From morbid obesity to activist for healthy lifestyles

From the age of 9, Dany Lessard consulted a nutritionist. His excess weight ruined his childhood and the eating disorders that marked adolescence led him to a state of morbid obesity. At the worst time of his life, he weighed up to 350 pounds. In 2017, he took drastic measures and established habits that allow him today to maintain a stable weight of around 175 pounds. Interview with a 35-year-old man who loves to promote a healthy lifestyle!

PARA.  Before undertaking radical lifestyle changes, Dany Lessard reached the colossal weight of 350 pounds.

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PARA. Before undertaking radical lifestyle changes, Dany Lessard reached the colossal weight of 350 pounds.

Tell us about your story with your weight gain and loss.

I started dieting when I was 9 years old. At the time, the dietitian was teaching me to cut down on fat in my diet. Cutting fat, I fell into sugar, it was no better! I literally became addicted to sugar. I was bullied at school and my relationship with food was already severed. My weight went up to 280 pounds as a teenager. I fell into depression at the age of 24 years. I then went on a liquid protein replacement diet, which was a disaster. After rapid weight loss, my weight quickly recovered and even peaked at 350 pounds. I suffered from overeating disorder and I ate excessively every day. I was very “all or nothing”, if I ate a food considered bad, my day would be ruined.

What was the reason for your commitment to sustainable weight loss?

When I saw a young actor who had a heart attack, it was a revealing event for me. I was in my late 30’s and already my health was badly damaged. I had cholesterol, sleep apnea and was diagnosed with fatty liver. I absolutely had to change! My weight was no longer an aesthetic issue, but my health. At the time, I felt lost, reliable and accessible resources were scarce, I did not know what healthy living habits meant as I was exposed to misinformation. One thing was for sure, I no longer wanted to do yo-yo with my weight. My doctor suggested bariatric surgery, but when I was informed that the waiting list was 3 years, I thought it was impossible for me to wait. My weight was constantly increasing and I had no quality of life, even washing was making it harder for me! So I decided to go private, even though I had to get into debt for the operation, it was totally worth it. In less than a year, I lost 190 pounds. Since I had paid for my surgery, failure was not an option.

How did you manage to maintain your weight after the surgery?

My weight went from 350 pounds to 160 pounds to stabilize around 175 pounds. I have spent a lot of time deepening my knowledge over the last 5 years. Three books have helped me a lot: On Monday, I diet, Kilo Zen AND Stop eating your emotions. I read each book several times taking time to do the practical exercises. I worked hard psychologically and that helped me a lot. I also became very athletic. I move every day from 30 minutes to 90 minutes. I do a lot of cycling, tennis, walking and spinning in particular. I had to find a physical activity that I enjoyed. Sport is not a daily job, I like it!

How is your diet today?

If after the operation I had to limit the amount of food consumed, today I eat normally. I am not on a diet and I do not feel deprived. My diet is very much based on the Mediterranean lifestyle. I eat a lot of fish and seafood and eat very little sugar, I have learned to appreciate the simple yogurt I eat with fresh fruit. I do not drink my calories, choose 100% whole grain bread and even eat chocolate often, but choose a 90% cocoa chocolate. I read a lot of ingredient lists in order to make informed choices. My emotions no longer control my eating. After all, I learned to respect my hunger and satiety signals, I can leave a few bites on the plate if I am no longer hungry.

You are now an ambassador of healthy lifestyles. Is it important for you to talk about prevention?

I am very interested. Furthermore, I consult many publications from WHO and the Weight Coalition in particular. I just completed a microprogram from Laval University on healthy lifestyles. I was a patient partner of Obesity Canada. I campaign to introduce classes into healthy lifestyles since childhood. We live in an obesogenic society and this must change for the future of our children. I am for the junk food tax, a great way to generate money that we can reinvest in prevention programs. My dream would be for the government to establish a policy for healthy lifestyles that would include promoting active transportation (why not subsidies for the purchase of sports equipment) and implementing a multidisciplinary approach to preventing obesity.

What would you say to someone who is visibly overweight and does not know where to start?

I mean be careful with social media and not follow people who affect our mental health. Also, look for reliable information. I have a lot of respect for the work of DD Julie St-Pierre, Bruny Surin and Sylvie Bernier. Sometimes we think it is impossible to cross the river, but the only problem is that we do not have the right boat! You have to equip yourself. If for me the readings brought me a lot, for others, it could be consulting with health professionals.

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