How coming out to his family saved a Kiwi man's life

Thomas Teneti was eating to kill himself until sharing his secret allowed him to create an entire new outlook.
Thomas Teneti was eating to kill himself until sharing his secret allowed him to create an entire new outlook. Photo credit: Thomas Teneti / Supplied.

Lifting the lid on a 30-year secret didn't just shake weight off Thomas Teneti's shoulders - the decision saved his life.

Terrified of how his loved ones would react if he revealed that he was gay, the easier option, he believed, was by eating himself to death.

"I didn't want to share it or 'come out of the closet' as they say, so for me the thing to do was suicide," Mr Teneti says.

"I didn't want to use a gun or a rope, for me, the next best option was food. I was eating myself to the grave to stop this heart from beating." 

With a calorie intake between 4000-6000 a day, which Mr Teneti admits "could have been even more", he was set on a destructive path to end his life - a routine which would restart each day.

For breakfast, eight slices of bread were turned into four peanut butter sandwiches knocked back with a cup of rich coffee.

The 44-year-old, from Tikitiki in Gisborne, recalls pouring the sugar straight into his mug from the container the sugar was kept in. He cringes to think how it would come up to about halfway before adding a spoon of coffee and hot water.

To date Thomas has lost 152kg - more than half his body weight - and has a goal to lose another 50kg.
To date Thomas has lost 152kg - more than half his body weight - and has a goal to lose another 50kg. Photo credit: Thomas Teneti / Supplied.

"They say butter your bread, I would do the opposite, I bread my butter, the butter or peanut butter was just about as thick as what the slices were."

He couldn't help but laugh while reminiscing how a whole jar would last just two or three days.

Mr Teneti would often skip lunch but on a bad day found himself eating anything from a family pack KFC bucket to a feast from McDonald's.

He would wait until after work at midnight to eat dinner but would purchase two 2.5L bottles of coke on the way home. Then he would pick up two Big Macs and a McChicken burger before driving to a car park to eat it all while drinking some of the coke.

At home, there would be a plate on the bench waiting for him prepared by his nephew who Mr Teneti has cared for since his birth as a child of his own. But it wasn't enough.

He would have another four or six slices of bread and finish off the coke, explaining: "I packed it away."

Mr Teneti now has a reason to smile again having found his body is functioning much better than it was when he was last 150kg because of all the proteins and rich vegetables he is eating.
Mr Teneti now has a reason to smile again having found his body is functioning much better than it was when he was last 150kg because of all the proteins and rich vegetables he is eating. Photo credit: Thomas Teneti / Supplied.

Thomas had completely given up on himself, building a story in his head that his family would disown him and the world would turn on him if he revealed his true self.

"That story that I had built in my head made me want to go to the grave with my secret."

He grew frustrated that he couldn't be "the Thomas that he wanted to be" and live the life he wanted.

Unable to take the pressure no longer, one day he told his nephew that he was gay and was living in fear of being alienated.

The 22-year-old's response was heartfelt: "That is no reason to give up living, we can't change what people accept".

This acceptance triggered something within Mr Teneti to put aside his fears. It also prompted a new outlook on life. He realised that people could understand him for who he really was and there was no reason to give up.

It was from that day on he wanted to change. Slowly he told more family members, including his father - a church man - who has grown to accept Mr Teneti for who he is.

Mr Teneti is extremely grateful to his nephew who he thanks for getting him started on his weight loss path after being so accepting of his revelation that his is gay.
Mr Teneti is extremely grateful to his nephew who he thanks for getting him started on his weight loss path after being so accepting of his revelation that his is gay. Photo credit: Thomas Teneti / Supplied.

"I realised the story in my head was bullshit. They were going to love me no matter what."

Mr Teneti joined a weight loss program called Putting Health At The Top (PHATT) program where he receives ongoing support. He has lost more than half of the body weight he started with, shedding 152kg in 12 months. 

In stage one of the diet, he traded his bread-heavy breakfasts for an omlette made with six eggs with mushroom, capsicum, spinach and tomato. 

Now in stage two, with another 50kg to lose, he will eat chicken in the mornings and have a salad for lunch. Dinner will be chicken with a selection of vegetables. 

He has completely given up red meat, occasionaly swapping in salmon for variety. 

He says the support and love received from everyone on the program's support page, a group of more than 200,000 - is mind blowing. 

Mr Teneti is speaking out because he believes if he can transform his life, anyone can.
Mr Teneti is speaking out because he believes if he can transform his life, anyone can. Photo credit: Thomas Teneti / Supplied.

"People just want to help and makes me have faith in humanity again."

Today Mr Teneti reflects on the bad eating and constant self-doubting, realising he wasted time not putting his real needs first.

It's what is driving him to speak out, to not only hope those that are struggling with weight loss but also anyone struggling to see things will get better.

Currently Mr Teneti is in Perth awaiting the results of a scan to find out if he is ready to have skin removal surgery.

A GoFundMe was set up by a good friend of his who is hoping for others to support him as he takes his next step towards a healthier existence.

Thomas' mental health has never been better his mind having transformed to a more positive outlook with a goal to living a "happier life".

"There's nothing that can hold me back anymore."

Newshub.

 

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