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Employee Wellness

Matt Gainey, Administrative Assistant in the Office of Newborn Screening

December 2011

This employee got moving and never looked back, proving that making small changes can make getting healthy easy and fun, and before you know it you're looking and feeling better!

Matt Gainey

Matt Gainey, an administrative assistant of 4 years, saw the stagnant nature of his job getting to his health and energy and decided to do something about it. In his first-ever office job he found himself sitting for many hours a day, which started taking a toll on his body and spirit. After being overweight for much of his life, he decided the only person who could motivate him to live healthier was himself.

In 2008, his office decided to conduct a Biggest Loser challenge to see who could curb overeating and start exercising. The goal was to lose the most weight in the office and walk home with a cash prize. Matt decided to participate, but when it came time for the initial weigh in, he was too heavy for the standard doctor's office scale they were using to work accurately.

"I had to bring in my own scale, that was a pretty big wake up call," Matt said.

So he started by walking for 30 minutes a day around downtown's Wesley Bolin Plaza, then moving on to walking the six-floor garage at the downtown area office complex. He also started opting for the stairs more than the elevator. Eventually he cut out fast food and soda and started piling on the fruits and veggies, including bringing healthy breakfasts and lunches to work to save money and calories.

"The easiest part of the change was eating more fruits and veggies, because they are tasty!" Matt exclaimed. "I realize not everybody feels the same way as I do, but dang ? I love fruits and veggies."

In a few months he was able to start running that garage during the workday, he felt encouraged because Arizona Department of Health Services' employees are allowed 30 minutes of wellness activity time each day. On days that his work schedule didn't allow the workout, he would run in his neighborhood at home, increasing the distance and speed as time progressed.

He didn't strictly deprive himself of anything he liked, instead he committed to exercising at least four days a week. In three years, Matt has lost more than 160 pounds and dropped 9 pant sizes! Heart disease and diabetes run in his family and he became devoted to this life change to keep from inheriting avoidable chronic diseases.

"I think the most important thing about my progress is that I've held myself accountable. I started paying attention to what I weigh, what I eat, and how active I am, where before I completely ignored those aspects of my life," Matt explained. "When I slip a little it's fine because I acknowledge that I slipped a little, and that lights a fire under me to get going again and keep progressing."

Matt's known around the office as "that guy who runs the garage," even in the extreme summer months. He has pledged himself to this new way of life and his coworkers take notice. Others have communicated that Matt's regimen has made an impression on them. Matt's fiancée also works at the agency and many people have approached her to express their pride in him and how he has inspired them to get more active.

His new lifestyle has afforded him the ability to wear clothes not specifically made for the "big and tall," which saves money and is fun for him. He also says he sleeps better, has a lot more energy during the day and describes himself as generally happier. He has also noticed a decrease in pain in his knees and ankles, which he experienced for many years after breaking one ankle twice as a child.

These days he still tries to run at least three days a week and lifts free weights, does sit-ups and push-ups at home. Matt says a long term goal is to get running faster and for longer periods of time and possibly hike Machu Picchu in Peru.

Matt's healthful change has benefitted him and inspired others in the agency to follow suit. Matt exemplifies the ADHS' mission of Health and Wellness for all Arizonans and the agency is proud of the progress he's made!