Butternut squash and heavy heavy thoughts

Phew.

I’m pooped.

If you want to visualise me at this exact moment then close your eyes, and imagine a pair of baggy Star Wars pyjama bottoms, a nerd teeshirt and Christmas slippers draped loosely over my near completely prostrate form on the sofa.

Im slumping and loving it.

The damned scales haven’t shown a loss so far – which I suppose I shouldn’t expect yet. It’s only been a couple of days since weigh in and it’s not really a good thing to be standing on the scales – but I can’t help it.

It would be rather nice (given all the effort I’m putting in at the moment) to get a generous loss next week and I’m doing all I can to be good.

My helpful assistant lately has been butternut squash.

It’s a fabulous speed food and I find it’s really versatile when it comes to preparing the ingredients for multiple meals in one go.

I’ve slipped into something of a routine lately because of this – and a cottage pie is always followed by a slow cooker stew – and then by butternut squash chips.

If you find a LONG squash it’s ideal. You cut it in half just where the bulbous curve ends at the base and peel both halves, putting the long straight bit aside.

Then cut the bulbous end in half again so that you expose the seeds and scoop those out of both.

Chop one half up into very small 1cm square (approx) cubes and the other half into 2 cm chunks.

Put the lager ones in a sealable LARGE Tupperware tub with plenty of space in it.

Then cut the large seedless upper portion in half lengthwise, and put both halves down on their flat sides before cutting them into 1cm semi circles.

When you’ve done that (I do this in piles of three at a time) cut those into 1cm sq chips.

It doesn’t matter how long they are – only that they’re no thicker in the body than 1cm.

Place all of these in a tub and put them in the fridge for tomorrow.

The first order of the day is a cottage pie.

The ingredients for this are

  • 500g 5% fat pork mince
  • All of the 1cm cubes of squash
  • 2/3 large swede (1cm diced – put the rest of the swede aside next to the tub of 2cm squash)
  • Several carrots (1cm diced)
  • Chopped onion x2
  • Chopped courgette
  • 2 diced sweet potatoes
  • 2 diced medium potatoes
  • Grated cheddar (if you want to use you healthy extra on this)
  • 250ml boiling beef stock

Brown off the mince in a very deep frying pan or wok then throw in the carrots, half of the 2/3rds of chopped swede, the courgette and the onions and then pour over the stock.

Boil this down until there’s practically no moisture left in the mix and put it to one side.

While the contents of the frying pan are reducing boil the potatoes, the remaining chopped swede and the sweet potatoes in a saucepan, and when they’re soft mash them into a paste.

Put the contents of the frying pan into the bottom of a large flat based oven proof dish and then flatten it down before covering it with the mash, scoring the top with a fork and spreading your cheese HE sparingly on the top.

Cook in the oven until the cheese is golden brown

That’s meal number one (serve with the veg of your choice or eat it on its own – it’s full of speed!) and there’s more than enough of it to pop into some containers for you and your partner to take to work for lunch the next day.

Tomorrow you’re having a slow cooked stew! So before you go to bed full the rest of the 2cm squash Tupperware with a chopped sweet potato, chopped carrots, chopped onion, garlic and the other 1/3 of the swede

You need

  • 400g of chopped beef
  • Can of chopped tomatoes
  • Cloves of garlic
  • The 2cm square squash you prepared
  • The other 1/3 of the swede (roughly chopped)
  • A sweet potato (finely chopped)
  • Carrots, diced
  • Mushrooms
  • A chopped courgette
  • A finely chopped leek
  • Cannelini beans
  • Small can of sweetcorn
  • Some dry lentils
  • Bay leaves
  • A knor rich beef stock pot

Before you go to work put the canned tomatoes in the slow cooker, then the beef, then the garlic and the stock pot along with the bay leaves. Put all of the rest (apart from the beans and the sweetcorn) on top in any order you want and force the lid down. If it doesn’t fit don’t worry – it will by the time you get home.

Put it on ‘high’.

When you arrive home after work lift the slow cooker lid and quickly pop in the beans and sweetcorn. Let them warm up for ten minutes or so before stirring it all together.

Meal three – butternut squash chip butties.

While you’re eating a bowl of stew (and popping some in Tupperware for lunch tomorrow) put the chips in the oven for 45 mins with some spray oil, garlic powder and Cajun seasoning.

When they come out then sprinkle with salt and balsamic vinegar.

If you want to use bread by all means do – but a chip butty is far more on plan if you use a weight watchers wrap. One is a HE and if you have two then it’s six Syns a wrap.

Just pop the hot squash chips into the wrap, squeeze it up so they mush up a bit and then bite into it!

Nom nom nom!!!

All in all this squash strategy nets two or three meals (I like big portions so for me it’s two) along with a bunch of carrots, a swede and a small bag of sweet potatoes.

The ingredients are cheap, on plan and filling as hell – plus when it’s freezing outside are awesome comfort food.

It’s worth noting that if you don’t want to use cheese on the cottage pie you can also mix in a tub of onion and chive cottage cheese with the mash.

It won’t brown as well but it tastes lush!

On top of all this cooking I’ve been smashing my swimming lately and have 25 straight days of hitting the pool (except on bank holidays) in the bank.

This means that so far January looks flipping amazing for calories burned per day!!!

I have to say that all of this is particularly awesome because at the moment (whilst I’d love to be in in target) I’m just revelling in being fit and healthy as well as seriously motivated.

However there’s also something a lot more serious on my mind – because today (after seeing a fellow SW man posting on Instagram) I watched part of a programme on iPlayer called plastic surgery undressed (episode four if you want to look).

This episode is all about tummy tucks and aims to make people face up to the visceral reality of an operation that can cost anything from 4-10k and require extensive convalescence (three months plus in some cases from what I’ve read) as well as having much potential for complications and dramatic scarring.

The chap taking part from SW is not someone that I want to vilify or shame.

He’s worked hard and I genuinely respect him as well as understand more than most people would what his thought processes are.

I want to be clear about this.

I’m not in the business of saying what people can, can’t or should not do with their bodies.

Particularly not him. He should be applauded for what he’s achieved.

However I have come to my own opinion on the matter and although I reached it well before watching this tonight it’s exemplified by the welsh lady in a red top above.

In the show she’s crying early on and talking about about how an ex partner had made her feel worthless.

She couldn’t go out, couldn’t go swimming, and after giving birth to three children had convinced herself that she was unlovable and ugly.

She wouldn’t wear a swimming costume to go to the pool with her children and still refused (at the time this was filmed) to step into a pair of jeans.

All because an arsehole had made her feel that she wasn’t good enough.

I get that.

It’s not just women this affects and I’m sick to death of hearing that men don’t suffer in the same way that women do when it comes to body confidence.

Once an ex said to me in a moment of unfiltered weakness after we’d made love that I’d made her feel wonderful.

She then concluded that if I had a body like one of my best mates it would have been perfect.

That’s never left me – so I had a lump in my throat as I watched the tears roll down this lady’s cheeks.

All she wanted was to feel better, to cut away the pain and to throw it into a bin.

She was so desperate to escape this emotional turmoil that she was willing to mutilate herself instead of learning to accept it – and in so doing attract someone with her inner confidence and winning personality.

She was on TV considering being butchered instead of coming to terms with the fact that her partner never truly loved her.

None of this is easy though and god knows I struggle with what’s physically left behind after losing the immense amount of weight that I did.

I never thought I’d find someone that would love what remained but find her I did – and love (as well as intimacy) is about far more than looking like a catalogue model.

It’s about honesty, compassion and a deep connection to the person in your arms.

I’m luckier than other people I know who haven’t managed to find a relationship like this – but I’m also not alone.

Through slimming world I’ve met many men (and women) who now have great lives and wonderful people to share it with – and share it intimately.

There is more to all of us than superficial extra or droopy skin.

We’re worth more than a surgeons knife and there should be far more emphasis placed upon coming to terms with being real and authentic versions of ourselves rather than chasing impossible dreams of perfection.

I will never have washbord abs.

I won’t get rid of my bingo wings.

My thighs will always sag.

My head however will always remain high – because it’s about more than that.

I’m confident that I represent an ideal that many should aspire to – and that to make the most of what you have – WHATEVER THAT IS – and own it.

