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What's driving limb-lengthening surgery -- a radical procedure making men taller

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Julien Prégent is feeling pretty good, even though the healthy 28-year-old is walking with a pronounced limp through an empty mall.

Our team met him on a cold winter afternoon in Montreal, where he took us through a typical routine following a radical cosmetic procedure that gave him three new inches of height.

He uses a walker to take each step. It’s slow, steady work, but he’s happy -- despite the gruelling months of rehabilitation after paying to have both his legs broken as part of the procedure.

Julien Pregent pictured alongside Dr. Marie Gdalevitch, before and after undergoing limb-lengthening surgery. The radical procedure gave him 3 new inches of height. (W5)

The Canadian Limb Lengthening Centre (CLLC) in Montreal is the only place in Canada that will operate for cosmetic reasons. Julien doled out more than $90,000 for the surgery, which increased his height from 5 '9'’ to 6 '0” after struggling with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy about his height for seven long years.

"I wasn’t happy with my height. I realized I wanted to be taller… it became an objective. As soon as I knew it was possible to do this kind of surgery, I kept it as an objective… this idea of me being too short was, you know, it was eating away at me," he told CTV W5.

Julien is one of many men preoccupied with the thought of being taller; those who cite studies showing that taller men make more money, and who show you dating apps that screen for men under 6 feet.

Youtuber Victor Egonu -- who calls himself “Cyborg 4 Life” -- underwent limb lengthening surgery (LLS) to correct a childhood deformity. He began posting about his own experience, highlighting facts and myths about LLS.

Egonu has since spoken with more than 1,500 prospective patients and has developed a strong understanding of just how profoundly insecure many men feel about their height.

"A lot of these people who want to get this procedure done will refrain from even going to social events. They won’t go to their holiday parties or they won’t go to weddings," he said. "There was one guy who told me he didn’t go to his best friend’s wedding because of his height."

X-rays taken of Julien Pregent's leg following limb-lengthening surgery. Both his bones were broken and a titanium rod was inserted inside the bones. (W5)

THE PERCEPTION OF HEIGHT

What’s at the root of this profound desire to gain a few inches in height? Body image expert Kyle Ganson of the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash School of Social Work points to the culture of competition and comparison among males as a driving force in the desire to be tall.

“I think even a male who is on the shorter side and muscular probably would feel some level of inadequacy compared to taller men who are equally as strong," he said. "The height aspect of things is important and plays a role because it demonstrates some level of dominance over others."

"If someone is tall, attractive, has a nice body, that’s going to be a male that other males look up to and see as a person doing something right. How do I emulate that? Well I can’t work in this big huge job, but maybe I could be taller, right? I could change that."

But Egonu also cautions that the surgery itself can also be a source of shame.

"In orthopedics, surgeons are trained to fix problems. When you think about the aura or vibe this surgery gives off, a lot of these patients basically say I don’t want to tell my family. I don’t want to tell my friends… They’ll say ‘you paid $100,000 to get three inches taller where I can’t send my kid to school.’"

Egonu adds that feeling shame in romantic relationships is another factor driving some men to seek this surgery.

"It’s a double dynamic because the women are saying, 'I wouldn’t select you as a partner because you’re so short, but you’re insecure about your height, so I’m going to judge you.' They’re trapped. That’s why they’re doing this secretively. They’re trying to get it done so they can just kind of blend back into normal life."

"The one thing that it can’t do is automatically guarantee that you’re going to get that date with that girl," Egonu said. "It can’t guarantee that you’re going to get that promotion at that job… those are the things it can’t do."

Six months after his surgery, Julien’s not only standing taller, he has a new perspective on himself.

"If you’d asked me a year ago like you think you’re going to be six foot tall? One day I would have told you, I hope so. I would definitely hope so. I really want to make it happen. But having it done now feels different. It’s like it’s done… I can put it behind me and all. Finally, I can stop wanting this thing so much because it’s done. Now I have the result for the rest of my life and I can move on."

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