Turning round the tanker

For many of us, the lockdowns of the past year have not been great for health and fitness. For every person who found lockdown an opportunity to pound the roads and set new highs with their step counter, there are ample more who ate too much, moved too little, and found new highs only when stumbling shamefully onto the scales.

For the avoidance of doubt, my lockdown experience puts me firmly in the latter of those camps.

To be fair, I started okay. As a family we’d take daily walks during Lockdown 1.0, discovering new places and making the most of the (very odd) situation. But of all the seeds sewn in those early days, it was the bad ones which took root and proved to be the most hardy.

We decided, for example, that the lack of opportunity to take ourselves out for treats meant it would be a good idea to bring the treats to us. 

More treats meant more streamed family movies, more games, more time just being together. 

Which was all undeniably great!

But more treats also meant more chocolate, more popcorn, and more ice cream. Oh, the ice cream!

Which was all, well, not so great.

Then there was the national craze for lockdown baking, and we went all in. It was wholesome, spending time together as a family making buns, cupcakes, and all sorts of creations, invariably laden with plentiful buttercream frosting (seriously…have you any idea how much sugar goes into that stuff?)

Every (undeniably) delicious mouthful came with a generous side-helping of guilt. Of course it was wrong. But it tasted so good!

Of course, lockdown was never meant to last as long as it did. As cautious as I am, and as anxious as COVID makes me, it was never foreseen as being something which would keep us locked down for as long as it has. 

So while spring turned to summer we’d dine out in the beautiful new garden we created together as a lockdown project (a definite high point), before the nights closed in and we squirrelled ourselves away with all manner of snacks to see us through the dark winter nights with nowhere to venture much beyond the living room.

And now here we are, with the nights getting lighter all over again as we’re little over a month from marking a year since the beginning of that first lockdown. 

As a family we’ve maintained a lockdown mindset throughout, the only real risk taken being the decision to allow the kids to return to school from September to December. We’ve not eaten out in a year, not had a takeaway since March. I venture out for the Big Shop once every week and we’ve made visits to other shops only when absolutely necessary. Every time (since the very beginning last March) a mask worn to make things as safe as possible.

The result is that – to this point at least – we’ve fortunately avoided the virus and come even closer together as a family – I wouldn’t change our actions one bit in that regard. But our general health has undeniably suffered. Clothes no longer fit, walking takes that bit more effort (a short jog is beyond me now) and I have regular aches and pains.

I’ve always worried about getting old. But in the past few months, for the first time, I’ve started to feel old. And while, at 42, I’m obviously no spring chicken, I’m equally not yet at an age where I should be struggling against such low barriers in my own health and fitness. What’s next? Unable to walk around the park with the kids? A Diabetes diagnosis?

I’m reminded of the theme from that classic BBC sitcom One Foot in the Grave:

They say I might as well face the truth

That I’m just too long in the tooth

I’ve started to deteriorate

And now I’ve passed my own sell-by date

All very funny, of course. Except what’s the use of being a 42 year old (not young, I accept, but not particularly old, either) and already beginning to think of myself in that mould?

There’s nothing inevitable about all of this; no need to deteriorate just yet. I have a perfectly lengthy shelf life stretching out in front of me.

In short, it doesn’t have to feel this way.

So, what now?

For months I’ve procrastinated and avoided when it comes to the obvious decisions that had to be made in order to put this right. I’ll do it after the weekend, I’d tell myself, after the summer, after my birthday, after a holiday, after Christmas. I’ll do it. Just…later. 

Well, it’s later now and I’m doing it.

My wife has also been keen to make a change for her own reasons, and has been diligently researching how best to do it. It’s been inspiring, and a couple of weeks ago I bought Tom Watson’s excellent book on his own extraordinary weight-loss journey. This weekend I read it, and it gave me the extra shove I needed to get my backside in gear and finally get cracking. 

I have a great advantage in this quest: my wife is an incredible cook! Indeed a very definite lockdown success has been actual mealtimes, as we’ve eaten better than ever with abundant healthy dinners a daily fixture in our lives. It’s between mealtimes where the problems have persisted.  

So the purpose of this post is singular. It is to put down a marker; a shout out to the world (even though nobody is listening) that I’ve taken that first step. It’s intended to make me accountable in some way, in that not telling anyone what I’m doing would make it all too easy just to stop. This way I can always come back and read these words all over again; to remind myself when things get hard that I did take this step, and that I did tell the world I was doing it. 

Hopefully, that’ll be the extra tool that I need in my bag when all I want to do is give in. When the thought of that slab of delicious Galaxy chocolate is just too much to resist. Because then I can remind myself that it never is one slab that’s my problem, but the need it creates for a second, and a third…

So here I am. Fifty-four pounds to lose. Almost four stone. It’s like turning round a tanker. But tankers can be turned.

Let’s get at it!