Groove in a Mercedes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday however was rather epic.

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

The inspiration for this was mostly due to the weather.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It wasn’t the only success though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I couldn’t do it.

I wouldn’t have enough room.

I wasn’t flexible enough.

I’d break my car or damage hers.

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

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

Who knew it was possible?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crazily at the time my self image was really struggling.

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

Yet I did it.

I took that first step and gradually began to improve.

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

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

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

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

I’m not alone.

None of us are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davey

(Otherwise known as Dory)

Pax

It’s been a busy couple of weeks – and the work associated with moving and unpacking my partner’s belongings (related to her move to Warwick from down south) continues.

The transportation side of things is now completely done – but the unpacking and integrating of all our possessions is still an ongoing daily task.

Neither of us is quite sure when it will finally come to an end but we’re gradually chipping away at it whilst decorating around the various boxes and bags.

It’s both wearing and exciting in equal measure – because after each roller full of paint goes on and each box gets unpacked my home is beginning to feel more and more like our home.

It’s all very invigorating but nevertheless I earnestly look forward to the day where phrases like ‘I can’t find my underwear’ are a thing of the past.

Well.

Maybe not always 😏

Almost all of the clothing my partner owns is still in boxes and the wardrobe required to rectify this won’t be delivered for a week and a half.

That’s by the by though. It’s just a matter of time and there are many wonderful things going on.

There have been lots of non-scale victories to be had from the activities associated with moving – and I’m continually struck by how not only mine but my partner’s lives have changed beyond all recognition.

We’ve both had a few SW (and general life) milestones where we’re trying new activities, experimenting with new styles or just able to do waaaaay more than we ever did before.

It’s wonderful to see us both growing in confidence in lots of areas just because we’ve found eachother.

Some things are tiny, such as being encouraged to buy trainers for the first time

Others are (on a personal level) maybe more significant.

These are related to things that I would not have been capable of four years ago.

This is Davey in a van.

There were some final bits and pieces to be removed and recycled from the flat and in order to do this the only way was to hire a Ford Transit from Enerprise rent-a-car and then manually dispose of them.

A few years ago a vehicle rental of any kind was completely out of the question.

In the case of a van I was simply too big to fit behind the steering wheel because of the bulkhead behind me.

The seats didn’t go back enough to accommodate me and my stomach pressed into almost all wheels in almost all cars, including my own.

In my own car the seatbelt only just did up if I reclined it and dropped the seat back.

My car seat had also been tig welded with a strengthening plate after breaking under my bulk.

To add insult to injury I also managed to snap my steering wheel in half by putting too much weight on it when I exited the car.

Nowadays I can not only fit in a van seat (the new Ford Transit Custom is very comfy by the way – and I’m TOTALLY sold on Apple car play which is absolutely the future!) but I can fill a van with box after box ferried from the first floor of my partner’s housing complex to a car park below over and over again.

I’m rarely put off by the physical effort required in any task these days – and my whole mentality has completely changed.

In ikea Coventry this week whilst shopping for a bigger wardrobe (boys need space for shirts!!!) I realised that I’d left my phone in the car.

This made me instantly paranoid.

What if someone saw it? Would they smash the window? What else would they take?!

I had to go and get it.

For those that don’t know Ikea in Coventry (unlike the older flat layout in huge out of town spaces) it’s a six storey building in the heart of a city.

The (huge industrial sized) lifts make the high rise shopping experience possible but I find that they’re also irritatingly slow to arrive.

So – instead of taking one to the car park – I jogged down from the 6th to the 1st floor, grabbed my keys and then jogged back up again from my car to the 6th.

Rather amusingly I met a bunch of complaining teens on the way back up, who’d thought it might be a jolly jape to take the stairs.

Most of them had practically expired between floors three and four – rather like a Duracell advert comparing where competing cuddly toys powered by inferior batteries had given up the ghost.

One teen had ground to a halt half way between floors two and three and was languidly slumped on the stairs, complaining bitterly (and very loudly so his companions could hear his wails of distress) about what an awful idea the stairs had turned out to be.

I skipped up the stairs two at a time past the lot of them with a chipper ‘keep it up lads – you’re almost there!’ – all the while grinning from ear to ear.

They were about 14 and I’m the wrong side of 40!

By the time I’d returned to the Ikea restaurant the coffee I’d left behind was still piping hot.

My partner (nursing a cup of tea whilst catching errant Pokemon on her phone at the Ikea Pokestop) remarked that although I felt a little warm I wasn’t out of breath and was still raring to go – plus I was back waaaay quicker than she expected.

This is NOT the way things used to go down in Ikea.

I used to shop at their Wednesbury branch with my brother before Coventry opened nearby.

Compared to the new multi storey layout they appear to be favouring these days it was as flat as 10 day old Coca Cola.

Walking around it was a crippling experience. Mostly because of constant back pain (but also because I was out of breath) I spent much of the time there ‘testing’ armchairs, sofas, office chairs, and beds, before eating lots of meatballs.

Then I’d languidly drive home where I’d usually fall asleep almost immediately.

In contrast on Saturday I spent five hours wandering around the Coventry store and just felt a bit thirsty.

Whilst moving my partner in has so far been a busy enterprise (we are surrounded by boxes) it has also been a great opportunity to eat proper meals together and make sure that both of us are back on plan.

It’s been something of a struggle in the largely solitary lead up we’ve had to the move date.

We’ve had a lot to do at each end – (largely on our lonesomes) and this has resulted in some bad food choices for both of us.

Regular readers will remember my somewhat epic gain on the scales a week and a half ago – and I now have a long way to go to get into back target – which I’m still toying with the idea of re-setting to 14st 7lbs.

My partner still needs to reach her target – but this (I think) is awesome.

Now we both have a shared goal and are very much in it together.

There are no excuses any more and our combined push is toward regular, healthy and on plan meals.

I haven’t been stepping on the scales very often at all recently – but yesterday things appeared to be moving in the right direction when I finally summoned up the courage – and as long as I don’t decide to say **** it and dive into a giant bin of flapjacks in the next two days I will hopefully be looking at a loss on Saturday.

So – things are awesome in a way that they rarely have been in my past.

Not only do I have enough (svelte and lovely) shirts to fill a large Pax wardrobe now but I have a handy pocket sized (also svelte and lovely) girlfriend to check out the interior and make sure it’s suitable for them.

If anyone needs me I’ll be contentedly grinning like an idiot with my head in a cardboard box full of maps or balls of wool 😊

Davey

Three years on…

When I started writing this blog I had a hard time understanding what WordPress wanted from me. Components had to be presented in a certain format and I was unfamiliar with creating an online presence or persona for myself.

More worryingly I also realised that my fledgling site required a title.

What to call it though?

Back then I wasn’t losing weight – and in the beginning it wasn’t just about that. When I first tried to voice my feelings in public I was struggling to deal with the impact of a parental bereavement and this process had manifested itself as a sudden desire to rip everything in my life up and start afresh.

Somewhat precariously this impulse sat on top of an emotional tsunami that I’d inadvertently caused when I decided to stop drowning everything out with alcohol.

I was now sober, raw and in pain – dealing with things I’d suppressed for decades.

Although I wanted a better future, back then I was so buried by the past and present that I had no idea how to obtain it.

All this was pretty heavy subject matter however.

If I referenced the anguish I felt in the blog title and called it something like ‘man on fire‘ who would want to read what I created? Although I had decided to write for myself part of the catharsis of doing so was to ‘out’ my feelings to the world.

I wanted to stop hiding – so I also wanted people to read what I wrote.

A friend (after I’d started posting and he’d read a few entries) suggested a slightly more lighthearted ‘walkies with my doggy bloggy‘ title. This was based on my original objectives – which were to leave my job, become healthier and get a four legged friend along the way.

Did I want my blog to be just about dogs though? Who was my intended audience? What would happen if my focus changed or (heaven forbid) I failed to improve myself?

I decided to defer a decision on titles, and the social media handle I had used in many places elsewhere (daveywankenobie) to sign up to WordPress became a placeholder. 

Simply because WordPress wanted a sub heading I dutifully filled that in without a second thought – and in a few seconds I’d randomly typed in it’s empty box ‘learning to live life‘.

I didn’t think anything of this at the time. The phrase initially seemed to me to be a bit obvious and silly and I almost pressed backspace.

It’s almost immediate demise was statistically probable too because I hadn’t chosen a site ‘theme’. These are the colours and text justification or fonts available to make a page eye catching and WordPress provides bewildering amounts to choose from (even on a free plan).

On some it became completely invisible – and therefore I felt my sub heading to be rather redundant.

Thankfully I chose a theme that made it visible though and the more I saw it, the more I liked it.

The words seemed to capture what I was trying to accomplish – because until then I had been failing spectacularly in life – and for the longest time had simply wanted it to end.

But now things had changed.

My mother was gone and the stubborn determination that she had provoked in me before she passed away (I had resolved to be nothing like her) meant that in order to not go out the same way as she did I’d have to become someone that was very different.

Daveywankenobie would therefore have to learn to live life.

I’ve noted a few times over the last three years that there are some things that you say or do in passing (maybe because you don’t overthink them) that turn out later on to contain such monumental clarity and truth that they represent an irreversible pivot point.

Occasionally these tiny decisions herald the coming of revolutions – and ‘learning to live life‘ I subsequently realised was just such a phrase.

Time went on and as my priorities shifted my (now mythical) pooch never materialised – but nevertheless I continued to change for the better.

As I leaned more about myself and how I fitted into the world as someone new I experienced a near continuous supply of confusion, fear, joy, and wonder – but also began to realise that completely out of nowhere I was developing a lust for life.

Without realising it this throwaway sub heading was actually the real title of my blog

I was attempting finally to live it instead of wasting it – and was slowly discovering what this meant.

Now I wind forward three years and I’m further away from the man who started writing in February 2016 than I could have ever imagined I would be.

I’m monumentally happier, more fulfilled, confident and alive than I’ve ever been – and I’m finally beginning to live my life in every sense because it’s no longer a solitary one.

From a blog perspective that provides an interesting challenge- because while total honesty is my theme there are still things I will always want to keep private.

I’ve only ever written about myself (unless I have express permission to do otherwise) and have long felt that it’s not my right to include details about other people or the thoughts they may share with me.

What to do about a relationship then?

Well that’s mine – and as far as I’m concerned it will never be shared here in any detail.

It’s become (in a really short space of time) my safest and absolute happiest place in life.

The experiences it’s continually giving me occupy my thoughts most of the time – and there are moments (like now) where I can’t sleep because of the sheer avalanche of them.

They’re all good because I feel safe, secure and reciprocally cared for – but can I write about them?

No. I can’t.

Furthermore I don’t want to.

This time and these feelings are mine.

I earned them with hard work and determination and I want to have them (like millions of others do) just for myself.

So this is my way of saying to you dear reader that there’s nothing wrong. I just felt that I had to explain the decreased frequency of my musings.

I haven’t died, I’m not eating myself to death, and I’m still on track to get my diamond target member badge at Slimming World in a week or so.

I’m just currently swept up both by how glorious life can be and how happy I am.

I’m living life and currently it’s just fantastic.

Davey

Diabetes update 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Despite this the frost was far from melted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Since then things have changed quite a bit.

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

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

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

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Now I do.

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

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

How crazy is that?

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

How on earth is all of this possible?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Success in this area is not magic though.

