The X-Factor star on seeing in to the future while suffering a stroke
Interview by Claire Muffett-Reece
Do you wish you hadn’t said your wife “ate all the pies” when talking about her weight on Loose Women?
‘Not at all! She was actually livid at the fact it was taken out of context, so she wrote to The Sun defending me. I was defending large people in similar situations as my wife – those who have a bad metabolism or a certain body type or suffer from thyroid problems. I said in the case of my wife being an endomorph (short, stocky, big boned) she could look at a dinner and put two kilos on, and you may look her and say “who ate all the pies”. It’s what she would normally say about herself, because what she eats doesn’t warrant her weight gain. As she said, “if my husband, who is a fitness guru, can have a stroke, what chance do I have? So I’m going from Block Fat to Block Fit!”, which is my fitness brand. But in the world of political correctness gone mad people will always hear what they want to hear, missing the gems of information that can reset their mind or change their lives.’
Did having a stroke bring you closer together?
‘Yes, my wife took it harder than anyone – she was devastated. Because often as people we take life for granted, but the truth is tomorrow is not guaranteed for anyone, so for a person who lives and breathes fitness to have a stroke was a shock to the whole country – let alone my wife.’
How are you now?
‘I have been given the all-clear, which is a miracle in itself. I have not suffered any long-term health issues at all and go for a check-up every three months.’
Tell us what happened, as far as you can remember. Were you feeling unwell that morning?
‘No I was in perfect condition – as a matter of fact I had just finished a Block Fit class to 200 people in Butlins. I suddenly felt like I was having an outer-body experience, which at the time I thought was a spiritual awakening. I was shown what you may call a “life review”, where time and space disappeared – and I was shown the future of my children. I saw them getting married and being with their children, only I wasn’t there. I remember saying to God before I closed my eyes, “I really don’t want to go, as I don’t feel I’ve accomplished my mission. But if I close my eyes and never wake up I want you to know I’ve done my very best.” Two hours later I woke up – I guess it wasn’t Chico time…’
What happened next?
‘The next day I got up early, drove for another three hours, did another Block Fit class and drove back three hours. I only went to the doctor on my wife’s orders and went to hospital on the Tuesday. They took every test and the doctor said, “all your results are coming back perfect – as a matter-of-fact your results are like that of an athlete.” It was only when he looked at my head scan that he was shocked. He had to go and get a second opinion because he thought there was a mistake. When he came back in I joked, “I must have had a mini-stroke,” to which he replied, “there’s nothing mini about it – you have a 50 pence-size blood clot in the right hemisphere of your brain.”’
Many people mistakenly believe strokes just happen to the elderly. What do you say?
‘That’s what I used to think – and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Personally, I put it in to three categories; old age, an unhealthy lifestyle and it can happen to anyone. One doctor suggested you should always have a few aspirin close by, and if you feel the systems of FAST (Face drooping, Arms going numb, Slurred speech, Time to call for help) take the aspirin as it thins your blood, giving you enough time to get to the hospital to get professional help. Remember, time is of the essence with strokes, and the aspirin will buy you some time.’
Why do you think you made such a great recovery when others have not been so lucky?
‘I think the main one is the fitness levels and also my mindset. The truth is my angels were working overtime and that great power that makes all things happen knew that my mission here on Earth isn’t finished yet. I was given a second chance, and that is to leave a legacy of goodness through health and fitness. Also through my charity, www.rainbowchildfoundation.co.uk, which has changed the lives of over 80,000 children around the world.’
How has this changed your outlook on life?
‘I always looked at life through a half-full glass but now it’s always full. Every morning that I’m breathing is a bonus. I have a dear friend of mine who went through the same situation as me, but the outcome is so very different, so I’m just grateful to be back to the old me in such a short period of time.’
Tell us about your upcoming 48 Hour Fitness Event in Pontins…
‘After my stroke and recovery I wanted to give back, so I teamed up Pontins to put on the biggest fitness event in the country. Running from the 20th to 22nd September, it features over 40 international presenters and over 75 classes, from HIIT to yoga and cycling to aqua. It will be one year since my stroke and we are inviting cancer and stroke survivors to celebrate life and talk about their experiences in hope of saving future lives, or preventing strokes from happening. These weekends normally cost over £150 plus accommodation, but to make it accessible to everybody we are doing the whole weekend for £49.50, which include live bands.’
Finally, if you could give yourself some advice right at the start of your X-Factor fame, what would you say?
‘Life is not guaranteed, so live, love, give and forgive. Be the face of irrepressible joy and learn that the art of living is the art of giving..’
Book tickets for the 48 Hour Fitness Event at www.48hourparty.com/fitness