Part Five: The road not yet walked

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

By the way – if you’re still reading after all those other episodes then kudos to you for your staying power. You rock.

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

We start this time in 2014.

At this point I’m sick. Really sick – way more than I want to admit to myself. As I look back now I have no idea how I was still functioning in any capacity.

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I’ve already been referred to the obesity unit of Covetry hospital and they want to perform gastric sleeve surgery on me. This entails cutting 4/5ths of my stomach out of my body and throwing it in the bin.

I can’t face the horror of it and I’ve retreated even further into my self destructive drinking and eating habits.

I’m only a shade over 40 years old and my medicated and incidental conditions are:

  • Blood pressure shows signs of hyper-tension
  • High cholesterol
  • Sleep apnea so bad that I could only breathe lying on my left side or sitting upright in my armchair, but still woke up almost every hour in the night terrified I was suffocating
  • Odemas (water retention) in both ankles
  • The beginnings of gout
  • Cellulitis
  • Eczema everywhere (particularly on my hands and face)
  • Wrecked (and very painful) knees that couldn’t support my weight and constant lower back pain – meaning I was barely able to stand after a few minutes unless I was resting on a supporting surface
  • Type 2 diabetes

I’ve become a burden to the NHS and have been given a card entitling me to free prescriptions because I’m likely to need so many things as time goes on. When I return from the chemist this is the typical content of my (rather large) paper bag.

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Walking is agonising.

My feet and ankles are constantly alternating between a sensation of itching, burning or freezing. They almost never stop tingling and I keep getting breakouts of cellulitis (requiring lots of antibiotics) which are so bad that they confine me to bed for at least a week at a time.

The swelling in my feet only reduces when I lie down – which I can’t accomplish easily because if I do then I cant breathe properly. I can also only lie down on my bed because I don’t fit on my sofa.

If I sit in my armchair with my feet up then my huge stomach presses on the tops of my legs and my ankles steadily grow until I have to lie on the floor.

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I can barely get out of my armchair to stand up so that I can relieve the pressure on my legs. If I do I then I soon need to kneel or crouch down to relieve the pressure on my lower back.

I can no longer do this and stand back up because of my knees so I often find myself face down on the sofa with my knees on the floor which is sometimes the only position left to me where nothing hurts. Eventually it too becomes uncomfortable and I can’t breathe because I can’t rest for too long on my stomach.

I have my shopping delivered because I can’t walk the entire way around the supermarket without sitting down and it’s been years since I’ve been able to fit in my bath.

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I can only go places in my car but I’m so heavy that when trying to steady myself I have already managed to snap my steering wheel almost completely in half.

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I rarely go to new places because I’ve become scared that I won’t physically fit into the seats they have. Even if I can I worry that I won’t be able to park close enough to the location and find myself unable to walk there and back or trapped without a place to rest.

This worry starts weeks in advance of any appointment and I continually obsess over the potential problems until the stress is too much and I cancel.

I’ve even missed my brother’s wedding because of this.

However – out of all of these huge problems my diabetes is the thing that’s worrying me the most.

I’ve started obsessing over losing my eyesight (the diabetes hasn’t helped this at all and I need glasses to read) losing the sensation in my extremeties, becoming type one, needing to inject Insulin and eventually having to have things amputated.

When I was first diagnosed in January 2014 I was wetting the bed because I couldnt get to the toilet in time. I hadn’t slept more than 45 minutes at a time for over six months, was absolutely at my wits end and completely shattered.

When the results finally came back from my HbA1c test it showed a level of 94. If it was just a little higher it wouldnt have even been on my doctor’s wall chart any more.

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My daily pill organiser reflects how bad things have become.

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As I’ve mentioned in the linked posts above that even as a young man I was fully expecting to die.

Soon.

HOPEFULLY VERY SOON.

My life had become so agonising, restricted and small that I actually wanted it to happen.

At this point in time I start to admit to myself when I’m drunk (I never tell anyone else this secret) that this is because I am too much of a coward to kill myself. I just want to finally bring an end to the misery of every single increasingly impossible day.

(Autor’s note – I’ve been extensive and frank here because I want everyone to understand how bad things had become. I want them to know this because then I want them to recognise that they too can start to change.)

Now I’ve set the rather grim scene let’s jump forward a little to September 2015.

In order to ease the pain of dealing with my dying mother I engage in retail therapy and buy an Apple Watch.

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It only just fits with the longest of the two supplied straps on the last notch. I momentarily fiddle with it and then largely ignore it even though it sits on my wrist every day.

Now we skip on a bit more.

It’s February the 16th 2016.

I’m around 35 stone, my blood HbA1c is now reading 74 and it’s been just over two weeks since I had any alcohol. I’m still in denial about what its going to take to fix my many problems. However long held opinions about what I can or can’t do are starting to change in my head and my perspective is gradually shifting.

I try to walk to the end of my street (link). I barely make it but establish that my radius is around 400 metres if I take a break in the middle. A week later I try to walk around the block.

I tear both of my calf musles, pull the plantar tendon in my right foot and develop plantar faciitis – these injuries ultimately result in shin splints affecting both legs.

I realise later that the tendons in my legs have stortened because I spent years sitting down with my feet up.

I persist however and on the 29th of February 2016 I try my exercise bike instead. I can only pedal for five minutes before I have to stop (link).

On April the 16th I decide to join Slimming World and as the weight comes off I begin to feel a bit more sprightly – so on the 29th May I decide to get up and go to the park to see how far I can now walk (link).

The answer is ‘not very’.

It’s about 150 metres in my case – but there are a lot of benches so I start going to St Nicholas regularly. I like the swans there and name the cygnets swanlings. They keep me going back because I want to see how they progress. In a way I feel my own gradual growth mirrors the only survivor from a group of five babies.

I’ve been inspired by a man who mentioned in my group that he walks four miles in the morning before coming to weigh in.

He tells me that it takes him an hour.

In contrast I cant yet walk a mile without sitting every 200 metres or so. It takes me well over an hour to accomplish that and my plantar fasciitis is a constant issue – but slowly I start to get better.