It’s all about mindset.

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

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

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Davey

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

Trying new things

There are times that I’m tempted to not write something down in a post – mostly because I think it will sound silly – but on occasions like today I really don’t care.

Something small has made me really happy.

Ages ago I went for a long walk in the cold with a friend along a frozen canal – and along the way we stopped at a friendly looking pub.

It was traditional and cozy – with a roaring fire next to some red leather seating in the window.

I crouched in front of the burning embers as the barman put another log in the centre and attempted to drink in the warmth as quickly as I could.

Then I realised something.

I’d avoided fires for years because I was always too hot already.

I never appreciated the warmth that they could bring to cold hands – and it was intoxicating.

I really didn’t want to move from that position – but eventually (reluctantly) we had to get a move on and headed out into the cold again.

It’s a happy memory of a cool little non-scale victory.

Today I woke up a little late – after a late visit to the Showcase in Coventry to see the Queen biopic before it was no longer on general release.

It’s a great film (although everyone but Freddie in the band comes across as a bit two dimensional) and the music is wonderful but it made me oversleep past my usual swimming slot.

Looking at the online timetables I decided that I’d give the leisure centre at Newbold Comyn a go instead of my usual pool at St Nicholas.

It’s a longer walk to this location too and it ticks another box exercise wise because currently I am really focused on being in target for my Saturday weigh in!!!

After a 45 minute brisk stroll I was there – and the first thing that I noticed was that there are a lot more facilities.

For one there’s a climbing wall…

I’ve never tried this kind of thing – (and I’m pretty sure my arms aren’t currently strong enough to do it) but today I added it to my mental bucket list!

As I walked through to the nearby pool viewing area I realised that the benefit of coming here to exercise is that there’s a leisure pool as well as an exercise one, meaning that you’re far more likely to not be slowed down by kids playing or adults standing oblivious to everything in the middle of a lane (it’s a thing trust me).

My swim was largely uneventful.

For the most part I had the second small ‘medium lane’ entirely to myself for the hour that I was in the water and absolutely no one to swamp me with butterfly or front crawl waves.

So far so mundane right?

Yes.

It was.

Until I got out.

I’ve never ever sat in a whirlpool spa. Not in my entire life.

I’ve always been far too self conscious about how I look – so even when I’ve stayed at a hotel where I’ve paid a premium for the additional facilities I’ve never actually used them.

There was a lady already sitting in it – but I thought ‘what the hell!’ And just went over and sat in there too!

I flipping love whirlpool spas!

After an 10 minutes of being gently lifted off the shelf on which I was perched by jets of water being shot up my butt I noticed ANOTHER interesting thing.

A sauna….

Now – you might have wondered why earlier I mentioned the log fire – but it was because this fits into the same category.

I have never had a problem with finding a way to get excessively sweaty in the past (it was my default state) and always considered saunas to be completely irrelevant.

My body back then clearly didn’t need it and I hated heat in every permutation that it arrived in.

I got straight out of the spa and walked over to the sauna, reading the ‘it’s really flipping hot in there – make sure you don’t drop dead’ warning on the wall – and also noted the supplemental advice that the higher you sit the hotter you are.

Moments later I was sitting on the top shelf!

OMFG!!!

How nice are saunas?!

Wow!!!

They are my new favourite thing!!!!

After an hour’s exercise transitioning to a room where the very air around you seems to massage every muscle in your body is flipping heaven!

Furthermore I couldn’t help but notice that after 15 minutes I seemed to be the only one in there that was drying out rather than sweating profusely.

Everyone around appeared to be huffing away and breathing harder – yet I was just relaxed and comfortable.

The only reason I decided to go back outside was that I noticed my Apple Watch was absolutely roasting.

It was probably a good call – because when I looked at the Apple forums afterwards they say the following things are best avoided (if you want your watch to remain water proof).

  • Dropping Apple Watch or subjecting it to other impacts.
  • Exposing Apple Watch to soap or soapy water.
  • Exposing Apple Watch to perfume, solvents, detergent, acids or acidic foods, insect repellent, lotions, sunscreen, oil, or hair dye.
  • Exposing Apple Watch to high velocity water, for example while water skiing.
  • Wearing Apple Watch in the sauna or steam room.

Either way – watch or no watch this is not my last time in a sauna or a spa pool.

So this day represents not one but two brand new non-scale victories.

These may be mundane or insignificant to other people but to me they both represent huge strides in my self confidence and yet another example of my default behaviour now being ‘I like to try new things’ instead of ‘I fear the unknown’.

That’s all folks.

Today it’s that simple.

I did new stuff and I feel flipping awesome!

If you were all here I’d give you a big hug to mark the occasion. Make sure you’re in my proximity soon and you can claim this non expiring voucher for tactile celebrations!!!

Love and hugs

Davey

Working really hard

I’ve been in an inexplicably good mood today.

On paper there’s no particular reason why I should be. It’s cold, windy, rainy, there are no leaves on the trees any more and frankly my butt strain is still hurting – but honestly I don’t care.

I feel like the world has a slightly more golden hue to it at the moment and I’d be the first to say that it’s a perception filter that I’ve applied solely because I wanted to.

The sunrise looked rather excellent this morning though even without rose tinted spectacles – and even though it was soon hidden by somewhat grimmer skies maybe it set the tone for my mood.

I was (as had been the case for most days over the last few weeks) on my way to the leisure centre for a swim and was dosed up once more with ibuprofen and paracetamol. Once I get some pills in me and start moving my ass complains less and less.

For the first mile or two of each day currently my right glute is particularly vocal when it’s heading downhill. Since I actually live on a hill this is annoying, but manageable if you put on some cheerful tunes and just get on with things.

This morning I’m listening to Pogo – one of my favourite YouTube artists – and someone that I keep coming back to. He samples the oddest things and turns them into really catchy tunes that I can’t stop playing over and over again.

https://youtu.be/bl5TUw7sUBs

I know of at least one person that I’ve spoken to recently that (from the perspective of being a fellow nerd) may also rather like this particular track – but I’ll concede it’s a bit niche. Personally though I think it’s a real grower and it definitely helped me to forget the aches and pains of the day’s first mile as I walked toward the waiting pool.

Friends who I’ve walked with recently have reminded me that taking things easy is the sensible thing to do – and (against my usual impulses) I have actually tried to take their advice.

On Tuesday I barely moved – hoping that this would present tangible benefits – but the absolute opposite appeared to happen because on Wednesday morning (when I practically crawled out of bed) my rear felt like I’d been attacked by a particularly horny bull.

I was really struggling to hobble about.

Lesson learned. 

This particular injury shouldn’t be allowed to seize up.

There was a time not so long ago when I’d have been happy to do absolutely nothing though – and would never seen the difference between movements being made vs me doing nothing at all.

Back then when a pain came there was only one approach.

Total stillness.

Mind you this was my preferred remedy for everything. Old Davey with any kind of strain would have usually been found attempting to prove that man and armchair could eventually become one, given enough time to get to know one another.

(I still wonder whether I’d have been able to prove that….)

My approach to life now reminds me of a really great friend that (as long as I’ve known her – which is a LONG time) has been insanely into fitness.

It often mystified me how we could be so unalike in this respect and still be friends, but we were. I also wondered what it was about her psychological makeup that made her so ridiculously pre-disposed to exercise when I was so against it.

I still don’t know exactly why we had this key difference.

We did grow up with totally divergent parental approaches to activity – but regardless of this I still told myself for many years that she did more because she was naturally physically predisposed to sports.

She has the type of build that you would typically associate with an all round athlete and I (wrongly) assumed back then that she had just fared better in life’s genetic lottery than I had.

It’s amazing how time reshapes perceptions though – because I realise now that not only did she work at what she had, but that I too was a winner in this area.

I’m not entirely sure how my body endured over 40 years of the self abuse I put it through and still somehow emerged the other side in the shape it’s currently in – but I do know that whilst part of the outcome is probably related to solid genes – the rest is simply getting stuck in.

I didn’t really see it back then, but my friend simply worked really hard.

When she was a competition swimmer she trained so much that she consumed around 6000kcal a day and had an amazing physical strength even when I first met her.

As time went on she ran, swam, played rugby at international level, skied, snowboarded, joined various volleyball teams, got really good at cross fit, and even became good at tennis too.

Honestly it used to wear me out just watching her – because it wasn’t like after she’d completed these activities she was dead to the world.

It was quite the opposite in fact. She’d enthusiastically get involved in many other hobbies (like making stained glass windows for heavens sake) and was a nutcase when it came to DIY.

She re-wired a whole house on her own.

Almost none of it was genetic.

Almost all of it was determined hard work.

She had learned way before I did that if you give something your all, then if you’re lucky you eventually cross a boundary between an activity being a chore and it being both pleasurable and (occasionally) addictive.

I think I’ve made an unexpected pivot recently – where my obsession with walking has been (at least for the time being) rivalled by my sudden enjoyment of swimming.

I have to be careful though because I don’t want to ruin or jinx it.

It’s early days for my new favourite thing and I’s relationship.

I’m already aware that I’ve started to compete with myself on split times and that I’m regularly chewing over the stats associated with my progress in my mind.

The speed gains are diminishing rapidly now though. I seem to have temporarily settled into what appears to be ‘my speed’ – which is 20 lengths in around 18 minutes. I can keep this pace up continually now for an hour or so – by which time I’ve swum a kilometre and a half.

While I’m doing this my heart rate is around 120bpm and I burn around 1200 active calories.

Whilst I’m still walking – I’m not walking quite as much as I was – because on a time vs energy and fitness expended transaction swimming is allowing me to absolutely smash my usual daily fitness goals.

Since I started swimming and walking (apart from the two days that I’ve rested) according to Apple Watch I’ve burned between 4200 – 5500 kcal (total) per day.

That’s just nuts. On average it’s around 800 to 600 per day more than I was expending with walking alone.

It’s not all bout energy burn though – because thats not why I’m so taken by this.

Although I already feel fitter (and this has really surprised me because I felt great beforehand) the big boost comes from the sudden normality of it all.

Now wearing a swimming costume in public seems perfectly natural to me.

I’ve gone from someone terrified of this to fully embracing it – and this is one of the more significant non-scale victories I’ve had for a some time.

It’s not the only one though. Things are currently looking up – and next week I have a lot of plans and lots of activities to do with lots of people.

Sadly something has to yield though and all of this means that the next two weeks will be without a visit to Slimming World – but you can rest assured that I’m focused and on the case.

As well as being still within my target range I’m a salad eating machine at the moment an as driven as ever – because I mean to not only be still in target for Christmas – but also when February rolls around. When that does (if all goes to plan) I am hopefully going to get my diamond target member badge!!!

So that’s me. Walking, swimming, reading and doing my laundry(ing) through the end of a rather grey and dull week of miserable weather.

As a wise person once said though internet – there is no such thing as bad weather – just bad clothes (and maybe also bad moods).

Davey

Lycra

I find myself unexpectedly awake in the small hours of the morning and I can’t sleep because I have a variety of thoughts rolling around my head.

I managed to get out of the house for a walk around the park yesterday and it felt good.

I’m useless at staying indoors and watching TV nowadays and I find it really hard to just take it easy.

Every moment I spend seated honestly feels like a moment of the life I have left is being wasted – and I’m struck by how much I’ve changed in this regard.

