Break­ing bar­ri­ers to a new way of life

Eu­gene Peni lost 62kg and now wants to use his ex­pe­ri­ence to help oth­ers get healthy. He shares his story with chief re­porter Joe Daw­son.

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE -

EU­GENE Peni has al­ways had an ac­tive life­style but he once tipped the scales at 162kg.

He says it was a com­bi­na­tion of poor diet and a lack of knowl­edge about how to live healthily that did it.

Now his weight has dropped to 100kg and a lot of the people who once doubted he’d ever trim down are com­ing to him for ad­vice.

He is happy to help and is work­ing to­wards a di­ploma in sport fit­ness at Unitec so that he can do it pro­fes­sion­ally.

It is a big change for a man who had never thought a ca­reer in sports or phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity was pos­si­ble.

Things turned around when he dis­cov­ered the Vil­lage Sports Academy founded by All Black leg­end Michael Jones.

A friend who tu­tored at the academy chal­lenged him to join.

‘‘That’s a sports lead­er­ship academy and you don’t re­ally ex­pect a big guy like I was to go into some­thing like that,’’ he says. ‘‘ From there it was all about break­ing a lot of bar­ri­ers. Ev­ery per­son there was ath­letic and fit and I was an obese per­son and didn’t think I should be in an en­vi­ron­ment like that.’’

Peni over­came his in­se­cu­ri­ties and knuck­led down with the sup­port and en­cour­age­ment of his class­mates and tu­tor.

It was not easy, es­pe­cially the phys­i­cal side of things, but he soon found his rhythm.

‘‘For the first few months it was re­ally hard, the phys­i­cal stuff was a mas­sive chal­lenge and I was al­ways last or at the back.

‘‘But mid­way through

is when a lot of things changed for me.’’

A low-carb diet that ruled out bread, rice and pota­toes helped the weight fall off.

‘‘I pretty much changed the whole life­style.

‘‘Pre­vi­ously me in a gym would never hap­pen, and the first time was re­ally in­tim­i­dat­ing be­cause as a re­ally big per­son you think ev­ery­one is watch­ing you and you think ‘ what am I do­ing here, I should just go back out­side’.

‘‘It wasn’t un­til af­ter I lost the weight that I re­alised the people who were star­ing at me weren’t look­ing at me like I shouldn’t be there, but more like it was in­spir­ing and ‘ good on you’.’’

From there he re­alised he was ‘‘pretty good at los­ing weight’’ and the idea of mak­ing a ca­reer out of help­ing oth­ers in the same sit­u­a­tion be­came a re­al­ity.

‘‘My ul­ti­mate goal is to own my own gym and help people like I’ve been helped, but I’m a be­liever in need­ing smaller goals to reach that one so for now it’s study and maybe per­sonal train­ing.

‘‘But now I don’t think so many things are im­pos­si­ble like I used to.’’

Vil­lage Sports Academy chair­man Michael Jones says the course is de­signed to use sport to hook people into fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion.

‘‘En­gag­ing young Maori and Pa­cific youth is an im­por­tant part of the pro­gramme, but the course is re­ally for ev­ery­one,’’ he says.

New look: Eu­gene Peni now wants to help oth­ers lose weight.

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