Bariatric Surgery Wasn’t Enough | From Little Guy to Morbidly Obese | I Dropped Dead of a Heart Attack | Lifting Her Way Out of Grief | At 600 Pounds, Change Was Possible | How a Car Crash Created Change | The Incredible Shrinking Man | If You’re Obese, Your Life Is Not Over | Eating Was the Only Way I Could Cope
In 2018, Blake Gauthier was reminded that life can change in a heartbeat. The 6-foot-7-inch Gauthier—who weighed 530 pounds at the time—literally dropped dead of a heart attack while walking down the street. Fortunately, he was brought back to life in time to realize that life is too short and too precious to take for granted.
Two years and more than 200 lost pounds later, Gauthier has the heart of a 20-year-old and the body to back it up. His heart attack could have taken everything away. Instead, as he describes in his story of transformation, it gave him everything he needed to change.—H.E.
At my heaviest, I weighed over 530 pounds. A couple of years before that, I was in fairly good shape. That was before I decided to renovate the houses my girlfriend and I lived in and sell them.
Instead of doing the smart thing and working on them one at a time, we decided to do both at once. That meant we didn’t have a kitchen to use, which is what caused the weight gain. Everything just kind of snowballed until I dropped dead.
I Did What Any Guy My Age Would Have Done: Ignored the Warning Signs
I won’t lie. There were some warnings that something was going to happen. I’d walk up a flight of stairs and get to the top hanging onto the walks and feeling like my heart was beating out of my chest, which in hindsight was a clue. But I figured I was OK.
One day I was walking down the street with my girlfriend at the time—who, luckily for me, was a nurse—and all a sudden, I couldn’t catch my breath. I remember reaching out to grab onto the wall of a building. Next thing I knew, I was in an ambulance. They had just brought me back after dying from a heart attack.
About two days later, I was strapped to this table in a crucifix position. There was a big TV screen next to me and I could see this little thing on the screen going toward a beating heart. I realized that it was actually my heart, and they were going in through my wrist and trying to get out a blood clot. It was quite the wake-up call.
I Thought My Life Was Over
I tore my ACL and my MCL when I fell, which hampered my recovery a little. I was flat on my back on the couch for six months trying to get my heart to heal. I started ordering in any possible kind of fast food you can imagine. I started drinking, as well. I was going through almost a case of beer a day. The more I drank or the more I ate, the more depressed I got. It became a very vicious cycle. I thought my life was over, even though I had been brought back for a second chance.
I was talking to my daughter one day and listening to her tell me how much she missed me kind of snapped me back to reality. I realized that if I wanted my daughter to have a father when she got older, I had to make some serious changes.
I Had to Get Off the Couch
When I hung up the phone, I grabbed my crutches and forced myself to get up off the couch. I walked to the end of the backyard and back to the house, which was maybe 80 feet in total. I was worn out by the time I got back to the house, but I decided that I was going to do that every day. Then I started trying to make it two times in a day.
At first, I couldn’t even climb a flight of stairs without feeling like my heart was going to explode. Then, little by little, I started to make more small changes. Instead of driving to the corner store, I would walk. Instead of ordering in, I started making my own food and getting back on a healthier meal plan. Gradually, the weight started to come off.
In a little over a year on my own, I dropped almost 170 pounds. At that point, I realized I wanted to take it to the next step. I hired a personal trainer, Josh DeMelo, who became my coach. I’ve been training with him for a year now.
Half the Man I Used to Be, Twice the Man I Was
I’ve lost almost another hundred pounds, and I’ve put on a significant amount of muscle. This transformation has had me changing every single aspect of my life, from getting up in the morning to working out to eating to making healthy choices, both mentally and physically. I’ve started telling people, I’m half the man I used to be, but I’m also twice the man I was.
A memory came up on social media about six months ago. I was actually able to get on a stationary bike and make a full revolution on the pedals. That was just a year and a half ago. Now, I’m working out in the gym for an hour and a half, two hours, every day, not including the cardio sessions. So, it’s just amazing what your body is capable of doing when you put in the work.
The Heart of a Champion
After I lost 200-plus pounds, I went to see a plastic surgeon for skin removal surgery. Because of my previous heart issues, they had me do an electrocardiogram, and I remember the surgeon calling me himself to go over the results. The first thing I thought was, “Oh, no, they found something. All this work I’ve been doing is for nothing.”
Instead, the doctor said, “I’m looking at your EKG, and according to what I’m looking at, there’s no damage at all to your heart. You have the heart of 20-year-old.” It made me realize that all this work I had been putting in had paid off.
I literally went skipping down the road that day, I was so excited—if you can picture a 6-foot-7-inch guy skipping down the road. It was quite the sight!
Blake’s Top 5 Transformation Tips
1. Know What’s at Stake
I had the mindset that if I didn’t eat the right way, the healthy way, I’d be back in that ambulance at nighttime. Maybe they wouldn’t be able to bring me back. That made it pretty easy to stick to a healthy meal plan.
2. Get Back to Healthy Basics
The foods I relied on to lose weight were chicken and rice, Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese. They were pretty much the staples I had been raised on and always enjoyed that I was getting back to instead of ordering a Baconator.
3. Set Small Goals
I broke up that big weight loss goals into much smaller, more attainable goals and each day I would do something to work toward that. For example, I’d tell myself, “By the end of this month, I want to be down another five pounds.” Once I hit that goal, I’d say, “OK, now by the end of this month, I want to lose another five pounds.”
4. Respect Your Limits
One of the hardest things for me was when I starting to do more intense cardio. Most athletes look forward to that feeling of your heart pumping and knowing you’re pushing yourself. I’d been through the heart attack. That was actually quite scary for me for quite a while, so I had to kind of back off a little bit and take it easier.
5. You Don’t Always Have to Be Positive
I won’t lie—some of my best workouts come from days when I am really pissed off about something. In those moments, my motivation is, “I’m going to do this just to prove to everybody else.” So, it doesn’t matter where you get your motivation, just so long as you get yourself up and you get moving.
To find a workout plan for your own transformation, check out BodyFit.