Groove in a Mercedes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday however was rather epic.

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

The inspiration for this was mostly due to the weather.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It wasn’t the only success though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I couldn’t do it.

I wouldn’t have enough room.

I wasn’t flexible enough.

I’d break my car or damage hers.

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

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

Who knew it was possible?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crazily at the time my self image was really struggling.

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

Yet I did it.

I took that first step and gradually began to improve.

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

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

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

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

I’m not alone.

None of us are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davey

(Otherwise known as Dory)

You’re worth it

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

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

Their lives are their own.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It works both ways.

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

I deserve to be wanted.

I deserve to be loved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m not that interesting.

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

I get it.

I really really do.

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

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

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

We are not perfect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Admit it.

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

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

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

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

It’s attractive.

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

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

When they do they seem to effortlessly get our attention.

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

For better or worse I am what I am.

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

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

Only up to a point can I accept this.

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

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

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

My point is more fundamental.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone can find friends on their journey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One thing however is true above all else.

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

Thankfully I’m not alone.

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

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

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

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

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

Davey

Surrounded by boxes

There have been a few watershed moments in my life over the last few years. Some of them I’ve very much seen coming and have actively worked to achieve – however others have been less predictable and maybe because of that have been infinitely more significant.

I knew (at least after a while of proving to myself by giving up alcohol and losing weight) that I’d get to target.

I became single minded enough for this to be a foregone conclusion.

The only question left unanswered to me was the one of how long it would take.

I expected to reach my goal.

What happened when I reached that was totally unexpected. My success with Slimming World and the awards I subsequently won came completely out of the blue.

Once they’d happened in many ways my certainty evaporated and I tried to make sense continually of what it all meant. After much (over) deliberation I thought that I knew how they would impact me.

I expected to be more visible in marketing campaigns for SW. I hoped it would enable new career opportunities and I fully embraced anything of this nature when the opportunities arose.

There was no sudden cataclysmic ‘bang’ however.

I had a trophy and a title – but I was still me.

That ‘me’ as many readers will know is someone with a lot of baggage.

I wasn’t really prepared for what it all meant emotionally and how much I’d look upon it as a ‘weight of responsibility’ in the coming months.

It started to unravel a little in my mind fairly quickly if I’m honest – and after a particularly awful week of wondering ‘what it all meant’ on top of ‘where I should go next in life’ at the start of August 2018 (a little over two weeks after a press call at the Ritz in London) I found myself significantly outside of my target weight.

I couldn’t face my Slimming World group that Saturday morning, and instead I decided to go for a day trip to somewhere I’d never been to before and get some exercise.

If I couldn’t face the scales at least I could do something to help shake off my gain.

That walk on the 4th August last year turned into a random conversation with a Geography teacher on the top of Cheddar Gorge and it changed everything.

It couldn’t have happened without all of the other changes in my life – and even then – if not for a random convergence of circumstances it may never have happened at all.

If I hadn’t won the award I’d have never felt the added pressure and I may have attended my group instead.

If the sun hadn’t been forecast I may have stayed at home.

If I hadn’t had a second cup of coffee in Starbucks at the motorway services my life would have probably taken a different course,

As the chance decisions stacked up on my side, elsewhere on a camp site someone else had woken up in a camper van and was making her way slowly to the same spot that I was.

She was trying to make her own decisions in life and was also wandering and contemplating.

We consequently met on the top of a hill in the middle of the countryside doing something we both loved to do and just started talking.

We didn’t say much at first – and it was only the briefest of encounters – but it was enough to plant a seed.

That took a while to germinate but when it did it grew virulently and has taken root in every aspect of our lives.

I worried for some time about who I would be if I was no longer losing weight.

It’s all very well to say you’ve lost over 20st. It’s not easy to do, and consequently there are few that can lay claim to such a statement.

Sadly there are fewer still who can say it’s gone for good but if you can say these things should they define you?

Did I really want this accomplishment to be sole focus of who I was?

For a time it felt (through necessity) that it had to be that way. If I hadn’t made losing weight the fulcrum of my existence it may never have come to fruition.

I never wanted it to be all I was though and as I got closer to my goal I became increasingly concerned that this was what I’d unwittingly engineered.

Would I ever be able to disengage from what I’d done?

I have an uneasy relationship with my accomplishments relating to weight and fitness because whilst they represent proof of what I can do if I put my mind to it they also represented failure.

That might sound crazy to many – but think on this.

It’s impossible to have achieved such a milestone in life without first flushing everything away so epically in the first place.

I destroyed myself so diligently that by January 2016 I stood on the verge of death.

I was unable to care for myself and in comparison to everyone I’d ever known I was drunken a 35 stone disgrace.

When your ‘success’ is based on your ability to simply begin to do what everyone else around you has already done for the vast majority of their lives how can you not feel shame every time someone pats you on the back and calls you inspirational?

I did.

I was only too aware that what I’d done was reset my personal clock to zero.

In life terms I was now where I always should have been.

I was fit and healthy – but now also middle aged, single, unsure what to do with my future, and behind the curve in almost every measure of my life.

Externally I was suddenly a success, but internally

What was I left with?

What would happiness be?

Where would I find it?

In many ways this angst was the real gift that I received when I hit target and won my awards – but whilst it could have destroyed me, instead it propelled me.

I wanted more.

I wanted to feel the world and the life I’d missed out on during all those years of self destruction.

I wanted to say yes to all the possibilities that I’d said ‘no thank you’ to before – so I did.

In doing so something special happened.

Now I’m just days away from the next step in my journey because in just over a week my home becomes mine and my partner’s home.

‘Mine’ will be ours.

It’s been a stressful road to get to where we are now though – and at the moment I’m sitting in a flat full of boxes after a lengthy few days of packing, meeting family, DIY and boiler installations.

Her life is packed and almost ready to go.

She’s upended all of it to take a chance on me and move to Warwick and as I look around words fail me.

I had no idea how I’d ever step away from my losses and live a normal life (if such a thing exists) yet here I am.

I’m surrounded by someone else’s life in crates – packed solely because she needs me as much as I need her, and because neither of our lives make sense any more when we’re apart.

The crazy thing is though that while these contain possessions of a life the same length as my own I’m confident that much of it fills a mental space that’s similar to the ones back where I live in Warwick.

I’d push them all off a cliff tomorrow without hesitation if I had to make a choice between having this person in my life and not having her.

I know she feels the same – and it lifts my soul.

Her life is contained in these boxes – and she’s turned the rest of it upside down for us.

She’s telling me with everything she is and owns what she wants.

It makes me want to go back to the hillside on which I met her and shout aloud to the world how happy I am to be alive how lucky I feel.

This was my true gift to myself back in January 2016 I began to care about myself once more.

Inexplicably, and against all expectations I started to crawl out of the pit I’d dug for myself.

Now I’m here.

Now we’re here.

Life is beginning anew and I feel joyous.

Surrounded by boxes.

Davey

Regardless of where I am

I suppose that if there’s anything certain about life it’s that it’s uncertain.

I can think of quite a few times when I’ve sat back with a rather self satisfied feeling and thought ‘crikey – I’ve finally cracked life.’

Honestly though you’re only as strong as you feel in any one given moment – and my capability to backslide is just as much a feature of who I am as it ever was. I have always viewed it (perhaps somewhat melodramatically) as a predator pacing back and forth in the back of my mind that’s forever waiting for a moment of weakness to pounce.

It’s clearly found one recently – because I’m quite a bit out of target at the moment and I have been for a couple of weeks.

This is a difficult place to be, but I know why I’m where I’m at and why.

Firstly I relaxed after getting my diamond target member certificate. This was a huge moment for me and honestly when I achieved this milestone I felt worn out. I told myself that once I’d realised my goal I deserved a break from worrying about what I was eating, why I was eating it and why.

Secondly the process of getting a job, being interviewed, being turned down afterwards or just hearing nothing back at all from pretty much everything I’ve applied for is a state of affairs that’s often difficult to remain buoyant about – particularly after a few months of the same thing day in and day out.

Thirdly I don’t really want to come across to anyone as a negative person – and this often causes me to withdraw when I feel this way. I don’t want the world to view me as someone that’s got nothing good to say – so when I feel particularly glum I’d much rather say nothing at all.

So – as a consequence I’ve been overeating.

I’m honest ‘overeating’ is also something of an understatement, because when I stepped on the scales about six days ago I was just over a stone above my target weight.

This makes me feel like a fraud, a failure, a loser and a number of other rather bleak self assessments that I’ve been casually throwing at myself as I stare at the ceiling late at night. Probably because of this I’ve increasingly struggled to nod off (or stay that way) recently and that is also part of the problem.

When you’re worn down by a lack of quality sleep everything seems more difficult.

The truth is this though – In real terms I’m currently almost exactly the same weight that I was when I first hit target in February 2018, so the endlessly looping narrative of personal failure thats been in my mind for two weeks is completely at odds with reality.

If I’m a failure now then how was I a success back then?

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Nevertheless for this period I’ve still been picking away at myself with liberal doses of self recrimination.

It’s not like I don’t have support. There are plenty of people in my life willing to tell me frankly that it’s nonsense (which they have) or a group of like minded individuals waiting at a Slimming World meeting (who I’ve so far avoided out of personal shame) to help re-frame the narrative for me.

It’s all just been difficult to work through in my mind – so I’m sitting here trying to write it all out, because not doing so is not working.

That’s not to say I’m still in complete catastrophe mode however – because for the last 5-6 days since I began to face up to my behaviour and stepped on the scales at home I’ve been pretty much back on plan diet wise.

Regardless of pulling things back a bit (and having lost a good few pounds in the process)  I haven’t felt good about myself. If I’m being honest the motivation I’ve found to do what I’ve done has been solely rooted in being apocalyptically annoyed with myself when I look in the mirror.

I’m writing today though because I’m aware that this is not healthy and can’t go on.

I’ve got to re-frame the narrative and be kind to myself.

  • I’ve not resorted to processed or fast food. No sweets, chocolates, pasties, pizzas, kebabs or bags of chips have entered my home or passed my lips.
  • Instead of going out and buying wine these days (and honestly the thought has fleetingly crossed my mind) I have a coffee – or a big cup of tea.
  • I haven’t had a single day without some form of exercise, and my current ‘move streak’ (where I hit daily goal) in my Apple Watch stats is currently 583 days straight. I’ve not failed to accomplish it (or my stand or exercise goals) since I last had a debilitating bout of the flu in August 2017.

I’m also on track for my current Apple Watch April challenge – which is to burn 46,800 active kcal on top of my base metabolic amount. In order to do this I have to average an extra 1560 kcal per day for 30 days.

I’m gonna do it.

So – there are always things to pat myself on the back about. I’ve over indulged on good foods rather than crap, and largely stuck to the core principles of my healthy lifestyle.

I’ve just pressed pause on caring about too much about it for a little while.

That’s all over now though.

I committed to Angie (who contacted me – concerned over my radio silence) that I’m coming back to her group ASAP even though I’m out of target, so (because I have plans on Saturday with someone special) I will be standing on the scales regardless of where I am on Monday.

Hopefully when I do this it’s not going to be too ridiculous – but whatever the result is I’m going to take it on the chin. Once I’ve stepped off then it’s out in the open and I just have to deal with it like I have many times before.

Lord only knows why I tell myself it’s not OK to fail, because it’s the absolute opposite of what I tell anyone else that I talk to.

All too often my success and awards related to Slimming World translate into a continually present weight of personal expectation. This eventually becomes a thought process along the lines of ‘you should be better than this and you’re now a failure‘ when I make mistakes or my willpower wanes.

