ST. LUNAIRE-GRIQUET, NL. / FORT MCMURRAY, AB. – After losing 326 pounds, Tony Bussey’s weight loss success story has garnered national attention.
But the St. Lunaire-Griquet native, who works in Fort McMurray, still has a strong connection to the Great Northern Peninsula. And two of his proudest supports are in his hometown.
Bussey, 43, became motivated to lose weight after the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire.
At the time of the fire, Bussey weighed 567 pounds.
During the evacuation, he says, he was taking up two seats on both the bus and plane. Meanwhile, there were people unable to acquire seats.
“They can’t put anybody next to me and when you’re looking out the window and seeing all these people waiting to leave and I have a seat next to me and nobody can sit there, that had a pretty good effect on me,” he said.
He vowed to never let that happen again.
“I just had enough,” he said. “I couldn’t keep going on like that.
“I got off the plane that evening and I was frustrated, and I was upset with myself.”
Bussy immediately started walking every day and went on a “low carb, high protein diet” – giving up junk food and processed sugar entirely.
“I just eat meats and veggies, I call it the old fashioned Newfie diet,” he said.
That June, he was down 30 pounds; in September, it was 100.
Two years later, he weighed 241.
“Everything started to get easier,” he said. “When you’re that size, nothing is easy. To be able to fit in my vehicle a lot easier, to be able to walk a distance without getting out of breath, just the simple things.
“Every day I wake up, it feels like a dream.”
Now Bussey walks, on average, about four to five km a day. Sometimes he’ll walk 10 km.
Once he has an additional 20-30 pounds of loose skin surgically removed, his goal is to drop to 180.
He hopes people can be inspired by his example.
“I was 41 and I was almost 600 pounds and I did this naturally. If people can get hope from this, that’s what I want,” he said. “To realize it’s not hopeless, that you can change. It doesn’t cost anything, you don’t have to join a gym or anything, you just have to walk and watch what you eat.
“I’ve been there, I’ve been that hopeless guy and less than two years later I have my life back.”
Even though he’s lived in Fort McMurray for the last 18 years, Bussey’s heart is still with his hometown on the Great Northern Peninsula.
In October, Bussey visited his parents in St. Lunaire-Griquet for the first time since losing weight. At that time, he was down approximately 290 pounds.
“My mom was pretty relieved,” he said, remarking on his weight loss. “She used to worry about me quite a bit.”
Bussey says losing weight is going to allow him to travel home more frequently.
Before, his weight prevented him flying from Alberta to Newfoundland and he had to drive across the country instead.
He says he got home once every few years.
Now, Bussey can fly whenever he gets a chance.
He homes to visit St. Lunaire-Griquet once or twice a year. And plans on returning, with his daughter, again in June.
“I can’t wait, I miss it,” he said. “No matter how long you’ve been away, or how far, Newfoundland is always home.”
Guy and Jean Bussey both speak about their son with pride.
“I was worried a lot about him and he knew that,” said Jean. “And I have told him time and again, ‘to me now, he’s a real miracle.’ Because I did a lot of praying for him.”
She says her son has remained positive through everything.
“His attitude is so positive, and he always had that smile, he still got it,” she said. “As a mom, it all means a lot to me.”
Guy recalls the work ethic their son possessed as a boy.
He says he built a punt for Tony when he was about 10-years-old.
“He dearly loved that boat,” added Jean. “There were nights I had to go down and look for him on the wharf because I didn’t know where he was to.”
Through hard work and determination, Guy says young Tony made $1,500 that summer, catching tom cods and flatfish in his punt.
Those character traits have continued into adulthood and Guy believes it’s a big part of why he was able to lose weight.
“A hard worker and he got will power,” said Guy. “What Tony wants to do, he’ll do it.”