Target goal

After a few weeks where I seemed to be going nowhere fast with weight loss I decided on Saturday morning that enough was enough.

Slimming World ball or no ball in November I’ve come to the conclusion that at least for the time being I’m calling target and focusing on weight maintenance rather than trying to continually shed pounds.

I’ve therefore decided to re-set my target to 15 stone.

In some ways this feels like giving up – but in others it seems like I’m finally accepting that it’s not all about numbers on scales. As long as they don’t go up any more I think I’m happy with this weight.

Furthermore this decision reflects advice that I’ve been giving other people for quite a while (including reminding them that they should be their own best friends) but recently have utterly failed to take notice of it myself.

‘You look great at your current weight!’ I told a lady (very truthfully) at group the other day.

‘Previously I thought you lost a bit too much.’ I continued. ‘Don’t worry about clothes not quite fitting. They’re cheap as chips. Put the nice ones in storage, send the rest to charity and get a few more.’ I said.

At home, in the quiet of my bedroom, looking in a mirror it’s a different story though.

I think about myself in quite another way – and although there’s a man reflected back at me who is well over HALF the weight he used to be I frequently fail to love myself and what I see before me.

At 13.5 stone I had a lot more shirts (and jeans) that fitted me and they looked really nice.

But this was only part of the story.

I also had people remarking that I ‘looked a bit gaunt’ and that recently on some of my Instagram posts ‘I look better with some more weight’ on me.

It’s hard to take such well meaning feedback for what it’s clearly intended to be though.

Friends say ‘you look healthy’ but I hear ‘I notice you’ve put on some weight’.

The ladies at group told me this weekend they had planned to gang up on me after reading recent posts and get me to raise my target weight too!

Everyone seems to be in agreement but it’s hard to hear.

It’s not the way that they say it – because everyone that’s commented wants me to be happy and healthy – but years of hating myself for being a little bigger every time someone saw me after a few months (or a lot bigger after a couple of years) has led to some rather difficult mental hurdles to overcome if I gain even a modest amount of weight.

I’m trying to take it another way though – and this is partly why I’ve decided to stay where I am for the moment.

However setting a new target can only work if I take to heart the same advice that I’ve given to others and take my foot off the gas for a little bit.

I think I need to just enjoy the fact that I feel fit, I’m insanely active, I’m in a great relationship, I feel loved and that I have lots of good (and honest) friends.

So.

Fifteen stone.

That’s where I’m hanging my hat.

I still haven’t decided how often I will weigh in though. That’s the next mental battle…

So – what else have I been up to?

Well last week I was rather quiet mostly because I’ve had a fair bit on my mind – and it’s all been the kind of things that I don’t really feel are best discussed in public.

Nothing is wrong though – no one has a need to worry.

These thoughts didn’t stop me dropping in see Angie doing her thing at the National Slimming World golden bus tour – which is promoting SW as well as celebrating it’s FIFTY YEAR anniversary.

It finally hit Coventry city centre on Thursday last week and I felt duty bound to pop along – even if that visit was brief.

Although the PR people had formally invited me to several of these events in the Midlands I’d decided to not go along as their special guest and instead pass by and say hello.

I’ll be honest – I really don’t want the limelight at the moment, and it’s nice to just go along, wish people well and then go anonymously about my business (which in this case was going to the nearby indoor market for some cheap plums and then popping into IKEA).

The new man of the year (Ben) is a worthy successor – and he can enjoy his year without any fear of me treading on his toes.

There are many others who can step up and be fabulous at such events anyway. The crowds not only had a celebrity chef (I’ve no idea who it was) and an award winner or two that they could chat to without me boring them silly all day long.

Jodie Rigby-Mee was on the top deck (2017 ‘top target consultant’ award winner and all round fabulous lady) whilst Angie was downstairs with the crowds handing out flyers and goodie bags.

They both looked fabulous!

When I strolled away from the bus, the celebrity cooking demo and the seated crowds I was quite happy with my decision not to attend as a MOTY.

Although I’m insanely proud of all I’ve done to lose weight and change my life I really just want to be me from now on – and enjoy the life that I never thought it would be possible to have.

At the moment (whilst I’m simultaneously searching for work) that means I’m looking after the home – and taking a real pleasure in taking care of my other half.

She has a very demanding job – and since I have extra time on my hands currently it makes sense for me to do as much as I can to lighten the load.

I’ll be honest – there’s not a lot going on in the employment market (particularly as I’m trying to be a bit more picky this time around) – so to have the time to make the home a nice place to be is something of a bonus.

I think it’s fair to say that at heart I’m happiest when I have someone to look after and care about – and I’m making the absolute most of being able to prepare meals, wash up and launder while I have the free time to do so.

Doing it for myself (at times in my life when things were out of control) seemed utterly pointless – and the truth is as much as I genuinely love looking after the needs of another there is also a personal benefit to be had.

I’m far more likely to look after myself when I’m looking after someone else – and knowing I’ve made their day more pleasurable with a roast dinner or a pile of neatly folded laundry makes all the difference.

I’ve said many times to my partner in our time together that when I was on my own it was the ‘mundane things’ that I craved – and that I currently love about our life together.

It may sound rather boring to many – but the simple pleasure of making someone a cup of tea and then delivering it whilst planting a kiss on their head as they work is really all I’ve ever wanted.

It goes deeper than just being described as mundane however – because as with most things in life there are layers.

The first layer is that I care enough about that person to want to make them a cup of tea – and when I plant that kiss it reminds me how lucky I am to exist in a conflict free, reciprocally loving relationship.

When I make the dinner or turn on the washing machine I don’t do it because I have to.

I do it because I want to.

the second layer relates to my childhood view of relationships. These continually demonstrated to me that little else but endless conflict resulted in extended periods of time together – and my own initial (hamfisted) attempts to find love only seemed to underline this.

They were ultimately about often crippling compromise, disagreements, an inability to be understood, and a complex set of compromises and half truths that both parties lived with in order to remain together.

To me then the mundane is effectively life with all of the above baggage and negative expectations removed.

It’s a massive weight that’s just gone from my life and I’m unbelievably grateful for that.

A good friend said to me not so long ago that after her first significant relationship ended very badly she fought hard to not need anyone.

Being the the determined type she ultimately accomplished this – becoming independent both emotionally and financially – and then once she was randomly bumped into a man that she wanted.

‘I am not with xxxxx because I need to be with him’ she told me emphatically. ‘I’m with xxxxx because I want to be with him.’

I doubt she could have vocalised the contents of my mind better if she’d tried – because that’s exactly how I feel now.

Both myself and my partner have run our own lives independently of outside help for a long time. We’ve had our own places, our own careers and our own way of dealing with the world.

We chose to be with eachother and step away from being alone because we wanted to – and to do so with eachother instantly made our lives better.

It’s because of this that for the first time I can ask someone other than the man in the mirror what they think about me changing my target weight and get an honest answer borne out of nothing but compassion.

This person sees me for who I am, clothed and unclothed – and even laughs when I accidentally (or purposely) fart.

I can change her mood simply by saying ‘Boop’ as I gently poke her with an index finger and she can lift my spirits simply by doing her impression of ‘grumpy cat’.

I can’t cook enough meals or do enough laundry to her for that – because it’s the way I always wanted things to be but never thought that they could be.

You see – in reality I’ve not changed my target – I’ve changed my goal in life.

It’s now ceased to be simply about numbers and it’s become a need to be present in a meaningful way throughout someone else’s life – and vice versa.

Only by continually trying to be fit and healthy can either of us make that happen – and I owe it to myself and her to be the best version of myself that I can.

I try to do this every day. Some are better than others but overall this means being as fit and healthy as I can.

I accomplish this by swimming and walking as much as possible as well as cooking on plan meals and trying to avoid binge eating.

This means at the end of the day (no matter how much I’ve already done) I’m always up for walking around the park together.

There’s nothing better than talking about the day and spending quality time together doing active things that improve our lives.

It means finally living our lives the way that we always should have done.

Davey

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 ūüėŹ

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 ūüėä

Davey

Epic

My initial response to my weigh in today was that it was ‘brutal.’

I said as much when I texted the galling news out to various interested parties.

They all responded supportively (as did my lovely SW group) and without exception started to re-frame the narrative for me and provide words of consolation.

In the words of one dear friend however it wasn’t brutal.

It was instead ‘epic‘ – and on reflection I think I prefer her wording – because whilst my gain can’t really be looked upon as a entirely positive trajectory it can (in the great scheme of things) be termed a victory of sorts.

It’s been three weeks since I last officially stepped on the scales and things have clearly changed.

However my victory comes not from the result scribbled in my book but from the attitude I have towards it.

I sat smiling throughout my group knowing that firstly yesterday morning (before eating pretty much all of my shopping stuck in various traffic jams for around four and a half hours on the way home from Sussex) I was weighing in at 15st 2lbs.

Therefore this isn’t all a gain that’s ‘real’. It’s the cumulative impact of lots of carrots, ham and plums.

It’s also related to several rather nice (reduced) Waitrose salads that disappeared at Oxford services around tea time.

I blame the evil woman with all of the little yellow stickers that compelled me to impulse buy all of the nice things and I blame the traffic for boring me into eating like a porky pig all afternoon!

However I’m not getting too bent out of shape about this.

I could have gone to KFC instead and experience tells me that the impact of this little blow out will be gone fairly soon.

Secondly I’m no longer Man of the Year.

This doesn’t make gaining weight my new goal, and it definitely doesn’t make it ok – but it DOES mean that when I slip up I no longer feel the added pressure to be perfect.

I’m just me, going to a group (relatively) anonymously again and having to look for support rather than being an example of relentlessly good behaviour.

I wish yesterday hadn’t unfolded quite the way it did though.

Irritatingly until then I’d been totally on plan all week and had been preparing and consuming wonderfully speedy meals for two every day while I’ve been down south helping my partner with her packing.

(These are baked stuffed peppers – which I highly recommend – the recipe is here link)

In some ways though my gain has been totally called for because I’ve done a lot less exercise recently due to being busy rather than active.

My right shoulder has been giving me problems ever since I pulled it three weeks ago carrying shopping and it’s not been quite right ever since.

It’s not like me to be kind to myself and rest up – but this time (having learned the hard way) I decided to just back off and stop pushing myself so hard.

Swimming regardless of the pain in my shoulder wasn’t going to repair a damned thing. In reaity there was more of a chance it would make my recovery even slower and until I hit the pool this morning it had actually been over a week and a half since my last swim.

Even though I’ve been doing less, in all truth I’ve carried on eating like a man swimming around a kilometre a day.

Regardless of whether or not you eat good or ‘bad’ food you can still eat too much of it.

I’m back on the case now though and with regard to my swimming my pace has thankfully only dropped a teeny bit since I last went.

I might be heavier but my cardio fitness is still there!

So – what else have I been up to?

Well – truthfully I’ve been relaxing a little over the last couple of days.

There’s still a LOT to do with regard to the move (there’s only 6 days to go!) but there’s only so much packing and stressing a boy (or girl) can take – and as such my partner and I disappeared to Brighton on Wednesday and then caught up with family and friends on Thursday.

