Maybe I can

Sometimes a holiday is in order.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The net result?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know I know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secondly there’s having a new home dynamic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not the way to go though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Saturday I could barely speak.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which I do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It sticks to everything and gets everywhere.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe I can feel good about myself on the day.

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

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

Davey

You’re worth it

Often I’m moved to write blogs not because something interesting has happened in my life – but because occasionally I feel there’s something more important to say.

A lot of the time this is because of private conversations and this leaves me with something of a quandary – because I don’t betray people’s trust and I certainly don’t write about them without explicit permission.

Their lives are their own.

Although some of the tales that motivate me to write are not mine to tell occasionally the sentiment behind them is universal and makes me feel that to do so is important so I’ll try and write today with the privacy of (many) others in mind.

Forgive me therefore if a certain generic vagueness on my part seems apparent because in this case it’s necessary.

Although this isn’t really about me there have been times in the past where it could easily have been – so I will begin by using myself as an example.

When I met and got to know my partner (who is not the subject of my thoughts in this particular case but is a good illustration) one of the things that initially surprised me was how long she’d been single.

It was roughly the same time as myself and this was (like me) completely by choice.

I wasn’t sure how this was possible at the time. She was lovely and instantly made me feel comfortable in her presence.

When she smiled her whole head lit up like a light bulb and made me grin right back at her.

Now – we tell ourselves convenient fictions at times. Mine for many years was that I was too big to have a partner.

It was a lie of course because all you had to do was (at least before the show was cancelled) turn on Jeremy Kyle and you could see that it doesn’t matter how big or small you are there is someone willing to be with everyone.

Accepting a partner on this basis this may not yield the right person for the right reasons – but if you prefer company to loneliness then compromises can easily be made.

Sometimes this is a conscious decision to accept second (or even third) best, and at others it’s an unconscious one.

Sometimes we don’t realise why we chose who we did until it’s too late.

Occasionally (particularly after a significant change such as weight loss) it takes us a while to realise why we share our days with someone that may not be the one for us.

Life in this respect is always a learning curve. Most of us don’t get it right first time – and that’s ok.

Personally I chose some time ago to be single instead of being alone in a relationship.

When I recognised the same trait in my current partner I instantly felt more attracted to her.

Here was a person that also chose occasional independent loneliness instead of feeling isolated in a relationship with someone she didn’t love – and that was compelling to me because it meant that when she decided to choose me (and vice versa) there was a damn good reason.

It meant there was a connection and a respect between us that seemed as if it was already underlined in bold ink and it also meant that if neither of us got what we needed from out relationship then it would not last long.

When two people who have successfully managed single lives for years decide to change their mutual status quo it’s profound because what those people have already proven is that they are strong enough to go through life alone.

When you meet and enter into a partnership with someone like this you know that if you’re an idiot, if you take them for granted, if you mess about or if the love is not real that they can (and probably will) walk away.

They can re-use the self belief and empowerment that they had before you came along, rekindle the flame of their personal independence and move right along.

It works both ways.

I had to accept that I need a lot from a partner and that I’m damn well deserving of it.

I deserve to be wanted.

I deserve to be loved.

I need to be thought about as special enough to make someone’s heart skip a beat for no reason other than I crossed their mind on a busy day at work.

We all need these things in a partnership – and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have them.

The motivation for me writing this comes from not one but several people and this is because over the last few years losing weight, speaking in public, being active in social media and being MOTY (meaning I’ve spoken to a frankly absurd number of people I’ve never met before and probably will never meet again) I have come across lots of individuals who don’t yet fully understand the importance of being single rather than being in an unhappy relationship.

Something that a lot of them have in common – and a worry they all seem to share (at least when it comes to weight loss) is to do with excess skin.

I’ve been asked about it over and over again and what I plan to do about it.

Interestingly the question is often framed within an expectation that once you’ve lost all your weight then the very next step you’d logically take is to undergo surgery.

Many TV shows seem to popularise this and many celebrities seem to do the same.

Somehow we’ve come to think that this is completely normal and consequence free – however the surgery (if you look into it) is not a quick and easy procedure.

It’s dangerous, can be life threatening – and it carries with it major chances of serious complications.

A tummy tuck (if that’s what you plan to undergo) has a seriously long recovery period and its execution is brutal.

It’s also not free on the nhs – and once you start where do you stop?

Create a clean spot in the middle of a dirty kitchen and see if you can resist cleaning the rest up. If you’re like me I bet you won’t be able to.

When I’m asked about MY skin however people aren’t really enquiring about what I look like under my clothes.

I’m not that interesting.

What they’re really saying when they approach me is ‘I’m terrified that no one will love me if I look this way in the mirror and I don’t know how to deal with that. Please help me.’

I get it.

I really really do.

We all think that for one reason or another someone will struggle to accept us for who we are.

Cosmetic surgeons prey like vultures on people like us whilst social media and glossy magazines fuel our collective sense of worthlessness when we look in the mirror.

We’re not pert enough. Our noses aren’t straight. Our teeth aren’t white enough, our lips aren’t as plump as they should be or we have laughter lines on our foreheads and around our eyes.

We are not perfect.

The secret is that none of us are and we don’t have to be.

Perfection does not exist – it’s simply a construct that we use to beat ourselves up with.

We can’t all look the same, with perfect boobs or skin that’s tighter than a snare drum – and neither should we try to.

Instead we all (especially those who have lost or are still losing weight) should aspire to do is make the best of who we are.

To do this we need to begin to love what’s inside – and recognise that by caring about and accepting your inner self you find confidence to speak to others.

This above all else is fundamentally the most attractive thing that you can bring with you into a partnership.

How many times have you seen someone wearing a ridiculous outfit that you’d never wear in a million years, but even though they have chosen to look LOUD they own that look?

Admit it.

You may not want to wear the same apparel but you admire them don’t you?

They don’t care what you think and they like the way they look.

They’re comfortable in their own skin (which is probably also not perfect) and they stand before you neither bothered if you agree with their choice of clothes or diminished if you don’t.

You suddenly realise you like them because they’re confident.

It’s attractive.

By this point their weight, stretch marks, laughter lines or anything else about them rapidly becomes irrelevant.

They’ve hooked us (either as a friend or prospective partner) with their inner confidence and how they use it to light up a room.

When they do they seem to effortlessly get our attention.

As hard as it’s been to deal with from a confidence perspective I’ve never wanted to remove my skin or enhance any other part of myself with surgery.

For better or worse I am what I am.

Furthermore (and this is important) I do not accept this has anything to do with whether I’m a man or a woman.

I’ve been told more times than I care to hear that it’s different for women – that men aren’t judged the same way.

Only up to a point can I accept this.

Sometimes there are different standards set for different sexes and it’s galling when they become apparent.

David Cameron wore the same suit for practically the whole time he was a Prime Minister and no-one cared – yet Theresa May was lambasted continually for her clothing choices.

One might argue that the media should have spent more time either intelligently focusing on them being sub par politicians or treating both equally – but I won’t delve any deeper into that.

My point is more fundamental.

We all end up eventually (either metaphorically or in actuality) naked in front of someone whether we do so as a man or a woman.

At that point being male or female doesn’t matter – because by the time we present ourselves in a swimming bath, a doctor’s surgery or a bedroom we can choose to either apologise for who we are and what we look like or we can say proudly ‘I don’t care – because this is me and whatever you think about how I look is irrelevant because I know I have value.’

This is just as true incidentally if you’re a disabled man or woman as it is if you’re an able bodied one.

Your confidence (or lack of it) will ultimately become the deciding factor in the level of happiness you’re eventually going to achieve in life.

It’s something of a lonely path at times however and this is not an always an easy choice to make – because it means that you will have to occasionally say ‘I prefer to be without someone’ rather than accepting a person into your life that does not love you and does not make you happy.

The trade off is that in the meantime the confidence we can all achieve attracts new people to us and because of this we already stand a better chance of leading better lives.

Your self worth will inspire others, and that they in turn will probably inspire you right back again – and that may be just when you need it the most.

Your quality of life will improve if you choose to love yourself before expecting it from others.

If you make this your mission in life then eventually you will have love in your life that does not require compromise.

You will not have to accept second best and there will always be a person to give you a hug – even if for a time that is not in the form of an intimate relationship.

There are a lot of people in the world and more ways than ever to connect to them.

Everyone can find friends on their journey.

Learning to love and cherish yourself may not come easy to you – but then nothing worth having ever does.

The truth is though that you can’t ignore the need to achieve this state of mind – and I would argue that you can’t do without it.

You’re a better human being if you take time to cultivate this side of your personality and it’s never too late to start doing so.

If you don’t have confidence then now is the time to start working on it.

Look in the mirror – put on a ridiculous shirt or blouse or go into a shop and try on something LOUD.

Walk out of the door in what makes you happy and remember it does not matter.

If what’s seen by everyone when you step outside in your bright top doesn’t worry you then extend that to your skin.

It’s the one thing you can never take off.

You can’t hang it on a peg and you should never be made to feel that you should remove it or that there’s something wrong with you because of the way you look.

As you sit now you’re as nature intended and whilst you can take steps with exercise to improve who you are there is no scenario that should involve you cutting off, trimming or tucking anything because another person tells you that you need to in order to keep them in your life.

You don’t need to get rid of skin – you need to get rid of the shallow idiot that doesn’t love you for the frankly amazing person that you already are.

I’ll be honest though and say that (even now) I occasionally have days where my confidence is in the toilet. Sometimes (although not currently) every waking moment seems like a struggle to accept the way that I look in a mirror.

One thing however is true above all else.

I would rather be alone than in an unhappy relationship – and that will never change.

Thankfully I’m not alone.

I’ve found someone that makes me feel both happy and accepted – but there are many I’ve met who have not and still struggle with this.

From time to time people reach out to me – and individually I regularly try to help – but for once I’m shouting this collectively to all of you that are reading.

If you don’t have this in your current relationship then you deserve more.

Believe it can happen, work towards loving who you are – and you will achieve it it.

At the end of the day you’re worth it.

Davey

Box throne

Boxes are getting pretty tiresome.

There has been a lot of unpacking done over the last week – and now we’re down to the last few ‘sod it’ boxes.

These were the ones where the task of organising and packing at the originating end had become so tiresome that we lost interest and just threw it in a box.

In other instances there were just bits and bobs left that we decided were to be kept but that didn’t obviously go together with similar items in an easily unpackable collective container.

This is irritating enough – particularly when it seems like there’s no discernible end in sight – but also because we’re struggling in many cases to find room for the everyday items.

I’ve lost count of the bags of pasta and rice we now collectively have.

I’ve enough bacofoil to roast an elephant, enough cling film to wrap it in (as well as the herd from which it sprung) and enough greaseproof paper and muffin nests to make a lot of ele-cakes and ele-pies afterwards.

