Man Moves to Remove Village, Cuts Off Communication, Loses 137 Pounds

  • Bryan O'Keeffe, 34, had tried everything to lose weight, so he decided he needed to do something drastic.
  • He moved to a remote village, quit his job and cut off contact with his loved ones for seven months.
  • He moves five hours a day and cooks from scratch to lose more than half his body weight.

Bryan O'Keeffe has struggled with his weight his whole life, trying every diet and workout under the sun, yet feeling like he's losing and gaining 40 pounds over and over again.

So he decided to do something drastic.

O'Keeffe, 34, originally from Ireland, weighed 338 pounds when he moved to a small village in Spain, quit his job and severed all ties with family and friends.

Seven months later, he had lost 137 pounds, more than half his body weight, and returned home to Ireland to surprise his loved ones, recording their reactions in a TikTok video that has been viewed more than 32 million times .

In the video, O'Keeffe says that after 15 years of experimenting with the popular diet and exercise regimen, he decided to stop focusing on the scale and instead focus on maintaining mental resilience and building discipline.

In an interview with Insider, O'Keeffe said losing weight was difficult, and he admitted his methods were extreme.

New drugs like semaglutide are helping people lose weight after years of trying, suggesting that being overweight isn't just a matter of poor self-control and lack of willpower. Experts generally recommend that people lose weight gradually by developing healthy habits slowly, without being too restrictive.

But, before transitioning to a more sustainable lifestyle, intense and brief weight loss lasting one to three months may be beneficial for those who are losing a lot and have lost confidence in their ability to succeed, private Coach and weight loss coach Jordan Seyat told Insider.

For most people, a healthy and sustainable rate of weight loss averages 1 pound per week, or 0.5 percent of body weight, but obese and overweight people can safely lose weight faster because they lose more.

According to personal trainer and nutritionist Mike Matthews, people trying to lose more than 100 pounds can safely lose up to 4 pounds per week.

“I definitely wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but it was the perfect scenario for me,” O'Keeffe said.

O'Keeffe gained weight in her 20s

O'Keeffe was an overweight kid, but he says boarding school and lots of exercise as a teenager helped him slim down.

However, when he was in college, the typical student lifestyle of drinking and eating takeout, combined with injuries, caused O'Keeffe to gain weight “aggressively,” he said.

Throughout his 20s, he tried various diets and exercises—from a ketogenic diet to Crossfit—to weight-management clinics and even had a pill designed to reduce hunger in his stomach. The balloon, which he later removed. He would lose some weight over a few months, but would always gain it back, usually back to around 330 pounds, he said.

“Dieting and losing weight is seen as a tremendous amount of stress on the body, and the body shuts down to get rid of that stress, making sure you get back to your starting weight,” Dr. Nick Fuller told Insider.

Dietitians warn that fad diets like the ketogenic diet are too restrictive to last, while studies show that banning foods makes you more likely to crave them and less likely to stick with a healthy diet.

In 2017, O'Keefe lost 70 pounds in five months after moving to London and developing a healthy diet and exercise routine. But it all came crashing down after he celebrated earning his master's degree, he said. After he started ordering a lot of takeout most nights, he lost weight in half the time it took him to lose weight.

“Losing weight is the number one thing I want, but I'm not willing to make sacrifices for long-term weight loss,” O'Keeffe said.

O'Keeffe Moves To A Small Village In Spain To Eliminate Temptation

At the end of 2020, 33-year-old O’Keeffe moved to the Spanish city of Palma in Mallorca, where his brother, a doctor, encouraged him to join him in making a difference. But the cycle of weight loss and gain continues.

Around October 2021, O'Keeffe recommits to breaking it.

He reasoned that he was struggling because indulgent food was readily available and his social life centered around food and drink. So he eliminated these aspects of his life by moving to a small Mallorcan fishing village called Cala Figuera, in Cala Figuera, which has only one shop open during the winter.

