Make Everyday a Transformation – Part 1

Matt and April Jackson

They call him “The Boss” in private circles.

Ruggedly handsome.  Energetic.  Big-hearted.  Life Coach.  Bad ass if you violate the laws of nutrition.

In our first meeting an array of color peaked from under the hem of his crisp company branded t-shirt, but as I fixed my eyes on the bad boy tattoos The Boss tugged the fabric, eliminating all diversion in our interview.  Opening a stack of neatly organized paper work, the former national account manager for the credit card issuing division of First National Bank methodically reviews my file and looks at me steely eyed.  He’s a numbers guy, but somewhere in the last three years he shifted from business banking to coaching bikini babes in the subculture world of all natural body building.  Matt Jackson is a nationally sought after expert in crunching nutritional numbers.  Add wife April to the equation, Nutrition and Dietetics major from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, and you’ve got double jeopardy in the war against fat.  Their business is M.E.A.T.  (Make Everyday A Transformation) and they are serious about changing lives.

His reputation preceded him as I witnessed the transformation of my BFF Kim.  Already a raving beauty and Mrs. Omaha 2014, my pal set her sights on competing in the bikini division of the NANBF Heartland Classic AND Greater Omaha Natural Championships.  In preparation for the October 3 event she paid and submitted to a host of renowned experts that were systematically slashing her calories, including breath mints.

Sweet Jesus…please feed the animals.

Kim and The Boss – October 3, 2015

Enter The Boss who takes my hundred pound friend and over eight weeks systematically raises her calories to almost double.  The change in 14 days was jaw-dropping.  Matt Jackson has a keen intuition for nutrition schedules for each of his 100 clients and chisels them into works of art all while maintaining optimum health.  Kim was shocked to hear her Cheetoh-loving friend inquire about the mastermind behind her metamorphosis.  In my world, a marathon is twenty-six hours of straight creative writing and a sprint is a midnight dash from bed to computer station with a great idea. She perked up at my interest and launched full throttle into informing me that Matt Jackson also takes ‘lifestyle clients.’  The sun didn’t go down without her messaging Matt, telling him to expect my note.

The application was sent over.  When asked “any current lifting or exercise program?” I responded with “I float on a raft in Kim’s pool.”  And dang…I’m pretty tired by the end of the afternoon. When asked if I had any body concerns/issues I told him “I have good genes for shapely legs…Mom was scouted by the Rockettes! but my arms came from some unknown chicken and I don’t ever go sleeveless.”

As Matt Jackson probed my wittiness waned.  Burying a daughter does, indeed, wear your body down.  My hair grayed at warp speed but the solution was always just a stylist and a bottle of dye away.  If only life was a quick fix.  It was a wake-up call in my doctor’s office this year when the stats showed high cholesterol, blood pressure borderline medication and weight over the recommended speed limit.  That’s dying from the inside out.  Thankfully, the numbers were such that he gave me a window of opportunity to correct the problems with diet and exercise.  The clock was ticking.

I had been devoted to the care of three people with terminal cancer, but miserably failed at Love Myself 101.    I didn’t come to the life table hard-wired for exercise.  They only thing we sprinted for in our family was a single-digit high school class rank.  And well, there was that one time my dad bought a yoga book and we did it as a family for about three nights.  Since the statute of limitations on blaming your parents ends at age twenty-one, in adult life I worked hard, ate right and exercised.  In my mid to late 40’s I laced my running shoes and was at the gym no later than 5:30 a.m.  My universe shifted that hot summer night in 2004 when we rushed Megan to the Emergency Room and so did my normal routine.  Days became nights, and sleep was a luxury.  I was often just drifting off for the night at 4 a.m.;  the time of Megan’s last round of meds.   A 5:30 a.m. run seemed impossible.  I told The Boss I turned into one big cheese cracker that dropped down from the Methodist Hospital vending machines.

I knew that was the last time he would listen to my sad little story.  He’s in the transformation business and the only way to move forward is to not look back.  The life coach who revves up his Harley Davidson Fat Boy motorcycle on the weekends also has a clear ‘no bullshit’ meter should I dare to offer a no-workout excuse.  He turns down 9 out of 10 applicants;  Either you want to transform your life or you don’t.  The chubby girl who could never do the rope climb in 6th grade was offered a slot.  I nabbed it, ever so clear that if I didn’t do the work he would fire me.

I thought we were starting the following week, but within 72 hours the email roared in.  He doubled my calories and was crystal clear that I wasn’t eating enough.  What?  I needed to start right away?  I thought we were starting Monday?  What the heck is a macro?  As I opened the excel nutrition spread sheets and saw that there was no milk on my horizon, a primal scream was heard world-wide from the dairy department at Target.  I sent him the ‘what the heck’ text.  He responded with ‘well you can have milk’ which was code word for ‘try it my way or do it your way that failed.’

I’ve survived six weeks.  The excel spread sheets with nutritional stats are submitted weekly, on time.  I’m eating more than I ever imagined.  My weight is down 15 lbs.  Of most importance, I have days that I feel so amazing that I wish I’d learned the nutritional formula sooner.

I guess that’s what makes him The Boss.

Key Notes:

  • After losing three immediate family members to cancer, I’m asked constantly if I’ve had genetic testing to see if I’m ‘at risk.’  Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women over 40, not cancer.  One in four women will die of heart disease.
  • 30% of caregivers die before the one they are caring for.
  • The Boss wasn’t laughing when he said “So it’s my job to clean up 10 years of bad care giving eating habits?”  My answer was ‘yes.’
  • In reaction to hiring Matt Jackson, I have repeatedly heard “Must be nice to afford a personal trainer…”    Please read “How much will a heart attack cost you?” by Steve Vernon in MoneyWatch.  And to quote Dr. James Heck, “Or you could have a heart attack that costs you nothing.”
  • The cost for my son to fly from London to Omaha on emergency because his mum didn’t take care of herself is over $2,000.
  • My change in lifestyle has been called extreme.  Why is doing cardio 45 minutes a day “extreme” but sitting for 8 hours as chemo pumps through your child’s veins not extreme?

On a Lighter Note:

  • Bald is not only beautiful for men in business—it may just help them get ahead. So concludes a recent study out of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, which found that men who shaved their heads were perceived to be more masculine and dominant than men with thinning hair or men with full heads of hair. Boss, I’m not gonna mess with you!  Maybe I would if you had a comb-over.
  • Until Chuck Taylors are the shoes of choice, I won’t be competing in any all natural body building competitions.
  • My Uncle Fred saw me after my weekly workout with The Boss and asked if I was going to throw up. “I’m thinking about it…” was my response.

Photography:  Mark Fountain –











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  1. You will be ready for the amazing race before me, but that’s ok you can do all the physical challenges and I will do all the intellectual. After all I knew that hanging out in the commons area at Westside high school would help someday in my future.

    1. You still scare me a little…maybe its the powerful bald head 🙂 Thanks for transforming my life. Every caregiver needs you!

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Article by: Valerie Bourdain