Nevertheless it seems like a good idea to walk. I’ve been told at work I’m being made redundant so I won’t be able to afford a gym membership and walking is free. I also want to feel a part of the world again – and not scared to step out of my front door.

So I make a decision to make this ‘my thing’.

In order to try and track this I use an app on my phone called ‘Walkmeter’. It’s crap and crashes all the time – however Apple watch has been gathering a total of the distance I walk and it’s slowly adding up.

Walking also has another benefit.

I’ve lived in such a small world for so long where I just endlessly moved between work and home that I’ve become terrified that I’ll find myself trapped out in the open and unable to get back to my house if my car breaks down.

I very consciously start to try and walk the distances to places that I would regularly drive to by making half of the journey in my car and the rest on foot.

I park further and further away each time and bit by bit I extend my range and reduce my fear.

It’s now late August.

Around this time I realise that I no longer wear my glasses. I can’t remember the last time I put them on.

Bizarrely my eyesight has improved too.

My friend points out that I’ve almost walked the length of the channel tunnel in a week and I’m amazed when I add it up that she’s right (link). A while later I mention this in my group and another friend suggests that I plot my progress over a virtual route – and although I’m initially resistant (I never used to say yes to a lot) I decide to take the challenge on – and decide to calculate how far I’ve walked and compare it to Lands end to John o Groats (link).

It’s now September 2016.

I’ve realised three things.

  1. The whole time I’ve been walking I had a workout app on my watch and I never used it. I’ve now started and it’s really good. It’s saving not only my distance – but an accurate representation of my split times per mile.
  2. The green exercise ring on my watch is set at an un-modifiable 30 minutes because of a massive body of evidence suggesting that 30 minutes exercise a day has incredible health benefits.
  3. Point two is correct

I visit the doctor (link) and I’m told that the results for my HbA1c are now 30. All of a sudden I’m no longer on their chart and I’m told to discontinue one of the two medications I’m taking. My cholesterol levels have plummeted and I’m told my blood pressure is excellent.

I’m amazed.

Over the coming months I continue to up my walking. My increased level of exercise and radically improved diet has enabled something wonderful.

I’m feeling connected to people in a way that I never have before. Everyone seems to be swept along with my newfound enthusiasm to go twalking.

I make sure every time I go for a walk with someone that I’m proactive and try to organise the next walk at the end.

This means that my exercise is never a burden. I’m just meeting people I like to catch up with them about how they are.

I’m finding that is not only cementing good habits into my life but it’s quietly promoting little changes with other people too. I begin to see evidence that people are going for their own ‘twalks‘ and that I seem to be unconsciously promoting good behaviour elsewhere just by regularly doing something in public and showing how it affects me and my health.

By late October I’ve lost an entire fridge freezer in weight (link).

Things like this just motivate me even more and are a huge factor in me pushing myself to average almost five miles a day.

I still suffer from dark moods though – and even though the weight keeps falling off my mind can be my own worst enemy. I’m terrified that I’ll ‘plateau’ and get to a point where I give up.

Although I doubt she realised its significance a lady at my group (who loves the Pixar film ‘Finding Nemo’) picks up on the moods in my blog and in person – and every time she sees me downbeat tells me to ‘just keep swimming’ (link).

Sometimes little things like this make all the difference. Over time this has stuck in my head and I find that I’m saying to myself and others over and over again ‘just keep walking’ or ‘ just keep putting one foot in front of the other ‘.

This means that whenever I encounter a problem or an emotional rut I no longer retreat to a sedentary pursuit for answers and I instead try to think things through with a walk.

Even if I can’t find an answer it makes me feel better – and often realise that there is no answer needed. It’s just my mind playing games and building catastrophes out of nothing.

So I just keep walking.

The cumulatively increasing effort and distance means that by the end of December I’ve actually managed to do it.

I’ve walked the whole distance I wanted to and more besides.

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I’ve also begun to grasp how powerful the data is that my Apple Watch has been collecting on me since I put it on my wrist. It prompts me to work out how much I used to consume.

I’m stunned to read that I needed 7500kcal a day just to sit in my armchair (link).

Without understanding what I was doing when I put Apple Watch on my wrist I enabled myself to see an end to end view of my fitness. Even when I didnt care it still kept a tally and as time went on I was able to see the gradual progress I was making in almost every area of life.

The more I did the more it made me realise I could do.

It’s now late Ferruary/March 2017

I’ve started a new job in an office. I have to drive there and spend all day long sitting there.

It drives me instantly insane, and although through a combination of my exercise bike and walking during my lunch hour and after work I maintain my exercise levels I know instantly deep down that something has changed.

I can’t just drive to an office every day any more – so I leave after three weeks, feeling like a total failure – but I want a different life now.

Unable to resolve the problem in my mind I resolve to temporarily ignore it and ‘just keep walking’.

Since I started twalking with friends I’d been saying to them (often not fully believing that I would do it) that I’d climb Mt Snowdon, and I start training with little hills (there aren’t many in Warwick) to try and build my stamina.

I do this firstly with Burton Dassett (link) then the more challenging Malvern hills (link).

The latter absolutely kills my knees and I’m completely knackered by the end of the day – but I can do it! I can finally climb really challenging gradients!

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It’s now April 2017 and I have a HbA1c reading of 29 (link).

I’ve already discontinued my diabetes medication by this point and I’m managing my condition by diet and exercise alone.

Furthermore – by the time that my one year anniversary at Slimming World arrives (link) I realise that I’ve not only cumulatively walked from Lands end to John o Groats I’ve walked back again too!!!

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By June I’m regularly tackling gradients and working towards my goal. I spend more and more time in places like Burton Dasset and Ilmington downs (link).

All the time it’s becoming easier.

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When the big day arrives in July I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

I take the first day off Slimming World that I’ve had since I started and on Saturday the 22nd July (weighing around 19.5st) I climb Snowdon with my friend (link).

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Words simply can’t do it justice. It’s a truly fantastic moment. I’ve gone from a man who could hardly get out of his armchair to standing on top of a mountain. I’m quite literally on top of the world.

It’s now August.

I can’t stop now. I love walking so much that I’m incapable of not putting one foot in front of the other.

