I met with Matt several weeks back and we ran his 5k route through Haddon Heights. Afterwards, he shared about his struggle with weight gain after having kids, and how he finally committed to losing the weight. Running has obviously been a factor in his weight loss, but nutrition is crucial as well.
When we first sat down, Matt shared that he has read most of the other runner profiles on this blog, and that he was particularly inspired by Dave Goldstein’s story, and Alicia DiFabio’s story. After talking a few minutes, I learned that all three of them have something in common: they each have a kid who has special needs. Matt is a dad to two boys, one of whom has been diagnosed with Down syndrome.
Matt says he has tried to lose weight many other times before, with varying degrees of success, but this time has been different. He found it comes down to diet and exercise. He uses My Fitness Pal, and it helps him to stay on track with his eating. He also uses his Apple Watch to monitor his activity throughout the day. “It was easy to get to that point, but it’s not easy to start working my way back down.” He says in the past, he has worked out, and then used that as a justification to then eat junk. He uses small goals to work up to the bigger goals.
Matt’s two kids are thirteen months apart and he says after they were born, “I just ballooned.” He had been fit before, but with the stress of a growing family, he packed weight on. He also smoked cigarettes off and on.
Matt’s journey began with a health crisis and hospital stay. He got pneumonia, and was extremely sick for two weeks. He was shocked at how sick he got, struggling just to walk back and forth to the bathroom. He ended up in the hospital, and Matt credits a tough talking doctor with kicking him in the butt to get him moving. He says, “The doctor was like, ‘Can I be frank with you?’ and I said yeah, and he said, ‘Look at yourself. Are you happy? Are you feeling good right now?’ But I needed that.” That doctor got him to walk one lap around the hospital floor, and he says the doctor told him, “I want you to remember how this feels.” After the hospital stay, his wife videoed him sleeping to show him that he was stopping breathing in his sleep. During one of the longest episodes, he went 31 seconds without breathing. He was freaked out when he saw that, and went for a sleep study. He was diagnosed with sleep apnea, and started using a CPAP. The CPAP helped him to sleep better at night, which helped him feel more energetic to be able to workout and eat better. With his weight loss, he has been able to decrease his reliance on his CPAP.
He and his wife watched the documentary What The Health on Netflix, and it led them to try a vegan diet. They both were skeptical watching it, but after seeing it, his wife said, “Let’s just go vegan for thirty days and see what happens.” They went vegan in August, and he lost 11 pounds that month, and says, “It wasn’t just weight loss, though, it was how I felt.” Matt says he gets a ton of protein from the vegan diet and was really surprised at how well it went. When I met Matt, he had lost a total of 57 pounds. The vegan diet is difficult, he says, because of trying to avoid all animal byproducts. His wife has also lost weight since they have gone vegan. Matt was very clear that he is not a “hippie vegan.” He describes himself as a “fat guy vegan.”
For Matt, this has been a family affair, and his seven-year-old son has run four 5k races with him, and they also take his younger son to some of their races in a jogging stroller. “My wife has been the heart and soul of this journey for me. She’s just been so awesome with this whole thing. She’s at the finish line screaming her head off.” Matt’s younger son also has a buddy runner through the organization I Run For Michael, who sends videos and pictures to them from her runs. I Run For Michael matches pairs kids who have disabilities with a runner, and the runner runs for that kid, possibly even sending medals to their buddy.
Matt followed the C25k plan and he is thinking of doing some 10k races, and also considering some longer distances. He discovered Run856 when he posted on his own Facebook page about running, and some friends told him about the group. He doesn’t post a lot, but finds a lot of inspiration in the group. He was struggling with his feet going numb during runs, and posted to the group about it. Members encouraged him to go to The Running Co. and get fitted. He says the new shoes made all the difference in the world. He also learned that rolling out his calves a little bit before running helps to keep him comfortable while running.
Matt issued himself a challenge and decided not to cut his hair until he got down to 250 pounds. He prefers to keep his hair short, so his wife didn’t think that he would be able to make it that long, but he ended up with his hair down to his shoulders before he cut it. After seeing how hard he was working at his weight loss, some friends encouraged him to blog about his journey, and so he started writing a bit about his progress. He named his blog “Tons of Fun,” because that was a nickname he had acquired from his friends when he was a big guy.
Matt has a colleague who is a former pro bodybuilder, and Matt uses a strength training routine that his colleague developed for him. The plan rotates through different muscle groups, and has helped him build muscle while he is losing fat. He generally hits the gym on his lunch break. He also does DDP Yoga, which is a yoga plan from Diamond Dallas Page, a former pro wrestler. He attributes the combination of DDP Yoga and strength training with helping him develop the strength to run. When his friends have asked him where to start, he tells them to look at DDP Yoga.
For Matt, the greatest reward of his weight loss has been being able to be more involved with his kids, and play with them on the floor. He coaches kids sports, and increasing his fitness level has made coaching a more enjoyable experience for him. His older son loves roller coasters, and when he was at his heaviest, there were rides he either couldn’t get on, or would get on, but be very uncomfortable. Having lost some weight, he now finds he can enjoy rides with his son. “It’s those little Dad wins that really push you,” Matt says.
Matt plans to increase his distance in 2018, and I look forward to seeing how he progresses!