“He felt so bad about himself that he was starting to shut himself off from other people,” Pam Gumm said. “"He told me, ‘Momma, I’ve got to do something’.”
That day, Matthew enrolled in a health club. Sixteen months later, a much slimmer Gumm walked into the same club to work out. During a break, the 18-year-old pulled out his smartphone to show a “before” photo of himself.
“I was a big ole boy back then,” Gumm said.
The “after” Gumm is a fit 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior at Mooreville High School. His weight loss was not a result of surgery or a fad diet, but of willpower fueled by regular exercise and healthy eating.
The weight loss has brought a change in lifestyle for Gumm, and he’s humbled by the results.
“I don’t want to take it for granted,” he said. “This doesn’t make me better than anyone else. I want to be humble about it. I want to help others.”
The only child of Jimmy and Pam Gumm, Matthew began his struggles with obesity just before he turned 10. This was evident in the photos Pam had compiled for her son’s scrapbooks detailing his life.
“You can see when it started happening to him,” she said, looking at a collection of her son’s preteen photos. “I didn’t see my child like that. He was my kid. He wasn’t overweight to me.”
Matthew was 15 and a freshman at Saltillo High School when he reached 300 pounds. He transferred to Mooreville after that year.
As he weight increased, Gumm’s self-esteem decreased.
“There were a bunch of people who wouldn’t talk to me,” he said. “I had a lot of trouble with girls. They wouldn’t talk to me, period, and that really hurt. It was rejection after rejection after rejection.”
When Gumm reached his breaking point in October 2011, his parents allowed him to join Anytime Fitness on East Main in Tupelo.
Pam Gumm said she would have resisted signing him up earlier, but she realized he needed help.
“At that point, I knew I couldn’t put it off,” he said. “I had to do it for him.”
Going to the gym and working out for almost an hour became part of his daily routine. The cardiovascular workouts helped him shed the excess weight.
“I put a lot of hours into those machines,” he said. “That’s what made me lose a lot of fat.”
And as Gumm began losing the pounds, others took notice.
“I usually spend 30 minutes on cardio,” he said, “but one day, a girl walked in and she wanted me to get on there with her. You know, girls influence you. I stayed on it for an hour and a half.”
Then, he paused and smiled. “That was a rough day,” he said.
Gumm also changed his eating and drinking habits. Fast food and soft drinks were out. He eats about 2,500 calories and drinks up to 10 16 ounce bottles of water a day.
“If it doesn’t swim or fly, I don’t eat it,” he said. And his mom added, “He doesn’t touch bread anymore.”
A balance of diet and exercise is vital to losing weight, Gumm said.
“You can’t lose weight sitting in front of the TV,” he said. "Thirty minutes in the gym is better than 30 minutes of TV.
“I was told you can’t cheat in a marriage and expect the marriage to work. You can’t cheat on a diet and expect it to work,” Gumm added. “It’s all about putting the right foods into your body and making sure you’re burning more calories than you’re taking in.”
Better health means a better social life for Gumm. He had a girlfriend his senior year, his first since the fifth grade.
Gumm’s mother is proud of his change.
“He’s done such an awesome job,” she said. “I’d like to get up the willpower to do what he has done.”
Gumm, who played football at Mooreville, will graduate in May. He plans to attend Itawamba Community College and then the University of Mississippi to earn a degree in criminal law. He plans a career in law enforcement.
Learning from his own personal experience, Gumm encourages other teenagers who struggle with weight issues not to let others bully or discourage them.
“You have to train like your worst enemy is watching you,” he said. “If you have a dream, protect it. People who can’t do things themselves, they’ll tell you you can’t do it. If you want something, you have to go get it.
“It’s something you have to do for yourself,” he adds. “You have to decide in your heart and your mind if you want to do it. Ultimately, it’s going to change everything.”