I use it for everything in life. It’s become part of my DNA and everyone I know asks if I want to go for a walk when they suggest meeting up. I mention it so often that twalking appears to have entered the vocabulary of everyone I know, and many that I don’t.

Furthermore I’ve found another job – and this time it’s local (link). I can walk to work every day and fit my exercise invisibly into what I do.

Once again the job turns out to be something that’s not for me – but during the time I’m there I realise that all the exercise I’m doing appears to have altered my mental capabilities.

I always considered myself to be someone that struggled in classrooms to pick things up and that information didn’t get retained quickly. I always felt that I wasn’t agile enough when others around me grasped new concepts or processes at work.

Whilst in this job I’m the top of the class. I pick everything up way quicker than I ever would have before and for the very first time I realise that my mind has benefited from all of the exercise too.

Not only am I more positive but I can think on my feet and adapt in discussions and meetings like never before. I feel instantly more capable.

I leave the job and with it I leave behind a fear of change that I’ve had my entire adult life.

If I can adapt to anything then there’s no longer a need to be frightened – so I trust that things will just work themselves out and keep walking.

I do it so much that now I’ve walked the cumulative distance from San Francisco to New York (link).

By this time I’m regularly forgetting that I ever had diabetes in the first place – but I’m still going for tests (link). When I do they report that my HbA1c readings have now dropped even further and are at a stupendous 28. My blood pressure is also excellent – but I’m still taking Statins.

If in doubt I just keep walking. Whatever the weather.

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It’s now January 2018

Thanks to Apple Watch keeping a dilligent eye on me since I put it on I can see how much I’ve improved over time. I’ve gradually moved from doing less than 5 minutes exercise a day in 2016 to an average of over two hours a day.

Furthermore, after 21 months of trying on the way to work one morning I finally mange to crack the fifteen minute mile (link).

I can now walk four miles in an hour – just like the man in group told me he could back when I started Slimming World.

I’ve never been so fit in my life and I feel wonderful.

February 2018.

I’ve finally found a use for my old clothes.

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I hit my target weight of 14 stone 7lbs (link) and when I do (after I stop crying and find a way out of my old trouser leg) the way I celebrate is with a walk around the park (link).

In a surprise move my friend marks the occasion by secretly arranging for almost everyone I’ve walked with along my journey to join us.

The exercise (twalking) that I have done over the last two years has meant that I spend more quality time with people that matter to me than I have at any other point in my life. My friendships have strengthened immesurably and I feel loved.

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A few days later In what may be my last but one HbA1c test (link) my results now show a reading of 25. My blood pressure resembles that of a much younger man, my resting heart rate is around 40bpm and I’m also told that my cholesterol medication can be discontinued.

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It’s not the only thing I can get rid of. My much hated pill dispenser can finally go in the bin along with my unused pills. It looks very different on its last day of employment compared to when I first started using it.

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So – what’s transpired here?

Well – these I feel are the lessons I’ve learned through gradually increasing and then learning to love my activity.

  • If you can’t go far it doesnt matter. Just try to go a little bit further either day. Start small.
  • Try to do it with friends if you can
  • Do something that’s free if at all possible. Gyms require willpower – but walking the dog or getting a pint of milk doesn’t.
  • Try and build it into your daily routine – then it won’t involve willpower. If you want to go for a coffee make a deal with yourself that you wont use the car when you do.
  • You can lose weight without exercise – but with it you’ll lose it faster, stand a better chance of keeping it off and feel positive and alive, meaning you won’t lose focus.
  • Get a fitness wearable if you can. Mine changed my life.
  • Track your progress and document everything that you can from the beginning even if you hate doing it. You’ll be glad you did afterwards.
  • Don’t lose hope. Not everything can be completely fixed but almost everything can be immesurably improved.
  • You can do more than you ever thought you could. It’s all about trying rather than doing nothing
  • Things might cumulatively creep up on you – and eventually you might suddenly realise that you’ve painted yourself into a corner. But paint eventually dries. You can gently step on it and make your way back from a place that seems hopeless.
  • Don’t end your life. You’re worth so much more.

Finally – this is my complete list of non-scale victories. I couldnt have done it without exercise.

Go HERE.

Davey

Part Four: Group love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet two and a half months later nothing had changed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In ten minutes!

I decided to attend and rushed over.

It was a tough morning.

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

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

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

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

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

In private it suddenly felt like I was being crushed.

It all seemed so impossible. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was going on a diet.

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

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

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

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

I did the maths in my head.

He was irritatingly right.

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

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

Don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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

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

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

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

Wrong.

Three things happened here to make this a valuable lesson.

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

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

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

Make a graph of your progress.

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was initially told to have 30.

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

After all why would they? It sounds horrible otherwise.

It would be nothing but total denial.

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

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

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

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

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

I avoid empty syns and calories with zero nutritional value.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davey

Part three: Suppression

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

(As before my ‘lightbulb moments’ will be in red. Time will also skip forward as we go on – because this particular lesson was learned in segments.)

Chronologically to start with we are in March 2016. At this point I’m a month into my journey (It started when I gave up drinking on January 26th) and little has visually changed.

This is how I looked.

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After almost completely screwing up by handing in my resignation at a job I’d held down for 16 years my manager allowed me to take some time out to deal with my alcohol issues. At the time I was regularly bursting into tears without warning and couldn’t understand why.

I wouldn’t miss my mother (who had passed away a month before) and I couldn’t explain the phenomenon – which was something I’d never experienced previously.

I didn’t feel like I was grieving.

Yet years and years of emotion seemed to be arriving all at once without any warning and it was scaring me. I felt out of control and needed to understand why.

With an agreement from my employer that I could take some time out of work I enrolled in a four week daily course in addiction recovery. I soon found myself in the cold and grim light of a March Monday morning in a bland meeting room surrounded by men and women in a circle.

They too had problems and all were nervously bouncing up and down in neutrally coloured Ikea Poang armchairs. They looked like they needed something badly.

This selection of people were dealing with alcoholism, heroin addiction and the far more visible and arresting effects of years of cutting, burning and self harm. Some were there under a court order to attend or had been compelled to join by the terms of their parole.

