Matt Hoover Wins Big | "Biggest Loser" Dedicates His Life to Health

Matt Hoover

Matt Hoover lives life in the public eye.  In 2005, over 10 million people watched his weight loss struggles during season two of NBC’s reality TV show The Biggest Loser. Dropping 157 pounds in nine months, he snagged not only the $250,000 grand prize but also the heart of fellow contestant and third place winner Suzy Preston. Married in 2006, the couple has added two handsome little boys to their family, Rex and Jax

This month, Matt is the keynote speaker at the Southeast Iowa Wellness Expo at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center on Saturday, September 25.

Been There, Done Fat

Advocating slow, steady weight loss over the rapid results he achieved during the show, Matt admits that before and after his success on The Biggest Loser 2, his attempts to reach goals have sometimes fallen short. Of course, Matt’s goals are pretty ambitious.

Best recent example? On October 10, 2009, in Kona, Hawaii, Matt attempted to swim 2.4 miles in the Pacific Ocean, ride his bike across 112 miles bordering barren black lava fields, and run 26 miles—all in one day. He did it, too, but heartbreakingly took three minutes longer than the 17-hour finish required for official Ironman status. 

Why even attempt such a feat, especially after having regained a few pounds?   In a YouTube video made the day of Kona’s Ford Ironman World Championship, Matt, looking hefty among hordes of incredibly fit, thin competitors, explains his reasoning, “I’m going do this.  I’m going to do this for myself.  I’m going to do this for that man who’s lying on his couch thinking, ‘What am I doing here?’ ”

Star Athlete to American Idle

Similar thoughts are what landed Matt on the Hummingbird Nest Ranch in Simi Valley, California, where his Biggest Loser episodes were shot. Injuries due partly to training too hard after too little sleep, too much alcohol, and unhealthy food had derailed Matt’s promising college wrestling career, sending him into a downward spiral of excessive eating and drinking. Gone were his glory days of being a two-time state wrestling champ in Iowa, of achieving high school All-American status in his hometown of Marion, and of earning a wrestling scholarship to the University of Iowa, the college with the top wrestling program in the nation.

With 12 units left to earn his college degree, Matt dropped out of school and onto a couch, where he entertained himself flipping channels instead of his wrestling competitors’ bodies. With a bag of chips in his hand and a beer on his gut (his words), Matt stumbled onto an episode of season one of The Biggest Loser

In an online article Matt explained what happened next: “A commercial came on that said to apply for the next season. It seemed like it would be easy to win. After all, I’m an athlete. I’m tough. I went to the computer and found out there was a casting call the next day just two hours from my house. I thought, what’s the worst that could happen? I didn’t realize how that small choice would change my life.”

Springing Back into Action

Small-town, high-school athletes with shattered dreams are a common phenomenon. Matt’s ability to claw himself out of his doldrums, gathering fame, fortune, and true love along the way, sets him apart. It’s significant that the article quoted above appeared on’s Dad of the Month site, which spotlights “a father who inspires and moves us, who embodies the qualities that we all admire” and who “shines as an example of what fathering is all about.” 

Today Matt, Suzy, and their sons live near Seattle, where Matt uses his successes and failures as fodder for his career as a book author, blogger, exercise trainer, and motivational speaker. On his blog, Matt says that his story “of pushing for a happy, healthy lifestyle goes on.” He’s working towards earning his college degree and his personal trainer certification. In November he’ll take another stab at becoming an Ironman. He and Suzy are planning a fitness-oriented resort.

“We are a very active family,” Matt says. “Three-year-old Rex just did his first triathlon, and both he and Jax have done 3K and 5K races. We always finish last, but they are getting to experience the healthy lifestyle.”

Blogging about his Kona Ironman experience, Matt wrote, “Me doing this event is setting an example for my little boys. Even though they may never remember me crossing the line in Hawaii, they are seeing me workout everyday and working to be healthy. As I continue in this sport they are going to see me as well as their mom being active as long as they are under our roof.”

Way to go, Mom and Dad!

Southeast Iowa Triathlon Sprint

Local athletes are encouraged to participate in a mini-triathlon alongside Matt Hoover on the morning of Saturday, September 25. Before speaking at the Southeast Iowa Wellness Expo, Matt will join other health enthusiasts in the Southeast Iowa Triathlon sprint (SEI Tri), a shorter-distance triathlon covering only a small portion of the traditional Ironman and Olympic distance lengths. Participants will swim 400 yards, bike 6.2 miles, and run 1.5 miles. Registration begins at 7 a.m., with the swim portion starting at 8:30. Matt will participate in the awards ceremony at 11 a.m. at the Convention Center.

For more information or to register, visit or call (641) 472-2828.

©2010 Cheryl Fusco Johnson

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