By Rafaela Kuznec @RafaelaKuznec

AFTER a breakdown in family relationships, Matthew Rivera spiralled into depression and found comfort in food that resulted in rapid weight gain

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Videographer / director: Elie Khadra

Producer: Rafaela Kuznec, Nathalie Bonney, Ruby Coote, James Thorne   

Editor: Beth Angus


The 27-year-old, from California, started gaining weight whilst still at high school.

Matthew told Barcroft TV: “My parents got separated when I was 12, around seventh grade.

“Shortly after they got divorced, I slowly started to lose contact with my dad.

“And since I didn't really want to talk about it, I started to get sad.

“I just isolated myself, and I didn't really have anyone to hang out with much, so something that would make me feel good was food, and I would always gravitate to food.”

Matthew started gaining weight and reached his heaviest - 487lbs.

He remembered: “I started overeating. I easily ate about 8,000 calories.

“I really didn't care for food as far as investing time into it.

“I never cooked, I never prepared anything.

“It was really easy for me to just ignore everything and just focus on eating because it was so easy, it tastes good, so it made me feel good.

“Food was my only escape.

“I loved to escape, forget about my problems, but doing so would create more problems with my health.”

Matthew said that the overweight started affecting his everyday life – he couldn’t fit comfortably in the car, walk down a block, it caused constant back pain, even tying his shoe laces became problematic.

It also started affecting his relationship with his family and friends.

He said: “It started to affect my relationship with my family, especially with my mom.

“I couldn’t answer phone calls from her, I wouldn't respond to texts from her, and I got to a point that one time I moved out of the house.”

Matthew’s cousin, Rafael Medina, told Barcroft TV: “I remember we used to be really worried about Mathew and his weight gain back in the days.

“He kind of isolated himself from the family and he would just keep to himself.

“We were pretty concerned about him for quite some time.”

Moving to a new place kickstarted Matthew’s decision to lose weight, which he did in two years through a diet and exercise regime.

He said: “I just started walking. And little by little, I started to progress to more intense workouts.

“Once I started to lose weight, saw some results, I was like: ‘Damn, I could do this!’

“I made my own program and started to watch what I ate and I made a regular workout routine, and I just stuck to that.”

Matthew has lost an incredible 242lbs in just two years; from 487lbs to 245lbs.

Asked to describe his diet, Matthew said: “It really helps me to be precise so I like to measure everything.

“I like to count calories. 

“I’m not very strict on what I don’t and do, but one thing I try to keep away from is dairy because I like how I feel off of dairy.

“On a daily basis, I like to rely on shakes, something quick and very convenient.

“Sticking to stuff that’s very easy and quick to do really helps me stay consistent.”

Starting a healthy regime has helped Matthew to improve his mental health and consequently, not only has his relationship with his family improved, but he also inspires others around him to adopt healthy eating habits.

Matthew said: “When I started to lose the weight, I started to share it with my family.

“It really helped me out mentally because they started to see I was doing better for myself.

“It really helped me gaining confidence and I was able to reconnect with all my family.”

His cousin said that Matthew inspired him to start a healthier lifestyle: “It was good to see him smiling and out of the house and just be happy.

“What’s most impressive is his motivation to just push himself and his dedication to all the work that he’s done so far.

“He has really inspired me with the changes he’s made to his life.

“I feel like I used to push him so much before and now he’s trying to push me which I really admire.”

Matthew’s journey is not over – the dramatic weight loss has left him with a lot of excess skin.

Matthew is planning on getting skin removal surgery soon and continuing to inspire others to live a healthier lifestyle.

He said: “Hopefully by sharing my story and my journey with others, it might inspire others to push themselves.”