Brighton was amazing – and on (almost) the hottest day of the year so far we wandered up and down the beach, stopping only to drink tea and coffee or admire the endless beach and blue skies.

When it got too hot we found shade behind some gabions on the beach covered in local photography.

There’s also a really cool little cafe on the prom near the i360 now which is a really amusing little bit of architecture.

I can’t help but admire the way that Brighton manages to be a little bit left-field, even in the traditional seaside cafe space.

There’s plenty to geek out to as well – and a mooch around the snooper’s paradise market is absolutely guaranteed to make a certain Dr Who obsessed person a little perkier.

(If you want to imagine a voice over to this picture it’s basically ‘got this, got that, have the audiobook of that, that’s good, got that, want that…’ etc etc etc.)

I also found a pair of dungarees that a I knew certain fellow blogger would love – and I wasn’t wrong.

It took a mind bogglingly long five minutes for her to order them online from the moment that I sent through a photo on WhatsApp!

She’s slipping lately.

I would have expected a much faster turnaround previously.

As well as bee themed clothing being a thing in the shops (they seem to ‘bee everywhere’ ūüėŹ) it’s also getting close to pride week and consequently everything is a little bit more rainbow ūüĆą than it usually is.

I just love the inclusiveness and diversity that this brings out in people and the vibrancy of the clothing that it promotes in Brighton.

It just makes me happy whenever I’m surrounded be people just letting it all hang out and being completely truthful to who they are inside.

In the spirit of the place (and because I probably need to get a sun hat – my bald noggin got absolutely frazzled on Wednesday) I couldn’t help but try some alternatives a little outside of my usual comfort zone…

As well as rainbow hats I couldn’t help but marvel at all the beautiful shoes (and shirts) that the town has to offer – and thankfully it doesn’t take much to get my partner to have a look in Irregular Choice.

I can never quite figure out whether I’m dragging her in there or whether she’s dragging me….

The pair that grabbed my attention this time around were more suited to her than myself – but I love the clear sole and the pattern underneath (although I gulped when I saw the price – hence the rapid thumb movement!).

(Link to Instagram video of them)

I’m also quite taken by a pair of pumps in Schuh that I really think would suit my other half – but again at ¬£75) they’re outside of my current comfort zone.

Every time I see a pair of Adidas superstars like these I’m transported back to the 80’s where I’m sitting watching (in black and white because we didn’t have a colour tv when I was little) Run DMC’s video with Aerosmith of ‘Walk this way’.

(Skip to 2.32 for the bit where they walk down the stairs in their bright white superstars! I just LOVE this moment!!!)

The pair I picked up are slightly different though. They have some really funky pearlescent stripes which add a cool ‘zing’ to their retro look when you see them moving.

I think they’re great – but are they worth the price? Personally I think not – but then again I’m pretty frugal.

Thankfully so is my other half so we left empty handed rather than £75 lighter.

We have more than enough to collectively shell out for at the moment with the upcoming move – and I’m really aware all of a sudden that I don’t want to make any impulsive purchases that aren’t needed.

It’s a bonus that we’re completely aligned in this respect.

This afternoon, when I was listening to a radio four trailer for a programme called ‘the money clinic’ (it’s on next Saturday link) I couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief that this is the case.

There’s so much conflict to be found in relationships with regard to money, the lack of it, the way it should be spent or because one half of a partnership is more materialistic than the other.

I know from experience that this can be really damaging over time.

In a previous life I had a serious mis-alignment with a partner about how I should (or should not) spend my money and it caused more than a little resentment to develop between us.

It was also the reason for more than a few arguments and prolonged periods of frosty silence.

In many ways I tentatively entered my current partnership half expecting many of the issues I’d previously encountered in past relationships to once again be present.

Part of me assumed that it was only a matter of time before I found something that worried me, and I’d convinced myself before we met that a huge amount of compromise in any relationship was just a hidden reality waiting to make itself apparent.

I was certain that I’d never be able to be myself and that I’d only be accepted if I played a part rather than be truthful about what I needed and who I was.

When I began to fall for my partner I was ultra diligent (having been burned before) about looking for what I call ‘smoking guns’.

By this I mean that without fail every time I’ve had to look back and evaluate why relationships failed I’ve realised that I knew pretty early on (within the first few weeks typically) what the ‘straws that broke the camel’s back’ were going to be.

Without exception I thought ‘I can live with or change that later’ and in every instance that conclusion proved to be naively delusional.

In the cold light of day I usually had no-one to blame but myself because I realised that I’d known from the very start what the issues were – I just chose to ignore them.

I found out the hard way that if you go into a partnership wanting someone to be any different to the way they are when you meet them them then you’re already setting yourself up for a potential failure.

If you love what they are from the beginning and don’t expect them to change for any reason other than their own ambitions and hopes for the future then it makes life a lot easier.

Saying this is all well and good though.

When it came down to it I never expected this to be the reality of any relationship I found myself in. It seemed like an unobtainable idea that I’d ultimately have to compromise on if I wanted to find anyone.

Against all of my expectations it seems to have become a reality though because I love what I have right now and I don’t need anything to be different.

Something else had to change though to make sure that the same was true in reverse.

I don’t want anyone to see me as a ‘fixer upper’.

I’ve had to change in many ways in order to be capable of having a productive partnership.

Not only did I have to get rid of many bad habits but I’ve had to accept that in past relationships that I’d more often than not completely failed to communicate how I really felt about certain things until they became major issues.

I don’t do that any more.

I’m up front about what I like or don’t like and I try and be forthright and truthful.

I’m as honest in my real life as I am in my blog. There’s nothing hidden in the confines of my relationship, even if it’s painful, paints me in a bad light or is embarrassing to talk about.

One can only hope that the future is bright because of this because I certainly can’t control it.

It’s lunacy to think you know how anything is going to turn out. All you can do is build solid foundations, throw truth out there and hope that it brings love back with it.

So despite my gain I feel epic today Internet – and not just because my friend re-framed my wording – but because the future seems ridiculously bright.

Davey

Shirts, stress and butterflies

Try as I might I can’t seem to stop feeling a little stressed at the moment.

There seems to be so much to do all of a sudden and so little time in which to do it.

Things need to be moved, cleaned, decorated, purchased, planned, implemented, fixed, fiddled with and just generally manipulated so that everything from my partner’s life fits neatly in with my own.

Combining the lives of two adults that have lived alone with their separate hobbies and tendencies to collect both furniture and trinkets is really tough at times.

What do you get rid of and what do you keep?

Rather shockingly I appear currently appear to be in possession of 99 beautiful shirts and of all the items that I can face getting rid of these appear to be the most impossible to separate myself from….

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I’ve resolved therefore¬†(instead of discarding them) to hunt for better storage options – but currently there appear to be no immediately obvious answers with regard to where to put them whilst only in possession of ¬†a modest budget.

Despite spending almost three hours wandering around IKEA in Coventry yesterday looking for solutions I came home empty handed.

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Well almost empty handed.

If you want free parking then you have to buy¬†something –¬†and if IKEA has one ability above all others it’s to present you with a useful little solutions to problems you never knew you had.

Whilst looking for ideas for my bathroom (my beloved has more of a requirement for shampoo and conditioner than I do in the shower) I found this useful suction cup holder.

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I have a habit of buying things in twos for some reason – which in this case is a good thing – because it didn’t occur to me until this morning that this item also made a¬†great under kitchen cupboard spice rack!!!

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Not only had I found an unexpectedly joyful use for this I’d also managed to solve another¬†more pressing issue – and that’s the continual hassle of making myself¬†two espressos in the morning.

Typically the pesky conundrum of how to insert as much weaponised coffee into myself as possible involved me making one espresso, drinking it and then making another.

Imagine my surprise when I realised that there are larger cup sizes out there?!!!

Who flipping knew?!

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£1.25 for a double sized espresso mug?!

Shut up and take my money IKEA!!!

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(The author is well aware that in the background of this highly caffeinated selfie there is also a rotating spice rack sitting on top of his cupboard that is completely unused Рbut in his defence he won it in a Slimming World raffle and he never liked it. So there.) 

But I digress.

I have 99 shirts and nowhere to store them.

The irony is that the overwhelming majority of these have come from charity shops – and although I’ve been very thrifty (usually it costs me around ¬£4 – ¬£6 for a shirt) the reality has now hit me that I will also have to shell out for somewhere to store them.

My current wardrobe is woefully insufficient.

When I was fat (although I was a reclusive diabetic cripple on the verge of a painful death) life was much easier in some respects. I had one pair of 66in trousers and about 3-5 8XL shirts that fitted me.

Most of of the time I resorted to a purple one of them and stayed in that for pretty much every occasion.

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most hated photo 2 (1)

My previous inability to express myself through clothing has now produced a rather unintended side effect, and from a shirt perspective I’m very often very much like a child in a sweet shop.

If I find a hat or shirt that’s bright and vibrant I want to wear it – and I prefer to look a little dandy when I’m out and about.

I also notice that my significant other seems to encourage the ‘peacock’ side of my personality.

Occasionally I suspect it’s because she too has this side to herself…

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This means that the wardrobe space required for me is significantly more than my partner needs. When I had the house to myself it wasn’t a problem. I just decided that I would put aside a room for my clothes and it wasn’t an issue.

Now it’s not so simple.

This is something I feel quite acutely because I really dislike imbalance, or feeling as if I’m overwhelming someone else with my possessions.

My huge volume of shirts therefore make me feel uneasy.

In an ideal world I would have a bigger house and something like this would be an option.

It’s not though – so the hunt is still on.

I’m not yet ready to part with my pretty things so I might just (at some point in the future) have to convert the loft into a dressing room…

There are worse worries in life mind you – and I’m aware that this is very much a¬†first world problem.

Worrying about having too much of anything is not the life I was born into, so in that respect I count myself as fortunate. I have relatively simple tastes and the world I live in provides for those in plentiful abundance.

It’s still hard to decide how to manage all of this and (diet wise) this has made me want to eat. In truth lately most things do¬†– but I’m¬†trying.

I really am.

IMG_3882I have to make good choices because I’ve been struggling a little with my back and my shoulder.

It’s made swimming something thats painful rather than relaxing so I’ve missed a few days recently (which also doesn’t help with my weight).

These injuries are mostly related to moving and lifting heavy items that are also unwieldy and (even though I’m bending my knees whenever possible) pulling something when I get into an awkward position.

Despite being told that I shouldn’t do such things on my own this includes rather dimwitted feats like dragging an IKEA Billy bookcase up my stairs alone on Monday.

My lower back hasn’t been quite the same ever since.

In my defence it needed to happen. The pending influx of boxes and furniture that’s arriving at the end of the month is making me rather obsessive about organising things so that I can relax and sleep properly – which last night (and the night before) didn’t really happen.

I had a fevered dream that it was all off because I hadn’t prepared enough – causing my partner to reverse her plans to move in with me.

Clearly I also have my own subconscious set of groundless worries about possible rejection that I’ve been pushing to the back of my mind.

All of my supermarket purchases this week have therefore had to be of the profoundly ‘good choice’ variety and I’ve been eating lots and lots of vegetables and fish.

However – it’s still the ‘lots‘ bit that’s tripping me up.¬†My food diary (which I’ve stuck to diligently) is much longer than it really should be.

