"I'd never shared anything that vulnerable and personal with the Internet," Matt Diaz tells PEOPLE
For Matt Diaz, deciding to upload a video to Tumblr to expose his excess skin after losing 270 lbs. was an emotional roller coaster.
“I’d never shared anything that vulnerable and personal with the Internet,” Diaz, 22, tells PEOPLE. “That’s why I cried during filming and I cried when I re-watched the footage, because I was afraid of opening up that way.”
But now that the video has gone viral, Diaz, who went from nearly 500 lbs. to 230 lbs. over six years with the help of lap-band surgery in 2009, is glad he posted it.
“Up until very recently, I was terrified of anyone seeing my excess skin,” he says. “But after the overwhelming response to this video, I realized that the people who would reject me based on something I can’t fix on my own – something that is a result of making a healthy life decision – aren’t the kind of people I want to be close to.”
Although the Brooklyn, New York, native admits in the video, “I’m scared people won’t think I’m attractive anymore,” he says he wanted to spread body positivity and to put some credence behind his other video uploads where he talks about fat-shaming and body image.
“I wanted to show people that they aren’t alone in being self-conscious,” he says. “Most importantly I want them to know that you don’t have to like everything about yourself, but you should refuse to hate yourself.”
Shortly after posting his video, Diaz was encouraged by a friend to start a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for skin-removal surgery, with a goal of $20,000. Now that he’s raised over $56,000, Diaz says he plans to use leftover donations to help others.
“Depending on how much is left, I’ll be donating parts of the money to other health, body image and weight related donation pages,” he wrote on the crowdfunding site. “I just want you to know that I’m going to use this to give back to the community that is changing my life.”