I also have more than enough Tupperware to store the ele-cakes and ele-pies in and enough knives and forks for a small army to eat them with.

If they can’t consume it all in one go then I have about a thousand food bags in which they can take their lunch home with them.

If the army returns (still carrying their packed treats) they can happily heat their meals up in one of the two microwaves that we currently have.

If that wasn’t enough there’s also a second sofa in our hall that we have no idea what to do with.

The original plan was to take it to the charity shop in the Leamington recycling centre – which was partially why we hired a van last week – but it seems that anything Transit Van sized is not allowed on to the site without incurring commercial vehicle charges.

If you want to go in as a residential customer then you can do so with six ‘free tokens’ that you have to apply for online. However you have to own the van in which the goods are to be transported and that needs to be registered in a Warwickshire postal code.

This set of hoops is particularly unhelpful if you’re a resident who hired a van rather than one that just happens to be lucky enough to own such a vehicle.

If you ask the council to collect your item instead they charge £35.

Even then the next pickup is at an ‘undetermined future date’.

It’s no wonder people fly tip.

We’re trying to do the right thing but the powers that be don’t make it easy.

Charities also won’t collect for weeks (and want the item to be ‘saleable’ but aren’t particularly specific about what that means leaving me unsure about whether or not to schedule an appointment weeks in the future only to be told it’s not wanted) so if we want to see the back of it then we’re basically in a position where I have to take a hacksaw to it or leave it in my hall permanently.

I might try my luck on Facebook and see if anyone wants it before I get the power tools out though.

Sigh.

Worse things happen at sea I guess – and today is weigh in day.

I know that I’ve lost weight since I last stepped on the scales – but how much is still to be determined by the official scales at group.

(Author goes to group)

Well a week and a half of making good food choices (even when eating out) and cooking great meals for two appears to have paid off – and although I’ve not yet sorted out the gain from two weeks ago I’m on my way to getting things under control.

It’s annoying to see blips like this – but also encouraging to remember that they are just that – blips – and that there’s no point turning a molehill into an insurmountable mountain.

It will come back off eventually. I just have to keep on chipping away at it.

In the meantime, between boxes there have been moments of blissful normality where I’ve been able to continue introducing friends to my partner, and (whilst I’ve been writing this) watch her indulge her passion in Pokemon – which she’s been playing the new demo of on my Nintendo Switch.

As a detached observer of this gaming phenomenon over many years I’ve never quite managed to figure out the allure of it – but if there’s one thing that I do love it’s watching someone take pleasure in an activity.

That lady loves to catch Pokemon!

She also knows all of their names!!!

I can totally get how games like this can suck people in – and it’s quite comforting to know that whilst different genres may float our particular boats, once again we are more alike than we are different.

As comfortable as we feel on this score however we can’t yet see a point where every possession we own has a home. That seems to be light years ahead in the future.

There is however a distant light at the end of the tunnel because we can now see the (middle of) the dining room carpet again – and if nothing else that’s cause for celebration.

All we have to do now is find a place to put the Ikea delivery that’s coming in the very near future.

That’s a worry for another day though.

Tonight I go to bed a happy (and slightly lighter) man, because behind the bedroom door the mountain of folded cardboard is now a little bit higher.

My box throne grows…

Davey

For the rest of my life

It’s a lovely day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The truth is that I’m being flippant though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My partner isn’t the only one.

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

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

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

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

She will make an awesome consultant.

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

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

I’ve changed and I continue to change.

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

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

Davey

Everything led to this

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

My apologies.

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

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

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

Into my house.

Rarely did they leave again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This had been inevitable for a long time.

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

Much of it just fell apart when you touched it.

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

There were simply too many things though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We had no compelling reasons to keep any of it.

In fact the exact opposite was true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now my house is becoming a home.

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

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

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

It’s a wonderful time of my life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And there it is.

Human beings don’t need things.

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

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

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

Now it’s wonderful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I certainly don’t.

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

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

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

It’s all been worth it.

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

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

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

I’m truly happy.

Davey

Ley line walk from Upton House

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

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

Very good.

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

Maybe it’s just the right time of year.

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

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

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

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

It was a good day to get outside.

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

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

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

Initially the walk was anything but spectacular.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sky seemed to agree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Provenance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To any casual observer nothing is different.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if your reality was different?

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

It’s totally possible.

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

Not me.

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

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

It was fabulous.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll be going back there soon.

Davey

I call summer

Finally!!! The sun is out!!!

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

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

I’m calling it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s just who I am.

Isn’t that wonderful?

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

I’m almost there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How cool is that?!

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

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

However I still very much enjoy it when I go.

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

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

It isn’t hard.

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

in contrast I don’t need to swim anywhere.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had mentally reached an impasse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s still on my ‘to do’ list.

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

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

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

You know it makes sense!

Davey

Cementing my future

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

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

Boy.

What a great time it is to be living it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I suddenly appreciate all its nuances acutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I like pats on the head.

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

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

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

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

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

I became the National MOTY 2018!

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

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

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

Things were exciting and new all the time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can’t stay still.

If you do then you stagnate.

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

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

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

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

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

But you know what?

I only went and frikkin did it!

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

Wow.

It’s quite something.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how did I celebrate this milestone?

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

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

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

This is the power of flexible syns.

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

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

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

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

This is me internet.

Forever.

Davey

There forever

Friday night is always a tough sell for me when it comes to sleeping.

It’s usually related to weighing in on a Saturday morning but at the moment (as I sit awake in the dark early in the morning) I don’t have that excuse because I’m not standing on the scales tomorrow.

I’m planning to be elsewhere – busy enjoying my life.

I am however preoccupied (and have been for a couple of weeks now) with the upcoming anniversary of me reaching my target weight – which means that (if I’m still in range) when I next stand on the scales I’ll be a diamond target member.

I’ll be honest and say that in many respects remaining in this bracket (although I’ve lowered my target twice since then – making it a stone lighter at 13st 7lbs) has been in some respects harder than I first expected.

It’s not because the Slimming World plan has ceased to work for me – but because of the continued game of mental hopscotch that target members have to play in order to keep themselves out of the ‘now I can just relax’ mentality.

Sometimes I manage it and sometimes I don’t – and in truth there have been times where I’ve been easily half a stone (maybe a little more) out of range over the last 12 months.

It’s been a tough thing to deal with at times – especially because on top of the pressure that I already heap upon myself to be practically perfect when it comes to my weight I also have the added pressure of being the Slimming World’s MOTY.

Whilst precisely no-one has told me I need to do anything other than just be me (warts and all) the sense that I have a duty to be a role model to others is something that’s always present.

It’s something I’ve taken very seriously over the last seven months since I won because over time I’ve seen what my success has prompted in totally random people.

I’ve watched with amazement as they have used (and cited me) me as a source of inspiration and motivation and it’s honestly humbling.

For someone who felt like a failure for over 40 years to suddenly be viewed as a source of inspiration is a pivot that’s both mind boggling and still occasionally an extremely uncomfortable place to be.

At times it’s a heavy burden to bear because I really don’t want to make the right food choices each and every day.

On many days I do not.

Just like the rest of the world I can still be an emotional eater and I occasionally hugely over indulge with free food and consume massive portions at meal times.

Whenever I can however I mitigate this tendency with food optimising and make sure that I eat extremely large amounts of what SW refer to as speed or free foods.

My ‘syns’ are usually ‘savvy’ ones and are cooked into the foods that I eat. Consequently I tend to stay on track in maybe the same way others do when the consume smaller portions of more processed foods.

Typically I never eat junk food. Just lots and lots of freshly prepared meals or lots of fruit and veg.

If I’m out and about I don’t go nuts or slip into holiday mode – I try to be sensible.

When I can’t then I look at whatever transgressions I’ve made as flexible syn days, forgive myself and just move right along with a brand new tomorrow.

As much as you might expect me to continually babble on about food optimising and Slimming World’s plan however that’s not the whole story.

Since I started to appear more and more in social media I’ve tried very carefully to minimise how many pictures I post of the food I eat because my weight maintenance is about so much more than just what I put in my mouth.

Instead my image is one that’s about being outside.

Sure – I couldn’t have gotten to where I am without making the right choices when it comes to food but my life has been lived outdoors for the vast majority of the last three years – and it’s that element of my life that I feel is most fundamental to my continued success.

Whilst food intake is undeniably a massive part of my story I’ve also seen major health improvements (such as my diabetes reversal) that I am completely convinced would not have happened without my continued emphasis on exercise.

Furthermore I’ll go as far to say that without my willingness to go out EVERY SINGLE DAY and fill up my Apple Watch rings I’d not be where I am now.

Whether you refer to it as body magic or (if you too have the device I do) ‘filling your rings’ this is the key (in my view) not just to enable transformative change in the first place – but to ensure that once it’s taken place the benefits have permanence.

The truth is that whilst I may eat more than most I also do more than the average slimmer – and it’s not unusual for me to finish some days with around 5000 kcals expended.

A while back (just after winning MOTY) I read a mildly critical comment about my ‘obsessive’ walking (around 10 miles a day roughly) under an article regarding my MOTY success story in the Daily Mail.

It questioned why I bothered to do such a ridiculous amount of miles when the simple answer was that I should just eat less – because if I did then I’d need to do less.

For some time this bothered me – because I’ve continually felt guilt about my portion sizes being the ‘last bastion’ of problem eating in my life.

They’ve never really changed since I started my transformation – and instead of modifying quantity most of the time I’ve modified the content of a meal in order to compensate for my worst impulses.

I have wondered in the past whether my walking has been all about enabling such bad behaviour (if you can call it that) or whether I do it for another reason.

As time has gone on though and I’ve added swimming to my regular routine I’ve realised that my continued appetite is not just about greed – it’s because I need to replenish the stores of energy that I burn – and that I eat more to move more.

This is the point of my social media presence on Instagram – which doesn’t contain endless pictures of every meal I consume – but instead contains images of a life that is being lived to its fullest extent.

I spend my time seeing all that the world around me has to offer, sharing that with others who are close to me and drinking deeply from the twin cups of nature and the human spirit.

I’m happier not just because I’m thinner (that just makes me like everyone else) but because I spend my spare time outdoors – and as much of it as I can with the people I love doing activities ensuring we will have long lasting friendships that enrich us all.

It’s because of this that I’m where I am in life.

Healthy eating alone is not the answer.

In order to have a sustainable and healthier future I need to continually chase the sunset.

That means swimming just a little more, walking a tiny bit further or just trying every day to be a better version of myself.

If I do then anniversaries like my diamond target membership or annual milestones regarding alcohol abstinence will eventually just come and go without any fanfare.

They are already my every day normal – and because of that I know that I will not only hold that award in my hand very soon but that I will carry on being the same man that got there in the first place.

