A couple of days ago (on Wednesday) I went to the House of Commons for a Slimming World reception hosted by Baroness Benjamin.
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).
She just stared blankly at me and unleashed a huge smile before warmly hugging me.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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.
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:
…can change into this:
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.
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.