Kilograms have already been shed in Rotorua-based community collective Waka Whakamua's first health programme.

The collective has secured funding for its first health programme, targeting obesity in Māori people aged 24 to 44 years, and their whānau.

Group photo at Waka Whakamua health programme launch. Photo / Supplied
Group photo at Waka Whakamua health programme launch. Photo / Supplied

Te Puni Kōkiri is fully-funding 20 participants to engage in a healthy lifestyle through exercise, diet, and nutrition over 12 months, under a contract called Moving the Māori Nation, aimed at reducing Māori obesity.

Health programme participant Mathew Matthews. Photo / Supplied
Health programme participant Mathew Matthews. Photo / Supplied

A marketing drive is expected to start in early January to recruit participants.

Advertisement

Waka Whakamua hosted a small launch on Friday with providers including Belinda Bennett of The Wellness Hub, Rikihana Kingi of RK Nutrition, Steve Gardiner of Gold's Health and Fitness and Joshua Gardiner of No Limits Strength and Conditioning.

Hayley Richards and Moeroa Richards at the health programme launch. Photo / Supplied
Hayley Richards and Moeroa Richards at the health programme launch. Photo / Supplied

Ebony Maxwell, 35, has been one of the first to trial the programme and has already lost 10kg in her first three months.

The Rotorua mother of seven abused drugs to deal with the grief of her brother's suicide.

After she got clean two years ago, overeating became her next coping mechanism.

"I had my post-rehab things to keep me occupied but something was missing, I had no motivation to do anything, and so my substitute was eating."

Maxwell started studying beauty therapy, which left her little time to exercise.

"Money was tight for gym memberships and things like that."

She said she gained a lot of weight and the opportunity to join the Waka Whakamua health programme came at the "perfect time" at the end of her studies.

Advertisement

"The fact that it was fully funded, it was a dream come true."

Maxwell said the wrap-around approach had kept her on track.

"The nutritionist has been awesome because that's given me that education around the right foods to eat. Before I'd pretty much just fast and live on chicken and tuna, and so my weight was always fluctuating up and down."

She said she was now a better role model for her "tribe" of kids too.

"My sons are coming up now, they're in that adolescent stage where they come to us adults for guidance and if we aren't walking the talk then they're not going to listen to us."

One of Maxwell's sons got into a Bay of Plenty representative rugby team this year.

She said they jumped on the health and fitness waka together.

"He was saying to me 'oh Crossfit's easy' and so I said 'oh well you come along with me'.
He couldn't walk for three or four days after and he said to me 'Mum, I'm never going to make fun of your training ever again'."

Maxwell is on holiday in Rarotonga this week, to celebrate her new sense of hauora, health, and well-being, and finishing her studies.

Lakes DHB obesity figures for Rotorua
- Level of obesity in Māori aged 25-44 years is 13 per cent higher than non-Māori
- The two age ranges most at risk of obesity are 25-44 and 45-64
- Obesity rate is 36.7 per cent, 7.1 per cent higher than the national average