PEABODY — So, why go on national television and advertise the fact you’ve eaten yourself to a weight of 356 pounds?
Matt Hooper, 38, a Peabody High graduate now living in Georgetown, remembers thinking it through, building the motivation to sign on as a contestant for NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.”
“I want to go skydiving,” he thought. “I want to take off my shirt at the beach. I can’t go to Fenway Park because I can’t fit in the seats.” Friends get together for a run or to play soccer. He isn’t even invited.
He wasn’t fat as a kid, says Hooper, who is 6 feet tall. But after studying marketing at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, he found himself working for a home improvement store, putting in 11- and 12-hour days, eating on the run, relying on fast food, never getting any exercise.
“I was too tired to work out,” he says.
And as the years passed, the weight began to accumulate.
Sitting with fiancee Bethany Wright, who also grew up in Peabody, only a short time before their scheduled July 2013 wedding, the couple decided that Hooper should apply to appear on the show in which dramatically overweight people compete to lose pounds. And after a lengthy interview process that started on the phone and online, he was accepted.
Still, going through with it was no easy matter.
“It was a big step,” he recalls. “It was hard to swallow my pride.” He was familiar, however, with the show and another local success story, Marbleheader Neil Tajwani, who wasn’t the ultimate winner, but who nevertheless achieved life-changing weight loss during his run in 2007. That helped inspire him.
For Hooper, however, agreeing to appear on “Biggest Loser” was a difficult step for another reason. Signing meant postponing his wedding, as contestants can be gone for weeks while the show is filming. In fact, he suspects his willingness to postpone the wedding might be one reason he was chosen.