Confidence and a smile are the most attractive feature in all of us – and as time scrapes away all that we pointlessly hold onto they will remain – and when they do they’ll keep the person that loves seeing them on you coming back for more and more.

Whilst your choices are your own I urge anyone considering this to think long and hard about why you want it and who you really want it for.

Watch the programme and make up your own minds.

I know what I think.

Davey

An oar each

Ok – so my diamond target member badge is in the bag. I’ve managed to maintain my weight for a year.

Now I’ve reached yet another milestone though I have to consider what the next one will be.

Maybe it’s just the nature of my particular beast – or maybe it’s because I’m capricious – but now I have what I’ve always wanted I feel slightly deflated.

The problem (if you can call it that) is that when you focus all of your energy – and pour the essence of your whole being into a task until it completely dominates your day to day life – there’s often a noticeable dip in your mood when you achieve what you’ve set out to do.

When you arrive at the finish line (after the initial relief and happiness washes over you) you’re left asking ‘so what the hell comes next?’

In the past I’d have moved immediately from one health goal to another – but I have to be completely truthful and admit that Slimming World is no longer the sole focus of my attention it once was.

Whilst I’m still continually following the plan things in my overall priority list have changed significantly.

Since late 2018 my gaze has definitely shifted towards other (in my view more important) things in my private life and I now have some brightly lit beacons in the distance that have nothing to do with weight management.

In my mind’s eye they’re represented by a glow that’s emanating from a distant island in a big ocean – and I’m currently in a little boat rowing in their direction.

The sea is calm and there’s a warm sun above me in the cloudless blue sky.

However – as forgiving as the gentle waves beneath me are there’s still a lengthy distance between where I am now and where I want to end up. Furthermore when I look down I’m only holding one oar.

However instead of the boat going in circles I’m still heading toward my objective, because sitting in it to my left is someone else holding the other oar pulling in time with my strokes. The longer we sit side by side the closer they become, and the quicker the boat moves.

I know where I want to go and my companion does as well.

It turns out that we’re heading for the same island and are focused on the same beacons.

This journey and shared objective is only one part of the puzzle though, and I can’t ignore my progress with SW at any point. Whilst it isn’t my only guiding light any more I need to remain fit and healthy enough to get to my destination. When I reach it (and I will) I have to continue to build and enjoy a full life.

This requires me to maintain a solid focus on multiple areas – but I’m determined that whatever else is on my mind I will not shift my gaze away from health maintenance. In the short term therefore I have given myself an objective and have decided to dedicate March to exercise.

This is mostly because February saw a noticeable dip in my stats. They’re not bad by any stretch of the imagination – but they’re not where I wanted them to be.

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It’s worth noting two things at this point.

Firstly – the swimming stats are an average of the distances I swam in February – but are not a DAILY one as the title suggests. I’ve realised that Apple’s health app is actually giving an overall average for the days I’ve swum – rather than an average for the whole month, including days that I didn’t go swimming.

Secondly (when I interrogate my workout history) in January I can see that I went swimming on 18 out of 31 days.

In contrast February ‘only’ saw me go 11 out of 28.

So – my first objective for March is to complete at least 15 swimming workouts.

Apple Watch (maybe sensing my mood) has also set me a challenge to walk 236 miles, which is 7.61 per day. Therefore my second objective therefore is to walk an average of 8 miles a day.

My third is that I want to make three days of each week an SP day (Slimming World’s uber weight loss approach which focuses on speed and protein food groups only.) This should enable me to strike a comfortable balance between relaxation and focus – which since I started swimming has been something of a tricky thing to do.

I’m also going to up my focus on cooking super healthy and filling mealsbecause February had way too many days where I went overboard eating free foods (as well as some marathon hi-fi bar munching sessions that are best not discussed) and then had to pull everything back into line afterwards.

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My slow cooker is one of many great ways to achieve this aim with as little friction as possible.

The above insanely filling and warming dinner was made with 500g of diced lean beef, a can of chopped tomatoes, a Tesco butternut squash and red onion stew pack, a carrot and swede stew pack, two leeks, 4 cloves of garlic, a stock cube, salt, a few bay leaves, some couscous and a can of (drained) baked beans.

If you decide to make it yourself  my advice is that you put the last two ingredients in at the end rather than the beginning – because otherwise the couscous sticks to the bowl and the beans just turn to paste.

If you don’t feel full up after a couple of bowls of that then I suggest you have some (speed) fruit and fat free natural yogurt with a bit of stevia and some cinnamon for dessert.

If you haven’t had your healthy extra then bung in 40g of rolled oats too (my trusty fry light cap measures out just about the right amount – which is 7 syns if not a HE).

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It’s worth noting that this picture has Sainsburys Basics low fat natural yogurt in it – which is synned on Slimming World’s plan at 0.5 per 100g whereas fat free is lower in calories and ‘free’.

As you can see from the nutritional info (low fat on the left and fat free on the right) there’s a difference of around 100kcal for a 500g pot.

Personally I can’t tell the difference in taste but others I know prefer the slightly more decadent alternative!

Anyhow – enough typing.

I need to get walking.

I’ve got two swims under my belt for March so far (one of which was 50 lengths early this morning) and I need to get another five miles of pavement pounding tacked onto my stats before I can even think about making myself a super sized salad later on this afternoon.

Here’s to new goals and re-focusing on objectives internet!

Davey

Drive like a pensioner

The only predictable thing about life is its unpredictability.

I thought I knew the way my post was going to go today. In my head it was all mapped out – but then life decided it was going to head in another direction entirely.

The day started normally enough – with me in a terrific frame of mind. Yesterday had been a positive one, and I’d managed to continue my gradual downward trend on the scales.

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It was also a food tasting occasion – and I’d decided to make a chicken Waldorf salad from the Slimming World Free & Easy cookbook, which seemed to turn out really well.

Everyone seemed to rather enjoy it (including me) and the food tasting event appeared to be a success for all concerned.

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I spent the rest of the day walking and socialising – and by the time I hit the sack later that evening I was pleasantly tired and slept really well. In truth my quality of sleep was probably also because I’ve been drastically reducing my coffee intake since my vertigo incident last week.

Along with my ear drops this has helped and I’ve been feeling progressively better – even though my nose is still a bit blocked.

When I awoke today for the first of my two planned morning walks I was full of beans. I was meeting a fellow Slimming World’er and his excitable young pup (Reeba) for a few circuits of St Nicholas park.

His dog has some incredible energy. For every lap we did she must have accomplished at least another two, all the time chasing seagulls or running after squirrels and is basically the energiser bunny in dog form…

Despite the rather ropey weather it was definitely an enjoyable twalk, and I left the park feeling upbeat and positive.

I’d eaten rather a lot of fruit the night before (as well as a fair old whack of cottage cheese) and wanted to get a healthy number of calories burned.

I had definitely accomplished my starting objective – and already had eight miles under my belt by the time I reached home.

 

My next walk of the morning was due at 10am. This was to be through Crackley Wood and along a section of the Greenway near Kenilworth – and promised to be an altogether shorter and more sedate one.

Boris (my second canine companion of the day) is a much slower mover – and unlike the doggie equivalent of bottled lightning that’s Reeba he’s a plodder.

He’s also highly camouflaged.

Whenever I review snaps that I sneakily grab while he’s not paying attention (he refuses to look at the camera most of the time) I usually come to the conclusion that he’s the photography equivalent of a spot the ball competition.

Nine times out of ten he just disappears into the foreground or background.

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By the time we’d ambled along the Greenway and around the woods for a while it was almost midday when I bid adieu to my friend and his blendy pooch.

I hopped into my car to drive home.

Then the day unravelled…

There are many many things in life that I’m thankful for, but today it’s the fact that I’m naturally very cautious. In fact I often think I drive like a pensioner – trying not to exceed speed limits particularly around town.

Often I’m well under them which today was an absolute godsend.

As I headed home from the Greenway I passed Kenilworth park. For some reason or other marshalls in high visibility vests had closed off the road that led through the centre of town and the only option was to turn left at their barrier at the top of the hill and divert around the road block.

Ahead of me (in the middle of the road on a raised central reservation) was a young girl in big furry boots wearing a puffa jacket. She looked to all intents and purposes like she was about to chance a crossing in front of me.

She was quite young, and I wondered if she’d have the sense to stay put.

I slowed more than I normally would just in case as I took the corner (bearing right) and indicated to turn left into the road next to the marshalls.