Forever.

Davey

Multi Dassetts

How time flies.

On Monday I spent my morning walking around between Burton Dassett and Avon Dassett. It’s a really lovely part of the world which I have to say I holds a special place in my memories because of what it represents.

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Whilst standing at the top of Magpie Hill (after the relatively brief stride to the summit) I started reminiscing about previous trips I’ve made there with my various twalking buddies.

It doesn’t seem like five minutes since I wrote this post (link) when I first visited Burton Dassett (I couldn’t remember the name of it at the time and kept calling it Bertie Bassett) with a friend, but amazingly it was Feb 14th 2017.

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This was two whole years ago!

Back then I was 23st 10lbs, but surprisingly I still coped rather well with the effort of making the journey to the top.

It had completely slipped my mind until I looked back at my post (one of the reasons I write them) that when I walked up to the windmill (or whatever it is – no-one seems to know for sure) I was trying for the very first time to add gradients to my walking capabilities.

Distance was becoming less of an issue, but hills had yet to become a firm part of my exercise lexicon.

Since there aren’t all that many hills of consequence in Warwickshire this represented preparation for an eventual attempt at climbing Snowdon – which back then seemed mind bogglingly far off in the future.

I eventually did it though (my various Snowdon exploits are here).

Much has changed since then – not least the fact that it was a LOT easier to burn calories – because after 38 minutes and 1.57 miles of relatively chilled out walking (at least by my standards today) I’d amazingly eradicated over 466 of them.

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The second time I visited was in July 2017 (link).

By then I was a lot fitter and quite a bit lighter (19st 11lbs). This meant that I was more than willing to extend the walk (as suggested by a more ‘off piste inclined regular twalker) to Avon Dassett.

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As was customary with this particular companion there were a few little mis-steps and our twalk ended up being slightly longer than originally expected – coming in at around six miles.

In total on my second visit I burned 1600 calories.

On Monday (in comparison) my heart rate was a LOT lower and I had to do a LOT more distance to get anywhere near this amount. In order to double my calorie burn compared to the first visit my companion and I had to walk THREE TIMES as far.

Although the distance I covered on Monday was nearly identical to my second visit I burned 600 less calories.

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To burn 1600 calories in one go these days I have to swim continuously for around two kilometres.

It’s not all about the miles and calories though – and it’s certainly not all about the stats – because these are (to an extent) becoming less and less relevant now I’m much fitter.

These days I walk for the friendship and the views – as well as it being something that I love to do.

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This is despite the mud mind you – because while the skies and surroundings looked beautiful on Monday by the time I reached Avon Dassett my boots were almost twice as heavy as when I’d started.

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The earth in the recently ploughed fields was like glue – and proved really tough to get off when we finally got to solid ground. No matter how many times I stood in puddles, wiped it on grass and stamped my feet it refused to budge.

In fact the only place to effectively scrape it away happened to be one of the two churches in the village.

Sitting at the top of the village, St John the Baptist (which is still not in use by anyone) has some useful little scrapers and a rough bristly mat in front of the doors. These prove to be a serious winner if you want to have a look inside without dragging half of the nearby fields with you.

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I was talking to a close blogging friend (Hayley – check out her site – its ace) the other day and sharing thoughts about how we’ve both changed thanks to our significant (and life altering) successes with Slimming World.

She is now barely recognisable in her ‘before’ photos (check this out! link) and is consequently someone that I regularly discuss the psychological aspects of weight loss with. We’ve both gotten rid enough of it to make our previous lives and attitudes practically impossible for us to relate to.

As we nattered I mentioned my return visit to this church. This started in the context of our shared love of photography – in particular how ‘bokeh depth of field’ effects are becoming easier and easier to accomplish with multi lens (or AI assisted single lens) smart phones.

She can accomplish these kinds of effects with a digital SLR (something I don’t have or know how to do) – but nevertheless I still like to play around and had been experimenting with my twalking buddy.

We’d taken a few example shots while we were in the church and I’d been showing him the really cool ‘portrait’ mode on my iPhone.

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I sent these faux bokeh images to my fellow blogger (as well as the ones above from 2017) and as we discussed them the conversation slowly shifted to self image – specifically how nowadays it seems really bizzare to both of us that we ever looked differently to the way that we do now.

As the anniversary of me reaching my target weight approaches I’m beginning to realise that I just accept what I see in the mirror these days and don’t really question it any more.

Like Hayley my current self image has slowly become my normal. When I look at photos of myself from before I started losing weight they now seem like someone else entirely – and the fear (that used to burn oh so brightly) of me falling back into old habits has almost completely evaporated.

That’s not to say I don’t still struggle at times – because I do. Despite my best efforts sometimes I’m more off plan than I’m on it – but crucially I’m always aware that at some point I’m going to have to fix any gains – and so far this has been something I’ve become quite adept at doing.

Cooking proper meals (of which I’ve been doing a lot this week for #freefoodfeb) and doing plenty of exercise is always the key.

I definitely experience my worst excesses when I pick at food, don’t cook meals and decide to stay in bed rather than getting up for a swim or an early morning walk around the park. This only ever results in a mood dip the following day followed by more picky eating, self recrimination, a lot more eating, yet more self recrimination.

Thankfully after all that nonsense is out of the way I usually then experience a major push to sort myself out.

I wish it didn’t happen like this – and maybe one day maybe it won’t – but I’m less inclined these days to view any of this as failure, because it most certainly isn’t. This (along with my self image) is the truth of my new normal. I screw up and then I sort it out.

Over and over again.

I’m often asked by people (particularly on Instagram) what the ‘secret’ of such massive weight loss is – as well as how to keep it off long term.

It’s a difficult question to answer – but I guess the easiest (and most truthful response) is simply that I no longer turn any gains into a catastrophe. Instead I just accept that sometimes my weight will fluctuate along with my mood – just the same as it does for everyone else in the world.

In truth there is no answer to it that fits everyone (or at least not one that I’m aware of) just an acceptance that everyone will struggle from time to time and that the quickest route to failure is believing that it will happen.

Anyway – it’s getting late and I have to walk home and cook the very kind of food optimised meal that I’ve just been writing about.

Whatever you’re doing internet please make sure it involves a little walk, a home cooked meal – and a sprinkling of self belief.

It it does we’ll all be golden 🙂

Davey

Learning things

You can learn something new every minute of every day.

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

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Who knew?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh.

I’m clearly just not that smart.

It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

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

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

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

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

I’m no longer running a solitary race.

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

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

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

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

I saw myself as a parasite.

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

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

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

All I knew was that I had to reach it.

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

Deep down I knew that this was my last chance.

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

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

I’d done it.

I’d fixed everything.

Only I hadn’t.

Not really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was huge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I won.

Or at least I thought I had.

Suddenly I found myself, standing at the top of my mountain having tasted victory but feeling completely empty. After all what had I really achieved? In reality I’d just levelled the playing field and put myself right back at the start where everyone else was.

Sure – I now looked like everyone else and was anonymous for the first time in my life. I could walk into a room and no-one would pay any attention to me. I wasn’t a freak of nature and I didn’t invite lingering stares or insults.

However it quickly dawned on me that I was still twenty years behind everyone else. I had (what I considered to be) a ruined body, had never been married, had no children and I didn’t know how to begin fixing this problem.

I felt alone.

The realisation of this pushed me lower than I’d felt in a long time – and for quite a while I didn’t know how to get over it.

The universe listens though – and you just have to watch for the signs.

Yesterday I admitted to myself that almost a year after I reached my target weight things have finally changed. I have entered a new chapter of my life and here my whole story begins anew.

There’s hope, and with it comes a tangible sense that things are truly different. I’m beginning to feel long dormant emotions and think in ways that I haven’t for decades. Each day now seems to be fresh and new because of this and I finally feel I can begin move away from the wreckage of the past and live firmly in the future.

It’s better than that though because I don’t just have a future that didn’t exist before.

I have a future that doesn’t have to be lived in solitude.

I may be at the start again but I’m poised on the blocks, ready to run, with hope in my heart and a smile on my face.

The world is out there and I’m reaching out to take it every single day.

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Davey

 

Weston Subedge circular walk

I’ve been a busy boy over the last few days – and although I know that they have it feels like my feet have barely touched the ground.

As well as being quite busy in my personal life I’ve been in a strange dietary position this week – because in order to remain within my current target range I’ve actually had to try to put weight back on.

The problem is that such an activity is now profoundly counter-intuitive for me and although for a day or two I rather enjoyed a post Christmas ‘blow out’ (my increased intake was mostly related to protein, fruit and cottage cheese) now I’m getting closer to this Saturday’s weigh in I really can’t bring myself to eat way more than I need to before stepping on the scales.

Neither a Thursday nor a Friday are for stuffing my face.

For the last two and a half years these have been my ‘be very careful‘ days – and consequently I automatically begin to start craving salad and fish as soon as Wednesday arrives in order to prepare for group at the weekend.

My ‘slightly lighter than usual’ weight is also further complicated in my mind by me rather liking how I look in the mirror at the moment.

Swimming is having some really tangible benefits – and I can definitely tell what two months of (near daily) breaststroke has done to my upper body.

I’m also still getting quicker too!

Things seem to be much tighter around my waist now I’m swimming.

My shoulders and arms have become noticeably more muscular as well.

I still have way more skin than I will ever need – leaving me with a decidedly flabby midriff that’s unlikely to ever completely disappear – but all of a sudden I can feel a set of abs (!) beneath it all that definitely weren’t apparent at the start of November.

Probably because of this I’m now comfortably able to wear many ‘medium’ shirts that I try on (depending on the retailer).

It’s a million miles away from where I started and it makes me feel absolutely fabulous to compare and contrast.

I’ve become trimmer still since this picture with Angie and Rylan Clark-Neal at the ball in November, meaning that when I tried on a 32in pair of Levi’s yesterday I could almost do the button up.

What’s more – I’m pretty sure that if I’d done this with a pair of Sainsburys TU clothing denims instead (they seem a little more generous) that I’d have been proudly zipped up tight.

The Levis weren’t comfortable sadly – and even if I’d have been able to do the button up I’d have probably cut off the blood supply to my family jewels and looked like a blueberry muffin.

I’ve never had any kind of definition from a muscular perspective and to see it when I look at myself in the mirror now is quite intoxicating.

It’s also nice to feel attractive as well as fitter – and I can’t lie when I say that in the back of my mind there’s a part of me that wants to be the best that I can be not just for my own satisfaction but for the new lady in my life.

I just want to look my absolute best and that’s never something I’ve been able to say about myself in a relationship in the past or that I’ve been able to ‘give’ to a partner before.

The only feeling that I’ve ever had related to romance and my body in the past is shame and I never want to go back to that state of affairs.