When I do this I make it harder and harder to accept that I’m just like anyone else and that it’s perfectly reasonable that I should struggle to stay on track from time to time in exactly the same ways that others do.

I need to stop doing it.

When I succumb to these thought processes I wish that I’d never become Slimming World’s MOTY – because ever since this happened I’ve quietly been telling myself that I have a responsibility to everyone not to screw up.

Again – this is total crap because I don’t need to be an example of perfection.

If that’s what I aspire to then I’m doomed to be disappointed.

The truth is that if I don’t want to ‘let people down’ (if this is even possible rather than just being something that I torture myself with) then I need to be real – and that means that when I’m not strong I admit it so that other people can see that their own struggles are perfectly normal.

It’s hard though.

I’ve recently lived my life with a very open online persona and created an expectation (certainly in my own mind if no-where else) that I will continually be truthful and at times it can be a tremendous burden.

There have been times recently that I’ve seriously considered archiving my entire blog and closing down all of my social media accounts.

For the time being however that’s not going to happen – because if I do it when I feel like I’m not coping then I’m going to do myself and others a disservice.

If I ever withdraw from writing my blog it must be for positive rather than negative reasons – otherwise I think I’d be left with a scar that will be hard to deal with.

Until then internet I’m here – in triumph or in failure.

As difficult as it is to admit when I’m not coping I feel I need to, because for some ridiculous reason admitting this in public (regardless of whether anyone reads it or not) gives me the strength that I often need to carry on, pick myself up and continually re-frame how I feel when I look in the mirror.

I hope it helps others too.

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 – but 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 – and 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

There forever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On many days I do not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthy eating alone is not the answer.

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

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

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

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

Forever.

Davey

The battle continues

Even at the best of times it can be really hard to remain focused on one’s goals (regardless of how important they are) and in this case mine is to remain in target for the whole of February.

I weighed in earlier than usual (or later, depending on how you look at it) on Monday and managed to maintain my weight – coming in at exactly 13st 7lbs.

Honestly I went a bit off plan after that (don’t we all after weighing in?) and ever since I’ve been trying to slot myself back into ‘the zone‘.

When it comes to maintaining weight this is a difficult place to be because mentally you’re ‘already there’.

Often you feel like you’ve ‘done it’ – and all too easily this can translate into relaxing way too much.

In my case I did a bit – and it’s meant that I’ve eaten more than I normally would, walked a bit less, and occasionally stayed in bed listening to the wind and rain outside when I really should have gotten up and walked to the leisure centre for a swim.

It’s not been a completely ‘shut in’ week mind you. I’ve still been exercising.

For instance the other day I spent quite a while walking to, around and from Coombe Abbey.

This place always looks lovely.

It seems to also have intriguing little micro climates too – because whilst the duck pond was completely frozen over just metres away in the woods spring appeared to be in full effect!

I adore these little flashes of new life poking through the undergrowth – and it’s not just aesthetics that they’re good for.

I need to get outside in order to maintain a positive mindset – and regardless of how grey the skies are when I do (and see things like this) I’m always reminded that there’s something lovely to be found nearby.

It makes me feel connected to the world – and that I’m also alive and continually growing.

On other brighter days this week (when I’ve been out of bed early enough to see the sun come up) I’ve also been treated to some absolutely fabulous skies.

Being outside never fails to give me a sense of well-being and positivity.

There are other reasons to feel good too.

At the very least if I get up, go for a walk and have a swim then these activities offset at least some of my bad behaviour, and if I’m in a grump about over eating this causes my mood to lift.

However I have to be careful about thinking that exercise fixes everything because this is a potentially self defeating mindset to get into.

Ultimately no amount of it (at least in my experience) will make up for continually not sticking to plan.

Ultimately you’ll get sick of swimming back and forth or walking ever larger distances way before you ever get bored of eating nice food.

So this morning represents something of a line in the sand.

I really don’t like ‘drawing lines’ – because if I’m honest (for no good reason) the phrase irritates me intensely.

However today it seems appropriate. If I don’t rein in my overeating then when the end of the month rolls around I’ll be scuppered.

I decided therefore to make a stand against my own bad behaviour, get up early and go for it at the swimming pool.

Despite almost stopping and calling it a day after 60 lengths (I felt really tired!) today I pushed on and finally managed to do 100 continuous lengths at St Nicholas.

Thats 2.5km and it accounts for nearly 2000kcal burned before 9am!

I’m not chasing any records though.

I’ve stopped trying to beat previous times because I’ve pretty much plateau’d in that respect – and without significantly improving my technique (I still don’t put my head under water during the breaststroke) I doubt anything will change.

At least for the moment I’m happy to remain very much an amateur swimmer. It hasn’t hindered my ability to exercise one little bit and my average speed is still quite respectable.

There are several people doing front crawl in the ‘fast’ lane that I’m regularly keeping pace with – and so far I’ve noticed no-one at all swimming for as long or as continuously as I tend to do.

At the moment I have immense pride that when I swim in the morning I’m usually in the pool well before the usual regulars and get out well after them.

Furthermore, unlike many of them I don’t stop at all now.

The entirety of my time in the water is spent swimming, rather than pausing and nattering or taking a breather.

Whilst many people I see each day swim much faster than me almost none swim so continuously.

For those who haven’t been following my blog for a long time I only recently started swimming again (November the 16th – link) and the very first time I tried my arms simply weren’t up to the job.

I had to pause at each end of the pool for a minute or so to let the aching subside before going again.

It’s amazing how quickly this improved however – and within a couple of weeks things were quite different.

Not only am I chuffed to bits with my overall fitness and stamina gains but I’ve been really pleased with the visual and physical improvements over the last three months in my arms, chest, shoulders and back.

At times though it’s mildly disheartening – because whilst from a muscular perspective I am stronger than I’ve ever been, from a skin perspective I still have way more than I need.

However – when I embarked upon this path in life I never set out to look like a catalogue model.

I’ve always known that this will never be my reality.

My body has a history. For better or for worse I have to live with it and accept it, because there will never come a day when I decide to cut bits off for vanity.

The truth is I have learned to love some parts of myself and simply accept the bits that I currently can’t.

Then unexpectedly proof positive arrived not so long ago to remind me that this kind of thing really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

My new partner in crime has proved to me that I can still be loved regardless of my imperfections.

When someone you adore can look at you and not notice (or care about) all of the faults that you think are so huge it’s a timely reminder that there’s only one real competitor in any race.

Yourself.

Only you stand between where you begin and the finish line.

Your faults, failures, flaws and shortcomings are never as big as you think they are – and even if some of these seem larger than life it really only ever comes down to your personal opinion.

If self belief and self perception are aligned then you can accomplish amazing things – and it never hurts for me to remind yourself of this.

I continue to do this with comparison shots.

Whilst I still have an uneasy relationship with pictures of myself from the past and present nothing makes me prouder than contrasting a practically immobile man that I no longer recognise in an 8XL shirt and 66in waist trousers with a guy wearing a medium jacket and 34in jeans.

It’s also worthwhile remembering when I look at these that I’ve effectively lost more than an entire overweight father (sitting to the right of me) who told me when I started in April 2016 that I had to lose more than his (at the time) 19st frame to get to where I needed to be.

It’s also something of a personal triumph to know that his confessed irritation with seeing me drop from almost 35st to below his weight proved to be a catalyst for him to take action.

Consequently he lost pretty much all of his excess too – and my father (who is not far away from his 80th annual increment) now weighs in at a lower weight than I do – having lost somewhere between 6-7 stone.

So – the (endless) battle continues.

For all of us.

Just like my dad I’m still working towards my goals, still trying to get better, and still challenging myself to do new things.

Hopefully by the end of February internet this attitude will pay dividends and I’ll get my diamond target member badge.

You’ll have to come back and see if I do closer to the time!

Davey

Difficult day

It’s a big day and if I’m brutally honest I’m struggling.

Today is the third anniversary of my mother’s death and for many reasons (probably not the ones you might expect) this is always a difficult time.

In my head there’s been a quiet countdown leading to this moment for a couple of weeks and as a consequence I’ve noticed my mood dip as well as my appetite quietly increase.

As much as I’d like to proclaim ‘I’m cured – it no longer affects me!’ This would be a total lie.

Even though I don’t miss my mom at all this is a time when I’m reminded of what I could or should have had in my childhood (and my relationship with her) but did not.

So – in an effort to exorcise some demons I decided that today was an appropriate time to get rid of the 30-40 odd framed paintings and photos that had I piled into boxes three years ago before hiding them away in a cupboard.

I’ve been holding onto them partly because I didn’t want to throw things away that she had created and partly because I thought my brother or father may want them even if I couldn’t bear to look at them.

Neither seems to be the case – and honestly I’ve never liked 99% of them so the only course of action that seemed to be left to me was to throw them away.

One or two (including all of the photos) I removed from their frames and kept – but everything else is now in a landfill or furnace somewhere.

I was hoping that this would make me feel good – but for the first time in years I’ve been confronted with my mom’s own unique brand of mental illness.

When I cleared her bungalow with my brother after she died it was exhausting (this is all documented in my blogs back when I first started writing).

This was not just because of the bereavement but because contained within each item there was another item, and within that another one.

Each was sellotaped into progressively smaller bags like little Russian dolls.

It took forever to unpack it all – and nothing could be arbitrarily consigned to the bin. There were tiny little caches of money hidden everywhere and I was acutely aware that there was a funeral to pay for.

Occasionally we also found small (or surprisingly large) bags of hair from different periods of her life that were labelled ‘for DNA testing‘.

Her picture frames it seems were no different – and underneath each taped up and nailed shut frame were more photos, scribblings and random (probably false) facts about family members.

Then I found the gut punch.

Hidden within a school photo of me was a draft letter, yellowed with age and dated October 1977.

This photo was taken a few years earlier – but in my mind this is the woman holding the pen.

The page detailed her feelings about her relationship with my father and contained intimate thoughts about their physical moments together.

Then it unexpectedly pivots into a passage regarding the sacrifice of Jesus and the relationship of this to her infant son.

Referring to me she says to my father:

‘He is our oneness. We dwell in him. He is our future on earth. The survival of our line. God will take him back to himself in time when all is fulfilled.’

I’m reminded immediately of her cadence in letters, her muddled allusion to both biblical scripture and other pseudo scientific thought processes.

I’m suddenly confronted with how her fractured and troubled mind worked and it momentarily takes the breath away from my lungs.

I sit on the edge of the bed in the quiet of my spare room.

At the end of the letter there’s a crossed out passage – which she’s noted did not get included in whatever version of the final letter was sent to my father.

Maybe it was too truthful and gave away far more information regarding her mental state than she was willing to share.

‘I am using too much adrenaline and the body I dwell in is suffering. The head aches and the singing in my ears gets worse. A quiet night is no longer a quiet night for me, my ears have their own noises of singing, ringing and bumps. Tonight the singing is a high pitched continuous note with occasional throbbing ever present. I have suffered this on and off since the age of 12.’

She continues – saying that she’s not good at looking after herself and is not eating. She’s losing weight, her bosom is disappearing and she says that she functions better when she has someone to look after.

The whole letter is like a selection of nails being hammered into me.

I’ve told myself many times (maybe to try and make sense of everything) that my mom wasn’t always the same person, and that time had slowly made things worse.

I like to think that when I was small she was a normal and loving mother – but the truth is she was exactly the same woman I had to deal with before she died.

I just never saw it as a child.