As I did the sun came out from behind a cloud in the street I was turning into and temporarily blinded me.

I could still see the girl to my right though and she hadn’t moved.

However an old man with a walking stick had moved – and as I turned into the road he had stepped in front of my car.

completely missed this for a fraction of a second as the sun fell in my eyes and then when I’d could see again I was upon him.

He was suddenly about 6ft in front of me.

I immediately slammed on my brakes and thankfully (because I was travelling so slowly) I came to an almost immediate stop – but not quickly enough to stop the car from nudging him off balance and pushing him to the floor.

The marshalls and passers by quickly ran over to help him up.

I checked my rear view mirrors before turning off the engine and quickly stepped out of my car to help.

I was already shaking like a leaf, and as I rushed to his side I began to apologise profusely.

He wasn’t happy though and I couldn’t blame him. I was mortified that I’d come so close to tragedy and kept looking him up and down to make sure he was ok.

The man said that he was. He didn’t want help. He just wanted to go.

Everyone around him was staring at me with hard frowns and were also looking me up and down.

I wondered why for a minute – because it was him that had been lying in the road rather than me… I wasn’t hurt!

This was until I realised that they were trying to assess why I’d not seen him.

Was I impaired?

Was I drunk?

There was now a lady standing in between me and the man in a noticeably protective stance. She was staring at me very hard and looking very unimpressed.

‘I didn’t see him. I was looking at the girl.‘ I said to her. ‘The sun was in my eyes!

I turned around, pointing to where the girl had been. She was no-where to be seen and had carried on walking.

I’m so so so sorry! There was a girl there and the sun was in my eyes!‘ I said again to the man, looking around the woman and trying as best I could to explain to him what had happened.

Did he believe me?

‘I’m OK.’ said the man emphatically and also looked at me with disdain as he dusted his trousers off.

He said that he didn’t want any help and told the lady and the marshall that he was completely fine.

She looked at me again and stared hard into my eyes, assessing me.

The men in the high visibility jackets then pointed out that I was now blocking traffic and were on their walkie talkies to their supervisor. I needed to move my car they said – and I wasn’t to leave the scene.

‘I’ve no intention of going anywhere!’ I said. ‘I just want to make sure he’s OK.’

They looked impassively at me.

‘You need to move your car.’ they repeated. I looked behind them. The man was now moving slowly but surely away from us.

I looked at the road.

The traffic was beginning to build up – and they were right. I needed to move my car, so I quickly did so. Once I’d moved it further up the road and put my hazards on I jogged after him.

He was quite a distance away by now and looked irritated when I tried to stop him as he once again started to cross a road.

‘Are you sure you’re ok?’ I asked as I put my hand gently on his upper arm. ‘I’m SO sorry!!! I didnt see you at all! The sun was in my eyes and then you were just in front of me.’

He shook his head.

‘No it’s ok – I’m fine.’ he said.

He appeared to be ok. I looked him up and down for signs of injury. Was he shocked? Was he really ok?

The marshalls were also following at a distance, watching me and talking to their supervisor over walkie talkies.

‘Do you need an ambulance?’ They said to the man.

No!‘ said the man, still rather irritated. ‘I’m fine. I’m going home.’

‘Can I help you to get there? Can I walk you home?’ I asked rather weakly. ‘I’m so sorry – I just want to be sure you’re OK…’

‘I’m fine.’ he reassured me again.

I kept my hand on his shoulder looked him in the eye.

I was trembling.

‘Are you SURE?‘ I said once more. ‘I know you might not want me to after all this but I can give you a lift.

He turned to look at me and as he did his face softened.

‘Are YOU ok?’ he asked me.

‘You’re shaking. You look like you need a stiff drink. You should go and have a stiff drink.’

‘I don’t drink…’ I replied weakly ‘…and Ive never hit anything with my car, let alone a person. I was scared stiff. I didn’t see you…. the sun was in my eyes… I’m so sorry… are you sure you’re ok?’

He just looked at me.

‘The sun was in my eyes. I can walk you home. Are you sure you’re ok?’ I babbled. ‘You didn’t hit your head or anything?’

He continued to look at me, now shaking his head.

‘The sun was in my eyes. I’m so sorry.’ I said again.

‘Don’t worry.’ he said, and put his hand out, inviting me to hold it.

I put my hand into his. It was warmer and much larger than mine. His grip was both firm and confident. He started to shake my hand, looking me in the eye.

His hand was dry.

‘I didn’t hit my head. Thank you for stopping to make sure I’m ok – but I’m fine. No bruises and no harm. Go and have a cup of tea. I’m going home.’

He let go of my hand, turned to leave and walked away.

Another nearby marshall looked at me and also suggested that I have a stiff drink. I told her that I didn’t drink.

She too suggested I have a cup of tea instead.

I didn’t want one.

I stood there for a minute watching as he walked away, shaking like a leaf.

I could have killed him.

In the blink of an eye I could have ended his life and irreversibly changed my own.

Even now some hours later my heart is still pounding and I’m reminded not only that it’s a good idea to drive slowly, but that you don’t know what’s around any corner. I’m just thankful that he was ok and that the reminder I received to be a careful and considerate driver came without consequence.

Holy crap…

Thank goodness he’s ok.

Davey

Very damp

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

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

I’m very damp.

In no particular order…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The whole meal came to around £3.50!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch this space internet!!!

Davey

Slimming World National Man of the Year 2018 – Part One

So – the cat is well and truly out of the bag.

I’m Slimming World’s Man of the Year 2018 – and so far it’s been a rather surreal experience.

As I type I’m lying on a huge bed in a suite at the Ritz Carlton in London. To the left of me is an immense marble bathroom with Ritz bathrobes, Ritz towels, Ritz soap and Ritz everythings.

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In the fruitbowl by the bed is a bunch of grapes (strangely not branded Ritz) and next to them are some freshly cut flowers. The room is filled with a delicate hint of their bouquet and I’m pleasantly tired after a hot shower.

Until a few moments ago I was sitting in my separate drawing room wearing a Ritz bathrobe and Ritz slippers looking at a complementary (which remained unopened – it was donated to a worthy cause) bottle of Ritz champagne.

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I think you get the picture. I’m in the lap of (Ritz) luxury.

But why you may ask?

Well it’s because in the morning (in this very suite) I have a press call with the media where my status as the competition winner is officially announced. At this point I discover whether life gets a bit crazy for a while – or not much happens at all and things pootle along in life as normal.

Honestly I’m fine with either – because the attention I’ve been shown over the last couple of weeks has been really humbling. If nothing else happens to me ever then I already feel like I’ve won the lottery.

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But – first things first.

There’s a bit to update you on before we get to that in another post internet – so grab a coffee.

Last Thursday a film crew from Slimming World came to Warwick to interview me.

When they met me outside my workplace the surprisingly down to earth pair of them were in a classic and clearly cherished Land Rover Discovery.

I like a car that gets used.

Far from being an ostentatious Knightsbridge runabout the choice of vehicle (it transpired later) was completely utilitarian – because the driver was a horse owner, and when her capacious boot wasn’t transporting her equine gear it was carrying lots of recording kit. Like all of the people I’ve met that work for Slimming World this transport and their attitude to life seemed to be rooted in down to earth honesty.

The vehicle, the tools it carried – and the people that drove it seemed simple, normal and practical.

Instantly I liked them.

I’d agreed in advance (over the course of several ongoing e-mail exchanges since last Sunday) that our planned video and interview would attempt to capture the spirit of how, why and where I began to take steps to improve my health.

For me some of the biggest strides happened (both literally and metaphorically) shortly after I’d embarked upon my food optimising eating plan and had begun trying to walk around my local park.

It was there (with exercise) that I truly started to turn the tide in my battle with diabetes. To me this represents a period when the world was beginning to present possibilities rather than fears about the future and because of that it’s special.

So, very soon after we’d met I was soon strolling along the river at St Nicholas followed by a cheerful cameraman with a boyish grin. As we walked we talked (little did he know we were twalking) and he was enthusiastically demonstrating and explaining his (rather impressive) steadycam walk.

It seemed that the technique underlying it wasn’t as obvious as one might have first thought. In order to maintain a shake free shot of a (my) moving posterior and feet he’d managed over the years to hone a ‘rolling foot’ manoeuvre. This unusual and clearly well practiced gait allowed his upper body to remain largely motionless while his legs seemed to move almost independently from his torso.

