Success Story: Matt Browne
Cancer meds made him fat. Teasing classmates left him discouraged. Yet, as his body kicked the disease, his spirit found solace in the gym.
Hometown: Winona, Minn.
Weight Before: 155 lbs (as a child)
Weight After: 180 lbs
Guys often end up overweight because of bad eating habits or a lack of exercise. But not always. As a 5-year-old, Matt Browne of Winona, Minn., was diagnosed with leukemia. Doctors put him on a rigorous course of chemotherapy and loaded his body with drugs, including steroids. The medications fought the illness—but also made him fat. "The weight came on fast and stuck with me," he says.
Browne's cancer was in remission by age 10, but the fourth grader was still heavy, weighing 155 pounds with a 34-inch waist. His classmates teased him mercilessly. The effects hit him hard. "I got discouraged and felt pretty bad about myself," he says.
That didn't change (nor did his body) until Browne started working out in high school. Initially, he hoped to become more athletic so he could play baseball and basketball, but instead, he ended up falling in love with training itself. "Lifting weights gave me a feeling of control," he says. "It was something I'd never experienced before. When I'm lifting weights, there's nothing else that's holding me back."
Now 21, after a childhood spent at the mercy of doctors and disease, Browne is studying exercise science at Winona State University, in Minnesota, and hitting the gym almost every day. His workouts include two or three days of cardio—usually 20 minutes of intervals.
Six days a week, he also lifts hard, focusing primarily on one body part and keeping rest periods brief. "I change the routine a lot with the weights I'm using and exercises I'm doing to confuse the muscles," he says.
Browne's diet is full of nutritious whole foods such as eggs, brown rice, broccoli, oatmeal, lean meats, and fish, although he does let himself have the occasional cheat meal.
And cancer? He's been in remission so long doctors have given him the all clear. Still, Browne hasn't forgotten his dark past. "When you're faced with a challenge like that as a child, you get this fight mentality. Now, I apply it to my fitness," he says. "You get out what you put into your training, which is why I work as hard as I do."
Matt's Tip: Don't go it Alone
"If you feel overwhelmed in the gym, ask for help. For my first two years of college, I went to San Diego State University. Working with the coaches and trainers there taught me a lot and provided me with great tips that I'm still using to really push myself and get good results."