When Kevin O’Connor was about 12 years old, his mother sent him to the corner store near their home in London to buy bread and milk. When he walked in, a row of magazines caught his eye, especially one fitness magazine in particular that touted a huge headline: “Even at 39, You Can Still Have Six-Pack Abs!”
Although a seemingly random memory, that headline stuck with him through his teenage and young adult years. Every birthday, he used that phrase as a future goal he didn’t need to hit until his 39th birthday.
“Seems weird, but it allowed me to think that I had years left to go until I changed my ways,” he says. “I thought 39 was the magic number for doing something about my health habits and my weight.”
O’Connor knew he had plenty to change. At 5-foot-8, he was 220 pounds, a heavy drinker and frequent junk food eater. As he navigated his 30s, O’Connor did make some large changes on the path to his ultimate “six-pack” goal — most notably, he quit drinking and became a vegetarian, two major shifts that still apply today.
Those efforts prompted some weight loss, but it wasn’t until he turned 38 that he remembered that childhood promise the most, and realized he was running out of time. He realized he needed to do much more to truly be on a healthier track — and, of course, get that six-pack.
“I was going to the gym, but I wasn’t eating right, so I just ended up being a fat guy at the gym,” he recalls. “I’d work out, then go home and have a massive amount of calories, as if I’d burned off that much. My daughter was born in 2017, when I was about to turn 39, and I realized I hadn’t kept my childhood promise to be healthy at 39. I was so disappointed in myself, so I said enough is enough.”
O’Connor didn’t want his daughter to grow up with a dad who was out of shape and got winded easily while they were playing. He poured himself into his renewed efforts toward total health — and those shredded abs as an added benefit.
He began tracking his food using MyFitnessPal and became diligent about learning the calorie count of everything he ate. He especially appreciated the extensive database that comes with the Premium version, since it made the process much easier.
The biggest shift for O’Connor was finding the true “why” for his goals, he says. That magazine cover wasn’t enough to spark change, but wanting to keep a childhood promise and have enough energy for his daughter were the two motivating forces that kept him focused.
“Once I knew why I was doing this, it made it easy to go to the gym and track my food,” he says. “It made those things into a habit that felt as normal as brushing my teeth or getting dressed. If you don’t have a ‘why’ then you’re just on a diet, and those rarely work. Your ‘why’ gives you motivation and action.”
It also led to finally getting those six-pack abs he’d dreamed about since he was a kid — a goal he achieved before the end of his 39th year.
His wife, Emma, joined the effort as well, being just as diligent about tracking her food through MyFitnessPal. They each lost about 70 pounds, and doing it as a family was another big boost, he says.
These days, he’s still tracking food through MyFitnessPal and is focusing more on keeping his macros balanced the way he likes. Because of his success, he’s eager to help others do the same. He’s started a Facebook group and program called Calorie Snipers that helps members lose weight by shifting their mindset, using MyFitnessPal and increasing movement.
“I’ve got the body I wanted,” he says. “But more than that, I’ve got the life I’ve always wanted, too.”