So – the cat is well and truly out of the bag.
I’m Slimming World’s Man of the Year 2018 – and so far it’s been a rather surreal experience.
As I type I’m lying on a huge bed in a suite at the Ritz Carlton in London. To the left of me is an immense marble bathroom with Ritz bathrobes, Ritz towels, Ritz soap and Ritz everythings.
In the fruitbowl by the bed is a bunch of grapes (strangely not branded Ritz) and next to them are some freshly cut flowers. The room is filled with a delicate hint of their bouquet and I’m pleasantly tired after a hot shower.
Until a few moments ago I was sitting in my separate drawing room wearing a Ritz bathrobe and Ritz slippers looking at a complementary (which remained unopened – it was donated to a worthy cause) bottle of Ritz champagne.
I think you get the picture. I’m in the lap of (Ritz) luxury.
But why you may ask?
Well it’s because in the morning (in this very suite) I have a press call with the media where my status as the competition winner is officially announced. At this point I discover whether life gets a bit crazy for a while – or not much happens at all and things pootle along in life as normal.
Honestly I’m fine with either – because the attention I’ve been shown over the last couple of weeks has been really humbling. If nothing else happens to me ever then I already feel like I’ve won the lottery.
But – first things first.
There’s a bit to update you on before we get to that in another post internet – so grab a coffee.
Last Thursday a film crew from Slimming World came to Warwick to interview me.
When they met me outside my workplace the surprisingly down to earth pair of them were in a classic and clearly cherished Land Rover Discovery.
I like a car that gets used.
Far from being an ostentatious Knightsbridge runabout the choice of vehicle (it transpired later) was completely utilitarian – because the driver was a horse owner, and when her capacious boot wasn’t transporting her equine gear it was carrying lots of recording kit. Like all of the people I’ve met that work for Slimming World this transport and their attitude to life seemed to be rooted in down to earth honesty.
The vehicle, the tools it carried – and the people that drove it seemed simple, normal and practical.
Instantly I liked them.
I’d agreed in advance (over the course of several ongoing e-mail exchanges since last Sunday) that our planned video and interview would attempt to capture the spirit of how, why and where I began to take steps to improve my health.
For me some of the biggest strides happened (both literally and metaphorically) shortly after I’d embarked upon my food optimising eating plan and had begun trying to walk around my local park.
It was there (with exercise) that I truly started to turn the tide in my battle with diabetes. To me this represents a period when the world was beginning to present possibilities rather than fears about the future and because of that it’s special.
So, very soon after we’d met I was soon strolling along the river at St Nicholas followed by a cheerful cameraman with a boyish grin. As we walked we talked (little did he know we were twalking) and he was enthusiastically demonstrating and explaining his (rather impressive) steadycam walk.
It seemed that the technique underlying it wasn’t as obvious as one might have first thought. In order to maintain a shake free shot of a (my) moving posterior and feet he’d managed over the years to hone a ‘rolling foot’ manoeuvre. This unusual and clearly well practiced gait allowed his upper body to remain largely motionless while his legs seemed to move almost independently from his torso.
It was admittedly impressive.
He was a living steadycam gimbal – and I couldnt help thinking if the fates hadn’t conspired to make him a thoroughly nice chap intent on filming things he’d have had a wonderful career as a cat burgalar.
As I did my level best to be ‘naturally’ filmed gradually more and more was asked of me, and my artistic range was tested.
I had to master the art of nonchalantly putting one foot in front of another, sitting on park benches, looking thoughtfully at the world around me and then (the most complex and difficult to pull off) kneeling down on cue to take pictures of flowers.
This was something that the team had noticed that I like to do on Instagram – and they felt it was important to re-enact my dynamic pastimes (I’m a frikkin party animal and no mistake) in full 4K 60fps motion.
I realised quickly I that deep down inside me beat the creative heart of a talented method actor and I even took some actual shots with my phone as I bent earnestly over the flowerbeds.
While this thespian triumph was playing out for all in the park to see (I clearly missed my calling in life) his companion gently teased details out of me regarding my journey and what had motivated it.
At this point its worth noting that I’d been quite surprised (when the video was suggested to me) because of the proposed length.
The social media team had told me in advance that they planned to edit it down to two minutes.
That was three minutes shorter than the speech I’d given (twice) at the Man of the Year semi finals and honestly I’d felt it was next to impossible to cram in everything that I’d wanted to say and do any of it justice.
However – that wasn’t really the point of the video. It was part of a press release – and also a small insight for potential new members into what was possible. I was to be a teaser trailer.
Although I already had a sense that I trusted them I couldn’t help but wonder (out of all the things I had been randomly talking about over the previous week and during the day so far) what would end up in the final cut.
In the park though there was no need to worry – because no audio was being recorded and the proper interview wouldn’t start until we headed indoors.
The indoors in this case happened to belong to my consultant Angie – who possesses not only an infinitely generous nature but a kitchen (and armchair) that was waaaay more photogenic than my own. She had kindly offered to let me use them for the afternoon while the film crew were there.
I’d not only be talking about my journey in her lounge but had also been asked to cook too – with a view to showing how men (it’s not just ladies that join SW!) can follow the plan whilst eating decidedly hearty portions.
