TV

The Bachelorette's Kurt Johnston: 'My incredible 59kg weight loss journey'

Kurt shares how he shed the weight and which Warriors legend helped him stay on track.

By Karyn Henger
He was one of the nicest guys on the show and now he has been eliminated.
Warriors super-fan, keen baker and softly spoken romantic Kurt Johnston didn't get a rose on Sunday night's episode of The Bachelorette NZ. Clearly crestfallen, he said he felt he had more to offer but hadn't been given the chance to show it. And then he was gone.
But if you think Kurt's journey with the reality TV dating show has ended, think again.
Since the show launched on TVNZ 2 Kurt has received a steady stream of messages from New Zealanders who have been inspired by his weight loss journey - and he's enjoying being able to share his weight loss tips with them.
Chatting with Now To Love the morning after his elimination, Kurt, 30, reads me a message he has just received from a fellow league fan (the Canberra Raiders, not the Warriors - but that's okay, Kurt jokes) asking for advice.
"I haven't had time to reply yet, but what I'm going to tell him is own it, acknowledge what you need to do and then don't follow some fad diet or buy all the workout equipment. Start small. For me it started with swapping fizzy drinks for sparkling water and starting to eat better, get fitter..." he says.
Kurt before and after losing a whopping 59kg through healthy eating and regular exercise.
Kurt's weight loss journey began three years ago, when he was 27.
His seven-year relationship had ended and it wasn't until he found himself single again that he realised how much weight he had gained while in that relationship.
"Being comfortable in a relationship weight," he calls it.
"My former partner had been a flight attendant so she was never home and I was often eating for one. It had been my first time living away from home, you have your own money and freedom and you can get takeaways whenever you want."
Working at Auckland Airport didn't help either, he says, because he was buying KFC or McDonalds for lunch almost every day.
Kurt's weight steadily climbed from a healthy 90kg to 149kg at his heaviest - and that's when the Auckland-based business development manager realised that some changes needed to be made.
The first thing he did was ban himself from eating KFC and McDonalds. A big fan of fizzy drinks he also swapped them for sparkling water and in conjunction with making these small changes, he hit the gym.
Cue former Warriors player and rugby league legend Ruben Wiki. (The Warriors had to be involved in this story somewhere, right - Kurt is such a big fan.)
Kurt explains that because he worked at the airport he often saw the Warriors travelling to and from their away games. He was on a first name basis with many of the players, including Ruben, and Ruben was always encouraging Kurt to come along to his gym. Ruben and his wife Santa run Wiki Workz in south Auckland.
"I was always like 'yeah I'll come soon' but I didn't have the confidence to show up," Kurt reveals.
"Then one day I was at a Warriors after-match function at Sky City and I was sitting down at a table and Ruben sat next to me. He grabbed my phone and texted himself my number and he said, 'Right, I've got your number now - no excuses'."
Kurt turned up at Wiki Workz the following Monday - and vomited halfway through the class.
"I couldn't believe it because the old me would have finished that class. What had happened?" Kurt says.
"I made a conscious decision that from now on I'd be living a healthier lifestyle."
As the weight began to melt away - he says he lost the first 30kg fairly quickly - Kurt's confidence began to grow, and 18 months after his weight loss journey began he met his next partner.
"I felt like I was punching way above my weight [no pun intended] but the new me had the confidence to talk to her."
While that relationship didn't last, Kurt continued attending Ruben's gym and he continued with his healthy eating. By this point he was also cooking more for himself at home and taking his lunch to work instead of buying it. He still allowed himself some takeaways, but only on occasion as a treat. He also took up boxing, which he says gave his confidence an additional boost.
And then a friend put him forward to audition for The Bachelorette NZ.
While a newly slimmed-down Kurt might not have found romantic love, he says he did enjoy the "bromance" of his life.
He and the other guys have become firm friends, he says, and they regularly talk in online group chats (they're not permitted to socialise in public until the series has finished airing).
WATCH: Your cheat sheet to Week 2 of The Bachelorette NZ. Story continues below...
He says they've been a great support to one another as the show has aired - lending an ear when some of the men have been left upset at how they've been portrayed or come across on the show, he says.
The best thing about being on The Bachelorette NZ, Kurt says with some pride, is that everyday Kiwi blokes like himself were given a platform to share their stories and challenge others' perceptions about what it is to be a Kiwi male.
"I love that Tavita was able to talk about his mum [and how he feels about her struggles with her mental health]. Tavita was my room mate so we would have those conversations at two o'clock in the morning...
"I love that George felt confident to say he was bisexual," Kurt continues. "And I was able to talk about my weight loss...
"It's great that the public have seen us as guys who are comfortable enough to express ourselves. Hopefully we've shown other men that it's okay to ask for help, it's okay to reach out, it's okay to cry, it's okay to express your emotions.
"All it takes is one person to pick up your message. Hopefully we've inspired others to feel safe enough to talk about what they're going through."