Voyager 2021 media awards

The truth about weight loss surgery in New Zealand

Rebecca Blithe

Senior Writer, Lifestyle and Entertainment

From the outside, weight loss surgery appears to be a cure-all for obesity and related diseases - the easy way to drop a lot of weight and keep it off for good. Rebecca Blithe speaks

Maree* never took much notice of the food on café menus. It was the chairs she paid attention to. "When you go out, you don't give a s*** about what's on the menu," Maree tells the Herald from her home in the Bay of Plenty. "You care about if the chairs are going to cope with your fat a***. I remember my mum getting stuck in a café. My whole family is obese."

And her whole adult life, Maree had been that way too.

Every morning, she woke up in agony. All 146kg of her. "Every bone in my body hurt. It was horrible, I was pre-diabetic. I was on a sleep-ap machine. I couldn't breathe properly because the fat was up around my throat. I couldn't get more than five steps before I didn't want to go any further."

For years Maree had tried to lose weight: "I went to Weight Watchers then Jenny Craig. I tried the blood one, fasting, you name it, I've tried it. But because I'm an addict, I came back to food."

Maree shares that she was also an alcoholic and suffered from depression.

"I was going to die. I really wanted to die. Seriously. I was smoking and drinking a lot. And I was so overweight."

Then, something in Maree changed. "I decided I wanted to live. I got sober and I went to Tijuana and got bariatric surgery. I just made up my mind and four weeks later I was under the knife in Mexico.

"It cost me under $6500 including flights."

Her options in New Zealand were to go through the public system, which manages about 300 weight loss or bariatric surgeries a year, or pay up to $25,000 to have surgery privately.