Miss Universe Ireland contestant shares her seven stone weight loss journey: 'I'm proud to show off my hard work in a bikini'
Irish beauty queen Jade O’Neill has opened up her incredible weight loss journey, losing nearly seven stone to reach her current peak.
Jade O’Neill (27), a flight attendant from Belfast, said the weight crept up throughout her time at university, where she was completing a BSc in Fashion Management, before she had her ‘That’s it!’ moment and turned her life around.
"I was always overweight as a child, but then I put a lot of weight on at university with weekends and takeaways. I didn't realise how much I put on until I was in a shop trying on jeans – they were too tight and nothing fit; I broke down that day, I’ll never forget it,” she told Independent.ie Style.
"I went home to my mum and said, 'That’s enough, I’m not happy in myself'. She bought me a fitness DVD and I did it every night, she was making my food for me. My mum was my biggest motivation, she was always helping me along the way."
Jade describes her mother Shirley as her "soulmate" and number one supporter, who encouraged her to shift the pounds in a healthy way, eventually dropping from a size 18-20 to a size six, adding: "I’ve lost half my body weight."
"It was after a year and a half. I worked really hard. I thought I would feel different, but I felt the same, I just had more confidence and I felt happier in myself. I did fashion management as a degree and it was great to be able to wear the clothes I was styling and making.”
She was apprehensive at first to share her weight loss journey, but now she’s proud to share how far she’s come – in particular for the swimsuit round at Thursday night’s Miss Universe Ireland final on Thursday.
"I’m confident in who I am now, before I wasn’t. I’m really looking forward to being on stage, it’s something to be proud of. I’m happy to show my body off, I’ve worked hard at the gym," she added.
While she’s “lucky” to not have excess skin, Jade admits she first felt “ashamed” to share her story, but now jumps at the chance to tell anyone – even passengers aboard one of her flights.
And her literally jet-setting life mightn’t be conducive to a healthy lifestyle, it’s the lack of schedule that helps her organise her workout regime and get creative.
"I was really shy about sharing my weight loss, I was a bit ashamed. Now I’m so proud of myself; before, I was really apprehensive to tell anyone about it. On flights now, I would show people the photographs. This job has kept my healthy lifestyle on track,” she explained.
"I watch what I eat, I exercise regularly. I follow the ketogenic diet: it’s a low carb, high fat, medium protein diet and I think my body reacts well to it. There’s no sugar and you crave it initially, but after three weeks, you don’t even crave it anymore.
"In most of the hotels we stay in, there are gyms or they’re quite centrally located. I’d always bring my gym stuff, I’d go for a run – I love to run along the water in Sydney. It’s quite difficult with time zones, so sometimes I’d be in the gym at 4am and look as if I’m crazy."
O’Neill is based in Dubai and believes the stars were aligned to facilitate her appearance in this week’s finals, which will crown an Irish representative to the Miss Universe final in November.
"I want to promote positive thinking, I want people to believe they can do anything if they believe in themselves. It’s about hard work and perseverance - anyone, no matter who they are, can achieve anything they want.
"It’s a big thing in my life. Positive thinking can change anything. It can make miracles happen."