Wednesday 31 January 2024

Wellbeing Wednesday #1 - Time for change has come!

 One of my 'secret new years resolutions' was to start this feature. However, I decided that I'd wait until I had my six month cancer consultation before I did. There were three reasons for this. The first, I am superstitious and I didn't want to tempt fate. The second is that if the results of my PSA test and consult were not good, I'd be in no real state to talk about wellbeing. The third and this may or may not surprise anyone who has read my blog and knows how opinionated I am, is that I wasn't really sure that I had anything sensible to say. My doubts were somewhat eased by discussions I had with friends recently. A couple said that reading my Cancer blog series had been really helpful.

So why now? Following my radical prostatectomy in August, it is likely ( I have just crossed my fingers and said an Our Father for good luck, being a very superstitious, if rather bad Roman Catholic, who doesn't want to tempt fate) that I've put my cancer struggles behind me. Although I will persist with my cancer blog, I hope that it will slowly wither, as it eventually becomes just an annual round up of the PSA test. But the journey has given me a hell of a lot. I don't know if I am alone in this, clearly I am (currently) a survivor and someone who has actually got more positives out of the brush with cancer than negatives. The mental health challenge, especially in the last year, have been immense, but the journey has made me finally address many things that have held me back as a person. I have no qualifications to speak about wellbeing, it is purely a personal viewpoint. I am sure some qualified people may find what I have to say wrong, possibly verging on irresponsible at times, but I believe that one of the biggest problems around the issue of wellbeing is that we are all horribly dishonest. 

So lets start with how this will work. I have set myself some goals for the year. I will track them here.


Last year, I had goals and these were derailed by my surgery and not being able to use the gym at all for three months. This year, my goals are as follows.

Cycling - Minimum 50km a month, Target for year 600km

Rowing - Minimum to June 10km a month,  July to December 40Km per month - Annual total 300km

Cross Trainer Jan - June. 1.5km per week 

Running July-December 15Km a week

My ankle is unable currently to support running, so I am building up with the cross trainer

My target is to clock 1,000km in the gym in total this year. I aim to go twice a week as a minimum.

I also aim to continue my 10k steps a day minimum walking.

I used to be able to row 10K in 37 minutes. It is my aim to get back to doing 10km in 42 minutes by December. This will need a lot of work and is dependent on not getting injuries. 

As its the last day of January, I have failed miserably to meet my target, but this is in part due to my ankle at the start of the month. I started on the 17th and have managed 4km rowing, 28km cycling and 1km on the cross trainer. I aim to catch up by December


At the start of the year, I was 111kg. This may be the heaviest I've ever been. This was a combination of overdoing the alcohol, comfort eating and Christmas. Then there is my BMI (click here to check your BMI) -  my consultant told me on Monday that as my BMI was registering as obese, I need to address this. He informed me that this is likely to hinder my recovery from prostate surgery in matters sexual. That is a good incentive

This was my BMI at the start of the month

I've been dieting all month and the weight is down to 107kg. Definite progress has been made. If I keep this up for February, I should be out of the obese range (just about)

So how have I been doing this? I did not drink at all for the first two weeks in January and I've set myself a target of drinking on a maximum of two days a week for the rest of the month. For the rest of the year, the target is to drink a maximum of three days a week. As for food, my target is to eat around 2,500 calories a day on non drinking days, whilst with exercise, burning a minimum of 3,400kCal per day. 

To facilitate this, I've been keeping a food diary. This tells me if I am meeting this. I largely am. Weekends/drink days need some work, but by choosing healthier options in restaurants etc, it does make a difference. I do not believe that living like a monk is balanced, so it is getting the balance right. Knowing you have to add snacks etc to the diary focusses the mind. Being honest with yourself is the key. 

I will track my BMI progress here. My target is to be BMI 27.3 by 1st June (weight 94kg). This puts me bang smack in the middle of the 'Overweight' category. Whenever I have reached this weight previously, I have had healthy body fat levels. I am a naturally thick set build and believe BMI is a bit of an imprecise tool. My intention will be do discuss this with my GP at the time, when I have a regular check up. 


