What was your life like before you started with SF?
I was never a very confident person and first started dieting in my teens. I had low self esteem, I always thought others looked better and were better than me.
During my 40s my confidence took a real battering
My shape started to change and I felt ‘huge’.
I became very conscious of my tummy. I hated having my photo taken. I used to get one of my daughters to ‘stand in front of my tummy’.
I spent my 40s yo-yo dieting.
At one stage I lost a stone in six weeks by following a really strict diet.
It was exhausting because I would sit down to a meal with my family having cooked what they liked and something different for myself. I quickly gained the weight back when I started eating normally and felt a total failure.
My energy levels were at an all time low. Every day was a huge struggle, I was feeling really low and took to comfort eating.
I couldn’t see anyway out of the cycle I was in
What had you tried to do to change this?
I would describe myself as serial dieter and a slave to the scales. I bought gym memberships, books, exercise gadgets, pills, low calorie, low fat….. I tried every diet – Atkins, WW, Unislim, Grapefruit… Anything that promised what I wanted, which was to be slim again, I bought or tried it.
Emotionally I was a mess
I started a diet of some kind most Monday mornings. I would try to be ‘good’.
The minute I started being ‘good’ the cravings started.
When I fell off the wagon, which could be as early as Monday lunchtime, I felt a failure. I ate what I craved in abundance to make myself feel better. And so the cycle kept on going.
Tell everyone about your results at SF
I joined SF May 2014. My turning point. The biggest challenge for me when I joined SF was to change my mindset.
I was introduced to a different way of looking at food which was totally alien to what I had in my head.
I was big into ‘cutting out’ and I was being told to eat more!
I did love the training sessions though. The were tough, but I came away feeling great.
I listened to everything and it really made sense. Even though it was totally opposite to what I had in my head. I gradually started making small changes.
With these changes and the training, I very quickly started seeing and feeling results.
I felt smaller and felt different emotionally. The cravings started to diminish. I was going to a wedding in October 2014 and wanted to feel good about myself for a change.
By the time I bought a dress for the wedding I had dropped a dress size! I was in the a fitting room trying on a smaller dress than anticipated. I was so motivated by this.
A new me at last
Starting off, I was a generous size 12 in jeans and would buy size 14 tops to cover my tummy. Now I wear size 8 or 10 jeans depending on where I buy them.
I no longer have to buy tops to cover my tummy
I feel like a better, more chilled version of me.
What is it about SF that changed everything for you?
The type of exercise at SF is what changed everything for me. My program is tailored to suit my needs and my level of strength and fitness. There is great variety and there is always room for improvement.
I had to do the work to get here, but the coaches encouraged and helped me every step of the way. Their attention to detail got me here. Making sure I am using the right technique, so I get maximum benefit for my effort.
But, also getting to know me as a person. The coaches always make time for a chat when you need it.
The atmosphere at SF is very different to what I experienced before
The members really support one another and acknowledge each other’s achievements. I have been privileged to meet some fantastic people at SF. It really helps on the days when you don’t feel like training if you run into someone you can have a friendly chat with. After that, the training just happens and you come away feeling great.
What is your outlook on life, fitness and health like now?
I enjoy things now that I would have dreaded in the past. If I go out for a meal or a few drinks, I am not sabotaging any diet. If I want Christmas cake for breakfast, I have it, it won’t break me.
I have really got to know what works for me.
I don’t feel the huge guilt that I used to and can easily maintain the size I have reached
I love the feeling of being fit and healthy so I will do what it takes to stay that way.
John O'Connell is the owner of SF Fitness & Health Centre. He started working in the fitness industry in 2002 after suffering a back injury. He has worked with many professional organisations including Leinster Rugby, An Garda Siochana, New Zealand Rugby, Dublin GAA, Spar and CBRE. He has also appeared muliple times on both RTE & TV3 as a health & fitness expert. John is the co-author of 2 international best selling books - Total Body Breakthroughs and The Fit Formula.