13th July

  • 2x oranges¬†
  • Half can of mackerel
  • Half a pack of chicken slices
  • Olives (2-3 syns)
  • Salad with mint sauce and whole grain mustard
  • 3 squares Lindt chocolate (6 syns)
  • Chilli con carne with rice
  • 1/4 melon
  • 1 Apple
  • 2 plums
  • Half a nectarine

14th July

  • 40g oats¬†
  • Nectarine
  • Plum
  • Half apple
  • Milk (HE)
  • 3.5 syns of cashews
  • Apple, plum, nectarine
  • Quorn/soya super small snack
  • Carrots
  • Chicken pieces
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • M&S Greek style strawberry yoghurt (0.5 syns)
  • Butternut squash chips, sweet potato wedges and a green pepper, garlic red onion, courgette, mushroom, chicken, smokey bacon and Quorn

15th July 

  • 40g oats¬†
  • Half Nectarine
  • Plum
  • Half apple
  • Baked potato
  • Tub of cottage cheese
  • 360g Piri piri chicken pieces
  • Lettuce
  • Gherkins &¬†Tomatoes
  • 4 peaches
  • Tub of pinepple cottage cheese¬†(3 syns)
  • 2 corn on the cob
  • Large mackerel salad with olives (15) (3 syns)
  • Aldi dominion sugar free sweets &¬†Sugar free mints¬†(12¬†syns)
  • Natural yogurt and frozen berries with pineapple cottage cheese (3 syns)

16th July 

  • Jacket potato with tub of cottage cheese and chives¬†pickles and lettuce
  • 2x corn on cob
  • 4 peaches
  • 2x tubs of pineapple cottage cheese (6 syns)
  • Aldi Piri piri smoked mackerel salad with olives (11 syns)
  • Berries and natural yogurt
  • 6 apples
  • Frozen berries and 500g natural yogurt
  • Carrots

17th July 

  • Banana¬†
  • Tuna and mackerel salad with some olives and two corn on the cob
  • Gooseberries
  • 4x nectarines
  • Chicken salad with beetroot and olives – 1 syn
  • Aldi sugar free sweets (2 packs) 12 syns
  • 6x apples

My problem (as always) is that when I ruminate over things I eat – and even when it’s good food it’s still too much.

However – I’m keeping a diary and I’m being honest with myself about what I’m eating – as well as trying to limit the damage whenever possible.

Sometimes the best you can do is just try and take your mind off things by doing something else – and to this end yesterday morning I headed out with a friend to a place nearby that I’ve never vistied before.

Ufton Fields – which (according to the notice board) is a site of special scientific interest.

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Although this isn’t my usual kind of walk (it was short and meandering as opposed to brisk and lengthy) it was a welcome change of pace.

Ufton Fields was just the ticket, because if you march through a place like this without stopping then you’ll miss everything that the beautiful meadows and woods have to offer.

At first glance one may be forgiven for thinking that there’s nothing there.

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It initially looks pretty but quite unremarkable.

However – when you stop and look closer at what’s around you things start to move

There are all manner of little crickets and flies buzzing around the place – and for the first time¬†ever I managed to get close enough to a meadow grasshopper (this is the predominantly green one, whereas the brown one is a field grasshopper¬†link) to film the noise that it makes with it’s back legs.

(Please do watch the above one with the sound turned up, I apologise for the camera shake!)

Other little things are no less interesting Рand the common red soldier beetle (link) is (in my view at least) a truly gorgeous little creature.

Where the real spectacle lies however is in the myriad of butterflies that were simply swarming around the bushes and meadows nearby.

I’d seen none of them before.

I dearly wish that I’d brought with me my ‘proper’ camera rather than just my iPhone as it has a much better zoom lens. However it’s all swings and roundabouts. My phone can do 4K video, whereas my camera cannot.

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Although I thought that this one with two sets of wings was a moth – it turns out (according to my diligently researching companion that day) that it’s a female¬†large skipper (link).

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This slightly fleabitten (but no less wonderful) specimin is called a gatekeeper (link)

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This is a ringlet (link).

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This one is a female meadow brown (link)

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This¬†comma¬†(link) In my view¬†stole the show¬†though- and although I couldn’t quite get close enough for a good cameraphone photo I adore it’s colouring.

I was absolutely buzzing by the time we’d finished our (unbelievably short 1.5 mile) walk.

I was also unaware at the time that my attempts to document the wildlife were in turn being recorded themselves….

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However I’m not averse to some furtive photography and am always aware that at some point I may have to fight fire with fire…

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So – there we have it.

Some busy days have passed and there are even more busy ones ahead.

I need to get on internet!

Time’s a wasting

Davey

The Slimming World Man of the Year 2019

I slept like a baby last night.

Well…

That’s not¬†strictly¬†true.

I actually woke up at 11.30pm on my sofa half way through an evening bowl of Weetabix (which I’d fallen asleep in the middle of eating around 9pm) before padding off to bed, where (once under a duvet) I lay motionless for the next 7 hours.

Today I still feel a little tired, but also very very content.

Yesterday I handed over the mantle of MOTY to another (very worthy) winner at the Slimming World HQ in Derby.¬†As always the sparkly castle is a pleasure to visit – because the people there are always so nice – but if I’ve never been there without feeling a corresponding level of stress too.

Absolutely no-one makes me feel this way but me – and the reasons for feeling this way have been different every time. On this occasion I was mostly worrying about being out of target, not being quite as thin as I was when I attended last year and what I’d say to people.

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It’s all in my head though.

All of the clothes I wore fitted just fine, people kept telling me I looked smart, fit and healthy and my partner kept reassuringly squeezing my hand and telling me I was definitely her cup of tea as well as pinching my bottom when no-one was looking.

Thanks to litres of coffee (only having had a few hours sleep) I think I managed to work through my concerns and pulled off the ‘fully functioning human being’ look long enough to shake a lot of hands, feature in a lot of selfies, speak to a lot of people, and then drive home without appearing manic.

Well – maybe not in all of the photos…

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My smile can hide a lot though.

Sometimes in my head though I’m still the fattest man in the room and I’m not sure I’m ever going to get away from that.

It may well be with me for life.

Bizarrely though – despite feeling this way and desperately not wanting to be a disappointment to my assembled peers I was treated like a rockstar from the moment I arrived to the moment I left.

I lost count of the number of hugs and kind comments I received throughout the proceedings.¬†Not only were the PR team and SW management all smiley and happy to see me again but the consultants and contestants all wanted to congratulate me on doing so well as well as ask me questions about how the year had been and how I’d found weight maintenance in the spotlight.

Consultants were even photobombing my selfies!

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Things continued to be slightly surreal throughout the day.

When it was time for a bite to eat¬†I realised I was on huge TV just inside the doors of canteen – meaning that I ended up watching myself on a loop whilst eating the lovely (Slimming World friendly) buffet meal they’d laid on for lunch.

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As if things weren’t weird enough one of the PR team pointed out that things have changed a little since I last visited and that there’s now a MASSIVE life size photo of me (taken at the ball last November) on the wall in the Miles Bramwell suite!

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I don’t think I’ve ever seen a static image of myself this big on any wall anywhere and I couldn’t help but take a photo.

My partner was also barely able to contain her glee and immediately bounded toward the wall like a Labrador chasing 20 tennis balls.

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That woman absolutely flipping LOVES Rylan Clarke-Neal…

The day wasn’t about me (or him) though. It was about the selection of the new Slimming World¬†Man of the Year 2019 – and everywhere I looked there were nervous hopefuls flanked by their anxious consultants. Every last one of them were desperately trying to remember their five minute speeches whilst no doubt dealing with their own inner demons.

The field of contestants was a little smaller this year than last. The 2019 crowd had already been whittled down to a group of 37 (although oddly I only count 34 here) before the day.

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Crazily the same statistic from last year was in evidence – and the guys in this photo had lost an incredible average of OVER TEN STONE each.

As was the case for the MOTY event that I attended last year a random footballer (whom the ladies nearby had to tell me the name of) was the guest of honour.¬†Apparently he’s quite famous – so I assume that my proximity will make other men rather jealous.

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Truthfully I was completely clueless Рalthough I will say that Ex England International Emile Heskey did seem (as did Ex England International John Barnes last year) like a lovely fellow Рand had a killer handshake to go with his rather imposing stature.

You can’t see his feet here – but he was wearing heels.

I’m actually taller.

He’s a midget.

True story.

I have to say that the event brought back a LOT of memories – but this time the pressure was definitely a lot less than the first and second times I had visited HQ. Now I was standing there as the 3rd greatest loser 2018 and the returning Man Of The Year 2018, rather than a nervous contestant.

Now no-one could take anything away from me and instead this time around I got to sit where my judges sat before Рwhich was behind the groups listening to the stories of the contestants.

Hearing these brought a lot of feelings to the surface.

Some of them are because I remember only too well the pain these guys felt in life. I’ve been bullied like they have. I’ve suffered the same health conditions they too have pushed into remission. I’ve been told I’m incapable of doing things because I’m too big and like them now I can do anything I want. I’ve struggled to find clothes but now walk into any shop and wear what I want just like them.

I’ve also felt the continual rebuke of a toxic parent like many had done, lived through the consequences of how worthless they made us feel and recognised the sense of lost opportunity and wasted time that many of them were still struggling with.

Every one of these personal humiliations and regrets are with me all the time in the background. They’re my continual dark passengers – and when life is hard they ring the bell on my bus, sometimes causing it to stop or swerve.

Occasionally they cause the wheels to fall off completely.

Just like me though all of these men chose another way – and whilst none of us will ever be ‘cured’ (who is?) they now have the tools to build a better life that’s free from pain and humiliation.

Furthermore they now have a platform from which they can shout aloud if they wish. They can go on social media and back to their groups with their heads held high and evangelise about what’s possible with loud, happy, positive voices.

Or if they prefer they can just quietly get on with life and silently inspire those who are watching from the sidelines.

They certainly inspired me – hopefully in the same way I’d inspired some of them.

We all need a reminder of why we try each and every day to be better people and these guys certainly did that for me.

My part in the proceedings wasn’t without it’s responsibilities mind you because my function this year was primarily to speak to the assembled crowd both at the start and near the close of events.

This is a difficult speaking engagement – because I didn’t want it to be about me and what I’d done to win the award last year. They already knew how hard it had been to lose weight.

I didn’t need to tell any of them that.

Instead I felt it was vitally important to get across the point that no-matter what happened that day every single man in that room has changed their life for the better and in doing so they had almost certainly changed the lives of others.

They were all already winners.

I had more to say though – because it what comes next for them (and many other target members who go to a group each week) is no longer about a race to a goal weight. It’s now about the start of an ongoing and never ending battle.

This award (and reaching target) isn’t the punctuation mark at the close of a journey. In many ways it’s capital letter on another page at the start an entirely new chapter – because now they all have to live with the sometimes difficult reality of getting what they’ve always wanted.

They’ve made it.

They’re standing on the top of their personal mountain.

But what comes next?

