My last post was very very reflective. It was an effort to deal with some very deep feelings, and it did.
I felt somehow purged after writing it – and the feedback both publicly and privately was both humbling and heartfelt. I can’t thank those who took the time to reach out enough. Your words (and sometimes tears) meant everything to me.
In a very buoyant frame of mind I’ve taken some time today to look through the photos that I FORCED myself to take and keep – regardless of how they made me feel at the time. Many of them I felt showed me in a poor light and I was intensely embarrassed when I looked at my own image.
I don’t regret taking a single one though because today I’ve been able to look back over the feelings and thoughts that I experienced on my journey and milestones so far and see the progression thats happened over the last year – starting on the 26th January 2016.
However from my blog’s perspective it really started on the 10th February when I began writing and shortly after tried to walk somewhere and use my exercise bike.
The walking distance I was capable of (which at the time tore both my calf muscles and the plantar tendon in the base of my right foot) was roughly the end of my street or just past the beer garden at a local pub (the Saxon Mill). On my bike I managed around 0.4 miles before I was in agony and couldn’t breathe.
However I’d stopped drinking and was beginning to think about improving my health. It took a while though as I’d decided that I needed to be certain that was a thing of the past before I tried to diet.
My brother took a sneaky photo following this in mid March – which (if you take into account the picture above my head) says much about our mutual tendency to take the mickey out of eachother, but even more about how far I’d fallen health wise. My face, arms and stomach are swollen and bloated – just like the rest of me.
However, quietly sitting on my wrist (although I didn’t know at the time) was my new best friend.
On the 14th April I finished an intensive four week recovery programme which used Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and mindfulness to help me explore my relationship with alcohol, food, and the recent death of my mother.
I’d promised myself that As soon as this was complete I’d start a diet plan of some kind – so I did. On the 16th of April I joined Slimming World.
This was a truly terrifying and horrible day – but also the start of something wonderful. I was 34st 8.5lbs when I stepped on the scales, and could hardly fit on the little red chairs in the school hall.
I cried myself to a standstill writing my blog later that evening.
Two weeks after starting I’d lost eight pounds. In many ways I was still a little in denial about the task at hand – but feeling more positive. In early May I tried to walk small distances again – and found that I couldn’t do even 1/3 of a lap of the park near to where I worked (Arrow Valley in Redditch) but persisted and also started trying to walk around St Nicholas Park in Warwick.
This started twin addictions – one for walking in the park, and the other related to a group of cygnets that I spotted. Ultimately only one of them survived – and that day (forgetting what a baby swan was called) I christened it ‘The Swanling‘ – but please don’t ask me which one is which!.
I’d also started collecting certificates and stickers. This too would become something of an addiction…
However I was initially struggling to understand the SW plan. I’d begun to eat things in the wrong quantities and had my first blip quite early on – which knocked my confidence. For the first (and last) time I stomped out of the group without staying for the talk. It was a big mistake.
I spent the week hating myself needlessly and never left without staying to group ever again.
At this point I started realising that the Apple Watch on my arm might be more than just a toy – and began (hamfistedly) trying to track my walking progress. I still couldn’t walk far – but by the 3rd of June I was able to do a single lap of Arrow Valley or St Nicholas.
The crappy app I used gave continually unreliable stats – but I was (with a LOT of sitting) beginning to gradually improve.
Sometimes I found the whole process really demoralising though and at times was in near constant pain – tearing muscle after muscle as well as still suffering badly with plantar heel and tendon problems.
Slimming World however seemed to know just when I needed picking up, and around this time I quite unexpectedly got an award. On the 18th June I was voted my group’s man of the year – and also my 2 stone certificate.
At this point I was still taking 5 pills a day for my type 2 diabetes – but for the first time on the 12th of July I had become fit enough to walk down the hill near my house to a diabetic retinopathy screening and back up again.
It was a massive milestone for me, but also an annoying reminder that chairs with arms were still my natural predator.
On the plus side all the extra activity meant the certificates kept rolling in during July and by the end of it I was 3.5 stone lighter. This was a much needed morale boost, because by then I’d also been made redundant…
However, despite no small degree of sadness I tried to see it as an opportunity and a new beginning rather than an end. The weather was good in August and I was loving my walking!
It was around this time that a chance photo with a friend who was exhibiting at the Leamington Art in the Park festival (she’s very talented) made me realise just how far I’d come. All of the extra notches that I’d had to make in my belt suddenly became really apparent when it slipped out of it’s loop.
