St. Lunaire-Griquet native, Tony Bussey, is half the man he used to be – literally – after dropping 330 pounds. He now has a new lease on life
One St. Lunaire-Griquet native has garnered national attention after losing more than half of his body weight when he took up two seats on a bus, and then a plane, during evacuation from the ravaging wildfire of Fort McMurray in May of 2016.
Tony Bussey grew up in St. Lunaire, where he spent the majority of his days in his little row boat, enjoying the water. “My mom would have to come down and drag me out of the boat sometimes at midnight, you know, just as happy as could be on the water,” he shared with The Newfoundland Herald.
“Food was My Friend”
Bussey first moved away from home in 1993, when he relocated to Ontario for six years before heading west to Alberta in 1999. An employee at Suncor, he works up north in Fort McMurray changing tires on heavy equipment.
“My weight got really out of control the last 12 or 13 years. When I moved to Fort McMurray, I was around 330 pounds. I blew up to 567 pounds, I’m not even sure why. It’s a combination I guess; you get lonely, you get dealing with something,” Bussey explained.
“I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs, so food was my friend. I ate to feel happy. Anything that was deep fried, or junk food, I would pile in me at enormous amounts. It wouldn’t be just a small bag of chips, it’d be a big bag of chips. It wouldn’t be two or three pieces of fried chicken, it would be five pieces, things like that.”
On May 1, 2016, a wildfire broke out just southwest of Fort McMurray, sweeping through the community by May 3 and forcing the largest wildfire evacuation in Alberta’s history, with upwards of 88,000 people having to leave their homes and jobs.
“It all came to a climax during the fire, I was evacuated twice. It seemed to be dying down a bit, so they brought us back to work and then when we got up there, I think a combination of the heat and the wind change or something, the fire just picked right up. It seemed to have a life of it’s own, just enormous.”
With the second evacuation in order, buses were sent to pick up workers from around the nearby camps and transport them to planes that would evacuate them to Edmonton.
“The bus was packed except for where I was sitting, I took up two seats. I kept looking out, and seeing all these people waiting to get on this bus, and here I am taking up two seats. They couldn’t sit anybody next to me, I was too big,” Bussey shared.
“I got on the plane and it was the same thing. I felt guilty, I felt embarrassed, I felt horrible that somebody had to wait longer to leave that place because of me. I couldn’t stop thinking about that. That was it, I had enough. I got off the plane that evening in Edmonton and I started changing my life.”
Bussey cut out all foods containing processed sugars and salts, and went on a strict low-carb, high-protein diet, swapping his fried chicken for lean meats and vegetables. “I call what I’m on, I call it an old style Newfoundland diet – meat and vegetables,” he laughs.
“I changed my diet drastically. I started walking, literally just four or five minutes at first, and I would just keep pushing myself every day. There’s no excuse. If I can do this at 567 pounds, anybody can.”
Bussey’s heaviest weight was just that – 567 pounds. Losing about 330 pounds, Bussey currently sits at 237 pounds – approximately 30 pounds of which is loose skin.
“Once I get the skin taken off, I want to start in the gym. I want to train for running, I want to start training for marathons, I want to travel, I want to take my daughter places. She’s beyond excited, she’s happy to have her dad back. The poor girl, she used to worry about me a lot, you know, thinking I was gonna have a heart attack or something,” he shared.
Bussey stresses that he wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without the way he was raised and the lessons he learned from his parents.
From work ethic to stubbornness, he is proud to thank his parents for his dedication.
After a decade of not being able to simply hop on a plane and come home for a visit, Bussey plans on taking advantage of his new life.
Back to the Water
“For all the destruction, for everything that fire did to the city, it saved my life. It gave me the kick in the butt that I needed. Now I can fly. I flew home in October, and I’m gonna fly home again in June. Get home more often, back to the water.”