The bigger question they’ll all have to address now is how to live a life that wasn’t available to them before, and how live with being a source of inspiration for others without being undermined by their inner monologues.¬†Each and every one of them has a new voyage to embark upon – and that’s one of weight maintenance combined with continual minute adjustments to their self image and self worth.

Now they rebuild.

They can all do it though.

I know they can.

They have the support of their groups and their consultants as well as people at home that love them.

I did make it a little personal though.

I couldn’t help myself.

I told the room that just after winning last year I randomly met my partner doing something I’d never been capable of without losing my weight. I told everyone listening that I was in love and that the greatest boon of the whole experience was not the award I’d received but what it had enabled for my future.

I got to tell them what it all meant, how happy it had made me and then I gave them all their awards and shook their hands.

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It doesn’t get much better than that does it?

Not everyone can win though and shortly after the presentations the judges read out the names of the men that would move forward to the last part of the proceedings.

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This was the final group of ten Рand every last one of them was a worthy winner.

As is always the case it’s practically impossible to guess in advance of an announcement who will take home the title – but you can usually tell who’s in with a chance because they have the ability to make you laugh at the same time as make you cry and the eventual winner certainly did that.

I spoke to many, shook hands with all, and even gave out my phone number in one case, because (I have to be honest) I feel a sense of kinship with these people. If ever they need my advice or help they only have to ask.

I won’t be mentioning his name here, because that will soon appear in the media, but I will say that (along with many other guys yesterday) he truly deserved both the award he received and the recognition of his achievements from all those involved.

So – that’s almost the end of a my period as Slimming World’s MOTY 2018. Once I’ve been to the ball in November as the outgoing recipient I’ll probably be quietly getting on with my life in blissful anonymity.

I’ve handed the baton over to the next man. I hope he runs like the wind with it and¬†I wish him all the luck in the world.

2019 and the rest of his life will never be the same again.

Davey

The road to the Man Of The Year 2019

So it’s been a while.

How have you been?

Ok I hope?

Good.

I’ve missed you – but haven’t felt like I wanted to talk for a while because there’s been a lot going on that I didn’t feel I could share with you.

In many respects the last few weeks have been quite difficult, but in others they’ve also been extremely enjoyable. I’ve still been talking and sharing but recently I’ve been doing it in an entirely different way.

You see – whilst I’ve not been exhaustively blogging my hopes fears and dreams like I have in the past I’ve still had an outlet for my musings and I’m in a good place.

I now have someone to share everything with and we never miss an opportunity to talk when the need arises.

In this respect I’m more than OK.

I’m actually in a terrific place when it comes to matters of the heart and find myself to currently be insanely happy and fulfilled. Things seem to keep going from good to even gooder and if I was looking at me from the outside I’d probably be vaguely irritated by how contented I must appear because at times I’m positively floating.

My partner moves in with me in less than a month and therefore a lot of our mutual calendars have been (and still are) filled with the very real and very pressing practicalities of what it means to combine two lives that have been solitary for many years.

We’re joining mature households containing a lifetime of possessions, and in doing so simultaneously jettisoning items and approaches to life that we no longer need. We’re holding onto only the best and bringing those traits and posessions together to form something infinitely better than that which existed beforehand.

Consequently my mind is continually alive with the possibilities of it all and my heart genuinely skips a beat when I think about the enormity of it and what it means for the future.

It’s no longer me.

It’s US.

Much time lately has been spent in charity shops (admittedly this will not come as a surprise to many) but almost none of it has been to purchase anything – because bag after collective bag of DVD’s CD’s, clothes, electrical appliances, bric a brac and even furniture have now been donated or simply given away.

In some ways it’s galling.

How could we have spent so much on things?

In others it’s just confusing.

Why do these things mean so little to us now?

Mostly it’s just liberating.

We’re no longer reliant on things to make us happy.

Even if we decided against our current plan of action to live together (which doesn’t seem in the least bit likely) we would already both be in a much much better place because a lot of the deadweight and needless clutter (that neither of us really appreciated had been filling our homes) has already been jettisoned in favour of a leaner and more focused existence.

We need so little in reality.

There’s still a lot more to do but I’m enjoying the process of finding true worth in my possessions immensely.

At the moment I can’t sleep though.

As is sometimes usual with me – it’s 2am on Sunday morning and all I can think about is washing up my used tupperware and tidying the kitchen.

I’ve also pulled a muscle in my right shoulder and it’s niggling me. As I type the ibuprofen gel that I’ve just smeared all over it is thick and sticky on the surface of my arm.

I can feel it tugging like a second skin as my fingers play over the keyboard in front of me.

Whilst matters of the heart have been going well other things have not been so good and there have been some aspects of my life that (once again) aren’t making sense.

As of Monday I’m starting the hunt for another job.

As much as I was hoping that my role would be a good fit for me things didn’t work out so I took steps to move on – which of course has prompted my usual avalanche of self doubt and soul searching.

I’ve fixed so many aspects of myself but I still seem perpetually unable to find the same measure of happiness that I once found in my working life and it’s gnawing away at me deep down.

Why can’t I be satisfied? Why do I now question everything? Why do I want more from life but not understand what ‘more’ actually means, where to find it and how to achieve it?

It’s tough.

Something isn’t clicking job wise and it hasn’t been ever since I started to lose weight and gain independance.

I’d dearly love to know what the answer is – because in the meantime the stress and worry this causes me means that I can slip from grace and return to old habits. When I do I still have an unnerving capacity for over indulging to compensate for emotional dips.

Consequently my current weight is above where I wanted it to be.

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Thankfully I know deep down that while I may occasionally have my wobbles I’m never going to go back to the man I was.

Results like the one when I stepped on the scales last week and realised I’d gained 6.5lbs may occur from time to time, but now I deal with them and accept that life will just happen and when it does you have to cope with it the best way you can.

That may mean you struggle for a little while in some areas (such as dietary discipline) but then things will eventually get better. When they do you you will invariably find a way around whatever the issue was and afterwards you pick up the pieces, start doing the best that you can again and move right along.

The truth is that there’s no such thing as being ‘naturally thin’.

There’s just continued effort, and an underlying willingness to try (over and over again) to be a better person.

I beat myself up a lot when I shouldn’t – but even I know that my approach to health is so radically different from what it used to be that my current excesses seem comical in comparison.

So what do I feel guilt about these days?

I have eaten a lot of Weetabix. I have consumed waaay too much fruit, I’ve over indulged in cottage cheese and I have a definite weakness for scan-bran with Primula and Marmite.

It’s almost hilarious when I lay it bare on the page like that.

In one respect it’s proof that no-matter what you consume (good or bad) it’s possible to over indulge and screw up – and I could get down about once more proving that I still eat too much.

But…

It’s definitely not the same as what I used to do.

I used to be the guy who’s wheels fell off the bus each and every night of the week.

Again and again and again (link) I did this to myself.

Way to work (1130kcal)

  • Two double sausage and egg McMuffins ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď I guesstimate approx 20g (64kcal) per slice (total 384kcal)
  • Two packs of 125g ham ‚Äď 290kcal
  • 3x tomatoes (67kcal each) and cucumber slices (10kcal) ‚Äď (201kcal)
  • Two packets of Mccoys crisps (multipack ones are 141kcal each) (282kcal)

Evening meal (1595kcal)

  • Sainsburys 800g Taste the difference shepherds pie  (850kcal)
  • Approx 500g oven chips (McCain Home fries) (745kcal)

Snacks and drinks (3023kcal)

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

Total (if I didn‚Äôt have an evening takeaway instead of a ready meal) ‚Äď 7473kcal

That meant I lost control of everything – and that loss nearly extended to my life.

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These days my excesses are held in check by the structures I’ve incrementally built to support myself.

First and foremost these are represented by people.

I’m never far away from them and they keep me grounded. I always talk about and share what’s happening – be it good or bad – and this keeps me on an even keel.

 

I generally try and do this with exercise involved and when I can’t see them I walk or swim alone as regularly as possible.

In this respect I find that my addiction to the endorphins my activities provide is my new treat mechanism. Whereas in the old days I used food and alcohol to deal with good and bad times, now (whilst food can still at times be an issue) I use walking and swimming.

 

This means I’m always getting fitter ( I still average 8-9 miles a day every day) and compared to the first time I managed to swim 1250m (50 lengths of my local pool) I am now a stronger and more capable person in the water as well as in life.

So why am I contemplating this in the dark whilst my partner sleeps elsewhere?

Well it’s primarily because it’s been a year since I became the Slimming World MOTY – and I’m asking myself what it all means.

 

Have I been a good example? Have I lived up to both my own and other people’s expectations? Did SW make the right choice when they chose me?

I have no idea.

I really don’t know.

I’m currently out of target by half a stone but I’m also fitter (and noticeably more muscular) than I’ve ever been in my life. I’ve tried hard to be the man I believe I should have always been and in doing so I’ve heaped pound ofter pound of pressure to be perfect upon myself in the dark of many mornings and sleepless evenings just like this one.

I’ve privately and endlessly agonised over whether I’ve matched up to the impossible standards that I set for myself.

I do this mostly because of this photo.

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You see – when I won my award a year ago I didn’t feel simply like I’d gained an accolade.

Instead I felt for the longest time that what I’d actually done was deny it to 50+ other men who had each proven insanely worthy in their own right. Every one of them had a heart wrenching tale to tell that day and I felt every drop of the personal pain that they shared.

In fact I went further than feeling it.

I took it, made it my own and used it as a motivator – telling myself that I had to live up to the MOTY title because if I didn’t then I was betraying everything not only I but they had achieved in their lives.

I still see many of them doing it each and every day on social media. They run marathons, inspire others, help their communities, do things for charity and have rich, rewarding lives.

The average loss per man in the room that day was over 10st.

How can you even begin to calculate what that means to a life?

I couldn’t and I still can’t.

I remember thinking at the time that the total represented a woman per man that could have been standing by the side of each and every face in the photo.

I didn’t understand back then that the thought probably reflected more about what I wanted from my own future than I realised – and it showed that deep down I’d started to hope that my future would no longer be a solitary one.

Although my award alone didn’t mean that I found love (and I believe I have) it sparked the events that caused me to meet the woman I now want to share my life with, and it was instrumental in starting the conversation on the top of Cheddar Gorge that ultimately drew this person toward me.

The words I wrote about my experiences relating to my involvement with Slimming World were read by her and the actions I took (and still take) to live up to the standards I’d set for myself seem to attract her even now.

Consequently this past year has been incalculably important to me.

With a marked increase in the weight I heaped upon my own shoulders however also came a lot of opportunities to inspire and touch people’s lives in a way I don’t think I otherwise would have.

I became a noticable presence in the press for a time, and my social media footprint (as well as traffic on this blog) took off in a completely unexpected manner.

Some conversations (often the most random and out of the blue ones) stopped me in my tracks because they’ve showed me time and time again that other peoples lives have been changed for the better because of what I’ve achieved.

Sometimes because of the words that I’ve written or said and on other occasions simply it’s simply the example that I’ve set. My father for instance (who was not previously at a healthy weight) is now 2/3rds of the man he was before I won my title.

I’ve proven that even when you’re close to death you can pull back from the brink, rebuild and have a life that’s worth living that can enrich the lives of others.

