“START where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Arthur Ashe, the only black man ever to win the Grand Slam at Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open, put it well when he shared these thoughts about taking on challenges, writes Jemima Burke.
In a smaller, but no less significant way, Castlebar man Sean Fallon has proved him true.
On his 21st birthday Sean weighed in at 30 stone.
Twenty-five months later, at 8.30 on a Saturday morning in Boots Pharmacy, Castlebar, he weighs in for his weekly check-up. The scales don’t lie: “19 stone, 8 pounds.”
Sean, who has documented his weight-loss journey on Instagram (@from30stoneto15stone) and Facebook, uses two words to sum up his attitude since he started on January 11, 2017 – consistent and determined.
“That day in January will always be in my mind. It was the day I started to change. There was no going back.”
It was tough love that gave Sean the push he needed. Out celebrating the new year in 2017, the 21-year-old was approached out of the blue and given a reality shock: “I’ll be attending your funeral if you keep on the way you’re going,” he was told.
Of course, Sean was taken aback: “I thought, that’s harsh. But when I woke up the next morning and looked in the mirror I thought, you know, he has a point.
“I was already having bad chest and heart pains and what he said hit home. I haven’t turned back since that day.
“It was the best thing someone has ever said to me, for the near future at least.”
Starting a weight loss journey is hard for most people but at 30 stone Sean was in a challenging league. The Castlebar man, who was in Crumlin as a child because he couldn’t gain weight, put it all on in his teenage years.
“I look back now and go ‘what was I doing?’ Deli food, takeaways, sugar, pure madness! No wonder I struggled at the start,” laughs Sean. “I weighed 424 pounds.”
But nothing could stop Mr. Fallon. He walked constantly for about three or four months, cut out takeaways and junk food, started running in April and gradually began to notice his fitness levels improving week after week. Small changes, big results.
Sean has shared his journey online by posting videos and updates: “I put it all up on Instagram from day one, and as more people started to stop me on the street or message me on social media I was like, wow, this is actually happening. Sometimes you don’t notice it yourself but people don’t say it for no reason.”
It’s clear that people are inspired by Sean because they see his enthusiasm, his honesty and his stick-to qualities that never fail to inspire.
The day the Connaught Telegraph spoke to Sean it was a typical Mayo day, wet and miserable. Not deterred, he had been out at 7.30 that morning, cycling 15 kilometres.
“I felt like kicking the bike into the tree because the wind was so bad. People in cars were looking at me wondering was I well in the head. But it has to be done.”
Sean is doing this for himself but he has inspired others on the way. One girl wrote in to his Instagram, sharing how her brother had heard Sean speaking on iRadio and how his story motivated her brother to go running and start his own journey.
“People tell me I have a lot of courage to put it out in the open,” said Sean. “I suppose if I failed, people might say things. But we shouldn’t be afraid to fail.
“I think in this country people are too afraid to be honest and open with each other, to be themselves. They’re worried about what other people are thinking.”
Looking back to that night when he was given an honest talking to by someone who cared enough to confront him there is not a hint of self-pity in Sean. Even the abuse he received from online trolls has only made him stronger.
“People made fun of me on Instagram but, really, it just increased my determination. You know you’re doing something right if people are bothered with you. It obviously annoys them that I’m having success with something.”
They say that life doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a mother. For Sean, his mum has been the anchor to inspire him and to keep him moving, literally!
“Out of everyone, I’m glad my mother is proud of me. She has always wanted me to make the change and I know, as long as she’s proud of me, I’m happy … and if things aren’t going well I get a kick.”
Having the support of family and friends is a real strength for Sean. But when push comes to shove, it’s the man himself who gets up everyday and starts again – on either a run, a walk or a cycle.
“I change it up every so often because you might get bored on one route ... when I go cycling I go out past Baxter and Woodies, around the lake, and home again.
“I was always so scared to go cycling. I thought I’d look ridiculous on a bike. But I got a bike last July. These days I go by myself and shut the world out for an hour.
“From Monday to Friday I won’t go off track for anything or anyone. I’ll stick to my plan as best I can. I’ll drink water every day. I’m 110% strict. The weekend? Maybe an ice-cream, no problem!”
Sean Fallon’s story is inspirational in and of itself. In a world where entitlement culture (the ‘you owe me’ attitude) is rife this 23-year-old man has worked his back off to deliver impressive results. No wonder he has encouraged others to lose too.
His message for those of us who have tried and failed?
“Get up. Go again. You might get bad news tomorrow but you won’t get bad news for the rest of your life. Believe you can do it and you can!”
Whether confronting an opponent on the tennis court, losing weight or bringing about other changes in our lives, the same principle applies: choose the path of action. Start, Use, Do.