As I write it’s dark and cold outside – but the days seem to be just a teensy bit longer all of a sudden.
It’s no illusion. The shortest one of the year (Sunday the 22nd of December) is now behind us – and from this point on the UK will only get lighter and the days longer.
I can almost feel the warmth of summer on my back.
That’s partially because (despite a rocky few weeks) I actually had a really active and on plan second half to the month.
It got worse before it started to get better though, because when I stepped on the scales at home on the 15th of this month (after some hefty emotional eating) they greeted me with a somewhat sobering 17st 9.5lbs.
I knew what was going on.
I’ve been quiet for a reason.
As well as encountering some unexpected health worries (which seem for the time being to be OK) the whole issue of not finding work has been eating away at my self confidence, and I’ve found it very hard indeed to not hibernate or eat away the upset it’s been causing.
That’s not to say that I’m not taking positive steps mind you. I’ve been working through a couple of self help books and looking at understanding what I really want rather than what I feel I have no choice about and should apply for.
It’s not easy though when you’v been turned down four times in a row for jobs that you know would be a walk in the park – but I guess if nothing else it’s character forming, and what will be will be.
It’s also Christmas, nobody is hiring and Brexit looms.
Even the job sites that were previously spamming me with unhelpful adverts have dried up over the last three to four weeks, and my inbox is mercifully devoid of mail reminding me that I’m not proving to be particularly successful in this area.
However – back to the scales.
Free from the self imposed guilt of being over target as man of the year I have now instituted a new regime.
I have up until recently focusing on my new project – which is feeling guilty about an out of target ex-man of the year.
The former guilt was because I should be a positive example of a man with a title and the latter because I don’t want to be seen to have ‘let myself go’ after everyone believed in me and looked to me for inspiration.
One day maybe I’ll stop doing this to myself…
However I know I’m not alone in such quagmires of spiralling thoughts – and it seems that as much as I’ve been amazed by the capability of fellow slimmers to change their shapes and life outcomes I’ve also been encouraged that they too struggle like heck at some time or another when it comes to maintenance.
Practically everyone of them I know (or just follow on social media) has posted some epic gains followed by a correspondingly epic loss – and almost everyone that’s achieved a measure of success is now differnent to the weight they were when they held aloft their local or national awards.
I’m not alone – so why feel any shame?
Thankfully at the moment I’m not.
Over the last two weeks I’ve managed to lose an entire stone (even though it doesn’t look like that in my book) and it’s been through sheer hard work and effort.
Dropping weight over Christmas has been a challenge though – and I’m not going to lie – this could have gone either way. During the last week I ate Stollen, Gingerbread, Cheese, Christmas cake, biscuits, an entire layer of chocolates from a box of Milk tray and a rather hefty roast and three mincemeat wraps on Christmas day.
I’ll be honest – had I been on my own I might not have celebrated this way – but this has been my very first traditional Christmas as ‘family’ (or probably more accurately a ‘couple’) and as such I really wanted to enjoy the experience as everyone else does.
With great food and awful jumpers.
The fact is though that whilst I enjoyed myself as much as I felt I could I also limited damage elsewhere as much as humanly possible (although it may not sound like it) as well as doing a rather epic amount of exercise.
Although I consumed a lot of naughty food on the 25th I also went for a TEN MILE WALK through the wilds of Warwickshire to make up for it.
If I add my daily active (anything I burn with exercise) and standard (2500kcal for an adult male) calorie burn together then I’ve been averaging around 4500 per day for the last two weeks, which is the main reason I lost weight after packing away cheese and cake.
A lot of this was due to swimming – which once again has proven to be my absolute saviour. This has been particularly gratifying when I look back on it because despite my reluctance to don my trunks and look like a human muffin in the mornings ( I hadn’t been for almost two whole weeks) I did it anyway.
It’s not been the only exercise I’ve engaged in though – and I’ve relied on an old friend to fill the gaps for me when the pool has been closed. My walking distance has remained consistently higher and at averaged over 10 miles a day for two weeks as well – despite driving to Sussex and back on Monday.
So – life is (for the moment at least) on an even dietary keel again.
Both myself and my better half are really in the zone at the moment – and she has been swimming alongside me every day as well.
It’s fair to say that her determination to improve both her swimming technique and stamina have been something of an inspiration to me – and on Sunday I found myself watching her swimming back and forth in the pool well after I’d stopped.