Her peculiar thought processes were my normal back then and because I learned early on to just accept her fragmented default state it took me many years to see her for who she really was.

It consequently took a long time to realise that the problems between us weren’t caused by me.

They were generated by her.

There was something profoundly odd about my mother. Although the words she used were English and seemed to link together, when you stood back (metaphorically speaking) the content of her sentences and paragraphs always left you confused or wondering why she had gone down one particular rabbit hole or another.

Usually the pleading side of her (evident in much of the draft letter I was reading) that begged for love (or more typically demanded it be given) came after she had done everything in her power to destroy any chance of it happening naturally.

More often than not letters like this came after significant rows – where her vitriol was at its worst and you were left scared to say anything in case it made things worse.

I’d be called evil, wicked, sick, ‘just like your father’ or ‘my biggest disappointment’.

The only route I had out as a child was to withdraw, go quiet and take it, hoping that it would stop eventually.

It never did though.

It would go on for hours and hours.

Occasionally she would let me go to sleep – thinking that the verbal beating was over.

Then she would wake me in the small hours of the morning stinking of tobacco, shaking with rage, shouting at me ‘…and ANOTHER thing…’ before she launched into the next part of her character assassination.

The following day when I returned home totally shattered from school after having had no sleep and dreading what was to come it was like nothing had happened.

She never referenced or apologised for anything she’d said – and instead expected full contrition from me.

If I mentioned anything about the night before I’d immediately start the whole sorry saga of ‘what I’d done wrong’ all over again.

Sleep was too precious at that point so I just stayed quiet and smiled or pretended.

Then without a word of apology or acknowledgement of the damage she’d caused, would arrive a demand for love.

When I was older and could get away from her afterwards this typically came in the post by letter until I moved and stopped providing her with my address.

When I did she continued to send letter after letter to my father – asking a man she wanted nothing to do with (but then professed undying love for) to pass her profoundly unbalanced thoughts on.

In the case of the letter I was holding the (very familiar) entreaty came written partly as a poem and partly as prose.

For my mother this was quite normal. I remember this kind of stream of consciousness all too well.

It was often stated in passages dripping with pain and symbolism that it was her ‘right‘ to receive love from her sons – that it should be given by her children ‘unconditionally‘ – just like she had given it to her parents before.

Back then I had always assumed that this was true and that as a child and adult she had been slavishly devoted to them. After all – it was what she continually told me was the case.

However after she died I learned from my uncle that the relationship she had with at least one of her parents was instead very different.

Her mother was scared of her and told her other children that she was frightened by her resentful and mercurial moods.

She didn’t know what would happen if she was left alone with her and in later years my grandmother saw my mother as a burden that was to be feared rather than relied upon for support.

As these thoughts flow through my mind I continued to take apart the yellowed picture frames and remove their contents.

In one photo (showing my uncle’s wedding reception) the picture has been trimmed. The background has been cut away, leaving only a collection of torsos and heads from the foreground.

Sealed and hidden away in another picture frame is the rest of the missing photo, depicting a pub wall without any people in front of it.

There’s nothing but wallpaper with cut out silhouettes.

Why keep it?

More to the point why chop it up in the first place?

Maybe it’s a part of the hoarder in her but I’ll never know because both her life and death remain frustratingly unresolved.

I’ll never understand who she was, why she thought the way she did, and why she manipulated and controlled rather than loved and nurtured.

I’m left with no good memories of her that she didn’t pollute over the years and I’ll never get an apology or an acknowledgement of the damage and heartache that she left in her wake.

Nevertheless I am glad of the final unwitting gifts that she left behind.

Firstly she made me want to be so unlike her that I finally found the power within me to break free of the self destructive behavioural loops that she left me with.

I gave up the drinking that I had consciously started to drown out her insults and I lost the weight I had gained through many years of eating away emotional and physical pain.

Secondly there’s practically the last thing she said to me before she died.

Unsurprisingly it wasn’t ‘I’m sorry’ because my mom never said that – and she never regretted anything.

Until that is she lay in A&E on the last day I saw her alive.

She was struggling to draw breath, in great discomfort and drowning slowly from the fluid collecting in her lungs.

Years of smoking had finally taken its toll – for which she was unrepentant. She smoked until the end and refused to acknowledge its impact.

‘I don’t regret ANYTHING.’ She said, and went quiet.

My brother and I looked at the wall.

Neither of us wanted to hear her voice any more. It was like nails being dragged down a chalk board.

‘Actually I DO regret something.’ She said, looking at me.

I turned my head.

This was new.

She’d never said anything like this before.

‘David.’ She said. ‘I regret…’

I listened to her stilted voice as she struggled to talk through her laboured and painful breathing.

‘…I regret that when you left home…’

The room was silent apart from the sounds of nurses passing outside the curtain.

‘… that you didn’t write to me and visit me more.’

I looked at her and then to my brother.

Honestly in that moment she released me.

Not only did she have no concept of what regret meant – but right up until the end she was incapable of recognising why I’d left home in the first place – and she still didn’t feel that she was in the wrong in any way.

I never had a chance.

I could never have understood her or fixed anything.

Right up until her last moments she was the same woman that it seems she was in October 1977 – and it’s most likely that she was well before I was born.

At least now all her paintings are gone.

Their cigarette smoke infused frames and canvases are no longer quietly lingering in my cupboard and I have the space back again – both in my home and (to an extent) my mind.

It’s taken me many many years but I’m slowly moving on. As well as I can I’ve tried to forgive her and hold no anger about our relationship – because there’s no point.

The only thing anger or hatred does is damage and pollute what’s left behind.

I refuse to let that happen because despite the destruction she caused her legacy is ultimately positive.

I’m now a different man to the one I was while she was alive and I hopefully have many many good years ahead of to make things ‘right’.

I feel like I wasted so much time dealing with the fallout of our relationship – but no more.

Despite her I want to life a good life, free from her legacy and (unlike her) being a positive voice in the world.

More than anything I’m glad that I’m capable of saying sorry or admitting that I’m wrong and that I still make mistakes.

To me internet that’s worth it’s weight in gold.

Davey

Three years sober

Anniversaries. They’re funny things.

They can be a cause for celebration, a reason for reflection, moments of triumph – or reminders of sadness.

Some are all of the above and today is definitely one of those days because it’s now (somewhat amazingly) three whole years since I drank any alcohol.

For some this might have always been their day to day reality and it may not mean much, but for me it’s everything.

My alcohol abuse is not something that gets a lot of airtime in my blog – and that’s because while it was always a problem to varying degrees in my life (from the age of 16 to my early 40’s) when I finally decided to end my relationship with it once and for all I always knew deep down that it had ceased to hold any power over me.

I don’t know why – but in many respects I’ve always been quite a binary person and as such I’ve tended to be able to do this kind of thing at various points in my life.

All‘ it takes is for me to start hating who I am or what I do to myself enough to just say ‘that’s it – I’m done.’

That’s been no small moment when it finally arrives though because when these watershed changes in mindset have occurred I’ve barely been able stand my own reflection in a mirror.

Consequently I remember every instance like this in my life – of which there have been four significant ones.

Each of them could have resulted in an untimely death if I hadn’t changed course, so they tend to stick in my mind.

Alcohol was the last but one thing to go.

The final one was (and in many ways still is) my relationship with food and my comfort eating.

Unlike booze though food will always be there.

I can’t just quit that like other substances – but I don’t think I’d have been able to address my eating disorder to the level I have if one by one I hadn’t removed those other crutches from my life.

I needed alcohol to be gone before I ended up on Slimming World’s doorstep.

However unlike food I’d never felt that I was physically dependent on alcohol.

I never shook without it or had any kind of withdrawal period – and I have no idea why – because when I stopped I was easily consuming three bottles strong of wine per night.

To put it in perspective that’s around 10.5 units a day.

If you add that up over a typical week then I was ingesting 220.5 units of alcohol.

According to the NHS health advice you should drink a lot less if you don’t want to not only damage your liver but avoid other health conditions too (link).

They say ‘men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.’

This means that per year I was consuming 11,466 units vs the recommended level of 728.

Oddly though I only ever felt emotionally tied to it rather than being physically addicted.

When I first gave up drinking I referred to my habit as ‘alcohol dependency’ for this very reason – and still don’t really like to think of myself as an alcoholic.

I’ve since come to the conclusion that the terminology I used probably mattered less than I originally thought it did though.

Honestly (although it still makes me feel rather uncomfortable) I’m ok these days with saying I was an alcoholic – because whether I was physically or mentally dependant on its effects is completely immaterial.

Booze didn’t care in the least.

No matter how I viewed my relationship with it or how I categorised its presence alcohol was still actively ruining my health.

I definitely prefer the life that I now have without it around.

In a similar way to my hope that by continually demonstrating what’s possible with regard to healthy eating and exercise I hope that my sobriety does the same.

I know many readers struggle with alcohol and its effects because they’ve reached out to me personally to talk about it over the years.

Some have fared better than others when trying to address their relationship with it and I know only too well that perceived failures in this area can sometimes make things (at least temporarily) worse.

However – as with weight loss there is another way – and as long as there remains breath in you body there exists the capacity for change.

It’s three years without alcohol and I’m still proudly counting each and ever day that I’ve been sober.

While I do I’m busy living a life filled with love and vitality and I know that whatever happens that little counter will just continue to go up and up.

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

 

Health outcomes and why you should try

It’s that time of year again. Around about now I’m reminded of the past as well as who I used to be – and for a number of reasons this can prove to be a mentally tricky period.

Firstly it’s time for my semi annual diabetes checks and I always get a bit nervous when these roll around.

This morning I headed off to the first of two appointments that I’ve got to attend over the next week with a nice warm urine sample tucked away discreetly in my bag.

It’s always nice to arrive with a present.

In some ways the checks are always a bit amusing – because each time I go there seems to be a new(ish) nurse. Typically this means that I have to plod through broadly the same suite of queries as they look me up and down and then do a double take on my medical history.

Firstly they think they’re looking at the notes for the wrong person – because lately my test results show no evidence of diabetes whatsoever. Secondly they do a double take when they see the history of my weight.

Then they also make me stand on the scales.

Sometimes twice.

Today it wasn’t so bad, and before the nurse started asking me questions I quickly explained how much weight I’d lost, how much exercise I do, and why my resting heart rate is so low (40 bpm).

She seemed surprised – but also very interested and as she took my blood pressure we chatted about how I viewed the whole process of weight loss – and in particular my opinion of Slimming World vs hers.

She wasn’t so keen on the plan because (she said) it ‘promoted large portions’ and ‘had a lot of carbs in it’ – which (to her) meant that people would inevitably regain the weight that they had originally lost.

It’s not the first time I’ve come across this argument.

I told her that I both agreed and disagreed with some of her points – because in my view whether you regain any weight depends firstly on your mindset and secondly on what you eat in terms of processed food.

I told her that the majority of my syns came from unprocessed natural food (olives or avocado etc) as opposed to things like chocolate.

I then said that I feel though (and always have) that it’s folly to have a diet plan that doesn’t allow for processed food like chocolate to be eaten (who these days would embark upon any plan if it completely denied them?) and occasionally I too eat these things – but in serious moderation.

The vast majority of the time I only have one item of processed food per day – and for around three days out of seven there’s often none at all. However (I told her) I’ve always felt that you can lose weight having processed food as part of your daily intake.

But did I think this was the right approach?

No I didn’t – because I personally feel that if you want a healthier life it’s not as simple as just counting ‘syns’.

Although it works for some people you will never catch me with a ‘syn bag’ full of crisps and chocolate in front of the TV in the evening.