Therefore in my mind gaining weight is taking a step backwards in many many respects – especially when at my last weigh in I was still officially above my healthy BMI.

I have a tenuous relationship with these numbers mind you – because if I hit the official NHS lower end BMI of 9st 3lbs I think I’d look like a famine victim.

That’s absolutely not the way to go.

Heroin chic is SO 90’s.

Just to be clear though I have not been starving myself. I’ve been eating a lot because I’ve been doing a lot – as well as navigating the very new experience of occasionally cooking for two and what that means with regard to portion sizes.

On the whole they’ve definitely gotten smaller.

It’s a complicated time for me in all of these respects – but crucially I’m happy and I’m healthy.

I’ve discussed what to do about my weight with Angie (she’s the best consultant a boy could have!) and I’ll share with you all what I finally decide (I may lower my target slightly) and what the eventual outcome is on Saturday.

I’m very much on the fence at the moment.

In the meantime Slimming World have asked me to do an ‘Instagram Takeover’ on their feed (along with some other ladies – although I’m the only man apparently!) and yesterday I was busy documenting what I do during a normal day as well as putting together some photos and videos.

I’m a bit worried though that anyone looking at it (including the PR team) might think that The content of my day has been constructed just for the sake of their social media initiative – because it’s absolutely not.

Thanks mostly to swimming becoming a part of my daily routine this is my current normal and my monthly stats reflect that too.

Thankfully (totally not through any kind of planning) I actually had something that was visually quite lovely (as well as energetic) to document yesterday.

A friend had suggested a new walk.

After my morning swim he picked me up from my house and we headed out to Weston Subedge – which is about a 30 minute drive outside Warwick.

My twalking companion had downloaded and printed out a circular route that looked like it had a good amount of elevation in it – and would take in some excellent views.

To be fair he wasn’t at all wrong – and thanks to an unexpectedly lovely day we were treated to a practically endless vista of sky and fields.

According to the monument at the viewpoint Dover’s Hill is only 25 miles from the Malvern Hills and you can see them easily in the distance.

Thankfully the weather was perfect for views and the excursion was wonderful.

There’s very little that can beat the satisfaction of slogging your way up a steep hill and then finding this kind of vista at the end of it.

Although it’s probably quite challenging to most (from an incline perspective) the walk itself is relatively short (at least by my current yardstick) and over quite quickly if you put your back into it.

However there were lots and lots of little detours that you could easily take to extend a day out here – but be aware if you do give it a go yourself that there were some pretty muddy sections along the way.

Particularly on the final leg by Watery Gate Farm (as the name suggests!)

As we wound our way round behind St Lawrence’s church and back to where we’d originally parked up (on the OS map above) it definitely got boggier – so make sure to wear some sturdy boots!

So – life is good and I feel great.

Slimming World are still treating me like a rockstar too – and they keep sending me fruit baskets for occasional media appearances!

The other day I appeared in a supplement that came packed in with the Daily Star newspaper and almost immediately after a ton of bananas were on my doorstep with a thank you note!

In some ways I’ll be glad to hand over the title of MOTY to a new recipient because deep down I’m still a bit uncomfortable with being in the media so much.

I can’t deny though that it’s nice to inspire people.

When I spoke to Angie earlier today she told me that my name had been mentioned by at least one of the one hundred and thirty new members she’s welcomed to her groups since the new year started.

It’s great to know that my story made someone walk through the door and face her fears.

The fact that someone has read my story, been inspired to change and taken the first steps toward a better life fills me with joy.

It’s a great great feeling and I’m going to make the most of it while it lasts!

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

Christmas update

I really am a big kid in many respects.

If you tell me I’m going anywhere nice then the possibility of me sleeping properly beforehand is practically zero.

It’s why I’m wide awake right now.

My mind can be quite hyperactive at the best of times but honestly when it’s faced with the prospect of going to do things that take me out of my usual comfortable bubble then I start going into ‘planning mode’.

This is the side of me that makes lists and lies awake at 2am completely unable to nod off.

It’s thankfully not a huge element of my personality – because for the most part I prefer a degree of last minute chaos.

I’m not the type of guy that typically chips away at gradual preparation – and find usually that a pressing need to do things with very little time to spare usually results in better creativity.

Such added urgency also means that tasks appear to get completed in lightning fast time with practically zero faffing.

Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

I like to think that doing things at the last moment saves time, because there’s rarely a wasted moment just before an event.

I guess the truth is that I actually just fit in all the dead time before I finally give up procrastinating and get around to doing what I have to do.

It’s not hard to faff about over the Christmas period though.

It’s what the holiday’s there for after all!

While I’ve been doing some exciting new things over the last couple of weeks (more on this maybe in another post further down the line…) for the most part I’ve been experiencing a rather relaxing Christmas on my own.

Many would may see this as the absolute opposite way that Christmas should be spent (and at any other time I may have been in agreement) but I’ve rather enjoyed it.

With very good reason I haven’t felt as if I’ve been in solitude at all.

Everyone that matters to me has been in practically constant or semi regular contact – and once again I’ve been reminded that I have some very creative and very caring friends who (it appears) are always thinking about me when it comes to gifts.

Newer readers may not have heard of Swanlings before – but back when I first started losing weight and could barely move around the park, I motivated myself for a while by following the progress of some cygnets in St Nics.

Nature can be cruel, and out of a large staring group of several cygnets they slowly dwindled in number until only one remained.

This swanling (now fully grown) is still a solitary presence in the park – and whenever I pass by him or her (I have no idea!) I can’t help but stop to say a metaphorical hello.

We’ve both grown and developed together and because of that Swans (and in particular their offspring) hold a special significance in my heart.

My friend (initially a passing blog reader who eventually became much more) clearly understands this and totally out of the blue made me this wonderful piece of embroidery for Christmas.

When it comes to gifts It’s true that big things don’t matter at all.

It really is the thought that counts.

This year I’ve received and given items and cards that probably cost much less in monetary terms than any preceding year in my history – but in truth what’s passed in both directions has probably done so with more love and thought than ever before.

This has led to me feeling rather cared for and supremely relaxed – and has probably been the cause of another feature of the last few days.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day definitely saw me take my foot off the metaphorical gas – and despite ambling around the park for a while on The 25th and 26th (the swimming pool has been closed!!!) the vast majority of my time has been spent eating, reading and playing video games.

I know that dietary excess is something of an expectation that goes hand in hand with the Christmas experience, and I shouldn’t really do guilt – but I can’t help harbouring a little.

I always find periods where I let my appetite off the leash somewhat unsettling – because I immediately realise I’m still capable of eating a LOT of food in a short space of time.

It’s really easy to undo hard won victories on the scales in a very short time – so I resolved relatively early in in the experience that Christmas would mostly be vegetarian.

With the exception of chicken on some days over the holiday season the last few days has consisted almost entirely of roasted and boiled veggies with a few carbs and lots of apples or plums.

Everything I’ve made (particularly in the above picture) was practically oil free and very Slimming World friendly.

I’m not gonna lie though and say I had small portions – because I ate the flipping lot as well as a huge pile of fruit afterwards.

Truthfully I enjoyed every last mouthful of it.

Consequently the evening of the 25th saw me flopping heavily into bed after playing Shadow of the Tomb Raider for the vast majority of the day.

I was quite satisfied with my resulting food coma and felt rather Christmassy.

At least one of us got a good level of exercise in.

By time time I fell asleep (in comparison to my short five mile stroll around the park in the morning) Lara Croft had killed two rather deserving jaguars (whom I turned into some rather fetching boots after they relentlessly stalked me for two levels) brought a swift end to several bad guys and in doing so had clambered over a significant amount of South American jungle.

Frankly I was exhausted just watching her – but couldn’t help admiring her new attire.

I’m just a hair’s breadth away from her approach to personal styling myself – and I’m barely one party invite away from buying something ridiculously outlandish to wear just for the hell of it.

I’m genuinely surprised that many of the things I’ve tried on recently (mostly as an attempt at personal humour) have actually resulted in me thinking ‘You know what?! I’d actually wear that!’

This is a sign that I’m far from unhappy in life – and that the man I’ve become is in a place where he feels so secure that experimentation is just something that happens naturally every day – instead of to be avoided at all costs.

I am still a creature of habit in some respects mind you – and I do like some certain things to remain the same.

As well as regular canine contact (how can you not love a face like that?!) one of these has been the continued joy of bottomless coffee and a good read – which you may well have noticed has taken the place of writing over the last few days.

This is partly because another very generous friend gave me an old (slightly damaged but still fully functional) Kindle as a present – and having never owned one before I can say with complete surprise that I’m totally in love with it.

It only has one purpose (unlike my iPad) but the featherweight nature of its construction and razor sharp text make it instantly pleasurable to read in any light.

The only problem is the numb posterior that it’s caused in both coffee shops and the smallest room of my house…

So that’s been my Christmas internet – and it’s not over yet.

When day breaks I’ll be off to do the things in life that make me happy.

There will be lots of twalking and lots of exploration.

It’s gonna be fun!

Excuse me though. I need to see if I can get at least another hour’s sleep under my belt…

Davey

Poang pocket love

If I didn’t know better I’d think that some special annual event was causing people to panic buy Prosecco, cheese and sprouts.

This morning when I arrived (ten minutes early) outside Aldi it seemed like I wasn’t the only person with a plan to get the jump on the rest of the world.

The queue for the trollies stretched waaaaay out into the rear of the car park far behind me.

When I finally managed to get inside the shop it seemed that grabbing everything before everyone else reached for it was the only order of the day.

I’ve never felt or seen so many elbows in between me and broccoli or plums.

For some reason people forget all manners at this time of year – but I refuse to participate in this sort of behaviour.

If someone manages to get the last bag of sprouts before me then frankly they are welcome to them.

There are plenty more sprouts in the world and I’m in no danger of dying without them.

When I finally arrived (mildly battle scarred) at the checkout, my favourite till lady was thankfully there to greet me.

When I used to work on a till years ago people regularly came back to me because I smiled and talked to them – and she’s no different.

I always look forward to chatting with her for five minutes at the end of my shop.

Today a she was wearing a bright red festive jumper that was covered in polar bears.

I took a moment to complement her on its rather fetching colour and pattern while I unfolded and prepared my carriers.

‘My son.’ She said, motioning to her jumper in clipped English while watching me unzip my freezer bag at the front of my trolly.

‘He doesn’t want and I say no waste.’

She smiled at me and wagged her finger from side to side to emphasise that waste was naughty.

I like her.

She’s thrifty and always takes time to admire my bargain hunting.

Red labels in Aldi mean half price items and the more I accumulate the more she verbally pats me on the head.

It’s a little addictive.

As usual she glanced to her right and made a quick evaluation of (and comment on) my shopping.

There weren’t many red labels today. The locust horde had descended before me and I was left mostly empty handed.

