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Posted on: October 25, 2019 at 6:14 pm

In a twist of fate, a wildfire that caused so much destruction and pain in his homestead may have been what saved his life. 

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Tony Busset from Alberta, Canada, was deeply ashamed of all the weight he had gained when he required two seats on an evacuation flight from the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016 [1]. He was 41 at the time, weighing 567 pounds and was barely able to move around. That day, he got into his car and drove away from the area, returning when the fire had declined significantly. 

Sadly, the flames picked up again, burning through over 1.5 million acres of land. An emergency evacuation was set up to get the residents to safety, and it was this event that changed Busset’s life forever. 

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The breaking point

At the airport, the staff had to move him up to the front of the line to get seated before everyone else because he would take up too much space. It was embarrassing, but it was something he’d gotten used to over the years. He had to occupy two seats on that flight. He hit his breaking point when he saw people waiting in line to get seated because no one could sit next to him. The embarrassment had been too much for him to bear.

“Seeing people having to wait because I was too fat to sit next to, that was it for me,” he said to CBC [2]. “It was like, ‘I’ve got to do something about this. “I kept thinking, ‘Here it is: somebody’s wife, somebody’s husband, somebody’s family member is waiting for their mom or dad or their loved ones to come home, and their loved ones have to wait longer now because I’m too fat to sit next to.”

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Over 88,000 people had to leave their homes in that fire, and he was taking up someone else’s space. Busset explains that he struggled to put on his socks every morning and wore size 66 pants. Between walking to his car and fitting into it, he didn’t know which was more difficult. He knew he was seriously unhealthy and was putting his life at risk by not keeping his weight in check.

“I’ve got to do something about this,” Busset recalled making himself a promise that he started working on the moment he touched down in Edmonton.

No surgery, just a healthy diet, and exercise

Weight loss is a journey best undertaken with the smallest steps first. Busset knew he needed to start by making tiny changes to his lifestyle. He began to walk for five minutes every day, and as he got stronger and developed more endurance, he increased the duration of his walks. He didn’t try to push himself too hard at the start. He focused more on building his consistency and drive.

He ate vegetables instead of attractive French fries and made sure to peel the skin off his chicken. There are at least 32 grams of total fat in 100 grams of chicken skin [3]. Busset adopted a low-carb, high-protein diet and worked out every day for two years. 

By April 2018, Busset had shed 326 pounds and was down to 241. He looked and felt different, healthier, and happier. For the first time in a long time, he wore size 34 pants. The only surgery he required in his journey was a skin-removal procedure. He had about 30 pounds of excess skin hanging down his midsection and thighs.

“Three-hundred and twenty-six pounds gone. All naturally. No surgery, no anything. Just watching what I eat and walking,” he said. “There is hope. I was 41 when I started this, almost 600 pounds. If I can do this, anyone can.”

You too can take control of your life

Tony shared his story to inspire other people going through the same thing to believe in themselves. At the age of 41, he never thought he would ever shed weight again and had resigned himself to an unhealthy lifestyle.  That unfortunate fire pushed him over the edge and gave him the bigger picture. It’s never too late to pick up the slack and get your life back on the healthy track.

“It was almost as if you were just waiting to die,” Tony recalls about his obese days. “The fire, for all the destruction, and for all the hell that it caused … it saved my life.”

Busset still exercises daily and keeps his weight in check. He looks amazing now and is enjoying his new body. This story was reported in 2018, and Busset must have shed more pounds since then. He wants to travel more and hopes to run a marathon on the fifth remembrance of the Fort McMurray fire in 2021.

For anyone who feels their weight is impairing their quality of life and making them unhappy, it’s never too late work on yourself. Earlier this year, an 86-year-old Jessica Slaughter shared the story of how she lost 120 pounds by walking around her tiny living room [4]. She didn’t go to the gym or jog outside – she just walked 3,000 steps every day in her home. She improved her quality of life at an age where everyone expected her to have resigned herself to fate.

Thumbs up to Busset and Slaughter, and good luck to anyone motivated to take their life by the reins. 

  1. Beverly Jenkins. Dad Drops More Than Half His Weight After Wildfire Evacuation Flight. Inspire More. https://www.inspiremore.com/tony-bussey-weight-loss/. Retrieved 24-10-19
  2. Katie Breen. Man drops 326 pounds after needing two plane seats in evacuation from Fort McMurray fire. CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/nl-man-drops-326-lbs-after-fort-mcmurray-escape-1.4601130. Retrieved 24-10-19
  3. Claudia Thompson. Is Chicken Skin Fattening? Live Science. https://www.livestrong.com/article/534192-is-chicken-skin-fattening/. Retrieved 24-10-19
  4. https://theheartysoul.com/86-year-old-woman-loses-120-pounds-by-walking-in-her-living-room-every-day/
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