With six kids, and busy jobs in both radio and television, unsurprisingly, Duncan Garner struggled to find time to exercise or eat properly. He knew he was growing bigger, and felt more lethargic and less confident, but he was in denial that he had a problem.
That was until last November, when his wife managed to convince him to stand on the bathroom scales. The arrow pointed to 118kg. “S---, I need to do something about this!” the host of Three’s The AM Show exclaimed.
Since then, Duncan has lost 12kg and is proud to be able to fit his “rugby thighs” into a pair of size-36 pants at our Woman’s Day shoot.
“But the biggest thing is that I’ve learnt to smile again in public, which is a huge boost,” the Aucklander grins. “It’s a weight off my shoulders – and everywhere else!”
The first step was dragging himself along to one of boxer David “Brown Buttabean” Letele’s Buttabean Motivation fitness classes, which his wife Deanna credits with helping her drop 14kg.
“I was nervous and it was quite hard, but there was no judgment and I liked the community feel of it,” recalls Duncan, 43. “There are some really big, obese and unhealthy people with incredible stories who are trying to change their lives, which I find inspiring.
“These people struggle to get out of bed or hop into a car – if they don’t do something about it, they’re going to die. Some of them are up to 200kg, which makes me look like a bloody midget, but it could easily be me. If I’d left it another year, I might have needed a rope to pull myself out of bed.”
Sometimes attending two fitness sessions a day, Duncan is now a regular at group workouts around Auckland, which his wife often leads.
“I couldn’t do it without her,” he says. “We’re fiercely competitive and if it wasn’t for her, I’d never go.”
Duncan has also become more disciplined with his diet, eating smaller portions, and cutting down on sugar and carbs. “I used to be really lazy and just grab a pie for breakfast,” he confesses, “but now I smile as I drive past the bakery on my way home for some porridge.”
Since The AM Show started in February, Duncan – a father to Aqua, 17, Paerau, 16, Teahi, 13, Ojhan, 11, Max, eight, and Buster, six – starts his days at 3am. He’s in the office by four o’clock, finishes by 10.30am, then usually heads to a fitness class and squeezes in some more work before his children come home from school.
After some quality time with the kids and a healthy salad-based dinner, he’ll go to bed at 8pm, waking every hour to check his phone until he has to get up again at 3am.
“You never know when the next plane crash or Kaikoura earthquake is going to happen,” the news junkie explains. “As you can imagine, I’m lacking sleep and it can be easy to go off the rails, but I’ve actually been seeing a counsellor to give me the tools to deal with some of the issues in my life and learn to say no to things.”
A former political editor for 3 News, Duncan continues, “Nothing will ever be as difficult as chasing the crazies and maniacs in the murky world of Parliament, but sometimes I’ll have problems with the kids or a stoush with the wife. The counselling has made for a better experience at home. I’m a much happier and relaxed person, and a better father and husband.
“Like lots of guys, I used to think getting therapy was a sign of weakness, and that I just had to harden up and push through, but it’s the best thing I’ve ever done and I wish I’d done it earlier. I might sound like a hippie, but I’ve learned you can still be a real man and seek help.”
As well as the counselling, coffee also assists. Sipping on his fourth double espresso before midday, Duncan grins, “I’m basically a drug addict – a legal one.”
But in all seriousness, the journalist says carving out some time to make his own physical and mental health a priority has changed his life.
“This is as fit as I’ve been in at least 10 years,” he tells. “I’ve got more energy to play cricket in the backyard with my son and I feel a lot fresher in the mornings. It’s because of my fitness and I need to keep on top of that as it’s so easy to slip back into bad habits.
“I want to get under 100 kilos, which was how much I weighed when I was playing rugby when I was 21, and I’m locking that time for me in my diary to make that happen. I always put work and the kids first, and found excuses not to look after myself, but now I’ve realised I’m no use to anyone if I’m six feet under. I want to have a long life so I can look after my family.”