Yes, I am 50 this year.
A mid-life crisis? Maybe. I prefer to think that it's waking up to the realisation that if I carry on the way I have been, there won't be a 60th birthday. I'm over 18 stone when I should, according to my height and body shape, be around 13 stone. I eat too much and a lot of it is the wrong stuff. The curse of being an ex-chef is that I always try to make delicious food - often with some seriously rich ingredients. I used to smoke but did at least give that up 20 years ago. But the damage will always be there. I do very little exercise other than walking the dogs and 2010 saw me mostly welded to a chair. I'm a lardy homeworker. It doesn't help that I have very little interest in sport and a quite serious back injury. But that's just an excuse. I can do low impact stuff and I own Wii Fit. I have to change the way I live. And I'm going to.
That was me in 2001. I was fecking huge - somewhere near 21 stone. One of the reasons for that is the liquid brown loveliness in that glass. Good Bitter Beer. Nom nom. So ... eating too much, no exercise and beer ... is it any wonder I got so huge?
In 2006 I decided to do something about it and, being pretty strong-willed (I packed in a 30 a day smoking habit overnight) I joined Lighter Life. Yes, that's the crash diet system based on shakes and bars that costs around £40 a week. It sounds expensive but, as that's all you eat, it actually is not too bad. And it works - no argument. I lost five stones, dropping to around 15 1/2 stones in six months. I felt better, looked better and all was well with the world. Then I returned to normal food. But even using Lighter Life's suggested menu plan to bring you back to the world of real meals, I found the weight creeping back on. My diet had changed but my lifestyle hadn't. And now, four years later, three of those five stones are back. I'm so cross with myself for letting it happen.
So this year I'm taking a different approach. No fad diets. No eating wet cardboard and drinking watery bumgravy flavoured shakes. I'm changing the way I live. Completely. I'm eating sensibly to a planned menu; no food is taboo or banned but carefully slotted into a three meal a day calorie-watching programme of munching. I'm doing more exercise. The poor dogs have never walked so far in their lives. And I'm changing other things too.
As you can see by the photos, I have lots of clutter. And this is just one room in my house. I have over 3000 books. I counted. I thought I had closer to 2000. It's scary. I've read 90% of them. The majority I'll probably never read again. So why keep them? I'm just hanging on to my past. I have dictionaries and encyclopaedias ... there are good dictionaries and encyclopaedias online and in my local library and the British Library (I am a reader). I have many reference books including a lot about dinosaurs. Every single one is now obsolete. New fossil finds in the past 10 years have completely changed our view of these beasties. So, I'm clearing it all out. At my first cull some 700 books have been selected for the charity shop and e-bay. My second cull will see the demise of many more. As much as I adore books, it's extraordinarily liberating to see them go on to new owners. What's the point of them sitting dusty and unread on my shelves just to satisfy some silly craving of mine to own them?
There are going to be huge changes to my life in 2011. I'll be leaner and my life will be leaner. I've had my first taste of depression this past year and I don't like it. Anything I can do to lighten the load, physically and mentally as well as metaphorically, has to be a good thing. The 'black dog' still visits way too often but I'm getting better at fighting him off.
No one can beat capricious fate; when your time's up, it's up. But I'm going to do all I can to stay around for as long as I can. At 50, I'm hardly mid-life. I'm not going to make 100,which means that I'm well and truly over the hill and on the downward slope. In 2011 I intend to dig my heels in to slow the slide.