Maryland Man Loses 156 Lbs. After Suffering Heart Attack at 38 Years Old

Matthew Morgan could barely go up a flight of stairs — now he trains for half-marathons

Matthew Morgan
Photo: COURTESY Matthew Morgan

In early 2017, Matthew Morgan was making progress. After battling his weight for many years, he had successfully dropped about 20 lbs., and was even going to the gym.

One night in February he came home after a workout and climbed the stairs to the third floor of his house. "I got a real heavy feeling in my chest, almost like someone was sitting on it," says the registrar from Brunswick, Maryland.

"At first I didn't think anything of it, but it didn't go away," he continues. "I ended up going to the hospital and they diagnosed me with a mild heart attack."

He was only 38.

The health scare reaffirmed his commitment to losing weight. Having struggled since he was young, "I've always been teased and made fun of for my weight," Morgan says. At his heaviest, the scale read 331 lbs.

"Going up a flight of stairs, I would be so out of breath, it was embarrassing," he recalls. "When you're that weight, it's harder to get in and out of a car. You go into a restaurant and seats and booths are not made for people that size. You don't fit in the seat correctly and everyone is staring at you."

Having low self-esteem didn't help — Morgan, now 42, says he often turned to food for comfort: "sweets, fast food, pizza, stuff that is really not good for you."

Matthew Morgan
COURTESY Matthew Morgan

Out of concern for his health, Morgan's doctor recommended the calorie-tracking app Lose It!. He tracked all of his food and cut out sugar and treats. When he felt like indulging, he would allow it once a week instead of every day.

Morgan also started listening to weight-loss podcasts after his heart scare. "I heard several people talking about running and how that was the key to losing weight," he remembers. His younger sister had been a runner for years.

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"I'd always been fascinated by people who could do that because it was something I thought I could never do," he says. "After listening to these podcasts I said to my sister, 'I'd like to run a race with you, is it something I'm capable of doing?' She said, 'Of course, anyone can run.' "

Morgan started going on short runs, and while it was "extremely difficult" at first, he says he soon fell in love with the sport. He was impressed by how quickly his body adapted to change. "The more weight I lost, the easier it got — and the faster I got." He started focusing more on his pace and speed work. By 2018 he was ready for his first 5K.

Matthew Morgan
COURTESY Matthew Morgan

"There was so much adrenaline when I crossed the finish line," he says. "I thought about how one year ago I could barely go up a fight of stairs and now I just finished a 5K! Never in a million years."

Through running, portion control and food tracking, the 6-foot-3-inch Morgan ended up losing 156 lbs.

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But he says he still struggles with self-esteem. "I don't see what other people see. I still consider myself an overweight or obese person, even though I know that's not true. It's something that sticks with you."

Although Morgan has run a few half-marathons, they have been virtual due to the pandemic. "I did complete them on my own, and thought, oh my gosh, I just ran 13.1 miles — but I still want to do it in a big race venue once this virus is over," he says.

Looking back, Morgan is grateful that his heart issue gave him the opportunity to change his life.

"I use it to motivate me," he says. "I still have the hospital wrist band in my room as a daily reminder to never give up on myself and my healthy lifestyle."

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