Sure this can still see people lose weight – because ultimately it’s (at least partially but not exclusively) about being mindful of calorie intakes.

But what happens if you fall from grace and you still have a taste for these foods?

This is also why I don’t do ‘fakeaways’. I don’t want to crave these tastes any more and it often irritates the hell out of me that I still have a ‘need’ for cereal or hi-fi bars – which I’d much rather was completely replaced by fruit as a regular craving.

In my view you should aim to take as much processed food out of your life as possible.

At the very least you should diminish it to the point where your fridge is almost exclusively full of raw vegetables and (if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan) a small amount of meat and fish (particularly oily ones).

The nattering about the merits (or otherwise) of my approach to SW soon stopped however, because the first of the two appointments is only a short twenty minute one to gather data.

It’s not until next week that I get the HbA1c (average sugar levels fr the last 2/3 months based on my blood sample) results – which I’m most interested in.

They have recently been so low as to not register even as pre-diabetic, and I’m keen to keep them that way. I see diabetes as a beast waiting to pounce rather than something thats been cured. In my mind it’s always chasing me in the rear view mirror – and if I take my foot off the gas then it could come back at any time.

The one result I could get immediately though is my blood pressure – which irritatingly appears to be somewhat elevated since the last time it was checked – although I did arrive at the appointment after a rather brisk walk.

The last time I looked it was 116/68 – but today it was different.

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Since blood pressure isn’t something that’s typically on my radar I always end up having to google what these readings mean – and according to the NHS website I appear (at least today) to be annoyingly on the cusp of pre-hypertension.

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Their advice states:

Your blood pressure is described as being high-normal and ideally, it should be below 120/80mmHg. Known as the “silent killer”, high blood pressure rarely has obvious symptoms but, left untreated, it increases your risk of heart attack or stroke.

The good news is, it can be brought under control through lifestyle changes such as:

  • Losing weight (if overweight)
  • Reducing the amount of salt in your diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Cutting back on alcohol and caffeine
  • You may also need medication

There’s not really an awful lot left on this list to change other than caffeine which is my one remaining vice.

Truthfully it’s a big one – and I’ve often felt that my willingness to remove other more harmful things from my life has been at the expense of a significant increase in coffee consumption.

It’s my go to drink of choice – and as I type at 11.15 I’m already on my fourth one of the day.

Maybe I’ll have to change this aspect of my lifestyle, because heaven knows I can’t easily lose any more weight, reduce any more salt or do any more exercise (I’m currently burning a total of around 4500-5000 kcal a day).

Sigh.

How annoying.

This brings me to my second reason for remembering the past – because in just over a week’s time I will have been sober for three years.

This (now comfortingly regular) annual milestone is a double edged sword, because whilst it makes me feel no small amount of pride it also carries with it a deep sense of regret.

This is related partially to my inability to control myself in the past – but primarily to the death of my mother, which happened two days after I gave up drinking on the 26th of January 2016.

Although many may view the latter as the more significant of the two anniversaries I only tend remember it because of the former.

This subject came up today when talking to my nurse – because she asked me (as many people do) why it was I suddenly decided to change.

It came up in conversation earlier in the week when I was visiting a friend in Lichfield.

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As we walked around the town and explored the cathedral I chatted about this upcoming event (it’s been on my mind for a while if I’m honest) and how I can never seem to manage to separate my personal triumphs from their associated emotions of guilt and regret.

I feel guilt because (despite the fact that my mother was a continually detrimental influence in my life) I don’t miss my her at all – and I never feel sadness because someone that I loved is gone forever.

Typically I don’t think about my mom at all day to day. The anniversary of her passing (as significant as it should probably be) only provides an overwhelming sense of relief that the abuse I endured at her hands is over.

As well as guilt I also feel regret – because ultimately although she proved to be the catalyst for most of the positive changes that I made I wish I’d been able to do it for more positive reasons.

I ultimately chose to change because I didn’t want to be anything like my mother. I suddenly needed to move away from any possible correlation between me and her at a million miles an hour.

It’s because of that impulse that I am now an infinitely better man than I ever was before.

The annoying thing is though I didn’t do it for love of myself or anyone else.

I did it because I had no love at all for her and I couldn’t stand seeing any element of my mother when I looked in the mirror.

If anything I hated myself way more than I disliked her and it was this personal revulsion that fuelled my actions.

I regret my reasons because I would have been delighted to have suddenly decided without any prompting that I needed to be a better man who deserved a future filled with love and happiness – but I didn’t. Instead it took other (far more negative) emotions to begin the process of becoming the man that I am today.

For some reason I don’t ever seem to let myself escape that fact.

The truth is that it makes it really really hard when people ask me for advice on how to change because I can’t suggest they wait until a parent who has mentally abused them for most of their childhood and adult life passes away before they change.

The truth is I don’t know if I would have ever become a different person without this event – and I might be the one that would have been dead now if she hadn’t beaten me to it.

However – what I do know is that although the even that created the man I am now was predominantly negative, the results were almost exclusively positive – because when the ball started rolling my mindset changed to a fundamentally better one.

I can now see many of the ‘truths’ I subscribed to back then as nothing more than self delusion. My approach to life these days is rooted making choices because they are the right ones – not despite the fact that they are.

choose to be healthier.

choose to be fitter.

choose to invite love and friendships into my life.

I choose to share my failures and successes so that they will help others.

So maybe (just maybe) I will give up caffeine too. Maybe it’s one of the final crutches I’ve been clinging on to, in the mistaken belief that I still need something that’s a ‘vice’ so that I won’t go quietly crazy.

The truth is that I don’t really need any substance to make me feel good any more. All I need is the security of knowing that my choices are the right ones, that I have people in my life that I care deeply about, and that I feel loved.

After all – what other motivation do we really need?

People not motivated by wanting to live longer arguably don’t fully appreciate the life that they have. Maybe this is because it’s never hung in the balance or because nothing has threatened to take it away prematurely.

In my case I nearly threw all of it away on a casual whim because I didn’t care about myself.

Now I do – and I want to do anything and everything that I can to keep feeling the way that I do because I love each and every day of my life. It’s why each morning I get up and start walking, swimming, hiking or making other healthy lifestyle choices.

It’s why YOU should too.

Whatever your reason to do so – choose to be better.

Davey

2019 and beyond

Good grief I’m cold.

Although I love having a significantly smaller posterior these days what I’m not so keen on is having hands and feet that continually resemble animated ice cubes.

Still – there are worse things. Gloves help and occasionally I come into close proximity of a radiating heat source – which I’m only recently rediscovering the pleasure of.

There are few things better than this – and sucking up some precious warmth before heading back outdoors is a definite pleasure at this time of year.

Some of this heat can be found in the swimming pool, and yesterday I found myself totally alone in the water at the leisure centre for around 30 minutes.

With this calm serenity (and lack of backwash) came a sudden and serious determination to beat my previous personal best times.

I know it might seem like I’m doing this all the time – but truthfully I’m not normally going full tilt when I’m in the pool.

I’m instead trying to maintain a good pace at all times that will ensure I enjoy the experience whilst burning a generous amount of calories.

Yesterday though I really went for it and was sweating buckets when I stopped.

This meant that I reduced the time it took me to do 1.5km by ten minutes compared to the very first time I managed to swim it continuously on the 3rd December.

Being hot and sweaty in a heated swimming pool is currently something that’s infinitely preferable to standing outside in the cold.

There’s not much cover to be found out and about at the moment – and my morning walk today around the grounds of Coombe Abbey proved that the woods are a seriously draughty place when there’s a complete absence of foliage around.

The local wildlife appears to agree and the bugs have been industrious.

Since the last time I visited they appear to have opened a new hotel.

It’s got all the mod cons (including a log that watches your every move as well as a hedgehog hole at the front to keep the spikier neighbours happy) and reminds me that I meant to make one of these in my own back garden last summer – but completely forgot to do so.

I’ll have to add that to the numerous jobs that have been building up around the house – most notably some painting and decorating.

This is something I’ve sorely neglected for some time – but lately I’ve felt the need to spruce things up a bit – and think in the next few weeks (since it’s a brand new year) I’m going to start making some thrifty attempts to feather my nest.

If nothing else it makes it more welcoming for visitors – and I’m all for promoting that.

Currently my mind is filled with more than just guests though.

Yesterday I was toying with the idea of a retrospective post (it appears to be the done thing in blogland) that would look back over 2018 and highlight all of the significant events that have occurred.

Oddly when I sat down to think about it all and create a collage of images for Instagram I actually said to myself ‘well – not much happened really…’

How short my memory appears to be!

2018 has actually been filled with so many things that even the three separate collages above failed to scratch the surface.

When I sat and thought about it 2018 has probably been one of the most interesting and amazing of my whole entire life!

From a Slimming World perspective I came third in the Greatest Loser competition, won the Man of the Year title, stayed in the Andy Warhol suite at the Ritz for a press call, appeared extensively in the UK national and local press, turned up on Fox News in the US as well as German media, did three radio interviews, had my trousers mentioned by Anne Diamond on breakfast TV, worked briefly with Public Health England, went to the Houses of Parliament, accepted a MOTY trophy at the SW awards in Birmingham NIA (and spoke in front of 2000 people), appeared in the SW magazine, gave many many motivational speeches to hundreds of people at SW groups in Warwickshire (and at a school in Derby), got my twenty one stone award, met Margaret Miles Bramwell, John Barnes, Rylan Clark-Neal, Floella Benjamin and a whole host of genuinely lovely SW PR and support staff.

This would be more than enough on its own – but it doesn’t take into account I what went on in my personal life…

I decided to move on from my job (the replacement for which is still to be determined), delved into the dating scene, wore swimming trunks in public for the first time in twenty years, walked 3686 miles – including one outing which saw me make my way all the way from Warwick to Coventry and back again (22.5 miles!), take 7,105,090 steps, increase my stamina enough to continuously swim two kilometres, got into a sauna and a whirlpool spa with people I don’t know, massively improved my self confidence in social situations, hit 1000 days of sobriety, told everyone that means something to me why they’re so important to my life as well as spending quality time with them, made and met new and existing friends from blogland, and discontinued all of my remaining prescription medications.

Although 2018 in many ways represents the culmination of quite a few years of really really hard work I can’t see it in any way shape or form like a full stop or a line under my life.

I’m now fitter than I’ve EVER been in my entire life on planet Earth and can do things with my body and mind that were previously impossible.

What’s happened though is that I’ve simply returned myself to a level playing field and enabled public anonymity.

This is a joy.

No-one notices me when I walk by and deep down I feel like I’m almost normal when I’m lost in a crowd or standing somewhere with other people.

I say ‘almost’ though because there are still some battle scars that remain.

Underneath all of this positivity and outward success is still a man who occasionally struggles with a positive self image, who even now can doubt his self worth, and physically carries significant evidence of a wasted past with him.

The excess skin remains along with a demon or two – but I’m always trying to be a better man.

I don’t want cosmetic surgery – I just want to be comfortable enough to expect people to accept me as I am and move on from events in my past.

I want to live for the future.

But what does that future hold?

Well in the short term I don’t really have any 2019 New Years ‘give stuff up’ resolutions – because if I remove any remaining habits else (all I have left is coffee!) then I might as well join a monastery and be done with it.

Instead I want the following:

  • To have love in my life and make sure that my future isn’t one that’s solitary any longer.
  • A satisfying career with genuine and good people to work with.
  • Become stronger and fitter, challenging both my body and my mind to improve every day.
  • To inspire men and women who meet me, read about me or find what I’ve written by proving that no matter how impossible a significant change may seem that it can be achieved.
  • Emphatically disprove some people’s opinions online (I’ve had some spirited private arguments with rather belligerent fitness people) who believe I’m certain to regain all the weight I’ve lost and that Slimming World’s plan does not work long term.