Although my inner ear issue is still apparent (I went for a coffee afterwards and nearly fell over when I stood up from the table in Costa) I awoke yesterday feeling both physically better and mentally determined.

For all of the things I feel I’ve overcome recently there are still quite a few topics that remain in the back of my mind – and I’m aware that some of them are going to be quite difficult to face up to.

One of them is skin and what’s left after weight loss.

It’s a topic that concerns almost everyone I speak to and almost everyone that contacts me to ask for support or guidance.

It occupies my own thoughts too and they’re often conflicted – because I don’t want an operation but I also don’t want to be perceived as a freak or oddity.

I’m never quite sure whether I put off dealing with how I feel about people seeing my body because I don’t feel it’s anyone’s business but my own or because I’m worried about how they will react – and how this in turn will affect me.

In truth I guess it’s a mixture of both.

I also live a very public life in social media (in a way that I would never have foreseen three years ago) and it has a big influence on my thinking.

The old fart side of me, born into a world without mobile phones, the internet and social media sees sharing information and images of how people look when not fully clothed (I’m not talking about porn – but rather underwear or muscle/gym selfies) as a vanity project that can only lead to peer censure and personal anguish.

You’re almost certain to get some negative responses – so why do it to yourself? Is the need to be loved so huge that it’s now also required from an audience who can never know the real you?

The other side of me (the one that emerged out of the offline 80’s and embraced social media with gusto) thinks slightly differently however.

He’s seen how people have reacted to his blog and his Instagram account.

He’s spoken first hand to men and women about how his struggles seem to have provided genuine inspiration and comfort to them – especially when they are coming from a similarly dark place in their lives to the one that he did.

He’s come to accept that facing up to the truth of who he is in public has enabled his words and actions to potentially help many others.

He sees the value in this – and a need to ‘give back’ and to do good in the world (even in a modest way) is a powerful motivator.

But my new, modern approach to the world and honesty with it can be a big (self imposed) burden.

Where does my wish to help other people outweigh my need to keep parts of my life private?

Where is the line drawn between altruism and maintaining my self esteem?

I don’t know.

I’m not sure I’m willing or able to cross such a line.

Maybe other men who’ve already done it and ‘outed’ their bodies in public on social media have already completed the work on my behalf.

Maybe there’s absolutely no merit left in doing so.

But – what I don’t know how it made them feel when they did it.

Did they feel a sense of catharsis when they uploaded a picture of their imperfect naked torsos and clicked ‘post’? Did doing so mean that the worst was over and they were ‘out there’ – free from the burden of hiding or did they upload it and instantly regret it?

I guess it’s an individual choice and an impossible question to answer when applied to what must be an incredibly diverse range of desires to be accepted, complex needs to be loved, and motivations to help others.

Regardless of this I made a big step yesterday.

I bought something I’d pretty much agreed with myself that I wouldn’t.

Figure hugging swimwear.

The very thought of it fills me with dread – but maybe it’s something I need to confront – because at some point I’m going to have to face up to how people might see me when I’m not fully clothed.

It certainly won’t be like the model in the picture on Amazon – who does little for my self image.

If nothing else he makes me want to buy a top as well and go ‘full burqini’ on the problem at hand.

I envy women in this case.

Modesty would be acceptable for them in the same way as wearing something revealing would – but for men I feel theres a different burden.

We go topless.

In our society it’s just what’s expected of us.

It’s what we do.

Often this topic rears it’s head in relation to breast feeding and women’s rights (#freethenippleI agree) but far less for men who really aren’t comfortable with being uncovered.

The whole topic makes me want to climb into huge a neoprene zip up bag, cut out some eye and snorkel holes and fashion it into a cover all swim suit before ever throwing myself into a municipal pool.

I desperately want to hide from the eyes of the world.

But you know what?

Why shouldn’t I wear a Lycra swimsuit?

Why shouldn’t I be proud of who I am after all I’ve achieved?

I want a full life in every sense of the word – and I feel that to achieve this goal I have to push forward aggressively with the complete normalisation of my self image and dealing with the reality of what’s left behind.

Blogging has become my new normal – but the question remains -can I share how I look in Lycra with my audience?

I don’t think so.

Not yet.

Maybe never.

I suspect that the world doesn’t need images of me in swimwear on its mobile phone browsers.

Currently a picture of the logo on my shorts and their tag is as far as I’m willing to go.

I can say though that yesterday when I tried these on and stepped gingerly in front of the mirror my feelings were not ones of horror or revulsion.

I actually thought ‘OK. That’s not so bad. I can work with this.

And that’s a start.

It’s the first step toward greater things.

I have yet to wear them in public though.

Simply pulling them on in the first place and knowing that nothing would be perfect was hard enough – and I need to do that a few times more to come to terms with it all.

I’ll keep you posted Internet.

Davey

Vestibular Labyrinthitis, RHR & Carrots

I dislike doctors waiting rooms with a passion and in this respect I doubt I’m alone.

They’re always full of ill people and there’s nothing worse than sitting in one when you don’t feel really sick. Although… in my case I suppose that’s not strictly true because I don’t feel very normal at the moment.

Ever since my vertigo episode things have been a little ‘off’ upstairs and I’ve felt like I’ve had a mild hangover that’s stretched all the way through from Sunday to today. I also have a sore throat and aching ears. Despite taking the pills I was prescribed the symptoms seem to be persisting and I’ve felt a little disoriented, dizzy and ‘off balance’ ever since.

The A&E doctor suggested at the time that an inner ear problem may have been the cause of my sudden descent into temporary Vertigo Hell (link) however when I was examined there weren’t any issues that were immediately apparent.

Worryingly the only other possible cause he had to offer was ‘a brain issue‘.

Little did he know that many people have told me over the years (particularly the opposite sex) that I don’t actually have one.

Ha.

The joke’s on him!

Thankfully this problem doesn’t seem to be enough to seriously derail anything and I’m trying to take it easy by walking no more than 7 miles a day – which I’m sure you will agree means I’m practically stationary…

(Author is called from the waiting room where he’s been sitting to see the doctor. He then heads home after a visit to the pharmacy…)

Well, in the spirit of my usual disarming honesty I may as well discuss here what I talked about in my doctor’s consultation – because from a weight loss perspective I feel it has relevance.

My ears are also worth talking about before this. After my last blog a surprising number of people said they or someone they knew had experienced the same thing and this may be helpful. The causes and symptoms of what happened to me were unknown and terrifying – so I think it’s important I share what I’ve learned in case it befalls a reader.

I apparently have a viral ear infection called Vestibular Labyrinthitis – which it seems is a common cause of sudden onset vertigo.

This doesn’t require any antibiotics, is treatable with an ear spray (Otomize) three times a day – and hopefully in my case this will sort the problem out over time.

From what I’ve read in the literature (that the doctor helpfully printed out for me) the symptoms are pretty text book – so the search for my missing brain has been called off before it ever began. It seems like we’ve found the culprit thankfully – but I’ll keep you advised of the progress and hopefully let you know conclusively as time goes on.

The first spray of the day is settling into my ear canals as I type and I have my fingers crossed.

Whilst with my GP I also discussed something else that’s been in the back of my head for a while – but isn’t a topic that I’ve really paid any serious consideration to (or worried about) until quite recently.

My insanely low resting heart rate.

Adults (fit ones that is) normally sit at around 65 beats per minute, whereas I reside at a solid 40 beats per minute and I pretty much never waver.

IMG_9037

When I initially noticed this I was in a Slimming World meeting in 2017 and Angie had invited a guest speaker into the group to talk about fitness, how muscles burned calories and adult heart health.

It was at this point (when I looked at my Apple Watch, whose o/s had just been updated to enable the tracking of this stat) that I realised my resting heart rate was lower than practically everyone I knew – in fact it has more in common with an athlete than a man who had just moved from being colossally unfit to just walking an awful lot.

I dismissed it at the time and put this figure down to the fact that I was exercising so much.

I typically burned (back in 2017) between 1500 to 2000 extra kcal a day according to my stats. I never got out of breath and I was full of beans. Therefore my RHR had to be due to fitness right?

The more I thought about it though, and the more that health professionals (and pretty much everyone else) looked completely confused when they saw it (this has happened a lot, not just in hospital on Sunday) the more I wondered whether or not it was actually a problem.

The truth of it was I smoked, drank and ate to excess for years, did almost no exercise and was practically unable to breathe in almost every position.

How on earth could I be so fit now without any lasting consequences from the abuse I subjected my body to?

As I started to try and rationalise the problem in my mind I wondered if my excessive size and rapid weight loss with exercise had actually given me unexpected benefits.

  • Maybe my heart got super strong and muscular to cope with supplying 35 stone me.
  • Maybe because when I started to lose weight I also exercised and maintained the need for it to pump blood all the time it remained strong.
  • Maybe now because of this it was just chilling and relaxing.
  • Maybe it had remained capable of supplying two of me, and was therefore only bearing half the load it expected?

This is all plausible enough in my own head – but I’m no doctor and honestly I’ve never actually asked one directly whether there could be any long term consequences related to being who I used to be.

So, after a casual comment on my vertigo blog post relating to Brachycardia (a condition wherein an individual has a very slow heart rate) I decided that since I was visiting the doctor about my vertigo anyway I’d ask the (rather scary) question.

Is my low heart rate a problem?

The short answer is that it depends how you look at it. 

After listening intently to my heart and asking questions about whether I had any symptoms that could be problematic I’ve been told by my GP that I have an underlying condition that unless I seriously change my habits is completely untreatable.

My diagnosis?

I’m ridiculously fit and healthy and unless I start eating pies and lying on the sofa all day long immediately it’s unlikely that this will change any time soon.

It’s not often that you get such devastating news – but honestly I don’t think I can face giving up carrots so this is probably going to be with me for the rest of my life.

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All flippancy aside though – I’m aware that readers may have their own, not so great diagnosis or underlying heath conditions and may not be in the same boat as me.

It’s not my intent to be triumphalist about the fact that I’m healthy – but it IS my intent to highlight that from what seems like a place of absolutely no return, where a slow and very painful death seems to be the most likely outcome there is hope.

  • My diabetes is gone
  • My high cholesterol is no more
  • My blood pressure is normal
  • My heart is in rude health
  • My gout doesn’t exist
  • My sleep apnea is gone
  • My skin doesn’t burn in the sun
  • My calf muscles don’t instantly tear when I walk
  • My knees are no longer crunching when I move and aren’t agony
  • My plantar fasciitis is a thing of the past
  • I no longer get fluid retentive oedemas in my legs
  • I no longer need to wear glasses
  • I haven’t had an eczema outbreak in longer than I can remember
  • I have no crippling back pain any more

All of these things seemed completely impossible a relatively short space of time ago – and now here I am, still fighting the odds, and proving that a healthy diet and exercise along with clean living can produce what some may consider to be a miracle.

It’s not a miracle though.

It’s just absolute dogged determination to stick to my diet plan and sheer hard work every single day.

So – if you’re looking for an excuse not to, and thinking (because everything looks physically dire) that change isn’t worth it, here’s the proof that you’re just making excuses.

Just do it internet.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Davey

2018 Slimming World Ball Epilogue

You join me for the epilogue of my adventures in Birmingham. Part three is here part two can be found here and part one is here.

Firstly I apologise for the last post’s rather cruel click-bait cliffhanger.

