Lauren Canuel, a Fall River native, at one time weighed 285 pounds. Today, she’s 43 and weighs 135 pounds — and that’s after having two children. She is featured in Fitness magazine.

Lauren Canuel is a happy woman. And, why not? The blond, blue-eyed mom of two is fit, pretty and runs her own psychotherapy practice — and she doesn’t even have to commute, it’s out of her own home in North Smithfield, R.I.

But, don’t hate her yet.

Most of what she has is due to a little thing she did 23 years ago. Well, maybe it’s not so little. Canuel lost 140 pounds. What’s more, she’s kept it off all this time and will be featured in the September issue of Fitness magazine, due out in mid-August.

Fitness magazine, Canuel said, was looking for women over 40 who lost weight. Canuel sent in pictures and told her tale of being a “chubby” kid, and then a “fat” girl and finally a “grossly obese” young woman.

They bit and interviewed her for a story.

Canuel, a Fall River native, at one time weighed 285 pounds. Today, she’s 43 and weighs 135 pounds — and that’s after having two children.

“It’s the best thing I ever did,” Canuel said. “It’s made me a much happier person.”
It started her senior year in college at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. And, she remembers it perfectly.

“It was Dec. 15, 1986 and I said, ‘I cannot go on another day.’”

Canuel and a friend over winter break joined the YMCA on North Main Street. It was a six-week membership for $25. “It was every dime I had,” Canuel said.

She exercised every day for six weeks and lost about 25 pounds. Back in college, she joined a fitness program that actually gave credit. It was based on attendance and everyone started with an “A.” One missed class and the grade would slip to an “A-,” then a “B” and so on. Well, Canuel had a very good grade point average and wasn’t going to ruin it with laziness.

“I was forced to behave,” she said.

Never missing a class, coupled with better eating habits — the salad bar instead of burgers — and by graduation, Canuel had lost even more weight. In her cap and gown, she weighed 200 pounds.

“It was wonderful, unbelievable,” said Canuel. “I knew I was going to go all the way.”

Having to exercise taught her something, and that something she passes on to her patients — along with a nutrition program.

“They need someone who can push them long enough until they believe they can do it,” Canuel said. “Anybody can do it. It’s all in their heads.”

As a clinical social worker, she helps people (mostly women) learn to love themselves by discovering why they’re hurting themselves with food. Sometimes, it’s a bad marriage, substance abuse, work stress, children, and various other life problems.

People use food for “comfort and distraction,” she said. “You have to replace emotional eating with something healthy.”

Canuel’s program, “Why Weight? Inc.” gives patients a concrete plan to replace their emotional eating with something that’s good for them.

It includes eating healthy Monday through Friday and on the weekend “having your cake and eating it, too.” The eating plan is all based on likes and dislikes so a person who works long hours can figure out how to eat without hanging around the snack machine. The program also eases the person into an “active lifestyle.”

Losing weight, Canuel said, takes “discipline and self-love.

“You have to make yourself do something whether you like it or not. It’s for the better good of everyone in your family,” she continued. “I help and teach people to change their belief systems.”

It’s this healthy attitude that’s kept Canuel thin, and may even have saved her life.

She developed a congenital heart disorder while pregnant with her first child, a dangerous arrhythmia that soared to 165 beats per minute. There were no drugs she could take while pregnant, but doctors told Canuel that she wasn’t as affected as other patients might be because of her fitness level.

She underwent surgery after she had her baby and, though she is still at risk, was able to have another child and is healthy today — and still exercising.

Canuel said she exercises for 30 minutes three times a week.

“I still have the fat cells of a 285-pound woman,” Canuel said. “I’m predisposed to gaining it back. You’ve got to exercise like you change your underwear. It’s got to become that much a part of your life.”

To learn more about Canuel or her program, call 401-766-1993.

E-mail Deborah Allard at