Fundamentally though I just want to just be a good man in clean underwear so that if a metaphorical bus ever screeches around a metaphorical corner (heaven forbid!) people will say that I lived a good life, cared about my fellow humans and ended my days in spotless pants and a fetching floral shirt.

I plan to live a long life though internet. You’re not getting rid of me that easily.

Here’s to 2019 and beyond – May it be wonderful for all of us 🤗

Davey

Trying new things

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

Something small has made me really happy.

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

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

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

Then I realised something.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For one there’s a climbing wall…

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

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

My swim was largely uneventful.

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

So far so mundane right?

Yes.

It was.

Until I got out.

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

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

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

I flipping love whirlpool spas!

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

A sauna….

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

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

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

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

Moments later I was sitting on the top shelf!

OMFG!!!

How nice are saunas?!

Wow!!!

They are my new favourite thing!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s all folks.

Today it’s that simple.

I did new stuff and I feel flipping awesome!

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

Love and hugs

Davey

Who was that man?

There are days where your mood is so positive and so upbeat that pretty much any storm (metaphorical or literal) will fail to dent it.

Over the last couple of days I’ve had something of an extra spring in my step, and have caught myself smiling throughout the day. It’s a nice feeling to have such a sunny disposition when the weather is so grim and cold – particularly in the lead up to Christmas.

On Tuesday the weather was absolutely crap. It did nothing but rain.

I didn’t mind however.

It’s only weather and currently it can’t dampen my spirits.

On Monday morning the sky was a totally different colour though. When I left the leisure centre at about 9.15am (already feeling pretty awesome after my swim) the weather seemed to be reflecting my mood.

The day looked like it held a lot of promise.

When I’d hit the pool an hour and a half earlier though I’d initially felt rather tired – so instead of trying to go increasingly faster I just carried on at (what now seems like) a rather sedate pace.

In short I just resolved to enjoy myself.

The great thing was that rather than rousing my head from bed with an alarm (which I usually need when the mornings are so dark) I’d woken up darned early and arrived at the leisure centre with plenty of time to swim.

The distance I’ve been doing lately usually takes around 45 minutes.

In this time I can do about 50 lengths of the pool continuously and afterwards I feel like I’ve had a good workout.

After a few lengths though (and knowing that I had a longer window to play with) I wondered whether I could keep my sedate (but perpetual) back and forth going for over an hour – and if so how by how much?…

It turns out that I can keep it up for quite a bit longer.

I’ve found that once I relax into the rythmic nature of the task and focus on just breathing my mind slowly begins to wander.

I no longer look at it as effort – but relaxation instead.

Since I’d had a pretty great weekend on Monday morning my mind had plenty of places to go in this mood.

My swim passed by at light speed with practically no effort required on my part at all.

For the first time (without realising it) I stopped looking at the clock or checking the number of lengths on my watch.

I just focused on the ripples on the water and the people passing by while I drifted along. As I did so a glorious golden light was streaming in through the huge windows and reflecting from the surface of pool onto the walls.

The water was pleasantly warm and so was I.

Surprisingly the time window to swim finished (the local schools take over the pool at 9am) before my arms or legs began to tire.

In the space of just one month I’ve made some really tangible fitness gains!

As I look at this state of affairs I must admit to being somewhat mystified – but I’m not confused by what’s in these screenshots – because if you practice at anything then you will inevitably get better.

I’m just wondering why ten or twenty years ago I couldn’t see any of this.

I really don’t get how I’ve moved from not understanding how anyone could not only regularly participate in, but also ENJOY exercise to someone that continually plans his day around getting enough of it.

I mean – I know the effort that it took to get here and I know the points at which I did things. I know what I had to consume and I know how much I needed to move to become the man I am today.

I understand the dietary mechanics behind how I’ve changed.

It’s the pivot from ‘negative me’ to ‘positive me’ that I find so confusing.

How on Earth did my mindset change in such a wholesale manner?!

What amazes me even now is that the struggling and downbeat way of thinking I used to have is alien to me when I compare it to the person currently typing this.

I genuinely no longer recognise the man I was, despite occasionally being reminded that I inhabited his mind and body for most of my life.

Yesterday – at the suggestion of a friend I created this comparison shot for Instagram, and although it doesn’t represent the largest I was it does show me once again in emotional free fall – although you’d probably not know it to look at me.

I’m looking happy in the bottom photo because this friend has purposefully sought me out (she was seated on another table and came looking for me) so that we could get a picture together.

That friendship persists to this day and over time (in many ways helped by my changes) has matured continually.

We keep in contact far more than we used to and we now share quality time with exercise that benefits both of us instead of just instant messaging or drinking coffee.

The before and after picture is therefore less about weight loss in my mind and instead represents happiness.

It shows something that I consider to be permanent in my life and reminds me that what I’ve done has continued to make that possible.

The picture is multi layered though.

When I look at the old me I also see the glassy look in my eyes and feel the spiritual burden of the glass of wine in my hand.

Shortly before this was taken I’d been trying to lose weight, had been doing ok – and then a few months prior to the Christmas party had started putting it all back on again.

Mostly because of the shame of this (I hated looking continuously bigger each time I caught up with people I rarely saw) I was drinking to get drunk that night.

My strategy proved successful.

By the end of this party I was both hammered and bloated – and when I awoke the next morning felt like crap.

This morning though that man was barely even a memory.

He exists now only in photos and even then when I look at ones he’s in and create these comparisons I don’t really recognise him any more.

In January I’ll be celebrating three years without a hangover – and I can say that with supreme certainty because I know who I am now.

I may not understand fully how I can be so separate from the person I used to be but I know how happy I am currently and I love that today I wanted to get out of bed and do this.

I managed to swim sixty lengths of the local pool in under the time it previously took me to do twenty one month ago.

How flipping cool is that?!

The old guy is gone. His failures and weaknesses are almost all in the past and every day in every way I strive to be a better person – showing anyone that cares to read these posts what’s possible if you just try.

It’s good to be alive and healthy.

It’s good to be me.

I like me.

Davey

Once upon a showcase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Thanks to my mate!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I’ve decided to make a mental pivot.

My emphasis will now shift from speed and distance to instead maintaining a constant speed and swimming for 45-60 minutes at a pace that feels comfortable.

The objective here is NOT to become an athlete – and I’ve never felt I needed to be an iron man slogging through mud with a log strapped to my back.

All I’ve ever wanted is to have a life that’s naturally filled with activities and my approach to losing weight and being fit for life so far has enabled that.

Whilst I’m still a bit anal about my walking it’s now become such a massive part of my life that I get genuinely annoyed when I have to use my car.

In short I can’t imagine my life without it – and that’s just the way I like it.

I’m far more likely to be this way forever if I can build a range of such structures into every single day.

The other great thing about having several enjoyable exercise activities is that I’m always covered in case of injury.

If I can’t walk then I can swim, and if I can’t swim then I can use my exercise bike.

I want swimming to be another string to my bow and constant in my world. As long as I keep it at a sensible level I’m hopeful that it will remain this way.

So this is the (current) plan.

I think that around 50 25m lengths 4-5 times a week is the way forwards, because mentally it seems to me like this is not only easily achievable – but it’s enjoyable, takes less than an hour, doesn’t leave me too hangry afterwards, keeps a good cardio rate up and also burns a really great amount of calories.

December is still shaping up to be a great month for activity either way – and I’m determined to keep the average up.

I doubt it will come as a surprise to anyone that I’m still very keen to keep an eye on my stats!

Anyway – I must get on internet. I have a whole bunch of things to accomplish today and sitting here nattering to you guys isn’t getting any of it done!!!

Davey

Too many chequers

I’m in a stupidly good mood this evening.

It’s been a really nice past couple of days, and as with most frames of mind like this I can usually trace the roots of it back to the people in my life – all of whom appear to be supremely capable of providing me with stimulating and engaging conversation.

Pleasingly some of these are in many ways quite new to my life – and over the last couple of weeks I’ve been getting to know them much better – even finally meeting one of them in the flesh for the very first time.

In this person’s case we’ve been following each other’s blogs since January 2017 and since then an online acquaintance has gradually moved from being polite chat to a blossoming friendship. Gradually we’ve started to avidly follow eachother’s significant life events – and tried whenever possible to be both supportive and helpful.

When we initially agreed to meet over a month ago it seemed like something that should have happened a LONG time ago – and we drew up plans to meet at a nice pub half way between us both.

This should have been easy.

It hasn’t been all plain sailing though. Initially our plans were derailed (as was pretty much everything else in my life) by the sudden and unexpected onset of Vertigo after the Slimming World Ball (link).

Once that was sorted out (and a short trip that she was on had finished) we re-arranged to meet yesterday. On paper this seemed quite easy – but it turns out that Oxfordshire (and admittedly my lack of due care and attention) had been plotting my downfall well in advance of my arrival.

Clearly unimpressed with the idea of using other board games for the naming of Public Houses in Oxfordshire it seems that local publicans instead prefer to call the vast majority of their drinking establishments ‘The Chequers‘.

tons of chequers

Personally it strikes me as a missed opportunity.

If I owned a pub I’d have used Chess as my theme (a much better use of the board) and you’d all be welcome to enjoy a non-alcoholic drink and Slimming World friendly meal at Davey’s Bashed Bishop.

But I digress.

This may seem like a mild inconvenience (or even an amusing quirk of the region) to many  – but if like me you incorrectly assume that Apple Maps understands what you mean when you type ‘The Chequers Oxfordshire’ and then just expect it to take you to the right place you’d be sorely mistaken.

I hate being late – so I tried to make sure I wasn’t tardy.

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I arrived ten minutes early, pulled up on the forecourt and whipped out my phone to let my friend know I was there.

It’s always a good idea to let someone know when you’ve arrived.

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She and her apparently parking car were no-where to be seen. The car park looked suspiciously empty

My heart immediately sank and I quickly scrolled back couple of weeks in our chat history to find the original link she’d sent me.

Nutsacks!

I was twenty flipping miles away in Chipping Norton at the wrong flipping pub!!!

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I made my apologies over the phone, assured her i’d be there ASAP and put the Batmobile into pursuit mode.

I actually made it to the right pub in thirty minutes so you can draw your own conclusions about how faithfully I stuck to the speed limit on the way there.

I made my way in, spotted her, had a welcome hug, apologised profusely, quickly ordered another coffee and sat down to have a chat.

I shouldn’t have worried.

The Chequers at Weston on the Green (link) appeared to be looking after her admirably. When I arrived she (already secreted into a cosy corner) had a nice hot coffee to start the day. Furthermore it soon transpired that she’d arrived just in time to book the last table for us to have a bite to eat.

Perfect!

For those keeping a tally of instances when my blogging activity has resulted in a new friendship or a meeting with a like minded soul you’re probably doing better than me because I’ve totally lost count.

It has so far proved to be the Willy Wonka Everlasting Gobstopper of positive human interaction. I seem to endlessly ‘bump into’ people like myself who both value and then reflect back the honestly that I try to pour into my posts.

Initially the plan was to have a coffee and go for a walk (since many regular readers will know that both of these activities are the way to Davey’s heart) but as time rolled on and we’d barely taken a breath to have a pause in conversation it seemed like a walk just wasn’t going to happen.

Honestly, I didn’t mind.

