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Renee Wright: Why I'm prioritising my health this summer

As she embraces the start of summer, Renee Wright is reflecting on the year that’s passed, and realises that like never before, her health is a priority.

By Cath Bennett
Bright, breezy and quick to laugh, you can count on Renee Wright to add a shot of positivity to any situation. Even when the effervescent weather forecaster is warning the nation of dark clouds and storms, the warmth of her delivery is so evocative of sunshine and rainbows, it's hard to watch and feel anything but reassured and upbeat.
But behind the bubbly enthusiasm is a person who is more reflective than her Hollywood smile might have you assume – and as the year draws to a close, she has been thinking about mortality. Don't panic, the popular TV presenter is not about to reveal she's gravely ill.
However, a combination of factors, the inevitable ageing process as well as the loss of two family members and a close friend, have given her a heightened appreciation of the frailty of existence.
And it's made the 38-year-old determined to focus on her own health and wellbeing like never before.
"The most important thing is, I want to be around for my children," says Renee, referring to Leo, seven, Giselle, six, and three-year-old Arabella. "I want to see them thrive, grow and develop."
There's no doubt the recent anniversary of the death of fellow broadcaster and father-of-two Greg Boyed has been pivotal in shaping Renee's current attitude.
It's been a year since he took his own life, a tragedy she never saw coming; "I knew he was struggling with things, but I didn't think he'd do that."
His absence still affects her.
"It's been massive because he was such a dear friend," she says, her voice catching as she recalls meeting him for breakfast just days before his death.
"You know you have some friends who are always there, always consistent, always have your back? He was that friend," continues Renee, who likes to believe that after passing, loved ones are "still around in some way or another".
"Maybe one of the lessons from that was I need to not take it for granted. And I need to be in the moment."
Image: Good Health
Not taking it for granted involves being conscientious about her health – including undergoing invasive testing in a bid to avoid one of New Zealand's most deadly cancers. Renee has booked herself in for a colonoscopy, a procedure commonly reserved for those over the age of 60, which checks the lining of the bowel for cancer.
"It's one of those things you don't really think about, but my dad's dad was diagnosed with bowel cancer and they removed his bowel before he was 40," she reveals.
"My sister's had polyps, and you get haemorrhoids and all those glam things associated with childbirth so you just don't know if it's an issue. I realised I had better go and do it."
The TVNZ favourite also won't hesitate to get mammograms once she reaches her 40s, given her grandmother had breast cancer.
"As I get older, health becomes more important. You see more things and you live through more experiences," explains Renee, who has recently attended the funerals of two of her husband's family members.
"It puts into perspective how your health is everything; if you haven't got that, it's just a losing battle."
It seems quite incongruous to be chatting about disease and death with a person so full of vibrancy. Sitting in a sunny kitchen diner in her chic home on Auckland's North Shore, face still flushed from a morning session of Pilates, Renee is vitality incarnate. This is a mum who is perfectly suited to the school-run uniform of skin-tight activewear.
While many parents feel guilty for snatching time for themselves in a week, Renee is unapologetic about her need to work out.
She admits it's not always easy, or particularly her first choice – "even when I'm doing squats, I'm like, 'I would so rather be folding my washing right now'" – but she knows it will not only boost her health and make her feel better, but also benefit her kids.
"I think it's a choice to say, 'Okay this is my hour,'" says the former model, who works out five days a week, alternating between sessions at an all-women fitness studio and dynamic Pilates. "You think, 'Yes, I have things I need to do, but I need to park it because it's just an hour'. And I need that mentally and for stress relief. I can be a better mum and I can be more patient when I take that time."
Of course, it's not simply about the mental benefits for this cardio queen – who is so committed she even exercises on holiday. She might be widely recognised as one of the most glamorous women on television, but Renee is far from immune to the 'sag and flab' insecurities that plague the rest of us.
Renee recalls feeling particularly sensitive last year when the TVNZ 1 news set was changed, suddenly capturing her head-to-toe, from low camera angles.
"No one wants it low – have you ever opened your phone on selfie mode and you've got chins?"
"Low angles are not good," she explains. "Before I got into this phase of locking in my Monday through Friday routine I was feeling a bit vulnerable. Exercising felt like I was doing something productive about it rather than just wishing it were different." And seizing the initiative when it comes to body image is something the brunette truly believes in, as shown when the conversation moves on to the often controversial topic of cosmetic surgery.
"Each to their own and power to you if that's what you want to do," she says, in a refreshing change from the negative response such a subject generally elicits in high-profile women.
Would she do it herself?
"If I felt something might need a lift or a tuck or whatever and I could afford it, then yeah."
Being in the public eye, of course, means Renee's appearance comes under scrutiny and there's a barrage of judgement that pops up daily on email, message boards and social media. She has spoken in the past about how hurtful people can be and, while she has developed a fairly thick skin, she concedes "even now things still get me down".
"I'm really sensitive to be honest," says the Ronald McDonald House ambassador, adding that it can be particularly distressing when people feel licensed to judge her family.
"But I'm a talker, so I'll go to Mum and 'blah blah blah' spew it all out, and move on."
Vitriol from viewers hasn't been the only downside of her fame. Renee recalls how the pain of her temporary separation from husband Charlie Waide five years ago was amplified when she was hounded by paparazzi.
"That was really awful," she says, her trademark smile faltering. "They had photos of the kids and I felt hunted. They were really out for it and it was a weird feeling. It wasn't very nice at all."
Renee in her home.
You'd think that public interest is something Renee would have long since become accustomed to – given she has rarely been off screen since getting her break on entertainment show Headliners in 2004. Yet she almost struggles to reconcile her trips to TVNZ to write and present the weekend weather with being a known figure.
"Work is actually a really nice intimate situation," explains Renee, who says it's always when she looks "like an absolute troll" that she gets recognised out and about. "You forget a lot of the time that you are broadcasting to the country."
So much so that she can laugh off the fact her pregnant belly blocked out half the weather map on screen – although she does still cringe about how, as a breastfeeding mum, she had a particularly memorable 'oops' moment.
"I was halfway through my weather and the director goes in my ear, 'What's that on your top? Oh my god, is your boob leaking?!' Luckily the top had a ruffle, so it kind of looked like a shadow, but it's like 'That's awesome, that's my boob, leaking on air, keeping it real for the mums of New Zealand!'"
Keeping it real is something that seems to come naturally to Renee, who laughs easily, is remarkably warm and open, and who is almost over-eager to prove she's no different to the average Kiwi mum.
She might appear to have it all – the beach babe physique, angelic-looking children, the enviable designer home, regular overseas holidays, a job she loves – but she also has a self-deprecating sense of humour that sweeps that aside, meaning you can't help but like her.