Others (such as myself) were voluntary participants with no criminal history.

I felt metaphorically and physically apart from all of them. Firstly, unlike them I didn’t identify with the label of ‘alcoholic’ or ‘addict’ (I preferred alcohol dependant back then) and secondly because I was relegated to a conventional seat – and sitting higher up.

At 35 stone I was too heavy to sit in the comfortable Swedish Poang simplicity enjoyed by the others and felt exposed.

Initially I also felt like a fraud.

I didn’t deserve to be there because I didn’t have the severity of problems that they had.

These people seemed to be way further down the rabbit hole than me. I’d stopped drinking – whereas others were either cutting down, using methadone or sporting fresh bandages from A&E the night before.

Many had also shoplifted, cheated, lied and brutalised their way though life and I felt that I was nothing like them.

Until we started the mindfulness exercises and examined triggers.

These (it turned out) were common to ALL of us.

During these we sat in the dark, slowed down our breathing and went through some guided meditation. The point was to just experience the moment and filter out the mental noise caused by the chaos of addiction.

Most days I felt that this was just a method of relaxing before difficult discussions – and I simply enjoyed it on an abstract level – interested in how mindfulness seemed capable of slowing time down. Until the second week I just enjoyed the sensation of peace that it brought – but then one day the group leader quite unexpectedly said something along the lines of ‘now imagine that you want a drink.’

I did as I was told and imagined it.

I suddenly wanted a drink for the first time in weeks and felt instantly stressed.

‘Now follow the feeling.’ He said.

‘Where is it in your body?’

Amazingly I felt it! I could trace the actual thought moving through my body!

It was in my chest – right in the centre, behind my breast bone. As I zeroed in on it the sensation moved and began to flow upwards, through my neck, until it stopped and hung there – tingling in my cheeks.

I was absolutely gobsmacked. I’d known this feeling all my life. It was as familiar to me as my own face in the mirror – but I’d never noticed it before.

The difference was that this time it was paused under a microscope for examination. I’d been able to delay its progress for a brief moment and while it was slowly moving I could track the sensation and resulting thought process that trailed in its wake.

It was fascinating!

When I’d experienced this in the past I realised that it happened at the speed of thought. My mind had been reacting to happiness, sadness or anything in between and my body had experienced a corresponding physiological reaction. This had in turn triggered a quietly waiting mental process and I had instantly moved from the flush of adrenalin to a fully formed ‘I need a drink’ feeling. 

By then the choice was made and I always acted upon it.

How had I missed this for so long? More to the point how did I deal with it if it happened again?

Well – there was some help at hand to manage cravings in the form of the ‘Three D’s’ which we discussed shortly afterwards (link)

Delay, Distract, Decide.

  1. Delay the decision to give in to the craving for a set time. This could be 15-30 mins or an hour. Usually by this time you’ve forgotten about it.
  2. Do something that will occupy your thoughts and grab your attention. Perhaps do something physical to use the energy of the craving or read a book.
  3. After the set time decide what you want to do (there are no right or wrong answers, just balanced choices) – but in order to answer consider the following:
  • Advantages of not doing it
  • Disadvantages of doing it
  • Reasons I want to stop
  • My life goals

Like many things in life you take what you need from what you experience, and often leave behind what you don’t. In my case these two lessons were my ‘wins’ from attending that group.

At the time I felt that I’d been filled with wisdom and understanding. I thought I’d finally cracked it. I understood things about myself that beforehand had been invisible to the naked mind – and furthermore I now had a coping mechanism!

There was nothing I couldn’t do!

However – the only thing that you can know for certain is that you don’t know everything

I hadn’t realised back then that what I’d failed to ask myself was why that thought process existed in the first place. I was content to simply acknowledge that it was there.

It wouldn’t be until over a year later that I found a deeper insight into the reason it happened. This was thanks to a book lent to me by a lady that I met in my Slimming World group (link).

By this point I was definitely making progress. Externally and internally I was a very different person.

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The book was called ‘Living like you mean it’ by Ronald J Frederick link.

Honestly it wasn’t my kind of thing (it still isn’t) and at the time I only opened it up because this lady had become a friend and I respected her opinion. She had been kind enough to think of me in the first place and it was rude not to investigate something so freely given with the best of intentions – so I started reading the first chapter.

It irritated me.

I mean it really irritated me.

It was all about allowing yourself to feel things.

In my opinion I was more than capable of dealing with my feelings and I wasn’t afraid of talking about them. I wrote a blog for flip’s sake. I knew the value of exploring my emotions and I talked about them with anyone who wanted to listen.

It was kind of my thing. Always had been. I didn’t get why anyone wouldn’t. Even if I didn’t understand why I had them I wanted to talk to my friends about mine and theirs.

Initially I walked away from the book simply with an agreement that I would try to let myself feel down a bit more – and that in itself proved to be very helpful.

I’d not really accepted that it was OK to feel crappy and let it temporarily consume you. This was actually natural and normal – and it was the precursor to healing. If you denied the need to experience pain and sadness by relentlessly smiling through the bad times then all you did was defer it’s arrival – and when it finally hit (and it would) the force that it had gathered by that time would be of a much bigger magnitude.

Some thoughts are slow burners however – and the really good realisations – the ones that matter often take you a while to reach.

I still wasn’t there yet.

Sure. I talked about emotion. I wrote about it. I enjoyed pulling it apart and understanding why I felt what I did.

But why did I do that?

I realised out of the blue – some time after reading the book that I did all of my emotional investigation after the fact.

Every time I got round to talking about how I felt it was a historical analysis. I was dispassionately looking backwards at a moment in time and examining how something had happened, intellectualising the feelings associated with it and chewing through their constituent parts.

never ever talked about a feeing while it was happening – but oddly this fact had always escaped me.

Out of the blue I recognised that as soon as a thought capable of provoking strong emotion had entered my head it then instantly caused a physical reaction. This immediately resulted in my mind moving to one of several well practiced remedies – depending on what I was using at the time.

In these moments I would do one or more of the following:

  • Eat to excess
  • Get drunk
  • Have a cigarette
  • (Insert whatever poison springs to mind here)

What I’d never realised was that all of these activities were actually me moving to immediately suppress emotion – and I’d been doing it since I was a child.

