Name: Matt G.
LIVESTRONG.COM Username: Matty_Horror (member since 2009)
STATS: Age: 33 Height: 5 feet 11 inches
BEFORE Weight: 330 pounds Pant Size: 44
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your life like before joining LIVESTRONG.COM?
Matt: I originally joined LIVESTRONG.COM in 2009, but I didn’t fully commit or put forth enough effort (which was an indication of how my life had been so far in that regard). I spent many years not feeling very good about myself or my body, and I struggled with that for most of my adult life. I had moderate success with dieting a couple of times over the years, but I didn’t stick with it and treated it too much like a temporary diet (that I eventually fell off of). My issue wasn’t junk food (although my diet did include a lot of carbs). My problem was that I ate way too much, too often and for too many reasons that weren’t hunger. I did exercise, but when I got to my physical low points (combined with stress, depression and being too busy) I exercised less and less (and had low energy). My overall health wasn’t particularly good, but it wasn’t as bad as one might assume until things started to worsen about a year ago.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your inspiration to make a change?
Matt: Diabetes. I had not been feeling well in various ways I couldn’t quite understand, so I made an appointment with my doctor. I feared diabetes because it runs in my family (although my symptoms were not obvious). When I got the results from my blood test my blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides numbers were so high that my doctor ran a second test through a different lab to make sure there wasn’t an error. After confirming the original test was accurate he sent me to the hospital. I also had high blood pressure, low sodium and a vitamin D deficiency. Learning that I had diabetes and might have died without treatment was a major turning point. I realized that I had no choice other than to make changes to my whole life, and I was going to do it right.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How did LIVESTRONG.COM help you lose weight?
Matt: LIVESTRONG.COM helped me in a fairly basic but essential way — tracking. The easy access to information, articles and the food database was also convenient, but most notable for me was the MyPlate Calorie Tracker app. Some of the articles (including other members’ success stories) helped encourage me to get back to more consistent (and smarter) exercise.
Overall, it took me a little over a year to lose the weight, but the majority of my progress occurred in the eight months after my diabetes diagnosis. My efforts were rewarded when my numbers were all at healthy, normal levels within three months of my initial diagnosis (at that time some of my medications were eliminated and dosages of others were cut back).
LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your support system like?
Matt: The primary issue for me was my diabetes, and I was lucky to have a large support net in the way of family (and a couple of friends) who were also diabetic. Although their support was mostly in regards to diabetes-specific issues, rather than diet and exercise. My support system there was smaller; mostly just my endocrinologist and nutritionist, as well as a couple of friends who were inclined to exercise and healthy lifestyle. Mainly it was me just very resolutely determining that it had to be done. That said, everybody has been very encouraging and positive along the way.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your favorite way to work out?
Matt: I like to do a mixed, loose system of strength, flexibility and weight training. I also keep trying to get more regular with running (or in my case, jogging at the pace of a speed walk, but still).
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your weekly exercise schedule?
Matt: My schedule is presently less structured than I would like, but I tend to get a lot of walking (and stairs) in throughout the week. Monday through Friday I have access to a gym in the building I work in, and I try to use that on my lunch break. Tuesdays and Thursdays I attend a class with a trainer that is focused on a good mix of flexibility and strength.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s a typical day of meals and snacks?
Matt: I typically eat three to four meals a day on weekdays. Weekends I usually eat only three meals a day, but it can vary. I do eat snacks sometimes — things like pickles or grape tomatoes (with the occasional less-healthy addition). Overall I eat a good amount of veggies (particularly leafy greens and broccoli) and vegetarian proteins (I’ve been a vegetarian for 19 years or so), and I try to limit my heavier carbs to things like light whole-wheat breads or small low-carb wraps and things of that nature. I find it helpful to have a consistent list of healthy foods and ingredients that I know I like and can fall back on, but I also try to mix things up regularly too.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s the range of calories you eat per day?
Matt: Because I have been actively dieting, my calorie range has been adjusting as I’ve made progress. Currently, I attempt to keep within a comparatively trim (for me) 1,500 or so calories per day. Since I am getting fairly close to my ultimate goal, my daily calorie limit is unlikely to drop too much farther, and it will likely increase a bit once I transition to more of a maintenance routine.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What are the healthy staples that are always in your kitchen?
Matt: Lettuce and similar greens (I particularly like romaine), broccoli, spinach, a variety of vegetarian proteins (fake meats, tofu, etc.) and light whole-wheat bread. I’ve also taken quite a liking to unsweetened cashew milk, of all things.
LIVESTRONG.COM: How do you strategize for meals?
Matt: I don’t generally plan much ahead of time. I sometimes plan for when I know I’ll be stuck eating out (and similar situations), but otherwise not too much planning. For work I do a mix of bringing food in and picking up some healthy options while I’m there. I tend to do a mix of larger grocery shopping trips combined with some small trips throughout the week as necessary. I also try not to eat after 8 p.m.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s the biggest challenge you faced?
Matt: Well, the biggest fear I faced was recognizing that I might have died if I hadn’t taken action. The biggest challenge was likely accepting that this was the case and understanding that I had to make these changes — and that it needed to be a complete change of lifestyle, not just a diet.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your biggest secret to success that you want to share with others?
Matt: First, much like quitting smoking or drinking, you have to actually want to make the changes. You have to be truly honest with yourself. Some people convince themselves that they’re OK with how things are because they fear having to change or don’t believe they can really do it. It is important to realize that you can do it. Sure, it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
Also, it’s important to track every day — particularly whatever is most vital to your situation or goal. In my case, that includes weight, calories, carbs and fat. Set small short-term goals, and appreciate them as progress on the journey to the long-term goals. Accept that fluctuation is normal and not a reason to get discouraged nor an excuse to “give up” for a day. You will eventually figure out where and how often you can comfortably cheat or indulge. I recommend giving yourself some time to get accustomed to the major lifestyle change before starting to experiment with indulgences, and keep in mind that what constitutes an indulgence will likely change for you over time.
LIVESTRONG.COM: What’s your life like now?
Matt: Honestly, I feel better than I have in years. Several months ago I believed 235 pounds might be attainable if I was really, really lucky. Since then I’ve had to reassess my ultimate goal more than once. My body and health are no longer a driving force behind struggles with depression. I’ve come farther than I ever thought possible, and now I know I can achieve my ultimate goal (and look forward to other positive changes in my future).
I still use the LIVESTRONG Calorie Tracker to track my calories, carbs and fat every day (not to mention a passing nod to the impressive amount of protein in my diet, even as a vegetarian). Tracking helps keep me mindful of my weight too.
As a result of the changes I’ve made, I feel better about myself and my body than I have in years. I’m at the lowest weight I’ve been since high school, and I’m having to adjust to this new sensation of feeling confident and proud of myself and my body. I have some of the usual so-called “flaws” of people in my situation (stretch marks, a little loose skin), but the way I feel and look more than makes up for these little issues (which are common anyway). One of the biggest drawbacks I’ve had to deal with is the need for an entirely new wardrobe (which continues to grow smaller as I progress). That’s the kind of drawback I’m happy to live with.
Ann Rusnak is LIVESTRONG's Sr. Community Manager. Her quest to lose the baby weight before the baby finished elementary school sparked an interest in health and fitness that continues to be a passion to this day. She loves hiking and yoga, and thinks the best exercise is one you can do with a good friend. Over the years, Ann's desire to fit into a certain size has evolved into what she feels is the more important goal of feeling good and having energy to live life to its fullest.