A splash of Disney magic motivated one man to pursue his fitness goals and regain control of his health.
Mark Gautier couldn’t speak or write when he woke from a two-week coma in 2013, brought on by diabetic shock that caused kidney failure, according to the Orange County Register. Following the health scare, the 39-year-old who weighed 400 lbs. was told to lose weight right away.
“The doctor said, ‘You really need to do something or you’re not going to last much longer,’” he told the outlet.
After he was let out of the hospital, Gautier’s girlfriend Vanessa — now his wife — told him he needed to “make changes,” so she came up with a way to make exercising more appealing. They’d buy annual passes to Disneyland and get in their daily steps while surrounded by the charm of the California theme park.
“The first two times that I came to Disney just to walk around it was tough because I wasn’t used to walking,” Gautier said. “Then after about two weeks, I fell in love with the place.”
Within the first year of their new plan, the couple went from covering one mile on foot to seven miles.
Gautier said on the outings they would “just walk, talk and enjoy the scenery,” noting that he didn’t deprive himself of the park’s most enticing — and sometimes not-so-healthy — food options.
“It wasn’t so much that we changed what we ate, it was the portions that we ate — we cut down on everything,” he said. “We never got our own thing. It was always, ‘Let’s share.’”
Through portion control and their brisk walks, Gautier lost 150 lbs. in about five years. For someone who’d battled health issues for much of his life — he was diagnosed with diverticulitis in 2006 and suffered a blood clot a year later that affected his sight — the transformation was a major accomplishment.
“I didn’t take care of myself [before],” he told the Orange County Register. “… I’m so grateful and happy for myself, what I’ve gone through and how I’ve overcome it. All of this has been a blessing in disguise for me.”
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Through his regular walks and exploration of the park, Gautier became such a fan of Disneyland that he chose to apply for a job there. Now, he said he gets in about 13 miles of walking each day while working as a houseman at the Disneyland Hotel.
“It’s pretty physical; it’s nonstop all day,” he said.
Gautier, in his spare time, is also studying to obtain a degree in graphic design, as well as raising a daughter with Vanessa.
“Just seeing my daughter, it just makes me not want to ever give up,” Gautier said in a Disney Parks video that tells his journey. “I want her to be able to look up to me and to be that role model for her and inspire her — that she can go out and do anything in this world.”