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A Fight for Life

Almost two years ago Selwyn Tupou struggled to walk 100m and he was suffering ill health due to his obesity, now he has completed his first Round the Bays! He shares his story with us.

Selwyn has lost nearly 100kg and is still going. He shares his story

Selwyn Tupou with his trainer Donna-Marie (DM) Brunt

I was born in Auckland to Tongan and Samoan parents, attended Mt Albert Grammar School and went on to get a Bachelor of Arts from University of Auckland, majoring in Linguistics. I’ve worked in Adult Education since finishing Uni and in the last few years as a Community Education Advisor.

I joined Big Boys Off the Couch initiative with Buck Stowers in April 2011. I joined to have better quality of life as I was suffering from all sorts of complications due to my obesity e.g. liver problems, atrial flutter, cellulitis, chronic nosebleeds etc. I was sick of living in poor health and not being able to enjoy life to the fullest due to my size and poor health.

My first weigh in at the club was 263kgs.

Genetics Gym is where I do the majority of my training, this is where I get the ‘education’ regarding exercise and nutrition. It is a safe environment where I became part of a very close-knit support network of like-minded people fighting the same fight for life that I was fighting, this is also where I crossed paths with Donna Marie Brunt (DM) who was one of Buck’s support trainers.

The journey has been a long one and I suppose that’s one of the first things you have to accept, i.e. that this is going to be a hard journey with no quick-fixes. Going from zero amount of exercise to 3 times a week was a big wake-up call and at first I used to dread the sessions, and doing any extra on the days in between just never came into it. Changing my eating habits was another huge challenge.

At Big Boys we were given an “eating plan” that we were encouraged to follow. That was hard! I remember looking at it for the first time and thinking”Am I missing some pages? Where are all the foods I like to eat?”

Once I accepted and understood that the key to a better life was exercise and good nutrition I began putting in more hours of physical exercise and started training with DM on my “off-days”. I also started paying more attention to how much I was eating, the kind of foods I was eating and the timing of my meals.

As the weight starting coming down, I noticed my fitness levels improving.

I was able to do more exercises in class, ones I could not do before like sit-ups and burpees and participating in the relay races.. I was able to stay on my feet longer and cover longer distances. These small milestones all helped my confidence which gave me motivation to keep going. I also noticed my clothes were getting looser so along the way I started getting new clothes and getting rid of the old clothes.

I was getting better quality sleep which meant I had more energy during the day. While these are some of the outward changes that were visible to others, it was the inner changes that I was enjoying more. Inside, I was feeling so much better about myself.

My confidence was growing each day, I started going out more and doing simple things like going to the movies and going to the mall, things I used to avoid because the thought of the amount of standing and walking  involved and whether I could fit into the seats at the cinema scared me.

One of my first goals I set when I started training with DM was to walk around the Panmure basin. We worked towards that for 6 months and we achieved it. I look back and remember it was a great achievement for me. That was in April 2012 and after the basin we set the goal of completing the Round the Bays in 2013. The distance is 8.4km.

Although my main goal is to have better quality of life, completing the Round the Bays is just a milestone along the way. I’ve got to keep thinking like that so that I know the fight still goes on. I was also lucky on raceday to have DM and two other friends from the gym alongside me, Hepa and Gordy.

The encouragement and positive attitude from those three helped pull me along to the finish line.

Finishing the race was such an awesome feeling; it was the biggest sense of achievement I’ve felt in a long time.

Perhaps the greatest satisfaction though, comes from when my own journey motivates someone else to start making changes in their own life. I smile to myself when I think that 2 years ago I was a picture of poor health unable to walk 100 metres and now, through my example, I am encouraging others to live a more active and healthier lifestyle.

My latest weigh in was 172.2kgs. Since TV3 showed our clip on the news I’ve had friends texting me and telling me things like “Ive gone walking 3 times this week so far” or “I’m doing Round The Bays next year now”.

DM told me about the the Pacific Heartbeat (PHB), Certificate of Proficiency in Pacific Nutrition (CPPN). I knew straight away this was something I wanted to do. Besides learning about nutrition for my own personal welfare I also wanted to come and learn so that I might be able to spread the message among our Pacific communities.

I joined the PHB Train-the-trainer (T3) Programme as I thought this is my opportunity to give back to the Heart Foundation and to our Pacific Communities.

Learn more about the Heart Foundation's Pacific nutrition courses by clicking on the link below

View all Pacific nutrition courses