Smith’s weight-loss experimenting caused wild fluctuations—up to 36kg—and culminated when his heart stopped beating on February 25, 2018, between stand-up sets at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, California. He suffered an acute myocardial infarction—to be precise, a 100 per cent blockage of the anterior descending artery. The widowmaker. As Smith says, “After years of doing the yo-yo, the heart attack was like, Yo!”
High on a fentanyl drip, he lay in a room at Adventist Health Glendale with only a 20 per cent chance of survival as the cardiologist placed a stent and performed emergency angioplasty. Smith sang out loud the theme song to the tween TV show Degrassi: The Next Generation “because it was very hopeful,” he explains. “‘Whatever it takes, I know I can make it through’. . .”
Despite being outwardly upbeat, Smith tried to make his peace on the operating table. “I was prepared to go,” he says. “The only thing that I regretted was that we didn’t make the Jay and Silent Bob reboot. I was sitting there going, ‘Fuck! The last movie I will have made was Yoga Hosers. Goddammit, I need to go out on something else!’ ”
After his heart attack, Smith tried an all-potato diet and then graduated to a broader plant-based plan similar to the one his daughter follows. After 25 years of trial and near-fatal error, going vegan was the easiest way he found to be healthy. “Nobody wants to hear that,” he says, “and I don’t blame them. I don’t care how you prepare them; vegetables suck compared to a piece of cake or a steak. But I think of it this way: I know what that stuff tastes like. And it’s not going anywhere.”
His brush with mortality has given Smith a new perspective: “I ate the way I wanted to for 47 years; I will try the way I’m supposed to for one year and see what happens.” It’s working: He hit his goal of losing 50 pounds in six months, and he’s keeping it off. (He’s now at 89kg.) Every day, he has a session with his personal trainer (Shecky, a miniature dachshund) and meals prepared by a team of chefs (whoever is holding a spatula at his local Veggie Grill).
His routine is a smack-in-the-head reminder that simple can suffice. He takes Shecky on an hour-long walk each day—“Actually, she takes me,” he says. “She drags me”—to the top of Runyon Canyon, near his home in the Hollywood Hills. He sticks to his vegan and low-sugar diet and practices portion control, scanning labels using the WW app. (He recently became an ambassador for the program formerly known as Weight Watchers.) To quash bad cholesterol and inflammation, he takes Lipitor.
A year after his widowmaker, Smith is able to see what he’s gained. For starters, energy. “Tons more,” he says. “Never tired. Always ready to go.” This has fueled a creative resurgence. After years of false starts, he’s in preproduction on Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, reprising the role he played in his first film, Clerks.
Smith’s psyche has shed some weight as well. “When shit would go wrong in my life, and shit invariably does—it’s life—back in the day it was like, ‘Yoga Hosers tanked, and I’m heavy.’ It was always one more thing.” Today he’s able to blunt the effects of adversity. “Now I’m like, ‘Well, at least you’re in better shape.’ I’ll put it through the ultimate prism, which is ‘Bitch, you’re supposed to be dead! All of this is gravy!’ ”
That outlook has made it easy for him to grind out a routine of Groundhog Day–like repetition. “I’m like the Norm of Veggie Grill,” he says. He thrives on the monotony. He always orders the same meal, Mondo Nachos and a Beyond Burger, for which Smith, ever mindful of WW points, will bring his own pita flatbread. Not having to think about what he’ll be eating means not thinking about what else he could be eating. “I hate to compare it, but remember homeboy who went to Subway and ate the same thing?” he asks, referring to Jared Fogle, since convicted of sex crimes. “The idea of one meal all the time puts me in the zone. I’m not bored. It works.”
Inevitably, the demands of his work—including comedy, directing, and hosting a slew of podcasts—will take Smith out of range of his go-to chain, in which case he’ll hunt for local vegan restaurants or default to Mediterranean fare (hummus, falafel) or Mexican rice and beans. “I’m a big beans guy,” he says, adding that they count as zero of his daily quota of 25 WW points (calculated using a food’s protein, sugar, saturated fat, and calories).
As Smith looks forward, the only thing he fears is losing fear itself. “The idea is to always be scared,” he says. “Once I’m not scared anymore, I’m scared, you know?” In a sense, that should be easy, since he lives under the spectre of a heart attack that came without warning: no chest pain, no numbness in his arm—just nausea and shortness of breath. And yet his quick recovery could breed complacency.
One thing that has required adjustments is sex with his wife, Jennifer Schwalbach Smith. “Our sex life was always very healthy,” he says. “But at one point my wife was like, ‘We have to figure out a new way to do this. Your body’s different. You used to have, like, a lot of cushion for the pushing. Now you’ve gotta go harder.’ And I was like, ‘All right! I might be up to that challenge!’ ” He’s been enjoying more time on top. “It’s a wrinkle, like, ‘Holy shit! Who knew this was possible?’ ” he says with a laugh. “So it’s been beneficial there as well.”
The point is that some pleasures make persevering a little easier. For Smith, who wakes and bakes before 6:00 a.m., one of those is cannabis. He was able to give up a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit by switching to weed, though he knows he would be better served by ingesting. “Every doctor has been like, ‘Look, do edibles.’ It’s better, it’s safer,” he admits. “But I’m a flower man.” Just before the widowmaker struck, Smith had fired up a joint, which his GP later suggested may have prevented a potentially lethal panic reaction. “She was like, ‘That last joint you smoked might have saved your life.’ And I was like, ‘I’m gonna put that on a fucking T-shirt!’ ”
Smith is willing to work hard and keep evolving. When he finishes filming Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, he’s going to start a more rigorous exercise regimen. And he’s all for being abstemious, up to a point. “I’ve given up animal food products. I’ve given up sugar, mostly,” he says. “Weed is vegan. It’s straight out of the earth. This is the one thing I’m gonna hold on to until some other health scare and some doctor says, ‘No.’ ”
Kevin Smith's Survival Plan
Wake & Bake
- Smith fasts in the morning and drinks unsweetened iced tea.
- Mondo Nachos and Beyond Burger at Veggie Grill.
- MadeGood Chocolate Banana Granola Minis.
- One-hour walk with his dog. He posts it on Instagram to be accountable to his 1.6 million followers.
- Bombay Spice chickpeas.
- Daily $35 full-body massage at Pampered Foot.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health