Body & Fitness

TV’s Big Ward battler – I lost 70kg but it’s still a struggle

Having gastric surgery is just the first step to weight loss, says Pasione. “You have to actively keep dieting.”

A plate of steamed dumplings sits in front of Pasione Paea, teasing him, calling him and ultimately seducing him.

It’s well into the afternoon and he hasn’t had lunch, so he succumbs to three morsels, each dipped in soy sauce and topped with pickled ginger.

In a former life, the 33-year-old South Aucklander admits to Woman’s Day, he would have eaten a dozen.

“Before I had my stomach surgery, I’d have eaten that whole plate – probably three plates,” he says. “Actually, I would have had McDonald’s and not really tasted any of it. Now food is about flavour and quality over quantity.”

It has been two and a half years since Pasione’s gastric sleeve surgery. The operation helped him drop from his heaviest weight of 190kg to 118kg and featured in the TVNZ 2 series The Big Ward.

As bad habits have snuck in, so too has the weight and he is now 134kg, but he’s far stronger than in the lead-up to and following the procedure.

He would be the first to admit it’s been a tough road and he knows only he can take control over his weight.

“I made a pact to have cut out McDonald’s, fizzy drink and bread this year,” Pasione asserts. Now, every time I put something in my mouth, I am aware of it. I choose to have it. You have to make choices. I can see food sitting there and I choose to not eat it.”

Pasione at 190KG and after his dramatic weight loss at 118KG.

That’s easier said than done when his work as a security officer provides an “all you can eat” buffet at reduced prices and he’s budgeting for the arrival of a third child.

Pasione and his partner Keita Alofaki, 26, consider his surgery a gift, and they believe it has helped them become parents again. Unable to conceive in the four years after their daughter Sophia was born, the new food regime had a positive impact – they both lost weight and soon became pregnant with Layla, now 14 months.

And within eight months of her birth, they found out that another child is on the way, a boy due next month.

Keita attributes it to a whole new lifestyle. “Pasi is right – it is about food choices. All we ate was takeaways.

We never had fruit in our fridge. Now there are fruit and veges on every shelf.

“Before, he couldn’t even walk around the supermarket and now he has energy to play with the girls. He used to have to take painkillers all the time for his back and now I cannot remember the last time he had one.”

Along with the back pain, he’s eradicated his type 2 diabetes and sleep apnoea.

“I don’t want to waste this gift,” tells Pasione.

“All of our family photos prior to the surgery, I was lying down – on the beach, on the bed or on the couch – and Sophia was just around me. Even being able to put Layla to sleep, standing and rocking her, I couldn’t do that with Sophia.”

The couple chose to move their family out of South Auckland, where fast food chains are open 24-7, to the North Shore, where they are closer to Keita’s family.

Inspired by his progress, Keita’s 49-year-old mother Tania Alofaki looked into the transformational procedure and is scheduled for surgery this month, having already lost several kilos, a prerequisite to prove commitment to a new lifestyle.

Pasione warns Tania, National Party deputy Paula Bennett and the hundreds of others who undergo gastric surgery each year that it is not a quick fix, nor will it magically change your life.

“The hard time is not the surgery or the pain you go through afterwards – it is not being able to eat everything. That’s for life,” he asserts.

“There is nobody watching you and saying, ‘You cannot eat that.’ You have to actively keep dieting.

“You can find ways around the system, you can push it, you can stretch your stomach again if you try to eat what you did before surgery. I know others who have put the weight back on because they didn’t change their bad habits. What a waste.”

Pasione is also conscious of how important your mindset is, not just for willpower but also for self-confidence.

“You might lose all the weight, but you can still be unhappy as it is not your body that is the problem,” he explains.

Pasione also asks that people be supportive, not judgmental, after Keita was heckled when she was out walking one day and the driver of a passing car yelled, “Just stop eating!”

“I know what people think when they see a bigger person. But for many families, it was how they were brought up. I am so pleased I have done this. We were existing before, but now we are living.”

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