Matthew Chappell, assistant professor of horticulture and researcher at UGA, made a special discovery this year solving one of the most pervasive issues in Georgia and the U.S. The problem is complicated: a working equation for personal fitness. His solution was simple: diet plus exercise. After graduating, the former college athlete found himself trying to solve the same problem a lot of young professionals have: balancing personal and work life.
There is a lot that falls into this equation he says, “You’re trying to get ahead,” but that brings in a lot of additional work, traveling, convenience foods, pressure, and unwinding with alcohol. With all these additions in his life, including a daughter, Chappell realized he needed to make a few subtractions. At 300 pounds, Chappell began a weight loss journey. He says that he set a number, and that the goal was the answer to his success. “I wanted to be under 200 pounds,” says Chappell. He also wanted his journey to serve as a good example for his young daughter. “Kids mimic what their parents eat,” he says, and he wanted to ensure she could make healthy choices.
Chappell says making the choice to change was easy, and once he subtracted beer and convenience foods, balancing the equation became simple. “From Thanksgiving to April, I lost 106 pounds,” he reports. “When you drink at night you don’t sleep as well, and then you become dehydrated. It’s a cycle that sets you up for cravings.” His advice is to eliminate the one or two things that get in the way of good decisions. “Break the cycle. You decide your own priorities,” he says.
He still enjoys a heart-healthy glass of wine now and then, but he emphasizes the importance of taking ownership of your personal health. He encourages people to make a personal goal and to know their own hardest hours and temptations. Do you choose TV instead of exercise? Do you keep on snacking late into the night? “It’s better to go on to bed than to eat more,” Chappell advises. Simply being aware of your own temptations can set you up for success. “Once you do it, and commit, it becomes habit, and it is not difficult,” he says.
Though Chappell maintains his equation for losing weight comes down to simple math,“Eat less than you expend,” he emphasizes that understanding the science was also a key factor in his journey. He encourages people to learn how food works for and in their body. “It’s empowering,” he says.
Chappell, a leader on WalkGeorgia.org with over 94 hours logged since February, also recognizes that programs like Walk Georgia seek to empower users. “It’s nice to have a support system [for exercise]. I encourage people to participate or start groups. It would be extremely difficult to do it without others.” He also seeks to encourage others by emphasizing that a health journey is a lifelong commitment.
“You will have [bad] days, but don’t get discouraged,” he says. “Weight loss is not a zero-sum game. There are so many outside factors.” His final piece of advice for finding a solution to fitness? His life motto: “Always look on the bright side, because you can’t see in the dark.” Don’t get discouraged when you have a bad day or week, he says. When it comes down to it, “You are human, and you can have happiness.”