It was admittedly impressive.

He was a living steadycam gimbal – and I couldnt help thinking if the fates hadn’t conspired to make him a thoroughly nice chap intent on filming things he’d have had a wonderful career as a cat burgalar.

As I did my level best to be ‘naturally’ filmed gradually more and more was asked of me, and my artistic range was tested.

I had to master the art of nonchalantly putting one foot in front of another, sitting on park benches, looking thoughtfully at the world around me and then (the most complex and difficult to pull off) kneeling down on cue to take pictures of flowers.

This was something that the team had noticed that I like to do on Instagram – and they felt it was important to re-enact my dynamic pastimes (I’m a frikkin party animal and no mistake) in full 4K 60fps motion.

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I realised quickly I that deep down inside me beat the creative heart of a talented method actor and I even took some actual shots with my phone as I bent earnestly over the flowerbeds.

While this thespian triumph was playing out for all in the park to see (I clearly missed my calling in life) his companion gently teased details out of me regarding my journey and what had motivated it.

At this point its worth noting that I’d been quite surprised (when the video was suggested to me) because of the proposed length.

The social media team had told me in advance that they planned to edit it down to two minutes.

That was three minutes shorter than the speech I’d given (twice) at the Man of the Year semi finals and honestly I’d felt it was next to impossible to cram in everything that I’d wanted to say and do any of it justice.

However – that wasn’t really the point of the video. It was part of a press release – and also a small insight for potential new members into what was possible. I was to be a teaser trailer.

Although I already had a sense that I trusted them I couldn’t help but wonder (out of all the things I had been randomly talking about over the previous week and during the day so far) what would end up in the final cut.

In the park though there was no need to worry – because no audio was being recorded and the proper interview wouldn’t start until we headed indoors.

The indoors in this case happened to belong to my consultant Angie – who possesses not only an infinitely generous nature but a kitchen (and armchair) that was waaaay more photogenic than my own. She had kindly offered to let me use them for the afternoon while the film crew were there.

I’d not only be talking about my journey in her lounge but had also been asked to cook too – with a view to showing how men (it’s not just ladies that join SW!) can follow the plan whilst eating decidedly hearty portions.

From this point onwards I’m pretty much the face of #slimlikeaman (link)

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With this in mind I’d been shopping – and had already dropped off at Angie’s house all of the ingredients earlier in the day for my favourite meal.

First things first however. After we arrived to set up (and Angie had made a discrete exit to the local pub for dinner with her family) I needed to change clothes, and switched outfits.

As the film crew had requested I’d brought a few along – and they liked my white and blue floral shirt – which seemed to match the light of the living room. When I entered it the camera was on a tripod and an arm chair had been pulled out from the wall so that it faced toward the best possible natural light.

It was a sunny day outside – and the room felt quiet and peaceful.

We began.

The interviewer started with asking me my name, where I was from and how much weight I’d lost, before moving onto some more personal aspects of why I’d changed direction in life and what motivated me to continue.

I’ve done quite a few talks to groups, schools, and at SW HQ over the last year and I’m getting more used to this kind of thing. Many of the answers required were variations on themes that I’d previously been asked about many times – and were things that to a greater or lesser extent I’d chewed over in my head ad infinitum whilst writing for this blog.

I was comfortable with it all.

Until she hit a metaphorical nail squarely on it’s metaphorical head.

I almost heard metal strike metal, and felt it being driven into surprisingly soft emotional wood.

It’s remained with me ever since, because it unexpectedly challenged me in a way that hadn’t happened before and I alluded to this in a previous post (link) – but for reasons hopefully now obvious I couldn’t expand upon who posed the question and why.

Quite out of the blue, toward the end of the recording, the interviewer asked me ‘Are you proud of yourself?’

I gulped. As I mentioned in the previous post I couldn’t easily answer.

I guess I did – but for some reason I couldn’t vocalise that without welling up. I locked myself down and clammed up a little at that point because I felt my composure unexpectedly slip into uncharted territory.

You’ll see it at the end of the video (link lower down) and they’ve kindly edited me at just the right moment before I crack.

Combined with the events of the last few days this question has taken on a new significance – because it’s now something I’ve had to confront head on – and I’d go so far as to say that this is one of those unexpected little milestones that come along from time to time.

I think the resultant thought process is something regular readers may have to encounter again further down the line…

Just when you think you have a handle on things eh? There’s always something to learn about ourselves it seems.

After this we moved to the cooking segment – and I immediately voiced my thoughts on it.

‘I watched some of the Slimming World videos online…’ I said to my interviewer.

‘Oh yes?’ She replied – what do you think?

‘Weeelllll…’ I started ‘…I noticed that many people don’t get to cook an entire meal… They just chop up some peppers and onions and that’s it.’

‘Yes…’ She responded.

‘And I’ve brought all the ingredients. I plan to cook a chilli!’

Surprisingly they seemed fine with this – so I started chopping away and talked about the recipe as they filmed.

This is the video – and I’m glad I did cook it ALL because my chilli makes me hungry every time I watch it!!!

At the end of it I started ladling it onto plates for them – and instead of the poor camera crew being stuck on the way home trying to find a Slimming World friendly pork pie at motorway services they got to eat my dinner instead!!!

Angie and her family also came home in the middle of this and they got to try some too!

I thought that the most gratifying thing of all was when the film crew wanted second helpings though – because then you know you have ’em hooked!

I wasn’t 100% certain though until a few days later I got an e-mail asking for the recipe!

It looks like it hit the spot 🙂

Here it is again for the benefit of readers:

  • 500g 5% fat pork mince
  • Can of chopped tomatoes
  • Can of kidney beans in water
  • 1 large courgette
  • Medium punnet of brown/chestnut mushrooms (hand torn)
  • 1 red pepper (deseeded and chopped)
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 2x red onions
  • bunch of broccoli (shaved with a knife so that it’s roughly cut into small pieces )
  • 1 beef flavoured stock cube
  • 2x teaspoons of cumin
  • 2x teaspoons of paprika
  • 2-3 teaspoons of chilli powder (depending on taste)
  • Fresh coriander
  • half a tube of tomato puree
  • salt to taste

Instructions – throw the chopped tomatoes in with the mince, stir it all in so its mushed up then add the garlic and spices with the stock cube. Then add the tomato puree.

As this is boiling/cooking down add the veg in ‘hardest veg’ order first until it’s all cooking in the tomato/mince mixture (making sure you rip not chop the mushrooms – trust me on this – it will look soooo much better), then just keep stirring it until it all becomes a little softer.

Throw in the kidney beans toward the end (rinsed).

While the red onion still has colour and the broccoli still has a little crunch turn off the gas and then stir in the chopped coriander.

It’s entirely up to you whether you add salt at this point – but I do (probably around a teaspoon – but most of my measurements are guesstimates!

This is a pic of one I did a while back – in this case the ingredients were slightly tweaked – but you get the idea!

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The beauty of this kind of cooking is that if you get the spices right and the order in which you cook the veg (soft last, hard first) then you get a great, tasty result every time!

Anyway internet – that was my filming experience.

The guys were absolutely awesome, and I love their video. 

In the insane world of social media I’m also really stunned by how many people have seen it since it was posted a day ago on the Slimming World Facebook page…

Thus morning as I type this is how their stats look.

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(The link in that screenshot takes you here by the way if you want to have a peek at my profile!)

Anyway internet – thats the first but of my crazy new journey. More to come soon.

You may remember that I’m still sitting in the Ritz…

This story has a lot more to come. See you in part two!

Davey

Under fourteen

Sometimes I have a really distorted view of what I do well and what I’ve not done so well at.

Often I find myself wracked with guilt over daft things such as a feeling that I haven’t walked far enough or a perception that I’ve overeaten when I should have just nibbled a carrot – but then I realise that the opposite is actually true.

I am (like I’m sure many other people are) clearly my own worst critic.

Yesterday for instance I had a business trip to go on and because of this I got up extra early to spend time on my exercise bike. I was fully aware that if I didn’t then I probably wouldn’t have any time to go walking or doing anything fitness related.

It bothered me so much that at 5am I was already pedalling away like a hamster on a wheel. To be clear this didn’t fill me with joy one little bit – but I did it anyway.

