An EastEnders extra turned personal trainer to the stars is debunking “farcical” health fads he says are followed by some super rich people – including covering themselves in plastic wrap or drinking period blood in an attempt to shift the pounds.
Matt Hodges, 40, from south London first found success as a celebrity personal trainer to the rich and famous thanks to a brief role as Neil the barman in EastEnders in 2007.
However, just two months after opening his dream gym in Fitzrovia in January 2020, he was devastated when lockdown hit, forcing the gym to close its doors and throwing his life into chaos, leading Matt to pen his experiences about brushing shoulders with the uber wealthy.
Attributing his memoir to saving his life as he typed through his lowest moments, Matt is now releasing his tell all book, ‘Behind Gym Doors’ on December 1.
In it, he looks back on his most horrific and laugh-out-loud moments during his 15 years as a personal trainer, from clients drinking their own urine and period blood to massaging someone who had just been on a cabbage diet.
“Superfoods don’t exist,” said Matt, who is single.
“Most health fads are just expensive products, like 300-year-old Himalayan salt with a year sell by date. It’s just lunacy.
“It’s just marketing gurus creating the next quick fix. Getting fit is hard work, it takes time and effort. There aren’t any quick fixes and that’s something I really try to outline in my book.”
Falling in love with the gym when he was studying industrial design at Loughborough University, Matt started brushing shoulders with celebrities in 2007 when he bagged a speaking role in EastEnders as Neil the hunky barman – boosting his personal training business.
“I was working in design in London and I just got picked up by a photographer,” explained Matt. “I shot for Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness.
“I got a very small part in EastEnders as the kind of love interest for one of the main characters, Roxy Mitchell, played by Rita Simons. I was basically a featured extra, but it was dialogue.
“I did an on-screen audition where I was a stripper in the R&R club and that led to a two-year role as Neil the barman.
“I got to know the actors and actresses on it and they started asking if I could help them out with their workout or what they should eat.
“I realised I was good at it, so I went back to studying and got my personal training qualifications and founded the MPH Method in 2010.”
Brushing shoulders with the rich and famous, Matt’s networking paid off and soon the personal trainer was working with socialites, celebrities, the uber rich and even some Russian oligarchs – but the wealthier his clients got, the more outrageous their get slim quick schemes became.
“A woman once passed out during a session because she had covered herself in plastic wrap,” said Matt.
“It’s one of my pet hates, people want everything fast. They want just one exercise that burns fat– but that doesn’t exist.
“When you’re at that higher level, you’ve got all of these specialists who can tell you everything about your body and you pay a premium for it – and the more farcical the fads become.
“But actually, all you need to do is probably just reduce your calories every day to lose weight.”
Matt had some shocking moments while working as a personal trainer.
“I knew a woman who we caught drinking her urine as part of her holistic lifestyle,” he said.
“Another had also been drinking her period blood, it’s just lunacy.
“I think I have PTSD from a client who was on the cabbage diet – I have never done sports massage again.”
Explaining what happened in that awful incident, he said: “I was massaging this extremely wealthy woman from LA. She was on this cabbage diet despite me warning her against it.
“My hand slipped on her glute and then I was covered in poo. It was in my mouth, all over my face and my arms. I looked like I was inseminating a cow!
“So I’m standing there covered and it stinks. There was a huge swimming pool next door, so I just legged it out the room and dived straight into the swimming pool with all my clothes on.
“Then I see this figure standing above me and the client just lost it with me for jumping in the pool. We never worked together again.
“I’ve never done a massage since then either.”
However, after building his business over 13 years as a successful personal trainer to the stars, Matt was devastated when, just two months after opening his own gym, lockdown hit in March 2020 and he was thrown into a deep depression as his life spiralled out of control.
“When it rains it pours,” he said.
“I took 18 months to build my gym and within two months of opening it was shut because of Covid.
“I had so much stuff going on. My stepfather nearly died. My dog died. I was in a car accident, I lost my girlfriend, I lost my house. I was being trolled online.
“Everything came at once, it was really difficult.”
But when Matt took a friend’s advice and started penning his memoir, he felt a shift – calling writing his therapy.
“It sounds cheesy but the book gave me focus,” he said.
“I didn’t know if I was going to be there the following year and it was explaining to my two younger half-brothers why. It was kind of for them.
“Therapy had never worked for me. Talking to people just didn’t seem to help, but the book really helped.
“I managed to get it finished and now it’s there for others to read. I want to put the fun back in fitness, but I think there is a lot be said for men’s mental health in fitness.
“I can only talk about my experience but the pressure on you as a trainer in the industry is a lot to deal with.
“I’m just glad I had the book as my outlet, because a lot of people don’t have that.”
But despite his hard times, Matt wants to put the fun back into fitness – and says he is tired of Instagram stars and diet fad shops turning the industry into an unwelcoming place.
“I hate social media with a passion,” he said.
“I always use this analogy, everyone can brush their teeth, but it doesn’t make you a dentist.
“Just because you’ve got a set of abs doesn’t make you a trainer. A lot of people are not qualified to give advice.
“It seems to be rife in the health and fitness world that we can give out advice, that actually can be detrimental to people’s health and fitness, without a qualification.”
Advising aspiring personal trainers to be patient, Matt is hopeful the industry will change for the better.
“You need to lower your expectations,” laughed Matt.
“People think if you just send celebrities a letter, they will hire you but that’s not the case. You have to work hard and be likeable.
“Spend time on the gym floor – what works for you isn’t going to work for everybody else and you have to be adaptable for your clients.
“I think social media has set standards that are unrealistic. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s a great life.”
Behind Gym Doors is available from December 1. Go to www.matthodgesauthor.com to find out more.