But how had this happened?

Then I remembered a conversation with my Dad when I was very young relating to my mother. After a particularly abusive day where we’d both come under fire from her and I was in tears he had shared his own method of coping in such situations.

It went something like this:

‘Imagine that you’re inside yourself, and then curl up like a little ball and don’t listen. Nothing can hurt you if you withdraw. After a while you don’t feel a thing.’

I’d taken this advice on board and began to use it to deal with her behaviour.

It worked because it typically just made things worse if you reacted when she was on the attack. The verbal beatings just extended from 30-40 minutes to hours. Sometimes if you fought back they would meander into the early hours of the morning – even if you’d surrendered and tried to go to bed.

She would frequently wake me up in the middle of the night, filled with rage, stinking of stale cigarettes, spitting in my face as she shouted at me – adding ‘and another thing‘ (her favourite phrase) to the argument – whether it was related to the initial explosion or not.

A member of my family once woke up with her sitting on top of him, and she was punching him in the face.

It was better not to feel.

It was better not to react.

During the day I could eat a huge mountain of mashed potato and sausages – but at night I had to find another way to cope, and I retreated a little deeper each time. Over the years the mechanism ceased to be conscious and became so practiced that it moved to one that was completely unconscious.

In my later teens (after some experimentation) I learned that I was a placid and happy drunk. When I consumed alcohol it helped me to not react to my mother, and initially I even consciously started to use it to help manage my interactions with her.

When I was drunk time passed quicker and things hurt less.

This was just the start of it though. I realised that I hadn’t just been suppressing pain – eventually I was suppressing happiness too – because the physiological reactions associated with any extremes of emotion were so strikingly similar.

Over time I’d created a situation where if I thought bad thoughts and felt bad emotions then I immediately moved to suppress them by self medicating. By 2016 I’d been doing it for so long that I’d ceased to recognised it for what it was. 

I was eating, drinking and smoking my pain AND HAPPINESS away.

Feeling sad? Have a (insert crutch here). It will make you feel better!

Feeling happy? Celebrate with a (insert crutch here). It will make things even better still!

Incredibly it had taken me 45 years to understand this about myself – but one by one the dominoes were falling. Each time I wrote something new down in my blog it gained a sense of permanence – and as time progressed (and I discovered more about myself) the dots were becoming connected.

I was building a picture of who I was – and gaining a deeper insight what my motivations were than I’d ever done before in my life. I no longer just forget something after a revelation and moved on.

Instead I could refer back to them, build upon them and consolidate my gains.

However – back in March of 2016 I was only a sober man.

It wasn’t until April that the real work started….

Davey

Part two: The beginnings of honesty

Before you start reading it’s probably a good idea that you recap on Part One (here).

If you’ve already done that (and you have a cup of tea or coffee ready to go) then let me continue…

(note – bits highlighted in red are things I feel are important. In this ongoing little series they’re the lessons I think I’ve learned along the way.)

In early February 2016 I was just beginning to lift my head above water. I felt like I’d been drowning for the longest time and (by then sober for around two short weeks) I was also trying to deal with the mountains of stuff left behind when my mother died.

It was frankly more than enough to drive a man to drink.

Everywhere I turned there were hidden things squirrelled away. As well as piles of soap, detergent and hundreds of drawings or paintings in the most unexpected of places I was also discovering other, more disturbing things.

There were orderly manuals for how to interact with people (written by her many years before she became ill) and hair in little bags (collected for decades both from her and her children) that were chronologically labelled as DNA samples for testing.

Occasionally I also found more valuable items such as photos, correspondence, bills, stamps or money which meant that I couldn’t just throw it all in a skip. I had to wade through every single box and bag of it.

The process was both upsetting and unsettling, I was looking inside the chaotic mind of a woman that I had never understood. As well as as being a task that was mentally difficult to deal with it was a physical challenge too.

I wasn’t a fit man and it was wearing me out just looking at the scale of the problem in her bungalow.

 

Everything was in disarray – and as I was trying to withdraw from alcohol I realised that I’d probably chosen one of the most stressful times of my life to do it.

I didn’t feel like I was getting better.

I felt as far from ‘better’ as it was possible to be in fact – and it seemed that absolutely everything was wrong with my life. It was completely out of balance and even when faced with the death of a parent I was preoccupied with trying to understand the cause of a deep emotional numbness that had been with me as long as I could remember.

For many years I hadn’t even been able to ask why I felt it – because I couldn’t vocalise what it was. Frustratingly, even when I finally managed to put it into words I found that I was still no closer to an answer.

The question that I couldn’t resolve was ‘what do I love?

Sure – I could say that people fitted into this category – because I genuinely loved my friends and family – but I didn’t mean the love that came from a relationship.

No matter how many times I asked myself this there was no response. There was just a blank space – a placeholder for where the answer should be. An empty podium with no medal winner.

Then one day I accepted the truth and it was horrible. I felt like screaming because deep down I had always known the answer. It was way worse than not knowing what I loved because I hadn’t faced up to the bleak reality of what this really said about me.

I loved nothing. I had a passion for nothing. I existed to do nothing. My total contribution to the world if I had died immediately would have been nothing.

What I’d begun to recognise is that I was nothing more than a consumer. I had voraciously consumed everything around me for my entire adult life.

Throughout it I’d had an endless appetite for food, alcohol, cigarettes, ‘stronger substances’, video games, box sets, music, DVD’s, magazines, books, trash television – the list went on and on.

I spent my spare money on ‘things’ because I ‘loved’ the ‘things’ that I bought. I thought the ‘things’ gave me pleasure.

I didn’t really love them though, and they certainly didn’t make me truly happy. Buying a huge television and a games console with the latest game and a Blu-ray made me ‘feel’ for moments – and then I once again became just as empty as my wallet.

Films and television were providing my emotions for me – serving them up endlessly to be consumed. Conveniently I could also turn them on and off at will. If I wanted to feel happy I watched something funny. If I was angry I played a violent video game. If I wanted to numb myself I got drunk.