Maintaining my current weight is that important.

As it turned out I was right to worry. I spent most of yesterday sat in a car moving (at times) 10mph through heavy traffic. When I wasn’t trapped in the (heated) leather seated opulence of my boss’s Lexus I was stuck in a meeting room.

Although I view a day like this where I can’t do much as a personal failure (I feel the same when it snows) the reality is that it often forces me to give myself a rest.

I probably don’t do this as much as I should and it’s daft because my body needs to from time to time.

It was clearly pining for a rest too because last night (helped by the miracle of my new electric blanket which I bought on a whim in Aldi yesterday for £17.99) I had the best night’s sleep I’ve had in flippingages.

When my eyes opened at 5.30am this morning I felt great!!!

As I stepped out of the house I was practically bouncing along – still feeling absolutely tip top – and it soon showed how much difference this rest and sleep had made.

Today, whilst on my way to work on mile 3 I managed to crack the 14 minutes a mile walking speed!!!

Back in January I was absolutely amazed that I’d broken the fifteen minute barrier (link).

Since then I’ve lost almost a whole stone and it’s clearly made activity a lot easier because whilst wiping more than two whole minutes off my personal best walk to work time today I barely managed to get out of breath.

My average heart rate was 89bpm.

Back in Jan it was 95!

This in itself is absolutely fantastic news – but it doesn’t stand in isolation, because I’d also been beating myself up about (what in my mind) was a weekend where I felt that I’d eaten too much.

When I stepped on the scales in the end the reality was quite different. I was pretty much exactly the same weight that I was last Saturday – and once again I’m reminded that even in instances where I do overeat a bit I’m still food optimising.

When I reach for more food (that I don’t need but wantwhich is still a problem at times) crucially the choices that I’m making are good ones.

When I remember the reality of my situation (that I’m doing really well and that I shouldn’t be self critical) I take a photo of my current self and place it side by side with one from the past – because even now I need to be reminded of the positive changes that I’ve made and compare the new vs the old me.

Images like this keep me on point and focused on maintenance because they represent moments of failure vs moments of success.

Believe it or not on the right I was at a wedding – and although I’d have loved to be able to wear a suit and not stand out like a sore thumb in my casual 8XL shirt and 66in waisted black jeans I couldn’t.

On the left I’m just throwing on one of several jackets I now own for work not because I have to – but because I can.

If you’re on the same path as I was I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to take photos of yourself throughout your journey even if you hate what you see.

I’d go so far as to say as it’s the difference between failure and success. When you have a dark moment it’s really crucial that you can remind yourself of where you came from and where you are.

I highly recommend that if you do nothing else on your weight loss journey that you consider doing this.

Well. Maybe not just that.

Get a slow cooker too.

I filled mine today. Absolutely stuffed it actually.

First I tossed in a can of chopped tomatoes, 400g of diced beef, a stock cube, 50g of chopped chorizo (6 syns) 2 bay leaves, chilli flakes, 3 cloves of garlic, some mushrooms, a sprinkle of lentils, a red onion and a courgette.

Then I added some sweet potato and butternut squash.

Then topped it off with potato and carrots.

Only when it looks like the lid will never go on do I actually try and force it on. Usually I pack it all down by hand and then pop it on high before leaving the house.

When I arrived home later in the day this is what greeted me.

So internet – even though I’m at target it seems that there are still mental battles to be fought and victories to be won.

Each day is still a little adventure in understanding who I am and what I can become!

I’m honestly loving my life right now!!!

Davey

Snowdrops in Hatton

I’m a little achey after the up and downhill of the end to end walk in Malvern on Sunday.

It’s currently precisely midnight on either Monday evening or Tuesday morning (depending on how you view it) and I’m lying in a warm bed within an unusually warm house whilst the world outside turns into an icicle.

On days like today I don’t care about the cost of heating. It’s worth it.

Monday was a day I had decided to a while back to just take off work and had no plans in particular other than chill out and recover after Malvern.

I suppose that I could have done that – but where’s the fun in sitting down?

It would have been super easy to melt into an armchair and just veg out – but nature (at least in my case) seems to abhor a vacuum and events rushed in to fill the spare time.

I’m not complaining mind you. I couldn’t sit still if my life depended on it these days – and my first hook up of the day was meeting a friend in the local Mecca of consumerism -Touchwood in Solihull.

Oddly – as small as this place seems now, a while back it felt like it was almost more than I could deal with. Despite having convenient parking right underneath the Apple shop that I used to visit from time to time I really struggled with moving around the place.

Typically I parked up and waddled to my destination and then back to my car before collapsing wheezing in the front seat while I struggled to get my seatbelt on.

Once I even moved my car from the Touchwood car park after going to Apple and then re-parked in another nearby car park to go to another shop less than 500 metres away.

Sigh.

Those were the bad old days…

In contrast this morning I was there extra early to meet a friend for coffee in Starbucks and idly wandered up and down the length of the Mall as I passed the time by calling my Dad and window shopping.

As I strolled I couldn’t help but notice a relief motto on the ceiling.

Maybe the designers had a sarcastic side – or the builders were feeling whimsical as they bolted these words of wisdom to the wall in one of the richest boroughs of the county (outside of the M25 area).

I’m sure there’s more than a spoonful of irony that this is hanging above the nearby Nespresso, Apple and Tesla shops – however far be it from me to judge.

If I did I’d be throwing stones whilst standing in a glass house.

Whilst I’m generally very frugal I do like Apple products (despite their usually ridiculous price tag) and sadly (although many may disagree) I think quite a bit of what they sell is actually worth the extra money.

Apple Watch for instance has been instrumental in changing my life. I wouldn’t be without it – or my iPhone.

I can’t help but buy things from there when I’m in the mood to treat myself and today my credit card stepped in to perform the heavy lifting as I left the shop with a pair of Apple AirPods.

The assistant knew she had a sale after I had inserted a test pair and jumped up and down for five minutes like an idiot as well as shaking my head like I was at a heavy metal concert whilst I tried (unsuccessfully) to dislodge them.

Annoyingly they refused to fall out and appeared to defy gravity with each lurching movement whilst still sounding totally awesome. You can barely feel them in your ears – which is seriously disconcerting.

They’re just… there – like little earbud ghosts…

Amazingly once you pair them to your phone (all you have to do is open the case and a prompt appears on your phone) they’re also paired to everything else in your Apple eco-system.

Later in the evening I was playing music on my watch, iPad and MacBook just as seamlessly as I had on my iPhone. When I opened my iPad it too paired with my buds and immediately gave me to option of using them. I didn’t have to unpair anything on my iPhone or faff about in any way.

In contrast my other (largely unused) Bluetooth headphones are a pairing nightmare.

The playback is also capable of shifting almost immediately between the player on my Apple Watch and my iPhone without any re-pairing or faffing about. Just press play on one in the middle of the other playing and the AirPods switch over.

Press play on the other device and it swaps back.

They’re irritatingly good.

I say irritatingly because I’m supremely aware that cost wise there are other (possibly more capable from an audiophile perspective) wireless headphones out there with lower price tags – but the heart wants what the heart wants and today these were my birthday gift to myself in the absence of alcohol or food.

These will accompany me on many many walks and get a lot of use on the way to and from work.

There are times however when I’m never going to use them and those are when I have real live twalking buddies to spend time with.

Today I had filled the rest of my free time vacuum by arranging a walk to Hatton with a friend – and it turned out to be during a rather nice (if flipping cold) afternoon with hints of sunshine and occasional blue skies.

The weather was not like this the whole way though – and temperatures were definitely not shifting above zero.

Several times snow threatened to arrive and stick around – but thankfully (the news suggests bad things are on the horizon) it disappeared as soon as it had arrived – but for the brief time it was in residence proved to be very pretty!

There’s sometimes a trade off with inclement weather however – because while it’s chilly and uncomfortable it can also produce some incidental beauty in the hedgerows and roadsides.

I haven’t seen icicles in ages – but today they were in abundance.

Also – everywhere along the edges of our route were the most delightful little snowdrops, framed perfectly amongst a sea of brown leaves under a completely absent canopy.

By the time we reached the Hatton Arms I was most definitely ready for the loo and a coffee though.

I think I need some thermal pants because I think I now know where the engineering inspiration came from for Newton’s Cradle.

