Real Life

Stephanie Tauevihi opens up about weight gain

The Shorty star makes a call for help

Flaunting her fab new body in the pages of Woman’s Day after losing a whopping 35kg, Kiwi actress Stephanie Tauevihi vowed, “The weight will never go back. I feel absolutely free!”

But heartbreakingly, just three years after the big reveal, the former Shortland Street star, who dieted down from a dangerous 111kg to a healthy 76kg, has piled all that weight back on – and then some.

“I wish I could take back those words,” says Steph, 42. “I set myself up for a very public fall. Now, as well as feeling fat and disgusting, I feel like a failure. I’m trapped in a prison of fat and I’m too ashamed to go outside. These days, I only ever leave the house to visit the doctor.”

Astonishingly, the former Jenny Craig ambassador, who’s mum to 22-year-old son Jules, never felt a moment of triumph after reaching her goal weight in 2013. She confesses, “I threw out all of my fat clothes, but then I just started finding other things that were wrong with me, like how I was getting wrinkly or my hair was going grey. It was a cycle of doubt and self-loathing. I mindlessly started shoving pies in my face once again.

“I lost myself. The weight started going on and I just became overwhelmed by it. And because I’d made myself public property, I would go out on the street and people would tell me, ‘Gosh, you’ve whacked it on, haven’t you? Where did you get that extra chin? Who did you eat?’

“The comments were rude, but then I put myself out there, didn’t I? However, I don’t need the public disappointment and disapproval. Trust me, I’m beating myself up enough as it is. It is very easy to lose weight – it’s much harder to maintain it. I pushed myself and it was really unrealistic to think I’d keep that weight off.”

Posing in a swimsuit, Steph called herself a “happy lady” who felt on “an absolute high”.

Feeling humiliated, Steph eventually stopped setting foot outside her West Auckland home, ditching exercise in favour of lying in bed, and losing herself in movies and books. Unsurprisingly, her weight kept creeping up.

“I feel like I’m wearing a fat suit,” the actress says. “I don’t like showering or looking in the mirror because I don’t like seeing myself. I’ll suddenly catch a glimpse of my wrist and I’ll feel ill.”

Since leaving Shorty in 2004, the actress admits her weight has yo-yoed.

Steph confesses she sometimes feels so bad about her body, she has considered suicide. The only thing that has stopped her has been her supportive husband Brad Mitchell. She admits, “There have been times when there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve been very, very low and thought, ‘I might just check out,’ but this poor man has been amazing.”

Early struggles Steph’s problems with food started when she was small. She recalls, “My mum had terrible body issues, so when I put on weight, she’d say I was plain and when I lost it, suddenly I was beautiful. I became an emotional eater.”

Steph and her rock Brad at their 2008 wedding. “He does everything for me,” she tells.

Things got worse when Steph stepped into the limelight at age 14 as a presenter for youth show Infocus and again when she became a household name as paramedic Donna Heka on Shorty. “Of course, I go into an industry where it’s all about how I look!”

Her problems intensified further when her mother died in 2000, and a heartbroken Steph started experiencing anxiety and panic attacks, requiring her to go on antidepressants.

After a slow professional patch, the Jenny Craig campaign seemed like a godsend to Steph. But in hindsight, the half-Niuean star says she signed on for all the wrong reasons.

“I did it to be a role model for Pacific Islanders, I did it for my family, I did it for my career … I did it for everyone but me. What I really needed to work on was not my waistline, but what was going on inside me – why it makes me happy when people tell me how gorgeous I look.

“I need to see a therapist who will give me the tools to get out of my own head. That’s why I’m doing this story. When I did the Jenny Craig campaign, everyone encouraged me to lose weight. Now I need that support when it comes to seeking help. At the moment, I’m just existing, not living. I need to change.”

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