‘No Christmas food?!’ She said, avoiding the obvious absence of penny pinching.

‘Where’s your turkey and wine and chocolate and cake?

She looked almost crestfallen. ‘No treats?’ She finally asked.

I have treats.’ I replied, smiling.

She looked up and down again, failing to identify the root of my excess before shrugging and staring at me rather blankly.

‘I’ve got two extra tubs of cottage cheese…‘ I said.

It is Christmas after all!

She laughed.

I was still thinking about her as I unpacked my shopping at home.

Some people make a crappy task bearable – and she’s one of many over the last few days and weeks that have continually made me smile and feel a little warmer inside.

I can’t help being a creature of habit.

I know we’ll cheer eachother up when we talk so I always gravitate toward her and every week the result is the same.

I also know what outcome my shopping will have with regard to my waistline too and because of that I generally buy the same things every week.

Although I love variety in other areas of my life I am definitely quite rigid in areas that I’ve previously lacked self control.

In some ways it’s fear of what will happen if I deviate – but in others it’s liberating.

What some may see as not being able to let my hair down I see as freedom. I’ve found a way that works, that takes away all the worry of wondering what will happen if I eat x or y and that to me is supremely empowering.

This mild inflexibility (previously something that was harmful when I couldn’t stop drinking or eating pizza) now functions as a strength rather than a weakness.

Others may disagree but I consider this fridge door to epitomise decadence.

I couldn’t touch any of it this morning though.

At least not until I’d weighed in – because until then my policy is ‘nil by mouth‘.

When I arrived at group there was a pleasantly familiar hubub of adults and children.

I can scarcely believe that it’s been four weeks since I last stood on the scales at Slimming World.

It’s been an interesting period for me to be away from both the support of the group and the regular structure of weekly check ins.

My private life has seen more than its fair share of both ups AND downs over the last four weeks.

I’ve encountered an unusual rollercoaster of moments where I’ve over eaten emotionally and then been in such a fantastic frame of mind that I managed to forget food even existed.

In the middle of all this my recent addiction to swimming has remained a constant. At times that’s meant continual hunger – which is something that’s been a difficult thing to deal with.

I may burn a lot more calories than I used to per day by engaging in this activity – but it’s all too easy to then tuck in afterwards and offset any net gains with too many tasty treats.

At times over the last month I’ve gone up in weight – but then shortly afterwards I’ve also gone down.

It’s all part of the continual journey I’m on – and each day is still an education.

One thing that’s kept me motivated is the SW bauble that gets handed out in group every year.

I got this (but never mentioned it at the time) and filled it in a couple of months ago.

After writing their wishes on them some members hang these on their Christmas trees, while others prefer to attach them to fridge doors or kitchen cabinets.

They’re a useful little reminder of why you’re denying yourself and what the end goal is. While they don’t always work they manage to make the difference just enough to be worthwhile.

Mine has been near the kettle next to the coffee – which is the place where I spend the majority of my time in the kitchen.

It’s definitely helped – because after a month on my own, out in the wild with no support for a month I’ve only put on half a pound.

This means that I’m still under my target – and today I was also wearing heavier clothes than last time – so I’m very happy indeed with the result.

It was also a pretty surreal meeting – because at the end several of the lovely ladies in group asked me to sign their Slimming World Magazines!

This month I’m actually gracing the pages of this publication – and I feel a real sense of pride when I think that people just like me will read it and that it might help them on their own journeys.

If you’re not a member and you want a copy then you can find it in supermarkets and newsagents – so go and grab one!

It’s got a calendar too!

In other news I’ve once again been reminded of the power of friendship – and that whenever I feel alone or besieged by events there is a hard core of people that I’m close to who know me and care about me.

One of them is pretty handy with a sewing machine – and she surprised me yesterday with a home made remote control pocket for my Ikea Poang armchair.

She had adapted the pattern from something I knew that she’d been working on already.

When we’d chosen materials together for that particular project she had clearly made a mental note (unbeknownst to me) that I was quite taken with a particular fabric I saw and headed back later to secure some of it.

Honestly things like this put a real lump in my throat.

Not only does it show how well someone knows you – but the fact that they take the time and effort to make something unique and specific to you (even going to Ikea to measure it up and try it on another chair to be sure!) means this is never leaving my side – and that’s not just because it’s now physically velcro’d to my armchair!

So – it’s so far been a good day internet.

Shopping done, stress avoided, weight in range, autographs given (!) and Poang pocket loved.

It’s time for coffee.

It would be rude not to.

Davey

Once upon a showcase

Last night I took a trip with a mate (who generously invited me along as he had a spare ticket) to see ‘Once upon a Deadpool‘ at the Showcase in Coventry.

I’m used to going to the Vue cinema in Leamington – and I have to say from a comfort level this is a definite upgrade.

The whole place has had a huge makeover since I last visited.

Compared to the rather basic staffing level and recent bargain basement approach to pricing (which is admittedly my main motivator usually) this is a bit different and rather swanky.

Although I couldn’t get a picture of it the seating in the auditorium (screen 5) it was seriously awesome.

I found myself unexpectedly in an electric reclining leather armchair with absolutely acres of room and I have to say I felt a bit like a rock star!

This feeling didn’t last too long though – because in order to stick to my SW plan I had taken with me some sugar free sweets to suck (Aldi ‘Dominion’ Strawberry and Cream and some honey and lemon Fisherman’s Friend).

By the time the film had finished I could barely contain the apocalyptic consequences.

Thankfully I maintained an impressive rear clench (I reckon I could have cracked a pool ball with my butt cheeks) until I got back to my own car – which stoically bore the brunt of my methane propelled journey home.

Lesson learned. Next time I’ll take a coffee instead…

The film was enjoyable however – even though it’s the second time I’ve seen Deadpool 2 at the cinema.

OUAD is a little different mind you – as it’s a censored version of the original and you can view this a number of ways.

On the upside it allows a genuinely funny film to be seen by a younger audience with less gore.

It also has new sequences that riff off scenes from ‘The Princess Bride’ and include the highly amusing Fred Savage.

On the downside much of the humour and ‘flow’ of the film was contained within the now heavily edited violent sequences – and when you’ve seen the original what remains can feel rather disappointing.

The opening – which explained much of Deadpool’s motivations for events of the the film (and it’s central theme of being a love story) is now gone entirely – and has been replaced by a dialogue between Reynolds and Savage that does little to sell the film to anyone that doesn’t already know what’s coming.

Weirdly these chatty segments sell themselves as knowing censorship (Deadpool is one of only a few characters in the Marvel universe that’s aware of the ‘fourth wall’ (link) and knows he’s a comic book character) that enables viewing by a younger audience.

This is is an odd contradiction however because these new sequences simultaneously appear to be written for an audience that’s already seen the film and knows what’s coming.

It’s a real shame and an odd mix – but you can kind of understand why it’s turned out the way it has.

Deadpool 2 was uber violent (in a comical rather than horrific sense) and there’s absolutely no way that they could have edited this and other segments into sequences which would have maintained a ‘family friendly’ (their words not mine) rating.

Oddly this push for a lower classification is yet another problem (albeit more of a regional one) because in the UK the film received a ‘15‘ classification – which barely makes sense – but in the US it’s migrated from an ‘R‘ rating to a ‘PG-13‘.

I agree with a lot of the reviews (which I only read this morning because I never look at them in advance) that this version of the movie only serves to justify the need for Deadpool to retain its usual adult rating in future releases (link).

If you’re going to see it then know in advance that big chunks are missing – and if you can make sure that you watch the original instead.

Either way I can’t fault the showcase’s ‘cinema de lux’ seating or the quality of the picture and sound.

It was a really nice experience overall and to be able to recline so far back and just chill out was awesome!

If you’re a tall person then this is a really good choice of venue.

(Thanks to my mate!)

In other news I have decided (after having a quiet word with myself the other day) that a rather militaristic approach to swimming that I’ve been developing over the last month is not the way forward.

I tend to notice quite quickly when I’m bleeding the enjoyment out of an activity because it quickly becomes all about an absurd competition with myself.

It descends into Davey vs Davey – which rarely results a winner.

I always want to see continual improvement that I can demonstrate to myself with stats – and when I am a little bit slower one day or feel like I have no energy I needlessly beat myself up.

The groups at Slimming World aren’t present when I’m walking or swimming and sometimes that’s a real shame.

I’ve long maintained that the power of the group is that you treat one another as friends and give support accordingly.

Gatherings of like minded people propel each other along with positivity.

We tend to succeed more often in groups (in my view) precisely because of that.

There are times that we all need an advocate to highlight the positive aspects of everything we’ve achieved rather than being left with what can often be our own internal monologue.

The flip side of being determined and driven (which is a good thing) is that it can often result in being very self critical (clearly a bad thing).

The truth of it is that I think I’ve reached my own little (at least for the time being) plateau with swimming – because I’ve found that grinding out ever increasing distance at continually higher speed is having some negative side effects.

  • My appetite has at times been stimulated way in excess of what I’ve actually burned off – leading me to overeat and occasionally undo the good work I’ve done in the pool.
  • I’ve become annoyed with myself because of a perceived ‘lack of progress’ – when in reality I’ve made huge strides mentally and physically to be swimming in the first place.

So I’ve decided to make a mental pivot.

My emphasis will now shift from speed and distance to instead maintaining a constant speed and swimming for 45-60 minutes at a pace that feels comfortable.

The objective here is NOT to become an athlete – and I’ve never felt I needed to be an iron man slogging through mud with a log strapped to my back.

All I’ve ever wanted is to have a life that’s naturally filled with activities and my approach to losing weight and being fit for life so far has enabled that.

Whilst I’m still a bit anal about my walking it’s now become such a massive part of my life that I get genuinely annoyed when I have to use my car.

In short I can’t imagine my life without it – and that’s just the way I like it.

I’m far more likely to be this way forever if I can build a range of such structures into every single day.

The other great thing about having several enjoyable exercise activities is that I’m always covered in case of injury.

If I can’t walk then I can swim, and if I can’t swim then I can use my exercise bike.

I want swimming to be another string to my bow and constant in my world. As long as I keep it at a sensible level I’m hopeful that it will remain this way.

So this is the (current) plan.

I think that around 50 25m lengths 4-5 times a week is the way forwards, because mentally it seems to me like this is not only easily achievable – but it’s enjoyable, takes less than an hour, doesn’t leave me too hangry afterwards, keeps a good cardio rate up and also burns a really great amount of calories.

December is still shaping up to be a great month for activity either way – and I’m determined to keep the average up.

I doubt it will come as a surprise to anyone that I’m still very keen to keep an eye on my stats!

Anyway – I must get on internet. I have a whole bunch of things to accomplish today and sitting here nattering to you guys isn’t getting any of it done!!!

