'I grew up surrounded by takeaways': Man's powerful response to obesity claims

Isoa Kavakimotu has issued a powerful response to National leader Judith Collins over her...
Isoa Kavakimotu has issued a powerful response to National leader Judith Collins over her controversial obesity comments. Photo: Supplied
A Kiwi man has issued a powerful response to National leader Judith Collins over her controversial obesity comments.

Isoa Kavakimotu, who grew up in Otahuhu and Mt Roskill,  Auckland, took to social media to address Collins' claims that obesity is a "personal choice".

She told Newstalk ZB that "people need to start taking some personal responsibility for their weight" before joking that weight gain was not an epidemic and "wasn't catching".

Her comments shocked 27-year-old Kavakimotu, who was inspired to address the issue of obesity.

In an emotional post, Kavakimotu took responsibility for his own health but detailed a number of alarming factors contributing to New Zealand's obesity crisis, addressing Collins by name.

"Judith Collins ... Well. She isn't half wrong to be honest. We do have to accept personal responsibility for the choices we make.

"But let me preface this by saying that I blame NOBODY but myself for where I am right now. Not my parents, church, friends, but me," he wrote.

While the 27-year-old puts his hand up over his choices, he says for many families around the country they are constrained to the surroundings in which they find themselves in.

He says food prices, food selection and gentrification all contribute to the country's growing epidemic.

"I ate that bad food, drank the fizzies and added crazy sugar to my tea. However, I am a product of my surroundings.

"I grew up surrounded by takeaways and liquor stores. When the dairy is selling fruit for $1.50 per fruit, but pies are $1 each, and I only have $3 for lunc ... guess what I'm going to buy? How do you expect me to do 5+ a day when I barely had $5 to buy myself some fruits at the shop?

"Takeaways and liquor stores on most street corners are designed to kill off those living in low socio-economic neighbourhoods. Remember Furious Styles' speech in Boyz N The Hood about gentrification? Watch as they push our people out further out of Auckland. It happened in Grey Lynn.

"Corned beef, povi masima and lamb/mutton flaps are staples in my diet (most Pacific Isanders can relate). Growing up I always wondered why I rarely saw these cuts when I went to boujie neighbourhood butchers and even why Gordon Ramsay didn't have a mean lamb flaps recipe ...

"In the mid-20th century, the cuts of meat being sent to the Pacific were offcuts, preserved to last the long voyage. Our ancestors made do with the fatty meat and are paying for it with growing waistlines.

"Gordon Ramsay wouldn't dare cook with lamb flaps because they're OFFCUTS, and you'd be lucky to find them at Countdown Grey Lynn. But sometimes Countdown Mt Wellington puts lamb flaps on special, $40 a bag to feed your family for a week.

"This is just a few reasons as to why there's an obesity epidemic among Māori and Pasifika."

New Zealand is listed by the OECD as the third fattest country in the world; 31 per cent of Kiwis are regarded as obese. Aotearoa is behind only Mexico (32 per cent) and the United States (38 per cent). Two in three Pasifika (66 per cent) and half of Māori (48 per cent) are obese.

Collins attacked suggestions her views oversimplified a complex issue or were heartless.

"Do you know what is heartless? Thinking that someone else can cure these issues. We can all take personal responsibility," she said.


She criticised parents, saying: "It doesn't take actually much to get frozen vegetables out of the freezer and pull them out and do something with them. It's not that hard."

However, Kavakimotu says Collins' stance on blaming individuals is "bulls**t", highlighting the system is enabling the worst foods to be most accessible to vulnerable Kiwis.

"Judith Collins shouldn't be so dismissive because I'm out here trying to change my own relationship with food and taking responsibility for what got me here.

"But for her to say 'don't blame the system' is bulls**t because this was/is the system in play to enable the fattiest cuts of meat become a staple of our diet, and be surrounded by heart attack food and naughty/violent juice.

"Anyway, Talofa. Don't forget to vote. I don't care who you vote for, just do it."

Speaking to the Herald, Kavakimotu says the obesity epidemic is too big an issue to dismiss, and is calling on Collins to make better use of her position.

"How could this woman in a position of power be so dismissive of something so concerning. There's so many factors that contribute to all of this."

Kavakimotu's powerful message has since gone viral, attracting tens of thousands of likes, comments and shares around the country.

A number of people backed the 27-year-old's message, with thousands thanking him for his holistic views on a complicated matter.

"Thank you for painting in some of the details of the bigger picture that Ms Collins chooses to disregard and, in doing so, dismisses and disrespects the constraints and concerns influencing many members of the community in Aotearoa. Thank you for speaking up for so many she chooses to dismiss," one said.

Another added: "This is very profound. I particularly respect how you acknowledge Judith's perspective as well as highlighting the insights from your experience. This is a valuable contribution to the conversation."
















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