost 20 stone now.’ I replied.

She looked at me in disbelief.

‘Wow. I wish all of my patients with diabetes were like you! Your results are amazing!

She pointed at her screen.

‘Your levels are 25… In fact I’ve recommended to the doctor that we take you off the diabetic register – however he would like to leave you on for 12 months just in case.’

‘Fine by me!’ I replied.

(As nervous as these things make me I like to be sure things are ok. I prefer to keep focus on it.)

‘Everything else is great too!’ She said.

‘How’s my cholesterol?’ I asked.

Now – this has been one thing I’ve never had much success reducing – despite my good behaviour. This time I had been expecting a telling off because if the truth be told Davey has been forgetting to take his statins regularly for a while now.

‘It’s actually really good!’ She said – sounding a little surprised.

‘Ummm… could I possibly try without the medication?’ I asked.

She looked at the results again and pondered.

‘Sure. Why not. Let’s have you back in three months for a check up. You can stop taking them.’

I was a little stunned.

Two years ago I was taking about 8-9 pills a day. I had Naproxen for my constant back or joint pain, Omeprazole to protect my stomach lining from the Naproxen, Glimepiride and Metformin for my diabetes and Simvastatin for my high cholesterol.

Now – as of today – I take no prescription medication at all!!!!

To top it all off my blood pressure was just fine (amazing since I’d had four Americanos in Wetherspoons prior to my appointment and briskly walked to my appointment) and my heart rate was 41bpm.

All in all I am supremely healthy and a world away from this guy – who now seems so distant and alien to me

So – it’s the start of a new chapter. I’m no longer a burden on the NHS for ANYTHING.

Now all I have to do is get to target internet and I’ll die a happy man 😂

Davey

2017 retrospective (part two)

(Part one here)

July

The seventh month of the year is a big one and starts with me in unfamiliar territory.

My teens.

I haven’t managed to time travel to the 80’s – instead I’ve just about managed to creep into the 19st bracket, and I’m fighting to stay there.

IMG_3344 (1)

My efforts to power through small slump this are self evident though – and I decide that it’s time to really see how far I can go. One morning (for no reason other than to see if I can) I decide to get up and walk from Warwick to Solihull (link).

It’s fifteen miles and I’ve never tried to go this far in one day before.

Although it was essentially just an exercise in determination and distance this was and still is a very important achievement for me – because it truly meant that there was practically no-where any more locally than I could drive to and get stranded in (a big fear in my mind that was always with me) because of weight related mobility issues.

If my car ever broke down in Solihull and I needed to I could now walk home.

Transitioning mentally from a man that originally couldn’t walk to the end of his street to one that could walk to Solihull was both profound and emotional. Even more upsetting though, during the journey my Apple Watch was pronounced sick and in need of repair.

I leave my fallen comrade with Apple and I’m without it for over a week.

At home I’m still working on the garden and have finally managed to turn it into a welcoming (rather than impassable) space.

My ongoing dissatisfaction with items in my house also results in the death (by hacksaw) of an old armchair and the purchase of an Ikea Poang chair – which is a step in the right direction – but also something I’m too scared to sit on in case I break it (link).

As I continue to prepare for Snowdon I look for more challenges – and revisit Burton Dassett via a longer walk from Avon Dassett (link). I’ve also got Apple Watch back, and although the gap without it has left a big hole in my stats I couldn’t be happier.

DSC01343

An important milestone arrives when I suddenly realise that I can now get into charity shop clothing – and I buy my very first wearable item from one (link) a Penguin jacket (which I was reliably informed was rather trendy).

img_3558

I take this item of clothing (and quite a few others) to Snowdonia where on Saturday July 22nd at around 19.5 stone I climb Mount Snowdon with a friend (link).

It’s one of the proudest moments of my life – and is both very emotional and extremely symbolic. I’ve come a long way – and it’s a superb reminder of how much can be achieved!

Mostly because of this strenuous activity Supercoat (which is now way too big for me) is given to my father (link).

I’m also suddenly in 40in waisted Jacamo jeans (link) and shortly after getting my 15.5 stone certificate I also climb Thorpe Cloud (link).

August

The start of the month is excellent (link) and my HbA1c level has now dropped further to 28. My diabetic nurse tells me that if I was re-tested at that point I would no longer be diagnosed as type 2.

