Photo Credit: Matt Diaz
After losing 270 pounds, Matt Diaz decided to speak up and show the world the not-so-glamorous side of extreme weight loss. Rather than being shunned from social media sites after posting a video on his Tumblr that revealed his excess skin, Internet users embraced him and his struggle with self-love. Because of his candor, honesty and strength, Diaz has been able to raise over $55,000 through GoFundMe for surgery to remove his excess skin. WomensForum had the opportunity to interview Diaz about his incredible journey.
WF: How did you first get involved with promoting body positivity? How old were you?
MATT: It was actually an incredibly recent thing. After losing the weight, I was really hard on myself for years. Before this, I'd amassed a small following on tumblr due to my weight loss photos, jokes and things I've written about being a feminist. There's a really incredible, massive body positivity movement going on there right now. After reading so much about it, I started to believe in it myself. I'm the kind of person who can't help but speak his mind so naturally I started to talk about it, and somehow I became a really big part of the movement very quickly.
WF: What was your experience like growing up overweight?
MATT: Quiet, mostly. I was a shy child. I felt singled out, like an outcast most of the time. Ironically in retrospect I think it was mostly a self-imposed exile as a result of my incredibly low self esteem. The weight and the resulting insecurity definitely made me a late bloomer in terms of dating, but I tried as hard as I could to combat the natural anxiety that comes from being judged by the public.
WF: What is something that makes you shine?
MATT: Am I allowed to say my haircut? Does that make me shallow? The truth is, over the past few years I've really begun to craft and hone my particular sense of style. My tagged Facebook photos look like a graveyard of terrible outfits, but after losing all the weight and being able to fit into human-sized clothes, I really take pride in my style. Haircuts, piercings, tattoos, it's all a part of me. It's how I show my own appreciation for the person I've become.
WF: Why do you think ideas like self-love and confidence are so important?
MATT: I think we live in a world where we're taught to constantly be self-conscious. Women need to be feminine so they aren't seen as "butch," but not too feminine so they aren't seen as "weak." Men need to be masculine enough so that nobody accuses them of being women (as though that's a bad thing) but not so masculine that people think you're a big dumb oaf. It's insane, and it's problematic.
These problems carry over the same way in terms of body image. People want to tell you that "real women have curves," but more often than not they're talking about very specific curves that don't include cellulite, rolls, stretch marks, ya' know, things that actual bodies have. It's important to tell yourself that you're not supposed to fit any kind of beauty standard, because there isn't a standard for beauty. People don't fit into molds. We're all different, and that's fantastic.
WF: Did you expect this many people to respond in such a positive manner?
MATT: The moment that video went viral, it became about more than just me. It became the story of every person, regardless of age, gender, weight or ethnicity, who felt afraid to show their bodies to someone. Every person who saw my video and became inspired is so strong and so wonderful, and I'm so proud of them.
WF: How do deal with the insecurities that come with dating a new person?
MATT: That issue has always been big for me. I've tried to avoid it in not-so-subtle ways. Luckily the women have either not noticed in the throngs of passion, or (more likely) they just didn't want to ask to avoid awkwardness.
The thing about finding a new partner is that you're allowing yourself to be vulnerable in a way most people in the world never see. If you expose yourself that way and get rejected, it feels way more cutting and personal than any other type of rejection. But the truth is simple. If anyone you choose to sleep with or date ever, ever, EVER, judges your body, you kick them out of your bed and out of your life. You are beautiful and you are a work of art. Do no harm, but take no crap from anyone.
WF: Do you have any advice for people who are struggling with self-image?
MATT: I once read a great quote on tumblr that I still can't find to this day, but it went something like this: "The best thing you can do to love yourself is start to see the beauty in other people. When you look at someone, think about the positives first. 'Her eyeliner is really nice. His haircut is amazing! She dresses so well!'"
Once you start to see the beauty in everyone, you'll realize that you're a part of "everyone" too. Compliment yourself in the mirror every day. Pick out the good little things instead of the bad ones. You have no idea how many finger-guns I've shot myself in order to get pumped for the morning. Keep telling yourself you're beautiful, because you are.