Weighing in at 170kg, Robyn Graves was uncomfortable and unhappy. Simple actions such as getting up off the couch were becoming near impossible.
However, five years ago when she watched her daughter survive a near-death experience, after being in hospital with internal bleeding, she decided something had to change.
She has since lost 92kg and discovered a love for exercise.
"I've been morbidly obese for most of my adult life," she said.
"My adult daughter nearly died in Waikato Hospital, she had two young kids at the time. I was sitting there thinking 'my poor daughter's fighting for her life, her kids could end up orphans and I'm voluntarily killing myself, using food as my weapon'.
"That was the catalyst that I seriously needed to do something about this."
The 49-year-old had gastric bypass surgery but was well aware if her lifestyle and habits did not change, she would end up right back where she started.
"I did a lot of research and realised the surgery was only a tool, it would only work for a short amount of time. It was up to me to make real changes in my life.
"It wasn't just about losing weight, it was about being healthy for the rest of my life, staying alive and having a better quality of life."
"I couldn't get up off the couch without my husband helping me."
She learned about building muscle and nutrition and realised she needed help and motivation so signed up with a personal trainer, wellness coach and psychologist.
"I realised I had to take this seriously and make it a forever plan, not just temporary."
Graves said breaking her old habits and ways of thinking was "very, very, very difficult".
"For people who are obese, food is a crutch. Just like some people have alcohol or cigarettes, food is a coping mechanism, it's used to soothe and reward.
"Learning all that has helped me figure things out and I'm not perfect, it's a constant need to keep going. I try to cut out the decision making by having a routine and sticking to it."
The next big step for Graves was discovering a love for exercise.
"That was something I knew I had to do and had to make part of my everyday routine to make the other decisions a lot easier.
"Pre-surgery, I was water walking, I had bad arthritis in my knees. I got a personal trainer on board as soon as I was cleared for exercise I started going. That had a lot to do with my body changes and how it had to carry my weight.
"I dreaded going every time but I still went. I knew he was going to kill me for an hour but then it was over."
A former swimmer, she was at the beach one day in 2016 and noticed a triathlon was on.
"I was watching people with wheelchairs doing it and I just burst into tears. I said to my husband 'I have no excuse, this is ridiculous. I have my legs and arms and it's just my brain stopping me from doing this.
"That was when I said 'I'm going to do a triathlon'."
Five months after her surgery, Graves completed her first "mini-triathlon" at the Panasonic Series in Auckland.
"The hardest thing was turning up," she said.
"I was standing on the start line, I was there with 12-year-olds and every part of me was screaming 'what are you doing?'.
"I stuffed up the swim a bit but once I was out of the water and on the bike I was suddenly having a great time. What got me about that event is there were Olympians doing the full length triathlon and they were cycling past and encouraging me.
"I felt elated that I was doing it, I was having a great time and everyone was so encouraging. That's when I thought this is what I want to do, I want to keep doing this stuff."
Crossing the finish line at her first triathlon was an emotional and gratifying experience. Graves has completed many running and swimming events since then and said finishing felt just as good every time.
"I was bawling my eyes out when I finished, it was amazing. I knocked 15 minutes off my predicted time just from the adrenaline of doing it. I did it, I made myself do it and it was such a big deal for me.
"I've done half marathons, open water swims, long walks. It's those events that keep me going, I'm always aiming for something else.
"It's been the thing that keeps me going and now I have this huge rack of medals as a reminder of how different my life is. I'm not trying to win but I couldn't get off the couch before. I do it for me and I've learned that's what's important."
A highlight of all the events for Graves is each year when she does the Generation Homes Women's Triathlon in Mount Maunganui, her grandchildren join her on the home stretch to the finish line.
"I do so much with them that I didn't do with my own kids. I think every year I add another grandchild, it's starting to become quite a crowd.
"That is what's important to me now. My kids and grandkids come and support me and they're so happy for me ... Knowing that what I have now is far better than any takeaways I could eat is certainly worth remembering."
Graves is now a life coach herself and said she gets just as much joy out of helping others make changes in their lives.
"I do as many events every year as I can and now I teach others how to get ready for events, encourage them and motivate them. I try to teach them to just try it, it's so rewarding afterwards."
This weekend, Graves will be back on a start line as she participates in the Generation Homes Legend of the Lake event at Blue Lake (Tikitapu).
The 2020 edition of the event was one of the first to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic last year. The event comprises multiple distances including the New Zealand Secondary Schools Open Water championships at 3.5km, 1000m and 500m.
For more information go to www.oceanswim.co.nz/events/legend-of-the-lake-rotorua/