Transformative change for Courtenay banker

Transformative change for Courtenay banker

Sometimes Brendan Abreu would pretend he was a football player.

For instance, every time he boarded a plane, he would tell people he was a linebacker.

“My entire life, I was a big guy.”

So big in fact, when his doctor tried to determine his weight, the hospital scale – which maxed out at 500 pounds – wasn’t large enough.

There was one more option, says the Courtenay-based Abreu.

“A laundromat scale. I couldn’t go through with it. It was then when I was wondering if I should continue life. I had a massive blood infection due to my weight three times, and the doctor told me if I don’t make changes in my life, I was going to die at 30.”

Abreu hit his heaviest weight when he was 26 at 505 pounds.

He faced two options as he saw: to have fun and live out the last few years of his life, or to start making changes.

• • •

Abreu says he was always overweight. Even as a kid, he attended Weight Watchers. Living in Terrace, he did “typical teenage things,” made some poor life choices and drank.

Once a year, he and his parents would fly to Vancouver to buy $2,000 worth of clothes which would last him one year, as he couldn’t find clothes large enough in Terrace.

“Everyone who thinks they are obese thinks they are lighter then they are.”

Abreu began his career in banking, and transferred to Burns Lake. It was there he lost his father, and “a lot of things hit me emotionally,” he says.

“I was being a young adult enjoying life. I was always an active guy but I didn’t get picked for sports. So I went into wrestling instead. I was doing well, but people made fun of me so I quit – I couldn’t take the pressure. When my dad passed, I hit rock bottom.”

Faced with the decision of an early death or a major life change, Abreu picked the latter.

He notes the first small change he decided to do was to eat breakfast. It was something he never did before, and thought it would be the first small step to a healthier life. Then, he began walking.

Eventually with small life changes, he lost 100 pounds. He started playing paintball and eventually moved to the Comox Valley for his career.

• • •

Bill Fraser didn’t blink when Abreu asked about mixed martial arts classes.

“You can start tomorrow,” he replied.

Abreu, convinced by friends to join a gym, walked in after researching Fraser and his background in MMA.

“No one knew my story … (Fraser) knew I wanted to make a change.”

Following a rigid six-day-a-week schedule with two classes a day, not only did Abreu create a friendship with Fraser, but he connected him with Tony Senerchia and Celine Leichner at Fitness Excellence in Courtenay.

The pair, who own the gym and are personal trainers, “bugged me to come to the gym.”

Senerchia works with Abreu for weightlifting, and Leichner helps with cardio. While losing weight and getting into shape were always on his mind, Abreu has one particular goal set in his mind: to get to 250 pounds.

In reality, he only needs to hit 275 pounds – according to his doctor – in order to be a suitable candidate for a panniculectomy, a surgical procedure which removes the excess fat and stretched skin that makes up a dense layer of fatty tissue in the lower abdominal area.

There are additional surgeries including a tummy tuck, surgeries to his thighs, lower back and arms, and Abreu’s current weight is around 260 pounds. By the end of this month, he wants to be at 250 pounds.

“As of today, I have lost over 246 pounds. I want to keep going … people are seeing a lot of changes. I’ve gone through this long enough, I know what I want.”

Abreu is hoping to have the first of a handful of surgeries in November or December of this year.

After the portion covered by the province’s Medical Services Plan, his out-of-pocket surgery cost is $40,000. He is hoping to raise money through fundraising efforts and a GoFundMe page, but also has short-term goals before the end of the year such as running an obstacle course in the fall.

“It’s not easy to go public and talk, but I want to show people it is possible to change and to never give up. I’ve surrounded myself with good people, and I asked people not to judge me.”

To follow more of Abreu’s story, follow him on Instagram @Brendan.2point0.

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