It worked. It works.
It was August of 2018 and Manchester, Guysborough County resident Fred Sullivan knew he needed a change – a drastic change. Having recently retired as a teacher with the Strait Regional Centre for Education, Sullivan found himself with feelings of depression, low-self-esteem and a general unhappiness about his appearance.
At 290 pounds, he was overweight and decided if he could lose 100 pounds, the change would have the cumulative effect of not only helping his physical health but his mental health as well.
He walked into the Chedabucto Lifestyle Complex (CLC), developed a partnership with personal trainer Rhonda Lombardo and the CLC team, and the transformation happened.
It didn’t happen overnight of course, but, from Aug. 8 of 2018 to Aug. 8 of 2019, the 62-year-old Sullivan lost 84.4 pounds.
“I will continue until I reach 190 pounds, then I will be happy because I want to be able to take off my shirt and say, ‘hey, look at me; I’m in my 60s,” he said. “This is now my journey and I’m going to keep going.”
Sullivan and Lombardo talked more about the journey while at the CLC Aug. 18.
“A number of things … first I made up my mind that I had to make a change,” Sullivan said when asked about the successful transformation.
“A whole bunch of people helped to make it work; everyone behind these doors, who works in this building, supported me in my quest to get fit.”
Sullivan said it was suggested to him right away that he work with a personal trainer. He talked about his and Lombardo’s initial conversations.
“She asked questions that made me think about myself and why I was actually in the state I was in,” he said.
“I was so far overweight but I saw myself as being relatively fit. I could work, do firewood and lift heavy stuff; it didn’t seem to be an issue. But tying shoes, bending over was a big thing, and I kept getting longer belts, bigger pants.
“And Rhonda was concerned with the emotional part; that was one of the bigger problems - emotional eating. It can still get in the way. She asked me what my goals were and helped me set goals. And the other thing she did, when I was thinking I wasn’t meeting goals, she would have me look at the scale, the tape measure and just my general fitness and how I could do things better … so all of that was giving me encouragement.”
Sullivan stressed that was a huge part of it; the encouragement and seeing the progress month-by-month.
“Knowing I was going to meet with Rhonda and the tale of the tape, the scale, it helps a person stay with it,” he said. “And everyone in here was encouraging me; ‘you’re losing weight Fred,’ ‘Fred, you’re thin’ … I didn’t really feel myself as being thin, but I knew I was a lot thinner than I was.”
Lombardo talked about working with Fred and noted while a plan is a team approach, he is the biggest reason for his success.
“Fred wanted to come here based on a lot of things,” she said. “He looked at retirement, he had just retired, and he felt like, psychologically, things were different. We looked at barriers, at goals, and how we were going to tackle each one of them individually. So we set small goals and those worked into bigger goals.
“The thing about Fred is, he is pretty determined; there is nothing he has not been able to do, and he has been consistent.
“And the biggest thing of all is that Fred has accepted support, which, at times, people don’t think they need. And support from not only myself, but from our team members here.
“Whenever there was a road block for Fred, it wasn’t the end of the world; we figured it out and got around it.”
Sullivan talked about whether he considered making the transformation while still teaching and living his former lifestyle.
“I don’t think I would have been open to this, to be honest,” he said.
“I wish I had been smart enough to say, yes, and took the time and made the effort because I do things now that before would have done me in. I ran in a 5 k recently and then went home and worked all day in the hayfield. Friday, I went for a 26 k bike ride and after I did that, I came and did my workout and then spent the next five hours collecting stuff from the garden … I didn’t think I could do that.
“Before, I would work hard but then I would be done in. Now, I can work hard and not be done in. I’ve made a change and I’m not going back… that’s the plan right now. And I’m better off at handling emotional things that are going to come my way.”
He also praised the Craving Change program at CLC for helping with his diet.
With the one-year plan complete, Sullivan is now on a new plan which takes into account what he has already accomplished and sets out new goals.
“Since we started my new program I can feel muscles; it’s really only my fourth day of doing the new routine but my arms feel bigger … even though I’ve only done it once,” he said. “And we’ve revisited my diet; increasing the protein and the good fats, cutting back on my carbs.
“It’s something else to work towards. I felt I had hit the end of the road but it’s not. I haven’t hit my goal really, I’m still quite a few pounds short of where I wanted to go.”
Lombardo stressed a few points in summing up her thoughts on Sullivan’s success; the plan’s length, the buy-in to a lifestyle change and that everything is very confidential from staff’s end. If the person going through the plan wants to share their story, it’s up to that individual.
“When I say plan, we’re looking at Fred’s life and trying to change his lifestyle,” she said. “What his life was like wasn’t working, so we have to incorporate ideas they will bring about change in his everyday movements.
“And over a 12-month span. When we talk to people about goals like this – Fred lost 84.4 pounds in total – we’re saying this is not a five-minute thing, this is something you have to commit to. People need to know that; it’s a 12-month plan, not something done in a short amount of time.
“It’s confidential too. If someone comes up to me and asks something about Fred, I would say ‘why don’t you go and ask him yourself.’ It’s very confidential and I think that’s another thing people get concerned about,” she said.
For those interested in following in Sullivan’s footsteps, Lombardo said just come to the CLC and see what they’re all about.
“For me, it’s about; don’t tell yourself you can’t do something when you know you, possibly, can,” she said.
“Maybe it’s not something you would do on your own but you can do it with support; and we have this great community here where we can draw people in and support them in more ways than they could ever know … I just don’t think people are aware of that.”
They could ask Fred Sullivan.