It could almost sound boastful when she talks about how her job has an element of "girls playing dress-ups".
"We get to wear really nice clothes and have our hair and makeup done; I'm a girlie-girl and I love that. I'm sure in a past life I was a Vegas showgirl… or a Dallas housewife."
But just when she's in danger of sounding like a bit of a princess, Renee launches into a story about how the makeup artists at work never quite know what they'll find deposited in her hair courtesy of her kids. Apple puree, breast milk… leftover cereal?
Similarly, she might say that, thanks to her exercise plan, she's "feeling stronger than ever", but she quickly counteracts that with the revelation that after breastfeeding "my boobs look like fried eggs".
And while studiously ignoring the morning tea of cheese scones, muffins and chocolate brownies brought to the interview, she admits it's only supreme willpower that keeps her away from junk food.
"Left to my own devices, I'd have the diet of a truck driver," she says. "I love fried food and salty things."
Her current regimen sees her focusing on lean proteins and veggies, and hopping on the raw celery juice wagon as espoused by Gwyneth Paltrow and Pharrell.
"It definitely has an impact on your bowels," Renee says candidly. "But I have also noticed that when I have it consistently, it stops me getting hormonal spots around that time of the month."
Given Charlie, 39, works long hours as director of his own construction business, often starting at 5am and finishing at 8pm, cooking for the family falls to Renee, who has her meals with the kids.
"I like to eat early," she says. "If people suggest going out for dinner at 7.30pm, I'm like, 'What is this middle of the night eating?!'"
Renee has mixed feelings about her impending 40th birthday.
"I think I'm in denial," she says. "I'm like, 'Is it 40? That seems so old!'"
That said, she's pragmatic about it, thanks in part to the attitude of her remarkably young-looking mum Marian, 64, who, having joined her daughter for Pilates this morning, is now busily vacuuming her grandchildren's bedrooms.
"She has such a young energy and always has had," says Renee. "I guess ageing is what it is. I feel healthy, my family are healthy and I've got a good life."
As she looks forward to a lazy summer making the most of the family boat – "we've got the marina at the end of the road and do day trips over to the islands" – it sounds like she's got it all sorted, but suggest that and Renee shakes her head furiously.
"I feel like every other mum where I've got all the balls in the air and any little thing could bring them all crashing down," says the star, who when describing her daily routines constantly uses the word 'hustle'.
"Every day it's trying to get it right and some days you feel, 'Yeah, I got close today', and other days you're like, 'Wow, I was so off the mark… but I can try again tomorrow.'"
The key for her is always striving to be the best person possible for her "number one priority", her children, and that includes doing everything she can to live a long and healthy life.
"When you have children there's so much on the line – and as a mum you want to be there for them."
Few would disagree with that.

Quick-fire round

The best thing about summer is...
The heat, anti-cyclones, ridges of high pressure… all so good.
Top of my bucket list is...
More travel; more time in Europe, especially Germany.
My go-to party outfit is...
Black jeans and a slinky top.
If I could change one thing about myself, I would be...
Braver. I'm an overthinker.
My advice to my younger self would be...
Relax, it's going to be okay.
The Instagram account I can't get enough of...
Is any belonging to my friends. I just love seeing what they're doing.
My top tip for being fit and healthy is...
Be consistent.
If I was a billionaire...
I would try and help out some people who needed it.
Most of my time is taken up by...
Running around after children.
Motherhood means...
A happy heart.

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