Later today (at Slimming World HQ in Derby where I’m attending the MOTY 2019 finals) I will hand that responsibility to another man.

If I’m honest it’s with a mixture of relief and sadness that I see this chapter draw to a close.

I feel relief because I can finally let go of the (self imposed) pressure, and sadness because it’s been wonderful and it’s changed my life.

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It’s given me a future with someone that I care deeply about, and along with my own carefully laid foundations has proven to me what I and others are capable of in life.

It’s been an amazing year.

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It’s going to be an amazing life.

Back soon internet.

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Davey

For the rest of my life

It’s a lovely day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The truth is that I’m being flippant though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My partner isn’t the only one.

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

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

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

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

She will make an awesome consultant.

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

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

I’ve changed and I continue to change.

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

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

Davey

Cheddar and the Picture House

Even by my recent standards I’ve been ridiculously quiet on the blogging front over the last week.

However whilst previously this may have left me with a nagging sense of guilt I really don’t feel that way currently because life is ridiculously and legitimately busy.

My new job has started and I’ve been trying to once again get used to manoeuvring all the ‘life stuff’ that I need to get done around working full time.

Thankfully I’m not something that’s such a distant memory that it’s hard to do – and even when I wasn’t working I’ve usually been up at the crack of dawn for a swim and a walk.

I’ve always been an early riser – but my sudden employment (it seemed to come out of nowhere after lots of fruitless applications) has been a rude reminder that I need to plan things like shopping and meals a bit more in advance than I have been for the past few months.

It’s been hard to stay on plan – but that’s not the only slightly jarring thing about working 9-5 again.

The start date of my new role (somewhat unfortunately) arrived right after a wonderful bank holiday period that’s been absolutely awesome.

Consequently I’ve had to pivot from ‘relaxed wandering and exploring whilst feeling excessive levels of chill’ into ‘sit behind this desk all day and learn new stuff’.

Consequently the bank holiday is already a distant memory and my brain feels like it’s been griddled like a BK Whopper.

Before I felt like my mind had been beaten black and blue though my fleeting moments of freedom found me once again in Cheddar Gorge.

It’s a special place for me – because it was there (whilst doing a random circular walk) that I first met someone who’s become really important to me.

At the top of this very hill at the exact moment I took a photo of myself the future arrived.

It was also slogging up a hill with a heavy pack on its back, doing exactly what I also love to do.

Thanks to my phone and my tendency to photograph absolutely everything I know the time and the GPS coordinates of that moment.

I’m pretty anal like that.

This time I’d not only returned to the scene of the crime – but I had that special person in tow with me – and we were both keen to experience the whole event all over again.

The difference was that this time it wasn’t a day trip, but a weekend in a camper van.

This is admittedly something of a new experience for me.

Not only had I never slept overnight in any kind of vehicle before but I’d never stayed at a camp site either.

I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the experience despite fully expecting the Carry On cast to appear and Barbara Windsor to start enthusiastically exercising in front of me in a bikini.

Sigh.

Childhood memories…

It was all great though – regardless of her absence.

Sure – getting up to go to the loo in the middle of the night wearing pyjamas when it’s around 300 metres away at the opposite end of a damp field isn’t ideal – but I stoically managed to go number 1’s in the dark successfully and otherwise slept like a baby.

This is mildly unusual – and as someone near and dear to me will attest I can be a pretty restless sleeper at times.

In a camper however (with significantly less caffeine imbibed than usual) I slept like the recently deceased – which was wonderful.

All of this grade A rest made the trekking associated with a visit to a place like this a lot more palatable – and over the two days while we were there we walked as much as we possibly could.

It wasn’t all plain sailing mind you.

Being a careful kind of fellow I liberally applied lots of sun cream – and consequently all of my exposed parts went a satisfying warm pink colour.

For me this is usually as good as tanning gets.

However – I neglected to account for unexposed areas and my shirt let liberal amounts of sunlight through.

It’s a rookie mistake because I actually have SPF rated North Face shirts for trekking and neglected to pack them, choosing instead a lightweight Berghaus one.

This ultimately meant that I ended up with a chest that resembled a red and white picnic blanket afterwards – which was less than ideal.

It didn’t matter though.

Sunburn fades – but I suspect that the memory of a day like this will last a lot longer.

Whilst I didn’t know it at the time I started changing a lot of thought processes when I first visited here.

I’d randomly chosen it as a destination in August last year partially because I was running away from negative feelings and I needed a fresh perspective.

I thought I might find it at altitude.

I needed to work stuff out and I couldn’t do it looking at the walls of my house glaring at a TV playing video games or binge watching box sets.

Walking and clambering over things is my process.

It fixed everything for me.

It often still does.

If things don’t make sense then I try not to worry. Just putting one foot in front of another repeatedly will make it all better.

As I walked and tried to make sense of my (pained) feelings and experiences (I’d just become MOTY) the world opened up and unfolded for me.

I’m very fond of the opinion that the universe listens and this was just such a moment.

I enjoyed going back.

It was a great bank holiday and no mistake.

Now however I’m back to Earth with a bump.

I have lots to learn in my work life, lots to do in my everyday life, lots of planning to get through for the future – and suddenly I’m bewildered by how little time I seem to have to accomplish it in.

There suddenly don’t appear to be enough hours in the day – and everything has to be squeezed into a frantic weekend.

That works well for some activities however – and on Saturday (having managed to avoid ALL spoilers) I went to see Avengers: Endgame.

My fellow geek and I decided to make it a special occasion and we booked a showing at a lovely little cinema called ‘The Picture House’ in Uckfield (link)

This is an absolutely lovely building built in 1913 and kept to a very high standard.

It has a small family feeling that multiplexes just can’t hope to compete with.

You don’t have to compromise though. The seating is modern, the image is Dolby 4K and the sound is Dolby 7.1

The movie looked and sounded every bit as good as any other modern cinema I’ve been to and in my view this place richly deserves the awards that it’s received.

I’d go so far as to say that it’s better than the Electric cinema (although it has no sofas the screen is better) in Birmingham that I visited a while ago (link) – which is high praise indeed!

If the lovely red velvet everywhere wasn’t enough there’s a restaurant directly opposite The Picture House to tittilate your tastebuds. However from a SW perspective there wasn’t much on the menu that wouldn’t completely screw me over.

Instead I made sure I ate a hearty on plan meal before going – but once in the foyer I did decide to make one small concession to naughtiness.

Life is for living after all.

It’s been aaaaages since I had some hot popcorn and I just couldn’t resist.

Yum!

If you’re looking for spoilers you will NOT find them here – but you will find a one word review.

Absolutelyfrigginawesomeineveryconceivableway!!!!

If you’re planning to go then you’re going to love it.

If you’re on the fence then hop right off and book a ticket because the answer is ‘YES. IT IS THAT GOOD!’

So that’s that.

This relatively short blog can’t hope to do justice to the complexity of other things going on my in life at the moment.

At times my brain has felt like it’s in danger of melting – but this doesn’t mean that what I’m thinking about is a problem.

Life is so good that my choices now boil down to ‘if I leap in one direction everything will work out but it will be complicated’ and ‘if I leap in the other it will be just as good and just as complex but will work out a little bit different’.

If only all of life’s decisions were like that eh?

Anyway. I better get a move on internet. My newly seated job requires that just like everyone else I have to fit my steps and miles in before or after work.

Off I go.

Davey

Sorted.

Well – I weighed in.

Thankfully a few weeks of austerity and positive food choices have resulted in positive outcomes.

Being back in tatget was by no means a certainty – and before I could contemplate standing on the scales at group yesterday morning I had to swim a kilometre and a quarter, walk several miles, enthusiastically visit the loo (waiting a while for all of the carriages of the train to arrive in the station) and then make sure I was wearing my absolute lightest featherweight outfit.

It all worked out ok though. I weighed in at exactly 14st and I’m back in target.

Oddly however I didn’t take a photo of my weigh in book to mark the triumph – which is unlike me.

I’ve done this every week I’ve been to group without fail – however the yesterday I didn’t stay, and therefore my routine was disrupted.

To be clear – I’m a staunch advocate of staying to image therapy, and when I weigh in I pretty much always remain for the talk as well as the company.

Both keep me on an even keel, leave me in the right mindset and remind me that I’m not alone if I feel like I’m struggling.

So – I’ve officially lost 5lbs but unofficially actually lost 1st 2lbs to get back into range.

Now all I have to do is maintain my good behaviour. This is going to be a completely new challenge because next week I start a new job.

Yep – I’m finally leaving the ranks of the great unwashed and rejoining the workforce.

This one is once again local – a big thing for me because I can walk to work instead of drive – and means I can still get my exercise in at the start or end of the day.

I will also be able to continue with my swimming too! Yay!

Hopefully the job I’ve chosen will also keep me mentally busy and I’ll be learning about something new in the process – which is my overall objective.

Well.

Maybe not completely – because this a temporary contract (initially at least) and will enable me to figure out what comes next in my journey.

I know what I want and I know who I want that with – but so far I’m not sure how that will pan out and where it will take shape.

In the meantime I’m just going with the flow and enjoying life – because I currently have everything I need in it.

After a long drive yesterday that was as simple as a little pitch on a camp site.

Here I sat happily with my partner in crime as we listened to the surrounding chatter and watched the dying embers of a log fire whilst the sun disappeared from view.

I’ll think about real life when I return to it.

In the meantime I’m just going to enjoy it.

Davey

Purged.

My blogging schedule has become rather erratic of late – and (although this may seem odd to those reading) I feel that I’m only just stepping away from the guilt that this caused me in the past.

My blog hasn’t exactly got a wide circulation – nor are (I suspect) the day to day comings and going’s of what’s happening in my life all that interesting to most people – but for whatever reason I feel that I have a responsibility to myself and others to write about my ‘journey’ and be open and honest.

The thing is, for quite a while I also linked that to ‘be prolific in my output.’

Initially when I started writing I wanted to see if I could maintain and nurture a creative streak that I’d previously pounded out of existence with food and alcohol.

I think I’ve managed to do that.

In the three plus years since I started writing I’ve penned around 700 posts and things I’ve written and photos I’ve taken have been viewed over 156,000 times by practically every country around the world.

I never thought that would happen and it’s been amazing to continually be reminded that people everywhere are so similar – and that they can be so kind and thoughtful.

I guess though that I’ve had to accept that ultimately life is for living and that each and every thought and moment doesn’t have to be pulled apart and examined.

Sometimes it just needs to be experienced.

I’m doing my best to make this my default lately – and although some things have made me linger and ponder ‘what everything means’ -for the most part I’m happier than I can ever remember myself being.

It’s not all about weight loss either – and if I’m honest the whole Slimming World thing has taken a bit of a back seat since I secured my diamond target member badge.

In my head that was always the moment when I wanted to withdraw from the limelight a bit and begin the gradual process of living outside of the shadow of my weight loss.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m proud of everything I’ve accomplished – and I can’t really imagine Slimming World or the people I’ve come into contact through it ever not being a part of my life. What I’m saying is that I don’t want to be defined by this one achievement (as big as it is) for the rest of my life.

