Hello and a very warm welcome to my newly relaunched blog. I'm Paul a 40 year old family man from the UK. In this complex, information overload 21st century world, too often we lose sight of what's really important. Here I want to celebrate life, share inspirational stories, throw the spotlight on charities and causes close to my heart. Looking forward to sharing this journey with you all.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

So how exactly do we start making a difference?

We've all been there.

In the modern world, there are so many demands placed on our time, we have so many things competing for our attention, so often the days just seem to fly away from us.

Particularly those of you out there who are parents , or are full time carers, will be familiar with the constant daily challenges of juggling work commitments with taking care of your nearest and dearest which leaves precious little time for you.

Many of us hanker for that "time out " period, always waiting for that next holiday, a few weeks where we can get things sorted out properly. Maybe then we can tackle the ever growing to do list - losing a few pounds, getting in shape, getting the finances organized, finding time to get back in touch with friends and family.

So where do you start?

Well, I think the best way for me to start this blog is to share with you some of my own personal experiences from the last few months.

Now as I say at the top of my blog, I'm very much a family man. I have been happily married for 12 years and have a wonderful little boy who's just turned 4. Around 18 months ago, we moved to a beautiful rural location in the East Midlands, and have a spacious house and garden.

From a work / career perspective, I've spent the last 13 years or so in the IT industry, which although financially rewarding, has meant me spending a lot of time away from home on the road. Around June last year, I was assigned to a challenging delivery project, which required me to work away two or three days each and every week, not only in the less than glamorous setting of Slough, but also in the less than comfortable surroundings of a windowless , soulless Data Centre.

So not an unfamiliar scenario, but with a little boy starting to ask questions about why Daddy has to go away, and numerous complications resulting from a lack of resources to help with the deployment, it just got increasingly harder to deal with.

Working long hours, with limited onsite catering and all the stodge served up on room service menus, meant that I got into a very bad cycle of comfort eating and corner cutting. My plans to keep up a fitness regime in the hotel gym soon drifted away without the time or the motivation to keep it going.

The impact of stress itself is so difficult to quantify or measure, but I most certainly was feeling the frustration and it was beginning to spill over into family time, returning in a drained state to those precious weekend dates.

Things eventually came to a head in late November, when after a particularly harsh week, we had a weekend of over indulgence with some good friends. On the Sunday morning I woke up with mysterious pains across the front and back of my stomach region, and initially put it down to the excesses. However over the next couple of weeks the pains just refused to shift, constantly nagging at me. In the end, I felt I had to get things checked out, so while working away, at the end of another long day, headed over to Accident and Emergency to get things checked out.

There I was, bemused and confused, not having eaten much all day, suddenly whisked into a ward as the initial results came back - traces of blood in the urine sample, high blood pressure reading, further tests needed. I'm one of the most squeamish people you are ever likely to meet, so this wasn't exactly the outcome I was hoping for. Sitting there a week before my 39th birthday, terrified of what was about to be discovered, I went through hours of blood tests and x-rays which were unable to pinpoint things any further.

The advice was to take anti inflammatories and pain killers have follow up scans and consult my GP. This in itself was more than enough of a spur to get me to get myself removed from the project ASAP and try and take back some kind of control.

So a week later, my GP did an assessment, and although he couldn't shed any more light on the mystery stomach ailment he did confirm that my BP was still running extremely high - 196/100 compared with the norm of 120-140/80. So two days before Christmas I was booked in for an ECG, cholesterol tests, the works. Once again the BP reading from the nurse was worryingly high at 188/100.

The basic message was, go and chill out over Christmas, start taking control of the diet, and see how things are in the New Year. Faced with such a stark and frightening potential reality, I'd already given up alcohol and make some fairly fundamental adjustments to my daily diet.

First step was to gradually cut back on portion sizes. second to replace all the typical christmas fayre type snacks with the likes of carrots, handfuls of almonds and zero fat yoghurts. Then it just built from there really, over time, I seemed to crave the unhealthy /fatty / sugary stuff less and less. The two keys for me were , never actually feeling hungry (so slow release high fibre foods good for that) and also never totally denying anything - i.e. I could always have one small chocolate, or one bite of cheese etc, etc.

As my stomach settled down, I started to do some gentle exercise, firstly out walking in the fresh air. Luckily for me I'd built up a fair collection of home gym equipment in my garage, including a treadmill and cross trainer, so once I'd swept away the dust, being home based for a while there was plenty of time to get stuck in.

By the time I revisited the doc after christmas I'd lost 14 pounds or so, but alas the BP rating was still 180/100. He gave me the last chance saloon option. To buy a home BP monitoring kit, measure for 3 weeks , and see if it's a case of the figures being artificially high due to stress of being at the doctors or "white coat syndrome". Otherwise, I was looking at intrusive and side effect loaded tablets for the rest of my days.

Luckily for me, having invested in a larger cuff size for my newly inflated biceps, and in a more relaxed home atmosphere, the figures were much better. Gradually as the weight came down, so to did the readings, edging closer and closer to an average of 150/85. The relief of this had its own impact and when I retested at the docs it was 164/92. So tablets avoided, just one more checkup due next week, but since then I've not looked back for a moment.

Now another 16 pounds lighter, training 6 times a week for 30 minutes or more, so many things are coming right for me. Work seems so much easier to manage, even my long standing slackness around jobs round the house has ended, finally tidying up after myself as a matter of course. I've got so much more energy for daily life now, and that feeling that my little boy won't have to worry about his daddy's health in the near future is amazing.

To help you get a clearer picture of what I'm trying to explain, think about what happens when you roll snowballs. Imagine a fresh carpet of snow has fallen overnight, the first fall of the winter, and suddenly that sense of childlike wonder engulfs you. You scuttle around, quickly grab a coat and a pair of woolly gloves s and head out the door.

You eagerly scoop up the first handful of snow and squash it together in your fingers and gently start to roll. Now chances are, (well if it's poxy UK snow) it'll be too powdery to roll, it'll crumble and you'll have to keep trying. Maybe even come back another day. But my point is , that once you get that first bit of snow collected, it rolls easier, and on the way it starts collecting more and more snow all by itself. Before you know it you have a full on 100% hugemongus snowman body on your hands. The achievement doesn't end there - you could roll some more, build an igloo, the list goes on.

Now you could extend the analogy a little too far and say , in the end , what's the use, the snow always melts in the end.

So if you make good progress on a diet, one weekend's overindulgence and its all blown away.  But really all I'm trying to show is that once you make the right start, other unexpected benefits will soon come along with it -if you never get started, you'll never know how far it could take you.

I've made so many false starts in my time - a few pounds off before xmas, but hey its christmas / or hey its holidays and they all come back. Give yourself enough of a chance and you can make the fundamental changes, the ones that really last.

And the point is , once you've made that change in your own life , why should it stop there? So often we are all guilty of passively consuming the world around us - taking the daily feeds from the news and the goggle box, settling into the routines and just accepting. How many times do we say- one day I'd like to ....Whether that be treats, or longer term goals like setting up on your own, volunteering for travel, visiting new parts of the world - we just don't and I believe that's because we somehow get conditioned to believe we can't make those changes.

We can, we absolutely can make a difference

Thanks for reading!


  1. Hola! Thought I'd add a bit of Smurfette colour to the world of Magic Dart! I'm a (fairly) new blogger too and would be much obliged if you'd come and have a look at mine. I'm following you now, so it'll be nice to catch up with you - I've missed seeing you on Dooyoo and the like!


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