My diabetes appears to be in full remission.

I’m once again preparing myself for a potential return to work by buying interview clothes. The physical changes since the last time I went about this around six months before are readily apparent (link).

On August 14th I start another job (link) in the hope that this time I’ve made the right choice. It’s different mainly because I can walk to it – so therefore I can build exercise into my every day routine without feeling like it’s unnaturally forced.

Initially my feelings about the job are really positive and I’m happy. I take the long route to work whenever possible and I’m loving how fit I feel.

I’ve come a long way in terms of body confidence too and have started posting comparison shots like this on Instagram to spur me on.

d6c6c0a2-830d-467a-b930-321d2ee18fc2

It’s working – because by mid August I have my sixteen stone certificate and my the end of the month realise that I’ve walked (since April 2016) the cumulative distance from San Francisco to New York(link)!

September

The weather in September is great and although I’m working again I take advantage of it as much as I can in the evenings and weekends. I’m wandering over hill and dale with my camera and trying to capture as many pretty things as I can.

Quite out of the blue an unexpected watershed moment arrives on the way home from work and (as has happened many times in the past due to my weight) I get abused by a bunch of teenagers whilst walking through the park.

However – instead of calling me a fat c**t as I pass by (a previously preferred moniker such people had for me) they instead all shout ‘BALDY!’ (link) in unison – both stunning me and leaving me with a lot to think about.

If they don’t see me as fat any more and the worst they can come up with is an insult about my hair line – do I now look ‘normal’?

I’m forced to admit that my self perception is now seriously at odds with reality – and to further underscore this I slowly approach a significant ‘Rubicon moment’ (link).

I’ve slowed down a little – but I still have my 17 stone certificate.

img_4509-3

However – not all is going well – and once again I realise that the job I’ve chosen isn’t for me. I decide to leave (link) and once again I don’t know what this says about me to my friends or what it means for the future.

Without warning again I feel like a complete failure.

Something does manage to cheer me up towards the end of the month however – and I attend something I booked with a few friends the year before. It’s an event I probably couldn’t have gone to easily when I said yes to it – but my hope was I’d lose enough weight to make it a reality – and I did.

I’ve always wanted to go to EGX gaming expo at the NEC but was never fit enough to stand for the time required or capable of comfortably walking the distances required around the NEC.

When I finally made it I really geeked out!

October

Largely because of a my own sense that I was losing my way a little with my diet October was dominated by #onplanoctober (link) which kept me on the straight and narrow.

I calorie counted every last morsel of food that passed my lips for the entire month.

If I’m honest this really tested the limits of my patience – but I’d promised that I’d do it – and by the end of the exercise it paid dividends because in the space of 5 weigh in’s I managed to lose 16.5lbs.

Mid way through the month I get my 17.5 stone certificate and I’m also handed a little cardboard bauble for a Christmas tree. I write something on it and then largely forget about it…

This also means that my Rubicon moment has finally arrived — and on the 7th of October I’ve finally lost more than I weigh. I make myself a Club 50 award. Over half of my original body weight has now gone.

img_4882In the first weeks of the month I start speaking publicly at Slimming World meetings (link) about my weight loss. In total I do nine of them in Warwickshie – and they’re all a humbling experience – but also very rewarding.

To see how far I’ve come in the pictures I pass around and hear the gasps in the room when I put on my old clothes is quite emotional.

trousersimg_4892

I also return twice to (the now colder) Malvern Hills  (link) and Ilmington Downs (link) for more attempts at both – and I’m struck in these locations by how much easier things are getting.

Although I still have weight to lose I’m pretty darned fit at this point – and I barely get out of breath on the ascents.

I finally get around to compiling a list of non-scale victories (link) which I read to my friend for the first time and both of us start crying. In response to this I realise how important the recognition of these accomplishments is and I make a regularly updated site page (link) and add something new each time it occurs.

By October 28th I’ve lost a staggering 28 inches from my waist (link) and my photographic diary of February 2017 to October is showing some serious progress.

d04e0b47-782f-4fd7-bd92-11a03dd30b98

Furthermore I’m also able to fit into my very first LARGE items of clothing (link) and ever since I mention the word LARGE at every opportunity I get. This means that since getting into a LARGE I’ve said LARGE a LARGE number of times.

November

November kicks off with me getting an 18 stone certificate and a Mr Sleek award – which is a bit embarrassing – but also a really nice pat on the back!

