Guest Blogger: Davey – Learning to Live Life

IMG_0995This week’s guest blogger has a truly inspirational story – and I’m so glad he agreed to venture on to my blog to tell it. Davey has turned his life around with a quite phenomenal weight loss – and he’s still going.  I stumbled across Davey’s blog by accident a couple of months ago. He’s been documenting his life-changing transformation (more than that, I’ll leave him to explain) and his incredible attitude to walking off his surplus pounds.  I commend Davey’s blog to you – he writes with emotional intelligence, insight and honesty. He speaks right to the heart.  Without further ado…

DAVEY – LEARNING TO LIVE LIFE

When Julie asked me if I’d like to write a guest post I was extremely flattered – but also suddenly a little overwhelmed. I looked at Geoff and Ritu’s excellent pieces – and realised that in order to be a passing contributor I’d have to explain who I am – which is something that sometimes I’m still honestly not sure about myself.

The reason for this is that I’m still very much in transition as far as weight loss goes – and I still have a long way to go. At my last reckoning I still have lose the weight of a fridge freezer.

However, let me wind the clock back to January 2016 where, in a period of personal crisis surrounding the death of my mother I had received a stark wake up call.

My mother was a committed smoker and a stubborn lady. She’d never even tried to stop – or for that matter wanted to as far as I can remember – and even when she knew it was killing her she carried on regardless. Over several months I sat and watched her tied to oxygen tubes and slowly drowning in her armchair – yet even this failed to dampen her resolve to have a cigarette.

I wasn’t angry with her though – and it was this realisation that proved to be my turning point.

I understood her. 

As I sat and watched my mom trying to breathe I realised that I was doing the same to myself with alcohol and food. My drinking had always been generous. I’d over imbibed as long as I can remember – and by the time she passed I was (in part due to the increased stress surrounding this event) regularly consuming three bottles of wine in an evening.

I later worked out that my food and drink intake back then was around 8000 kcal a day.

I did no exercise, had a sedentary lifestyle, oedemas in my feet and lower legs, sleep apnea, continual bouts of cellulitis, high cholesterol, borderline high blood pressure, type two diabetes that was spiralling out of control and I was becoming practically immobile. I only moved between my living room and my office (with my car this was probably less than 100m a day) and everything else in my life required home delivery.

A number of things happened in those moments sitting at her side.

Firstly I decided to give up drinking. This was pretty much immediate. The last one passed my lips on the 26th January 2016.

Secondly I decided to give up my job – which oddly enough worked out quite well because I was unexpectedly made redundant.

Thirdly I needed to get fit and healthy – but this would be a long road. I’d tried exercise very early on after giving up alcohol but it was a massive struggle. I couldn’t walk to the end of my road (around 200m) and back without being in agonising pain. When I did so the first time I tore both calf muscles and ended up with long term plantar fasciitis.

By the time April rolled around I was still alcohol free and my clothes actually felt a little looser. I decided it was time to join some form of group and happened to notice that my old next door neighbour was running a Slimming World meeting nearby. I went along, and listened to the plan and the group talk. Then – when everyone had left the room – I stood on a pair of scales capable of weighing me for the first time in about 8 years.

The consultant quietly read out my weight.

I was 34st 8.5lbs (approx 220kg).

When I arrived at the meeting that day this is roughly how I looked and these were also the clothes that I was wearing. The waistline of my jeans was 66 inches and my shirt was an 8XL.

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In order to reach my ‘healthy’ BMI (12st 7lbs) I would need to lose 22st.

I went home and cried. I honestly couldn’t believe how bad things had managed to get and how low I’d sunk.

Although I had a slow start with Slimming World I eventually got my head around the plan and started to embrace their approach to grouping foods as ‘speed’ ‘free’ and ‘syns’ (amongst others).

