Leaving the Cocoon

Thank you for dropping by. They say the best place to start is the beginning, so let's just jump into it.


My Story

My name is Riley. I am 30 years old and I am looking for some help. To better understand my story, I'll refer you to the more complete version by my dear friend, Danielle Higley. Though I often claim to be a writer, she is the embodiment of such. You can find the full story of my journey here .

What I am Raising Money For

If you didn't read my story in the link above, no worries. Here is the CliffNotes version: 

- Christmas 2017 I woke up sore from simply sleeping. I weighed 438 Pounds and realized my body was crushing itself. It was at that point I knew something had to change

- I started eating healthy, but I encountered chest pains a short time later. As a bigger man, if you run into chest pains, you go to the doctor. I visited a heart specialist who told me that realistically, I had about 5 years left to live if I did not get my weight under control.

- Fast-forward 365 days. I have lost 230 pounds to give my body and my heart a chance.

- I have made the life changes necessary to lose the weight and keep it off, but now I have extra skin that impedes my self-confidence and causes medical issues. Those issues include:

- Chaffing 
- Rashes
- Odor (From trapped sweat)
- Infection due to rashes and sweat build up

Despite the fact both my personal physician and a plastic surgeon recommended surgery to remove my excess skin, my insurance deems the procedure only cosmetic and will not cover it.

Oddly enough, when I talked with the plastic surgeon, I found out that had I not changed my lifestyle and instead opted for bariatric surgery or getting my stomach stapled, insurance would have been more likely to cover this procedure. Because I lost the weight on my own, the surgery was not covered.

 Why Am I Looking for Help?

It is a punch to the gut every time I get out of the shower and look in the mirror and see chafing and sores from simply having extra skin. Despite making the lifestyle change to be healthy and achieving that goal, I am always reminded of the bad choices I made when I see this hanging extra skin that once was needed for how big I was. It's as if my body still wants to remind me of just how close I came to eating myself into an early grave.

Friends and family have encouraged me to create a GoFundMe for this surgery because they find my story inspiring. I feel awkward about that description because I know the only reason I got as big as I was in the first place was due to my own choices. While I was able to get to a healthier place, it’s been hard for me to accept that. And I still need help to finish the journey.

I am asking for help to get this surgery so I can finally move past my bad choices. So I can get my head in the right place so I no longer feel like the failure who was Big Riley. Though it feels awkward to ask for help now, I hope someday I’ll be able to pay your kindness forward to help someone else in the same boat.

When am I looking to have the surgery?

As soon as I have the funds to book the surgery. I have been working with two separate doctors for the past 6 months and we just need to find a way to raise the money. I would love to raise the full amount needed for all three surgeries including for my thighs and chest. However, all three of those surgeries would end up costing closer to $30,000-$40,000. At this point I am hoping to raise the money for the abdominal procedure and the time off of work to recover only. If I am able to reach that goal with the help of any of you who have taken the time to read all of this information, I would be forever grateful and in your debt. 


What is it like going through this transformation?

Questions people often ask me go something like this:

- What have you learned about yourself?
- How have you transformed your life?
- How has it changed the those important people in your life view you?
I’ve learned primarily that it is not about anyone but yourself when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. You can't be in this for some crush or a feeling of “I have to impress my family.” It has to be for you and no one else. I’ve learned small goals lead to big goals. You can't think “Man, I need to lose 240 pounds!” because that is a mountain you're trying to scale in flip-flops. If you think “I just need to go walk for 20 minutes,” that’s much more achievable. Smaller goals lead to bigger goals. I’ve often doubted myself and said "Can I really lose all this weight?" It's not a sprint; it’s a marathon, and it's never going to end. I realize that I am able to have days where I wasn’t as healthy as I wanted to be and not get down over it. I don’t stare at the scale and judge myself over the numbers there, I look at myself and see am I happy? I see pictures of myself that are older and I think that’s not me. I also see myself in the mirror and think that’s not me either. It's an interesting place to not really know who I am at 30 now that the weight is gone. I'd like to find out who that person is once I am able to get past the constant reminder hanging off of me.

The people in my life love the change I’ve made because now they don’t have to worry about finding me dead in my bed from a heart attack. They don’t have to worry about me keeling over when I’m trying to help out with lifting things or moving. They can see I am happier, and more available to them. From here, I feel like the sky is the limit. I want to compete in marathons and do more activities that give back to the community. I hope my story can inspire others to take the same path or a different one, as long as it gets them to the happiness everyone deserves.

I hope to marry my girlfriend someday, because I know she is one you don't let go of. She loved me for me when I was big and never once judged me. Having a family with her and being able to help my community more are huge goals. I love being able to help people, and I think once I accomplish my goal here of getting past the physical change, I can do more with myself mentally. I am in a position now where I can hopefully manage my own stresses and give back without needing food as a comfort. But it is a mental battle everyday. Now I do not see myself limited by my weight.

Donations (145)

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  • Nirmala Sandhu
    • $10 
    • 4 yrs
  • Jared Cheney
    • $50 
    • 4 yrs
  • Laurie Collins
    • $375 
    • 4 yrs
  • Mario Joy
    • $250 
    • 4 yrs
  • Anonymous
    • $125 
    • 4 yrs
See all


Riley Blake Zahm
Boise, ID

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