I’d already pre-loaded with a good swim first thing in the morning, so my exercise and ring filling OCD was held at bay.

 

After eating (a rather non SW dinner) we instead decided to have another drink and continue nattering.

There was just too much to catch up with (we’ve been reading about each other’s lives for way too long it seems) and it was becoming abundantly clear that one meeting alone would not suffice.

By the time we parted company the conversation had remained unbroken for the best part of three and a half hours – and when we separated and hugged again it was a genuine and reciprocated connection.

I drove home with a big smile on my face, and thanks to other people that I’ve walked, talked and texted with that smile has remained right up until this moment.

Not so long ago I was writing about a book I was reading called ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’. It was essentially about the value of human company and how it enriches and completes our lives.

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I’m reminded as I sit here that rarely has something hit the nail so squarely on the head.

Not only did the post I wrote about the thoughts it provoked have some very positive repercussions – but it’s cemented in my mind that my blog remains integral to my life and continued happiness.

Since I started sharing my life it’s done nothing but enrich every aspect of it, and I can’t imagine not being able to write about my day and through my thoughts interact with the world on such a personal level.

As another blogger I follow recently noted, when they write things seem to work – when they don’t… well things just don’t.

So internet – here’s to being honest and open with everyone.

Here’s to trusting that if you decide to send positive truths out into the world then their fruits will always come back to you when you least expect but are most in need of them.

Davey

Christmas Tree

My Christmas tree is up and dressed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It looked nice but…

It made me feel…

Sad.

And there it was.

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

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

It’s not my usual type of behaviour.

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

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

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

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

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

Fundamentally they provide happiness because they all have human relationships at their core.

Families often persist through the worst abuses and difficulties and members will forgive many transgressions, forgo short term freedoms and sacrifice personal happiness for one another in the hope that life will ultimately be better for their sacrifice.

Whilst situations like this may cause stress there’s an implied payday waiting at the end of it all.

Husbands, wives, children, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles will have an enduring family, companionship and love.

No matter how restrictive your religion is, however difficult you find parenthood, whether your philosophical clique requires you to work for free or give up your wealth in its service they all provide happiness because of the sense of community and belonging that they offer.

Some become oddly abusive relationships – such as homosexuals continually trying to exist in restrictive Mormon churches that consider them aberrations.

Even in these extreme situations – (despite a tradeoffs where they are required to make immense personal sacrifices) they can still come to believe that the pain is worth it.

Ruth Whippman argues that if we can bear to give up certain freedoms to remain part of a tribe – we can still legitimately and truthfully profess to be happy because the sense of belonging and support that other aspects of it give us still outweighs the ‘bad’ aspects of membership.

This is what keeps us coming back for more.

The need for human connections.

The pursuit of happiness makes some interesting and thought provoking arguments – and therein lay the origin of my Christmas tree related feelings.

I looked up from it’s pages in the warm and chatty coffee shop that I was sitting in.

My legs were crossed and my booted feet were resting on a low radiator which ran along the length of a large window looking out onto a street below.

Outside the sun had broken through the clouds of the early morning and it was shining.

My coffee tasted wonderful, my feet were warm, my clothes loose and comfortable and my surroundings were pleasing.

Like most things in my life though I was suddenly aware that all of these things were being experienced alone.

It all began to hit me there.

I was reading a book that was convincingly explaining why a huge chunk of the western world is fundamentally unhappy and it was describing me.

All of the people it described that were isolating themselves in mindfulness, yoga or spiritual retreats to find happiness were me.

Frustrated by other parts of my life that didn’t seem to be ‘working’ I was looking inward, trying to understand myself and gain insight into what would make me a more contented and loveable person, when in fact just being with other people made me feel and come across that way.

For many years I’ve actually been very comfortable with my situation.

Well.

Not really.

That’s not entirely true.

What I really mean is that I’ve learned to just exist on my own.

This isn’t because I dislike the company of others.

It’s quite the contrary in fact because I revel in it – but several (mostly self inflicted) factors led to me feel like it was ‘normal’ to live the way I do.

For the longest time I never really felt that there was an option to be otherwise.

My weight and health provided an excellent excuse for my lack of impetus to address this part of my life and was a really convenient cover.

After all – who would want a man that was so physically colossal and such a huge failure in life?

Compounding this internal thought process was part of the reason things had gone so wrong with my life in the last two decades in the first place. My last relationship (which ideally I wanted to continue forever) ended rather abruptly, and frankly when it did I felt cheated out of happiness.

I was angry and in pain – and I smoked, ate and drank to avoid dealing with it.

For many many years I treated this point in time the same way that others treat a bereavement. I felt like the part of me that could love and trust a partner ‘died’ the day that she left my life.

If I’d have been Queen Victoria this would have been the beginning of my humourless and stoic ‘black period’.

I isolated myself in self flagellating grief.

Honestly it wasn’t that hard to do.

I’d had a largely solitary childhood with a mother who was abusive and a father that was distant.

My nearest sibling was over a decade younger than me and school represented nothing more than a war of attrition. Looking back it feels like I only ever seemed to learn how to not show fear, pain or loneliness during the relentless bullying I suffered on an almost daily basis.

It wasn’t until the age of 16 that things started to change – and at this point I embarked upon a previously undreamt of period of popularity with friends and the opposite sex.

I remember at the time (by then having lost a lot of weight) that I was ‘fixed’.

The past was behind me and I was now free to bend the world into whatever I wanted it to be.

Furthermore I’d enjoy it in full technicolour and get as loaded as I possibly could.

Unpopular Dave became ‘party Dave’ and he did EVERYTHING to excess.

Ultimately though we all realise the folly of our personal delusions – and I now know that I smoked, drank and did many other mind altering things to paper over painful personality cracks.

I never once tried to repair one of them – mostly because I lacked the self awareness to see them for what they were in the first place.

I couldn’t see that every action was the result of childhood damage and the vast majority were either physically or emotionally self destructive.

Relationships were an extension of this – and were all designed to prove to the world that I was ‘normal’ and ‘deserving of love’ when deep down I felt I was neither.

If I’m truthful I didn’t love the majority of my partners.

I liked them a lot – but back then I was far more concerned with whether or not they loved me. If they did then they functioned as outward proof to the world that I wasn’t wicked or evil (my mom’s preferred way of describing me) or the odd little fat kid alone in the playground.

When the poor lifestyle choices related to the weight of my emotional burdens eventually translated into physical bulk it actually made things easier.

Now I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone.

No one expected me to have a relationship – and instead all I had to do was learn to manage my time and construct a framework to my life that would make loneliness instead appear to be ‘freedom’.

Now though things are different and physically I have a new lease of life.

I possess freedoms that I’ve fought hard to regain. It’s real rather than imagined – but all of a sudden I feel desperately alone in it.

Over the last couple of months I’ve quietly tried to fill it with personal entreaties and dating sites – but so far I’m not making much headway.

Up to this point I’ve just made choices that ultimately served to exacerbate my feelings of isolation and instead of feeling closer to anyone or anything have been left feeling generally alone and more disconnected.

I’m not really into writing ‘poor me’ blog posts – but I can’t deny that currently this is pretty much how I feel.

The Christmas tree with it’s glittering tinsel and baubles in front of me is a reminder of my problem – not the cause.

Life isn’t meant to be lived alone.

A Christmas tree is meant to be shared.

In some ways making ‘steps forward’ and trying to fix this has made the problem even more acute than it was before.

Whereas previously I felt like there was a gap that I probably needed to fill at some vague point in the future – now I’m just beginning to feel rejected and needy.

Every chat that I have on dating apps seems to put me in contact with people that are either not interested in me or that have omitted huge things from their profiles.

This is presumably in the hope that somehow people will never ask whether they’re actually divorced, if they have loads of children or a job that means they have around 1 hour a week spare if they’re lucky.

So far I’m at a loss.

I have also become painfully aware that whilst I’ve succeeded in transforming myself into a ‘normal’ man I still feel that underneath all my success lies an uncomfortable truth that even if I find someone I like that I’m never going to be accepted for who I am.

In the dark of my living room, in the half light of my tree I feel lost.

On the plus side though internet my Christmas tree looks nice, so that’s something at least.

Davey

Project fear and a PITA

I’ve had a lot of success this week.

Since I started swimming again a really short time ago I’ve been going daily and working really hard to improve my stamina and times.

By Friday I’d progressed to the point where I was able ( relatively easily) to swim 1km in the same time as it took to do half that distance when I started.

Furthermore the first 500m of this is now almost continuous – although I have to pause a little at either end every 4 (ish) lengths.

I’m really impressed that I’ve managed to shave a whole thirty minutes off my original time in just 8 days.

However whilst I’m amazed that Apple Watch records stroke and biometric data underwater I’m less impressed with it’s continued predilection for randomly stealing 25m from my stats here and there.

20 lengths all too often gets recorded as 19 and I have no idea why.

I don’t really care though – because what’s more important to me than the time improvements though are my cardio profiles.

With a gradual (but really noticeable) increase in my shoulder and arm strength I’ve managed to sustain my heart rate at a higher bpm for longer every day. In just over a week It’s gone from a graph showing huge peaks and troughs to one with much more consistency – and that makes me really happy.

Regular readers will know though that I can be mildly obsessive.

It’s both a blessing and a curse – because whilst it’s enabled great things in my present I know only too well from past behaviour that it can be very detrimental to me if I’m not careful.

I can be my own worst enemy.

So far, rather than diminishing my walking distances (since I’m now spending around 45 minutes every morning swimming up to 1km) I’ve actually maintained the same level of activity there too.

That’s great – but it’s also caused a noticeable (and disproportionate) increase in my appetite.

Since I started swimming regularly (If you include a standard daily amount of 2500kcal for a man) I’ve been burning 4500 – 5000 total kcal a day – and overall my general activity has significantly increased.

Consequently it’s been hard to keep a lid on my impulse to just carry on eating until i’m stuffed during the evenings, and some days in this respect have been better than other (not so good) ones. This made my weigh in on Saturday a very hard fought maintain

I pulled it around only in the last three days of the week.

On the plus side though I still did it – and this result means that I’ve nearly managed two whole months of losses and maintains without a single gain. 

Probably as a consequence of my focus at the moment (combined with all of my extra activity) my right butt cheek is currently killing me. Yesterday (or the day before) I strained or pulled it somehow and when I move it’s causing me to stiffen up and limp.

Today I’m irritatingly ‘benched’.

Even with this annoyance there are things to be grateful for though. I prefer a tangible muscle strain to the amorphous and vague sensations of vertigo any day of the week.

At least it’s something that’s quantifiable and easily treated with rest.

So – rather than swimming back and forth at the crack of dawn this morning I’m instead forcing myself to take a recovery day and sitting here with a cup (or three) of coffee, listening to music on YouTube and reading whilst I dip in and out of writing this post.

I guess I’m still learning to chill out and be kind to myself – just as I keep telling other people to be when they ask me for advice. This mindset is particularly important to cultivate at the moment because anyone who tells you that remaining at target is as easy as losing weight is a dirty fibber.

Initially I didn’t find it much of a challenge – until I moved my goalposts down by 7lbs for the MOTY competition. 14st 7lbs seems (maybe in retrospect) a much easier place to stay than 14 – and I’ve no idea why.

I often feel like my body seems to lean towards the higher number all the time.

There are moments when I’m totally in the zone – but there are also others (like last night as invisible food fairies relentlessly consumed the contents of my fridge) when things aren’t so easy.