However although elements of my anatomy and the outside world may have been freezing this pub never seems less than warm and inviting.

I do rather like their approach to hanging mirrors as well. I think there motto is ‘you can never have too many’ and I definitely agree.

Their wall looks funky.

After a coffee and a quick natter we headed back to our respective homes and into the waiting arms of central heating heaven.

Upon returning to my man cave the only thing to do was make something warming and hearty – so I decided upon a chicken and baked bean soup.

Since I rarely follow recipes this was just thrown together at the last minute and contained

  • 500g chicken breast
  • 1 drained (but not rinsed – they still had some sauce in) can of baked beans
  • 2 cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 diced potatoes
  • 500g Carrots
  • 1 Onion
  • 3 cloves of Garlic
  • 2x chicken stock cubes
  • A generous ‘glugging’ of Worcestershire sauce
  • A large Courgette
  • 500g of sprouts

Let me tell you right now that this was darned nice and it’s also going to supply me with a very hearty lunch at work (today – it’s now 1.30am!) too.

So – on that note I’m going to sign off internet.

Hopefully it won’t snow as badly as the forecast suggests – but if it does fear not. I’m prepared dear reader. It’s going to take a lot to stop me walking.

Aches and pains and complaints about crappy weather are for the weak. Slimming World target members (and those that want to become one) walk to work regardless!!!

Davey

Considering targets

As a few people pointed out both in person and in the comments on my last blog it’s not my usual behaviour to happily take things easy and rest if I get ill or injure myself.

However – after hurting the plantar tendon in my right foot last Sunday I’ve chosen a different course of action to the one I normally would.

Instead of getting up early and walking to work I’ve been getting up early and spending time on my exercise bike before (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) driving to work.

The hairs stood up on the back of my neck as I wrote that sentence – but there it is. I’ve driven to work for the last few days.

I have the be honest – it’s got it’s upsides and downsides.

  • Firstly – I get to sit in a warm, air conditioned car and my hands aren’t perpetually  freezing.
  • Secondly I arrive home really early (at least compared to the time I did before) and there’s still daylight.
  • Thirdly – I can do more with the day (I’ve been able to go shopping on the way home and quickly nip to an appointment in my lunch hour.)

There are obvious (and dare I say addictive) benefits to using my car – and I’m hyper aware that they all have a pull. They’re nice things.

On the downside…

  • It’s no fun whatsoever sitting for between 20-30 minutes in the morning (in sometimes stationary traffic) to travel tiny distances from one end of Warwick to the other.
  • It’s also more expensive – even though I’m still using a tank of petrol that’s been completely full since late December…
  • I’ve really missed the flush of energy that I get immediately as I step over the threshold at work when I’ve walked there. At that precise moment my brain is filled with energy and I’m stuffed with endorphins. I’m set for the day ahead.

So – it’s been swings and roundabouts – but all of it has been necessary. I needed to get better in the short term so I can get back to my old self in the long term. Next week things will hopefully be back to normal – which I’m looking forward to, because compared to walking frankly my exercise bike just doesn’t cut it.

Sure – I sit there and I do it because I need to do something but honestly it just seems like wasted time compared to walking from A to B. I’m just pedalling and remaining stationary.

Mostly because of this I’ve done less exercise minutes this week (according to Apple Watch) than I have for a long time. I’m sure that this will have a negative impact on my weigh in results today because I genuinely feel my food intake and exercise output have been quite finely balanced for a while now.

If I don’t do all of my walking I can’t enjoy my food with the same (ahem) enthusiasm that I may otherwise do from time to time.

Sigh.

I feel like I’m taking two steps forward and two steps back lately… However – rather than feeling down I actually feel really happy because something rather nice happened when I went to my Doctor’s surgery yesterday for a blood test.

Whilst waiting for the nurse to become available I sat reading on my phone with my legs crossed under a sky light.

The sun above was warming my head and arms and I felt good. I’d left my car a little way away and had a gentle walk in before the appointment. It was just a nice place to be – and I felt quite relaxed in the waiting room.

It then occurred to me that I hadn’t been there for a while. In fact I’d avoided the main practice in Warwick like the plague and scheduled all of my appointments instead at a branch surgery nearby.

The reason?

The branch surgery has a big bench in the waiting room whereas the main one has blue fabric seats with fixed metal armrests that were an absolute misery to sit in two years ago.

I used to wedge myself between them, perching on the edge of the chair and feeling the metal painfully pushing into my thighs as they were jammed together until I was called in for my appointment.

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Not these days.

New and improved Davey just crosses his legs, sits back, chillaxes, then admires the gaps either side of him and between his legs.

Space isn’t just the final frontier. It represents comfort and happiness – and I often find myself marvelling at the absence of me and the introduction of it.

You’d think I’d be used to it by now but I’m absolutely not. It still takes me aback when I walk through a previously tight door, sit in a smaller seat, run up some stairs, climb a slope or just stand in a stationary position without constant, crippling, ever present pain and embarrassment.

So it’s all good. Life is good. Everything is good. Davey is happy.

Although Davey also has some tasty morsels to prepare before Slimming World. It’s a free food tasting day and group starts in two and a half hours.

I’ve still not decided what to make yet!!! Eeek!

(author makes food, goes to group and comes home)

I decided in the end (after staring into the fridge abstractly for a while) to just make something up for food tasting – and went with a totally impromptu thrown together ‘pie’.

The filling consisted of

  • 5 chopped up bacon medallions (unsmoked)
  • 1 courgette
  • 2 leeks
  • small bunch of broccoli chopped
  • half a punnet of mushrooms
  • quarter of a savoy cabbage
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • a vegetable stock cube

The upper layer was made with

  • half a swede
  • a large baking potato (skin on)
  • 1 tub of Aldi cottage cheese with onion and chives
  • Salt to season

I fried all the first lot together until soft – patted it down into a frittata tray, then (when boiled) mashed the potato and swede into a paste and stirred in the cottage cheese before cooking it all in the oven for a further 25-30 minutes to brown the crust off.

I would have left it in the oven longer if I could but sadly ran out of time…

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Overall though it seemed to go down quite well with the people who tried it and there wasn’t much left at the end. Thankfully it was still warm and reeking of garlic when everyone tucked in which was just perfect!

I actually forgot to take my phone with me to group today – which meant that I couldn’t capture any pictures of the other lovely food that people brought in – but there were some particularly nice dishes – such as a (flipping lush) campfire stew, a chicken curry (ohmyfrikkingawd!) and a huge variety of crustless quiches!

The lady responsible for the curry even brought in some of her homemade garam masala spice for everyone to try (she would apparently have to kill us if she told us what the ingredients were – it’s a family secret!) and I brought back a little bag with me so that I could try and make my own version during the week.

These events are always very lively and a good opportunity to catch up with everyone- although I do tend to lose track of what I’e eaten in terms of syns. However I think today pretty much everything I had to eat (with the exception of one thing) was free or speed food – which I’m very happy about.

However – as I expected it wasn’t a great week in terms of the scales. I seem to be bouncing back and forth stubbornly around the same weight, and have been pretty much stuck there since early January.

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I have mixed feelings about this.

The truth of it is I’m happy with me at the moment for the most part – and I’m really beginning to wonder whether this is actually a problem at all – or whether I’m just going to decide that this is my ‘natural’ and comfortable size.

There’s nothing in my life that’s ‘broken’ at the moment any more. I’m fit, healthy, active, satisfied, employed and getting on with every day with energy and drive. I’m really not sure any more why I’m chasing a number when many people are telling me I don’t need to lose any more weight.

The aspirational corner of my mind wants something though – and thats a 20st certificate. The problem is that in the next mental breath I immediately think ‘what’s the point of forcing myself to achieve something only to then put another half a stone back on after I get it and ultimately ending up back to where I am now.

I have a bit of thinking to do on the subject – because in some ways I consider such an attitude to be failure, whereas another part of me is beginning to think it’s instead sensible.

Ultimately it’s up to me to make my mind up about whether I’m happy or not – but I don’t seem to be able to do this currently.

Either way there’s no rush. I aim to keep trying, keep focused and keep going every single week to weigh in and not backslide. Over time I think I’ll find out whether I have further to go or whether I’m right where I need to be…

On that note internet there appears to be an over abundance of blood in my caffeine stream. I’ve heard outlandish stories of a strange drink called coffee and I was planning to try it.