It’s not my intent to worry anyone – but honestly jamming everything about the experience of the weekend into one post (whilst at the same time doing it justice) seemed frankly impossible. For those that are a little squeamish I also apologise. I end up in a bad way during this post.

So – on with the story…

I didn’t get much sleep after the ball – but I felt good. Even when sitting on the loo I at 5am I was still smiling.

(You’re welcome by the way internet)

After all – why shouldn’t I be feeling happy?

The night had ended with some great company, lovely conversations, the start of some hopefully excellent future friendships, some very enjoyable social media chatter with people I’d met as well as a comfy and cosy bed in a warm room.

Although I spent much of my time in a swanky hotel on Sunday morning staring at a dark ceiling unable to sleep I really didn’t mind. I’d navigated a massive evening of socialising and mingling without a single drop of alcohol (I only consumed water, coffee and diet coke) and worked through the nerves that I usually associate with such events really well. I’d been outgoing, chatty, managed to not clam up or find myself stuck for things to say – and I was actually really rather proud of myself.

Not so long ago when faced with a similar work gathering I’d unexpectedly clammed up and afterwards remarked casually to friends that ‘events used to be easier when I drank.’

I was almost immediately annoyed with myself after I said this, because what I realised was that I didn’t miss alcohol because I needed to drink.

I missed it because it had been enabling me for many years to avoid getting better at chit chat. Managing interactions whilst either mildly or completely under the influence of alcohol had made it possible for me to avoid improving my small talk.

In truth I don’t think I’d ever really tried to get to know people at social gatherings without additional lubrication. Rather than working on what was clearly a weakness (who would want to speak to a failure like me anyway?) I just cared less that I was continually below average.

In alcohol’s absence therefore existed little else but fear and nervousness.

Ever since I admitted this to myself I’ve been trying to ‘fix‘ it – and the only way to do it and remain sober is to continually push myself outside of my comfort zones. Familiarity is the key and this is my constant goal.

I therefore counted the previous night as tick in my ‘win’ column, and as I watched the time on my watch edge closer to 7am I eventually resolved to give up on sleep and instead got up to go down for an early breakfast in the Hyatt’s serene piano bar.

There was absolutely lovely classical music all around when I arrived (I was the first person there!) and the smell of freshly cooked bacon and mushrooms in the air…

 

The breakfast was particularly awesome – and since the previous night’s meal had barely touched the sides (I’m a guy in need of way more generous portions than the ones that were served up at the ball!) I ate this without any guilt whatsoever.

Mind you – I still avoided the sausages, hash browns and toast because I’m not going to change all of my good habits regardless of how great I feel!

Although I’ve often struggled with meeting new people one thing I’ve never been shy about is asking them for more coffee – and I was already on my second pot by the time my ‘wing-woman’ from the previous night arrived to share the table and chat about the evening.

By the time I’d finished catching up with her, the fabulous new woman of the year 2018 and a few lovely SW consultants on the next table I’d probably nailed about 6 pots of strong black coffee before headed to my room to pack and check out.

It wasn’t until long I was heading from Birmingham to Warwick in a car with Angie, her husband and Jodie – a fellow consultant.

Around about here something very very odd started to happen.

I don’t normally suffer from car or motion sickness but I felt my head becoming light, and the car suddenly felt oppressive, hot and decidedly uncomfortable. I took my hoodie off, tried to adjust the air vents and took deep breaths but nothing seemed to help the sensation.

I felt myself slowly going quieter and my conversation tailed off. I couldn’t look down or out of the window without feeling strange and soon asked my companions if any of them minded me opening a window.

Before long I had my forehead completely outside of the car at around 70 miles an hour and was desperate for a cold breeze and for all motion to stop.

I started counting slowly in my head to try and work through it. By the time I was nearing 500 I couldn’t take it a minute longer and asked Angie’s husband to pull over.

We stopped in Balsall Common at a Sainsburys petrol station and by this time I was finding it difficult to stand. I sat on a wall for a while to try and compose myself and noticed that I was shaking and clammy – as well as beginning to shiver. I couldn’t decide whether this was due to the temperature and the rain (it was drizzly and cold and I was in a polo shirt) or the underlying problem – whatever it was.

Surely it was just car sickness though right?

I needed to grow a pair, man up and get back in the car.

I was holding everyone up (not that they seemed to mind in the least). Since they all had to get back home to their kids and I was worried I would cause problems with childcare so I forced myself back into the front seat, holding onto a cold bottle of water (that felt wonderful against my skin) and hoping that things would improve.

They didn’t.

Barely half a mile down the road I was once again unable to carry on and practically staggered out of the car when the car stopped at some traffic lights.

I just opened the door unceremoniously and stepped out. Once more I was struggling to stand and shaking – but now the sensation was far worse.

What on earth was going on?

I tried walking back and forth but it was getting harder to comprehend what was happening. This was like travel sickness ramped up beyond anything I’ve ever felt before.

I couldn’t figure out whether I wanted to fall over, be sick, drink water, warm up, cool down or just pass out. If you want to step into my shoes then imagine the worst ferry crossing in the world on turbulent seas and then multiply it by the highest number you can think of.

Then double it.

In a final attempt to push on I once again got back into the car and hung my head out of the window. We were barely 6-7 miles from home – so at the time it seemed like the right thing to do.

It really really wasn’t.

Another mile or so down the road I begged Angie’s husband to stop and once more lurched out of the car. By this time I knew something was very wrong.

I was clinging for dear life to a wrought iron gate in someone’s drive, had no idea where I was and could barely stand. Before long I was fighting for consciousness and my companions were getting really worried.

They weren’t on their own.

I could no longer speak properly, my face was numb and I was unable to respond to questions despite what I tried to say. I could either stutter incoherently or was completely mute. Although I could hear and understand everything I felt completely incapable of interacting and every sound, light or movement was excruciatingly difficult to bear.

The world was suddenly oppressive and loud and everything was sensorily terrifying.

I could hear Jodie next to me on the phone to the emergency services and I felt Angie rubbing my shoulder and holding me upright. Before long (guided by a voice on the 999 line) they were trying to assess whether I was having a stroke or a brain haemorrhage.

I could see Angie’s husband out of the corner of my squinting eye standing in the driveway ready to flag down the ambulance that was apparently on it’s way.

How long had I been there? Time was losing all relevance and I was getting lost in the moment.

The more the questions I was asked and the harder I found it to say ‘No – I’m OK’ (when I clearly wasn’t) the more scared I became. Was I having a stroke? Was this the last time I’d be me?

What if I dying?

My companions (on advice from the emergency services on the phone) prised me off the railings and lowered me to a floor where I curled up into a foetal position on the wet leafy driveway – which belonged to a kind old lady (called Sue) who had rushed out with a blanket for me.

I heard Sue saying she’d recently lost her husband and had suffered a brain haemorrhage herself shortly after. She thought it looked like I was too – and then all of a sudden I stared crying.

I was getting progressively more and more terrified. What on earth was happening to me? I couldn’t uncurl my body, I was trembling more and more and couldn’t see properly. I could barely move or open my eyes and I could hear the growing concern in the voices of my companions.

All I could think was that they had to get home to their children and I was messing everyone’s day up – and this kept looping through my mind endlessly.

Then the ambulance arrived, the paramedics hopped out and I was loaded onto a stretcher.

They told me once in the ambulance that it looked like I was experiencing a vertigo attack. This was just confusing to me at the time – I wasn’t at altitude and I hadn’t ever suffered from vertigo. Were they trying to keep me calm because they suspected something worse?

Were they lying to me?

I could still barely move and the slightest motion made everything spin. The whole world seemed to feel alien and I still couldn’t speak. In minutes we were heading for the hospital but all of the roads were blocked.

Angie sat next to me in the cold and darkness of the ambulance and I heard her speaking to my brother and my friend on my phone – telling them what was happening. Suddenly I started to be violently ill – and began pouring the contents of my stomach into a vommit bag the paramedic had placed on my chest.

It wasn’t pretty – and all I could think was how sorry I was to be ruining everyone’s day – whereas all they could think about was whether I’d be ok. It’s funny how your priories get skewed at times like this…

After what seemed like an eternity we were at the hospital and I was loaded out of the ambulance in a mostly frozen position. By now any kind of movement was horrible and I just wanted everything – absolutely everything – to stop, regardless of what it was.

 

Soon I was in a cubicle, rolled onto a bed by a burly nurse and the lights of the room were dimmed which helped. Light and sound and warmth were the enemy. I wanted only silence, cold and darkness.

Not long after the nurse had helped me with some (ahem) intimate necessities the duty consultant arrived to confirm the paramedic’s diagnosis. After ushering my brother (who’s arrived shortly after) and Angie out of the room he started prodding and poking me all over and checking my vitals and blood pressure.

Earlier in the ambulance I’d mentioned that I’d lost a lot of weight in the context of saying that I had previously existing medical conditions that may have been contributing factors.

Although my diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are all currently in remission it’s always good to be forthright – however they didn’t seem to believe I was over 20 stone lighter until Angie confirmed what I was telling them.

They’d clearly relayed all of the info to the doctors and nurses regardless of whether they believed me or not.

‘Hmm’ said the consultant, looking at my arms and stomach. ‘I can see you’ve lost a lot of weight.’ He said, manipulating my rather saggy abdomen.

Sigh.

More fuel for my already paranoid self image.

‘Yes. I have. You’re all lucky you didn’t meet me three years ago.’ I replied, trying to be jocular, even though I felt anything but cheerful. ‘You wouldn’t have been able to lift me onto a stretcher or out of the ambulance back then.’

He nodded, engrossed in his work, and set about taking some blood samples and my pulse.

‘Your heart beat is really low.’ he said, sounding a little concerned.

‘It’s always like that.’ I said, lifting my Apple Watch. ‘The fact it’s over 50 now is abnormal. My resting rate is usually just above 40.’

He nodded again, looking surprised, but accepted it since I seemed to be really confident about what I was saying.

‘I walk a lot.’ I said rather pathetically.

‘Well I’m pretty sure it’s just vertigo.’ he eventually said.

‘What the hell!?’ I replied weakly. ‘Why would this come out of no-where, and why so bad?’

He sat on the side of the bed with one foot on the floor, like he was about to read me a story and turned to me to explain.

‘Well we’ll have to check your blood and confirm it – but these things can just happen. It could be an inner ear infection – but it could also be brain related. However everything that’s happened is just textbook for vertigo. Your brain, nerve impulses and inner ear are just out of sync and when this happens everything shuts down. We can give you an injection to block nerve impulses and some pills to help the side effects. Hopefully this will ease the symptoms and it will get better.’

Dr Ahmed seemed to be correct.

After jabbing a needle in my butt, giving me some pills and installing a drip (and around around six hours elapsing) I started to feel a bit more human.

I eventually left hospital with a prescription for another four days of medication that I’d have to return the next day to collect.

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After a short taxi ride and a rather ginger drive home with my brother (I had left my car and house keys at Angie’s earlier the day before) I was sitting in my house feeling decidedly sub par.

Truthfully I still don’t feel great but I’m just glad I’m able to speak and not curled up terrified like a quivering infant in someone’s driveway under a blanket.

Since I’m a cup’s half full kind of guy I have to look at the positives here.

