Interview: Fiona O’Sullivan – Small Health Changes, Big Results!

Introduction

I interview Fiona O’Sullivan next who has a special interest in the Health and Wellness pillar on the topic of preparing our bodies for old age I want to start with a before and after photo to showcase the work Fiona has done personally on her own journey, well done.  If you are looking to gain skills, tips and knowledge on how to transform your health for the right reasons this interview is well worth a read. The idea of not fading away but living our very best lives as Fiona mentions here will certainly hit home for some people. There are alot of gems in this interview enjoy..

Who are you and what was the catalyst to make changes to your health and fitness?

I am Fiona, I’m the busy mum of 2 (grown up now, nearly!), the wife of the most supportive, patient man in the world, and the slave of a large bouncy mutt called Douglas! I am originally from Galway but I’m in Dublin more than 30 years now. I have been a civil servant for 26 years, and a weight loss consultant for 10 years. I have recently trained as a wellness and life coach, and I have started my own business, MyTime Wellness with Fiona.

I didn’t have any weight issues until I left home, but looking back I definitely had a very unhealthy relationship with food throughout most of my teens. When I moved to Dublin and I didn’t have my dinner handed up to me every evening, my unhealthy eating habits spiralled and before I knew it I had gained more than a couple of stone. Again (with the benefit of hindsight) I realise how lonely I was after leaving home, and that I comfort ate my way through it (although admittedly laziness also played a part!).

Fast forward a couple of years! I was married, working fulltime, raising two young babies, and healthy eating and exercise were far from my mind! I continued on my downward spiral…

Like a lot of people, it was a holiday photo that made me do a double take. That frumpy, overweight, middle aged (I was only 38!) woman couldn’t possibly be me, could it?

 

The path to where you are now Fiona! (Including Before Photo)

In 2005 I joined a local slimming group with my pal. For the first time in my life I discovered that healthy eating did not have to mean being on a diet, and I also learned that mindset is all! Once I lost my first couple of pounds there was no stopping me!

I reached my goal weight in 2006, losing 2st 6lbs. I wish I could say that I kept it all off effortlessly ever since, but that’s not the way life goes, and I have had the occasional struggle since! But I discovered that the trick was to tackle a small gain before it became a big gain!

I trained as a weight loss consultant with that same company in 2012, and after little breaks when the kids were little, I have been working in this field constantly until December 2021.

When the company ceased trading I could have been devastated. Fortunately I had been training as a life coach anyway, so I took this as a sign from the Universe to strike out on my own, and over Christmas 2021 MyTime Wellness was born!

What is your particular focus in MyTime Wellness?

I am really interested in the concept of middle age in these modern times! Did you know that we are living for around 40 years longer than people born in 1900? That’s fantastic!

However, that also means we need our bodies to last for 40 years longer too! And that’s where physical wellness comes in – looking after our nutrition, our activity and our sleep! There is no advantage to living to our 80s or 90s if our bodies don’t remain healthy, and its what we do NOW that decides that.

We also have opportunities to live well like never before! We are living in an affluent society, we are educated, we are well-fed and warm, and instead of settling down in a rocking chair in our late 50s with our knitting, and waiting for the inevitable, we still have years and years of and exciting life ahead of us!

I run online and venue meetings with people who don’t want to fade away into old age – we want to live our best lives! Each week we cover different topics around wellness, health and healthy eating. The group is really an extended family – we are there to support and encourage each other as we work towards our goals.

As a life coach, I also work with clients one-on-one to help them negotiate big changes in their lives – either an exciting new change they have decided to make (new career, moving house, early retirement…) or a change they didn’t plan but still need to work through (redundancy, an unfortunate diagnosis, empty nest syndrome…) We approach each challenge in a positive forward-facing way and we work together to set the client an exciting goal and an action plan!

What strategies, tips and habits did you form and how did they help you?

There are a few things which really work for me;

• Being positive! I know it sounds trite, but if we are feeling happy and positive, we find it easier to do EVERYTHING – not just lose weight!

• Plan, plan, plan!! Every week after grocery shopping I sit down and plan my meals for the week, its when we meet the day from hell and are unprepared that healthy eating goes out the window! So prepping meals is a huge thing.

• Exercise! Not for weight loss (although it helps there too!) but for mental health!! I started swimming (as opposed to splashing around with the kids!) about 14 years ago, and I now swim 1.5km three times a week! I also discovered running when the wonderful Ray Moloney of RJM Health and Fitness came to my wellness group and did a Couch to 5K with us – we have three terms through now and we are running together 3 times a week! And of course Doug the dog insists on his walks too!

• I love cooking and it really is easy to turn out tasty nutritious meals for very few calories! I particularly focus on having high protein meals – they fill you up for relatively few calories and proteins are the building blocks of our bodies so they keep me in good physical shape too.

• Small habit changes add up to big results, and sometimes the smallest of things can have a big positive impact on our wellness – keeping our phones out of the bedroom, having a glass beside the kettle to remind us to drink our water every time we have a cuppa, arranging the food in our presses and fridge so when we stretch our hands in we touch something good for us first, making it a priority to stay in touch with friends (particularly hard these past two years but we did realise it was as important as ever), formally adding exercise into our daily and weekly schedules, picking a day for meal prepping…

What were the challenges mentally, physically and emotional day to day you overcame?

The biggest challenge for me was moving from “I don’t have time to look after myself” to “I must MAKE the time to look after myself”! Once we come to that realisation, everything else tends to fall into place, I think.

On any journey to wellness, it can be hard to maintain momentum! After the first few heady weeks where we are feeling all enthusiastic about embracing healthy living, it can get a bit boring! But we have to remind ourselves WHY we are doing this, focus on the little habits and routines that get us there, and take pleasure in every step of our progress.

Whatever barriers, physical and mental, we place in front of moving to a place of wellness and health, having a supportive group around us is vital, being surrounded by people who know just how we feel takes away the feelings of isolation we can often have embarking on this journey.

What are your future health goals?

The women in my family tend to live for a very long time! So at 54 I’m probably still only half way there!! I intend to be running, swimming, dancing, cavorting around and laughing right up to the morning I don’t wake up!!

What are some books, Podcasts or YouTube channels you recommend?

I don’t do podcasts or youtube!

Some books have entirely changed my outlook on life;

Hector and the Search for Happiness (Francois Lelord) is about a psychiatrist who can’t understand why his patients aren’t happy, so he goes around the world searching for happiness, and ends up with some rules (eg when you are happy, stop making comparisons). They made a movie of it but don’t watch it, it entirely missed the point of the book!

Younger Next Year (Chris Crowley) explains that each year we have to age but that doesn’t mean we have to decay! Chris writes one chapter and then his doctor Harry writes the next, so we have a mixture of the layman’s perspective and then the medical backup. Again, they come up with a set of rules we need to follow if we want to get to old age in great health! There is also a version of the book specifically for women.

The Burnout Solution (Siobhan Murray) explains what we need to do to pull ourselves back from burnout – and when you read the book you will probably realise that you are closer to burnout than you think!

The Body A Guide for its Occupants (Bill Bryson) I have always loved Bill Bryson’s travel books; in this one he takes us around the body and in layman’s terms explains how everything works – and also how every process in our body is intertwined. It will give you new respect for that all your body does and make you appreciate that you need to play your part too to keep it functioning properly!

 

Fun fact about you?

I’m a qualified secondary school teacher, English and History! Having this experience really helped when I first had to stand up in front of people and talk!

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