I – like many others had tried a lot of diets over the years – and in all cases had lost weight, but then almost immediately regained it and more. I’d been to Weight Watchers (twice), followed the Atkins plan (twice), did the Cambridge Diet (twice), the Harcombe diet, Juicing diets, NHS healthy eating plans, Slim-Fast (on this one I lost count of the number of times), and I’d even been to Slimming World before.

Any progress I made was destroyed when I stopped dieting.

Although I can’t claim to have arrived at my current approach immediately I began quite quickly to treat my new membership in a slightly different way to previous attempts. This couldn’t be a diet. It had to be a wholesale lifestyle change. I had to develop a new way of living.

I wanted ‘a new normal‘.

Slowly but surely I began to view all pre-prepared meals and the vast majority of processed food as the enemy. I have either completely stopped eating it or have it very occasionally. I don’t do ‘fakeaways’ (SW friendly versions of takeaways) which are a big thing in my group – because a fake kebab or a fake pizza just reminds me of all the bad things I used to like to eat and maintains my taste for the types of food that got me into trouble in the first place.

I don’t want to crave them in any form any more because if I at some point ‘fall off the wagon’ I want to have re-trained my palette so much that when I falter – I reach for cottage cheese and olives rather than calling for a Dominos Pizza delivery.

For this reason I also don’t do snack food like crisps or chocolate, and I usually (but not exclusively) use my syns within my cooking instead of on treats. If I feel like adding avocado to a salad or a drizzle of olive oil to a vinaigrette then thats where my points for the day normally get used.

As I started losing weight and began to feel more active I started trying to walk around my local park – which has lots of benches, a flat circuit and is exactly a mile long.

The first few times I did this resulted in way more time sitting than standing – and a lap took over an hour. I used to refer to my early attempts as ‘bench pressing’ – because sitting down to recover occupied the lion’s share of the time I spent there.

Gradually however things improved and bit by bit my recovery time (I was continually struggling with injury) got better and better. After a while I was able to walk seven miles in a week – but still couldn’t do a whole mile in one go without resting along the way.

As time went on and I lost more and more weight I found that I sat less, and my recovery time increased. I could do more things in a day and my sleep was improving. I felt better all the time. Before I knew it in the space of a few months I could walk seven miles in a week, then 14, then 30!

It was still hard going – but I had started to really enjoy walking.

Oh – and remember the fridge freezer? Due to all the activity I’d lost the seven stone that this item represented by October.

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It wasn’t until I got out and about that I truly appreciated how small my world had become.

I can now walk over 70 miles in a week – and have been plotting my cumulative distance travelled on foot since last April. By the time December had rolled around I’d walked further than the distance from Land’s End to John o Groats (it’s 847 miles or thereabouts according to Wikipedia).

Now, nearing the end of March 2017 I’m probably about a month away from having walked back again and I can do a mile in around 16.5 minutes.

As an added bonus while my exercise levels went up my blood sugar levels went down.  Previously I had to take five tablets a day to control my levels, but gradually I’ve managed to bring my HbA1c readings under control. They’ve dropped from 94 mmol/mol (the stratospherically high level I had when I was first diagnosed) to 30 mmol/mol at my last test.

Currently I take no medication and can manage my condition by diet and exercise alone.

My blood pressure has also massively improved. Previously I was on the cusp of it being classified as high but now it’s now 124/70. This is less than the level of a man of a lower age group than me (the 25-34 bracket is expected to be 131/72 and I’m in my mid 40’s.)

I still have the clothes I was wearing in those earlier photos (in case you wondered) but they now look a little different on me. I currently weigh 22st 5lbs and I’ve lost over 12 stoneThe waistline of the jeans I’m wearing as I type (which are also under my old clothes in this photo) are a 50 inch waist and are falling down. I’ve ordered some 48’s.

My shirt size is now 4XL and I’m able to get into some larger 3XL tops, depending on the shop.

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It’s not been an easy road though, and while I can say that I am now both the fittest and healthiest I have ever been in my entire life there are other emotional and mental hurdles to overcome related to this massive change.

