(Update: Corey has since surpassed his 134lb goal!)
We recently caught up with Corey O’Connor who won Lab Rat of the Month in August to interview him after breaking through the 100lb weight loss milestone. Big thanks to Corey for being so open and honest in sharing his story and life long struggle. He also gives several extremely useful tips about how to truly make it a permanent lifestyle change instead of a just short term weight loss.
Corey’s Story: I’ve known Justin and Chris for almost 15 years. When I decided to embark on this journey, I quickly realized that I needed help. In my opinion, there is no better place to turn in a time of need than friendships. I knew Justin’s knowledge and dedication to his craft was second to none. There was no other place to turn.
I have been big my entire life. Growing up, I was always in the 99th percentile for height and weight. Being big just became part of my persona. Unfortunately, that developed into bad habits as well, including laziness and an addiction to food. That combination became lethal and out of control. The best comparison to my life choice is reversing an addiction. We all know someone who has smoked or currently smokes. Smokers often say they want to quit, but it takes several febel attempts before the quit for good. The final success is typically a conscience decision to finally say enough is enough. That is ultimately what happened to me. I said enough was enough. On January 21, 2013 I saw 383.6 pounds on the scale and was embarrassed. It finally clicked that I was a ticking time bomb of health risks. I set a 134 pound weight loss goal on that day and I haven’t looked back. Today, I am 121 pounds into that weight loss goal and have set a new goal of 15% body fat. Who knows what the future will hold, but I do know that I’m not stopping when I hit my original 134 pound goal!
What pearls of wisdom and encouragement can you share about your success that might help the other Lab Rats
and readers? Any barriers you had before coming that you got past once you were here? I think knowledge and encouragement are the two keys to my success. There is an old cliché that knowledge is power. Cameron, Justin, and Matt have empowered me with knowledge that I have never had before. I am still learning, but The Lab has given me a direction for success. In the beginning, I bombarded Cameron with questions about what I was eating. Cameron taught me to think of food as a fuel source. This may sound silly to some people, but I never thought of it that way. I was and am a food addict. Food was a reward. Food was an escape. Food was coping mechanism. Was is the key word in those previous sentences. My food addiction is not behind me, but I have come a long way since coming to The Lab. Fueling my body to function properly is really a novel idea. I never would have thought that would be my mentality.
As a Premium Client, I do 5 of my 6 workouts per week on my own so I had to learn the protocol. In the beginning, Matt would write every workout for me – every weight, every rep scheme, ever sequence. Through note taking and conversations, he now monitors my progress and makes sure I maintain proper form/technique. My strength gains have been tremendous. My conditioning might be better than it ever has been in my life.
Encouragement at home, at work and in the gym is also a big contributor to my success. My wife, Susan, has been a tremendous supporter of my journey. She actually joined the Lab 4 months ago and is seeing her own version of success. She has been the single biggest influence on my success for a number of reasons. First, she is the cook. Our refridgerator at home looks like the “lean and green” fridge at The Lab. She spends much of her free time making healthy food choices accessible to me. Starting in April, I started telling people at work and other family members of my health goals. I had kept it secret until then because I had similar, short term successes in weight loss before. With nearly 100 lbs until my initial goal still to go, I knew telling people about it would only hold me accountable. Some “experts” say writing down your goals is helpful too. I’m a social person so I enjoy talking about my goals instead. Matt, Cameron, Justin, Chris, and others at the Lab have also been very encouraging.
What is your mental approach to exercise? How do you motivate yourself and get through all the workouts and daily exercise? I am a competitor by nature so I always want to win. Small victories have been my encouragement. Charting allows me to visualize these wins by progressing week to week within each rep scheme or cardio sequence. My favorite exercise is deadlifts – I find them to be one of the most complete excercises that I do. My least favorite has to be anything involving a Tabata timer.
Favorite food? Least favorite? My favorite food my entire life has been pizza, but that is not on the program. It was such an addiction that Justin called me “Pizza the Hut” in college (such a kind hearted friend). Today, my favorite food is any dish with spaghetti squash that replaces pasta. That could be chili or a red sauce with lots of other veggies in it. Susan and I also make fajitas with either flank steak or chicken and a medley of peppers, onions, zucchini, and tomatoes garnished with avocado. (Yum, we may have to make the fajitas this weekend) My least favorite food is hard boiled eggs. Its just a mental block. I like eggs, just not hard boiled.
What do you love most about The Lab? There are two primary things that I love about The Lab: the environment and the staff. I think the environment is partially created by the amount of personal training that occurs at The Lab. I feel that the vast majority of people excercising there are there with an agenda and purpose. That creates an environment of purpose which helps me focus on the task at hand. I can also tell that the staff is a notch above staffs at most gyms. Their ability to coach, motivate and monitor only boosts the environment at the gym.
What has adopting a lifestyle of diet and exercise done for you? Both physically and mentally? Quite simply, it has changed my life. Physically, I have much more energy. People always ask me if I have more energy due to my weight loss. My answer is silly but true, “I’ve lost an 8th grader.” That hits home for anyone with kids who probably stopped carrying their child around toddler age. Imagine carrying around an 8th grader. I also have seasonal allergies and I read an article about mucus causing foods. I had virtually no allergy issues this spring, and that could be attributed to my diet. Mentally, I think clearer and work more efficiently. As someone who has suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder, being able to think clearer and work more efficiently has been welcomed into my life.
I did run into a client last Friday who I hadn’t seen in a year. He introduced himself to me like it was the first time he had ever met me. He didn’t recognize me at all. I guess I look like different person today due to these transformations. He was embarassed at first for not recognizing me, but then I explained my journey.
Overall, thank you to The Lab. Your work does not go unsung. You have given me a new perspective on life and I will be forever indebted to you. This journey has been amazing. I could not be doing it without you. Matt Miller is the 6th trainer or strength coach that I have worked with in my life. He has gotten more dedication and results than anyone. Matt is awesome. Matt’s knowledge of anatomy is quite impressive. He might actually know my body better than I know myself. Kind of weird, but I like it. Matt also holds me accountable with my nutrition and weekly workouts. He is my single biggest influence and deserves to be recognized. I couldn’t have the success that I am having without his guidance.
Cameron is so positive, encouraging, detailed and available. There is no such thing as a simple answer with Cameron. I’ve asked dozens of questions over the past months. He always comes back quickly with a detailed response and a couple extra ideas. His positive energy and passion is contagious.
Justin needs to be recognized too. He and Chris have a great staff at The Lab that carry out Justin’s programs. As a friend, I am so proud to be a walking billboard for Justin.
What would you tell others? Either waiting to start or thinking about starting? I think I’ve changed my life. This is a lifelong journey but I believe The Lab has put me on the right course by giving me knowledge and encouragement.
Go with a plan. Go with a purpose. Be ready to work. As I mentioned earlier, this is like reversing an addiction. You have to be mentally prepared, but you can do it.