Right, where were we? It was 2014 and I had successfully lost around 10st, 37% of my bodyweight and was maintaining at around 14st – and at 6’ 2” this was in the “normal” BMI range. Let’s not forget my wife, who had been on this journey with me, she had lost 27% of her bodyweight as well.
I was running distances up to half a marathon as well as taking part in Ultra Long Distance Walks. In April that year, I completed the “Wellington Boot” 100km walk in under 23hrs. I was now qualified to take part in the LDWA 100 mile walk in May 2015 and continued with some serious training.
So, at this time. all seemed rosy. However life can bite back at any time. I have found that to be successful at weight loss – and keeping the weight off – you have to have the right frame of mind. Without the mental resilience, things can start to go wrong and, for me, a series of issues started to appear.
As I said in my first blog, we had discovered the joys of cruising, and I discovered that the kitchen is never closed. On our first cruise, I was astounded to find that even if you only went to the restaurants at meal times there was breakfast, morning coffee, lunch, poolside snacks, afternoon tea, dinner and – don’t forget – the midnight buffet.
Then, in case you haven’t had enough, there is 24hr room service. On the cruises we were on, dinner was classed as fine dining and it consisted of five courses, all of them superb. Because we would take out the drinks package, and you need to get value for money, you have to sit in the bars and lounges having pre-dinner drinks, cocktails, martinis, showtime G&Ts. Oh and did I mention the post tour rehydration that you have to do after a hot day ashore. We were still able to cope because on a cruise you do gain weight, but then you can buckle down after and get back on track.
This was the first “Biggy”: 19th January 2015, we set sail on a “Winter Sunshine” cruise to the Canaries where my wife, Joyce, became very ill. We were put ashore Gran Canaria where she was stabilised enough for us to fly home. (That is a story for another time).
Back at home, she was rushed into hospital where she was diagnosed with cancer. She was in and out of hospital for a series of operations over the ensuing months. This is where I began to question just how important dieting was when life suddenly becomes more precious. It was this year that I too was diagnosed with skin cancer and, while mine was not too serious, I began reassessing where I was going. Now the diet was seriously slipping. For Joyce, however, the next news was the best possible: the cancers had been removed, they had not spread and she was no longer in any immediate danger. The relief was unbelievable, but on the weight-loss front the mental damage had been done.
At this time I was still in training for my 100 mile walk in May of this year and in April I did my final training walk. It was a 62 mile challenge walk over the hills on the South Wales / England border, in the Wye Valley. I had started to put on weight and my head was not in the right place.
I was okay for the 30 or so miles but as night started to fall and I hit a long climb back up into the hills I struggled. At 38 miles I quit. Not good! However I was still going for the 100 miler in May. On the 23rd of May I set out on the Lancashire “Red Rose 100.” Again, I made a good start but, once again, as night approached and darkness fell my navigation became a bit wonky and I struggled to find my way back onto the route.
Darkness had fully arrived as I reached the check point at 36 miles. In the distant gloom I could see heights of Pendle Hill looming. Zig zagging up the distant path, the torch lights of the walkers in front of me were ascending up and up the slopes, like a line of fireflies. My spirit quailed and I handed in my tally card and got onto the “blood wagon” back to base. Another failure. This turned out to be my last LDWA walk.
When you start to gain weight because you have lost the willpower needed to keep going with the healthy lifestyle, it really does become a snowball effect. Our declining health led me into the ‘why bother, you may not live long enough to enjoy it’ folly. Then the brain says 15st is nearly as good as 14st and then 16st isn’t so bad when you are 6’ 2”. And so on. It didn’t happen overnight but the decline had started.
Just after the turn of the century we had been lucky enough to buy an old French farmhouse in the Charente countryside, a little North of Bordeaux. This was our escape from the pressures of teaching, in my case, and the NHS for Joyce. It was a brilliant place to refresh both mind and body. Lots of walking and running, through the seriously beautiful countryside.
Freshly cooked produce from my garden and the local French markets made healthy eating easier. We spent all of our holidays there and after retirement, up to 6 months in a year. Then, in 2016, the unthinkable happened and Brexit started to loom large in our minds. By 2019, it became clear that our “escape from pressure” home was no longer going to be viable so – reluctantly – it went on the market.
The sale of the house in France was proving difficult. We were not the only Brits with our house on the market and the prices were collapsing. In early 2020, Covid hit and we were no longer able to travel. I told the estate agent to just offload the French property, which he did at a fire sale price. We just abandoned all of the contents of the house as there was no way to travel to collect them.
We had booked three back to back cruises in the Caribbean, flying out in February of 2020, sailing back with the ship in March of that year. We had noticed in the news that a new virus was starting to raise serious concerns, but we were determined to go on our cruise, even after the deaths on the ships in the Far East.
After all, disasters on that scale, were things that happened to other people. The first part of the cruise, through the Eastern Caribbean, went well till we arrived at La Romana in the Dominican Republic to do “change over”. There were armed guards on the dockside stopping anyone from the ship leaving. There were two plane-loads of passengers in the air expecting to go on a cruise.
It was chaos. Late afternoon the guards just cast off our lines and we had to hurriedly set sail. For the next three weeks we wandered round the coast of Central America and the Western Caribbean, some ports let us in others were a big “Go away.” Eventually, we ended up anchored off a deserted Island in the Bahamas until Cuba agreed to let us all repatriate through Havana airport. (This whole cruise is another story than needs telling).
Covid 3.0 and Health 2.0 – Lockdown
We were now into 2020/21 and the lockdowns. You all went through it too so I don’t need to go into too much detail about what that did to my weight. We were both piling on the pounds and, in my case, I also went down with extreme Sciatica. Scans showed two prolapsed discs and I could no longer walk even 100 yards. I was then diagnosed with COPD and have had to use inhalers to catch my breath ever since.
I am now in a position where I have been comfort eating for a number of years, coupled with a total lack of exercise. The weight is back and I am stuck in an unvirtuous cycle. I really need to sort this out soon or it will be too late. Can I really expect to get fit again at my age of 73?
One thing I learned back in 2013 was I cannot do this alone.
Maybe we in The Joy Club could get together and support each other to have a fitter and leaner 2023.
What did Roger’s weight loss journey inspire in you? Share with him (and your fellow members) in the comments below…