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AUGUST 2009

Choosing a Healthier Future Ian Kaihe, Tikanga, In Practice Facilitator, Te Kaahui Ora, Maaori Health Services, knew more than most about the current health statistics for Maaori. Rather than become one of those statistics, he started on an inspirational journey. Over 18 months he lost close to 82kgs and downsized from an 8XL to an L and dropped almost 70cm around his waist. His greatest achievement though is that he has dramatically changed his diabetic status. The turning point was a combination of factors, Ian says. “Health reasons, with a small touch of vanity. I’m almost 42 years old, and when I was approaching my forties and sitting at over 180kg, I knew I truly needed to take control of this before

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my fifties. A combination of that and working in Maaori Health motivated my decisions. I mean we have current health statistics at our fingertips and overall Maaori health doesn’t look that pretty. We’re at high risk for diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, gout and the list goes on. As a health professional and being engaged in a journey to reshape and change the overall climate for Maaori health, it seemed imperative that I recognise the personal changes I needed to make.”

Ian is continuing his journey, although he has achieved phenomenal success, he feels he is still achieving. “By no means is my journey over. Realising that I needed to do something about my health, my image and my overall well-being has haunted me for most of my life. It’s really quite difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when the internal shift occurred. But I do realise that the desire to do something had been building over the last four years.” While Ian’s success took great personal effort, he is quick to praise those who support him. “At the end of the day if success is the measure, then it is not mine alone. My partner, my whaanau, friends and colleagues have all contributed to my success.” After years of struggling with his weight and accompanying health problems, Ian decided on a course of action. “Honestly, all of this came together when I requested that my GP refer me to the Bariatric Surgery Research Programme here in Manukau. When you’ve battled with obesity all your life and truly believe that change is only a fantasy, exploring every option, even those that seem extreme is a reality. By no means was my decision to pursue surgery taken lightly. And fortunately for me the developments in this field both medically and psycho-socially continue to advance and recognise the seriousness of this condition. Particularly the unique health needs for Maaori and Pacific Island communities.” Ian knew that surgery itself presented a challenge and committed to getting himself in the best shape possible. “In preparation for my surgery (which I had in January this year), I spent at least 8 months changing my diet, going to the gym and more importantly, altering the way I thought about food, exercise and health in general. Ultimately the surgery focussed me psychologically, physically and even spiritually in a way nothing else ever had. I managed to lose almost 40kg before my surgery and the rest since.” There have been significant changes for Ian since surgery and he offered some words of wisdom to those seeking to follow a similar path. “Achieving this level of weight loss and health gain is not a destination. It is a journey. Part of it is taking control and the rest of the journey is maintaining that control. Become increasingly conscious of your thoughts, feelings and actions. Engage those in your life on your journey and surround yourself with allies rather than saboteurs. Finally be kind to yourself and those who love you especially when it’s tough.”

2009 August Connect+  

Counties Manukau Health staff publication

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