Matt Lieto is a professional triathlete living in Bend OR where he enjoys friends, family, the outdoors and sharing his love of physical fitness. His typical day is filled with running, biking and swimming on, over, and in the Cascade National Forest but there’s nothing typical about Matt’s emergence as an elite level endurance athlete. While many might assume that he has always been one of the “gifted” ones that woke up as an athlete and always had the drive to excel in sports, Matt’s is an “everyman” story filled with years of self-doubt followed by hard work, dedication and eventual redemption.
Matt was always an active child playing with his friends outside on the normal adventures of a kid with two older brothers but very early on it was noticeable that he was carrying more weight than the other kids his age. Although he was pretty good at sports, he always found himself struggling to keep up with the fitter kids. With each year he seemed to put on a little more weight and what may have started out as a slight metabolic imbalance turned into a dependence on food for comfort and an increasingly low self-esteem. From there, the snowball grew and grew.
By age 20, the kid with a little bit of a weight problem had developed into an un-athletic, unmotivated college student who probably spent too much time stuffing his face and not enough time exercising which is an all too familiar picture in America today. At 245 lbs he was carrying about 75 lbs extra on his frame from a lifetime plagued by an unhealthy relationship with food, poor self-esteem and a perception that he was always going to be fat and since there really wasn’t much he could do to change, so he might as well just accept it.
At about that time, Matt traveled to Kona, Hawaii to watch his older brother Chris race against the best in the world at the 1999 Ironman World Championships. It was in this unlikely setting where the weak are separated from the strong that the kid who had always had a weight problem found the inspiration to change his lifestyle. Although with his physical makeup, he didn’t see a triathlon as something he could ever do, he did see the importance of getting active and promised himself that he would take the difficult steps of changing his lifelong eating habits and enjoying new relationships in the process.
Matt found a new skatepark down the street from his house, and skated with friends about 5 hours a day! At the same time he made a conscious effort to change his relationship with food. He ate for fuel, to fuel his skating, rather than for comfort. He cut out fatty foods and focused on good whole foods that would give him energy to skate all day long. Without really noticing it, Matt lost 75 lbs in four months and had changed his body completely. His dream was to be a mountaineer and adventure racer and he started training for a triathlon to show that he could make that transformation. After his first year of triathlon he was hooked and put the mountaineering on hold to focus on training for triathlon. What Matt found as part of his journey was drive and motivation that had never been tapped and a gifted athlete that no-one had ever suspected, not even himself. Matt excelled quickly in the sport and within 3 years, he had gone from more than 75 lbs. overweight with little motivation and low self-esteem to getting his license as a professional triathlete.
Today Matt is a fit 170 lbs and using his fitness to take on the world’s best as a professional triathlete. Almost ten years to the day of watching his brother compete in Kona, Matt crossed the finish line racing as a professional athlete at the Ironman World Championships. But it isn’t just his physical appearance and improvement in sport that is different for Matt. It’s his overall outlook on life. He still has moments of self-doubt and self-esteem issues, as these things were ingrained in him as the “fat kid”, but he knows more than most that truly anything is possible.
Matt’s first goal was to be healthy, then to be a triathlete, then a pro, and now he knows the future is limitless. With a very different body and outlook on what he capable of, Matt is now a dedicated to helping others change their own perceptions of themselves and what they are truly capable of and his using his words and actions to promote the benefits of an active, healthy lifestyle.
Matt's Website: http://mattlieto.com/