IMG_0477

My public speaking has also been received positively, and because of it I’m offered some work at a local company in a temp role – which comes in very useful as it manages to stem the outward flow from my bank account and promises to make Christmas a little less daunting.

On the 6th of November I start my job and find that (being something I’ve never done before) it makes me feel quite alive. I also get to walk 3 miles there and three miles back every day which means that I can keep up my now regular average distance of 10 miles walked per day (link).

It’s getting colder though and it’s not only the floor thats frozen – my hands and feet are too.

I keep up the walking however – partially because I rather like my new place of employment. I like it enough in fact to apply for a permanent position at the company (link) for which I’m accepted.

It’s also another thinly veiled excuse to dress up for a job interview, which underscores just how much I’ve started to enjoy clothes shopping and looking smart.

It’s my new thing!

IMG_0742

November ends with another first and I meet a fellow blogger (link) who comes to visit for the very first time! I have a real live internet friend with a face and a body and everything!

IMG_0799

December

The final month of 2017 finds me in an unusually festive mood and after no small amount of agonising I decide to do something for the first time in my adult life.

I buy a Christmas tree (link) and I put my little October cardboard bauble amongst it’s branches. It’s hastily scrawled words are now a reality!

I’m also now officially into 36in trousers, meaning 30 inches have been lost from my waist’s starting point.

I get my 19 stone certificate (link) on December the 9th – which is quickly followed by another unusual event.

I go dancing (with Angie and my Slimming World group) for the first time since the 90’s – and I have a fantastic time. All in all I’m on the dancefloor for around two and a half hours (completely sober) and I’m so pumped and full of energy I virtually skip home afterwards!

December seems to content to keep supplying me with firsts as well – and on the 14th I’m featured in the local newspaper (link).

img_1078This is followed soon after by an offer to appear on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Radio (link) which is very exciting indeed (it’s due to happen this Friday 29th December at 10-10.15am) – but for some reason I’m more preoccupied with my washing machine – which is completely broken.

Priorities eh?

That pretty much brings us up to date. I had a fab Christmas – and after discovering earlier in the month that I suddenly love red (link) and wearing geek things I did pretty well for presents!

So – thats 2017 almost at a close!

I hope you enjoyed reading the second part of this retrospective as much as I did writing it internet! Join me again in a year (if you’re not already sick of me) and we’ll see what comes out of the next twelve months!

Thanks for sticking with me – it’s a genuine pleasure to write something that people like to read and comment on.

You guys and gals make it all worthwhile xxx

Davey

May the 4th

Today is a decidedly odd day – but in a really good way.

My morning at work started with my manager walking into the small office that I currently sit and saying ‘David – are you in the local paper?’

Just like that there I was (link)! In the news!

Truthfully I’ve known this might be happening for around two weeks – but didn’t know what format it would appear in or how it would look.

However – it’s a really nice feeling for your whole office to suddenly start talking and asking about it and congratulating you – particularly when a lot of them had no idea that you’d lost weight in the first place.

It’s also started some interesting discussions – particularly relating to diabetes, exercise, healthy eating and the seasonal perils of (what I imagine is) pretty much every office in the western world.

Mine currently looks like this. These little carb bombs are everywhere – which normally wouldn’t bother me in the least – but there’s a vague and constant lingering scent of chocolate that’s ever present at the moment, and I’ll admit to walking to work this morning fantasising about (rather randomly) how nice it would be to eat a mars bar.

I know that Slimming World teachings suggest that I could have one if I wanted to (and I probably would if the mood really overcame me) but I still feel that from a personal philosophy perspective foods like this are things that I don’t want in my life.

I can look and remember what a sugar rush felt like – or the wave of warm pleasure from eating a burger or pizza but I no longer want to experience it. I’ve had 30-40 years of excess and my pancreas won’t thank me for it.

Neither will my teeth which so far have never had a single filling. Ever.

I want them to remain that way.

Maybe it’s the wrong way to look at it but I don’t see the ‘treat’ element of this kind of food any more. Instead I only see the slow and destructive damage it causes with its seductive disguise.

When I was talking to a colleague about diabetes today I was reminded (it’s SO easy to forget sometimes) how lucky I am to have my (almost completely medication free) health back.