  • When this happened I wasn’t alone, and the people I was with were absolutely legendary in their compassion and support. I cant thank them enough. Angie sat holding my hand in A&E waaaaaaay longer than anyone had to. If there’s a medal for consultants who go above and beyond the call of duty she deserves it. She’s a wonderful friend and no mistake.
  • If I hadn’t have lost all of this weight who knows what would have happened. This was yet another non-scale victory. Would I have choked when I was sick?
  • The ambulance and doctors almost certainly wouldn’t have been able to lift or treat me and I couldn’t have fitted in the cubicle bed.
  • I would also have been unable to use the bedpan whilst lying down. The nurse who helped me as I struggled to move and cope wouldn’t have had a hope in hell of shifting my position in bed back then.
  • I’m alive – and although I still feel… really odd… the worst seems to have passed.

It seemed that this was a relatively common phenomenon – and going to A&E is actually what the NHS website recommends in cases like this.

The following day (feeling like I still had a nagging hangover from an epic night out on the lash) I started browsing through their website and came across this – which is practically a boilerplate description of what I experienced.

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It doesn’t seem like five minutes since I was sent a photoshopped version of myself in a hospital bed (link) after a bizarre ‘catfishing’ incident but this was for real.

Although I normally don’t speak directy to people in my blog on this occasion I will because I’d like to finish by thanking each and every single person that helped me, showed understanding and compassion, and that has reached out to me via text and social media to check on me since this happened.

Sometimes I feel quite vulnerable on my own and they have all made me feel like I’m being looked out for. They have all reminded me just how much goodness there is in the world, how many selfless and genuine people there are out there and how I appear to be surrounded by them.

It’s times like these that I’m reminded possessions and status are completely immaterial.

True riches can only be found in the hearts of others – and I am a very very wealthy man in this respect.

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If anyone needs me internet I’ll be taking it really really easy.

Davey

Eyeballs

Today I have a digital eye screening for diabetic retinopathy.

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

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

Bright light will hurt.

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

It’s as pleasant as it sounds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had a HbA1c reading of 94.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe that’s a good thing though.

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

I don’t plan to any time soon.

Anyway.

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

Sigh.

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

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

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

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

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

Davey

Waking up happy

Moments of success are precious. They don’t always come along with great regularity, so when they do they’re worth noting down and sticking in the ‘bank’ for later.

My non-scale victories page (link) serves just this purpose for me and I look at it from time to time when I’m low.

That way when things seem dark you have evidence that your worst fears are nonsense. You can say (out loud if needed) ‘I’ve come a long way – and despite how I feel today I’m a good person that good things happen to because I try hard.’

This is sometimes difficult to achieve but I’m getting better at this as the months and years pass since the start of my journey.

As evidence mounts to contradict a view that’s been in the back of my mind for many years (that ultimately I’ve been a failure and my life hasn’t amounted to much in the grand scheme of things) I’m finding that the moments where my chin hits the floor happen less and less.

They still occur from time to time – but that’s how I deal with them.

However the waking mind is one thing – because (depending on how disciplined you are) you can control that with rational and practical structures such as the one above.

With practice you can bend your negative self perception to your will and see the warning signs of depression and negativity arriving.

When you do they can be addressed before you get into an ‘I’m crap’ downward spiral.

Once you learn how to – YOU set the tone.

Something that’s difficult to control though is what happens in dreams – and this is where the buried fears we all keep locked away tend to leak out.

Without warning I can wake up after a dream where I’ve caved in to all the negativity that’s followed me around for decades and I’m convinced I’m a piece of crap again.

Often it takes me the whole day (sometimes longer) to recover from dreams like that because they tug at loose threads you can’t always see – but that are suddenly real and raw.

You’re frustratingly sabotaged by a subconscious mind that’s almost completely out of your control and it can be vicious in its self condemnation.

I’ve suffered from recurring dreams for years – and thankfully one by one the worst ones have fallen by the wayside.

I used to dream that I could run like the wind – then realise it was a lie and look down and see how fat I was, suddenly slow to a crawl and become immobile.

At times I’d dream of suffocation and drowning – that I was fighting for life – then wake up to realise my that my sleep apnea was stopping me breathing because I’d turned over – and that I was and I was in genuine danger.

My imagination also continually painted me in public without clothes (usually trousers and pants missing) and I had to try and walk home naked when I was too fat to move.

These dreams were (pun intended) a nightmare.

But they were not the worst ones.

The absolute worst were when my ex girlfriend visited.

If I’m honest I never came to terms with how the relationship ended and those who know me well understand how deeply this affected me.

She appears regularly in my sleeping life and without warning.

The dreams often start off pleasantly because I’m transported back to myself as a younger man and I’m once again in love.

I feel secure and like there’s an unbreakable bond between us that’s as much a part of me as my own limbs.

In that moment it seems like there’s nothing we can’t accomplish together and I’m a hundred feel tall when I hold her hand.

Then she notices my weight.

Then the recriminations start about how I can’t find it within myself to change for her – and although I’m often let off the hook (she was pretty kind usually) I’m left feeling like I don’t measure up and that ultimately I’ll never be to her what she is to me.

I’ll never be what she wants.

Then I wake up and have to face the realisation that even the happy part of the dream is a fallacy.

I’m confronted with the reality that she’s gone – and the security and happiness associated with her love and companionship exits with the fading memory of a face I’ll probably never see again.

I’m alone in bed, sometimes tearful – but always feeling isolated.

Just now though I awoke with a jolt – and I was laughing. I had a smile on my face because the narrative in my dream had radically shifted.

It started the same – she was with me and we were happy – but THEN things changed.

She’d taken my hand, looked into my eyes and said ‘I’m so proud of what you’ve achieved. You’ve really done it.

I hugged her and drew her close before the dream ended and I woke up.

Instead of feeling the way I usually do after she’s been a participant in my sleep I now feel energised.

Something has changed.

Deep down something is different!

Tonight – when I woke up I felt a weight lift that I’ve carried for years.

I think I know why this happened – because someone I’d only just met looked me in the eye and asked me recently ‘do you feel like a success?

The question was an uncomfortable one because normally I try to brush things like that off – but the situation was hard to escape.

I surprised myself when I began to reply because my bottom lip trembled and my voice started break slightly.

‘Yes.’

I replied, swallowing.

‘Yes I do.’

I paused.

‘It’s taken a lot of hard work and effort to get to where I am.’

‘I AM proud.’

I don’t remember my exact words but around that point I stopped talking and marshalled myself so that I wouldn’t cry.

I’d said it out loud though and realised that it’s not something I’ve ever had to confront or respond to in quite the way that she asked me.

Having to admit that I’m happy with my own success was something of a surprisingly life affirming moment and it clearly had a profound impact because it’s now entered my dreams.

Boy do I hope it stays there internet because waking up feeling as good as I do right at this moment in time is flipping awesome.

Yay for waking up happy!

Davey

Fictitious Dave

A while back I attended a large social event – and it was a really lovely day.

The sun was shining, everyone there seemed happy and content – the music was laid back, children were roaming all over the place with smiling, painted faces and there was a nice vibe in the air.

At the time however I really struggled.

Conversation didn’t come easy and even though I chatted with people I didn’t feel like I was doing a very good job of it – which made each subsequent interaction more difficult than the one before because I started to overthink and worry about it.

People that know me may be surprised to learn that this used to happen to me quite a lot. When it did I tended to just clam up and retreat into the cover of silence – and my natural tendency is still to try and avoid repeating the same situation again.

When I spoke to friends about this behaviour I couldn’t help but bookend it with nostalgic and romanticised thoughts about alcohol.

Over many years pretty much all of my major social events have been both lubricated and propelled by it and on a few occasions lately I’ve been left feeling that things (in this respect) used to be easier when I drank.

In response they’ve naturally replied ‘have you never considered just drinking on special occasions? Just one or two here or there? Surely you’re in control now?’

The truth is that I probably am in control and would be if I did – but I really don’t ever want to do it again. The health implications regarding diabetes alone make my blood run cold.

However the more I thought about it (I try not to dismiss anyone’s suggestions – whatever they may be) the more I realised what the truth was.

I just wasn’t very good at socialising and I hadn’t had enough practice.

In just the same way as I used drink to cover or diminish intense emotion I also used it as a crutch for my feelings of social awkwardness – and having to go back to it seems like admitting I have a personality flaw that I’m incapable of addressing.

Irked by this realisation I resolved that rather then paper over the cracks of a weakness with alcohol the answer was just to get better at socialising!

If I can lose 20st then I can definitely crack being a bit nervous in front of people I don’t know.

Having some very good friends is a plus and a minus because their unwavering support means it’s comfortable and easy to be with people that I love and know well.

My life is currently blessed with many meaningful friendships and because of these I haven’t had many situations where I’ve been forced to think on my feet and walk into an environment knowing next to no-one and just fend for myself.

With this in mind I’ve been trying to work on my weaknesses.

Just like walking it’s definitely something that gets easier the more you do it – and as that happens the more you enjoy it.

Yesterday I knew I was taking a day off from SW and didn’t weigh in – instead heading over to Sping Grove House (link) in the West Midlands Safari Park.

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This is a truly stunning Georgian Mansion – and yesterday became the wedding venue of one of my brother’s best friends – who (after a lengthy engagement) had finally gotten around to tying the knot with her partner.

Although we’ve always known of one another peripherally – and spoken on social media we’ve not entered eachother’s physical orbit much in the past.

If I’m honest this was completely because of my long standing weight related embarrassment. I just couldn’t handle the fear that people would judge me harshly and I’d developed some serious hermit tendencies to cope with it.

Whenever the opportunity came up to socialise with someone I didn’t already know I invariably found a way out of it, and as a jokey reaction to never seeing me in person for many years she had slowly begun to refer to me as ‘fictitious Dave‘.

It’s testament to her kindness and persistence therefore that despite my previous reticence to engage she invited me along to share their special day.

And it was special.

The whole ceremony was lovely – and being a civil one was wholly about the love and bond that they shared, which truthfully left something of a lump in my throat.

These guys are so well suited it’s nuts.

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The venue couldn’t have been more perfect – and from the surrounding to the decor, food and music everything just flowed.

The music was also darn near perfect. The happy couple entered to ‘Somethin Stupid’ by Robbie Williams and Nichole Kidman and once married left to ‘Mr Blue Sky’ by ELO.

I doubt anyone could have picked better songs. The sun was shining for the WHOLE day – and when we exited into the garden (so that the room could be prepared for the wedding lunch) there was a lovely surprise.

On one of the tables laid out on the patio a Safari Park keeper has brought along some animals for the children to stroke – and since I’m a sucker for anything small and furry I made my way to the front where my sister in law was already petting what seemed like a baby hedgehog.

Although I forget the proper name that the keeper used this (I think) is an African Pygmy hedgehog – and it’s no baby. It’s actually fully grown and was really content with being stroked and peered at.

The next animal (a chinchilla) wasn’t so chilled however – and didn’t stay still for long at all.

However it did allow me a couple of gentle passes with my hand on its fur – and I was absolutely blown away by how incredibly soft it was.

According to the keeper (in comparison to a human) a chinchilla has ten hairs in the same space that a we would have one.

Consequently it’s so fine and delicate that it’s like touching air.

This broke down a lot of barriers with people and once we’d all sat down and agreed how cute they were I got to know a few of the guests – who I was quickly realising came from pretty much everywhere.

Before we knew it we’d been shooting the breeze for nearly an hour – and by this time everyone was really relaxed.