Davey

Too many chequers

I’m in a stupidly good mood this evening.

It’s been a really nice past couple of days, and as with most frames of mind like this I can usually trace the roots of it back to the people in my life – all of whom appear to be supremely capable of providing me with stimulating and engaging conversation.

Pleasingly some of these are in many ways quite new to my life – and over the last couple of weeks I’ve been getting to know them much better – even finally meeting one of them in the flesh for the very first time.

In this person’s case we’ve been following each other’s blogs since January 2017 and since then an online acquaintance has gradually moved from being polite chat to a blossoming friendship. Gradually we’ve started to avidly follow eachother’s significant life events – and tried whenever possible to be both supportive and helpful.

When we initially agreed to meet over a month ago it seemed like something that should have happened a LONG time ago – and we drew up plans to meet at a nice pub half way between us both.

This should have been easy.

It hasn’t been all plain sailing though. Initially our plans were derailed (as was pretty much everything else in my life) by the sudden and unexpected onset of Vertigo after the Slimming World Ball (link).

Once that was sorted out (and a short trip that she was on had finished) we re-arranged to meet yesterday. On paper this seemed quite easy – but it turns out that Oxfordshire (and admittedly my lack of due care and attention) had been plotting my downfall well in advance of my arrival.

Clearly unimpressed with the idea of using other board games for the naming of Public Houses in Oxfordshire it seems that local publicans instead prefer to call the vast majority of their drinking establishments ‘The Chequers‘.

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Personally it strikes me as a missed opportunity.

If I owned a pub I’d have used Chess as my theme (a much better use of the board) and you’d all be welcome to enjoy a non-alcoholic drink and Slimming World friendly meal at Davey’s Bashed Bishop.

But I digress.

This may seem like a mild inconvenience (or even an amusing quirk of the region) to many  – but if like me you incorrectly assume that Apple Maps understands what you mean when you type ‘The Chequers Oxfordshire’ and then just expect it to take you to the right place you’d be sorely mistaken.

I hate being late – so I tried to make sure I wasn’t tardy.

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I arrived ten minutes early, pulled up on the forecourt and whipped out my phone to let my friend know I was there.

It’s always a good idea to let someone know when you’ve arrived.

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She and her apparently parking car were no-where to be seen. The car park looked suspiciously empty

My heart immediately sank and I quickly scrolled back couple of weeks in our chat history to find the original link she’d sent me.

Nutsacks!

I was twenty flipping miles away in Chipping Norton at the wrong flipping pub!!!

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I made my apologies over the phone, assured her i’d be there ASAP and put the Batmobile into pursuit mode.

I actually made it to the right pub in thirty minutes so you can draw your own conclusions about how faithfully I stuck to the speed limit on the way there.

I made my way in, spotted her, had a welcome hug, apologised profusely, quickly ordered another coffee and sat down to have a chat.

I shouldn’t have worried.

The Chequers at Weston on the Green (link) appeared to be looking after her admirably. When I arrived she (already secreted into a cosy corner) had a nice hot coffee to start the day. Furthermore it soon transpired that she’d arrived just in time to book the last table for us to have a bite to eat.

Perfect!

For those keeping a tally of instances when my blogging activity has resulted in a new friendship or a meeting with a like minded soul you’re probably doing better than me because I’ve totally lost count.

It has so far proved to be the Willy Wonka Everlasting Gobstopper of positive human interaction. I seem to endlessly ‘bump into’ people like myself who both value and then reflect back the honestly that I try to pour into my posts.

Initially the plan was to have a coffee and go for a walk (since many regular readers will know that both of these activities are the way to Davey’s heart) but as time rolled on and we’d barely taken a breath to have a pause in conversation it seemed like a walk just wasn’t going to happen.

Honestly, I didn’t mind.

I’d already pre-loaded with a good swim first thing in the morning, so my exercise and ring filling OCD was held at bay.

 

After eating (a rather non SW dinner) we instead decided to have another drink and continue nattering.

There was just too much to catch up with (we’ve been reading about each other’s lives for way too long it seems) and it was becoming abundantly clear that one meeting alone would not suffice.

By the time we parted company the conversation had remained unbroken for the best part of three and a half hours – and when we separated and hugged again it was a genuine and reciprocated connection.

I drove home with a big smile on my face, and thanks to other people that I’ve walked, talked and texted with that smile has remained right up until this moment.

Not so long ago I was writing about a book I was reading called ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’. It was essentially about the value of human company and how it enriches and completes our lives.

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I’m reminded as I sit here that rarely has something hit the nail so squarely on the head.

Not only did the post I wrote about the thoughts it provoked have some very positive repercussions – but it’s cemented in my mind that my blog remains integral to my life and continued happiness.

Since I started sharing my life it’s done nothing but enrich every aspect of it, and I can’t imagine not being able to write about my day and through my thoughts interact with the world on such a personal level.

As another blogger I follow recently noted, when they write things seem to work – when they don’t… well things just don’t.

So internet – here’s to being honest and open with everyone.

Here’s to trusting that if you decide to send positive truths out into the world then their fruits will always come back to you when you least expect but are most in need of them.

Davey

Christmas Tree

My Christmas tree is up and dressed.

It looks all sparkly and bright – and when there are no other lights in my living room my tree adds a pleasing seasonal glow between my TV and book case that wasn’t there before.

It took me about an hour of casually attaching baubles and tinsel last night to get it to the point where it looked ‘balanced’ as opposed to ‘busy’.

I kept standing back and looking at it from different angles to try and gauge whether or not it looked ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ until I finally decided that it was a pointless exercise.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (in this case me) and I came to the conclusion that my tree looked nice.

After all – nobody but me will be looking at it for the next month so the only opinion that mattered was my own.

Liberated from deliberation I sat down in my armchair to enjoy the satisfaction of a room lit only by Christmas lights and quietly sipped my coffee.

It looked nice but…

It made me feel…

Sad.

And there it was.

A dark cloud was suddenly hanging above my armchair – and in its long shadow sat myself and my Christmas tree.

I’ve had my head buried in books all week – and rather than outputting to my blog I’ve been focusing on inputting to my brain.

It’s not my usual type of behaviour.

When I withdraw and do this kind of thing I realise (mostly after the fact) that it’s generally because something seems to be ‘missing’ or ‘off’ in my life.

I’ve been really rather enjoying ‘The pursuit of Happiness’ by Ruth Whippman – which is written in a humorous and engaging style that has really sucked me in.

Sadness was far from my mind when I started reading this current tome (despite its title) because I wasn’t really expecting to be confronted with the answer that it professed to have.

The book rather bravely gave away its conclusion quite early in the first chapter – with the author deciding instead to spend the remainder of her book supporting her initial hypothesis.

Her argument is that whoever studies suggest are the happiest individuals (be they in cultural groups, religions, family units or even cults) all happen to have one thing in common.

Fundamentally they provide happiness because they all have human relationships at their core.

Families often persist through the worst abuses and difficulties and members will forgive many transgressions, forgo short term freedoms and sacrifice personal happiness for one another in the hope that life will ultimately be better for their sacrifice.

Whilst situations like this may cause stress there’s an implied payday waiting at the end of it all.

Husbands, wives, children, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles will have an enduring family, companionship and love.

No matter how restrictive your religion is, however difficult you find parenthood, whether your philosophical clique requires you to work for free or give up your wealth in its service they all provide happiness because of the sense of community and belonging that they offer.

Some become oddly abusive relationships – such as homosexuals continually trying to exist in restrictive Mormon churches that consider them aberrations.

Even in these extreme situations – (despite a tradeoffs where they are required to make immense personal sacrifices) they can still come to believe that the pain is worth it.

Ruth Whippman argues that if we can bear to give up certain freedoms to remain part of a tribe – we can still legitimately and truthfully profess to be happy because the sense of belonging and support that other aspects of it give us still outweighs the ‘bad’ aspects of membership.

This is what keeps us coming back for more.

The need for human connections.

The pursuit of happiness makes some interesting and thought provoking arguments – and therein lay the origin of my Christmas tree related feelings.

I looked up from it’s pages in the warm and chatty coffee shop that I was sitting in.

My legs were crossed and my booted feet were resting on a low radiator which ran along the length of a large window looking out onto a street below.

Outside the sun had broken through the clouds of the early morning and it was shining.

My coffee tasted wonderful, my feet were warm, my clothes loose and comfortable and my surroundings were pleasing.

Like most things in my life though I was suddenly aware that all of these things were being experienced alone.

It all began to hit me there.

I was reading a book that was convincingly explaining why a huge chunk of the western world is fundamentally unhappy and it was describing me.

All of the people it described that were isolating themselves in mindfulness, yoga or spiritual retreats to find happiness were me.

Frustrated by other parts of my life that didn’t seem to be ‘working’ I was looking inward, trying to understand myself and gain insight into what would make me a more contented and loveable person, when in fact just being with other people made me feel and come across that way.

For many years I’ve actually been very comfortable with my situation.

Well.

Not really.

That’s not entirely true.

What I really mean is that I’ve learned to just exist on my own.

This isn’t because I dislike the company of others.

It’s quite the contrary in fact because I revel in it – but several (mostly self inflicted) factors led to me feel like it was ‘normal’ to live the way I do.

For the longest time I never really felt that there was an option to be otherwise.

My weight and health provided an excellent excuse for my lack of impetus to address this part of my life and was a really convenient cover.

After all – who would want a man that was so physically colossal and such a huge failure in life?

Compounding this internal thought process was part of the reason things had gone so wrong with my life in the last two decades in the first place. My last relationship (which ideally I wanted to continue forever) ended rather abruptly, and frankly when it did I felt cheated out of happiness.

I was angry and in pain – and I smoked, ate and drank to avoid dealing with it.

For many many years I treated this point in time the same way that others treat a bereavement. I felt like the part of me that could love and trust a partner ‘died’ the day that she left my life.

If I’d have been Queen Victoria this would have been the beginning of my humourless and stoic ‘black period’.

I isolated myself in self flagellating grief.

Honestly it wasn’t that hard to do.

I’d had a largely solitary childhood with a mother who was abusive and a father that was distant.

My nearest sibling was over a decade younger than me and school represented nothing more than a war of attrition. Looking back it feels like I only ever seemed to learn how to not show fear, pain or loneliness during the relentless bullying I suffered on an almost daily basis.

It wasn’t until the age of 16 that things started to change – and at this point I embarked upon a previously undreamt of period of popularity with friends and the opposite sex.

I remember at the time (by then having lost a lot of weight) that I was ‘fixed’.

The past was behind me and I was now free to bend the world into whatever I wanted it to be.

Furthermore I’d enjoy it in full technicolour and get as loaded as I possibly could.

Unpopular Dave became ‘party Dave’ and he did EVERYTHING to excess.