I managed everything with external inputs and nothing came from inside.

Living like I had for so long, being anaesthetised to the reality of what it meant to be part of the world around me made me question whether I could love anything anymore.

I’d been hiding how I felt about this and and other things about myself for so long that I felt like I was about to burst. Back then It seemed that for my entire time on earth I’d been trying to pretend that everything was ok when really it was as far from OK as it’s possible to be.

In public I was controlled, ordered, dependable and a known quantity. I was a reliable and safe pair of hands in the workplace where I was a team leader and tried to be outgoing, cheerful and gregarious as soon as I walked through the door.

In my personal life I made sure that I supported my friends and family whenever I could and wanted them to feel that if they needed me they knew they could call at any time of day or night.

I almost never asked for help though. Not because I thought they wouldn’t give it – because they would have, but because if I did then it meant not only that I was admitting I couldn’t cope – but because doing so would force me to deal with the causes – and that I was never ready to do. 

So I did two things.

One was a bad idea, and the other was one of the best decisions of my life.

Firstly I handed in my notice at work. This was the bad idea. Being unemployed whilst also a recovering alcoholic dealing with a bereavement and suddenly faced with endless free time on my hands wouldn’t have helped.

Secondly came the good idea – and after handing in my notice I wrote my first ever blog post (link).

Despite what people might think I didn’t start doing this in public because I wanted attention. The exact opposite is true actually – because most of the time I really dislike the focus being on me.

I did it because if I started airing my dirty laundry in a public forum then everyone knew. I didn’t have to painstakingly tell each and every person my darkest secrets and I didn’t have to sugar coat or change what I was saying depending on who would see it.

A post was a post. If people didn’t like it then they didn’t have to read it. If they didn’t like me then au revoir.

There were plenty more fish in the sea.

It also meant that it was now harder to change my mind. If I said I was going to do something in public then I also felt that I either had to follow through with it or come up with a very good reason why I couldn’t.

It didn’t really matter whether people liked me or my blog though – because I wasn’t writing it for them. I was writing it for me – and what I’d started doing was engaging in on my own very public private therapy. 

I decided very quickly upon some ground rules.

Above all else I wanted to be sure that my blog would do no harm. I wouldn’t talk about anyone else unless they explicitly agreed and I wouldn’t use photos of anyone but myself with the same criteria.

It was primarily about fixing myself – and learning to live life.

I would also cunningly hide my true name by adding a ‘Y’ at the end of it (for the first time I can reveal that my real name is actually Dave) and when I talked as Davey I wouldn’t talk to myself or to a person – but to ‘the internet’ – because the internet wouldn’t stare back at me disapprovingly.

Its job was simply to listen – regardless of what I had to say – and mine was to talk to it with absolute and unflinching honesty.

The first post was the hardest – not because I couldn’t write down how I felt – but because I knew the next thing that I had to do was send a link to it to absolutely everyone that I knew or worked with – including my family.

I had to ‘out’ myself and step outside of my own personal closet.

In it I admitted that I wasn’t coping. I admitted that I was a drinker. I told everyone about my health problems. I told them I had to discover what it was that I loved – but above all else I was truly honest and open for the first time.

Then thing that I really didn’t expect happened.

Firstly – no-one (not one single person) told me I was a total loser or a waste of space. Instead they actually applauded my fragility and my attempt to be open about what I was going through

Secondly – almost immediately (literally within minutes) the human traffic started come toward me in torrents. People I thought I’d known for years started telling me their deepest and darkest secrets. They began to open up (sometimes for the first time too) about their family issues, their own alcoholism, their cancers, their struggles with Autism, their unhappiness, their loneliness, their abusive relationships…

The list went on and on.

All of a sudden, standing naked in front of everyone for the very first time and expecting my honesty to be the defining moment of my life I was faced with a stark realisation.

Everyone else was broken too.

It wasn’t just me.

As I continued to write this became a theme. Without realising the power of what I’d enabled by clicking ‘post’ on that very first entry in my blog I’d started an honest two way conversation between myself and unlimited numbers of people which is still going on.

Plus – through it I found both a focus and an unexpected paradox.

I eventually realised that the very tool I’d employed to answer my question (writing) was something that I absolutely loved doing.

I now understand that the unexplainable feeling that had made me want to scream was an understanding deep down that I wasn’t giving anything back to the world. I was just taking from it all the time – and because of that I had begun to feel that I was a parasite.

With writing came honesty and through honesty I discovered that I could not only help myself but others too. 

At this point though I still had a long way to go – and in many ways I was still in denial. Although I’d stopped drinking I still thought that this alone was the answer and that everything would just naturally fall into place.

Back then I still didn’t really understand why I’d drank so much – just that I’d stopped and didn’t plan to start again.

I was still 35 stone, still slowly dying and I hadn’t accepted what the problem would truly take to fix.

Join me next time to find out what I mean…

Dave(y)

Part One: Where did all this start?

Firstly I apologise to those that have been here a while. I’m probably going to re-tread a lot of things because the story of how I came to lose all of this weight is pretty complex.

You might need a cup of tea.

If I go right back to the earliest time that I recall trying to drop some pounds it was after a visit to a childhood obesity clinic in Birmingham. I’m not sure how old I was at this time, but I’m guessing it was somewhere between the ages of 10 and 13.

It was a miserable experience.

I was referred to a special unit in a hospital that dealt only with what was then a relatively uncommon phenomenon. My dad took me there on the advice of our GP but I don’t really remember what happened in the consultation – apart from the fact that I was sent home with a single page A4 photocopied diagram of food groups that showed my plate looking like a pie chart.

I can’t remember anyone in my house ever putting this into practice though. Portion sizes were pretty big when I was growing up. The mashed potato on my dinner plate may have fitted into the segment on the diagram – but it would probably have been 12 inches tall with several Bernard Matthews turkey sausages sticking out of it.

Bootiful.

I do remember shortly after this though that my dad put me on a diet solely consisting of cabbage and bacon.

Mounds of it in fact. Pretty soon I was sick of cabbage and I was sick of bacon. I lost a little bit of weight during this – but after a while (as habits tendeded to in our house) things crept back to the status quo and I put the small amount of weight I’d lost back on.