Mentally it’s sometimes also really tough to see a ‘maintain’ in my book and look at it as the total victory that it is. The psychological transition from being regularly praised and rewarded for losing weight to being expected to stay the same week after week is a hard one to get your head around at times.

When you get to this point in a journey like mine I think a conscious mental pivot needs to take place.

Your mindset has to change from one where success is defined by constantly heading on a downward trajectory to a recognition that your new objective must be consolidating what you’ve regained in life and marrying these wins with a constant drive for improvement in other areas.

Staying the same weight when you reach target quickly becomes a laborious task that sits alongside other newly important projects – and eventually you recognise that what you’ve actually done is nothing more than to create a solid foundation upon which other structures still need to be built.

Stepping outside of comfort zones is my current ‘theme’ at the moment and I’ve been quietly banging away at (drum roll)…

PROJECT FEAR!

This has absolutely nothing to do with watching horror movies or Brexit vs Bremain – but instead relates to dealing with underlying issues of body and self confidence in specific (and largely personal) areas of my life.

Neglecting to do this over the last few years created a crisis point several weeks ago – and has made me realise (if I didn’t already know) that burying any emotion or fear is a short term solution at best.

‘Relentlessly powering through’ is not dealing with tough personal moments in life (although I appreciate this approach is sometimes required) it’s just deferring them until a later date – by which time they will almost certainly be bigger than they were if you’d just strapped on a pair and dealt with them there and then.

Thankfully I feel that things (on a personal emotional level) are really rather looking up – and I’m learning to flex emotional muscles that haven’t been used for a while. With this in mind my current approach (to crib from a well known text by Susan Jeffers) is ‘feel the fear and do it anyway‘.

My reading material lately has reflected this and I’ve been working (slowly) through some interesting books. Today I’m exploring one called ‘Little Wins’ by Paul Lindley.

The blurb on this sucked me in by questioning why as adults we grow away from our child like states of eagerly trying (and often failing) to do many different things to cautiously avoiding situations where success isn’t a certainty or that we think will be diminished in the eyes of others if we don’t succeed.

I’ll let you know if I find anything interesting in it!

So – if you need me internet I’ll be focusing on my inner child whilst occasionally rubbing Ibuprofen gel into his posterior…

Davey

Slimming World Parliamentary Reception

A couple of days ago (on Wednesday) I went to the House of Commons for a Slimming World reception hosted by Baroness Benjamin.

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I know her better as Floella – because throughout my childhood she was a huge presence on children’s television – and also a quiet beacon (although I never really recognised it at the time) for racial diversity on a BBC that was largely populated by white men.

In person she’s quite something.

She seems eternally youthful – and possesses seemingly endless energy. During the two hours I was next to or near by her she never appeared to be anything less than continually animated and engaging.

Even when I presented myself in front of her and gushingly shook her hand later in the afternoon she was gracious and cheerful.

This was despite me making a ham fisted Oscar Wilde reference regarding whether or not she had a picture of herself at home going mouldy in the loft (the Picture of Dorian Grey).

Bless her.

She just stared blankly at me and unleashed a huge smile before warmly hugging me.

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Despite my clearly refined sense of humour falling largely on deaf ears with Floella the day went well and the themes she raised clearly resonated with many in the room. 

The topic was the startling increase in childhood obesity (something Floealla is extremely passionate about – she’s heavily involved in related charities) and what the government are doing to look at this from a strategic perspective.

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There were a few speeches – from the great and good within Slimming World and also a representative from government.

In no particular order we heard from the young slimmer of the year Charlotte Randall (link) (Instagram),  2017’s Top Target Consultant from Warwickshire Jodie Rigby-Mee (link) (Instagram) Slimming World’s head of external affairs Jenny Craven (link) and Conservative MP Andrew Selous (link) speaking as part of the health and social care committee. 

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I met a lot of people and shook a lot of hands, discussing many topics that were important to me and listening to other people’s opinions on what mattered to them.

There was also something of a treat for me – because one of the more personally interesting people I bumped into was a guy called Kennneth Fox. He’s an emeritus Professor at Bristol University (link) and has written and consulted extensively on the links between physical activity and psychological wellbeing.

These are subjects that have become very close to my heart – and I know from first hand experience how activity can change physical and emotional darkness into hopeful rays of light.

Kenneth has been working with Slimming World for around 20 years and (I discovered) was heavily involved in formulating their ‘Body Magic‘ plan.

For those unfamiliar with Slimming World this part of the plan aims to encourage members to get involved in regular exercise – and in its literature illustrates the benefits it can have when combined with healthy eating.

I’m proudly a Platinum Body Magic certificate holder.

I chatted to him and his lovely wife for quite a while – but finally I couldnt resist asking him about a burning question that had been on my mind from the moment I saw his name badge.

I wanted to know (when he had come into contact with people such as myself that have had extreme weight loss) how their heart health was afterwards.

What did he think about my resting heart rate?

Very encouragingly Ken didn’t seem at all surprised my my RHR (which readers will know has been a minor preoccupation of mine for a while since it’s typically 40bpm). 

When I told him that I ‘only’ walked (as opposed to spending ages in the gym, running marathons or climbing mountains) he replied with ‘Well I bet that you don’t walk slowly.’

‘No I don’t. Not any more anyway.’ I replied.

‘I tend to be quite brisk.’

‘You’d be surprised how quickly the heart reacts to moderate increases in exercise.’ He said.

‘It can drop down to the mid forties in next to no time – and what you’ve been doing probably has much more in common with the heart profile of an athlete than you realise. Regular cardio activity has an almost immediate corresponding impact on heart health.’

He sipped his red wine thoughtfully and watched my response.

I was listening intently.

‘When I get into my fitness my resting rate quickly drops into the forties.’ He continued, smiling at me.

I nodded. He was telling me just what I needed to hear.

This was really encouraging – because my GP had said that he had next to no experience of extreme weight loss and how it affects the body. Therefore (despite his assurances last week that my RHR was normal) I’ve still remained a little worried that my heart has its rate because I in some way damaged it when I was so obese.

Thankfully everyone is telling me the opposite lately. 

It’s very encouraging, because it means my long term health outcomes are really really positive

I’m really not sure how I’ve dodged so many health related bullets – and I’m of the opinion that in many ways I really don’t deserve the outcomes that I’ve had over the last two years

Not only do I feel lucky – but I also sometimes feel quite guilty, because I know quite a few people that have looked after themselves way better than I every did – and yet they suffer much more with ill health than I do now.

Life isn’t fair – and if anything their struggles continually remind me that I have a duty to keep doing what I’ve been doing – if for no other reason to show them that I appreciate what I’ve got and I don’t plan to throw it away again.

I need to persist with my exercise for THEM and focus on my continual self improvement.

Before long though the pleasant conversation (and the event as a whole) was coming to a close.

All that remained was to grab a few quick photos to mark the occasion.

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The one above also has the 2018 Greatest Loser Shaun Carrington – (link) (instagram) and 2018 National Mr Sleek Dan Sullivan (link) (instagram) in it on the right. Both of these guys posted their own images of this moment on Instagram and and I was amazed when they pointed out that this photo represented a total combined loss of over 58 stone!

(I also rather like it because of the rather amusing photobomber in the background who made me laugh out loud when I spotted the cheesy grin behind Jodie. She knows who she is!)

I walked away from the day filled with thoughts about how to formulate a post related to all this – as well as how to do it justice – but the truth is that my thoughts were elsewhere.

The Parlimentary event had been very interesting and it was lovely to meet everyone – but I find that sometimes when I sit down to write about my day the main events are often not the ones that bring my thoughts into focus.

There were a couple of things about that day that were a lot more important to me.

Firstly my friend – who also accompanied me to the Ritz – joined me on again on Wednesday. For this I was extremely grateful – although I doubt she grasped quite how much.

Being trapped in Solihull by Vertigo a week and a half ago on my own really dented my confidence because I didn’t see it coming. I was just stuck, out in the open and alone, feeling vulnerable and incapable.

It wasn’t nice.

Having a close friend with me that could look after me if something bad happened was a real comfort – and although I seem to now be over the worst with my inner ear infection (I didn’t have any attacks at all on Wednesday!) her being there made all the difference.

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The great thing about spending time with my friend (like many of my other really close ones) is that she knows how I think

Although I could have easily charged taxis from the train station to the Houses of Commons and back again to Slimming World’s expenses for the day nothing could have been further from my mind.

She instinctively knew this without me having to say a word.

We twalked the whole way from London Marleybone to the Houses of Parliament and back, and thoroughly enjoyed every step

The selfie of us is on the blue bridge in St James Park – and it was taken before we arrived at the reception.

It’s round here that the real point of my blog entry today can be found.

Here, all of the considerations about an event in a musty old building in the nation’s capital just fall by the wayside when I think back to Wednesday, because here the true ‘moment’ arrived. 

I honestly think that if I remember anything about this cold day in November 2018 it will be standing by a man feeding wildlife near the lake.

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I initially noticed him because of the bright green parakeets next to him competing for attention amongst the squirrels and pigeons (a known phenomenon in London – link).

Their plumage seems instantly out of place and it’s hard not to marvel at their strikingly beautiful colours and inquisitive personalities.

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I stepped over a couple of fences to get closer and record the moment, navigating around the man holding handfuls of nuts and trying to get a good photo for my blog.

Nearby though a couple of squirrels were trying hard to make sure my focus became them rather than the brightly coloured birds.

To the left of me I became aware of a little pair of watchful brown eyes…

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As I took photos one of them moved further to my left. As it did behind me I could hear my friend laughing.

What was so funny?

At the same time as I noticed a tugging sensation on my right trouser leg.

I looked around. 

What was causing that?

Then I felt the same tugging sensation on my left trouser leg…

All of a sudden I realised I was being besieged by squirrels!

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I looked down at my left thigh (as I felt the squirrel clinging to my right heading for my crotch) and started to take pictures.

Amazingly (unlike the more skittish residents of my local park) this seemed to be business as usual for these delightful little creatures, and he/she was happy to pose if there was the vague promise of food at the end of it.

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As I type the physical sensation of the warmth from this little squirrel’s stomach is still present on my leg, and it’s something that has been occupying my thoughts for the last two days.

This event has taken pride of place above everything else relating to my trip to London.

I’ve been trying to figure out why it means more to me than meeting a celebrity and standing in the seat of our democracy as an honoured guest and the truth is that this little creature represents (with the warmth of it’s under carriage) the connectedness that I now have with the world around me.

Honestly as I type these thoughts are almost moving me to tears – because every single element of the day that I experienced would have been impossible not so long ago

Even if I’d split the day into segments and tried to experience them on individual days (when I was at my emotionally lowest and physically heaviest point in life) I doubt I’d have been capable of completing one of them. 

Yet now my life is very different.

By the time I went to bed on Wednesday, after walking home from the train station my activity stats looked like this:

  • I’d swum 1km (in the time it took me to swim 500m only a week ago)
  • I’d walked 13.5 miles
  • I’d taken 25,984 steps 
  • I’d managed 211 minutes of cardio exercise
  • I’d spent 20 out of 24 hours standing or moving about
  • I’d climbed the equivalent of 15 flights of stairs
  • I’d burned 2,374 Active and 4,885 Total calories

These are all just numbers though.

Occasionally I look at them and forget their significance, instead thinking simply (and maybe self critically) ‘you could do more’. 

However – there are days (Wednesday being one of them) where I’m just profoundly grateful because I have a life that’s full of wonder.

I’m in awe of the fact that I can not only walk the distances I do, but sit on trains next to someone in complete comfort and pull down the little table in front of me without it resting on my stomach.

