Archive for the ‘nutrition’ Category

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, 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 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.

We’re one month into the new year and it’s time to look out how I’ve been doing on my overhaul and renewal. Not great, but not bad.

I took January as a time to begin to change my unhealthy ways. After Thanksgiving and the Christmas season, it wasn’t too hard to eat better.  Once the egg nog was taken out of the grocers’  dairy case, it was out-of-sight, out-of-mind for me. And the seemingly endless stream of cookies and other holiday treats ended.

I rejoined the gym after an 8-month hiatus. I haven’t gone full blast but I am getting more and more used to the routine. So, now February has begun and it’s time for new goals.


  1. I”ve been doing good cutting out much of the sweets, but still have a weakness for the candy basket in the features department. Goal: Have healthier snacks on hand at work. Any suggestions?
  2. Still have that weakness for putting Ranch dressing on everything. Goal: Use lower-calorie dressings and dips like hummus, honey mustard and fruit vinaigrette.
  3. Been better about cutting down the high-calorie alcohol like margaritas and Bailey’s and other fun creamy drinks. However, the past week I worked the night shift and a bought a bottle of White Russian mix for the late nighcaps after long, stressful days (or nights) at work. Goal: Keep alcohol consumption (especially the high-calorie stuff) to a minimum.
  4.  Still have a hankering for high-carbohydrate foods like pasta and bread. Goal: Find alternative to pasta side dish for majority of evening meals with family (husband not fond of vegetables). Any suggestions?
  5. Been good about drinking water throughout the day but still have a weakness for fruit punch Snapple and hot chocolate. Goal: Keep up with the water and go for regular coffee or diet drink when need something else.


  1. Signing back up for the gym was a big step. Been going about 2 to 3 times a week. Goal: Need to get that number up to 4 or 5 times a week. Biggest challenge is finding time during the week when I work the day shift.
  2. Been doing 15 minutes each of either recumbent bike, stepper and treadmill. Goal: Do 15 minutes of all three during workouts.
  3. Keeping the levels at a low 3. Goal: Bump that up to 4 or 5 during February.
  4. Working on upper body with weight machines. Goal: Work more on legs.
  5. With extreme cold weather that comes with January in Iowa, haven’t been for many walks. Goal: Go for walks during lunch hour and after work as weather gets more manageable.

Just got back from the first post-holiday grocery shopping spree. For the past month or so (well, I have to include Thanksgiving, so two months) my trips to the store have resulted in egg nog, cookie ingredients, stuffed olives and other high-calorie indulgences.

This time I wasn’t planning for any dinners, parties or football games – just focused on the desire to eat healthier. I forgot how many good-for-you, low-fat, low-calories foods I actually like. Really like.

Previously, I mentioned my weakness for Ranch dressing and was seeking substitutes for my dipping obsession. Spicy brown mustard has zero calories and light raspberry pecan dressing has a fraction of Ranch. Other low-calorie, yet filling, snacks I seemed to have forgotten about include pickles, salsa and peppers.

There is an argument that it is more expensive to eat healthy. True, you can pick up generic Ding-Dongs and Twinkies for about a buck, but at the store where I shop, you can also snag a head of lettuce for 79 cents. With the right toppings, that will be good for at least three lunches.

My trip to the grocery store has given me renewed excitement about my journey to get my groove back. I can do this.

This New Year’s Eve was reminiscent of the final day of 2001. I didn’t go out and party on either; just stayed in and waited for the night – and the dreadful year – to end.

Both years had similarities. In March 2001 and March 2008 my family faced sudden unemployment, resulting in personal insecurity, bitterness and financial challenges. While the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks took thousands of lives and forever changed the world, the Floods of 2008 also had that same sense of Armageddon. I had that same eerie feeling during the flood and its aftermath as I did that fateful Tuesday in 2001 and the days following. In both years, the nation’s economy faltered with it finally sliding into an all-out recession in 2008.

But as 2002 brought new hope and joy into my life when my son was born in November, I am optimistic 2009 will also be a year of growth and personal prosperity. I am preparing for my 20-year class reunion which will probably be held in August or September, and I am determined to lose weight and get my groove back.

In 1999 I lost a bunch of weight with the protein diet. This was at my cousin's wedding in Washington state.

In 1999 I lost a bunch of weight with the protein diet. This was at my cousin's wedding in Washington state.

The journey will not be quick or achieved by drastic measures. In 1999, I shed about 35 pounds in three months with the protein diet. It basically consisted of meat, cheese and eggs. Milk, bread, pasta and even fruits and vegetables were off the list. I was faithful to the regimen for about eight months and then got bored with it. The 35 pounds came back within about month of returning those forbidden foods into my diet.


While I am just as serious about getting back into shape this time around, I am going to take a different approach. On New Year’s Day, I didn’t starve myself or give up all of my vices cold turkey. I was more conscientious of what I ate and when the Hawks mounted a three-touchdown lead in the Outback Bowl, my family and I went swimming (that is one of the perks of being married to a swimming coach with access to the pool).

I didn’t throw away the chips and bottle of Bailey’s that was already in the house, but it’s unlikely those types of items will make their way back into my kitchen anytime soon. Goal no. 1 is to replace the culprits with foods higher in nutrition and lower in calories. This also includes letting the Ranch dressing run out and not using it with nearly everything. I am a dipper – any suggestions to replace the Ranch?

I can’t pinpoint exactly what made me decide to do this – so publicly. Maybe it was getting together with a bunch of my high school buddies at the Iowa-Minnesota game in November. Maybe it’s the double chin prevalent in every recent picture of me.

Wearing the sleek black dress with Jeff Holmes on Valentine's Day 1996.

Wearing the sleek black dress with Jeff Holmes on Valentine's Day 1996.

Maybe it was reading about the sleek black dress to wear for the holidays (yes, I used to have one). Oh, and there’s the borderline high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, too.   



Have I really settled into frumpdom? The recent gathering with the buddies proved that we are still as funny, spunky and snarky as we were back in the day. But why should that only come out once every five or more years?

I hate to say New Year’s Resolution because I intend to lose weight and better myself every January. And that’s only really happened once – in 1999. I am looking for a life transformation, not just in health and appearance, but also in overall productiveness and happiness. My 20th class reunion coming up later this year provides a pretty good incentive to set goals and complete many of them by August or September.

I have all sorts of excuses for my plumpness and frumpness. I will go over them in more detail in future blogs. Over the past decade they include thyroid surgery and the subsequent whacked out levels and depression; dealing with my 6-year-old son’s autism and developmental delays; helping my husband start a business while maintaining a full-time job; unemployment and financial struggles. Those are the bigger ones. Others include the never-ending candy jar across from my desk; getting home too late to exercise; the weather being too hot or too cold to go for a walk; and being partial to high-calorie micro-brewed beer and foofy creamy drinks.

These excuses can either be worked around or remedied all together. During

Williamsburg High School graduate in 1989

Williamsburg High School graduate in 1989

this experience, I will need help and frank suggestions from you, the reader. So please chime in.

I’ll leave you with a video of Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young,”

 This song was out during my senior year at Williamsburg High School and was the first song I heard when I turned on my radio the morning of my last day of school. It still rings true 20 years later. 

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