Ultimately though we all realise the folly of our personal delusions – and I now know that I smoked, drank and did many other mind altering things to paper over painful personality cracks.

I never once tried to repair one of them – mostly because I lacked the self awareness to see them for what they were in the first place.

I couldn’t see that every action was the result of childhood damage and the vast majority were either physically or emotionally self destructive.

Relationships were an extension of this – and were all designed to prove to the world that I was ‘normal’ and ‘deserving of love’ when deep down I felt I was neither.

If I’m truthful I didn’t love the majority of my partners.

I liked them a lot – but back then I was far more concerned with whether or not they loved me. If they did then they functioned as outward proof to the world that I wasn’t wicked or evil (my mom’s preferred way of describing me) or the odd little fat kid alone in the playground.

When the poor lifestyle choices related to the weight of my emotional burdens eventually translated into physical bulk it actually made things easier.

Now I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone.

No one expected me to have a relationship – and instead all I had to do was learn to manage my time and construct a framework to my life that would make loneliness instead appear to be ‘freedom’.

Now though things are different and physically I have a new lease of life.

I possess freedoms that I’ve fought hard to regain. It’s real rather than imagined – but all of a sudden I feel desperately alone in it.

Over the last couple of months I’ve quietly tried to fill it with personal entreaties and dating sites – but so far I’m not making much headway.

Up to this point I’ve just made choices that ultimately served to exacerbate my feelings of isolation and instead of feeling closer to anyone or anything have been left feeling generally alone and more disconnected.

I’m not really into writing ‘poor me’ blog posts – but I can’t deny that currently this is pretty much how I feel.

The Christmas tree with it’s glittering tinsel and baubles in front of me is a reminder of my problem – not the cause.

Life isn’t meant to be lived alone.

A Christmas tree is meant to be shared.

In some ways making ‘steps forward’ and trying to fix this has made the problem even more acute than it was before.

Whereas previously I felt like there was a gap that I probably needed to fill at some vague point in the future – now I’m just beginning to feel rejected and needy.

Every chat that I have on dating apps seems to put me in contact with people that are either not interested in me or that have omitted huge things from their profiles.

This is presumably in the hope that somehow people will never ask whether they’re actually divorced, if they have loads of children or a job that means they have around 1 hour a week spare if they’re lucky.

So far I’m at a loss.

I have also become painfully aware that whilst I’ve succeeded in transforming myself into a ‘normal’ man I still feel that underneath all my success lies an uncomfortable truth that even if I find someone I like that I’m never going to be accepted for who I am.

In the dark of my living room, in the half light of my tree I feel lost.

On the plus side though internet my Christmas tree looks nice, so that’s something at least.

Davey

Slimming World Parliamentary Reception

A couple of days ago (on Wednesday) I went to the House of Commons for a Slimming World reception hosted by Baroness Benjamin.

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I know her better as Floella – because throughout my childhood she was a huge presence on children’s television – and also a quiet beacon (although I never really recognised it at the time) for racial diversity on a BBC that was largely populated by white men.

In person she’s quite something.

She seems eternally youthful – and possesses seemingly endless energy. During the two hours I was next to or near by her she never appeared to be anything less than continually animated and engaging.

Even when I presented myself in front of her and gushingly shook her hand later in the afternoon she was gracious and cheerful.

This was despite me making a ham fisted Oscar Wilde reference regarding whether or not she had a picture of herself at home going mouldy in the loft (the Picture of Dorian Grey).

Bless her.

She just stared blankly at me and unleashed a huge smile before warmly hugging me.

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Despite my clearly refined sense of humour falling largely on deaf ears with Floella the day went well and the themes she raised clearly resonated with many in the room. 

The topic was the startling increase in childhood obesity (something Floealla is extremely passionate about – she’s heavily involved in related charities) and what the government are doing to look at this from a strategic perspective.

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There were a few speeches – from the great and good within Slimming World and also a representative from government.

In no particular order we heard from the young slimmer of the year Charlotte Randall (link) (Instagram),  2017’s Top Target Consultant from Warwickshire Jodie Rigby-Mee (link) (Instagram) Slimming World’s head of external affairs Jenny Craven (link) and Conservative MP Andrew Selous (link) speaking as part of the health and social care committee. 

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I met a lot of people and shook a lot of hands, discussing many topics that were important to me and listening to other people’s opinions on what mattered to them.

There was also something of a treat for me – because one of the more personally interesting people I bumped into was a guy called Kennneth Fox. He’s an emeritus Professor at Bristol University (link) and has written and consulted extensively on the links between physical activity and psychological wellbeing.

These are subjects that have become very close to my heart – and I know from first hand experience how activity can change physical and emotional darkness into hopeful rays of light.

Kenneth has been working with Slimming World for around 20 years and (I discovered) was heavily involved in formulating their ‘Body Magic‘ plan.

For those unfamiliar with Slimming World this part of the plan aims to encourage members to get involved in regular exercise – and in its literature illustrates the benefits it can have when combined with healthy eating.

I’m proudly a Platinum Body Magic certificate holder.

I chatted to him and his lovely wife for quite a while – but finally I couldnt resist asking him about a burning question that had been on my mind from the moment I saw his name badge.

I wanted to know (when he had come into contact with people such as myself that have had extreme weight loss) how their heart health was afterwards.

What did he think about my resting heart rate?

Very encouragingly Ken didn’t seem at all surprised my my RHR (which readers will know has been a minor preoccupation of mine for a while since it’s typically 40bpm). 

When I told him that I ‘only’ walked (as opposed to spending ages in the gym, running marathons or climbing mountains) he replied with ‘Well I bet that you don’t walk slowly.’

‘No I don’t. Not any more anyway.’ I replied.

‘I tend to be quite brisk.’

‘You’d be surprised how quickly the heart reacts to moderate increases in exercise.’ He said.

‘It can drop down to the mid forties in next to no time – and what you’ve been doing probably has much more in common with the heart profile of an athlete than you realise. Regular cardio activity has an almost immediate corresponding impact on heart health.’

He sipped his red wine thoughtfully and watched my response.

I was listening intently.

‘When I get into my fitness my resting rate quickly drops into the forties.’ He continued, smiling at me.

I nodded. He was telling me just what I needed to hear.

This was really encouraging – because my GP had said that he had next to no experience of extreme weight loss and how it affects the body. Therefore (despite his assurances last week that my RHR was normal) I’ve still remained a little worried that my heart has its rate because I in some way damaged it when I was so obese.

Thankfully everyone is telling me the opposite lately. 

It’s very encouraging, because it means my long term health outcomes are really really positive

I’m really not sure how I’ve dodged so many health related bullets – and I’m of the opinion that in many ways I really don’t deserve the outcomes that I’ve had over the last two years

Not only do I feel lucky – but I also sometimes feel quite guilty, because I know quite a few people that have looked after themselves way better than I every did – and yet they suffer much more with ill health than I do now.

Life isn’t fair – and if anything their struggles continually remind me that I have a duty to keep doing what I’ve been doing – if for no other reason to show them that I appreciate what I’ve got and I don’t plan to throw it away again.

I need to persist with my exercise for THEM and focus on my continual self improvement.

Before long though the pleasant conversation (and the event as a whole) was coming to a close.

All that remained was to grab a few quick photos to mark the occasion.

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The one above also has the 2018 Greatest Loser Shaun Carrington – (link) (instagram) and 2018 National Mr Sleek Dan Sullivan (link) (instagram) in it on the right. Both of these guys posted their own images of this moment on Instagram and and I was amazed when they pointed out that this photo represented a total combined loss of over 58 stone!

(I also rather like it because of the rather amusing photobomber in the background who made me laugh out loud when I spotted the cheesy grin behind Jodie. She knows who she is!)

I walked away from the day filled with thoughts about how to formulate a post related to all this – as well as how to do it justice – but the truth is that my thoughts were elsewhere.

The Parlimentary event had been very interesting and it was lovely to meet everyone – but I find that sometimes when I sit down to write about my day the main events are often not the ones that bring my thoughts into focus.

There were a couple of things about that day that were a lot more important to me.

Firstly my friend – who also accompanied me to the Ritz – joined me on again on Wednesday. For this I was extremely grateful – although I doubt she grasped quite how much.

Being trapped in Solihull by Vertigo a week and a half ago on my own really dented my confidence because I didn’t see it coming. I was just stuck, out in the open and alone, feeling vulnerable and incapable.

It wasn’t nice.

Having a close friend with me that could look after me if something bad happened was a real comfort – and although I seem to now be over the worst with my inner ear infection (I didn’t have any attacks at all on Wednesday!) her being there made all the difference.

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The great thing about spending time with my friend (like many of my other really close ones) is that she knows how I think

Although I could have easily charged taxis from the train station to the Houses of Commons and back again to Slimming World’s expenses for the day nothing could have been further from my mind.

She instinctively knew this without me having to say a word.

We twalked the whole way from London Marleybone to the Houses of Parliament and back, and thoroughly enjoyed every step

The selfie of us is on the blue bridge in St James Park – and it was taken before we arrived at the reception.

It’s round here that the real point of my blog entry today can be found.

Here, all of the considerations about an event in a musty old building in the nation’s capital just fall by the wayside when I think back to Wednesday, because here the true ‘moment’ arrived. 

I honestly think that if I remember anything about this cold day in November 2018 it will be standing by a man feeding wildlife near the lake.

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I initially noticed him because of the bright green parakeets next to him competing for attention amongst the squirrels and pigeons (a known phenomenon in London – link).

Their plumage seems instantly out of place and it’s hard not to marvel at their strikingly beautiful colours and inquisitive personalities.

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I stepped over a couple of fences to get closer and record the moment, navigating around the man holding handfuls of nuts and trying to get a good photo for my blog.

Nearby though a couple of squirrels were trying hard to make sure my focus became them rather than the brightly coloured birds.

To the left of me I became aware of a little pair of watchful brown eyes…

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As I took photos one of them moved further to my left. As it did behind me I could hear my friend laughing.

What was so funny?

At the same time as I noticed a tugging sensation on my right trouser leg.

I looked around. 

What was causing that?

Then I felt the same tugging sensation on my left trouser leg…

All of a sudden I realised I was being besieged by squirrels!

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I looked down at my left thigh (as I felt the squirrel clinging to my right heading for my crotch) and started to take pictures.

Amazingly (unlike the more skittish residents of my local park) this seemed to be business as usual for these delightful little creatures, and he/she was happy to pose if there was the vague promise of food at the end of it.

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As I type the physical sensation of the warmth from this little squirrel’s stomach is still present on my leg, and it’s something that has been occupying my thoughts for the last two days.

This event has taken pride of place above everything else relating to my trip to London.

I’ve been trying to figure out why it means more to me than meeting a celebrity and standing in the seat of our democracy as an honoured guest and the truth is that this little creature represents (with the warmth of it’s under carriage) the connectedness that I now have with the world around me.

