Auckland man who spoke out after Judith Collins' obesity comments shares his own battle

Obesity is one of New Zealand's biggest health problems, but Isoa Kavakimotu says he's "undoing a lifetime of learned behaviours" on his weight loss journey.

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The Tongan photographer, who grew up in Auckland, gained notoriety in a social media post about Judith Collins’ comments on obesity. Source: Breakfast

The Tongan man, who grew up in Auckland, has become an online celebrity of sorts over the past week after he penned an Instagram post in response to National leader Judith Collins' controversial comments about obesity.

Collins said Kiwis shouldn't blame the "system" for obesity, because it is "generally" a weakness that people need to take personal responsibility for. 

In Kavakimotu's post he admits Collins "isn't half wrong". But he added: "I grew up surrounded by takeaways and liquor stores. When the dairy is selling fruit for $1.50 per fruit, but a pies are $1 each, and I only have $3 for lunch... guess what I'm gonna buy?

"How do you expect me to do 5+ a day when I barely had $5 to buy myself some fruits at the shop?

"Takeaways and liquor stores on most street corners are designed to kill off those living in low socio-economic neighbourhoods."

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Collins says obesity is “generally” a personal weakness and urges people to stop blaming the system. Source: 1 NEWS

This morning he told TVNZ1's Breakfast a liquor store has been approved to go in across from a high school in Māngere.

He said that wouldn't happen in Remuera.

"How come it gets to happen out in the hood? Like, that's just ridiculous and it just goes to show that a lot of the time it's just profit over people and it's kind of heartbreaking to see that."

Kavakimotu said he grew up "surrounded by takeaways" and that it "became the norm for me".

Now he's calling for GST to be dropped on fruit and vegetables so it's more affordable, as well as limiting advertising fast food targeted at children.

"It'd be good to know who Jesus is before Ronald McDonald," Kavakimotu said.

However, he said he's also taking responsibly to turn his own life around now.

"I've been overweight my whole life. Like straight up, I can't remember a time where I've looked at a photo and been happy with what I see. So yeah, it's been a lifelong struggle for me weight-wise," he said.

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The National Party leader says taxing sugary foods isn't going to cure the problem. Source: Breakfast

Kavakimotu said he has tried diets, fasting and was making "donations" to gyms.

"I'm trying my best to make this time around stick."

But it's not just the physical side.

Kavakimotu also said in recent years he's been dropping the "typical male harden up" attitude and addressing the mental impact his weight has had too. 

Now he's found his "happy place" at the gym.

"I'm still on my own journey - like dealing with weight, what I see in the mirror, my self image, my self esteem, thought of depression and suicide and all that sort of stuff."