The Jamaican Bobsled Team Within

I won’t be the first person to have used the bubblewrap metaphor. In fact, I’m fairly sure if you dig through previous blogposts you’ll probably find I’ve used it before. But it works.

Bubblewrap keeps you safe. If someone drops you, bubblewrap will stop you from breaking. But we don’t wrap people in bubblewrap. If you wrap yourself in too much bubblewrap, you’ll smother and die.

I’m now 28 stone 9 pounds. For the first time in my life, I weigh more than 400 pounds. For the first time, I’m over 180 kilos. For the first time, my BMI is over 60. In the last four months, I’ve gained what the average woman will gain throughout a whole pregnancy.

You would think that there wouldn’t be a big difference between being about 25 stone and being about 28 stone. But there’s a massive difference. Everything is so hard. Everything. Hoisting myself in and out of a car is so much harder than it was this time last year. Getting up from a chair when there’s no table nearby to lean on is tough. In fact, sitting for any length of time has become so painful  and puts such a strain on my back and my hips that I sometimes spend over 20 hours a day in bed. Almost all of my online work is bedwork. And my weight broke this bed months ago, so it’s not even that comfortable.

Don’t get me started on how much more difficult every pound makes it to go to the toilet or to shower.

And that feeling in the morning when you’re trying to put on jeans and you’ve got one leg up as far as your knee and you literally can’t bring the other knee high enough to get your second foot into your jeans, so you have to take them off and start again and make sure to put the jeans on the floor in such a way that you can put both feet in at once.

Or worse, the nights when you stand beside your bed crying because you can’t reach down and take off your sandals and you think maybe you’ll never get them off and maybe you’ll never be able to go to bed again and maybe you need to have a live-in nurse because you can’t even take off velcro sandals, which a one-year-old can do.

This is not the me in my head. In my head, I’m Mindy Lahiri from the Mindy Project, or Laurie from Cougar Town, or Penny from Happy Endings. I’m someone who wears bold primary colours and too many sequins. I’m someone who will take any opportunity to twerk. I’m someone who says “neighbs” instead of “neighbourhood”, or “situaysh” instead of “situation”. I’m someone who says “my ass just won’t quit”. I’m someone who is versed in the arts of poledancing and burlesque. I’m someone who flirts shamelessly and who  has a community of people willing to listen to my outrageous opinions on celebrities. That’s the me in my head. mlp.png

But I’m none of those things. I’m grey and slow and blobby and I’m losing a lot of my spark and my bubble. I’m not Penny or Mindy. I’m Uncle Vernon from Harry Potter, or the slug lady from Monsters Inc.


So, clearly, it’s time for a change. Doctors and psychologists and counsellors have been no use so far. While I was doing my PhD, I thought that maybe a full-time job would help. When I went off to teach a course in Russia or Slovenia or Italy in the summertime, I wouldn’t eat as much, and I’d be much happier. But Vietnam proved me wrong on that. For the first three weeks of working there, I stopped bingeing. I was walking a lot and life was generally much healthier. But it didn’t take long for night-time binges to start. The working day was just a pause en route to the binge. And the nighttime binges carried over to all my subsequent full-time working gigs, whether in Macedonia, Kazakhstan or Galway. Life as it is is unsustainable.

I’m starting my Camino in a month’s time.  And partly it’s a weightloss attempt. You can’t walk 25 km a day for 35 days and not lose weight. So part of the reason I’m doing it is to reverse this trend, so I don’t end up having to hire home help. If this doesn’t help me to turn around the direction on weightloss, then I’m going to get weightloss surgery. Some websites say that as my BMI is over 60, I am too heavy to be considered for weightloss surgery and I’d have to lose a lot of weight first, but surely I’d manage, wouldn’t I?

And in some ways it’s ridiculous. I’m not a fast walker now. I chafe a lot. I run out of energy fast. 25 km a day? For a month? And I’ve looked at a lot of videos of people walking the Camino and seen the flimsy plastic chairs in the cafes and in the hostels along the way, that I know won’t sustain me. I know that there’ll be some showers on the way that I just won’t fit in. Hopefully, the same won’t be true of toilets. I know that I will break some of the humble little beds in the pilgrim hostels. Please God let it not be a top bunk or the person beneath me will literally die. Literally. I can’t get the specialist gear that you’re supposed to get. I’m going to bring two bed sheets instead of a sleeping bag, because I can’t fit into a sleeping bag. None of the specialist, light-weight, quick-dry hiking gear is available in my size. I’m not even sure I can find a backpack that will have a strap big enough to secure around my five-foot waist. This shouldn’t work.

I am walking in preparation, but not enough. Yet. I’m flying to Pamplona on the 22nd of May. I start walking on the 23rd, exactly a month from today. I’ll just have to be ready. Because my flight home is from an airport 800 km away.

I am doing other preparations though. I’m learning the lyrics to Miley Cyrus’s The Climb (from the Hannah Montana Movie) (which was also my-little-Geordie-Joe McElderry’s winner’s song on the X Factor in 2009). You would not believe how relevant the lyrics are to something like the Camino. I plan on teaching it to the elderly American nuns who will be walking with me so we can sing it together as we scale O’Cebreiro, the highest point of the Camino.

As well as being about weightloss, the Camino is also a pilgrimage. I need to do something hard. Something challenging. Something that will help me burst whatever emotional and mental bubblewrap I’m wrapped up in. And I might be a cock-eyed optimist, but I believe. I believe I can make the change. There’s a Jamaican Bobsled team inside me waiting to triumph.

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