"First drop your pie" was the lesson for one of the Hastings crew who cycled into Parliament Grounds yesterday to prove to Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia that their weight loss programme is working.
Les Hokianga and about 12 others arrived after a three-day bike ride from Hastings through freezing southerlies to present Mrs Turia with a copy of Mr Hokianga's programme to lose weight the Maori way.
He began it about a year ago as part of his studies at the Eastern Institute of Technology, and roped in the others.
Mr Hokianga is proof of its success. He and Mrs Turia achieved almost exactly the same goal over the same period but by very different means - Mrs Turia has lost 32kg since her stomach stapling last November, while Mr Hokianga has lost 35kg of his original 150kg weight over the same period.
He began by doing the Iron Maori event a year ago. One of his neighbours was watching from the sidelines.
"He was eating two pies when I went past him. And he said, 'Shucks, if he can do it .. '. He threw his pie on the ground and started training. It snowballed from there," said Mr Hokianga.
He said he treated weight loss realistically, saying it was impossible to change eating habits overnight.
Mr Hokianga was prompted to do the project because his father had died at 49, obese and suffering from Type II diabetes. He said he approached it from a holistic Maori viewpoint and addressed training and nutrition as well as the spiritual side.
Mrs Turia has ministerial responsibility for initiatives to tackle obesity and has secured more stomach stapling operations for those who cannot lose weight. She was diagnosed with Type II diabetes before her operation but struggled to lose weight through dieting.
She said she deeply admired Mr Hokianga and his colleagues - many of whom weighed well over 100kg when they began his programme.