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"There are two types of people: people who see the outer shell and people who see you."
Those are the words of Matt Hirschy, 29, of Monroe, who says both types have helped motivate him on his journey to lose 330 pounds of excess body weight — without surgery.
As a Walmart Vision Center employee in Decatur, Hirschy sees, and is seen by, many people every day.
"People can be cruel and say cruel things, but I'm going to take that and use it as fire for my process and for my journey," said Hirschy. "I will show you that I will make myself better."
Hirschy has tried countless diet plans in his lifetime. "I would do the diets and then slip up and go back to the old routine."
In March 2008, he started to watch his diet again. About six months later, he decided to find out how much he weighed — sort of.
On October 21, 2008, Hirschy stepped onto a scale at Adams Memorial Hospital. Not yet ready to confront the number it revealed, he stepped on it backwards and had the nurse write his weight in a notebook he brought with him.
After continuing to watch his diet, Hirschy weighed in at the hospital the following month. Again, he stepped on the scale backwards. But this time, the nurse told him he might want to look in the notebook.
Still not ready, he headed home.
Not long after his second weigh-in, Hirschy said God encouraged him to look in the notebook.
"I saw 595, and I was relieved and I was terrified. I was relieved because I seriously thought I was like 700 or 800 pounds. I was terrified because, I thought, 'How is somebody going to lose that much weight? This is beyond what I can manage.'"
According to the notebook, he had lost eight pounds in that month. He thought, at that rate, he could lose 90 pounds in one year.
With that goal in mind, Hirschy decided to increase his activity level. He started by walking around Walmart on his breaks and during his lunch. Soon he began walking on the treadmill at the hospital.
"When I started getting smaller, I gained more courage to do weights and ride the bike," he said. Eventually, he began swimming at the Bellmont High School and Adams Central High School pools.
"I definitely feel that [swimming] is what escalated my weight loss," Hirschy said. He once lost 13 pounds in a week.
Before he began his journey to lose weight, Hirschy contemplated suicide.
"I was done. I didn't want to live anymore."
But, he said, "I woke up one day and I had the word 'enough' on my thoughts and on my tongue." He added, "I had just had enough of living my life the way I did. I had enough of just existing and not living."
"It was like God smacked me in the back of the head and said, 'Come on. What are you doing?' He gives us these lives that we have and we just have to use them. No matter what religion you are, once you get that feeling, there's no stopping you," he said.
Today, Hirschy says, "Every day is getting better and better." He still "messes up" sometimes by eating something that is unhealthy. "But this time around, instead of beating myself up, I say, 'Tomorrow is going to be a better day.'"
"At first it was hard to make the next day better, but gradually it just kept getting easier." Now, if Hirschy eats something he knows he shouldn't, he goes to the gym and works extra hard that day.
"I've never said that I'm on a diet. It's more that I have changed my lifestyle completely. I want people to know that it can be done. It's a struggle, but it's definitely a struggle that is well worth it."
His advice for someone about to embark on their own weight loss journey: "You have to get over your frustration and be accepting of your failures along with your triumphs.
"I still fail, majorly sometimes, but you have to stop beating yourself up. Instead, you say, 'Maybe I shouldn't have eaten that, but what am I going to do tomorrow to make up for it?'"
Hirschy said, "I don't believe I would be the person I am today if I didn't go through this.
"People have told me, 'You saved your life.' And, I did."