That was my very first first faddy yo-yo diet.

This theme continued for some time over the years because what I’d started to do was view losing weight in terms of a restrictive diet. It was a short term exercise where my willpower faced down the problem at hand and turned it into a battle between the competing sides of my nature.

One side was insatiable, naughty and couldn’t stop consuming – whilst the other was austere, disliked the other side intensely and did nothing bad.

By holding one at bay with the other I could temporarily get results. However in order to do so this meant feeling like I was cutting out things I loved – and when I did it was only a matter of time before I rebelled.

When things went wrong in life food was there to ‘help’. This frequently ended with me metaphorically or literally face down in a kebab or pizza after falling off a dietary wagon and when I became old enough to pass for 18 alcohol joined the party too.

This constant restriction and resurgence had a pernicious side effect. I began to get really sick of my own behaviour – and I started using intense anger with myself to fuel change.

After leaving school (where I was mercilessly bullied every day) at 17 stone I starved myself for months – only eating a couple of slices of bread a day until I was 12 stone 7 pounds – and initially I thought I’d cracked it.

I thought I was ‘fixed‘.

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(Author note – this next bit is important and I’m going to highlight the pivotal bits in red – because these thoughts are the ones I think people need to concentrate on)

This was the first part of the problem – and something I see in other people a lot. They say (or think in private) a variation of the phrase ‘…all I need to do is lose weight and then I can go back to eating normally’.

Often because of this they fundamentally fail to realise that this is not possible without significant re-education – because in order to end up in a situation where they need to lose huge amounts of weight in the first place they’ve proven that they have no idea what ‘normal’ is to begin with.

By this point food is not about sustenance – it’s about emotion – and a gap created by pain is impossible to fill with food.

You will not stop because you’re full.

The main issue with my approach was that in order to make any kind of significant difference in my life I had to play a game of brinkmanship with whatever I was doing at the time. If I hadn’t done something to serious excess and emotionally sunk into the depths of depression then I was unlikely to pull back from the precipice.

I had to be so sick of myself and so full of self loathing that I just couldn’t take it any more.

To make matters worse this often yielded tangible results – such as successfully giving up smoking, and for a long time I was convinced that this was ‘my method’. Deep down I just hoped that sooner or later I’d become angry enough with myself to do something about my weight.

I now recognise that this was also a way of self harming – because when I periodically restricted my food intake I used the withdrawal as a punishment. I told myself that I deserved to have things I liked taken away. 

However – unlike cigarettes I needed food to live.

Although I could restrict it for a while and starve myself I never really ever faced up to what I was eating and why. This meant that when I fell off the wagon I kept falling back into exactly the same cycle. The only way I knew how to deal with anything was to either cut it out completely as punishment or do it until I was killing myself.

Then in July 2015 my mother came back into my life after a long period where I’d neither seen nor talked to her in many years.

It wasn’t the best time to be re-introduced. I was a morbidly obese heavy drinker with a lot of health issues (if you want to see how many have a look at my NSV’s in the main menu) whilst she was a heavy smoker who had been admitted to Heartlands hospital with pneumonia.

She was slowly dying from the complications typically associated with her habit.

The fractures (or coping mechanisms – depending on how you look at them) that already existed in my life were instantly widened – and my own habits immediately increased in severity to compensate. To make matters worse initially she (quite unexpectedly) recovered and I became burdened once again with the weight of her expectation and criticism.

In September of 2015 I looked like this – swollen with food and booze.

(There is one thing in this video that is worth taking note of – aside from my dimensions – and that is what for the first time is on my wrist – which I’ll return to in another post.)

If I wasn’t already by the time she re-entered my life I soon became what I now admit was an alcoholic.

Then one day (after a row with myself and my brother) she told me that she was misunderstood.

The context of this comment was that she had been discharged from hospital (after around 6 weeks of being in a chronic dependency unit for smoking related cardio pulmonary issues) and had lasted less than two days before she had started her habit up again.

Even when attached to pure oxygen she continued to puff away nonchalantly.

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This was just a teeny bit dangerous according to the big red sign on the machine that was keeping her alive and continually whirring away next to her…

My brother was angry – but I wasn’t. I understood her. I could see the truth of it. She knew she was invulnerable to explosions and didn’t see a point in stopping. The end was coming anyway and she saw it standing on a hill in the distance.

IT WAS INEVITABLE.

Unknown to her I’d also started thinking things were inevitable – and at the age of 44 I’d quietly started planning my own death.

I hadn’t been plotting to commit suicide – at least not quickly. I’d just come to view the heart attack or stroke that what was bound to happen at some point in the future as something I no longer had any power (or willingness) to change.

Instead of setting aside money for a pension (which I was convinced I’d never live to see) I was instead frantically trying to pay off my mortgage so that I could leave a house in a will to a brother nearly 11 years younger than myself.

In my head this reasoning had started to make complete sense – and I’d ceased to see it as madness. To me it was just history that hadn’t happened yet.

But…

There she was. A woman who I had no respect or love for, who’d emotionally abused me and the rest of my family for as long as I could remember. I couldn’t stand to be in her presence without a pre-prepared excuse to leave.

She was probably the one person in the world that I disliked more than myself.

I thought about alcohol from the moment that I walked through her door until the moment I bought some on the way home and I was only happy when I started to drink it and forget her.

Yet she was a mirror.

I was looking at what I already was and also what I’d eventually become.

Then the self loathing once again hit me with full force, and two days before she died I decided I didn’t want to be like her (or myself) any more. I accepted that my relationship with alcohol was the same as her relationship with cigarettes and I stopped drinking.

It wasn’t an ideal way to begin but begin it did – with its roots firmly planted in self loathing and self punishment.

Nevertheless it was my first tentative step outside of the closet of denial – but I left one foot in the door – because in my mind I thought that this would fix everything.

(Not true. I’ll come back to this later)

However – as massive a change as that was internet – it wasn’t as big as what came next…

Join me next time to see what happened.

Davey

Today is brought to you by the letters J and I

One of the side effects of doing what I’ve done with weight loss has been that I get a lot of people using the ‘I’ word when they refer to me.