I don’t have many group photos of me, my brother and sister in law but this one (taken at the same time) I think is a keeper.

It’s not the only good photo though – because quite unexpectedly I found myself on a really chatty dinner table full of people that seemed to have the same sense of humour that I did.

I’m not sure whether this was planned – but two of the people actually lived in Warwick too – and the super friendly lady next to me appeared to be a really capable conversationalist who had me laughing through most of my dinner and occasionally sniggering during the speeches too.

She diverted my attention so much in fact that (despite my tendency to photograph most of my meals) I completely forgot to get a snap of the main course.

The starter looked and tasted awesome however – and was a ham hock terrine with piccalilli and a crusty piece of bread.

I’m not sure whether this is good or bad from a dietary perspective but I’d made a pact with myself to avoid the other temptation and ignored the sweets that were sitting (looking innocently evil) on all of the tables.

I also passed on dessert (which looked rather nice) AND the cake later on – but DID indulge in the buffet curry that rolled out just before the dance floor opened up in the early evening.

By the time we left though I have to admit I was flagging. Despite the excellent company I needed to prop myself up with caffeine – but sadly (even though I managed to secure several cups of brown nectar) this completely failed to perk me up.

It had been a long day though and I wasn’t alone in feeling this way.

By 10pm the girls on the table were all making pained noises about the agony of wearing unfamiliar heels and the boys were just yawning.

My work event (where I lost an entire night’s sleep) was still looming large. It’s simply not possible to miss out on that much shut eye with no consequences.

However there was still just enough in the tank to drive the people I’d met back to their nearby hotel and make my way home to Warwick with a smile on my face – which was still there when I turned off the light and climbed into bed.

I have to say it was one of the best weddings I’ve ever been to – and not just because of the organisation and the setting.

I left feeling like I’d made some new friends, strengthened relationships that I’d neglected to develop for many years, and just got to know a thoroughly lovely bunch of guests.

Dave is no longer fictitious.

There’s a face associated with the name now and he’s becoming surprisingly social.

Davey

Perspective and new shoes

Something that I still find rather surprising in WordPress is when I get lots of ‘single hits’.

Occasionally I’ll pick up a new subscriber who appears to have a lot of time on their hands (I do rather love these guys and gals) and for a week or two they almost single handedly account for the lion’s share of traffic hitting my site.

Typically I can spot this kind of new reader because my older blogs get sequential hits one by one. If I refresh my stats (although I can’t see who is doing this just in case you wondered) I know that someone is wading through my history in date order and following my journey as it unfolded.

It often makes me realise that the mind is a funny thing – because you can occasionally be lulled into thinking that life has always been the way it is at any one given moment in time.

It’s kind of like being in the dead of winter, standing in the snow and finding it impossible to imagine how it would feel if the sun was shining and you were wearing shorts and a tee shirt.

I’ve written so many posts now (584!) that I’m honestly forgetting what some of them contain.

This is a little unsettling because at the time I constructed these, each one was read, re-read and then read again MANY times before publication as I tinkered with the thoughts and wording.

Many remain delightfully imperfect (surprisingly I like that) and often I find punctuation or spelling errors that I’ve missed – but on the whole I thought that I knew each and every one of them.

They’re all little bits of me after all.

Each post contains the unvarnished truth of that particular moment (albeit in a literary container designed to be easily consumed) and in many ways when I pressed ‘publish’ it felt like I was watching little children wander out into the world and wondering if they’d be ok without me.

Not so long ago someone read ‘one to twenty’ (link) and when I saw this pop up on my phone I followed the link to look at the post.

I remembered the title – but not what it related to – and as I read the content it took me back to a time that I felt broken.

Back then I was struggling with almost everything in life and I still hadn’t mustered up the strength to tackle my weight.

I had been sober for just over a month and a ‘taste’ for alcohol was still in the back of my mind.

I was seeking help for what I now freely admit to myself was alcoholism and although not quite at my lowest I wasn’t that far off.

The power of writing moments like this down is very much like noting all of your body measurements when you embark upon a diet – because no matter how hard you try not to you’re almost certain to occasionally fail.

The question at the point of crisis then becomes (if you don’t say ‘screw it’ and press the self destruct button) ‘how do I recapture my drive and pull things back around?’

My blog (and old posts like this) fill just such a gap – because just like the days where you achieve inch loss instead of weight loss and thank your lucky stars you had the presence of mind to get that tape measure out when you really didn’t want to it allows me to step back in time and to stand in the shoes of someone I don’t know any more.

The gift of continued perspective just keeps giving – and I’ve learned that such insight is precious.

if I could give any advice when it comes to achieving anything in life it’s this:

You need to cultivate these nuggets wherever you can – because as uncomfortable as the truth of your past (or present) is it’s still the truth and you NEED to face it.

So – if you’re reading this and wanting to make a change to anything that you don’t like about yourself take time out to retain a snapshot of who you are now.

Even if it emotionally hurts to take a selfie, to measure your bingo wings, to check how fast you can walk a mile, to know how fast your heart beats when you climb up your stairs or how long you can stand before things begin to hurt JUST DO IT.

It’s often the difference between success and failure further down the line.

You might feel strong now – but we’re only as successful as our worst day – and when your back is against the wall you need to find some ammo in your almost empty clip.

I’ve realised that amongst many other things that I’ve changed about my life and outlook over the last few years it’s this that’s become a pivotal element of what I hope will be lifelong success.

In my case I’m everywhere now.

I’m my own top hit in Google and I can’t escape myself.

I’m plastered all over social media (despite my natural reticence in this area) and that’s a good thing.

Instead of feeling exposed and vulnerable like I expected to when I started I now feel the absolute opposite. My failures and struggles not only help other people but they help me too.

I can look back now with pride instead of regret because of this – and that’s something that’s infinitely more precious than wealth, status or material possessions.

Well – almost

I bought some new Clarkes shoes yesterday and they’re flipping awesome.

As I type I’m in the middle of a continued and prolonged footgasm.

They’re soooooo comfortable!!!

Granted I doubt they’ll win me the title of ‘trendiest guy in the universe’ but holy crap do they make me feel happy!!!

Here’s to perspective and new shoes internet.

May they both last forever!

Davey

Where for art thou sleep?

I don’t seem alone at the moment in having a pretty patchy record with sleep. Now that the weather has become more humid it’s definitely a harder commodity to come by.

Nevertheless – after all of my walking on Sunday (nearly 17.5 miles) when my head hit the pillow at around 9pm I fully expected a blissfully deep slumber.

I was absolutely shattered.

The universe had other ideas mind you – and by midnight I was wide awake yet again. This was partially because of the temperature but also because I was still preoccupied about a few things.

One in particular is very much on the near horizon and I find that I’m unusually nervous about an event where a lot of attention will be on me.

Although I don’t normally find talking to new people difficult the build-up for this particular moment is one that’s taken ages.

I’ve been patiently biding my time waiting for it to come around for almost three months now – and I’m beginning to realise that this extended interval is probably why in solitary moments I’ve been so worried.

For most stressful events in life I find you get a relatively short notice period. The ‘hammer’ just drops unexpectedly and the period you have to worry about it in advance is minimal.

You just have to deal with it as best you can and move on.

In contrast the details and information relating to this one have been almost glacial in their gradual arrival – and it wasn’t until late last week (Friday) that I finally found out everything I needed to know about this event and what it would entail.

To make matters worse I can’t really go into further detail about it even now.

One of the interesting things about feeling this way though is how I’m managing it.

Sure – it’s now 2am and ONCE AGAIN I’m wide awake, but aside from that the moments that have bookended my insomnia have been dealt with in very different ways to how I used to handle such instances.

In the past, stress, or an inability to switch off used to entail lots of alcohol and lots of food.

If I’m honest the latter can still be a reaction to feeling this way – and early Monday morning (when I was sitting in the near dark of my kitchen at 3am) I couldn’t help but pick at the contents of my fridge for an hour.

Thankfully however it contained only vegetables, unsweetened almond milk and cottage cheese.

The alcohol is gone from my life. Two and a half years since I stopped drinking this has been replaced ENTIRELY by exercise.

Although my excessive walking hasn’t completely turned off my mind in the way that booze sometimes did (when I completely passed out after my third bottle of wine thoughts of any kind were impossible) it’s managing to keep me on an even keel in every other respect.

I’d be lost without it.

The heat of the last few days alone would have meant that in the past my sleep apnea (something that is no longer a problem) would have almost totally consumed me.

When the sunshine previously fell on 35st me I drowned in sweat, burned – or stayed indoors to slowly marinade in my own juices and alcohol.

I typically woke up with lots of regret and a steaming hangover back then.

These days, instead of a dull ache where my brain allegedly sat and clammy skin I have a new, relentlessly outdoorsy persona and a complexion that reflects this.

When I compare ‘old Dave’ to ‘new and improved Davey’ (despite all I’ve written on the subject) I’m still stunned at the changes that losing 20st can bring.

I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of looking back at who I was and marvelling not only at how it happened but how different I look and feel now.

There’s no denying though that it’s a battle at times – and often the most debilitating fights are fought in the dead of night when tiredness takes over and perspective is found to be in short supply.

In moments like this (which are thankfully rare) negative thoughts creep in and despite all of the irrefutable evidence of my successes I’m sometimes still moved to question whether I’m deserving of good things in life.

Deep down I often feel that I failed at so much, let so many people down for so many years and squandered almost every gift I possessed.

For the longest time because of what I’d become I genuinely wanted to die and the selfishness of that feeling still haunts me today.

That’s not who I am now though – and although I might feel regret that’s not the ‘real’ me.

Not any more.

The ‘real’ Davey is continually pacing back and forth in the background of a negative thought like a caged tiger, just waiting for it to get light again so that once more he can take control, get up and start walking.

It doesn’t matter where to, it doesn’t matter what happens on the way – and it rarely matters what happens when I get there.

I just feel a constant need to do it.

I do it so obsessively because I can, because I remember how it felt not to be able to stand, let alone walk – and because when I do I feel empowered instead of trapped by life or physical limitations.

Instead of confinement I’m free – and when I’m sitting these days It’s just to admire the view, and no longer because I can’t get out of my chair.

As I got into my car to start out on a journey last night a special lady took a picture of me from my rear passenger seat.

When we first met, I drove the very same vehicle and back then my stomach touched the steering wheel.

My weight had actually also broken it a few years down the line.

Now, as I pulled away from her driveway (with a different wheel I might add) I felt pretty damn good.

So internet – if I could only get some sleep too then life would be perfect.

Davey

A new objective

So – now I have a new challenge in life.

Weight maintenance.

It’s certainly not as sexy or attention grabbing as weight loss but (in every respect that counts) it’s now become my most important focus above all else.

If this is to be compared to evolution then it feels akin to Neanderthal me overnight becoming Cro-Magnon me.

I’m finally standing upright, beginning to use rudimentary tools and make fire.

(Goodness knows I need the fire now. It’s freezing! How have skinny people survived like this for so long?!)

The big fear that dogged me for a long time when I started my journey (one reader suggested I refer to it instead as an odyssey – but I suspect this epithet sounds a little too lofty and Homeric) is that I would once again begin to ‘yo-yo’ in weight.

I’m sure that many newer readers will not have noticed that back in the early days (and often rather darker moments) of my blog that I detailed past failures where this has happened (link).

