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Sharing our success at the Non-Communicable Disease and Obesity Pacific Conference

Guest blog: Buck Stowers

I flew out to Hawaii to represent New Zealand in the pacific conference “IVLP” International Visitors Leadership Program which commenced in Hawaii at a Pacific Conference, themed Non Communicable Disease and Obesity.  I was on special invitation from Dr Thomas Novotny the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Health for the USA.  Dr Novotny told me he’d reviewed a variety of Obesity programmes across the States and in most countries in the world, where millions of dollars are invested yet none appear to have achieved what my small South Auckland gym has over the past 13 years. 

It appears most programmes only address symptoms of obesity – rather than the underlying issues of a persons wairua, spirit and emotional state – which has often in a state of brokenness. 

Traveling for a total of 14 days, we crossed numerous states; from Honolulu to Denver Colorado, on to South Dakota and Washington DC, to San Francisco and finally back to Honolulu – visiting a range of center’s including; Universities, Government departments, farms to table, Native Indian reservations and US agriculture departments.  We had the ear of key influential leaders including Nationalists, Head of State, representatives from the White House and Professors of Native American studies, Epidemiologists, Lakota Indians, Artists and Food industry entrepreneurs.  It was interesting to participate in a live dialogue with entrepreneurs discussing innovative ways they were able to supply more good food, that were high in nutritional value for people, than the current system.

Obesity – a societal issue:  We need to stop pointing fingers at the individual and look at the bigger picture:  The many Non communicable diseases, particularly Obesity related illness, in my opinion, is not only an issue from self-prescribed foods, but also food and lifestyles that appear to have had the ability to lead society astray, i.e. foods that had tricked us into believing they are ok choices – much of which are marketed to the public in this way.   However, the consequences of what we are consuming and obesity mortality related, but possibly more concerning are morbidity related – depleting our quality of life, resulting in premature death.   We need to look at the bigger picture.

Out of sight, out of mind:  The most astonishing thing I witnessed during the trip, was the devastation people had suffered from mental illness, homelessness, addictions and depression.  It appeared the devastation was from years of oppression.  Resulting in people believing in the judgements of others who are driven by ‘greed’ and a disapproving attitude towards equality for all.  When people believe in the judgements of others they can unknowingly pass these on through generations – creating a cycle which is hard to break.    

If I may, use the analogy of the growth of ‘moss’ – whereby the environment in which the moss lives and grows, often unnoticeably – breeds off unclean spaces surrounding it.  The moss, like people who are challenged with negative self-talk, ultimately effects our mental wellbeing, emotions and spirit.   What I witnessed, in every State I visited, was this obvious population of peoples – lost, broken, mentally and emotionally unwell, homelessness – literally living in boxes on the streets.  Huge numbers of people being cast out of neighborhoods and community’s because they were unsightly – like moss – casting them away, rather than helping, appeared not only common but an easier thing to.  I was flabbergasted with this out of sight, out of mind mentality!  

I felt a sense of shame that our people and I really mean OUR PEOPLE are homeless, hungry, suffer malnutrition, lost and emotionally distraught.  What has happened to these people that has made countries feel that a human being deserves less, what has happened to a country like America, that they (people) value status or money over human life!  Why do we appear to place more value on business/money, rather than a life of another?  

Lessons learned from my work in NZ: I felt compelled to share, not about the obvious i.e. calorie counting and exercise, or running a successful Gym business in NZ – but what drives me in relationship with others, community and society in that I believe Love, respect, compassion and service are the key to maintaining wellbeing and curing all illness and disease.   These are the core elements which underlie all of my life’s work of more than 3 decades in the fight against obesity.

During the tour I was able to share my firm beliefs summed up as “Love: Serve: Save”.

  • LOVE: more love in any relationship to create repair. Hate, loneliness and sadness cannot live in a relationship of love. 
  • SERVE: The more we serve people that need help and serve each other instead of ourselves the more we will see a change in society and the relationship between victim’s suppression and depression.
  • SAVE: Ironic that when you love and serve you SAVE your own lives and the lives of the people you love. 

Feeling blessed:  I honestly kiss the ground that we walk on in New Zealand.  It is a magnificent place that really changes the way things are done. I’m proud to have represented New Zealand and all that it stands for.  Sure we can do this better and we are working on it. 
I believe we don’t see the sadness that the rest of the world faces because we are open to make changes for human beings that need help.

It was an honour to be recruited by this USA initiative, to share my lessons learnt from my experiences of leading the many programmes which are not only getting obese people active and losing weight, but more importantly restoring their spirit and self worth. 

Buck lead a successful and innovative Le Va funded Suicide Prevention community project – Sau Loto programe – focusing on mental health and addiction issues which have resulted in and from obesity. 


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From time to time general news is published within Le Va

Covid-19 Update

Face-to-face workshops will not continue while New Zealand is at Level 4. We will be in contact with all participants soon.