My journey has made me question everything about my life, and examine every decision that I make now and also made in the past.

I’ve made choices in my life for so long with weight and mobility as my primary motivator that I’ve not stopped to think before what I’d do if they were no longer a problem.

The worry that’s always with me though is will I manage to keep off all the weight I’ve lost?

I have to believe I will. I can do anything I want to do. All I have to do is want it enough.

Now I can sit in restaurant booths and normal cinema seats, I can wear a seatbelt in other people’s cars, I can sleep on my back, I can stand for hours rather than minutes, I can wear the upper end of clothing from high street shops, I can put my socks on while I’m standing up, I can get into my bath and have a soak, I can cross my legs while sitting in my armchair, I can use a laptop on my lap, I can walk further and for longer than a lot of my friends.

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So what do I do with all of this? Who do I become? Who will I love, what will I do for a living and what will I learn about my new life?

I honestly don’t know – but I’m currently very much enjoying trying to find out. If you want to figure it out with me then pop over to my blog (link) and say hi!

Davey

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Guest Blogger: Geoff Le Pard – The New Me

May I introduce you to Geoff Le Pard, humourist and witty raconteur, entertaining, informative blogger, writer extraordinaire, esteemed Bloggers Bash committee member and baker of… added-sugar-free cake. It was my huge pleasure to meet Geoff at the first Bloggers Bash in summer 2015, at which he took possibly the worst fat photo ever, ever taken of me. Ever. For this, I am extraordinarily grateful. It set me on a path, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Geoff has the dubious honour of being the first in a short series of guest bloggers taking up residence at julielawford.com over the coming weeks, to share real, inspirational stories around weight-loss and lifestyle change.  Geoff has lately got to grips with the product of a career’s worth of lawyer’s lunches. But I’ll let Geoff do the storytelling from here…

The New Me – Geoff Le Pard

Some years ago, a birthday card did the rounds. It showed two woolly sheep with one saying to the other ‘Ewe’s not fat, ewe’s just fluffy.’ That became something of a family joke as I began to add pounds to my waist and my forties slipped past into my fifties.

I was still active but not as active as I had once been; I cycled to and from work daily, I walked at the weekends and I had personal training sessions twice a week. But I also developed a chronic back complaint in my late forties that took time to deal with and my job left me prone to neck and back spasms from too much sitting in meeting rooms, too much hunching over computers. I grew from 12 stone 10 to 14 stone 5 and while I stayed there (mostly) it didn’t go either. I was fit, to an extent, and fat. In clothing terms my waist went from a comfortable 34 inches to a cosy, muffiny 36 inches (and beyond).

There was a brief interval when things changed radically. We got a dog and I began jogging with him round the block and beyond before cycling to work. The dog loathed it. My father became ill and then died inside a year. And I remember talking to a work colleague who had lost weight on the Atkins diet, raving about the benefits of taking carbohydrates out of his diet. Stress, I think, was the precipitant but not eating bread – a lawyer’s lunch usually comprised sandwiches – and the running combined to see me shed a stone.

It didn’t last. The dog’s sour face told me to stop torturing it at 6 am; you can only deconstruct so many sandwiches in a negotiating meeting, eating the cheese and pickle fillings and transferring sticky goo onto draft documents. And I came to terms, after a fashion with my dad’s untimely departure.

I have a bi-annual medical, given my family has examples of both most cancers and heart problems. Latterly the BMI and chest/waist ratios have been going in the wrong directions. But being given numbers and seeing statistical likelihoods doesn’t cut it if, like me, you think of yourself as fit; it’s an ‘increased’ risk of this and that, not a certainty. Then I needed an operation – a hernia – and had a scan. The fatty deposits were only too plain. The surgeon talked candidly about how they might attach to organs so we don’t see the damage they can do. I had to do something but I needed a trigger.

