In 2018, at age 37, Paul Matthies came face to face with a health crisis he could no longer ignore. At 315 pounds, he had developed diabetic neuropathy — losing feeling in his feet, hands, and even along his spine — and his sleep apnea was so severe he awoke one night gasping, unable to breathe.
At the ER, Paul’s doctor didn’t mince words: He had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar. His life was at risk.
“But he said, ‘I have hope for you,’” says Paul. Devastated by the prospect of a life of disability and disease, Paul clung to that hope.
He went home and poured out all the soda he had. He got out a trash bag and emptied the pantry. “I told myself, ‘This is my chance.’” He made a few simple, if not easy, changes: stop drinking sugary drinks, park far from the door at work, and take the stairs to his second-floor office. Within two months, Paul had lost 30 pounds.
Building on Confidence
Paul’s early success inspired him to focus on fitness, and he decided to check out the Life Time near his home in North Dallas, Texas.
After a few personal-training sessions and some time building stamina on the treadmill, Paul signed up for his first 60day Challenge and enrolled in GTX group training. He also joined a local martial arts studio, and soon had a schedule that included six days of physical activity a week.
Paul then turned to nutrition. “I’ve been on a learning curve to really understand what it means to eat healthy — to still feel full, but eat nutrient-dense foods,” he explains. And he came up with an intermittent fasting “hack” that works for him: “I eat when the sun comes up, and when the sun’s down, the kitchen’s closed for the night.”
Despite the external changes that Paul has made these past three years (he’s lost 135 pounds and now trains up to 10 hours a week), he says the biggest transformation in his life has been emotional and spiritual.
“I had a lot of internal narratives where I would tell myself, ‘You’re just not worth this.’ And I had to stand up to that bully,” he says. “For so many years, I carried the anxiety of ‘Am I going to fit in this airplane seat? Am I going to fit in this movie seat?’ I had to recognize the emotional weight was very heavy.”
“When I began to accept that kindness and the community, my life began to change for the better in terms of my overall health.”
He found a counternarrative in the people he met at Life Time, who accepted him and supported him as he made his way.
“I was so busy judging myself that I assumed that everybody else was judging me, too,” he explains, describing this mindset as being “closed-fisted.” “But through the kindness of the people around me, I slowly began to ‘open my hands,’ and when I did that, I recognized that I have a lot of cheerleaders in my life. When I began to accept that kindness and the community, my life began to change for the better in terms of my overall health.”
Discovering Life Lessons
“There are four principal lessons I’ve carried away from my training, between Life Time and martial arts,” Paul says. “I call them my four Cs.”
Commitment. “You have to bring your whole self — body, mind, spirit, soul — to this journey. You might even consider seeing a counselor along the way because as you begin peeling back layers, you discover other areas of your life — unhealthy relationships, toxic environments — you’re going to need to confront to keep going.”
Consistency. In each 60day Paul completed, he chose three behaviors to focus on. “If I could do those consistently, I began to see results.”
Community. “It’s not always the workout that you’re doing. Sometimes it’s the people you’re doing it with that make all the difference.”
In 2019, Paul won the National 60day in his third competition. “It was a Tuesday night, and I thought they weren’t going to announce the winner until Wednesday. I opened the door, and balloons and banners fell, and everyone began erupting in cheers. I fell to my knees. It was one of the best moments of my life to know that we did this together.”
Coaching. “You have to humble yourself,” explains Paul. “I had to learn the humility to say I need help, that there are others that know better than I do. I had to submit to and trust the process of coaching — of good expertise to help me understand my body and learn about proper nutrition.”
Finally, Paul believes in the power of hope. “There’s something deep within me that just believes that things can get better,” he says. “Somewhere along the way I lost that, and now I’ve regained it.”