Frumpfighter

‘Biggest Loser’ Matt Hoover’s lifelong lessons

Posted on: February 19, 2009

After walking away from a promising wrestling career at the University of Iowa in the mid-1990s, Matt Hoover gave up on his dream and in essence, his life.

Matt Hoover won "Biggest Loser 2" in 2005 by losing 157 pounds.

Matt Hoover won "Biggest Loser 2" in 2005 by losing 157 pounds.

He gained weight, as well as dangerous eating and drinking habits. His marriage fell apart and he seemed to have given up as his life spiraled out of control.

Fast forward to 2009, and Matt is happily married again with two young sons and at 33, is training for a spot on the wrestling team for the 2012 Olympics in London.

In a teleclass Wednesday sponsored by BestLifeDesign.com, the winner of NBC’s “Biggest Loser 2” spoke with Dave Lakhani about his transformation and determination to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

 In 2004, Matt – well over 300 pounds – was watching the first season of “Biggest Loser.” Of course, he was sprawled out on the couch with a bag of chips on his belly and a beer in his hand. He thought the contestants were big babies with all of their tears and emotions. He immediately found out how to audition for the show and had little doubt that he could win. After all, he used to wrestle for the legendary Dan Gable . How hard could this be?

The first workout at the Biggest Loser Ranch was the first workout he had in years. “It dang near killed me,” he recalls. That was when he realized that just because he was a star wrestler years before, he couldn’t just pick it back up without working hard.

Matt Hoover weighed nearly 340 pounds when he started on "Biggest Loser."

Matt Hoover weighed nearly 340 pounds when he started on "Biggest Loser."

“Talent only takes you so far,” he says. If you are not willing to work hard, people with not as much talent will catch you, a lesson he learned quickly when first joining the Iowa wrestling team as well as on the Biggest Loser Ranch.

Living on the Ranch was not typical of normal life. There were no distractions, no jobs, no bills – just a beautiful setting with a big mansion, top-notch fitness equipment, trainers and an endless amount of food.  An average day on the Ranch consisted of working out, having a snack, taking a nap and then repeating the process.

In the real world, there’s a fast food restaurant on every corner, jobs, kids, etc. Needless to say, it was an adjustment coming home for Matt. He lost 157 pounds in nine months to claim the “Biggest Loser 2” title in 2005 as well as the $250,000 prize.

Then the hard work really began. He gained about 60 pounds after the show and found it hard to be a “fat man in a skinny body.” At other times in his life, when things got difficult, he just gave up and walked away. But this time he made the decision to put past behaviors behind him. “You don’t know if it’s going to work unless you stick with it,” he says.

If he doesn’t work out and exercise each day, Matt knows he will gain all the weight back. He realizes in these tough economic times, not everyone can afford a gym membership. But he also believes that you can’t afford not to be healthy. And there are plenty of other ways to exercise other than in a gym. There’s “no place that charges to use sidewalks,” he says.

 One of the most important lessons he learned from the show was “you cannot change until you’re willing to do so.” And willing to do it for yourself, not everybody else.

You also have to drop the excuses and take responsibility for your life, he says. “I chalked it up to bad luck. It’s not bad luck, but bad choices. I made up my mind that this is what my life was going to be – fat, broke and drunk.”

However, it’s not too late for anybody to turn their life around. “Things happen in your life that you can’t even expect,” he says. “Look forward and take action.”

Matt met his wife Suzy Preston Hoover on the show.

Matt met his wife Suzy Preston Hoover on the show.

Yes, the big prize money and the weight loss were great perks from winning “Biggest Loser”, but the most important thing he took away from the show was his wife, fellow contestant Suzy Preston.

Matt and Suzy now live in Seattle with their two young sons, Rex and Jax. “We are not going to raise our kids to struggle (with weight) they way we have had to,” he says. Suzy prepares the boys’ meals organically and they steer away from sweets and junk food.

A typical meal in the Hoover household is salmon, steamed broccoli and a salad with low-cal dressing. They prepare individual servings so they know they are not going over their limit. Matt doesn’t encourage leftovers, but if you have them, put them in the freezer so they are not so easily accessible.

They also make sure they are active together as a family. Playing with your kids is a great way to keep active, Matt says. “Be your kids’ babysitter, not the TV.”

Since the show, Matt has made a career out of public speaking and coaching health and fitness. One of the consistent themes he sees in people he trains is the not the fear of failure, but the fear of success. A lot of these people have never experienced success and have a skewed idea of what is successful, he says. Unrealistic expectations make it even more difficult to stick with a program.

Matt and Suzy are active members on BestLifeDesign.com and offer a training program. In 2008, Matt’s book, “Matt Hoover’s Guide to Life, Love, and Losing Weight,” was released. He is currently writing another book about being a dad.

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