Last summer I had a shock; it was dreadful and I lost my appetite for a while. When I found an equilibrium, I realised I’d lost a bit of weight. So, I reasoned, now was as good a time as any to start a healthier eating and lifestyle regime. I sort of knew, and if I didn’t, Jools’ blog has brought this home to me in a big way, that any changes had to be both incremental and permanent.

I introduced the following:

  • Once again, all bread came out of my diet; I have no meetings now, no need for sandwich lunches; the odd thing is that white flour does not appear to be a problem, it’s the yeast/flour combination that leaves me feeling bloated and sticks to my sides;
  • I eat earlier, no main meals after 7pm and usually at 6;
  • I’m more careful with portion sizes but I still indulge in some seconds;
  • I try and avoid snacking between meals;
  • I reduced the amount of meat I eat;
  • And I’ve been teetotal for 27 years.

I don’t eat as much cake as I did, but I still eat it. I still have puddings and chocolate and they don’t seem to impact my size. Similarly, I drink no less milk than I did, though my breakfast is usually porridge made with coconut or unsweetened almond milk.

Are these sacrifices difficult? Hardly, because there aren’t many. Yes, I miss bread but not so much. It makes it easier that my lifestyle – based at home rather than in an office – lets me both choose when I eat and gives me a greater selection to choose from. And virtue breeds virtue; I eat more vegetarian food, more fish.

The result of all this is that I’m back to just under 13 stone. My clothes don’t fit so I’ve had to buy 34-inch waisted jeans – indeed 32 might be the real size – and I’ve started borrowing my son’s T-shirts. When I went skiing recently I wore his ski gear – it made me look a prannock, but I’m not forking out on yet more stuff.

I worry it won’t stay off but Jools is right when she says you have to assume this is a permanent change. I never had a particular goal in mind and I don’t have a target, so the trap of hitting a goal and slipping back isn’t one I fear especially. I rarely weigh myself but realise one needs to have the evidence if things are slipping, rather than go into denial. So, I’ll be doing that.

And the benefits in terms of being easier to exercise and feeling better how I’m treating myself (and even though I’m 60 now I’m not beyond a little light vanity) make it worthwhile.

  *  *  *

I mentioned Geoff was a writer extraordinaire… Here is his writerly biography:

Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006. He hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls. He also cooks with passion if not precision.

My Father and Other Liars is a thriller set in the near future and takes its heroes, Maurice and Lori-Ann on a helter-skelter chase across continents.

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

 

Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle is a coming of age story. Set in 1976 the hero Harry Spittle is home from university for the holidays. He has three goals: to keep away from his family, earn money and hopefully have sex. Inevitably his summer turns out to be very different to that anticipated.

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

This 30 story anthology covers many genres: fantasy, romance, humour, thriller, espionage, conspiracy theories, MG and indeed something for everyone. All the stories were written during Nano 2015

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

Salisbury Square is a dark thriller set in present day London where a homeless woman and a Polish man, escaping the police at home, form an unlikely alliance to save themselves.

This is available here

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

Have yourself a merry… sugar-free Christmas #weightloss #healthylifestyle #positivechange

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Christmas presents all sorts of challenges for those of us in the midst of a healthy weight-loss campaign.  This is my second such Festive Season…

This time last year, I was looking forward to my first healthy lifestyle, sugar-free Christmas with some trepidation, wondering how I would cope. I’d been working on my mental attitude and better dietary and exercise habits for four months and by then I’d lost 33 pounds – not bad going, if I say so myself. But… Christmas is Christmas, and when it comes to food, the temptation factor is off-the-scale.

Checking back in my food diary, I can see I ate well on Christmas Day:

  • For breakfast: Homemade Bircher muesli; a slice of cheese
  • For lunch: Six mini savoury oatcakes with cream cheese and smoked salmon; Roast turkey with roast potatoes, roast parsnips, Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and pancetta, broccoli, carrots, red cabbage
  • Evening: A little leftover smoked salmon
  • Drinks: Black coffee (copious!), a half-glass of Prosecco; a half glass of red wine.