O'Keeffe's thinking mirrors research on so-called obesogenic environments, where ads for easy access to highly processed, high-calorie foods encourage unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles, leading to rising obesity rates.

O'Keeffe also cut off all contact with family and friends, telling them he would be “working alone” and would not speak to them for three months.

O'Keeffe said they were mostly supportive, at least on his face. But there was more resistance when he told them he would proceed at the end of the three months.

“I just feel like I've tried everything and maybe it takes something as extreme as this to change,” he said.

He exercises consciously for five hours a day

O'Keeffe started by walking the dog for an hour a day, followed by hits at a dusty old local gym, as well as swimming, running and stretching. Soon he was actively exercising five hours a day.

O'Keeffe challenges himself by exercising every day, even when injured, to build discipline and resilience, even though he knows he's overtraining, he said.

“I needed to push myself to the limit,” O'Keeffe said.

“Losing weight creates a vicious cycle where you eat because you're unhappy about being overweight, and then you gain weight, which makes you even less happy,” he said. O'Keeffe wanted to create the opposite — “a positive and reinforcing cycle” — and always felt like he was achieving something to propel him forward.

A month later, he quit his job and focused 100% on losing weight, living off his savings, and saving money by cooking for himself.

O'Keeffe uses the MyFitnessPal app to track his food and does intermittent fasting to help him stick to his daily goals of 2,200 calories and 200 grams of protein, he said.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends 1.4 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. However, given the larger overall body weight of obese individuals, a reduced intake (1.2-1.5 g/kg body weight per day) is recommended for obese individuals.

Once, when he lost about 56 pounds, he wanted McDonald's badly, but when he realized that the nearest McDonald's was an hour away, he decided it wasn't worth it.

O'Keeffe's plan worked, and the weight has been dropping.

O'Keeffe always knew he needed more than three months to lose weight

O'Keeffe never thought three months would be enough to lose about 140 pounds, but he thought saying it would make it easier for his friends and family.

The only person he talks to is his father, who calls him twice a week when his mother is away. He has “fairly severe” dementia, and O'Keeffe said he knew he wouldn't remember the call.

Four months later, he, too, started talking to an acquaintance who was a strength and conditioning coach about training — but not telling him what he was doing.

Around that time, O'Keeffe's sister texted him: “Are you happy?”

He replied, “Yes,” though that wasn't necessarily true, and later realized he was “very content.” He pushes himself really hard but feels good about his accomplishments.

“I'm achieving what I've wanted the most in 15 years,” O'Keeffe said.

O'Keeffe surprised everyone when she came home

As summer looms, O'Keeffe plans to go home and surprise his friends and family, telling only a few people about his plans so they can film their reactions, but keeping his weight loss levels a secret.

In July 2022, he shows up at the door looking completely different than he did seven months ago.

“It's been fantastic,” O'Keeffe said. “Everyone was shocked and happy for me. I'll never forget it.”

Since losing weight, O'Keeffe has been most impressed by the little things, like being able to sit comfortably in an airplane seat: “I used to get locked in, and I'd leave a seatbelt tag when I got out. Then when I sat for the first time Sitting in the plane seat, I feel like I'm swimming in it,” he said.

Brian O'Keeffe

Bryan O'Keeffe uses this photo as his phone background.

Brian O'Keeffe

O'Keeffe, whose sister signed him to Bumble, was surprised by the amount of attention he was getting. He now has a girlfriend who lives on the Spanish island of Tenerife and has moved back to Palma.

Since the summer, O'Keefe has cut back on exercise and started eating more food to help build muscle, he said, but after enjoying the indulgence with friends and family, he wants to cut back on it again.

O'Keeffe didn't post on social media during his weight loss, but now sharing educational content and helping others with their own journeys also encourages him to stay on track, he said.

O'Keeffe believes he'll lose weight this time around, not just because he's leaner than ever before, but because — as he hopes — he's built his resilience and the lifestyle he loves .

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