I’d much rather be known as ‘that nice guy who’s my friend’ or ‘someone I met that seemed genuine and kind’ than ‘the guy with a massive pair of old trousers’ or ‘the man who was 35 stone and almost flushed his life down the toilet.’

There’s so much more to live for now and I’m bowled over by how tightly I want to not only hold onto, but develop my newfound happiness.

There’s now someone in my life that finishes my sentences – or just speaks out loud the thoughts in my head before I’ve managed to convert them into speech.

I’m blown away by how sitting in the park having a coffee with someone I care so much about (as she quietly takes a picture of me for herself) can lift my soul for days on end.

The future has never seemed so…. possible.

I’m continually confronted with thoughts about what the future could be and struck every day by the amazing truth that something with such a profound sense of permanence has appeared practically out of nowhere.

Now things are different.

The ‘adult’ side of me wonders whether I’m naive to feel the way I do – but I’m not an adolescent. I’m a grown up with a history of pain and regret.

The past has taught me what ‘the wrong person’ or ‘the wrong situation’ feels like – and how ignoring hunches or not being completely honest when confronted with an obvious truth just stores up trouble for the future.

I’m continually preoccupied with the realisation that my youthful avoidance of what was directly in front of me as well as my wilful impulsively is in the past.

I know what and who I want in my future.

Against all odds – and simply through trying to be a better version of myself I appear to have blundered into exactly what and who I need to continue my journey.

And it all happened at this exact moment.

I was outside, doing what I love to do and trying to figure out what to do as I came down from the highs and lows of winning the MOTY award.

Then the future literally arrived in front of me and began the gradual process of changing my life completely.

Since that moment I’ve made a few missteps and a few false starts – maybe even a few questionable choices – but ultimately realised that at the time I almost completely missed what was being presented to me on that day until months later.

Since then life has taken on new meaning and what was important years ago never seemed so irrelevant as it does today.

When confronted with something that’s suddenly so important and vital to your life (and continued emotional well being) it’s impossible not to look around you and quietly shake your head while you marvel at how on earth you ever found any measure of joy in the items and possessions you filled your life with.

I’m a totally different man now and so much of who I used to be seems alien and incomprehensible.

Aside from almost all of my photographic history no longer making sense I now look at every shelf and item in my house with an increasingly strong conviction that every single last bit of it is both transient and disposable.

As I’ve taken more and more items to charity and organised what remains I’ve realised that object related sentiments are often wholly misplaced – and in the absence of real feelings and love I filled (and overcomplicated) my life with all manner of clutter and crutches that neither made me truly happy or filled the hole in my emotions.

I assiduously collected and organised books, magazines, video games, technology and other such items – all the while telling myself that they’re ‘who I am’ – when in reality they were all just dead weight.

I possess books unopened for decades and magazines covered in dust as well as yellowed video games that I no longer have the time or inclination to play.

They may make someone happy in the future but I’m pretty certain that that this person won’t be me – because if I turn to them again it will only be if I’m in retreat.

Now all that they seem to represent is a cave – in which I hid for far too long and my current life is lived in sunlight.

Much of how I feel and why I feel it is deeply personal – and it’s one of the main reasons I haven’t written so much lately.

My barometer of happiness has been recalibrated and it’s gauge is elsewhere.

However I’m also addicted to words.

I love stringing them together and in many ways the impulse to do so is almost like a sudoku puzzle or crossword, because when I write I can feel an inner peace descending while I order and confront thoughts in the forefront and recesses of my mind.

Today I was going to write about my walk in Brighton on Saturday and the pretty shoes I looked at.

I was going to muse about how I fantasised about being brave enough to wear them.

But I didn’t.

I was also going to talk about the art prints I saw in a coffee shop and gallery that I thought looked really cool.

But I didn’t.

Feelings instead carried me away in a different direction.

They drifted to a happy place – to the warmth of the hand that I was holding when I looked at these things and to the mind connected to it that I shared the moment with.

The shoes and Marmite jars suddenly seemed less important.

The point is that I never really know what I’m going to say when I start writing – and I almost never know where it’s going to end up – but I do know that when I finish typing I’m always purged.

I don’t think I’m ever going to stop blogging – but now my life has become filled with something and someone that’s real and present.

All I want to do is experience everything it promises to offer.

So – please forgive me for my irregularity of late internet. I’m still here, wandering around in the background, stroking my chin and enjoying my life and everything in it.

Davey

Leaning into Grassman

It’s been a little while since I felt like writing a post and this has been for a variety of reasons.¬†Firstly there have been a couple of days where frankly I have been struggling a bit under the weight of a rather downbeat mood.

There are a couple of reasons for me feeling a tiny bit blue Рbut neither of them are serious and both pale into insignificance in the great scheme of things. However, in my experience (when it comes to emotional states) how you feel has very little to do with reality and is often just temporary perception.

Mine would have me believe that (in certain respects) I’ve not been doing as well as I could or should have recently and that because of this I’m less than successful in life than I would like.

The weather hasn’t really helped my frame of mind – and when I’ve tried to do things to that will bring positivity and order to my life – such as make my environment a tidy one – it’s dragged me down even further.

Summer can’t come back soon enough in my opinion.

I’m already sick of the inclement weather we’re enduring lately. Davey doesn’t do cold weather any more.¬†His bones ache in lower temperatures and his hands quickly get cold without gloves or central heating.

Lord knows I’ve tried to be outdoorsy.¬†Truthfully though I’ve not been ‘feeling it’ for a week or so and the damp, windy world outside my window has been a tough sell.

Despite it’s inaugural haircut of 2019¬†my back garden remains rather miserable looking at the moment.

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I’m very much looking forward to the return of green leaves and that odd yellow ball in the sky that makes everything blossom and generally look a little more inviting.

I’ve discussed planting herbs this year with a friend – since he’s pointed out that I’d probably use these a lot in my frequent cooking – but this will require significant clearing and weeding of my borders to do so.

That’s something to work on in the near future – but on a day like the one above I only just managed to get the job done and take a picture before the heavens opened and the world filled once more filled with puddles and mud.

Since many days recently have been too grim to venture out very far at all I’ve also been tackling another task that I’ve been putting off for way too long.

Clutter.

We all carry so much needless crap from place to place throughout our lives in the name of sentimentality that sometimes we have to step back and ask ourselves why the items that adorn our walls, fill our cupboards and populate our shelves are there in the first place.

What purpose do they serve any more and do they bring any joy or happiness?

Many things we hold on to do not. They just sit there staring lazily back at us day after day after day after day with absolutely no identifiable purpose…

In my case one of my Achilles heels has been books.

From an early age I was taught to revere these and treat them with care because they¬†contain wisdom, they’re important, and only troglodytes or Nazis dispose of them.

I’ve held on to legions of these since my degree years and I can’t remember opening a single one again since the time their related essays rolled off the press and into my tutor’s pigeon to be marked.

I finished my degree before the millennium…

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Whilst leafing through one rather yellowed and dusty tome related to Arthurian literature (Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain – a great bedtime read for those crippled by insomnia) I couldn’t help but notice a bookmark, dating back (roughly) to the last time I paid it any interest.

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UCI cinemas haven’t existed for around a decade and a half (they were slowly merged with Odeon cinemas in the early 2000’s). This Solihull outlet in particular was bulldozed to make way for a car dealership in 2005/6 (link).

The film it showed (Chain Reaction link) is so old that at the time Keanu Reeves was still best known for Bill & Ted’s excellent adventure and Morgan Freeman still had (some) dark hair.

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So I had to ask myself why I was holding onto a book (and many other similar ones) that I hadn’t opened for 27 years…

Well the truth is that I didn’t need to – so I cleared out¬†every book¬†that had no current value to me, taking them to a charity shop along with a number of other items secreted around my house.

Bit by bit I spent a few days getting rid of a past that I no longer inhabit and haven’t for a¬†very long time.¬†

This only slightly lifted my mood however.

There are some things I can’t bring myself to dispose of – despite not using them very much any more so instead I tried to bring order to their chaos.¬†Films and video games are something that these days take up way more space in my home than they currently account for in my very much more active life.

I decided therefore to pack away much of my old console game back catalogue and combine my DVD & Blu-Ray collection in alphabetical order.

This supremely satisfying task took many hours – but now every film I possess is not only easily available but in the correct order.

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Sigh.

An alphabetised shelving unit is a thing of beauty.

Not even this act of neat freakery sorted my head out though and shortly after scratching this particular itch I found myself binge eating cottage cheese, apples and plums.

My post diamond target weight in eating has been (ahem)¬†problematic¬†– and despite trying¬†hard¬†to be good with a number of very on plan meals I’ve over indulged a bit more over the last two weeks than I should have.

 

I will admit to a bit of excessive relaxation that now has to be addressed by once more losing a few pounds.

I do wish that I didn’t have a tendency to deal with mood dips like this.

The behaviours they invariably give rise to are not only non-productive but now I also have to face my partner after such episodes (of which there have been several) when I feel like I’ve let myself down a lot – and admit that I’m not coping the way I feel that I should have.

People may laugh when I write that I’m overeating cottage cheese and fruit – but I can report that I have conclusive proof that it’s supremely possible to gain weight with healthy food.

If you eat too much of anything you’ll fill out.

It’s a fact.

The only real bonus is it’s not crap food full of empty calories and in the great scheme of things it’s doing¬†way less damage than pizza, kebabs or chips ever caused in the past.

As well as dealing with the usual self loathing related to over indulging I now also have to continually remind myself that my related (habitual and well practiced) behaviour patterns are of no help in a relationship whatsoever.

I am no longer just a single guy who can metaphorically stomp back to his man cave, retreat from the world and bury his head in a video game.

Neither do I want to if I’m honest – because it’s never really worked for me in the past.

This means that for the first time in twenty odd years I’ve been going through a low patch – but also trying to share my more vulnerable elements openly with the person that I care about.

It’s tough though when you’re not feeling in the least bit lovable – what you¬†really want¬†early on in a relationship is to show yourself at your absolute best.

It’s early days and you don’t want to come across as an emotional cripple.

I’m an open person for better or worse now though and regardless of it being inconvenient I made a commitment to myself three years ago to be honest about who I am and how I feel about myself with everyone – and that goes double for people that I care deeply about.

Radio silence does no-one any good and instead I’ve tried to broadcast on all frequencies whenever possible – accepting help and welcoming a different points of view.

In the past I’d have simply buried myself (alone) in a TV box set or a lengthy video game.

When I look for another way I’m often pulled into positive spaces – such as a Dodgy (link) concert at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London, which is definitely¬†outside my normal comfort zone.

Via my partner’s taste in music I’ve slowly begun to get into this band (some of their tracks I really¬†love) and when she suggested we go together, rather than umming or arring about whether or not I’d like it I just said ‘yes.’

Saying ‘yes’ is way more powerful and positive than ‘no’ – which if you make it your default response (it used to be mine) means that your perspective never alters, and your mood or opinions never change.

In contrast¬†‘yes’ means opening yourself up to new experiences and potentially enjoying something that you normally wouldn’t have had a chance to.

Even if you don’t get pleasure from it (which I very much did) the act of doing something new alone can totally lift you out of your malaise and enable new thoughts and feelings.