But there was self-restraint too, I’m happy to report; I didn’t partake in Christmas pudding and mince pies, with their layers of sugar, fat, alcohol, sugar and more sugar. Nor did I drink except with the main meal. Nor, so it seems, did I trough my way through mountains of nibbles whilst watching TV. You know, that mindless time when you seem to have one hand permanently in the confectionary tin or the bowl of nuts; when you say yes to everything – sandwiches and dates, canapés and cake, jelly fruits, chocolates and a tsunami of the sort of icky, syrupy snifters you never partake of at any other time of the year, but somehow can’t get enough of at Christmas – even when your stomach is fit to burst.

My Christmas Day 2015 was still a good day’s eating by anyone’s standards (and cooking too – for it was me taking care of the day’s big feast for the family). My diary says I even made time for a good walk; 50 minutes, first-thing, whilst it was still dark outside.

The rest of the week involved a couple of meals out and, as far as I can make out, an ocean of turkey and vegetable soup.  But at the end of that week, I’d lost weight – an unexpected but joyous 1.7 pounds.

A few things have occurred to me as I look back. I was thoroughly in-the-zone then, keeping an uncompromising tight rein on my eating, planning all meals and being rigorous about regular exercise – even on Christmas Day. I know I’ve become a little more lax lately on both food and exercise fronts. I know this is why my weight loss has levelled off at 70 pounds, and I’m struggling to get it moving again.  To be perfectly frank, there are too many days when I excuse myself from exercise, too many sneaky (though still sugar-free) little treats, and some questionable portion control.

So I’m reapplying myself, as of now. I still have at least 30 more pounds to go and I’m eating for maintenance at the moment, not loss. Keeping on keeping on is the only way to succeed at this game; one day at a time, one pound at a time, until it’s all gone.

When I reflect on my first healthy lifestyle year and reconnect with all the benefits I’m already enjoying (here and here), I kick myself for stalling, as my life, health and wellbeing can only go on improving as I shed the remaining excess. But I’m also going to congratulate myself for having made it this far, because beating-up on yourself, anything more than momentarily, just isn’t helpful.

Happy Festivities and…. THANK YOU!

So it only remains for me to wish all readers and followers of my humble blog every happiness at this festive season, good health and contentment – and success in pursuing your goals, whatever they are – in 2017. Thank you all so much for reading my blog posts, being interested in my progress, commenting, supporting and encouraging me throughout the year.

YOU have all been the wind beneath my wings throughout 2016.

A Super-charged ‘Bircher’ Breakfast Recipe

2016-01-13 08.26.24I don’t plan to post recipes all the time, as there are plenty of sites doing this. But I do have one of my own that I particularly enjoy, which I’d like to share. For anyone looking for a really filling, satisfying, no-added-sugar breakfast, I’d recommend this. It’s basically an over-excited Bircher Muesli. It takes about 10 minutes to put together (I do it in the evening to give the oats a chance to soften) and it’s good for 4 breakfast servings – 1 person for 4 days or 2 people for 2 days.  I don’t count calories as a rule, but I’ve included a rough guide to the calories here as some people like the measure. You may want to do your own calculation.

Ingredients (4 servings):

  • 100g plain porridge oats (376 cal)
  • 260g Fage Total Greek Yoghurt, full fat (260 cal)
  • 60g mixed nuts or brazil nuts/almonds/walnuts (approx 372 cal)
  • 20 raspberries (20 cal)
  • 20 white grapes, sliced into 2/3 pieces or 1 green apple, grated (60 calories)
  • 20g milled organic flaxseed, for flavour and all sorts of goodness (113 calories)
  • Almond Milk (or whole milk) to moisten (100 calories – total guestimate, I’m afraid)

1301 calories total divided by 4 servings: Approximately 325 calories per serving

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl, adding enough milk to create a soft consistency (I use home-made almond milk, but whole milk or shop bought almond milk would work just as well). You can use any fruit you like, but I prefer raspberries, which break up through the mix and give it a bit of a raspberry ripple effect. Apples make it more tart and I like this, but grapes are a bit more convenient, and add little pops of natural sweetness, so that’s why they get my vote.  I’ve used blueberries and blackberries too.