From this point onwards I’m pretty much the face of #slimlikeaman (link)
With this in mind I’d been shopping – and had already dropped off at Angie’s house all of the ingredients earlier in the day for my favourite meal.
First things first however. After we arrived to set up (and Angie had made a discrete exit to the local pub for dinner with her family) I needed to change clothes, and switched outfits.
As the film crew had requested I’d brought a few along – and they liked my white and blue floral shirt – which seemed to match the light of the living room. When I entered it the camera was on a tripod and an arm chair had been pulled out from the wall so that it faced toward the best possible natural light.
It was a sunny day outside – and the room felt quiet and peaceful.
The interviewer started with asking me my name, where I was from and how much weight I’d lost, before moving onto some more personal aspects of why I’d changed direction in life and what motivated me to continue.
I’ve done quite a few talks to groups, schools, and at SW HQ over the last year and I’m getting more used to this kind of thing. Many of the answers required were variations on themes that I’d previously been asked about many times – and were things that to a greater or lesser extent I’d chewed over in my head ad infinitum whilst writing for this blog.
I was comfortable with it all.
Until she hit a metaphorical nail squarely on it’s metaphorical head.
I almost heard metal strike metal, and felt it being driven into surprisingly soft emotional wood.
It’s remained with me ever since, because it unexpectedly challenged me in a way that hadn’t happened before and I alluded to this in a previous post (link) – but for reasons hopefully now obvious I couldn’t expand upon who posed the question and why.
Quite out of the blue, toward the end of the recording, the interviewer asked me ‘Are you proud of yourself?’
I gulped. As I mentioned in the previous post I couldn’t easily answer.
I guess I did – but for some reason I couldn’t vocalise that without welling up. I locked myself down and clammed up a little at that point because I felt my composure unexpectedly slip into uncharted territory.
You’ll see it at the end of the video (link lower down) and they’ve kindly edited me at just the right moment before I crack.
Combined with the events of the last few days this question has taken on a new significance – because it’s now something I’ve had to confront head on – and I’d go so far as to say that this is one of those unexpected little milestones that come along from time to time.
I think the resultant thought process is something regular readers may have to encounter again further down the line…
Just when you think you have a handle on things eh? There’s always something to learn about ourselves it seems.
After this we moved to the cooking segment – and I immediately voiced my thoughts on it.
‘I watched some of the Slimming World videos online…’ I said to my interviewer.
‘Oh yes?’ She replied – what do you think?
‘Weeelllll…’ I started ‘…I noticed that many people don’t get to cook an entire meal… They just chop up some peppers and onions and that’s it.’
‘Yes…’ She responded.
‘And I’ve brought all the ingredients. I plan to cook a chilli!’
Surprisingly they seemed fine with this – so I started chopping away and talked about the recipe as they filmed.
This is the video – and I’m glad I did cook it ALL because my chilli makes me hungry every time I watch it!!!
At the end of it I started ladling it onto plates for them – and instead of the poor camera crew being stuck on the way home trying to find a Slimming World friendly pork pie at motorway services they got to eat my dinner instead!!!
Angie and her family also came home in the middle of this and they got to try some too!
I thought that the most gratifying thing of all was when the film crew wanted second helpings though – because then you know you have ’em hooked!
I wasn’t 100% certain though until a few days later I got an e-mail asking for the recipe!
It looks like it hit the spot 🙂
Here it is again for the benefit of readers:
- 500g 5% fat pork mince
- Can of chopped tomatoes
- Can of kidney beans in water
- 1 large courgette
- Medium punnet of brown/chestnut mushrooms (hand torn)
- 1 red pepper (deseeded and chopped)
- 3 large cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
- 2x red onions
- bunch of broccoli (shaved with a knife so that it’s roughly cut into small pieces )
- 1 beef flavoured stock cube
- 2x teaspoons of cumin
- 2x teaspoons of paprika
- 2-3 teaspoons of chilli powder (depending on taste)
- Fresh coriander
- half a tube of tomato puree
- salt to taste
Instructions – throw the chopped tomatoes in with the mince, stir it all in so its mushed up then add the garlic and spices with the stock cube. Then add the tomato puree.
As this is boiling/cooking down add the veg in ‘hardest veg’ order first until it’s all cooking in the tomato/mince mixture (making sure you rip not chop the mushrooms – trust me on this – it will look soooo much better), then just keep stirring it until it all becomes a little softer.
Throw in the kidney beans toward the end (rinsed).
While the red onion still has colour and the broccoli still has a little crunch turn off the gas and then stir in the chopped coriander.
It’s entirely up to you whether you add salt at this point – but I do (probably around a teaspoon – but most of my measurements are guesstimates!
This is a pic of one I did a while back – in this case the ingredients were slightly tweaked – but you get the idea!
The beauty of this kind of cooking is that if you get the spices right and the order in which you cook the veg (soft last, hard first) then you get a great, tasty result every time!
Anyway internet – that was my filming experience.
The guys were absolutely awesome, and I love their video.
In the insane world of social media I’m also really stunned by how many people have seen it since it was posted a day ago on the Slimming World Facebook page…
Thus morning as I type this is how their stats look.
(The link in that screenshot takes you here by the way if you want to have a peek at my profile!)
Anyway internet – thats the first but of my crazy new journey. More to come soon.
You may remember that I’m still sitting in the Ritz…
This story has a lot more to come. See you in part two!