A well known GAA player, who has won Leinster titles with Meath at three different grades has opened up to Meath Live about how his weight ballooned to nearly 22 stone when he finished playing football.
John Sullivan from Gormanston, older brother to Peter and Cormac Sullivan, had the distinction of playing in goal for Meath at Minor and Under 21 level in the same year, won Leinster championships at both grades, and then won Junior titles as well.
When he finished playing, due to a back injury in his late 20s, Sullivan established a taxi and chauffeur business, something which he now concedes was part of the problem that saw his weight balloon over the last 20 years from 13 stone during his playing days to a height of 21 stone 8, twelve months ago.
To add to his health concerns, Sullivan caught Covid earlier this year and spent time in Drogheda’s Lourdes Hospital, where he wore an oxygen mask for days on end to help him breathe, and it was also at this time that he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Piling more concern on his shoulders was the fact that his mother and father were in the same hospital at the time having also contracted the virus, as well as his wife Sarah also having it – thankfully everyone has now recovered.
John revealed, “A large part of my business involved touring Ireland and England with entertainment shows and often as not, I was eating food on the run, grabbing takeaways, going to late night garages, that kind of thing – to put it simply, I had extremely bad eating habits”.
“I kind of was aware of the weight creeping up on me but convinced myself that I was too busy to do anything about it, but looking back now I can see all the warning signs were there.
“I was reluctant to get my picture taken, for example, actually my wife asked me the other day had I any photos of me just before I lost the weight and I couldn’t find a single one.
“I had a wardrobe full of clothes that wouldn’t fit me and I was wearing XXXXL in shirts and clothes while my waist size had got to 44 inches, so yes the indicators were all there”.
“In fairness to myself I did the usual things people do, I started a variety of attempts to shift the weight and abandoned them halfway through. For example I joined a Boot Camp in Dublin which was actually top class but I found I was too busy at work to keep attending and a personal trainer fell by the wayside for the same reason”.
The tipping point came during his hospital stay, and he admits “Last September my doctor had told me I had to do something about the weight but it was only when they told me in the Lourdes Hospital that I had diabetes I said to myself, John you have a wife and family, cop yourself on and sort this out.
“I never wanted to lose weight quickly but wanted it more as a life change rather than another short fix and it is still my intention to try and reverse the diabetes. The day after I got out of the hospital, I walked 2km and could hardly make it back home but I knew things would improve and that I had to take it a little bit at a time”.
“If I was to give anyone advise in the same position, I would say start slowly but try and do a little bit every day and slowly but surely you will find your fitness level improve and begin to notice your weight loss”.
“I have cut down on certain foods, like white bread, dairy and takeaways. My waist size is now 36 and I am a large in shirts”.
“Over the last 11 months I lost 55lbs in weight and from a 2km walk, I am now doing 14km from Gormanston Beach to Laytown and back again, 3 to 4 times a week”.
“What I’d tell people is it’s not easy, but it is definitely not impossible. If you have a bad day, its not the end of the world, just start again the next day”.
“My wife and my sons Ciaran, Darragh and Sean and my family and friends have all been very supportive of me and that’s crucial as well. Regaining control of your weight can be done – I am proof of that”.