It’s one of two words that have been ever present companions during my weight loss – the other beginning with ‘J’.

For different reasons I find that both cause me a certain level of discomfort depending on how I feel when I hear or write them.

‘Journey’ is my own cross to bear. The word pops up all that time when I’m writing and I have a love/hate relationship with it – often feeling like I’ve somehow been held hostage by its presence.

With the possible exception of ‘odyssey’ (which sounds somewhat grandiose) or voyage (too nautical) what do you use to describe the journey of self discovery that I’ve been on?

I’m continually frustrated by my linguistic inability to navigate around it – and now instead I’ve largely surrendered to its status as a hostage taker.

I’m even developing a level of Stockholm Syndrome and am beginning to grudgingly harbour an affinity for it.

Journey is inoffensive but irritating only because of my own idiosyncrasies.

On the other hand ‘Inspirational‘ is something I never really know what to do with.

In contrast this is a word that I have no control over and never use to describe myself – but that instead gets applied to me with increasing regularity.

There are worse things to happen of course – and to know that I inspire people is both invigorating and scary in almost equal measure.

The problem (if there is one) for me is that it seems to be applied to me at moments when I feel the weakest – and the absolute paradox of it is that I never feel particularly inspirational.

I just feel rather flawed.

It also had another dimension. When people say this to me I’m reminded that I now have a responsibility to present myself a certain way and to put across a positive message about how others can lose weight like I did.

If people are watching you and taking cues from what you’ve written then a negative and pessimistic view of life is something that (if you’re tempted to engage in this kind of thought process) is best navigated around.

I don’t shy away from genuine pain and problems – but I also don’t like to dwell on downbeat thoughts in public too much. Doing so helps no-one and ultimately it’s just maudlin naval gazing.

Eventually you just have to pick yourself up and move on after a mood has passed.

I don’t mind this self imposed requirement really – because on a slightly selfish level it keeps me focused on being the best version of me that I can be.

The only downside is that if you live, laugh and cry in public like I do with my social media presence (how on earth did this happen???) I can’t just go and hide in a corner when I feel I don’t want to do it any more.

If I try to then people come looking for me and ask me what’s wrong.

Their concern pulls me back from whatever metaphorical ledge I’ve been standing on and often allows me to see things from another perspective.

A while back I mentioned that I’d met someone online through Instagram.

He had recently been awarded his own Slimming World group’s biggest loser certificate and he too at times struggled with the weight brought to bear by the expectation of others. Being inspiring to the people that know you if you yourself are struggling is not always an easy space to inhabit.

This man has stuck in my mind because he seemed to be searching for an answer – and asked me ‘who inspires the inspirer?’

This has remained with me mostly because of the paradox of (to my mind) the only possible answer – which is ‘the inspired’.

The people themselves who look up to your achievements provide the impetus to carry on when you feel like you can’t.

Like a snake eating it’s tail the cycle becomes self perpetuating and after a while is almost like a chicken and an egg. It’s hard to imagine how one arrived without the other being there first.

Since I reached target I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me asking for help of one kind or another. Some want dietary advice and others want to know how to put lightning in a bottle – needing to understand how to find it within themselves to climb their own particular mountain.

I don’t think I can give anyone definitive answers in these respects. I can only give my own perspective (as flawed as it sometimes is) and hope that portions of it resonate with them and promote change.

It’s never been my policy to tell people how to live their lives because I know that 2 years ago if the man I am now had told the person I was then what to do then he wouldn’t have listened.

He’d probably have pretended he understood – but deep down he’d be resistant and unwilling to take on board the reality of what he would need to do.

He would need to change both mentally and physically in order to succeed and he didn’t feel like he was capable of that.

Then – out of the blue one day he was.

No-one could have been more surprised than him.

Seeing how far I’ve come people therefore naturally ask me for guidance and I feel a responsibility to respond.

When I do I genuinely want to help.

What’s really confusing is that often – despite wanting to know ‘the answer’, curiously many (not all) still don’t want to face reality and deal with the answer.

This is that what is essentially required is a complete change of perspective on many habits and beliefs that people have hidden behind (whether they realise it or not) often since they were children.

When they’ve managed that Herculean task (and realised that it will never be complete because they’re always learning about themselves) they’re faced with what comes next.

That’s continual and life long effort.

It’s a tough sell. Most want a quick answer and I don’t have one to give.

You’ve probably realised after reading my blog for a while that concise bullet points and bite sized chunks aren’t a Davey trope.

Many will not be required to lose the volume of weight that I did though – and they will be able to make little changes, lose a bit, gain a bit, lose a bit more – and carry on like this throughout their lives without ever letting the problem overwhelm them.

I’m not really speaking to them at the moment – they’ll do what they do regardless – and I’m happy for them.

If they can keep wine, kebabs and chocolate under control and still in their lives then I applaud them.

They already have things way more under control that I did.

I’m talking to the people whose lives have been detrimentally altered by habits or weight.

I’m talking to the ones who no longer feel in control.

As I write today I’m speaking to them – and because of this I’m briefly going episodic – because I’ve realised I can’t fit this into one post.

Over my next few updates I’ll be themed and looking at what I think made the difference.

Like OJ before me I’m going to examine how I did it in public (but without the implication of hypothesis).

This is self serving in some respects because I also at times need to remember myself and I’m still doing battle with my habits even as I type.

It’s never ending.

Last night I could have eaten a horse – but instead I stir fried an entire cabbage, a whole broccoli bush and a red onion with garlic to fill me up and stop my cravings.

So – if you fancy a slightly more in depths set of posts from me then you’re in luck.

Come back over the next few days Internet where I’ll be discussing amongst other things (in no particular order just as the mood takes me) the following.

  • What was the catalyst – where did the spark come from?
  • What did I have to realise about myself before I could move forward
  • What did I discover along the way
  • What I did right
  • What I did wrong
  • How I deal with failure
  • How I feel now

I’m hoping that this will satisfy a lot of the questions that less forward people want to ask – but don’t.

I hope you come back – because (as ever) I’m going to be as absolutely honest as I possibly can be.

Davey