The truth is that I’ve not only managed to lose 20st – but a decade ago I managed to lose approximately ten and for a brief period this is how I looked and felt.

At the time my approach to healthy eating was quite different though – and I fell off a temporarily successful wagon of meal replacements (despite the support of a lovely lady) and back into well trodden bad habits.

I put the weight back on at the rate of around a stone a month.

They were dark times and ones where I honestly lost the will to carry on. It sometimes seems like a miracle to me that I’m still here.

It’s not a place I EVER want to go back to.

The truth is though that whilst I’ve proven adept at both losing and gaining weight throughout my life – this time feels very different.

At the moment I genuinely think that I’ve learned from my past mistakes and that I’m mentally prepared for the challenge ahead.

This time I:

  • Live my life in public and have made it largely impossible to hide private shame anymore
  • I no longer drink
  • I’m honest and open about everything I possibly can be to anyone that cares to ask me
  • I seek the support of others all the time and draw strength from them when they give it
  • I provide support in return whenever I can without judgement and try to pass on what I’ve learned when fellow travellers ask for help
  • I have built exercise into my daily life in a way that is completely frictionless
  • I follow a tried and tested healthy eating plan that promotes a group dynamic
  • I religiously attend that group
  • I have a passion in life that keeps me focused

All of this is different – and because of that I’m going into this new phase with enthusiasm and positivity.

It’s very early days but so far my week has been going ok (I think) and whilst I’ve been trying to remain off my scales (for the most part I’ve succeeded) they’ve also come in quite useful to gauge the sorts of fluctuations that appear to be normal with the human body.

This is not something I’m used to watching in any great detail so I’m going to have to learn about my biological rhythms.

Yesterday morning (after going up by four pounds after Malvern’s walking escapades) the scales of Ultimate Accuracy reported that I was once again at my target weight (actually I was a shade over at 14st 7.5lbs) which is comforting.

Oddly my numbers appears to fly up immediately after lots of exercise and then drop back down again a day or two later – which I put down to muscular fluid retention or digestive transit.

Although I’ve also been trying to process a rather overwhelming influx of congratulatory messages from social media (sorry if I’ve not replied to every comment – I’ve completely lost track) My first few days as a Target Member have mostly been about increasing my food intake slightly – because exercise wise there’s nothing to attempt to maintain.

It’s just part of daily life – and one less thing to worry about.

I make my six mile round trip walk to work regardless of the conditions and still average over ten miles a day week in and week out.

Food wise the advice from my Slimming World consultant (she’s been in regular contact bless her) is that I should now start to increase my healthy extra intake.

This initially seemed to be oddly counter intuitive and is definitely going to require a delicate balancing act. In my case at the moment I’m using weetabix and almond milk as both a treat and a ‘filler’ food in the evenings (or for lunch).

A large bowl of 5 (!) Weetabix (I use 3.5 syns for one of them) with unsweetened almond milk (Aldi Acti Leaf – chosen mainly because I can have 550ml – over half a litre -as a healthy extra and I like lots of milk on cereal to fill me up) a banana and various frozen fruits (strawberries, raspberries and blueberries are to be my favourites) really hits the spot at the moment – especially when you put it in the microwave for five minutes with cinnamon and eat it piping hot!

I’m also taking leftovers from my evening meals to work (or if I’m out and about) for lunch to make sure that I get the right energy intake for the day – and apart from still not being able to face breakfast (my day has always been upside down with regard to this and I doubt this will ever change) so far my days have slipped into a surprisingly normal routine.

Sadly at this precise moment that normality means climbing out of a lovely warm bed to face this.

Despite the temptation to use my car internet I can’t. I must walk to work every day. It doesn’t matter what the weather does – my objective is to overcome it.

My currently slender bottom will never again turn into a posterior of lard and this is how I ensure that.

Time to get up, have a shower, make a packed lunch and put on some warm clothes!!!

Davey

Malvern hills end to end and back!

It’s 5am on Sunday, my alarm has just gone off and I’m tired. REALLY TIRED. I can lay the blame at the feet of temporary insomnia – which usually only occurs before Saturday but absolutely never usually happens after Saturday.

The truth of it is though that this broken sleep comes without my usual twin helpers (stress over weight loss or over indulgence in caffeine) and is clearly attributable to something else.

I’ve been waking up over and over because I feel deliriously happy.

Yesterday I became a target member at Slimming World and I’m buzzing.

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So – despite feeling totally shattered I’m in a really good mood. My friend is picking me up shortly and we are going to walk the length of the Malvern hills and back again today.

Both times we’ve been together before the weather turned out to be awful – and she’s never managed to get see beautiful blue skies you can get there combined with the practically endless views that I have in the past – but today the forecast looks rosy and I have high hopes.

We’re both fit and are definitely capable of doing the full end to end challenge in the right weather. If we’re lucky it will be windy but bright and clear and we won’t be found frozen to the fossil of a cow by archeologists in a thousand years or so….

(Author gets ready)

Well we go here in good time and parked up near the North Quarry car park – which I’ve never been to before. We checked the map quickly and then headed up the nearby dirt track to the top of the first hill.

Although everything was thawing nicely down in the town below, up on the hills the wind chill factor was epic. Pretty much everything around us was frozen solid – and the puddles we found here and there were thick, rock hard sheets of ice.

There’s no denying it though – this type of environment is where I now feel most at home and complete. It just makes me feel at one with the world and it’s where I always want to be. I don’t care if it’s windy, raining or snowing. I just love being here.

In a relatively short space of time (not long after 8am) we’d reached the commemorative monument at the highest point of the hills.

The scenery looked fabulous – but it blowing a gale that made the camera impossible to hold straight and it was hellishly cold!!!

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We headed off with our objective barely visible in the distance – and were going at a good pace. This didn’t seem tough in the least – and when you have a companion that conversation is easy with time just flies. After much spirited twalking we’d quickly reached the British Camp car park for a rest stop.

By this point I was really in need of some nourishment (breakfast actually!) and a coffee to warm up.

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It was here that one of the tamest robins I’ve ever met decided to come and say hello – and perched on the bench behind me sitting so ridiculously still that I managed to slooooooowly get my camera out of my rucksack and take a great little zoom photo of him.

He just sat watching us quizzically the whole time!

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After moving around beside us for a while he then hopped under the table to have a root around by my feet too!

Once this cute little guy had finished rooting around and flown off we finished taking on board some sustenance and headed up the hill by the British Camp car park with our sights on Midsummer Mount and its monument in the distance.

As we climbed I couldn’t help but sell my companion on the majesty of the Giant’s cave – which she had never seen. I asked whether she was ok with the dark and capable of going into an extensive underground complex without getting lost.

She assured me that she was capable of functioning in even the most extreme environment. I needn’t be worried, she reassured me. She was sure she’d be OK.

(It’s only 6ft deep…)

Upon arrival I couldn’t help but feel that she was a teeny bit disappointed…

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After she recovered from the experience of the underground wonderland that I’d presented her with we made tracks. We were soon at the needle – which has clearly seen better days.

Worryingly chunks are falling off it by the looks of things and it’s been cordoned off since I last visited…

At this point we’d done half of the distance we’d planned for the day – and the next task was lunch. After popping on a preventative plaster or two (you have to ensure you don’t needlessly get blisters!) We headed back towards the British Camp car park for a hot dinner and a sit down – one again making good time!

The sky was a wonderful azure blue and the view (although a little hazy) looked incredible.

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In the pub I decided to have a baked potato (the butter was left on the plate) and some seasonal vegetables – which really hit the spot.

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It was at this point however that I realised I’d managed to catch some sunburn on both my hands and face.

Despite it being largely freezing I’d suddenly noticed I was intensely itchy and had completely neglected to put any suncream in my rucksack. Thankfully my companion came well prepared and I liberally smothered myself with some of hers while we sat chatting.

After around an hour of talking, eating and drinking coffee we headed to the nearby roadside cafe where I filled up my flask with a nice hot Americano and we made tracks for the car.

Although much had begun to thaw on the top of the hills the wind was still bitterly cold and I was amazingly glad that I’d brought my gaiter along for the trek. It came in really useful – although made talking next to impossible! How the hell Spider-Man manages is totally beyond me!!!

The rather hardy hillside animals seemed completely unphased by the weather in contrast and just happily munched the cud as we passed by…

Our next brief stop was at the loo – and there’s a really nice little covered seating area just outside where you can stop for a breather and sip coffee without fear of being battered by the elements.

After a brief rest we powered on for the last leg of the journey enjoying the views as we twalked. It was a great day to see miles and miles into the distance, and although it wasn’t the clearest day I’ve seen there, it was still pretty darned great.

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Before long we were back at the car, and feeling suitably tired! It wasn’t the longest walk that I’ve done – or even the highest that I’ve climbed in one day – but this was something a bit different to me.

This was the fifth time that I’ve travelled to Malvern for walking since I began getting fit and pushing my limits.

When I first came here I was getting fitter – and working towards climbing Snowdon – but still had a long way to go (link). I couldn’t do the whole end to end distance at the time (not even close) and at 22st 4lbs, although I’d lost over 12st by that point I looked a lot different.

I also suffered a lot the day after.

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In contrast today (it’s now Monday – I flaked out yesterday shortly after having some food when I got home) I feel just fine – and we did it. We walked the whole thing in a day!

Life is good.

Life is better when you twalk.

Life is even better when you twalk with great friends in a wonderful place on a fantastically sunny day doing something you absolutely love doing.

(although my hands and face are REALLY itchy!!!)

Davey

Diabetes and medication update – the results are in!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was delusion.

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

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

Also delusion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She looked at me in disbelief.

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

She pointed at her screen.

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

‘Fine by me!’ I replied.

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

‘Everything else is great too!’ She said.

‘How’s my cholesterol?’ I asked.

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

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

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

She looked at the results again and pondered.

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

I was a little stunned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davey

Two years sober today.

It’s December 31st 2010.

Like many years that preceeded that one I’m indulging in a festive tradition, which involves drinking to excess.

For some unknown reason on this occasion I take photos of me in my games room with my feet up on a footstool in front of the television. Both the bottle I’m drinking from and the glass in my hand have piqued my interest for some reason and I’ve documented them.

 

I remember waking up the next day, looking at my phone and wondering why I’d taken these photos. The bottle was empty and sitting in the recycling box next to several other flattened 3 litre bottles of cheap cider in the red bag beside it.

When I drank I made sure that I did the job properly. I never once opened a bottle of Southern Comfort during the holiday season without finishing it in one sitting and then moving onto something else.

In the forground of these snapshots my chubby fingers clutch a tumbler – and in the background I can see my badly swollen ankle. My leg doesn’t seem much better.

In a spearate, grainy and jerky video of the same scene I can hear my laboured breathing behind the camera.

I can’t believe I used to sound like that just sitting in my armchair.

I don’t breathe like that now when I’m climbing a mountain.

I continue to scroll through the December pictures and then find myself in 2014. I’m drinking again. It’s not surprising. I did it pretty much every night by then. My ankle looks worse.

A lot worse.

Compared to how it looks tonight it’s incredibe that by this point in 2014 I was still managing to walk anywhere – even if it was just hobbling to my car so that I could go to work. I remember cleary how painful it was to have my skin stretched so tight.

It felt like the surface of a snare drum and it itched all the time. The feeling alternated between a sensation that felt like frost before switching without warning to intense heat.

