Turning motivation into habit: Lucas Gutierrez' transformation story

Lucas Gutierrez has transformed his life, having lost 300 pounds since 2008.

Lucas Gutierrez has transformed his life, having lost 300 pounds since 2008.

There was a time when Lucas Gutierrez couldn’t imagine doing a pullup. There was a time when going on a run was a foreign concept to him. There was a time when doctors told a 15-year-old Lucas that he wouldn’t live the see the age of 18.

These days, Lucas has a lot to be thankful for, including the fact that those times are gone.

“I used to think, ‘I’ll never be able to do that,’” Lucas said, referring to working out, running or doing cardio. “Now that I can do those things, that’s really cool.”

I first learned about Lucas from an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. In short, Lucas has lost 300 pounds since 2008, going from a 475-pound high school sophomore deemed “severely morbidly obese” to a running, lifting, working-out, active, 175-pound father and marketing student at UNLV.

It’s a remarkable story of man overcoming a lifetime of challenges to set a new course for his life, and I knew I wanted to talk with him and learn more of his story.

We connected recently, and I got to spend some time talking with him about what his life is like as a man who faced a choice - either lose weight, or risk never seeing the age of 20.

As detailed in the original article, Lucas’ fitness journey actually began out of heartbreak.

When Lucas initially made the decision to try to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle, it was his mother who was there by his side. The two committed to losing weight together, and just as they began seeing results, Lucas lost his mother to surgical complications after she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

That loss sent Lucas into a depression, until New Year’s Eve 2008, when he ultimately made up his mind that he would finish what he started.

“I felt my mom’s presence. I felt God there with me. They were just telling me to go the full way and to see this through,” Lucas said. “It honestly could have been any other day. It didn’t have to be New Year’s. But a good excuse to start a new lifestyle is a new year. I really felt like my mom was there pushing me.”

As I read the original story, I was amazed by Lucas’ resiliency. Several times, he suffered setbacks and gained weight back that he’d lost. But then, in 2014, Lucas became a father, providing him with what he describes as the last big push of motivation to continue his fitness journey.  

“I realized that I wanted to be strong and healthy so that way I can enjoy my life with my son,” Lucas said in the Review-Journal article, “unlike my mother who didn’t have that chance.”

Over the last 6-7 months, Lucas has dropped roughly 100 pounds to weigh in at 175 pounds. His workout regimen consists of a three-day weightlifting split of chest and triceps, back and biceps, and legs, with cardio every day. He makes sure to point out, “You never want to skip leg day,” with a laugh.

On the days he can’t make it to the gym, or even on days when he’s just finished a hard workout, Lucas also makes sure to find time to be active with his son, Atreyu.

Lucas says he sees play time with his son as a way to be present in his son’s life while also staying active himself, plus, indirectly teaching Atreyu the value of exercise and being fit.

“Parenting sometimes can get really tactical - feeding them, making sure they’re behaving, getting them to sleep. But kids just love to play,” he says. “So I’ll play with him and try to incorporate him into my lifestyle. We’ll go outside and play and do pushups and pullups. He wants to do it with me.

“I’m so thankful to have my son. He encourages me. Even when I’m tired or after a workout, I’ll still go outside with him. He gets to play, I get to spend time having fun with him and have a way to keep moving, so it's a win win.”

The hardest part of his journey? He says it's eating right.

“There’s bad food on every corner, everywhere you go,” Lucas says. “You have to plan to eat healthy. You have to go grocery shopping and get the right things and plan your meals. If you don’t, it’s too easy to get fast food.”

As he and I spoke, something Lucas said stood out above the rest. As a man who has overcome remarkable odds in his life and has inspired others through his story, he boils it all down to a simple mindset: “It takes motivation to get started and habit to keep you going.”

For many, starting a lifestyle of health, fitness and exercising comes down to these two things: the motivation to start and the habit to keep going. For me, as I began my fitness journey, I was the opposite of Lucas - the guy sick of being skinny and ready to commit myself to fitness, being active, and gaining muscle - but the same principles apply in both situations.

Lucas and his son, Atreyu

Lucas and his son, Atreyu

Lucas and I each wanted a better life for ourselves and to be there for our children, though I fully admit Lucas has overcome far more than Inhave had to. We each found our motivation to get going. This is the story over and over again, and it just goes to show that no matter who you are and no matter your circumstances, you can commit to a healthier lifestyle.

As for Lucas, moving forward, he wants his story to be motivating for others who are struggling with the same weight and health issues he faced. So he’s exploring becoming a nutritionist or a personal trainer to help transform others’ lives in much the same way he transformed his own.

“There are a lot of people who are trainers or coaches that have been skinny their whole lives, and they haven’t experienced what it’s like to try to lose a bunch of weight,” Lucas says. “But I’ve been on the other side of the spectrum at nearly 500 pounds, and now I can do all these things that I never thought I’d be able to do. I think that might be my calling - helping others.

“I’d love to inspire someone and show them that it can be done.”

It’s a funny thing - this fitness “bug.” Once it hooks you, you want it to spread. The way you feel - both physically and mentally - is something you want others to experience, and for Lucas, myself, and many other Fit Dads, the best way we know how is telling our story. Much the way Lucas told me.

How’s that for some motivation?