Consequently her loss over the xmas week was greater than mine (2.5lbs!!!) and she really deserved it.
I’ve been positively swelling with pride as I’ve watched her get better and better at swimming through sheer determination and grit – and there’s no small amount of warm fuzzy feelings inside me at the moment.
Christmas this year has been special in a way that no other Christmas has because although I’ve had long term partners before not a single one has ever resulted in a Christmas together prior to this point.
There’s always been a family reason or a break up to get in the way of that before and consequently words absolutely fail me when I try to encapsulate how much December 2019 has meant to me.
It’s not been about materialism or nerdy presents (of which there have actually been quite a few thanks to a new and very generous extended family) – but togetherness.
This manifested itself recently when we both headed out to see a new film – and both of us chose appropriate attire for the occasion.
It’s hard to overstate how much love a geeky guy can feel when he’s accompanied on a school night to a one minute past midnight screening of Star Wars by an adult woman not only voluntarily (and dare I say enthusiastically) wearing a Star Wars teeshirt but also a crochet’d Yoda ears beanie.
I’m sure that everyone out there is already throwing up in their mouth a little bit – but I’m sorry – I have absolutely zero shame on this score because we totally owned it in The Rise of Skywalker.
My Christmas has been everything that I’ve always wanted it to be but never dared to hope it ever would be.
For the longest time it looked like the picture below, and because of my habitual behaviour on this score I never once managed to get to the end of ET The Extra Terrestrial on TV.
In contrast this year the strongest drink I’ve indulged in is a caramel flavoured coffee, and I’ve not been alone and sad for a single moment.
I’ve shared the walks, talks and occasion with someone I care deeply about. Together we’ve continuously supported one another whenever we’ve hit bumps in the road and continue to do so.
Sigh. Over the last few days I’ve been reflecting on my happiness – but also on my past.
That bottle of Southern Comfort seems a long long way away now and it’s been a long time since this was my reality.
Other people may still be in a darker place though and as I type I’m conscious of this.
At this time of year there are many people on the cusp of giving up hope that life will ever hold anything for them but loneliness or despair. They suffer in silence and often succumb to darker voices that hide inside.
As well as hearing of other slimmers that have struggled recently I’ve also read about those that have been moved to other, maybe more destructive forms of self harm in the past and because of this as I write I’m left feeling sober in more ways than one.
There was a time that I felt similarly and when I sat alone at home (not just around Christmas time) there were many many moments when I no longer wanted to be around.
Had I been ‘braver’ (stupider?) I may have crossed a line that would have seriously curtailed my time on earth.
I contemplated this more than once – and now (on the wrong side of my forties) I have so much to be grateful for.
I’m left at times feeling as if I have no right to be as happy as I am – like I’ve stolen the joy that must belong to someone else, because there are moments that it all still feels very alien.
Life though is all about context – and finding this to gain perspective is something we all struggle to do.
There are many of us who (despite there often being much evidence to the contrary) choose to label ourselves as ‘lonely’, ‘overweight’, ‘failure’, ‘alcoholic’, ‘addict’, ‘loser’, ‘stupid’, ‘weird’, or consider ourselves simply ‘unlovable’.
With the new year looming, and many people who read my blog coming from similar places to the one I did (physically and emotionally) all I can say is that there is hope.
If you’ve followed (or are just beginning to follow) my journey then I want you to see and feel what I feel and see. Hopefully if you’ve travelled with me through both the light and the dark moments in the last four years then I’ll have left you with a sense of positivity and optimism.
Maybe your life isn’t going the way that you wanted it to – but in this blog is all the evidence that you need that it can surprise you.
With effort and determination you can change things – and good vibrations sent out into the world inevitably come back when you least expect them to but most need them.
Life is a collection of moments where you can fail more often than not – where it’s easy to think there’s no point – or convince yourself that people don’t need you around, when in fact they really really do.
They gain as much from having you in their lives as you do from having them in yours.
Although I’m not into sport particularly I can’t help thinking of a quote from Wayne Gretsky – the Canadian former professional ice hockey player and former head coach of their National team.
He’s probably said a lot of forgettable things – but one that for some reason really struck me was this one.
‘You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.’
If you don’t try to be better then it won’t happen by magic.
So – 2020 is fast approaching.
What do you want it to be?
Personally I’d like it to contain everything you desire and need and wholeheartedly believe that it can do if you want it enough.
So – what are you waiting for?
Get up, put your coat on and make it happen.