Interview – Rob Cullen

07 June, 2018

SME Membership Manager at Dublin Chamber of Commerce

Susan Maxwell:  Well Rob I’ve seen less of you in the last year (literally) with your weight loss and I understand your wife Yvonne has also had a considerable weight loss too. So it was a team effort – how did that come about and what was the catalyst for your decision to embark on this lifestyle change?

Rob Cullen: It all started for myself and Yvonne when we returned from a friends wedding in Nerja in July 2016. We went to collect our boys in Chapelizod. They had gone down to the Phoenix Park with Yvonne’s parents and were playing around the area of the Papal cross. When they spotted us coming they ran towards us and with excitement and I quickly realised after about 5 seconds I just could not run any more. I was out of breath and actually felt in pain. I would not be a religious person at all but I felt just at that moment someone was telling me I needed to act on this and do something fast. Our boys were 3 and 8 at the time and I wanted to be a healthy Dad for my sons and If I didn’t do something I could never achieve that. I thought of the Papal cross which was erected after the visit of Pope John Paul in 1979 ( the year I was born) and just felt this was meant to happen this particular day. A day of enlightenment.!

When we got home we looked over the photos of the wedding and neither myself or Yvonne were happy with how we looked. That moment we both decided we would change and do something about it, so that evening we checked out different weight loss programmes in our area and saw a slimming world group on Tuesday nights not too far from where we live in Lucan. That moment that choice to attend and it has changed our lives forever. The great thing about it was that we decided together to embark on this journey together and we honestly have not looked back since.

SM: What changes have come about as a result of your new healthy lifestyle aside from the weight loss?

RC: The changes have mainly been with the food we eat, how we cook it and what we cook it with. From day one we never looked upon what we were doing as diet, it was always a lifestyle change, the bigger picture, how we were going to become healthy. We made a few drastic changes, we had to, I was almost 20 stone, so giving up wine, takeaways and bread were kind of easy because we had a plan and we had a goal. We used alternatives such as spray oil instead of olive oil, lighter than light mayonnaise instead of original, fakeaways for takeaways in my line of work I swapped the usual pastries at events for fruit and porridge.

Over the last 2 years we have eaten the most amount of food in our lives but not only that probably the nicest food too! We both love cooking which helps and the support we have for each other is what carried us through. The boys have been great too and love participating in choosing different dinners. Only this year after losing 7.5 stone and 5.5 stone respectively we decided to do some running and join a gym so now they fit into our lives but they are not any sort of a regime, we do it when we do it.

SM: What has been keeping you motivated lately and what would you like to say to people who are setting out on their own lifestyle changes. What advice would you offer?

RC: What always keeps us motivated is remembering why we started this journey in the first place. We did it for our children , we did it for better health, and to live longer. If you do have a bad day or go off track which we have done, it easier to get back on track if you remember why you did it in the first place!

How you feel on the inside is actually priceless. The fact you might look younger or slightly better on the outside is an added bonus. I remember reading a quote which said “ let food be your medicine” by Hippocrates and it is so true as since starting this weight loss journey I have been so lucky I have not needed any medication for headaches, heartburn etc.. so I really believe this to be true.

For someone who is planning to start on a similar journey I would say well done, you have taken the first step by deciding to do something and that sometimes the first step is the hardest one. Find a programme or plan that fits into your lifestyle or one you can incorporate into your daily routine. YOU are the only person to change YOU, you have the choice of what you eat or don’t eat. Give yourself targets even if they are small goals. Don’t be too hard on yourself either! Always look at what you are trying to do as a lifestyle change, I know its a cliché but its so true and always remember why you are starting this journey. Never go hungry and never give up!

SM: You have a very busy role at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce attending many networking events. How do you prepare for this in advance to avoid grazing so to speak?

RC: Preparation is a huge part of our week both at home and in work. Yvonne and I work full time, sometimes extra hours too so having food prepared or even an idea of what you are going to have is half the battle. Who has not come home with nothing in the fridge or freezer and opted for that easy option – the takeaway? The same applies to breakfast and lunches. Each morning we have porridge and fruit and throughout the week we would vary it by cooking it different ways such as baked or overnight oats or even porridge pancakes. We have a blackboard sign in the kitchen with each day on it and what we will have for dinner on each day. This is sometimes something as simple as chicken but at least the chicken will be defrosted and ready to cook. Although I am not a huge fan of cooking in advance we always know what we will be having and can generally cook up something quick and easy. Generally we snack on fruit throughout the day and have all the treats in the evening time.

SM: What’s next for you both?

RC: Well Yvonne has recently invested in a franchise for Slimming World in Ballyfermot and seems to be really enjoying it. We are both looking to help people live a healthier life and lose weight at the same time. I have a few ideas in the pipeline. Only last week we recorded a podcast with Karl Henry on “The real health podcast in association with Laya Healthcare” and I have been asked to speak at some events in October and November this year.

So watch this space!!

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