There’s no chocolate bar or burger in the world that tastes nice enough to warrant a return to type 2 (or type one).

Anyway – that aside today is a big day in more ways than one and I need to make tracks.

I’ll let you decide amongst yourselves why that is – but all I’m going to say internet is ‘may the force be with you‘ this evening 😏

Davey

Unexpectedly belted at nineteen

There are many things to be thankful for.

If you think positively then the universe often provides – and sometimes way more generously than even I expect. I’m a great believer in thinking that the best will happen, because I find that quite often it does.

For instance – you’ll never hear me say ‘call me when you get back’ or ‘drive safely’.

This isn’t because I want someone to meet a brick wall on the way home or not arrive at all – but because 99.9% of the time everyone does.

All of the people I care about manage to tie their own shoelaces, turn off their gas, and not fall over onto beds of nails with boring regularity. Life isn’t like the BBC drama ‘Casualty’ (unless of course you work in an A&E dept) with deadly power tools lurking around every corner.

My default position is you’ll get home perfectly well without me stressing needlessly and you won’t drive like an idiot even if I don’t engage in pointless worrying.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t care what happens to you. Far from it. People that I love usually occupy the vast majority of my thoughts.

This morning I was thinking about something else however. I have a special occasion to attend and there’s a glaring gap in my wardrobe.

I’d gotten ready early because I wanted to nip into town before my weigh in and see if I could find a nice brown leather belt.

So far getting a nice one for a cheap price that wasn’t going to be huge or too small has proven tricky and I’m still hacking chunks an my old black leather one from my (already significantly reduced by that point) 50 inch waist that I bought for a job interview and this outfit in November 2016

Then rather bizarrely I found something just lying on the pavement outside a hotel on the way into Leamington.

It’s a thick brown leather belt from River Island – oddly enough in a Medium size – and it fitted my now 36 inch waist so perfectly on the very first notch that I was kind of taken aback at the sheer serendipity of it all.

I was going into town for a brown leather belt – and there, lying on the floor with leaves frozen to the buckle was just the thing I needed, in just the style and colour I wanted.

How can one fail to have a bad day after something like that?!

Well the fact is that they can’t.

After a bit of mooching around the shops (and a few nice little purchases) I headed back towards Warwick and my morning weigh in.

As I said earlier in the week I’ve been expecting a maintain or a gain and as it turned out I wasn’t too far wrong. After the massive and unexpected loss last week my body has slowed down again – but it’s still creeping along just enough for me to see a one pound loss.

This of course means that I’ve now lost a mind boggling 19 stone of body weight.

How incomprehensible is that?!

I must admit – I’m the one that’s lost it and I find it really hard to bend my mind around it. It’s absolutely insane that I’ve gone from looking like this in 2016

To looking like this in the same place and same seat today.

After leaving my group today I had to go to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription – and the lady that works there once again completely failed to recognise me.

In her defence though it’s been a few months and a few stone since the last time!

When I told her about my latest milestone she just stood behind the counter, looking at me with an open mouth.

She was just agog.

The thing is that this lady in particular knows more than most what I was going through. She dispensed the prescriptions for the Metformin and Glimepiride to manage my diabetes that I now no longer have. She handed over the frequent pain medication that I no longer need to help me deal with the back, knee, joint, muscle or tendon strains that happened all the time. She also has no need to put into little bags the ointment and antibiotics that I needed for my bouts of cellulitis, frequent eczema or other skin allergies that were aggravated by my frequent oedemas.

As we talked I realised how much I prefer the expression on her face now. Often I’m sure I saw pity (maybe even sadness – she’s a nice lady) and now instead I see admiration and happiness that I have my life back.

Who knows how long I’ll have the blessing of good health though. Nothing can be taken for granted.

As I mentioned to Angie today as I helped tidy up after group – I’ve done a lot to myself in the past.

There are some things I’m comfortable with discussing in public and some that are going to remain forever out of the wider domain. The odds because of some of these behaviours probably aren’t in my favour long term. I’ve done most things that are carcinogenic or supposed to damage my heart, circulatory system, kidneys or lungs and a few more besides over the years.

All I can do now is my absolute level best continuously – and to live each day as it comes, enjoying the wonderful gift of a life that I’ve given back to myself with hard work and persistence.

I’m not going to waste it or take it for granted ever again – and who knows internet – maybe this is why the universe has my back.

Davey