In an emotional video posted online this week, a 22-year-old Brooklyn man revealed his body to the world for the first time -- and received an outpour of support from around the web.
“I lost 270 pounds in the last six years,” Matt Diaz said in the clip. “When I was 16 years old, I weighed about 495 pounds at my heaviest weight. I’m a big advocate for body positivity, but I’ve never shown what my excess skin really looks like ... I’ve never done this before ever, and I’m really, really scared.”
Diaz lost weight with the help of lap-band surgery, as well as a better diet and exercise, but, as he explains, no amount of effort has been able to reduce the amount of excess skin on his body.
It is, he says, something that he continues to struggle with.
“Whenever I sleep with someone new, whenever I’m at somewhere -- at the beach or something -- and I’m supposed to take my shirt off, I can’t,” he said through tears.
Diaz, who has been documenting his weight loss on social media for years, told Upworthy that he decided to create the video because he wanted to be honest about his journey, and to encourage others to practice self-love.
"I think it's important that we learn to love the bodies we're in, even if we don't necessarily like every little thing about them. However, in the time I'd been writing and talking about it, I'd never actually shown my excess skin to anyone. It felt dishonest somehow, to others and to myself,” he said. “I couldn't tell others that I wanted them to love themselves and keep myself hidden away and ashamed of my skin.”
But creating the video, Diaz admits, was no easy feat.
“I’m so scared people will think I’m ugly now. I’m so scared that there’s going to be a lot of negativity and a lot of judgment,” he says in the clip, later writing on Tumblr that he “really, really nearly didn’t” upload the video at all.
“Honestly, I was beyond terrified to post that video,” he wrote.
Though Diaz has endured some nasty comments from netizens in recent days, the response to his video has largely been positive.
A GoFundMe campaign Diaz set up this week to raise money for excess skin removal surgery has gone viral. In two days, Diaz has already far surpassed his goal of $20,000. As of Saturday morning, more than 1,900 people have donated more than $47,000 total.
"I was so self-conscious, and my faith in humanity has never been stronger after [the video] went up," Diaz told ABC News.
As for the surgery, the young man says that he hopes it'll help him attain a more toned physique.
"There's nothing wrong with wanting to change things," he told the New York Daily News. "I refuse to hate my body. I just want to be better."