This is my biggest challenge. I come from a family with a strong history of alcoholism on both sides. My wife has spent 30 years telling me I am in denial over my drinking. Adding drinks to my alcohol log is my way of trying to work out if I have a problem and how much of a problem it is. I do not believe I have a tendency to alcoholism. I don't miss it when I don't drink (except in the pub in company of drinkers). I don't drink on my own. Some of the Trolls who have tried to upset me have portrayed me as an alcoholic, drunkenly blogging at 3am in the morning with a G&T in my hand. This is total rubbish. The only time I've ever blogged after drinking, is when I've attended something such as a council meeting, then been to the pub with other bloggers etc after, and I wanted to get the blog done when I got home, as it was fresh in my mind. Generally they are written in the morning, sober.

I easily manage to stick to my days off rule, apart from on holidays and breaks, which I have always excluded from the rules. What I do, and recognise is a problem, is binge drink on the days I do drink. As most of my good friends also do this, it is a challenge to address. Following my prostatectomy, I've learned that too much volume of alcohol, especially beer, can lead to unfortunate accidents. This has made me moderate my binge drinking (as well as planning my route home carefully). 

I can honestly say that until I've a couple of months worth of data on my food log, I will not really be able to work out a strategy. Let say, this is not a challenge that over concerns me right now. 

Mental Health Wellbeing

So how do I feel? As I started to put this blog together, I realised that this was something that I don't track. When I was 24 I had a mini crisis, when my relationship with my then partner broke down and I had a serious health crisis (a stomach bleed that almost killed me and an infected polyp in my left ear that made me think I was going mad). I had counselling after. The counsellor suggested I keep a mood diary. As this was in a book, I was terrified that someone may find it, so I put symbols rather than categories. There were four. I marked these out of ten. These were 1 - Anxiety/stress level, 2 - Mood/Happiness level, 3 - Goal achievement level and 4 - Sexual interest/activity level. It might not surprise you that the higher 1 and lower 2 were, the lower 3 and 4 were. I also recorded why. My counsellor suggested setting daily goals (ten minutes guitar practice, go for a run/exercise for 30 mins, etc). I'd set one a day. That doesn't mean don't do other things. Sometimes they were boring that I didn't want to do, like doing a tax return. I also had to make a note as to why I'd not achieved them. Often the reason for failing was "Went to pub with mates and got pissed". For the six months I was having counselling, I'd review this on a fortnightly basis. At the end of 1985, I met my current wife and since then, mostly 1 and 2 have been low and the others far better. I thought I'd put it to bed, but I realise it would be useful to do this again. 

So I will be adding these back to the food log and setting a daily goal. Here is todays entry - As you can see it has only been partially filled and is more for an example if its something you feel may work for you

As I stated, this seems to work for me. It is my intention to post this blog regularly, usually on the last Wednesday of the month, charting progress and analysing any lessons learned. I see this as the logical successor, as mentioned above, to the cancer blog (assuming that behaves itself). 

I will discuss strategies that have worked for me and why I've fallen back where that happens. By posting this, I have put it out there, so I can't hide from it.

I finish by saying a few words of thanks. Firstly to Professor Christopher Eden, my prostate surgeon, who put me in a position to do this. To my mens health physio Mr Gerard Green, who helped me deal with the aftermath of my surgery. To Andrew, the nutrition expert at Vitality Health, who got me back on track with the food log and to Natalie at Vitality, who organised the seminar where I met Andrew. 

Then there is my missus, the ever lovely Clare, who makes it all possible, my kids Maddie, Lizzie and Matthew who give me a reason to do it. And finally to all my mates, who will do everything in their power to derail all of the good work, when we go for a drink, but without whom life would be so dull!

And I finish with a promise. On Saturday 3rd Feb, The False Dots, my band, will perform a gig to celebrate their 45th Birthday at The Dublin Castle. This will be a day when my food log will be very + on the calories side, as I have a few pints to celebrate (please come along). Right now, I look like a fat slob. My ambition is to, by the bands next birthday, have a 'beach ready physique', rather than a 'beached whale phsyique". I am keen to show this off. If I achieve it, I'll buy everyone who reminds me of this promise a drink of whatever they want! (I was going to promise to do a song in the Buff, but we want people to enjoy the evening). 

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