From the Heart and Stroke Foundation

How Jimmy Sevigny conquered obesity and turned his life around.

Jimmy Sevigny wasn't like other teenagers. At 16, he weighed 400 pounds, making him a frequent target of bullies at his Montreal high school. He had very few friends. His isolation made him feel like the world was against him.

Slowly but surely, his unhealthy relationship with food was killing him. He couldn't stop eating fast food, with its high fat and sugar content. At home, he'd add mounds of butter to his meals, whether it was macaroni or a roast beef dinner. When things got bad, food became his only comfort. When things were good, he'd celebrate by scarfing down a large meal. It was not unusual for him to eat as many as 15,000 calories a day. By the time he left high school, he was another 52 pounds heavier.

Arriving home one evening, Jimmy found out that a family member had died. The first thing he did was go to the nearest convenience store and buy $42 worth of junk fund: chips, chocolate bars, whatever he could get his hands on. Then he went to a restaurant and ordered three full meals. On his way home, he felt a pain clutching at his heart. When his doctor sent him for an electrocardiogram later, it showed that he had had a heart attack. He was 19.

Jimmy knew it was time to change his lifestyle and his attitude. Using Canada's Food Guide, he figured out how to create balanced meals that never topped 2,000 calories a day. His weight loss over the following months was remarkable.

Jimmy's next step was to tackle physical activity. The first time he tried a treadmill, only 38 seconds left him exhausted. And the motor gave out under his weight. The next day, he did two laps at a pool before an asthma attack sent him to a hospital emergency room. His doctor told him that trying to get in shape was killing him. Jimmy countered that he would die if he didn't do something.

So he pressed on. That summer, he started to ride a bike. As he rode more and the pounds came off, his self-esteem improved, getting another boost when he was promoted at his department store job.

All told Jimmy lost 272 pounds over 11 years. He enrolled to study physical education at university, becoming a phys ed teacher after graduation. His career evolved as he started working as a personal trainer and life coach, helping people with weight problems adopt a healthy lifestyle. Media appearances in Quebec followed, and today Jimmy appears regularly on Chantal Lacroix's S.O.S. Beauté TV show. In February, he will be part of Le Parcours, a new reality show for men and women who want to lose weight.

Jimmy has also become a spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, speaking to audiences about his heart disease and inspiring them to make healthy changes.

Now 30, Jimmy is an accomplished triathlete. He has run the half-Ironman at Mont-Tremblant and is training for the complete event in 2013. "I don't have anything to prove, but I am always trying to push my limits," he says. At conferences, he tells his audiences that it's important to set goals and maintain what they've gained or they have to start over again.

For anyone struggling with obesity, Jimmy has this advice: "One day, your heart will get fed up with all the fat and grease it has to deal with. You have to pay attention to your heart if you want it to keep on beating." You don't have to be an athlete to improve your fitness, he says. "Go at your own pace. When it comes to a healthy lifestyle, you need to know that even a minimum of effort will bring you maximum results."

Jimmy's tips for healthy change

  1. Move every time you get the chance. You don't have to go to the gym to benefit from physical activity. Small changes such as parking your car further from the mall entrance are beneficial.
  2. Find an activity that fits your lifestyle. With all the options available, you will find one that you'll like. Don't be afraid to try out new activities or sports.
  3. Change your attitude toward physical activity. If you think it's a sacrifice and a waste of time, you're unlikely to stick with it. But if you see activity as time for yourself and an opportunity to invest in your health, chances are you will persevere.
  4. Eat fresh food. At the grocery store, think of the letter U: Stay on the periphery of the store, and shop for items that are on the outer walls – fresh fruits and vegetables, lower-fat dairy, whole-grain breads and other healthy options. The inside aisles are where high-fat, high-sugar items are kept.
  5. Believe in yourself. If you get off track, don't get down on yourself. What is past is past, and you can't change it. Take charge of today and dream of a healthier future.

Posted: January 2013

Heart and Stroke Foundation

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