Watch: Conor McGregor fan who once weighed 21 stone says MMA star pulled him from the depths of depression
A Dublin man who battled with his mental health said the success of his idol Conor McGregor inspired him to regain control of his physical health and helped to pull him out of a particularly dark period of his life.
Thomas Nolan (23) suffered from crippling panic attacks that began to have a devastating impact on his life.
Speaking in an emotional video shot by film maker Gerald Walsh, Thomas said watching McGregor take on Jose Aldo at the MGM Grand in December 2015 transformed his life.
The Townsend Street man said he battled with severe depression and had contemplated taking his own life. At the time, Thomas weighed more than 21 stone and said hs weight was having an impact on all aspects of his life.
Speaking in the video Thomas said: "My whole life I was overweight because I was going through serious mental depression. I couldn’t bear it anymore. I was suffering with panic attacks on a daily basis and I had no answers for them. I saw no way out. I was contemplating suicide many times. I felt like it was the only thing I could do.
"I tried to go to the gym once. I had a panic attack and I went home and I cried and I’m not ashamed to say I cried.
"I tried so many times before. I’d lose some weight and then I’d just gain it all back on. I’d just give up. I’d get to where I wanted to be and I’d just give up. What really made me make that lifestyle change... I went to Las Vegas to see Conor McGregor face Jose Aldo.
"How Conor McGregor held himself, how he spoke, his mental state and how he truely had that self belief... It’s something that I took notes on, it’s something that watched I deeply. I started to say ‘Well if he could think like that, why can’t I?’"
After returning home from the US, Thomas was determined to turn his life around but said he did not have the confidence to join a busy gym. A year later, the Dubliner has shed more than six stone and is now a qualified personal trainer working in Flyefit, a chain of gyms in the capital.
Speaking to Independent.ie in March, Thomas said: "I was too afraid to join a big, busy gym. I was so embarrassed about my size. I joined a really quiet gym where there was nobody really there and just began to tap away at it.
"At the time I wasn't working so I had the time to go to the gym five or six time a week.
"Before the summer I signed up to do a Personal Training course on Dorset Street. It was nerve wracking to build myself up to going for it, because I obviously have not reached my goal just yet and I was afraid everyone would be really fit with big muscles and I'd be the opposite. I needn't have worried though, every one was so supportive.
"I've started working in Flyefit gym as a PT and I think it can be a helpful thing for people who are in the position I was in to have a personal trainer who has been through it.
"There's an emotional side of eating that I feel a lot of PTs don't understand. They haven't been through it and don't know how much of a crutch food can be," he said.
The personal trainer had the opportunity to meet with Conor McGregor late last year, and said he was glad to have the chance to tell his hero how he was inspired.
"My cousin actually knows Conor McGregor so I was lucky enough that he was able to set up a meeting with him," he said.
"I went along and met him. I told him how much that fight and how much he's achieved has inspired me. It was a great thing to be able to meet someone who has had such a positive impact on your life."
It's not just the reflection in the mirror that has changed for Thomas, as the 23-year-old said his confidence and self-worth has soared. Since joining the gym, he has not had a panic attack and is no longer on medication for his depression, which he says is hard to believe at times.
"I haven't had a panic attack since I began training, which is incredible. I was having them so often. I've really never felt better and for the first time ever I feel alive. I feel like I'm making the most of my life.
"I've lost 85lb (38kg) so far, and my goal would be about 100lb (45kg). The thing is, I know I'll get there, it's just a matter of when," he said.
For anyone affected by the issues raises in this article, contact Pieta House on 1800 247 247 or the Samaritans on 116 123