Honestly as I type these thoughts are almost moving me to tears – because every single element of the day that I experienced would have been impossible not so long ago

Even if I’d split the day into segments and tried to experience them on individual days (when I was at my emotionally lowest and physically heaviest point in life) I doubt I’d have been capable of completing one of them. 

Yet now my life is very different.

By the time I went to bed on Wednesday, after walking home from the train station my activity stats looked like this:

  • I’d swum 1km (in the time it took me to swim 500m only a week ago)
  • I’d walked 13.5 miles
  • I’d taken 25,984 steps 
  • I’d managed 211 minutes of cardio exercise
  • I’d spent 20 out of 24 hours standing or moving about
  • I’d climbed the equivalent of 15 flights of stairs
  • I’d burned 2,374 Active and 4,885 Total calories

These are all just numbers though.

Occasionally I look at them and forget their significance, instead thinking simply (and maybe self critically) ‘you could do more’. 

However – there are days (Wednesday being one of them) where I’m just profoundly grateful because I have a life that’s full of wonder.

I’m in awe of the fact that I can not only walk the distances I do, but sit on trains next to someone in complete comfort and pull down the little table in front of me without it resting on my stomach.

I get lost in the magnificence of being about to stand in a queue for an hour, followed by a reception for two hours, and then follow such things with a walk across London for another hour and a half without feeling any pain whatsoever.

I want to cry with joy because my pictures of a squirrel crawling up my leg are unimpeded by a massive stomach, and my leg is now small enough for a tiny little squirrel to hold on to.

I love that every day I can put one foot in front of another and see another wonderful part of the world, nomatter how pedestrian and mundane it may seem to other people.

Every moment of my life is now filled with the significance of insignificance and the wonder of the mundane, because to me all of it is fresh and new.

I don’t know how long my life will go on for, and I don’t know whether or not my health will always be this good, but I want to do everything I possibly can to make absolutely sure that I not only maintain it but show other people by demonstrating how fantastic life can be that they too can be something different.

I want the world to realise that without any surgery even a man who looked like this:

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…can change into this:

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I feel so much joy that instead of the ever present weight of an enormous stomach continually pressing into my giant thighs I can now feel a squirrel. 

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This, internet is the product of a life that is no longer being lived with limits.

It’s the kind of life that needs to be treasured and held onto because I’ve wasted so much of it – and I want to cherish every remaining second that it has to offer. 

I’m still learning to live life – and while I do I’m loving every single moment of it.

Davey

Drive like a pensioner

The only predictable thing about life is its unpredictability.

I thought I knew the way my post was going to go today. In my head it was all mapped out – but then life decided it was going to head in another direction entirely.

The day started normally enough – with me in a terrific frame of mind. Yesterday had been a positive one, and I’d managed to continue my gradual downward trend on the scales.

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It was also a food tasting occasion – and I’d decided to make a chicken Waldorf salad from the Slimming World Free & Easy cookbook, which seemed to turn out really well.

Everyone seemed to rather enjoy it (including me) and the food tasting event appeared to be a success for all concerned.

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I spent the rest of the day walking and socialising – and by the time I hit the sack later that evening I was pleasantly tired and slept really well. In truth my quality of sleep was probably also because I’ve been drastically reducing my coffee intake since my vertigo incident last week.

Along with my ear drops this has helped and I’ve been feeling progressively better – even though my nose is still a bit blocked.

When I awoke today for the first of my two planned morning walks I was full of beans. I was meeting a fellow Slimming World’er and his excitable young pup (Reeba) for a few circuits of St Nicholas park.

His dog has some incredible energy. For every lap we did she must have accomplished at least another two, all the time chasing seagulls or running after squirrels and is basically the energiser bunny in dog form…

Despite the rather ropey weather it was definitely an enjoyable twalk, and I left the park feeling upbeat and positive.

I’d eaten rather a lot of fruit the night before (as well as a fair old whack of cottage cheese) and wanted to get a healthy number of calories burned.

I had definitely accomplished my starting objective – and already had eight miles under my belt by the time I reached home.

 

My next walk of the morning was due at 10am. This was to be through Crackley Wood and along a section of the Greenway near Kenilworth – and promised to be an altogether shorter and more sedate one.

Boris (my second canine companion of the day) is a much slower mover – and unlike the doggie equivalent of bottled lightning that’s Reeba he’s a plodder.

He’s also highly camouflaged.

Whenever I review snaps that I sneakily grab while he’s not paying attention (he refuses to look at the camera most of the time) I usually come to the conclusion that he’s the photography equivalent of a spot the ball competition.

Nine times out of ten he just disappears into the foreground or background.

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By the time we’d ambled along the Greenway and around the woods for a while it was almost midday when I bid adieu to my friend and his blendy pooch.

I hopped into my car to drive home.

Then the day unravelled…

There are many many things in life that I’m thankful for, but today it’s the fact that I’m naturally very cautious. In fact I often think I drive like a pensioner – trying not to exceed speed limits particularly around town.

Often I’m well under them which today was an absolute godsend.

As I headed home from the Greenway I passed Kenilworth park. For some reason or other marshalls in high visibility vests had closed off the road that led through the centre of town and the only option was to turn left at their barrier at the top of the hill and divert around the road block.

Ahead of me (in the middle of the road on a raised central reservation) was a young girl in big furry boots wearing a puffa jacket. She looked to all intents and purposes like she was about to chance a crossing in front of me.

She was quite young, and I wondered if she’d have the sense to stay put.

I slowed more than I normally would just in case as I took the corner (bearing right) and indicated to turn left into the road next to the marshalls.

As I did the sun came out from behind a cloud in the street I was turning into and temporarily blinded me.

I could still see the girl to my right though and she hadn’t moved.

However an old man with a walking stick had moved – and as I turned into the road he had stepped in front of my car.

completely missed this for a fraction of a second as the sun fell in my eyes and then when I’d could see again I was upon him.

He was suddenly about 6ft in front of me.

I immediately slammed on my brakes and thankfully (because I was travelling so slowly) I came to an almost immediate stop – but not quickly enough to stop the car from nudging him off balance and pushing him to the floor.

The marshalls and passers by quickly ran over to help him up.

I checked my rear view mirrors before turning off the engine and quickly stepped out of my car to help.

I was already shaking like a leaf, and as I rushed to his side I began to apologise profusely.

He wasn’t happy though and I couldn’t blame him. I was mortified that I’d come so close to tragedy and kept looking him up and down to make sure he was ok.

The man said that he was. He didn’t want help. He just wanted to go.

Everyone around him was staring at me with hard frowns and were also looking me up and down.

I wondered why for a minute – because it was him that had been lying in the road rather than me… I wasn’t hurt!

This was until I realised that they were trying to assess why I’d not seen him.

Was I impaired?

Was I drunk?

There was now a lady standing in between me and the man in a noticeably protective stance. She was staring at me very hard and looking very unimpressed.

‘I didn’t see him. I was looking at the girl.‘ I said to her. ‘The sun was in my eyes!

I turned around, pointing to where the girl had been. She was no-where to be seen and had carried on walking.

I’m so so so sorry! There was a girl there and the sun was in my eyes!‘ I said again to the man, looking around the woman and trying as best I could to explain to him what had happened.

Did he believe me?

‘I’m OK.’ said the man emphatically and also looked at me with disdain as he dusted his trousers off.

He said that he didn’t want any help and told the lady and the marshall that he was completely fine.

She looked at me again and stared hard into my eyes, assessing me.

The men in the high visibility jackets then pointed out that I was now blocking traffic and were on their walkie talkies to their supervisor. I needed to move my car they said – and I wasn’t to leave the scene.

‘I’ve no intention of going anywhere!’ I said. ‘I just want to make sure he’s OK.’

They looked impassively at me.

‘You need to move your car.’ they repeated. I looked behind them. The man was now moving slowly but surely away from us.

I looked at the road.

The traffic was beginning to build up – and they were right. I needed to move my car, so I quickly did so. Once I’d moved it further up the road and put my hazards on I jogged after him.

He was quite a distance away by now and looked irritated when I tried to stop him as he once again started to cross a road.

‘Are you sure you’re ok?’ I asked as I put my hand gently on his upper arm. ‘I’m SO sorry!!! I didnt see you at all! The sun was in my eyes and then you were just in front of me.’

He shook his head.

‘No it’s ok – I’m fine.’ he said.

He appeared to be ok. I looked him up and down for signs of injury. Was he shocked? Was he really ok?

The marshalls were also following at a distance, watching me and talking to their supervisor over walkie talkies.

‘Do you need an ambulance?’ They said to the man.

No!‘ said the man, still rather irritated. ‘I’m fine. I’m going home.’

‘Can I help you to get there? Can I walk you home?’ I asked rather weakly. ‘I’m so sorry – I just want to be sure you’re OK…’

‘I’m fine.’ he reassured me again.

I kept my hand on his shoulder looked him in the eye.

I was trembling.

‘Are you SURE?‘ I said once more. ‘I know you might not want me to after all this but I can give you a lift.

He turned to look at me and as he did his face softened.

‘Are YOU ok?’ he asked me.

‘You’re shaking. You look like you need a stiff drink. You should go and have a stiff drink.’

‘I don’t drink…’ I replied weakly ‘…and Ive never hit anything with my car, let alone a person. I was scared stiff. I didn’t see you…. the sun was in my eyes… I’m so sorry… are you sure you’re ok?’

He just looked at me.

‘The sun was in my eyes. I can walk you home. Are you sure you’re ok?’ I babbled. ‘You didn’t hit your head or anything?’

He continued to look at me, now shaking his head.

‘The sun was in my eyes. I’m so sorry.’ I said again.

‘Don’t worry.’ he said, and put his hand out, inviting me to hold it.

I put my hand into his. It was warmer and much larger than mine. His grip was both firm and confident. He started to shake my hand, looking me in the eye.

His hand was dry.

‘I didn’t hit my head. Thank you for stopping to make sure I’m ok – but I’m fine. No bruises and no harm. Go and have a cup of tea. I’m going home.’

He let go of my hand, turned to leave and walked away.

Another nearby marshall looked at me and also suggested that I have a stiff drink. I told her that I didn’t drink.

She too suggested I have a cup of tea instead.

I didn’t want one.

I stood there for a minute watching as he walked away, shaking like a leaf.

I could have killed him.

In the blink of an eye I could have ended his life and irreversibly changed my own.

Even now some hours later my heart is still pounding and I’m reminded not only that it’s a good idea to drive slowly, but that you don’t know what’s around any corner. I’m just thankful that he was ok and that the reminder I received to be a careful and considerate driver came without consequence.

Holy crap…

Thank goodness he’s ok.

Davey