Meet the man who lost 14 stone in an incredible weight loss transformation – following a heart-to-heart with his seven-year-old son. Matthew Riggs’ three-year fitness journey took him from chronically overweight to showing off a six-pack as he won the title of Pure Elite Transformation champion.
And his transformation inspired wife Jennifer, who herself has shed five stone. Matthew radically transformed his lifestyle, diet and mindset to lose more than half his bodyweight, going from 27st 2lbs in 2019 to 13st 2lbs today.
The father-of-two used to drink a bottle of rum daily, buy takeaways three times a day and “never exercise”. Now he works out daily, has not drunk alcohol in 449 days and has eaten the same lunch – turkey meatballs – for three years.
The changing moment occurred after a “heartbreaking” conversation he had with his eldest son Harrison, who asked when his father was going to die because of his weight.
The 35-year-old from Essex said: “Back in March 2019 my son, who was only seven at the time, came home from school one day and said he’d been learning about the body. He just came straight up to me and asked ‘Daddy, when are you going to die?’.
“Completely shocked, I asked him ‘Harrison, why is Daddy is going to die?’ He responded saying, ‘We’ve been learning about the body at school, and your heart is going to blow up because you’re fat’.
“It shattered me. Completely broke me to pieces. I felt myself welling up so I went into my room, looked at myself in the mirror and just broke down.
“That was the light-bulb moment for me. I went back to my son, and I promised to join a gym and change my life for good to show him that anything is possible.”
From that moment, Matthew transformed his life in more ways than one. The next day, he joined a gym and conducted an in-depth fitness research session.
“I realised I was living an unsustainable lifestyle”, admitted Matthew, “I was drinking a lot of alcohol, had a ridiculous diet and was stupid with my food choices.
“I would have at least three takeaways from McDonalds, drink a whole bottle of rum every evening and would be constantly having meals and eating in the office too”.
Having worked in IT for more than 20 years, Matthew admits his industry was one of the “biggest problems” for his health.
He said: “I have been working in IT since I was 15 years old – sitting all day, not moving much and constantly eating. So, I decided to start prepping my own meals, cut out alcohol completely and started gymming every single day – because I didn’t realise you were supposed to have rest days!
“I went to the gym for 755 days in a row – even on Christmas day. I was losing a stone a month and was feeling amazing.”
Matthew has also been without a drink for 449 days now. His progress at the gym was then met with the announcement of the first Covid-19 lockdown – which resulted in the closure of gyms.
However, more determined than ever, Matthew refused to let what he deemed a “minor setback” halt his progress.
He said: “I didn’t want to lose determination or rhythm so I carried on training at home and remember finding things in the house I could use to train. I had no weights and everything was either out of stock or so expensive – I was even using the gas ball on the BBQ for squats!”
In the face of diversion, the father to now nine-year-old Harrison and six-year-old Emily embraced creativity and decided to pick up an old hobby from the past.
“I thought I needed to do some cardio”, confessed Matthew, “hating running, I decided to get my old school roller skates out of the loft from when I was a kid.
“Within six to eight weeks, I was doing 12.2-mile circuits around Essex – burning 1,000 calories per skating session!
Despite eating seven times a day, Matthew went from losing 11st 1lb to 13st 2lbs in lockdown: “It’s all about eating the right foods: a healthy balance of protein, carbs and fat and being consistent in your workouts”.
A year ago, Matthew was inspired to take his fitness to the next level and begun prepping for a stage show.
He said: “I used to go to ripped gym in Basildon which is known as the training centre for body builders and posers. Everyone said I should do it. I had a great chance and wanted to prove to my son that anything was possible”.
One factor of preparation Matthew did not account for was the spray tan, however, as he recalls the experience as “extremely awkward”.
Matthew explained: “I turned up for my spray tan and the woman gave me a sock. I remember saying ‘What’s that for?’, but she told me to put it on and come back in the room – I was bright red and mortified.
“I had the tan done, then was told to sit in another room to dry off – but there must have been about 60 guys in there with socks on! They were just talking to me normally, it was a totally surreal moment and I really thought ‘what the hell am I doing?'”
Matthew competed in the Pure Elite Transformation category at Margate Winter Gardens, Kent, on April 2 and came home victorious – proving to himself, his son and the world that you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it.
“As soon as I put my foot on stage, all my nerves disappeared and I just came to life”, confessed Matthew, “all the hard work had come to light and the crowd went crazy.”
The proud dad said he was “so shocked he couldn’t move” when they announced him as the winner.
“I think the transformation was surreal, considering I’m all natural and have never taken anything”, said Matthew. “Even the judges stood up. It was crazy.
“I saw my daughter at the front of the crowd with a ‘Go Daddy’ sign, and at the end I went up to my son, began trying to do a powerful dad speech saying ‘well Harrison, what did I tell you?’. He then cut me off and said, ‘Dad, the only reason you’re up there is because of me!'”
Matthew admits since embarking on his fitness journey, his energy is now “through the roof” and he is able to spend more quality time with his family.
“I have been able to play football with my son, teach my daughter how to roller-skate, tidy the house, help my wife. Before getting healthy I couldn’t be bothered to do anything but now you can’t shut me up! I’m full of beans!”
Matthew’s influence has also transferred to his wife, Jennifer, who has been inspired by her husband to undergo her own lifestyle changes.
The 36-year-old, who weighed 16 stone back in 2019, now weighs just 11 – and the pair are “delighted” at their fitness success. Matthew’s advice for anyone trying to live a healthier life is to first change your mindset before anything else.
“My aim is to try and motivate people to do what I’ve done but you must begin to educate your mind. If you don’t change your mindset, you’re still going to want to put food in. You can still have evenings where you eat the food but making that effort to motivate yourself and truly transform your life for the better is the best way to start”.
Matthew is planning to push himself into more competitions in the future and is “excited” to see how the rest of his journey will “motivate himself and others”.