See you later!

Davey

Introducing friends

This morning I’ve been out with a couple of firm friends, who only met each other for the first time this today…

Initially they were quite wary – but in no time at all after some introductions they were getting on famously.

Probably bonded by their mutual love of bird watching Boris and Freckles seem to get along pretty well when they first met, and happily sniffed each other’s behinds for a while as their pet humans above greeted one another with (less socially developed) handshakes.

I doubt that Freckles and Boris would have minded me joining in – but I didn’t want to intrude and instead stuck to human pleasantries. Also – as fragrant as their behinds must be I was actually more interested in the other wildlife – of which there was quite a lot today at Arrow Valley.

The Pooches also seemed unusually willing to be photographed this morning.

Normally they refuse to stay still for the camera, yet today here they were allowing me to take snap after in focus snap.

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You might think that I’m a charming Dr Doolittle given how calm and collected they are, or what sweet little cherubs they have been to pose for my photo. However what you can’t see just behind me is the piraña like feeding frenzy going on.

A little girl was flinging giant lumps of bread to a growing collection of birds at the official ‘invigorate the ravenous little monsters with wings‘ baked goods slinging platform – and Boris and Freckles were both transfixed by the resulting commotion.

As I turned away from them to watch it struck me that some days what initially might seem like a great stroke of luck is actually the exact opposite.

Sometimes life isn’t what you expect when you’re the little duck that catches the golden crust.

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I think that the moral of the story today is ‘don’t **** with the seagulls‘…

As we left the beleaguered little quackers and continued around the park it was clear however that not all was well elsewhere. The strike by refuse collectors in Birmingham is having a pretty dramatic effect on this usually well kept space and the bins are currently overflowing at each and every corner.

(you don’t need photos of this – it was grim)

People have left carrier bags full of rubbish close to them and as you might expect with a lot of wildlife around these are quickly getting ripped open. Frankly the park is a mess today – and I really hope that this doesn’t hurt the birds – especially the fledglings.

On the main island there are a few nesting Herons – and from what I read on the visitor centre bird spotting chart they have some young with them. However when I looked I couldn’t see any – and only one of my full zoom photos of an adult came out clear enough to use.

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Apart from the overflowing bins and the skinhead-like seagulls though Arrow Valley was quite serene today. Whilst idly strolling we did around 3 miles around the reserve – all the time with Freckles and Boris sniffing away in the bushes and trotting back and forth to say hello to passers by and other dogs.

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As lovely as all this was though I must fill my green exercise ring on Apple Watch (which sedate strolls do not do sadly) otherwise my OCD will cause my head to explode. As lovely as my amble was I needed to do MORE!

Since I am still in need of a pair of black trousers, I headed out when I got home for a brisker walk into town to try and find some.

Sadly these are proving difficult to find – especially given that I have mentally budgeted only £5 for them. All in all I walked a further six miles trying to find my mythically cheap item of unicorn clothing and returned empty handed – but I will persevere!

(I have heard a rumour that there are some in a pot – just at the end of a rainbow!)

On the plus side every step I do is something toward the scales next week – and given that the theme of last Saturday’s image therapy session was step counting and ‘body magic’ (exercise with Slimming World counts to awards) I’ve been trying to keep my numbers up.

On Saturday I finished with 21,314 steps, Sunday was 13,057, and today is currently 22,110 – so I’m hopefully on track for an average of 20,000 a day (around 10 miles).

I’m also trying to ‘tweak’ my food a little bit to reduce calories and today swapped out kidney beans from my favourite chilli dish and replaced them with an aubergine and some chopped green and black beans (both of which came from a friend’s allotment and were delicious).

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The other ingredients were a courgette, broccoli, red pepper, leeks, mushrooms and 5% fat pork mince. The seasoning was cumin, smokey paprika, chilli powder, salt, a beef stock cube, some garlic – and finally to season some freshly chopped coriander was thrown in at the end.

Honesty this was so good that I may just forgo the kidney beans altogether from now on. A can of them has 280kcal in it – whereas an entire aubergine has 50Kcal – and 100g of green beans has 25kcal.

Thats over 200kcal saved today!

Finally – Rusty McBike is now back in the saddle!

Well – at the very least Rusty has a new (old) saddle (courtesy of a friend’s dusty garage contents) and although I’ve not yet had a chance to properly test her out on a long journey yet things currently seem very secure indeed.

She has even got a new donated strap-on gel butt cushion to alleviate the intensely bruised bottom that the previous saddle was immediately capable of giving me. It’s early days but I’m hopeful that this superb combo means that we’re going to be very happy together.

If worst comes to worst another friend has been a dumpster diving hero and secured yet another saddle clamp from the clutches of a nearby skip (in the right hand pic). As rough as it looks as long as I have a spare then I’m pretty happy.

It saves money on eBay and every little bit can go to my unicorn trousers!

As soon as I get a chance I’ll take her out for a spin and let you know how I get on. It’s most likely to be Wednesday however as I have even more planned for tomorrow! Time and tide waits for no man!

Anyway – I must get some sleep – nighty night internet.

Davey

What I eat now vs what I ate before

I do love a chilli. Probably too much actually.

I tend to eat more of it than I really should (it tastes soooooooo nice though!) and yesterday was unfortunately no exception.

The trick with chilli (I realised only within the last few months after a friend pointed it out) is to start cooking the spices immediately upon starting the dish. I hadn’t realised up until then just how different chilli powder, paprika and cumin taste when you fry them with the mince and onions for a while. Only after this do I add the chopped tomatoes and garlic – just before the spice mix starts to burn and the onions are softening.

Everything else after that can just be slung in randomly and left to simmer for a while.

We can probably all agree that maybe I’m a little obsessed this week with numbers. It will come as no surprise if we do that today I’ve also looked up the (as close as possible) calorie values of the speed food too to get a TRUE idea of what I ate yesterday afternoon.

I had two identical bowls of this chilli – which was frankly unbelievably delicious.

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Chilli con Carne

  • Kidney beans – (‘Free’ food – 128 kcal)
  • 500g 5% fat beef mince – (‘Free’ food – 610 kcal)
  • Can of chopped tomatoes (80kcal)
  • Half a tube of tomato purée (92kcal)
  • 1x red pepper (20kcal)
  • 1x green pepper (20kcal)
  • Mushrooms (15 kcal)
  • 1x red onion (40kcal)
  • Bunch of broccoli (50 kcal)
  • 2x cloves of garlic (8 kcal)
  • 1 beef stock cube, cumin, paprika, chilli powder, salt, fry light

In future I think I’m going to buy a smaller 250g pack of mince – or maybe halve the 500g one (which is probably cheaper) and freeze some when I buy it so that I’m not tempted to overdo things. If I’d done that last night then my evening meal would have been 300kcal less than it was.

This meal is a great example of how ingredients (even low fat and free foods) can quickly add up – and the total approximate value of it is 1063kcal – which comes to around 2/5ths of an adult male’s RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of calories.

I have to admit it’s been worthwhile totting all this up because it goes some way to explaining a couple of weeks where I’ve had slower than expected losses. On top of the above ingredients when I cooked this in previous weeks I’d also started adding chick peas (since they’re a free food) to the mix which I now realise added around 300 kcal!

As you can see I am re-thinking this choice and yesterday left them out…

Since I vowed to try something new every day this week I added a different ‘healthy extra’ to my usual evening treat.

Bran Fibre.

Although I’ve always liked this cereal I’ve not eaten it for well over a year – mostly because I stopped buying milk. It’s slightly higher in calories than oats but made a nice (filling) change –

Late evening dessert (475 kcal)

  • 1 banana (90kcal)
  • 250ml fat free yogurt (145 kcal)
  • 50g Sainsburys Bran Fibre (This is a SW HE or 7.5 syns – 170 kcal)
  • Frozen fruit (grapes & blackberries + a few small cherries) (50-70kcal approx)
  • 100ml cold water
  • Cinnamon

I also had 3x apples (188 kcal) as snacks during the day.

Daily total – 1726kcal (approx)

On the exercise front I was roughly around the same ballpark – with Apple Watch reporting around 100 active kcal less than I ate burned for the day. Overall though the total calories still seems more than enough.

I’m still not sure I believe these numbers however.

