The first time I remember being told about my weight and it bothered me, I was in grade 4 and 5. A girl asked me what my weight was, with the clear intention of comparing it to hers. I knew very well that I was heavier than her. I was overweight, nothing compared to today, but that’s when I realized that it could bother others, that they could judge me simply by my appearance, or use it to look good at my expense.

Being overweight, in the long run or when growing up, is a bit like the color of your eyes or hair, it’s part of us, we don’t know ourselves otherwise, so we live with it and we live our little pleasures through it all. We live with the fact that we don’t feel good in our clothes, that we are aware that our bulges are showing when we sit down or that we get red as soon as we feel hot. In the course of my life, my weight has varied enormously through recovery, major events, and periods of depression. It was during one of these less happy periods that I met Josée Brouillette. I have been an avid dancer (salsa, bachata, kizomba) for many years. I started dancing to try to maintain my weight loss. Although I was still overweight, I was finally living in a body that was a little more like how I felt inside!

Unfortunately, I gained back almost 55 pounds the last two years, lost focus and left training and dancing for various reasons and events in my life. Caught in a vicious circle, my pride prevented me from going back to dancing for fear of negative comments and stares from other dancers, the fact that I wasn’t as fit as I used to be, so it prevented me from practicing my favorite sport and therefore from benefiting from the exercise. I looked at several solutions: training in a gym, training at home. I consulted a doctor who confirmed that genetic obesity really does exist and that I should consider bariatric surgery, because I would have great difficulty losing weight with traditional means. People in my family and a friend had already had it, I knew. I had always told myself that I was capable of losing weight without resorting to this type of means, I was proud, I did not want to take this solution. Until I hit rock bottom, accepted that I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror and started looking for a way to have bariatric surgery to get my life back on track.

I had put myself on a list, but I hadn’t gotten a call yet, so I knew the wait would be long, very long. I wanted to go private, but I couldn’t afford it. I was desperate to continue to watch my diet and try to exercise, but I couldn’t see the end of the tunnel, how many years would it take me to get back to my previous weight? When I met Josée and she explained her foundation project to me, it was like my wish came true. By being a spokesperson, I could have access to a surgery that would allow me to get back to my life, to start training again without being in pain and to start practicing my passion again. At the same time, I would be able to accompany other people like me who have had health problems and have been living with an overweight or eating disorder for a long time and want to find a solution. I would like to be able to raise awareness about the challenges related to obesity in general and the possible solutions for people who need a helping hand and that it is possible to lose weight without gaining it back with the right tools and support.

Summer 2022

In 2017, I met the founder of the BOCA Foundation, Josée Brouillette.

I was fortunate to have surgery at the end of that year by surgeon Dr. Michel Gagner, one of the pioneers of bariatric surgery and recognized worldwide. I was accompanied by the Foundation throughout the entire process and following the surgery, I had access to consultations with a nutritionist and a private trainer to get back in shape.

In about a year and a half I lost almost 140 pounds, going from 312 pounds to about 165 pounds, through effort, sacrifice, but also with good support. Surgery is a great tool, as long as we do our part. It has literally changed my life, my self-esteem and my overall health.

If we update today, 5 years after my surgery, this experience continues to benefit me, despite a more difficult period during COVID where I lost a lot of my sports and social activities, I was a big fan of social dancing, gym, running and those two years of changes really impacted me mentally and physically, like many other people.

With a return to normalcy, I was able to resume my activities and training in order to deal with a problem that many had, a small weight gain. With my experiences and learnings behind the tie, as well as the realization that I am where I am thanks to the BOCA Foundation, I can’t help but look forward and continue to apply my good lifestyle habits, training and taking care of my health, because I will never go back.

Thank you for everything, Josée and the BOCA Foundation

Judith L.