IT wasn’t the prospect of doing his very first bungee jump that frightened the bejaysus out of Damien Sreenan... it was the numbers that had been marked on his hand before he took the leap.
“Back in May, 2015, I was taking part in a charity event for the Cork City Hospitals’ Children’s Club, doing a Bungee jump,” recalls Damien.
“While I was waiting my turn after checking in, one of the organisers of the event wrote a number on my hand, which indicated what rope was to be used for the bungee jump,” adds the 38-year-old father of two, from Grange, Cork.
“The number is your weight is in kilos and the number written on my hand was 115 kilos. Most of the men’s numbers were 85-95kg.
“I took no notice of it until I asked somebody how many stone 114kg was. It was over 18 stone,” says Damien.
“I got some shock! It was a fair shock to the system I can tell you.”
Damien wasn’t exactly walking on air that day, rather, he realised that he had a fairly hefty weight problem that he needed to address.
“That was the wake-up call, telling me that I needed to sort myself out,” says Damien.”
And sort himself out he did.
The Cork dad not only shed six stone, but he embarked on a healthy eating regime that even led to him founding his own business.
But let’s go back five years. How did the pounds then the stones creep up on him unnoticed?
“My lifestyle was always pretty sedentary,” says Damien.
“I wasn’t a gym man and I worked as a DJ, in retail and in marketing in the pub business. So my work wasn’t particularly physical.”
And he enjoyed the perks associated with the pub business.
“I seldom ate breakfast, and I had big carvery lunches most days in the pub,” Damien recalls.
“Later, I’d have a hot chicken roll from the local garage, or whatever was handy to eat on the go.
“In the evening, I’d get a takeaway or a pizza. I never gave much thought to what I was eating or what I was consuming.”
But the calories were adding up, and adding extra pounds and stones to his waist-line.
“I ate a lot of greasy food takeaways and pizza,” says Damien. “And I was burning the candle at both ends, without much structure to my day.”
When Damien got that wake-up call during the bungee jump in 2015, he was 5ft 11in and weighed more than 18 stone, and knew he had to take action.
However, he thought tackling his weight problem by himself was biting off more than he could chew.
“So I asked one of my pals for some advice on how I could get going to lose the weight,” says Damien.
“One of my friends is a personal trainer and when he found out what I ate, he advised me to stop eating processed foods, ditch the take-aways and pizzas, and avoid greasy fries. He suggested that I try ‘clean’ eating, cooking from scratch.”
There was a slight glitch that hindered his good intentions.
“I wasn’t a great cook at the time! I couldn’t boil an egg!”
But Damien was keen to learn and be more educated about healthy cooking and eating a well-balanced diet. He was determined to research healthy recipes for meals, promoting a steady weight-loss.
“I was busy with work and family, so I looked at a range of healthy ready-meals available that would help me lose weight,” says Damien.
“There wasn’t a huge selection. Many of them were processed and I noticed many of them had lots of additives and salt.
“There weren’t many healthy ready-meals available on the market for busy people too time-poor to cook. People’s working day can be from 7am to 7pm. It is just the society we live in today.”
While Dublin had cornered some of the ready-meal market, delivering to the work-place and people’s homes, the idea hadn’t spread to Leeside.
“I thought that there was a business opportunity to provide healthy calorie-counted meals delivered to the door for people who were too busy to cook or who might not have the knowledge about how to cook healthily,” says Damien.
“These days our lifestyles are go, go, go. Many people find it hard to find the time necessary to shop, prepare and cook healthy meals for themselves or for their families every day.
“We all have good intentions; we just don’t have the time.”
And we do like our food.
“We sure do!” says Damien. “I blame the Irish mammies!
“Our plates were piled high growing up and we had to clean the plate. I still go to my mother-in-law’s for Sunday lunch and the plate is always six inches high with food!”
Damien employed his personal trainer friend for his expert advice, and he researched healthy calorie controlled eating, getting a nutritionist on board.
He was going to create a new body and he was going to create a new business too — called Body Chef — delivering healthy, balanced, calorie-controlled meals to Cork clients.
“I hired a chef and within four weeks I had set up Body Chef, operating from the Bishopstown Bar,” says Damien.
“We were the first company to create the calorie-controlled ‘fakeaway’. We do our own version of fried chicken. It’s delicious. Nobody feels deprived of their favourite dishes.”
Damien, fond of his grub, knows what appeals to people’s palettes.
“We had done our homework nutritionally and we created tasty healthy meals,” he said. “Breakfast, lunch and dinner, delivering them to work-places, and homes round the country.”
Damien had a gut feeling that Body Chef was the way to go in this time-strapped society that we live in, with people juggling work, home, family, and leisure, while striving for a healthy lifestyle balance.
“There was a definite niche in the food market for a service like Body Chef,” says Damien.
“We started with one delivery driver and one chef and we’ve grown so much since. We now have a team of four chefs, seven delivery drivers, two packers, and two administrators. We’re always looking for new people to join our team! Next month, we go nationwide. We have a lot of new customers and a lot of regulars.”
Damien employed Body Chef himself, eating the varied, delicious, natural calorie counted dishes. In a period of six months, he was six stone lighter.
“It just showed how much bad stuff I was eating and the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. I’ve changed my eating habits big-time, with the odd cheat day every now and then!”
Damien looks the part of the successful business-man.
“I got a brand new wardrobe! I used to be size XXL. After losing six stone, I bought new clothes size medium/large. I have way more energy now and I feel way more confident.”
His wife is delighted with her husband’s success, losing six stone and running a business. Body Chef employs a team of 11 .
“Yes. Diane is well happy!” says Damien.
He might have lost six stone, but he never lost his bottle.
“I host bungee jumps now myself for various Cork charities,” he says.
He uses a different size rope for the bungee jumps now though, doesn’t he?
“I do!” says Damien, laughing. “The number on my hand is different these days.”
Damien has achieved the recipe for success in his work and in his own life. He’s on the up-and up.
See Bodychef.ie for more