Sam and the Hairy Bikers

“Who are you and what do you do?”
“My name’s Sam and I’m a blogger.”

Oh dear. What started out as a pleasant night out in Torquay became another one of those experiences I will remember forever with a mix of heart-swelling joy and soul-crushing embarrassment. We went to see the Hairy Bikers do their “Larger Than Live” show at the Princess Theatre. A friend on Twitter who had seen the show several weeks before me told me that if I get a chance to go on stage, I should.

Si King and Dave Myers put on a hell of a show. There’s singing, dancing, laughs and cooking. And when they cook, they ask for volunteers out of the audience to go up on stage and eat. In the second half, as Si hovered in the audience for a volunteer, I had just about got the idea of getting up on the stage out of my head when I felt a hand on my shoulder. “You’re coming with me.” Ulp.

And for one glorious moment I decided my weight didn’t matter. Regardless of the fat I would get up there, I would be brave, I would be delightful and I would make Si and Dave proud. I was confident and felt good. That confidence didn’t last long once the realisation set in that I was about to eat in front of over a thousand people. Si asked me about blogging, and I mentioned my Pre-Op Rambling series. He gave me a hug and wished me the best. The audience applauded.

I’ve done some strange things in my time, but sitting at a dining table while the Hairy Effin Bikers waited on me and chatted with me… that about tops the list now.

I didn’t eat much of the food. What I did have was absolutely delicious, though. Want a “weird old tip” for weight loss? Eat on stage. In front of a big audience, with two National Treasures waiting on you. The shakes alone will halve your calorie intake.

I was on a massive high after the show, and although I was a bit worn out the following day still felt pretty chirpy about my experience. It was all lovely until my dodgy self-esteem came a’knocking after this appeared on the Hairy Bikers’ Twitter feed:

“@HairyBikers Probably if you have a morbidly obese person up on stage eating your calorific food – bad taste/timing to make fat girl jokes”

You know what? I loathe that term “morbidly obese”. I don’t know whether the lady who sent this tweet was genuinely concerned for my emotional wellbeing, or if she was your typical Daily Mail reader type wishing to turn this into a ‘thing’ (hairygate?).

There were a couple of fat jokes and yes, maybe this time last year they would have hurt. The first one was Dave asking why fat girls always wear leggings. I think he meant it as a rhetorical question, but since I was there I figured I may as well answer it for him. “Because it’s all we can bloody well buy” I shouted from my seat. He looked across at me and smiled. I could have added that with my body in its current shocking state anything I wear looks like leggings. But I didn’t. The second fat joke, told while I was up on stage nervously tucking in to the food they’d prepared for me affected me so deeply I can’t even remember what it was. I’m still very sensitive about jokes and comments about my size, but on this occasion, it was done in such a way that it didn’t hurt at all.

This lady’s tweet did make me briefly feel regret at going on stage. I’m in a transitional phase in my life as I work on turning things around. If my life was a film this bit would be the montage, backed with some motivational soft rock from Foreigner or Journey. Instead of it being a cheery five minute piece of uplifting footage, it’s a battle that’s been going on for 18 months and shows no sign of an end yet. Hopefully in the next few weeks I’ll get a bit closer to that magic referral to Taunton and a bit closer to getting the op that will really help turn things around for me.

I had a brief conversation with Dave on Twitter after the concerned lady expressed her concerned concerns with such concern (how lovely), and his last tweet to me I shall cherish as much as the flowers he threw at me at the end of the show:

“@Sandall73 you will get there and you will feel amazing.”

I’m just one of the hundreds of people the Hairy Bikers will have met on their massive tour of the UK and I’m sure as time goes on that time in Torquay will fade from their collective memory. It’s something I will never forget and now I feel as though I have the support of these two wonderful chaps, the Morecambe and Wise of food.

The lads still have a fair few stops on to go on their tour. Their show is definitely worth seeing, and I echo the advice from my friend – if you get a chance to go on stage with them, do it. Your tastebuds will thank you and your ego will forgive you eventually.

And if you don’t believe the Hairy Bikers rock – get a load of this:

Pre-Op Ramblings – Part Three

The mission to increase activity, guided by my excellent physiotherapist, continues and is going rather well. I soon became bored of the ‘dancing on the spot for ten minutes’ routine and after my second appointment my instructions were amended to ‘at least twelve minutes, three times a day of whatever you like’. This resulted in some interesting breakthroughs, as noted in my exercise log:

Saturday 16th February: Determined to get some activity into the weekend I managed one of the most ambitious local walks of recent times. We parked in the multi-storey near the library, walked up to Hatters and had lunch. Keen to get away from the gangs of kids assembling around town, we went off in the other direction, over the river and down into the West Exe area which was a lot quieter. It was a good walk, and I enjoyed it.

Walking. I enjoyed walking. Not just ‘grinning and bearing it because it’s good for me’ but actually enjoying the fresh air, the surroundings and the company. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that in spite of being ill the following day we went out and did it again:

Sunday 17th February: I set a timer at the start of our walk at the Halberton end of the canal. I managed half an hour.

Realising that I had managed a full day’s exercise requirements in one session, I began to wonder what else I would be capable of. And if walking was now a pleasure rather than a chore, how would I feel about the dreaded housework that had been piling up around me during my down time?

Wednesday 20th February: In lieu of a set of timed sessions I had a day of very energetic housework. I wanted to use my activity time on something productive and it paid off. The living room looks better than it has done in ages. Estimated activity time – 4 hours with regular breaks.

Thursday 21st February: Feeling spurred on by the work I had done the previous day, I decided to have another day of solid housework, this time tackling the bomb site that allegedly contained my kitchen. Another success. This time about 3 hours work in total.

