Sports fanatic who was the ‘fittest fat person’ his doctor had ever seen reveals how he shed 8st and reversed a life-threatening heart condition after he was told to ‘stop exercising or die’
- Lewis Potts, 30, from Manchester, was 22 stone but ‘didn’t bother’ about weight
- He began to feel self conscious but heart condition meant he couldn’t exercise
- Started calorie counting and walking 10,000 steps to get to new 14 stone size
A man has revealed how he shed eight stone in just over a year and reversed a life-threatening heart condition after he was told by doctors to ‘stop exercising or die’.
Lewis Potts, 30, an American footballer-turned-personal trainer from Manchester, was 22st but said he ‘didn’t bother’ about his weight because he was so active.
However, after feeling self conscious by his super-fit friends at a festival, he was determined to get into shape.
But doctors warned him against exercise, and told him to stop all sport, for fear an aneurysm he had on his heart would rupture.
Lewis Potts, 30, an American footballer-turned-personal trainer from Manchester, was 22 stone but said he ‘didn’t bother’ about his weight because he was so active
He was diagnosed with bicuspid aortic valve disease (BAVD) – a congenital heart defect that can lead to heart failure – in 2018.
His aortic valve had only two flaps over it instead of three, making it difficult for the heart to pump blood around the body.
At high risk of his aneurysm, or weakening of an artery wall causing a bulge rupturing at any moment, he was told to drastically change his lifestyle and stop all sport.
‘The doctor told me to stop or die. I’d suffered an aneurysm in Australia when I was first diagnosed, but the doctor there was so calm that I didn’t really think much of it,’ he said.
‘Now I was told that my aneurysm was growing. I was so high risk I had to stop everything. The doctor explained I needed open heart surgery. It was such a shock.
After losing an amazing eight stone and nine pounds in 14 months, dropping to 14 stone, he astounded doctors by reversing the risk of his aneurysm rupturing
‘I was mostly bothered that I couldn’t play American football anymore, or even train. I was told to only walk or use an exercise bike. It was life-changing.’
Calling sport and the gym his ‘happy place’, and having just started working as a personal trainer, Lewis said the news ‘really affected’ him.
Weighing 22st 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 in 14 months, dropping to 14 stone, he astounded doctors by reversing the risk of his aneurysm rupturing.
He said: ‘I’ve always been into sport, playing rugby and American football, even though I was overweight and, because of all the sport I played, it never bothered me.
Calling sport and the gym his ‘happy place’, and having just started working as a personal trainer, Lewis said the news ‘really affected’ him
‘I was never unaware that I was fat, I used to pretty much live on takeaways and was working in a Mexican restaurant, so I got a lot of free food.
‘I’d think nothing of popping to the shops and eating a whole packet of cookies. I think 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 amazing shape, I just got it into my head that I didn’t fit in because I was really overweight.’
After being determined to get into shape, doctors told him to stop exercising completely in November 2019.
‘I’d known I had a heart condition since January 2018, when I was living in Australia and woke up one day unable to speak,’ said Lewis.
‘I thought I was having a stroke, then the CT scan revealed I had BAVD. The doctor told me not to worry about it, though. He laughed, saying that I was the fittest fat person he’d ever seen.
Lewis’ healthier diet now
Breakfast: Bacon and egg bagel
Lunch: Salad with Chicken
Dinner: Fake Big Mac and chips
9pm sweet treat: Tub of Halo low calorie ice cream
Snacks: Cadbury star bar, yoghurt, and berries
Lewis’ diet before his weight loss
Breakfast: Pancakes with maple syrup
Lunch: McDonalds chicken sandwich, quarter pounder with cheese, large chips and a McFlurry
Dinner: Dominos large pizza and a full tub of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream
Snacks: Cookies, ice cream, crisps, two pints of whole milk
He said that being around his super-fit friends made him self conscious and said he ‘didn’t fit in because he was overweight’
‘After that, I played two seasons in Australia before coming back to the UK. But when I returned, I was sent for further tests and my doctor told me to stop exercising or die.’
Already three stone lighter than he had been when he felt alienated by his size at Parklife, Lewis was determined to get healthy and using his fitness experience he started calorie counting to shed the pounds.
He said: ‘It gave me a push to get healthy. Before the doctor’s bombshell, I’d just focused on the gym and hadn’t really looked at my diet.
‘But, unable to do the training I was doing before, I shifted 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 an exercise bike.’
He first found out about his heart condition while playing American football in Australia, and describes being told he couldn’t partake in the sport anymore as ‘life changing’
Losing a further five stone, by August 2020, he reduced his BMI to just 24.6, reversing the risk of his aneurysm rupturing.
He said: ‘When I first saw the doctor, he said I’d need heart surgery right away, but when I revisited in August 2020, after my weight loss, the surgeon felt I wouldn’t need it until I’m over 40.’
Still, preferring to be ‘on the safe side,’ Lewis has chosen to proceed with open heart surgery this year, meaning 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 have CT scans every six months,’ he said.
‘But I want the surgery still. If I’m at a theme park I don’t want to think twice about getting on the rollercoaster because of my heart, I just want to get on it.’
Preferring to be ‘on the safe side,’ Lewis has chosen to proceed with open heart surgery this year, meaning surgeons will insert an extra flap over his aortic valve
Proud of his 14st physique, in August 2020, Lewis celebrated by booking a sports photoshoot.
He said: ‘It felt great and best of all, I’ve been able to embrace my body.
‘I’ve got another shoot booked in for July and I can’t wait to see the difference because I’ve been able to do more exercise and tone my body.
‘As a personal trainer, I love helping people to feel better about themselves. If I can change my body, then they can too.
‘The goal isn’t always to be a bodybuilder, sometimes it’s about embracing a healthy body.’
What is bicuspid aortic valve disease (BAVD)? – the rare condition that can cause sudden death
The aortic valve is a valve between the heart and the aorta, the main artery from the heart that distributes blood to the body.
Normally, it has three small flaps or leaflets that open widely and close securely to regulate blood flow.
In BAVD, the valve has only two leaflets.
Symptoms of BAVD include: Chest pain, shortness of breath with exercise, lightheadedness or fainting, unable to exercise or loss of stamina and fatigue.
Many times, people may not even realize they have a bicuspid aortic valve until they have it diagnosed as adults.
Most commonly, people start to have symptoms some time in middle age.
An untreated bicuspid aortic valve can eventually lead to symptoms of heart failure. These include shortness of breath, fatigue, and swelling.
Also, an aortic aneurysm might develop downstream from the aortic valve and can lead to bleeding or rupture.
People with bicuspid aortic valve can also have abnormal heart rhythms like atrial fibrillation.
In rare cases, such rhythms can cause sudden death. That may be more likely to happen after exercise.
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