You may have seen photos of Rob and Yvonne Cullen in the media recently, a couple who lost an incredible 13 stone in weight between them. I’ve known Rob for a few years and I’m an avid fan of their Instagram feed. Rob and Yvonne are a walking advert for making changes to diet and lifestyle and seeing the results.
I was delighted to sit down with them, to find out more about their story and most importantly with summer approaching, get a few tips myself.
James – Both of you look incredible. Tell me a little about your story.
Yvonne – We are together 20 years and married almost 13. Like so many people we live busy lives. Both of us work full time (Yvonne with the HSE, Rob with Dublin Chamber.) We fell into the trap of convenient food, takeaways and eating out, thinking we were far too busy to cook and possibly thinking we were far too busy to look after our own health. (Rob was almost 20 stone and Yvonne over 14 stone.)
In August 2016 we came home after a wedding in Spain feeling bloated, unhealthy and ashamed of how we looked. We went to the Phoenix Park to pick up the boys who were with grandparents and could barely run to meet them.
Rob – I looked up and I could see the Pope’s Cross and even though I’m not religious, it was like a sign to me that I need to change. Later that day we looked back at some of the photos from the wedding in disgust at ourselves and utter humiliation. We knew that day was the day we would start our new lives.
James – There is often a pivotal moment, a catalyst, a split second when a decision is made.
Yvonne – Exactly. The decision was made to make changes. What has worked for us is that we were changing our lifestyle altogether. It wasn’t about another faddy diet.
Rob – We stopped drinking alcohol, we stopped ordering takeaways and we even stopped eating bread. We’ve got two young boys Liam and Tommy and we needed to change for them as well as ourselves. We wanted to be able to play with them and do all the things parents do with their kids.
Yvonne – Looking back, it was hard work but we were both committed. There was no major fitness drive at the start, it was really just about eating good, healthy food, ordinary food that you find in supermarkets. Our lads love to get involved in the preparations for the week and have taken a particular interest in certain cookery shows.
Rob – I think it’s just so they can stay up late.
James – What was the toughest part of making the lifestyle changes?
Yvonne – Most definitely changing our mindset. People can sometimes fear change because they are unsure as to whether they can adapt to that change. For us, we saw the results of our changes very soon which gave us the confidence and belief in ourselves, reminding us that the change was worth making.
Rob – Getting your head around a complete lifestyle change and explaining your new regime to others was difficult in the beginning but we knew it was going to change our lives for the better.
Yvonne – Also we really had to become much more creative in our shopping and cooking. This meant very frequent trips to the shops to stock up on fresh produce to fuel our new way of life.
Rob – You must make the choice to take the chance if you want anything in life to change.
James – I love that, I must remember it, to take a chance to make a change. I know many people start diets and see progress but then drift back to old ways. How do you manage to sustain it?
Yvonne – Nowadays we love the food we are eating and rarely have the urge to go off the beaten track. Our tastebuds have completely changed and we love to create healthy meals alongside tasty treats all of which have healthier attributes.
Rob – Anytime we feel like quitting we always remember why we started in the first place.
James – I love the Oscar Wilde quote ‘I can resist everything except temptation.’ How do you resist temptation?
Rob – With great difficulty. Although we do love the quote suffer the pain of discipline or suffer the pain of regret.
James – Yes, my favourite definition of ‘discipline’ is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.
Yvonne – Yes, remembering how we felt back then is enough to spur us to keep going. We have removed obstacles that may have caused us to revert back to our old habits, simple things like at work now we get a weekly box of fruit just for me instead of all the usual pastries and treats. We tend not to buy too many sweet things so if they are not there we don’t miss them! We do treat ourselves but now with other things, not just food.
James – With summer approaching what 3 or 4 tips can you share that readers could try out.
Yvonne – The first one has to be eat real food. The second one is plan ahead , knowing what we are eating for dinner each day has possibly been the biggest turning point in our lives, we have a weekly food planner that changes every week but we know what’s on the menu all week, this allows us to shop for and always have the ingredients in the fridge ready to cook, it also eliminates the issue of not knowing what you are going to have for dinner which before resulted in bad choices.
James -That’s often where myself and Brian fall down, not planning ahead and when you are hungry you reach for whatever is convenient.
Yvonne – Food wise these simple swaps made a big difference.
James – What has been the biggest upside of the changes you have made? Any unforeseen positive benefits.
Yvonne – We both sleep so much better, we’re eating better and feel more satisfied or because there’s no more heartburn, indigestion or feeling bloated! No back pain. For Rob, it was snoring, he hated the fact he snored so much and even considered surgery, but again since the weight loss, the snoring has stopped. That definitely has helped both of us.
Rob – We now have much more energy. Getting out for a walk is not a chore any more it’s something we look forward to. Even if it is only half an hour! Running around with the lads is easier and were not out of breath for the whole time either.
Yvonne – We’ve had a real boost to our self-confidence, it’s the opposite of that shame we felt when we were overweight. Feeling happier in ourselves and comfortable in our skin for the first time in our lives is the biggest gain we’ve had.
Rob – Confidence to exercise and take part in group activities as we did with Pure Results Bootcamp. Before it would have been nerve-wracking, but now we feel life is too short.
Our main aim now is to help others live a healthier life by offering free advice, recipes and tips on what worked for us. We are not experts in this field and never claim to be, but we’ve walked the walk and are living proof that you can achieve anything you want with the right mindset. And we’ve had the chance to meet so many inspiring people who have shared their life’s experiences and in-depth knowledge of the field and this sense of community has been amazing.
Yvonne – And one more thing. A lot of people have the idea that eating healthy food is more expensive but it’s definitely not the case. Planning ahead allows us to work from a shopping list and means we are not visiting supermarkets 5 times a week any more, cutting out alcohol and takeaways allows us to have more money in our pockets to spend elsewhere.
James – I think you are both so inspiring. As you said at the outset you’re like so many other busy families out there. If you can make these changes and see and feel the results, anyone can do it. So if someone is reading this and is hovering on the edge of making some changes to their lifestyle, what would you say to them.
Yvonne – Get support. Do it with someone, find a partner or buddy. Do it for the right reasons. You are making changes for you. Set small goals and that way you will always overachieve.
Rob – Who you become tomorrow is determined by what you do today.
James – Well, there’s a life lesson for sure.
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