Think of Patrick O’Conner as an older brother with a message for the baby boomers who are resolved to getting old and harbor a malaise for life and relationships: change your mind.
A year ago, O’Conner weighed 290 pounds, was on the verge of divorce and had no will to change.
“I found myself in a position of having to endure being alive,” O’Conner said. “Not really suicidal, but if it came to an end tomorrow, it isn’t going to be too soon.”
A horrible place for a man who to this point had an exciting life traveling the world selling Native American jewelry and art and enjoyed a soul-mate-type relationship with his wife.
Today, O’Conner has lost 70 pounds and made the cover of the Coeur d’Alene Kroc Center’s magazine, wearing swim trunks and showing off his abs. His love life is rekindled, and he is actually enjoying so-called old age.
“The strange thing is I don’t even think about age anymore or how much life I have left,” he said.
Magic cure? No. Good nutrition, regular workouts, meditation and developing a new, positive way to look at the world. Wanting to share his “secret” to good health with others, O’Conner became a certified personal trainer and senior fitness trainer and started a self-help website.
“I came to the conclusion that in order for people to become motivated they have to change their mind,” O’Conner said in a phone interview from his Careywood, Idaho, home, where his wife runs a horse ranch and dressage barn. “You have to have a very concrete vision of where you want to go and keep that in the forefront of your mind. Just grab ahold of a vision and push through.
And yes, you will still have doubt and temptation, O’Conner said. The candy bar will call you and you’ll be temped to skip a workout. Focus on your vision, he said.
O’Conner’s downfall began in 1994 when, at age 54 and a newlywed, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The surgery caused side effects, including impeding his sex life with his wife, who is 25 years his junior. The market for Native American art collapsed and he got hooked on poker. He became, as he said, fat, jobless and lazy. His wife got angrier every day. His already replaced knees were failing and so was a hip.
Then he saw an ad on television for a weight-loss treatment that allegedly turned a doctor’s 70-year-old body into a body of a 20-year-old. O’Conner, like many desperate people, called only to find the hormone treatment started at $4,000. So he called his son, a bodybuilder in Germany, for exercise advice. He joined Weight Watchers and the Kroc Center in Coeur d’Alene.
“My initial motivation was I was absolutely angry with (my wife),” he said. “The situation was so bad for both of us. I wanted to lose weight to get away from her instead of to get to her.”
Today is a different story.
“It’s 1,000 percent better,” he said. “Our love affair has been rekindled. It’s absolutely amazing. If you can just change your mind all of a sudden you just realize what life is about.”