That worked, then. But after two solid days of housework, could I sustain this? A ‘lazy day’ on Friday involved me dancing around our newly sorted living room and having my first go at the dreaded 30 Day Shred. Surely I’d gone too far at this point? There was no way I could remotely keep up with Jillian and her assistants? I’m probably heavier than the three of them put together. I watched Level 1 on YouTube and then decided to take the plunge and buy the thing. I didn’t know much about Jillian Michaels at the time – believe it or not I have never watched The Biggest Loser (nor do I ever intend to), but I gathered she has a reputation for being ‘tough’. And yes, she does come across a bit ‘drill sergeant’ in the Shred, but what she says makes sense:

“It’s not about perfect. It’s about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that’s where transformation happens. That’s how change occurs.”

Surely after this I would be diving into my bed, not to emerge for about a week? Nope, the following morning, there was another breakthrough:

Saturday 23rd February: Another barrier knocked down as I completed my first walk into Tiverton town centre for a long time. The walk there is 1.7km, and with the additional walking around the town I managed just short of 5km. In other words just short of one race for life.

Yes, the Race For Life. I’m doing the Race For Life on Sunday 30th June at Westpoint in Exeter. If I keep on working to the level I have been, it should be a walk in the park (literally). Support of all kinds would be much appreciated, and if you’d like to sponsor me, here’s my page on Justgiving.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I must go. I’ve been sitting on my arse for too long and I need to go out for a walk. Ta-ta for now.

Pre-Op Ramblings – Part Two

Over the next three months, while the Powers That Be decide whether or not my op is worth funding, I have regular appointments with a dietitian and a physiotherapist.

Last Tuesday I saw the Dietitian. She asked me questions about the food I eat, how often I splurge on takeaways and what I have if I do (still too much, too often… working on it). She seemed generally pleased with my progress and simply advised to keep on doing what I’m doing; logging calories in myfitnesspal, and keeping an eye on things with the Fitbit. She also put my mind at rest on the sticky issue of the funding decision. She said if I didn’t get funding it would be because the operation is not considered safe for me at this moment in time. However, it would appear things are looking positive and I should keep on keeping on until the next stage of the process is reached.

On Thursday I had my first appointment with the service’s new Physiotherapist. I had no idea what to expect having been through nothing of the sort in the past. Another new appointment, another assessment. This time a lot of questions which really brought home just how ruddy lazy I’ve been. The questions, and tests of my walking pace, ability to run (hilariously poor) etc were to establish a baseline, a point from which we can measure progress.

She then set me a daily exercise routine. Ten minutes, three times a day, when I would normally be sitting on my arse staring at my iMac. Since the appointment I’ve done these exercises twice.

I have to admit, exercise has always been a problem for me. And ten minutes of stepping and what-have-you seems like ten hours. The prospect of doing this three times a day does not fill me with joy. I know that if I’m to do this, I need help.

And, unfortunately for my metal-loving husband, that help is in the form of dance hits from the 90s:

And some unadulterated cheese from the 70s:

In my next instalment of pre-operative blether, I’ll share the first few days from my activity diary. Will embracing my inner English Disco Lover make any difference? I think it might. Blame it on the boogie.

Pre-Op Ramblings – Part One

After years of trying and failing to lose weight by various means, I am now going for surgery. Gastric Bypass may seem an extreme solution to those who believe weight loss is simply a case of not cramming cakes in your mouth and moving more than once a week, but to those who fight the good fight every damn day, it’s a lifeline. After meeting other patients, speaking with experts and doing research, I believe this is the best chance I have of undoing the damage I have sustained over the last couple of decades and finally giving myself the life I deserve.

This is not a magic bullet

I am not by any means deluding myself into thinking that weight loss after surgery will be a breeze. I know that at first, it’s going to be tough – six weeks before I’ll be able to eat solids and then I’ll have to be really careful with what I eat and how much I have. I’m doing as much reading as I can about pre-op preparations, the procedure itself, and how life will change afterwards. It’s scary, but the payoff is worth it (as long as I put the work in).

I am going into this with an open mind, but fully aware of the risks. The bypass operation is quite a common procedure these days, and the hospital I’ll be going to (Musgrove Park in Taunton) is considered a Centre of Excellence and the surgeons are known to be the best in their field. So I’ll be in good hands.

What Happens Next

The lovely people at Exeter Medical Obesity Service have been looking after me for the past year. Now the Clinical Lead has given the go-ahead to continue, I shall be spending a few months carrying on as I have been, trying to lose weight with the support of their dietitians and getting exercise advice from their physiotherapist.

In three months’ time the people in charge will meet to discuss if I qualify for funding through the NHS. If that all goes well then I’ll be referred to Musgrove Park for a range of tests to see if, among other things, I’m able to cope with being under general anaesthetic. Then, if that’s all OK, I’ll go on the waiting list. Still quite a way to go then, but I’m getting there.

Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia Frozen Yogurt

I like ice-cream. I’m also trying to lose weight, though, and the two don’t go together very well. Frozen yogurt is much lower in calories, and can be just as tasty. Ben & Jerry have two frozen yogurt flavours I’ve seen fairly often here in the UK. The Chocolate Fudge Brownie one is good – probably 90% as good as the ‘real’ ice-cream version. The Cherry Garcia is perhaps even better than the ice-cream version, and I love it. It has chunks of cherry and dark chocolate.

Nom. At 700 calories per tub, I have been known to have a tub for dinner. Yes, that’s a terrible thing to do. No, I don’t care.

Yes. I will do it again.

Unfortunately, our local Tesco seem to have decided that it isn’t frozen yogurt weather any more, and have stopped stocking it. They still have ice-cream, but I can’t afford the calories for that.