I walked 17,143 steps and 8.42 miles yesterday. Just under six of these miles were spread over ‘workouts’ where my average pace was around 19.4 minutes per mile over variable gradients. At every possible opportunity that presented itself I consciously chose a hill or a long route instead of a shorter or flatter way.

With this in mind does 4,696 kcal burned sound right to readers?

Are other people who exercise with a device like this getting similar results? I really don’t know whether to treat it as gospel or a rough guide. As the ‘normal’ level for a man is supposed to be 2500 this seems almost fictionally high sometimes.

(author stops, goes away, does other things, can’t stop thinking about this and then comes back some hours later with another thought)

Out of interest I just looked back at when I first put my Apple Watch on in mid September 2015. I was quite surprised to see that I appeared (when I was going to work in an office) to sometimes be burning around 7500 total calories per day with what I remember was minimal movement.

My watch didn’t know my exact weight at the time (neither did I until April 2016) but it did know what my heart was up to – suggesting that the extra 10 stone I carried everywhere back then made even simple tasks a big event.

Since I remember how exhausting and uncomfortable even sitting in an armchair could be back then (I’m deadly serious – this is no joke – sometimes it hurt to sit still and just breathe) maybe this is true…

(Author steps away once more for an hour or so – but can’t stop thinking about these numbers and past habits. Frankly they’re driving him mad. He starts typing again.)

It does beg the question however ‘How can I have been so overweight and yet be burning so many calories?’ After I looked back at this insane number I started to wonder exactly what I used to consume in a day.

I was burning THREE TIMES the adult male RDA back then, so why was I still fat?

I’ve occasionally added up the syns of certain items – but never the total calories of what might have been in a typical day in September 2015 – which was way before I gave up drinking and started Slimming World.

Although I can only do it from memory I decided to try and map out an average day from back then. I’m honestly not exaggerating for effect. I sat and thought about what I did all the time and wrote it down – removing some things that seemed out of place or that I didn’t regularly have.

It’s pretty gobsmacking – and if I’m honest more than a little upsetting. It makes me angry now to think back to what I was doing to my body all the time.

Way to work (1130kcal)

Sandwiches eaten at desk (1725kcal approx)

  • 6 thick slices of hand cut bread (usually this was half of an in-store supermarket bakery 800g wholemeal loaf) (952kcal)
  • Benecol light spread – I guesstimate approx 20g (64kcal) per slice (total 384kcal)
  • Two packs of 125g ham – 290kcal
  • 3x tomatoes (67kcal each) and cucumber slices (10kcal) – (201kcal)
  • Two packets of Mccoys crisps (multipack ones are 141kcal each) (282kcal)

Evening meal (1595kcal)

Snacks and drinks (3023kcal)

  • Sainsburys house Soave 2.25l (I would typically drink all of this – per 125ml Soave is approx 79kcal so it totals 1422kcal)
  • 200g ‘sharing’ bag of Doritos (894kcal)
  • Ginsters large Cornish pasty (707kcal)

Total (if I didn’t have an evening takeaway instead of a ready meal) – 7473kcal

So – maybe Apple Watch isn’t so off base after all.

For probably the first time I can see the reality of my daily intake back then, and compare it with how hard my body (particularly my heart) had to work with all that weight just to get into the car and drive to a job where I sat down all day long.

Thankfully internet project lettuce is my current fixation, not project sausage and egg Mcmuffins. I don’t ever want to eat another Mc anything again as long as I live.

Davey

Food glorious food

I’ve been trying lately to vary things up a quite a bit with what I eat.

In the past variety has not been something that I’ve done so well and I have tended to find things I like, can cook well, and eat them until I can’t face them any more.

This is a really bad idea for staying on plan – because if you get to that state then you’re already in danger of failure.

So – as mentioned in my last post I took a cue last night from the kind soul who gave me a Spicentice curry kit in the slimmer of the week basket and made a Chicken Jalfrezi from scratch. The only thing I changed was the oil, as the recipe called for 3 tablespoons.

When it came down to it I just saw it as a waste of syns and munched a couple of Hi-fi bars (less than half the cost of the oil at 6 syns) while I prepared it instead. In the end some fry light spray did the job just fine and nothing ended up sticking to the frying pan.

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The instructions for this were pretty simple and were on the inside of the packet of spices – so I’m not claiming to be a champion chef!

Personally I felt I ended up with two filling portions rather than four – but I’m willing to concede that my judgement isn’t always the best in this area. I think I could probably have included more speed on the side to bulk it up – but I’m not sure it would have looked quite as cool on the plate!

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Although I’m not a typical man I do make one concession to masculine stereotypes and thats being the type of guy who doesn’t usually read instructions (another habit i’m trying to change). In this case however, they were nice and easy to follow, well laid out – and pretty hard to mess up.

I left the chicken marinading while I chopped up everything else and grated the ginger.

I decided to use half a tin of chopped tomatoes rather than one fresh one – which seemed to me to be more for show than flavour in the recipe.

Not so long ago I accidentally bought a miniature grater – wondering what the heck I would EVER use it for. Well it turns out it’s actually very good indeed for an inch of ginger.

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Once all the marinading was done, and the chicken cooked I added some microwave brown basmati rice (2 syns) and served with LOTS of freshly chopped coriander.

I absolutely adore the fragrance of finely chopped coriander stirred into a dish after the heat is turned off. It just fills the room with earthy pleasure!

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I have to say I REALLY liked this curry, although I’m not sure about the amount of salt the recipe states it requires. I put less than the amount it wanted me to in and felt there was still a slightly saltier taste than I would have preferred at the end of it.

It’s all personal taste however – and if you want to try it for yourself you can find the kits here. I think (from what was said in group when this was mentioned several weeks ago) Ocado also sell them, but they don’t seem to be in Tesco or Sainsburys.

Half of this was boxed up for a later meal and I went to bed pleasantly full and sleepy.

I awoke this morning with another culinary mission in mind and ended up quite literally shedding blood for Slimming World – but despite introducing the end of my thumb to the business end of a cheese grater my lunchtime meal of Pork and Apple Burgers (from the pages of the club magazine last month) turned out to be absolutely DELICIOUS.

This was completely syn free, and outrageously tasty. I haven’t eaten bread for a while and didn’t really fancy having the wholemeal bun just for the sake of it. It’s personal choice however – and I can see how some people would think it’s just not the same without it.

The recipe was also very simple to follow and relatively quick to prepare (I don’t have a food processor and doing it by hand slows me down a bit.)

The ingredients are things that are probably mostly in your cupboard anyway – and the instructions are also child’s play to follow (as long as you have thumb sized plasters close by to stem the resulting arterial spurts).

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I used Braeburn apples in my burgers, which next to Cox’s Pippins are my favourite supermarket variety due to the tangy flavour. I often bemoan the range of apples today and find it exasperating that we are reduced to 4-5 main varieties. However – these were very fresh and the sharp flavour really hit the mark with the pork.

I also only used two medium potatoes here as I’m cooking for one.

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I couldn’t help getting a shot of my magnetic measuring spoons in action. They stick together like magic!

They’re my favourite kitchen thing ever!

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After mixing in the parsley, onion, apple and garlic (I prefer my onion and parsley chopping a bit rustic – which can make the patties a bit less cohesive but the cooked texture is way nicer) I portioned the burgers into six rather than four as I don’t like the idea that something won’t thoroughly be cooked through when I eat it.

It was about 8 mins each side on a medium grill setting for me – but I also set off the smoke alarm somehow before turning them – despite them (in my view) not burning at all. Due to this on the second side I put some spray oil on top of them and this seemed to do this trick – enabling them to ‘sizzle’ a bit more, rather than dry grilling.

The potato wedges were seasoned only with salt in my case and spray oil. I had toyed with adding garlic – but as the burgers already contained it I thought I’d keep it simple.

In my oven 30 mins cooking time was more than enough.

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The accompanying salad was half an orange pepper, a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes, 2 sticks of celery and 4 leaves of romaine lettuce. This was tossed in some cider vinegar, which went REALLY well with the salted wedges.

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So there you have it. This is the living hell that I am forced to endure with Slimming World.

Sometimes I don’t know how I cope.

Actually internet – I’ve just realised that I haven’t had my Sunday coffee or diabetic meds yet. I better get on with that immediately!!!

I hope you’re having a smashing weekend, and whatever you’re eating you’re enjoying it as much as I am!

Davey