At the time I realised I’d lost around 8 inches from my waist.
This REALLY spurred me on – and I began to test myself more and more.
In August I returned to Aberystwyth (my university town – and somewhere I love) and climbed constitution hill which was followed by a bath for the first time in around a decade. On the way home the next day I then walked around the medium difficulty trail at Nant Yr Arian’s forestry commission which was something I never thought I’d be able to manage.
Until I did.
I finally rounded off the month by conquering a fear that had been with me for ages. I caught the train to Birmingham and left my car behind. I had to make my way under my own steam – and there was no backup plan.
My trip was enjoyable, but also a mixed bag, and my shirt was embarrassingly soaked with sweat from the heat in the museum that I had wanted to visit. Although I’d done it I still felt like I stood out in a crowd and was very self conscious.
However I did do it – and a friend pointed out to me around this time that I had (in a week) walked the length of the English Channel. Filled with enthusiasm from this I rather whimsically set myself the goal of walking the slightly longer channel tunnel length (31.5 miles) the following week.
August also heralded more certificate successes and by the end of the month I’d lost over four and a half stone…
In September the idea of walking virtual geographical distances mushroomed a little when a lady at Slimming World casually suggested that I expand my horizons and track my progress across the globe on a larger scale.
I decided to run with this idea and plot my walking progress from the moment I joined SW – mapping it onto a virtual walk from Lands end to John o Groats (847 miles). I realised that (thanks to the friend on my wrist tracking everything that I’d done since buying it) that I was already a good way toward my goal and that I now walking around 134 miles a month!!!
I also tried to conquer my (still) nagging negative feelings about travelling to Birmingham under my own steam and not long after made a trip to the Electric cinema (something I’d wanted to do for many years but couldn’t) which was still a squeeze – even with their front row premium seats.
Unusually the English summer just kept on going in 2016 and October was also a great month. I spent some time exploring Hay Wood locally, got re-acquainted with canal walking, took home my six and a half stone certificate – and also managed to make it around the whole of Cardiff Bay!
To put a cherry on October’s cake I also managed to get the group’s ‘Mr Sleek’ award (and a fetching tie) as well as a seven stone award – which happens to be THE WEIGHT OF A FRIDGE FREEZER!!!
November started to get a little chillier – and since I’m getting thin on top I embarked upon a new relationship to keep me warm in the cold winter evenings. Me and peaky are still very happy together and have yet to fall out!
Peaky kept my head warm as the leaves fell from the trees and winter drew nearer and (despite a pretty epic episode of shin splints in my left leg which is frikkin painful!!!) I managed to get some more bling, walk across the completely unmanaged and overgrown Ryton Woods (making my leg waaaaay worse like an idiot) play with a cute puppy in group and take a small fortune’s worth of huge clothes to charity.
By the time December arrived I was still motivated – but probably somewhat unsurprisingly given the time of year things slowed down – both mentally and physically. I became obsessed with the idea of reaching a ‘plateau’ and that somehow I would fail.
In reality (looking back) I was always moving forward – and just occasionally admiring the view.
Thanks to my Slimming World group and friends I stayed largely on plan throughout Christmas – even walking six miles to my brother’s house for and back for dinner on Xmas day (with an epic blister all taped up) just to ensure I wasn’t naughty.
Christmas had no bottles of Southern Comfort as was traditional for me for many years past and was powered only by the magic of weaponised caffeine.
And so we come to January.
It’s not over yet – but by the end of it I’m hoping that I’ll have my ten stone certificate.
So far this month has seen me hit my target of walking from Land’s end to John O Groats, have my first (unsuccessful) job interview in a decade and a half, meet more dogs, start to massively increase my cardio based exercise and walk the length of the Stratford Greenway.
To make me even happier, the swanling in St Nicholas park has survived, and is flourishing. It gets a bit more beautiful every day.
So – that’s my year, and you know what? For the very first time in nearly a decade I can look back on the last twelve months of my life and feel a sense of pride.
Furthermore I feel something else too. Hope.
I no longer take medication for my diabetes (which appears to be in full retreat) and I’m far less likely to die a really early death. I’m fitter than I think I’ve ever been at any time I can remember.
I love life at the moment internet – and I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store. I hope you’re here to find out with me!