You can vary to your taste of course. Add more fruit without overburdening the calorie content, or reduce the nut or yoghurt content to slim down. It’s up to you. Then seal the bowl and store in the fridge overnight, giving time for the oats and nuts to soften and the flavours to blend.

When serving, the mixture will have become more ‘sticky’, so add a little more milk or almond milk to loosen, then garnish with a couple of raspberries, just because it looks nice – and we eat with our eyes.

Bircher purists would probably baulk at the thought of grapes – grapes! – in their muesli, but this is my recipe, so there. They would also want to drizzle honey or agave syrup over everything, which is currently against my dietary religion. The grapes add the minuscule amount of sweetening this recipe needs anyway.

I find this breakfast will see me at least until lunchtime and often well beyond into the afternoon if I happen to be too busy to stop for lunch, or out-and-about and unable to find something healthy. The Fage Greek yoghurt is full-fat but natural/unflavoured. It’s thick and creamy, packed with good bacteria and NO sugar, which is simultaneously satisfying for those of us who like our food to be unctuous, and exciting for the sugar avoiders like me.

If you try it, I’d love to know what you think.

Fat Girl Slim (eventually)

Breakfast at Denny's, January 2015. I know... I know...
Breakfast at Denny’s, January 2015. I know… I know…

These are my achievements in 2015:

  • I published my first novel
  • I kicked a lifelong sugar habit into touch
  • I have lost 35 surplus pounds (so far…)

The novel, Singled Out, came out in February and has sold modestly, as self-published novels are wont to do, but received some amazing reviews. Thank you, hugely, to all those readers who took the time and trouble to give their feedback so positively this year on Amazon and Goodreads.

Kicking the sugar habit began in September and was a gradual thing, no ‘cold turkey’ for me. But I’m confident I’ve now succeeded in eliminating all but the very occasional appearance of added sugar in one or two sneaky little places.  I’m going to blog on this in coming days because whether you’re overweight like I am or not, you should probably be consuming less sugar.

The serious attack on my surplus poundage also began in September, and at an average of just over 2lbs a week, I’m deliriously happy, quite beside myself, at this initial, steady and sustainable success. I’d chosen to believe for so long that as a middle-aged and largely sedentary woman, I was stuck with my wraparound flab for life. No so, it seems. But there is some distance yet to be travelled.

Regular readers will know I’ve been blogging for a while about the experience of writing fiction and navigating today’s publishing landscape. Then I started slipping in a few posts relating to Singled Out – the ups and downs of being single, Turkey, foodie matters and the psycho-side of life.

Now with my sights set on maintaining my new healthier lifestyle into 2016 and continuing to offload unwanted pounds, I’ll be blogging about my experience of turning around a lethargic, sugar-laden, poke-and-ping mindset and offering a few thoughts on the way the world at large is chewing over what it has branded “The Obesity Epidemic”.

When I sat down to think up a few topics, it took me about five minutes to get to 40. That surprised even me, especially since I’ve been struggling for months to think of what to write… about writing.

So this is not a blog about writing any more – at least for now. But I do hope you’ll stick with me through 2016 though, as it turns out I have a bit to say about the experience of developing positive addictions to healthy lifestyle habits, being overweight and losing it, and the whole horrible obesity debate.

I can’t be too triumphalist about it, because take a glance at the picture above (on holiday in Florida, a year ago and several months before the fun-and-games began) and you’ll realise that even 35lbs down, I still have a tonnage to deal with. But I’ve learnt some valuable lessons and changed some important things in the last four months; which means I can with reasonable confidence say that whilst this is neither the end, nor the beginning of the end, it is perhaps the end of the beginning.