 

I continue scrolling and all of a sudden I’m in December 2015.

I’m drunk again and at my lowest ebb.

My mother was dying and I couldnt cope with life. My heath was rapidly failing and honestly most of the time I was hoping that a heart attack would just end it all and take away the pain.

Although emotionally I was hurting deep inside, physically there wasn’t a part of me that didn’t continually scream for relief. I was so heavy at around 35 stone that everything was painful all of the time and nomatter where I stood, sat or lay there was no relief to be found.

I could no longer sleep without being blind drunk and when I did I woke up panicking every hour during the night because I couldnt breathe.

For the man on the left every day was hell – and for the man on the right every day is a gift.

Sometimes the one on the right still struggles and tries to find the right path in life – but for the vast majority of time he’s winning.

The man on the left is someone that I loathed and couldnt look in the eye when I caught his reflection in the mirror.

The man on the right isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination but I’m proud of who he’s become. I like him. I’m amazed continually by his energy, positvity and zest for life.

The man on the left has been drunk for months and has no idea anymore what a day without a hangover feels like. The man on the right has now been sober for exactly two years this evening.

Those other photos are of someone else. Someone that I don’t remember.

That Dave is dead internet.

Long live Davey

Anniversaries on the horizon

After the euphoria of adrenaline that my short attempts to run produced on Sunday (link) I’ve been dealing with the after effect – which is raging cramp in my quads.

It’s not apocalyptically awful if I’m honest (I can still move) but it is surprising because it took a couple of days for the full effects to be apparent.When I climbed out of bed this morning it definitely wasn’t with my usual zesty spring and I’m sure I heard a creaking noise that sounded like a tree about to fall over in a haunted Disney forest.

Unsurprisingly this didnt dissapear with a couple of stabs at the ‘snooze’ button and after geriatrially pottering around for half an hour I headed off to the office. My walk to work was waaaaaaaay more of a chore than it usually is.

I felt sluggish throughout and didn’t enjoy it at all.

In a way this is good mind you – rather masochistically I like cramp. It means things are improving. I’m still not sure what to do with all this though. I’m cautious about what it means, and I’m still reluctant to give myself any goals that I potentially won’t keep. In the past doing that has proved to be both self defeating and demoralising – so I’m just going to see how I feel when I recover and decide what I want to do based on how I feel.

In the meantime I still seem to be subject to a rather insatiable appetite in the evenings – and whilst I’m eating good food I’m still eating too much of it.

21st Jan
Tub of cottage cheese
4 apples
Chilli con carne made with pork mince, kidney beans, onions, broccoli, tomatoes, red pepper
Yogurt and frozen berries

22nd Jan
Chilli leftovers + couscous
4 apples + tub of cottage cheese + 200g ham
Two bowls of slow cooker beef stew
Yogurt and frozen berries

23rd Jan
Slow cooker beef stew leftovers
500g carrots and 6 tomatoes
Chilli con carne + half a pouch of microwave basmati rice
Yogurt and frozen berries

I know that this doesn’t seem like a bad day on the page but I’m hyper aware these days that if I want to lose weight I have to do a lot more and eat a lot less, because I’m no longer benefiting (if you can call it that) from carrying around all that extra timber.

It’s way easier for the weight to fly off when you’re carrying lots of baggage on your person everywhere you go – and in many ways I’ve not significantly modified my eating habits for at least a year.

Maybe I’m being a bit hard on myself though. I’m suddenly aware that I’m being critical of my successes and looking down on what I’ve done…

I’m probably eating a bit less overall than I used to – but I feel that things (broadly speaking) have remained the same. This is almost certainly because every time I consider how I feel about reducing my portion sizes a tiny (yet uncontrollable) part of my brain begins to panic somewhere in a corner.

On the plus side (even though I’m judging myself harshly when I shouldn’t) I seem to have found a rough ‘maintenance’ amount of food for when I get to target…

However I still need to get to target!

Today it’s been all that’s on my mind – and to try and stop myself overeating in the evening I’ve been munching carrots and tomatoes at my desk and had some lovely healthy leftover slowcooked beef stew for lunch.

(author pauses)

Oh screw it. Who am I kidding?

I’m preoccupied by more than food – and I’m feeling self critical and a little maudlin because two anniversaries are on the horizon.

Although I didnt join Slimming World until April 2016 the turning point in my life that started all this was the death of my mother on the 28th of January, and my decision to finally stop drinking myself to death two days before she died on the 26th of that month.

 

IMG_20160308_0014 (1)

For all of the water that went under the bridge between us it’s sometimes easy to forget that when I was born she was a young woman of 28. Although I know a lot of her troubled history now at that moment in time she was just a young mother with a newborn infant in her arms and there was nothing was written in stone for the future.

For all she knew the bond that she had with me would be unbreakable and we would be inseperable forever.

Time changes many things though and that potential relationship never came to pass. At the end we were barely on speaking terms and communicating with her (at least from my perspective) felt agonisingly painful.

Even close to the end I counted the moments until I could leave her company and get blind drunk.

Maybe somewhat paradoxically today I found myself, sitting alone in my lunch break looking at a photo of her death certificate.

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It says ‘exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease’ as the cause of her death – and in the other significant conditions section the words ‘breast cancer’ in black biro sit there staring back at me from otherwise empty dotted lines.

I’ve not looked at this picture since the day it was taken – and it occurs to me that it was around this time that I began to accumulate documents, photos and paintings that I never really wanted to be in posession of or to own.

Like this piece of paper they’re all just scribbled words on a page but they hold a power.

Even now though for some reason I can’t bring myself to dispose of them, despite how they make me feel. They remain buried in drawers for another day filled with greater fortitude.

(sigh)

I’m not sure why anniversaries are so important.

It really shouldn’t matter that another year is about to pass by without her in my life – and I probably by now should have shaken off the ever present nagging sense of guilt that it’s not her death that I remember the most about those awful days, but my decision to stop drowning my problems in alcohol and to reach out for help.

It’s been 727 days since I put down my glass after finishing that evening’s third bottle of wine and never picked one up again.

26th Jan.jpg

I’m still struck by the paradox that such an awful event caused so many positive things to happen in my life – and despite it not really being the true anniversary of either big moment I dedicate the rest of this post to her memory and what’s changed about my life since she died.

It’s all been seen here before – but I don’t care. It’s my blog and I’ll post what I like. I’m proud of it all, and also more than a little sad that things ended the way that they did before I made what sits below this paragraph happen.

Despite knowing that if she was still alive she’d probably find some way of undermining these achievements the fact is is that I owe every single one of them to her passing.

 

  • I was unable to sleep in any position other than my left side or sitting upright at 34st 8.5 lbs. Now I can sleep on whichever side I choose (including my back) and no longer wake up in a panic because I think I’m suffocating
  • I’ve walked the cumulative 3000 mile distance from San Fransisco to New York (and almost 1000 miles more) since joining Slimming World
  • I overcame Plantar Fasciitis, two torn calf muscles, ligament problems in my left thigh and shin splints caused by my weight and persisted with my walking and exercise
  • I’m no longer taking medication to control my (type 2) diabetes – and have a HbA1c reading of 28 compared to 94 when first diagnosed
  • My blood pressure is down from borderline hyper-tension to that of someone 20 years younger than myself
  • The usual resting heart rate of an adult male in his mid 40’s is around 70bpm. Thanks to all the exercise I do now mine is currently around 40bpm.
  • I’ve dropped from the 8xl shirt and 66in waisted trousers I was wearing to XL shirts/large coats and waist size of 34-36in (depending on the retailer)
  • I can put my socks on
  • I haven’t broken any furniture by sitting or lying on it for over a year and a half
  • I can buy clothes from pretty much any supermarket or high street store. They cost approximately 75% less than they used to at specialist retailers
  • I can now fit into cars and taxis, including the smallest ones available in all my local dealerships AND get the seatbelts on (I tried them ALL!!!)
  • I can take the train or the bus because I fit into public transport and can walk to and from where it stops
  • I can fit in my bath
  • I don’t get out of breath walking up hills unless they’re really steep
  • I can mow my lawns without being in agony – and maintain my gardens
  • I can stand up without grunting or straining from pretty much any position
  • My skin no longer burns instantly when exposed to the sun (often it doesn’t burn at all now) and I don’t have dry eczema all the time like I used to
  • I no longer wear glasses for reading and have dramatically improved eyesight due to my diabetes being under control
  • I can sit in restaurant or cafe booths – in fact ANY kind of fixed bench or table seating is accessible – as well as garden picnic tables and plastic chairs.
  • I can go to the cinema and not have to pay extra for premium seating because I don’t fit in the standard seat or am worried that they will break
  • I can walk up to 17.5 miles a day and average 20,000 steps daily and 70+ miles every week. Previously I couldn’t walk to the end of my street 200 metres away
  • I can concentrate for much longer periods and take in (and retain) information a lot faster
  • I need less sleep – usually 5-6 hours is enough now. I used to need at least 10 because it was so hard to get rest with sleep apnea
  • I can now walk a mile in 14 minutes and 51 seconds. When I first tried to do a mile it took well over an hour to an hour and a half with continual rest stops. I usually have to stop every 7-8 miles now.
  • I can jog up stairs
  • I can jog back down stairs
  • I’ve taken large amounts of outsized clothes to charity and by donating with gift aid have helped other people by doing so.
  • I haven’t had an alcoholic drink since January 26th 2016
  • I’m now able to buy clothes from charity shops as well as deposit them and when I do they cost around 1/8th of what I previously was forced to buy
  • I can take a selfie without hating myself
  • I have climbed Snowdon
  • I no longer have constant oedemas (fluid retention) in my ankles
  • I can go outside wearing shorts without feeling self conscious
  • I don’t need to get my shopping delivered and I often walk two miles to the supermarket and carry it miles back home in a rucksack
  • I can stand for long periods without crippling back, knee and tendon pain
  • My knees no longer hurt all the time. They used to be painful even when I was seated
  • I can’t hear my own laboured breathing when I sit and relax
  • I no longer sweat all the time regardless of the temperature and I need to wear thick socks, gloves a coat and a hat to go outside in the cold
  • I regularly meet lots of new people through my efforts, Slimming World and my blog
  • I’m now confident enough with my appearance and fit enough to stand and speak in front of groups about my weight loss. Previously this would have been impossible because I quickly became breathless and physically shook from the effort of standing upright
  • I no longer get publicly bullied and called names related to my weight by youths (and adults) on the street
  • I’ve gone from eating (and burning) 7,500 calories per day to around 2000 and because of this my shopping costs around 2/5ths of what it used to.
  • I can ride a bicycle again
  • I can sit in an IKEA Poang armchair without fear of breaking it
  • I can do press-ups
  • I can do sit-ups
  • I can climb ladders and use stepladders (none held my weight before) to get into my loft
  • People I know frequently fail to recognise me in the street until I speak
  • I’ve never spent more quality time with friends, family and people that I care about in my entire life – and when I do we’re usually exercising so I seem to be promoting positive behaviour in those that mean something to me
  • I no longer make excuses not to meet up with friends I haven’t seen for a while (or don’t see them at all) because I feel embarrassed about putting lots of weight on since they last saw me
  • My friends and family can hug me and put their arms all the way around me
  • I’ve appeared in the Leamington observer (link)
  • I’ve appeared on BBC local radio to tell my story
  • I can run (although not very well yet)

Davey