In my case when I say ‘yes’ and headed off to London with my girlfriend I got to see a truly awesome group of musicians (and a couple of OK support acts – Terrorvision and Babybird) at the top of their game and experience the joy of dancing the night away alongside someone that I love to be with.

 

So as I type I’m in a much better head space.

My fellow traveller has managed to stop me turning tiny problems into a complete crisis, helped me reign in my excessive eating, enabled me to see things with a fresh perspective, and just reminded me that it’s OK to not be 100% all of the time.

It’s nice to be shown that someone wants to be there for you as much as you want to be there for them¬†– and that you’re able to lean into their supportive arms when you don’t feel capable of standing tall on your own.

So – it’s all about perception.

A bad mood might not¬†seem like it has any value when it hits, but it’s still an important emotion and arrives for a reason.

We can’t be 100% happy all the time, and there’s a value being vulnerable.

In doing so we can allow other people to show that they care, reminding us that we’re not alone in life, and that occasionally downbeat assessments of the world around us are simply a passing phase.

Honesty and truth are the only ways forward.

Internalising things did no-none any good in the history of ever Рand my new life is continued proof of that. The more I welcome change and the more I share it the easier and more pleasurable it becomes.

Unexpectedly it’s led me from an existence where I was closed off and alone to singing the lyrics of¬†Grassman aloud whilst swaying in time to an all encompassing wall of sound in my partner’s arms.

Lean into people internet.

They won’t let you down.

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 Рbecause 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

Cementing my future

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

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

Boy.

What a great time it is to be living it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I suddenly appreciate all its nuances acutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I like pats on the head.

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

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

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

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

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

I became the National MOTY 2018!

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

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

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

Things were exciting and new all the time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can’t stay still.

If you do then you stagnate.

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

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

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

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

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

But you know what?

I only went and frikkin did it!

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

Wow.

It’s quite something.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how did I celebrate this milestone?

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

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

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

This is the power of flexible syns.

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

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

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

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

This is me internet.

Forever.

Davey

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

Learning things

You can learn something new every minute of every day.

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

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Who knew?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh.

I’m clearly just not that smart.

It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

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

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

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

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

I’m no longer running a solitary race.

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

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

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

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

I saw myself as a parasite.

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

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

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

All I knew was that I had to reach it.

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

Deep down I knew that this was my last chance.

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

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

I’d done it.

I’d fixed everything.

Only I hadn’t.

Not really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was huge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I won.

Or at least I thought I had.

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

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

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

I felt alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Davey

 

New target and new things

In my most recent post I was agonising about about what weight I should or shouldn’t be.

I know that pounds and ounces at this point are a largely arbitrary number and that in the great scheme of things it shouldn’t really matter that much (as long as I’m not going too nuts in either direction) but as soon as I’d dropped another half a stone over Christmas I was immediately paralysed with indecision about whether I needed to put it back on or not.

(scene notes – enter stage left ‘stressy Davey’. He’s pacing back and forth.)

I’ve been worrying (needlessly) about it in the background ever since.

No man is an island and I don’t do things alone any more though -so I’ve been asking a few people what they thought about my current state of affairs.

This can be a bit weird.

Am I too thin?‘ is honestly not a question I thought I’d ever be posing to anyone in my life. It ranks with ‘Do you think I need to put weight back on?’ as the least likely sentences I expected to be leaving my lips before I died.

The feedback I received was polite – and pretty much universally the same. It all went along the lines of ‘You look OK as you are, but don’t lose any more!

I couldn’t decide in some of these cases whether I was faced with a polite friend who already thought my weight was too low or whether they were being totally honest – which is what I needed.

Sometimes the subject of my size gets so knotted up in my head that I can’t see the wood for the trees, and when I go to weigh in on Saturday mornings even now I can be a bag of nerves.

Often I still don’t sleep properly the night before I have to stand on the scales.

My house guest this weekend saw the full extent of of my worrisome dithering yesterday morning – while I faffed and fretted about which clothes to wear (because jeans, a belt and a shirt weigh more than tracksuit bottoms and a tee-shirt) and whether or not to have another coffee before leaving the house (which would also slightly affect my weight).

All of this continued whilst I continually stepped on and off my bathroom scales to check and re-check. I’m not normally that bad – but potentially changing my target weight is a big deal for me.

It’s quite unsetting in some respects to share this more obsessive side of my nature with someone – but at the same time it’s important to let them see me for who I am, warts and all.

The truth is that I’m still very much the kind of guy that worries (too much) about whether or not he’s succeeding or failing when it comes to health and fitness. At times I think I’ve got it nailed, but at others I’m still full of doubt.

In my case the lion’s share of my stress was related to the fact that I really didn’t want to regain the weight that had pushed me into the bracket of being a 21st certificate holder.

There can’t be too many of those in the UK and I’m now one of the privileged few.

I’d already decided by Friday that I was going to reset my target weight – but the question was by how much and what to change it to. I also didn’t want to simultaneously set it to an unrealistically low level that would make it pointlessly hard to maintain long term.

Also – even before discussing it with my consultant Angie the other day I knew my options were limited by a number of factors.

Firstly (which I’ve already mentioned) there’s the opinion of people I care about.

Secondly I’d agreed when accepting my SWMOTY title (almost six months ago!) that I would not deviate from the weight I was when I won the competition by more than 7lbs. I suspect that this was mostly because Slimming World don’t want me to gain weight but I’m pretty sure that they don’t want me to end up looking too thin either.

At the time I felt that this margin for error would be a really helpful as a motivator. It also seemed pretty generous because having a 1st bracket in which to move around was much bigger than the standard 6lb (3lb either way) target member range (which I also have to stick to if I want my weigh ins to remain free of charge).

If I fell out of one (and had to pay) I’d still be in the other – but then life went and changed again – and definitely for the better. Over many months I finally found someone that I really care about.

At the same time I was busy getting even fitter than I was before thanks to my rediscovered love of swimming. I’ve been building muscles in places I’ve never seen them before as well as becoming leaner.

It’s a wonderful feeling to know that there is still so much scope for positive change left in life.

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On Saturday morning (after discussion with my new muse) I’d finally made up my mind.

I asked the girls at group to change my target weight to 13st 7lbs because at this weight my clothes feel good and I feel great. 

Crucially though I’m happy. Really happy.

Things are new and exciting – and there are little winds of change everywhere.

To illustrate this, immediately after attending group my house guest and I headed out for a meal together at one of my favourite places – Las Iguanas in Leamington.

The whole time I was walking there I was fantasising about their delicious veggie chilli – and I’d been talking it up to my special friend for over an hour.

‘It’s great!’ I enthused.

‘I think you’ll absolutely love it!’ I added, several times to hammer home the point.

However when we arrived and had a chance to look at the new season’s menu my companion drew my attention to something I’d previously have not considered. The previouly unavailable jackfruit burrito.

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This is what I love about spending a lot of time with someone new.

They remind you that you should try new things and experiment. Because of this over the last two months I’ve found several new areas of interest that I otherwise would never have considered.

Jackfruit is a FREE food on Slimming World’s plan rather than SPEED (it’s a carbohydrate) – and is a great vegetarian alternative to pulled pork – which in this case is what I think Las Iguanas were trying to provide for vegetarian (and I think vegan) customers.

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Although it didn’t have the same texture or taste as pulled pork I can heartily recommend it as a meat alternative and after my first ever time eating it I’m pretty darned happy that I let my companion influence my menu choice.

When I’m with someone – particularly someone so engaging – my eating habits seem markedly different.

I not only eat less, but consume it in smaller portions.

Furthermore when I do I’m talking and eating – as my digestion slowly churns away in the background. This gives my brain time to think about whether I’m really hungry when I want more or whether I plan to fill my plate again because I’m just eating too quickly or haven’t been taking on fluids with my meal.

Just when you think you have a routine, and life is sorted, something (or someone) comes along to shake that all up and add a totally new element to the mix.

Life is good.

Anyway – we’ll see how my new target fares in two weeks, when I’ll next be standing on the scales.

Fingers crossed that I’ve made the right choice!

Davey

Weston Subedge circular walk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m also still getting quicker too!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s absolutely not the way to go.

Heroin chic is SO 90’s.

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

On the whole they’ve definitely gotten smaller.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A friend had suggested a new walk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So – life is good and I feel great.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davey

Forget the I word – it’s time for the J and G words

So – it’s January and the start of a new year.

2019 is stretched out in front of me – and as I type it seems to be pregnant with promise and possibility.

In my last post a few days ago I looked backwards, reflecting on some of the personal changes and life events that had taken place in 2018. It was a monumentous year for me by any personal yardstick, and I’m immensely proud of all that I accomplished.

There’s never an end point though. As I look forwards¬†I’m reminded that the nature of life is change. Standing still is never an option and the quest for growth and personal development is one that should never end.

Recognising and celebrating my accomplishments (as well as accepting compliments) is something that has never come easy to me. I’ve found it far easier in the past to diminish my achievements for fear of tempting fate, but at the moment I feel proud.

My life has evolved in ways that it wouldn’t have if I hadn’t made conscious and focused decisions to improve my physical, intellectual and emotional health. It’s because of profound changes in these areas that I can now take my next steps to building the life that I ultimately want to live.

Firstly (but in no order of importance) comes the J word.

I need a job.

I promised myself that I’d start looking again in January, and as I type I’m taking a short break from brushing up my CV (I think it’s now looking tikkety-boo) whilst simultaneously applying online for a position that caught my eye.

It’s within walking distance and also seems ideally suited to my strengths and employment history.

I’m feeling pragmatic about it however.

Whilst this role seems like a good fit I’m also well aware since being made redundant that things rarely work out how you expect them to. Often finding the right job is a combination of random luck and an indefinable ‘suitability’.

If you’re qualified enough to create an opening for an interview even then¬†nothing is certain, and I’ve learned the hard way that even if you get the job no-matter how good you are¬†no-one is indispensable.

Ultimately job hunting is mostly a waiting game punctuated by moments of frenzied activity and a continued need to remain positive as well as believing in your own self worth.

Furthermore hopping onto the first train that rolls into your station will rarely result in you reaching your intended destination.

I’ll no doubt write more on this topic over time, and we shall see whether or not my current (rather buoyant) mood persists.

It seems highly likely to me though that it will.

The more eagle eyed subscribers to my blog have noted (and commented) recently that there has not only been a marked increase in my happiness but also a rather more erratic schedule to my postings.

Furthermore, those who keep track of my movements will have noticed that I’ve been less of a regular presence at my Saturday morning Slimming World meetings over the past weeks.

There’s absolutely nothing to worry about though (depending on how you view my current weight) because I’m as focused as ever.

Moreso in fact.

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When I stepped on the scales at home yesterday (I haven’t for nearly a week) the current situation was quite surprising. Rather than swinging back up to my target weight I’ve actually dropped down a little more.

The reason for this is that (quite unlike my usual approach to meals) I have been eating dramatically smaller portion sizes recently – whilst simultaneously doing a rather large amount of daily exercise.

But why you might ask?

What’s the root of this behaviour?

Well – that’s partially related to the G Word in the blog title.

The portion sizes that I’ve been consuming in the past have been almost exclusively in the evenings, often related to boredom or habitual behaviour, and almost always they have been way more than I needed.

