A Kiwi man attempting to eat himself to death has lost over 100kg in five months after confessing a long-kept secret to his nephew, whose words changed his life forever.
Originally from the town of Rangitukia on the East Coast, Thomas Teneti took to consuming excessive amounts of calories every day in an effort to end his life, all the while harbouring a secret he decided he would rather die over than reveal to his family.
The 43-year-old, who at his heaviest weighed 300kg, was afraid of how his family would react if they knew he was gay. Tormented by the thought of their disappointed faces, he had decided he "wanted to end [his] life instead of having to come out to family. Some people do it with a rope or a gun. I used food.
"To me that was easier than seeing the disappointment on their faces," Teneti told the Herald.
But everything changed when Teneti shared his secret with his nephew who told him: "That is no reason to give up living. We can't change what people accept."
By the time he'd worked up the courage to tell the rest of his family, Teneti said he was no longer looking for acceptance. He just wanted them to hear it from him.
"My mum turned around and said ''I've always known but didn't want to question or ask'."
And his father, who is religious, was surprised by the confession but Teneti says there were no outbursts. He didn't feel as though his father held any anger or resentment. Instead, he knows now that he has "their love and support".
Looking back, Teneti has identified what kept him from sharing his secret.
"I think it was shame, but mostly fear as to why I didn't come out or open up or tell my family earlier. The thing that scared me the most is I didn't want to see the disappointment in my parents' faces, 'cause what they thought of me was very important."
Now living in Australia, in the Queensland town of Pimpama, Teneti's confession was his catalyst for change. He traded the high-calorie takeaways for meals high in protein and these days his plate usually features fish or chicken alongside vegetables. He also drinks three litres of water a day.
It's a stark contrast to his previous diet, which included up to four takeaway meals every evening.
"I could eat a box and half of pizza and still not be full and that was with sides," he said. "My old diet was everything that was not good for you. With food, it became my drug."
But after signing on to a program called PHATT (Putting Health At The Top), he lost 100kg in just five months and says his "mindset has changed in such a huge way" too.
In fact, he's been so impressed by the program Teneti has become a PHATT mentor and consultant. While he's reached his goal to lose 100kg he believes anything else that comes from his efforts, including motivating others, is just a bonus.
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