GPs are firing back at National leader Judith Collins' "demeaning" and "dismally disappointing" comments about obesity being a personal responsibility.
"For a New Zealand leader to make those comments is really demeaning to people who are affected by obesity ... it's a hugely complex issue and it's absolutely not that simple," Dr Lynn McBain, who runs a GP clinic in Wellington, told the Herald.
Earlier today, Collins doubled down on her obesity stance, describing it as a weakness and saying that people should not "blame systems for personal choices".
Collins said: "Any decent GP will say it's not that complicated."
However, multiple GPs have since spoken out in outrage.
McBain said many of her patients tried really hard to lose weight and for some it was a victory if they don't gain weight or if over a period of a year they manage to lose a kilo.
"It's not simple, it's not simple at all."
She said for some, genetic components came into play or they could be facing other health issues.
"For example some diabetic patients are in terrible situation where they need insulin medication but that very medication that doctors are encouraging people to take is causing weight gain."
"If they don't take it then their diabetes could get out of control and they could end up with renal failure, heart diseases, amputation or blindness."
Taupō doctor Glen Davies said Colins' comments were wrong and Government and public health officials needed to take responsibility and stop blaming patients.
"The message to eat less and move more has been dismally disappointing and it's actually resulted in the obesity and diabetes epidemic," Davies said.
"Patients battling obesity have a metabolic illness and are very unwell people and they need specific dietary interventions."
He said for many New Zealanders they had followed those public health guidelines and got fatter.
"That shows the guidelines were wrong, not the individuals.
"The key is we need to be eating the way that we did for the first 5.8 million years that humans were on the planet and not the last 40 years. "
He said we needed to go back to eating whole foods and avoiding sugar and highly processed foods.
"I would love to see a government looking at the sale of sugary drinks. The only party making any mention of that is the Green Party."
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern also waded in on the issue this afternoon, saying it appeared Collins was changing the direction on National's previous stance on obesity.
Ardern said she disagreed with the statement people should take personal responsibility for obesity rather than blame the system.
"Under the leadership of John Key and Bill English, they did take a science and evidence base to this issue. It is another area you can see this is not the same National Party it once was."
Former National MP Chester Borrows also spoke out, saying Collins' comments showed "a shallow understanding of the complexity of the issue" and that it was "really disappointing".
Borrows has spoken openly about his gastric bypass surgery, commonly known as stomach stapling, which he had in 2009. Before the operation, he weighed 150kg, and after he dropped to 100.
"I took responsibility but nevertheless it was a huge embarrassment to me that I'd got to 150kg and struggled to lose it."
"If you carrying 30kg of extra weight and you are trying to run down the street and get all sorts of gestures and sneers and giggles which mean that chances are you are probably not going to go out and do it tomorrow and you might instead seek some comfort in a meat pie."
He said there was actions the Government could take to tackle the problem.
"We tax tobacco and alcohol for a reason and that is because it's got a big cost to society. So thinking that there should be some tax to account for the health implications for food that isn't good for us like surgery drinks is not completely off the wall and neither is regulating where you make it available."
This morning Collins told MediaWorks that tackling obesity was a case of eating healthy fresh food and exercising.
"I've seen it in my own family," she said.
"People have taken charge of their food and strangely enough they've lost weight.
"Any decent GP will say it's not that complicated."
She added fresh fruit and vegetables were a significantly cheaper option than processed foods, adding a meal of home-cooked chicken and veges was a great value and healthy option for dinner.
Collins said she did not look at people and think "they're really fat".
It was a matter of speaking truthfully about the subject, she said.
"You can take charge of your life.
"It doesn't take much to get frozen veges in the freezer. It's not that hard."
Earlier when told that some had called her comments heartless, Collins said: "Do you know what is heartless? Is actually thinking someone else can cure these issues.
"We can all take personal responsibility and we all have to own up to our little weaknesses on these matters.
"Do not blame systems for personal choices."
"Come take a walk in my shoes."
That was Leitu Tufuga's first response after hearing the National Party's leader describe obesity as a weakness and urging New Zealanders not to "blame the system for personal choices."
Tufuga, a 38-year-old South Auckland woman, said in her neighbourhood healthy food options are limited and growing up to be overweight is almost a given.
"If you give a kid in my area $3 they will likely spend it on a pie and coke - they are hungry, desperate and poor."
Ten years ago Tufuga weighed 137kg, she had just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and was confronted with the reality that if she wanted to keep living, her fast-food lifestyle had to end.
Now 50kg lighter and committed to a healthy lifestyle, Tufuga said changing her eating habits was difficult because good, healthy food was harder to find in her neighbourhood.
"There are takeaway joints everywhere you look, and barely any fresh fruit and vege shops.
"Even in the supermarket there's loads of processed and calorie-rich food everywhere and it makes it harder to buy healthy."
She said saturating deprived areas with fatty-food outlets was killing children.
"I'm worried for the kids in my area and there needs to be a national plan in place to reduce the amount of fast food and unhealthy food in our communities, especially for children."
"When you look at low income vulnerable communities who are surrounded by health inequalities, how can you say it's their individual choice."