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Cooking for two (in this case a new girlfriend) has focused my attention on the fact that I can easily feed two people with what I myself have previously been consuming.

I know, I know.

I casually dropped the G word¬†in there as if it was nothing when it’s definitely¬†something.

After almost twenty years of being a bachelor without anyone even vaguely pinging on my radar as a person that could not only live with my faults but simultaneously excite my mind and heart it seems like someone has arrived.

Furthermore they’ve been right under my nose for a while – and just like me they’re ridiculously ‘outdoorsy’.

When the qualities that they embodied (which extend way past an ability to put one foot in front of another oudoors) slowly dawned on me I found that I was less surprised that they were there in the first place – and instead more amazed that I hadn’t clocked what they all represented from the beginning.

In retrospect it all seems so obvious.

It’s early days though – but I feel it only fair (since the underlying theme of my blog is honesty with myself and the world) to finally explain¬†that this is the predominant reason behind why I’ve been feeling¬†immensely more positive than usual.

Whatever happens in the future, over the past weeks I’ve proven to myself (and hopefully someone else too) that feelings I’d believed were long dead¬†not only still exist¬†but are bafflingly more powerful than they ever were.

However now, rather than these being undermined by the emotional immaturity of youth, and an inability to escape my past they are now augmented by the very pride in myself and my achievements that I previously felt incapable of realising or unworthy of accepting.

At this point I’m a solvent, fit, independent, emotionally aware grown man, with a wholesome and rich life.

I’ve built a world around myself that I can welcome someone into without embarrassment¬†and now that now someone has finally stepped into it I feel I have a lot to offer them.

I know from mistakes in my past that trying to build a partnership on the foundations of anything less than total openness and honesty¬†is a failure waiting to happen. Now I’ve¬†faced up to and dealt with my worst faults I can finally see a future where a relationship can be based upon true equality.

For the first time in my adult life I’ve learned to not only like but love who I am – and I don’t need that validation to be provided by someone else.

Furthermore I recognise that profound shame over my continued inability to make important changes damaged and polluted any chance that I ever had of happiness.

All of my previous partners had the unenviable job of managing and navigating the perpetually corrosive effects of my diminished self worth and emotional baggage.

Things are different now.

I’ve now proven that I am capable of amazing things – and I know that I can inspire others not just with what I say but the choices I’ve made¬†and the actions I continue to take on a daily basis.

I see that the last three years have (rather than an exercise in reaching an end point or goal) actually been extended preparation for my real life to start.

I’ve come to recognise that it’s not only possible to care about someone again – but that I have the right to be cared for in return.

It’s a fantastic feeling internet – and I want it to continue – because with this particular wind beneath my wings I can finally see a future that no longer has me framed, looking into a sunset with no-one at my side.

Instead I see my hand holding someone else’s – and this new picture in my mind looks absolutely¬†right.

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 ūü§ó

Davey

Christmas Tree

My Christmas tree is up and dressed.

It looks all sparkly and bright – and when there are no other lights in my living room my tree adds a pleasing seasonal glow between my TV and book case that wasn’t there before.

It took me about an hour of casually attaching baubles and tinsel last night to get it to the point where it looked ‘balanced’ as opposed to ‘busy’.

I kept standing back and looking at it from different angles to try and gauge whether or not it looked ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ until I finally decided that it was a pointless exercise.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (in this case me) and I came to the conclusion that my tree looked nice.

After all – nobody but me will be looking at it for the next month so the only opinion that mattered was my own.

Liberated from deliberation I sat down in my armchair to enjoy the satisfaction of a room lit only by Christmas lights and quietly sipped my coffee.

It looked nice but…

It made me feel…

Sad.

And there it was.

A dark cloud was suddenly hanging above my armchair – and in its long shadow sat myself and my Christmas tree.

I’ve had my head buried in books all week – and rather than outputting to my blog I’ve been focusing on inputting to my brain.

It’s not my usual type of behaviour.

When I withdraw and do this kind of thing I realise (mostly after the fact) that it’s generally because something seems to be ‘missing’ or ‘off’ in my life.

I’ve been really rather enjoying ‘The pursuit of Happiness’ by Ruth Whippman – which is written in a humorous and engaging style that has really sucked me in.

Sadness was far from my mind when I started reading this current tome (despite its title) because I wasn’t really expecting to be confronted with the answer that it professed to have.

The book rather bravely gave away its conclusion quite early in the first chapter – with the author deciding instead to spend the remainder of her book supporting her initial hypothesis.

Her argument is that whoever studies suggest are the happiest individuals (be they in cultural groups, religions, family units or even cults) all happen to have one thing in common.

Fundamentally they provide happiness because they all have human relationships at their core.

Families often persist through the worst abuses and difficulties and members will forgive many transgressions, forgo short term freedoms and sacrifice personal happiness for one another in the hope that life will ultimately be better for their sacrifice.

Whilst situations like this may cause stress there’s an implied payday waiting at the end of it all.

Husbands, wives, children, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles will have an enduring family, companionship and love.

No matter how restrictive your religion is, however difficult you find parenthood, whether your philosophical clique requires you to work for free or give up your wealth in its service they all provide happiness because of the sense of community and belonging that they offer.

Some become oddly abusive relationships – such as homosexuals continually trying to exist in restrictive Mormon churches that consider them aberrations.

Even in these extreme situations – (despite a tradeoffs where they are required to make immense personal sacrifices) they can still come to believe that the pain is worth it.

Ruth Whippman argues that if we can bear to give up certain freedoms to remain part of a tribe – we can still legitimately and truthfully profess to be happy because the sense of belonging and support that other aspects of it give us still outweighs the ‘bad’ aspects of membership.

This is what keeps us coming back for more.

The need for human connections.

The pursuit of happiness makes some interesting and thought provoking arguments – and therein lay the origin of my Christmas tree related feelings.

I looked up from it’s pages in the warm and chatty coffee shop that I was sitting in.

My legs were crossed and my booted feet were resting on a low radiator which ran along the length of a large window looking out onto a street below.

Outside the sun had broken through the clouds of the early morning and it was shining.

My coffee tasted wonderful, my feet were warm, my clothes loose and comfortable and my surroundings were pleasing.

Like most things in my life though I was suddenly aware that all of these things were being experienced alone.

It all began to hit me there.

I was reading a book that was convincingly explaining why a huge chunk of the western world is fundamentally unhappy and it was describing me.

All of the people it described that were isolating themselves in mindfulness, yoga or spiritual retreats to find happiness were me.

Frustrated by other parts of my life that didn’t seem to be ‘working’ I was looking inward, trying to understand myself and gain insight into what would make me a more contented and loveable person, when in fact just being with other people made me feel and come across that way.

For many years I’ve actually been very comfortable with my situation.

Well.

Not really.

That’s not entirely true.

What I really mean is that I’ve learned to just exist on my own.

This isn’t because I dislike the company of others.

It’s quite the contrary in fact because I revel in it – but several (mostly self inflicted) factors led to me feel like it was ‘normal’ to live the way I do.

For the longest time I never really felt that there was an option to be otherwise.

My weight and health provided an excellent excuse for my lack of impetus to address this part of my life and was a really convenient cover.

After all – who would want a man that was so physically colossal and such a huge failure in life?

Compounding this internal thought process was part of the reason things had gone so wrong with my life in the last two decades in the first place. My last relationship (which ideally I wanted to continue forever) ended rather abruptly, and frankly when it did I felt cheated out of happiness.

I was angry and in pain – and I smoked, ate and drank to avoid dealing with it.

For many many years I treated this point in time the same way that others treat a bereavement. I felt like the part of me that could love and trust a partner ‘died’ the day that she left my life.

If I’d have been Queen Victoria this would have been the beginning of my humourless and stoic ‘black period’.

I isolated myself in self flagellating grief.

Honestly it wasn’t that hard to do.

I’d had a largely solitary childhood with a mother who was abusive and a father that was distant.

My nearest sibling was over a decade younger than me and school represented nothing more than a war of attrition. Looking back it feels like I only ever seemed to learn how to not show fear, pain or loneliness during the relentless bullying I suffered on an almost daily basis.

It wasn’t until the age of 16 that things started to change – and at this point I embarked upon a previously undreamt of period of popularity with friends and the opposite sex.

I remember at the time (by then having lost a lot of weight) that I was ‘fixed’.

The past was behind me and I was now free to bend the world into whatever I wanted it to be.

Furthermore I’d enjoy it in full technicolour and get as loaded as I possibly could.

Unpopular Dave became ‘party Dave’ and he did EVERYTHING to excess.

Ultimately though we all realise the folly of our personal delusions – and I now know that I smoked, drank and did many other mind altering things to paper over painful personality cracks.

I never once tried to repair one of them – mostly because I lacked the self awareness to see them for what they were in the first place.

I couldn’t see that every action was the result of childhood damage and the vast majority were either physically or emotionally self destructive.

Relationships were an extension of this – and were all designed to prove to the world that I was ‘normal’ and ‘deserving of love’ when deep down I felt I was neither.

If I’m truthful I didn’t love the majority of my partners.

I liked them a lot – but back then I was far more concerned with whether or not they loved me. If they did then they functioned as outward proof to the world that I wasn’t wicked or evil (my mom’s preferred way of describing me) or the odd little fat kid alone in the playground.

When the poor lifestyle choices related to the weight of my emotional burdens eventually translated into physical bulk it actually made things easier.

Now I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone.

No one expected me to have a relationship – and instead all I had to do was learn to manage my time and construct a framework to my life that would make loneliness instead appear to be ‘freedom’.

Now though things are different and physically I have a new lease of life.

I possess freedoms that I’ve fought hard to regain. It’s real rather than imagined – but all of a sudden I feel desperately alone in it.

Over the last couple of months I’ve quietly tried to fill it with personal entreaties and dating sites – but so far I’m not making much headway.

Up to this point I’ve just made choices that ultimately served to exacerbate my feelings of isolation and instead of feeling closer to anyone or anything have been left feeling generally alone and more disconnected.

I’m not really into writing ‘poor me’ blog posts – but I can’t deny that currently this is pretty much how I feel.

The Christmas tree with it’s glittering tinsel and baubles in front of me is a reminder of my problem – not the cause.

Life isn’t meant to be lived alone.

A Christmas tree is meant to be shared.

In some ways making ‘steps forward’ and trying to fix this has made the problem even more acute than it was before.

Whereas previously I felt like there was a gap that I probably needed to fill at some vague point in the future – now I’m just beginning to feel rejected and needy.

Every chat that I have on dating apps seems to put me in contact with people that are either not interested in me or that have omitted huge things from their profiles.

This is presumably in the hope that somehow people will never ask whether they’re actually divorced, if they have loads of children or a job that means they have around 1 hour a week spare if they’re lucky.

So far I’m at a loss.

I have also become painfully aware that whilst I’ve succeeded in transforming myself into a ‘normal’ man I still feel that underneath all my success lies an uncomfortable truth that even if I find someone I like that I’m never going to be accepted for who I am.

In the dark of my living room, in the half light of my tree I feel lost.

On the plus side though internet my Christmas tree looks nice, so that’s something at least.

Davey