I get lost in the magnificence of being about to stand in a queue for an hour, followed by a reception for two hours, and then follow such things with a walk across London for another hour and a half without feeling any pain whatsoever.

I want to cry with joy because my pictures of a squirrel crawling up my leg are unimpeded by a massive stomach, and my leg is now small enough for a tiny little squirrel to hold on to.

I love that every day I can put one foot in front of another and see another wonderful part of the world, nomatter how pedestrian and mundane it may seem to other people.

Every moment of my life is now filled with the significance of insignificance and the wonder of the mundane, because to me all of it is fresh and new.

I don’t know how long my life will go on for, and I don’t know whether or not my health will always be this good, but I want to do everything I possibly can to make absolutely sure that I not only maintain it but show other people by demonstrating how fantastic life can be that they too can be something different.

I want the world to realise that without any surgery even a man who looked like this:

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…can change into this:

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I feel so much joy that instead of the ever present weight of an enormous stomach continually pressing into my giant thighs I can now feel a squirrel. 

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This, internet is the product of a life that is no longer being lived with limits.

It’s the kind of life that needs to be treasured and held onto because I’ve wasted so much of it – and I want to cherish every remaining second that it has to offer. 

I’m still learning to live life – and while I do I’m loving every single moment of it.

Davey

Being a role model

So. October is once again a distant memory.

Hello November.

Last month’s legacy has been a mixed one. In one respect I feel like I’ve recently made genuine life progress and begun to confront something that I’ve been deferring for a long time.

In others I’ve been working hard to convince myself that I will indeed be slim for life – and that my history of continually yo-yo dieting is finally at an end.

At the start of the month I wasn’t at all convinced. My self confidence was faltering – and whilst winning an award for Slimming World was nice it didn’t really change the fact that I’m still trying to deal with and process many aspects of my new life.

I’ve moved from ‘pathetic’ to ‘successful’ in a relatively short space of time – but just because I’m ‘fixed’ on the outside it doesn’t mean everything is perfect on the inside.

One of the downsides to this newfound attention (as nice and exciting as it can be) is that when you’re losing weight in Slimming World groups you’re in a comfortable and supportive bubble.

Everyone’s in the same boat. We feel the other’s pain, and more often than not we navigate away from saying things to each other that we know may hit a nerve or that aren’t supportive.

We ourselves have a lifetime of learning what hurts our feelings and we don’t throw that in other group members faces.

In short there are many things in Slimming World you will never hear.

In the outside world though it’s all fair game – and you have to quickly develop a thick hide, because when you’re available on social media and appear in the press then the people contacting you for advice don’t necessarily share the same approaches.

Their goal is not to support you – more often than not it’s to get something from you – even if that’s with the best of intentions.

Often (because it’s the way of journalism or the public’s perception of how you should act if you’re present on social media) many people I’ve encountered since the award don’t bother to get into the preamble of getting to know me before lurching into some really quite intimate and personal questions.

If those relate to things that already occupy your thoughts or drive your fears then you’ve got to find a way of coping with lots of people asking you about them over and over and over again.

It doesn’t matter whether I’ve been asked about my journey by dieters or people who’ve never suffered with the same problem – the starting point always seems to be the same.

‘What do you do with all the skin?’

I’m not sure why this is the first thing on everyone’s mind because it was never the first thing on mine when I saw other people losing weight – but I’ll be really honest when I say there is a lot of it left, it does worry me that I’ll never be accepted or loved because of it and I don’t want to have to cut lumps out of myself to be feel better or because someone else wants me to be ‘normal’.

It undeniably hurts though sometimes to be questioned like this – and after the hundredth plus time (I’m not kidding – it’s probably a lot more) of politely answering this question whilst trying to be measured and helpful there have been moments where I’ve felt like screaming ‘it doesn’t matter – why don’t you just want to be healthy and to live a better life?!’

I don’t though.

Like many things this is something (for all the public wrangling I do with my feelings) that I internalise and I don’t usually talk about.

I’ve discussed it with a select few and shown parts of my body to only three other people since I started losing weight and I am terrified of how everyone else will look at me if they see me disrobed.

I can’t bring myself to wear short sleeved tops, shorts above the knee, or go swimming (yet).

I am not ashamed of who I am but I still feel that I don’t want to draw attention as a freak or curiosity like I have done for so much of my life.

I was bullied for so long in my past that the scars from it still run really deep.

Instead I want to blend, be part of everyday society and try to focus on the times that people say to me ‘you don’t ever look like you’ve been big’.

This worry about both acceptance and appearing ‘normal’ has contributed to a major meltdown recently – which as many of my worst ones tend to do – happened almost completely without warning and affected me (and I’m ashamed to say others) deeply.

I’ve been trying to convince myself that many things don’t matter – that’s it’s ok to still be alone at this point in my life, that the skin issue is immaterial, that I will eventually find someone that loves me, a life purpose that drives me like weight loss has, and that I have a future filled with health, vitality and companionship.

I also don’t want to be a fat, drunken failure again and my fear of this is always in the background.

Paradoxically this fear sometimes leads to me right back to the doorstep of comfort eating, and despite losing twenty plus stones I’m still capable of sliding backwards and ‘failing’.

The thing is that now (with my award) I feel much greater pressure to be ‘perfect’ than I ever did before.

Whereas prior to this I was just a guy in a little group in Warwick quietly trying to rebuild his life (albeit in a very public way) now I have the added status of being a role model to add to the mix (not my words – this is what people keep telling me I’ve become) and if you take that the wrong way it can be quite damaging.

The truth is that I’m having to continually confront and remind myself of the fact that to be a healthy ‘role model’ perfection is not required.

Unhealthy examples in social media of plastic smiles and perfect bodies make us all feel undermined and undervalued – and I’m just as guilty as anyone else of feeling like I’m less than I should be because I see a picture of someone who seems to have everything I lack.

I’ll never be Hugh Jackman or look like Chris Hemsworth.

The true role model though is NOT the airbrushed Superhero or Hollywood icon. It’s not to be found in the gym selfie with perfect skin tone and abs – and it’s not in the youthful swimsuit photo on a far away beach – because none of us can be that forever, and even if we are it’s just for a fleeting moment.

Life changes us and our bodies are reflections of the paths we take.

Our baby bellies tell stories of the joy that children can bring and our saggy parts often remind us that we’ve improved our health by losing the weight that once filled those spaces.

We’re more than visual perfection – we’re human beings and we are perfect just the way we are without cutting anything off, without colouring or bleaching our skin or burying our faces in makeup.

We have to make the best of what we have – and if we can do that with confidence then our smiles and our happiness become our social currencies – not the images of us without clothes or posing with a camera pointing down from the sky to get the best possible angles without chins.

So – October (for me at least) has been about getting back to dietary basics, of following the Slimming World plan, of writing a personal food diary every day, of going to group and facing the music or just going there because it helps.

#onplanoctober has worked.

Although I never told a soul this was how the month started on the 1st of October.

After a few really bad days (where if it wasn’t bolted down I ate it) the scales said I was ridiculously out of target.

Officially (in my mind) I was a failure again.

I’d not only taken the expectations of my friends but now also Slimming World’s officials and my blog readership and I’d failed all of them.

Catastrophe.

I was going to destroy myself again and it was all inevitable.

I couldn’t tell anyone the depths of how ashamed I felt that I thought I was once again eating the pain away.

These are all just things we tell ourselves when our negative inner narrative takes over though. None of it is true and none of it defines reality.

It just leads to bad decisions – of which I’ve made a few recently – and they all happen when I try to deal with things in isolation.

The truth of it is that on Saturday I will stand on stage and accept an award that in many ways I still feel I am undeserving of.

That’s not false modesty.

I know I lost huge amounts of weight. I’m not daft. I’m proud – and I totally killed that objective.

Yay me.

There’s more to getting an award like this though because it’s not about numbers. It’s about being judged ‘worthy’ – and how do you ‘win’ something with that criteria when surrounded by so many others who are just as deserving?

Not only do I struggle with being viewed as inspirational after years of being seen (by myself and others) as a failure – but I met many other men who were in line for the same award as me – and none of us were any less or more deserving of the award.

Yet for some crazy reason it ended up in my hands.

I want to be worthy of it.

I want to be a good example.

I want to be able to help people.

But flawless role models don’t help anyone.

They just show an image that seems to be completely unobtainable and convince people that the journey is impossible – that for whatever reason they will never have what that airbrushed social media personality has.

So I write about how much I fail as much as I feel I can in public- because I feel that my pain, regrets or insight might have value for others.

If they see my weakness they know it’s ok to feel their own – and believe it or not I’ve also found that this makes me feel stronger.

Sometimes I can’t bring myself to do it though and that last picture of me standing on the scales after a week of pigging out is one of those times.

I couldn’t post it or admit it a month ago. I just wanted to fix it without anyone knowing.

With some determination I’ve pulled it around however – and in doing so I’ve not starved myself. I’ve followed the plan, been honest with myself about what’s going in my mouth and I’ve done a LOT of exercise.

My record daily average distance (it’s now 12.5!) has been smashed due to my efforts and this month alone I’ve walked over 387 miles to reach my objective of being healthily under my target weight.

If you wonder what I’ve been eating every day then here’s a typical diary.

Lunch

  • 200g baking potato
  • Tub of cottage cheese with onion and chive
  • Jar of gherkins
  • 3 Tomatoes

Dinner

  • 500g 5% fat pork mince
  • Red pepper
  • 380g mushrooms
  • Large courgette
  • Small onion x2
  • 240g Kidney beans
  • Bunch of broccoli
  • Can chopped tomatoes

Dessert

  • 100g blueberries
  • 250g frozen Aldi summer fruits
  • 250g natural yogurt

Snacks

  • 2x apples
  • 2x conference pears

The point that I want to get over here is that in doing what I’ve done in October I’ve not starved myself.

Far from it.

I’ve just eaten (a lot of) healthy food and burned more calories than I’ve consumed.

I drew one of those infamous ‘lines in the sand’ that we all make from time to time after a bad patch in Slimming World and promised myself I will not not cross over it.

My personal line was the screenshot of the scales above.

Yesterday the impetus this picture of personal dissatisfaction gave me meant that I finished with a bang.

After an epic ten mile walk around St Nicholas park (even by my standards this was huge) that had an average mile speed of 15 minutes and six seconds I went home and stood on the scales.

Although they’re my scales and not Slimming World’s I know that they’re accurate (the one in group is always identical) and because of that I have demonstrated once again to myself on an ‘every other day’ basis that over the course of a month if I eat well and work hard good things happen.

I’ve dropped nearly a stone and a half.

It’s worth pointing out too that during the last month things did go both up and down.

There were some odd lurches back up on the scales in October that I simply couldn’t explain – but I stuck to plan, followed it all through and kept going.

So – if anyone out there wants to refer to me as a role model or an inspiration I’m not going to say I feel any more comfortable with the position than I did a month ago – and I doubt I ever will.

I’m still filled in dark times with a crippling lack of self worth and a fear that I’m not going to measure up to peoples expectations of me.

I’m terrified that I’ll let myself down too (my standards are way higher) and I’m often paralysed by how I’ll move forward in life or find love and acceptance in the world.

However – if there’s one thing I can do that will make that fear and insecurity worthwhile its sharing it and making sure that others looking to me for answers will see it’s ok to not be perfect.

It’s ok to fail.

It’s ok to not feel like you can cope from time to time.

It’s ok to worry about who will love you and what they’ll see when they look at you.

You just have to try and take each day as it comes.

If you do internet then good things happen.

Davey