A man has revealed how he lost eight stones in just over a year and reversed a life-threatening heart condition after being told by doctors to “stop exercising or die.”
Lewis Potts, 30, an American footballer turned personal trainer from Manchester, was 22nd but said he “wasn’t worried” about his weight because he was so active.
But after feeling self-conscious about his super-fit friends at a festival, he was determined to get in shape.
But doctors warned him against exercise and told him to stop exercising, fearing that an aneurysm he had on his heart would rupture.
Lewis Potts, 30, an American footballer turned personal trainer from Manchester, was 22 stoned but said he was ‘not concerned’ about his weight because he was so active
In 2018, he was diagnosed with bicuspid aortic valve disease (BAVD) – a congenital heart defect that can lead to heart failure.
His aortic valve had only two valves instead of three, making it difficult for the heart to pump blood around the body.
At high risk for his aneurysm, or weakening of an artery wall that could cause a bulge at any time, he was told to drastically change his lifestyle and stop all sports.
“The doctor told me to stop or die. I had had an aneurysm in Australia when I was first diagnosed, but the doctor there was so calm I didn’t really think much about it,” he said.
“Now I was told my aneurysm was growing. I was taking such a big risk that I had to stop everything. The doctor explained that I needed open heart surgery. It was such a shock.
After losing an astounding 8 and 9 pounds, to 14 stone, in 14 months, he stunned doctors by reversing the risk of his aneurysm.
‘I especially found it annoying that I could no longer play American football, or even train. I was told to walk alone or use a stationary bike. It was life-changing.’
He called sports and the gym his “happy place,” and having just started working as a personal trainer, Lewis said the news “really touched him.”
Weighing in at 22 9lb, at 6ft 3in Lewis had a body mass index of 39.4 and was considered obese.
But after losing eight stone and nine pounds, to 14 stone in 14 months, he stunned doctors by reversing the risk of rupturing his aneurysm.
He said: ‘I’ve always played sports, played rugby and American football, even though I was overweight and because of all the sports I played, it never bothered me.
He called sports and the gym his “happy place,” and having just started working as a personal trainer, Lewis said the news “really touched” him.
“I was never aware that I was fat, I basically lived off takeaways and worked in a Mexican restaurant, so I got a lot of free food.
“I wouldn’t think of going to the shops and eating a whole pack of cookies. I guess because I was so active it just didn’t bother me.
“But when I went to Parklife with a group of friends who were all in great shape, it just got into my head that I didn’t fit in because I was really overweight.”
After he was determined to get in shape, doctors told him to stop exercising completely in November 2019.
“I knew I had a heart condition since January 2018, when I lived in Australia and woke up one day without being able to speak,” Lewis said.
‘I thought I was having a stroke when the CT scan showed I had BAVD. But the doctor told me not to worry about it. He laughed and said I was the strongest fat person he’d ever seen.
Lewis’s healthier diet now
Breakfast: Bacon and egg bagel
Lunch: Salad with Chicken
Dinner: fake Big Mac and chips
9 p.m. sweet treat: bowl of Halo low-calorie ice cream
Snacks: Cadbury Star Bar, yogurt and berries
Lewis’s diet for his weight loss
Breakfast: Pancakes with maple syrup
Lunch: McDonalds chicken sandwich, quarter pounder with cheese, large fries and a McFlurry
Dinner: Domino’s large pizza and a full tub of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream
Snacks: Biscuits, ice cream, chips, two pints of whole milk
He said being around his super-fit friends made him self-conscious, saying he “didn’t fit in because he was overweight”
“After that I played two seasons in Australia before returning to the UK. But when I came back I was sent for further tests and my doctor told me to stop exercising or die.”
Already three stone lighter than he’d been when he felt alienated by his size at Parklife, Lewis was determined to get healthy and using his fitness experience, he started counting calories to shed the pounds.
He said, “It gave me a boost to get healthy. Before the doctor’s bombshell, I’d only focused on the gym and not really looked at my diet.
“But because I wasn’t able to do the workout I was doing before, I turned my attention to counting my calories.
“I still did as much exercise as I could. I tried to do 10,000 steps a day and would do 20 minutes on a stationary bike.”
He first learned about his heart condition while playing American football in Australia, describing being told he could no longer participate in the sport as “life-changing”
By August 2020, he lost another five stones and lowered his BMI to just 24.6, reversing the risk of rupturing his aneurysm.
He said: ‘When I first saw the doctor, he said I would need heart surgery right away, but when I came back in August 2020, after my weight loss, the surgeon thought I wouldn’t need it until I got older. am over 40. .’
But Lewis prefers to be “on the safe side” and has opted to go ahead with open-heart surgery this year, which means surgeons will insert an extra flap over his aortic valve.
“My aneurysm has stopped growing and surgeons think I’m safe, but I still have to get a CT scan every six months,” he said.
“But I still want the surgery. When I’m in an amusement park, I don’t want to think twice about getting on the roller coaster because of my heart, I just want to get on it.”
Lewis prefers to be “on the safe side” and has opted to go ahead with open-heart surgery this year, meaning surgeons will place an extra flap over his aortic valve.
Proud of his 14th physique, Lewis celebrated a sports photo shoot in August 2020.
He said: ‘It felt great and best of all, I was able to embrace my body.
“I’ve booked another shoot for July and I can’t wait to see the difference as I’ve been able to move more and tone my body.
‘As a personal trainer, I love helping people feel better about themselves. If I can change my body, so can they.
“The goal isn’t always to be a bodybuilder, sometimes it’s about embracing a healthy body.”