How Bob Harper's Heart Attack Led to a "Newer, More Improved Version" of Himself

In an exclusive interview with E! News, The Biggest Loser’s Bob Harper explained how Survivors Have Heart helped in his physical and mental recovery after he survived a health scare.

By Mike Vulpo Oct 23, 2021 1:00 PMTags
Watch: Bob Harper Felt Inspired by Dr. Oz To Be Open About Heart Attack

Bob Harper has always been a helper.

Whether inspiring contestants on The Biggest Loser or educating consumers through his best-selling books, the 55-year-old personal trainer has used his platform to promote healthy living and wellness.

But in February 2017, Bob's life turned upside down when he experienced a heart attack that nearly killed him. With help from professionals, the health-and-fitness expert was given a "second chance at life." And nearly four years later, Bob won't stop educating Americans about the importance of heart health.

"I try to help people eat right. I try to help people to move around. I try to get them to exercise. I try to get them to feel better about themselves so imagine coming out of this heart attack and I was feeling all the feels," Bob exclusively shared with E! News. "I decided, well, I can have a pity party and kind of get stuck in there or I can turn this around. It was when I had a conversation with Dr. Oz and he said to me, ‘There are so many people that are going to be looking at you and to you with what you've gone through. What do you want to do?'" 

Sweatin' With the Stars

Bob knew the answer: "I want to continue to help people as much as I can," he said. "For years now, we've built this whole project of Survivors Have Heart. It has been something that I've seen since the very beginning and it's really helped me through my own recovery."


This month, Bob used his photography skills to capture heart attack survivors for a program called Second Chance Portraits. The images help challenge the traditional perceptions of heart attack survivors while also proving the power of second chances.

"I learned to listen a lot more and I relinquished control, which is a really hard thing for me. I like to control," Bob shared. "I was in a situation where I was out of control. I decided to lean into that and learn and decide you can't be the person that you've been your whole life. You've got to know how to pivot, and that was a big thing to be able to pivot and go, you know what? I can't do the physical activity that I used to do in my 20s, 30s or even 40s."

"Don't compare yourself to where you were when you were younger. It's about pivoting," he continued. "It's about redefining who you are, and for me, life is an evolution. Life is about trying new things. I've had to change so much of the way I live. I've had to change the way that I eat, the way that I exercise. In the beginning, I thought that it was going to be really hard and it was really hard, but I redefined who I was into this newer, more improved version of Bob Harper."


Today, Bob sings the praises of hot yoga and hopes to start teaching classes in New York City sooner rather than later. He urges fans to get CPR certified so they can be prepared to help others, like a medical student helped him during his heart attack.

And if there were a message Bob could tell his younger self, it would be short but sweet. "I would be like, 'Girl, it's gonna be okay,'" he said. "I would just look at myself and go, ‘You are going to be challenged and pushed to the edge but all will be okay. Don't resist, lean into this challenge.'"

Keep scrolling to see photos from Bob's Second Chance Portrait series and read more stories of survivorship.

Bob Harper

+ New York

As a pioneer of the Survivors Have Heart program, the Biggest Loser host and trainer has helped expand a national movement that uses the power of patient stories to engage heart attack survivors and their loved ones to celebrate survivorship. Now he's launching Second Chance Portraits, a series of photographs that highlight the stories, strengths and diverse experiences of heart attack survivors from around the country. 

Tamikia G

+ Huntersville, N.C.

"Tamikia had open heart surgery, so when she's wearing this dress, you see the scar on her chest," Bob Harper shared with E! News. "She talked about how it was something that really embarrassed her and now, it's so empowering. With the photograph that I took of her, she looks like a boss." 

Randy F

+ Colonial Beach, Va.

"Randy is a firefighter and a very handsome guy," Bob recalled. "When he got in front of a camera, he was so comfortable and he was funny and quirky and I had so much fun shooting him because he surprised me. I thought that I was gonna have to kind of pull something out of him. He came ready to go."

Tasya L

+ Reynoldsburg, Ohio

While participating in a hoop-a-thon event, Tasya felt a jolt in her chest. After initially shrugging it off, she ended up in the hospital soon after. Tasya was shocked to learn she'd had a heart attack and needed three stents. Today, she shares her story to help others. And yes, she's still Hula-Hooping. 

Mike H

+ Stanfield, N.C.

Mike's mission is to help others and let them know that they can survive—and thrive—after a heart attack. As a volunteer at local hospitals, he uses his personal story to empower survivors. 

Kelly S

+ South Lyon, Mich.

Even though Kelly's heart made a full recovery, her heart attack took a serious emotional toll. Kelly hopes to encourage others to not only know the symptoms, but to seek care when needed.

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