'I'm a whole new man': Philip Tele'a on his 136kg weight loss journey

'Do it or die' was the message Philip Tele'a was told after his obesity landed him in hospital.

The Aucklander has now lost half his body weight, and is inspiring others to do the same. 

In 2016 Tele'a was clinically obese at 295kg, and despite only being 30 was suffering serious health consequences as a result. He'd once been a bouncer who played gridiron, but an injury set him on an unhealthy course. 

He developed unhealthy food habits, and turned to bakeries, takeaways and drive-thrus for comfort after losing his mother, father and brother. 

"Every time I ate I would make myself feel good and I would just carry on," he told the AM Show.

Tele'a was ashamed of the way he looked, avoiding going out in public and making up excuses to skip family events.

"When I drove to the gas station I used to wait until there was hardly anyone around and then I'd hop out of the car."

Hospital visits became routine until one doctor eventually gave him the hard word. 

"'If you're not going to change, the next time I see you will be in the morgue'. That really hit me and I knew I had to do something."

It was the wake-up call he needed. He signed up to a free bootcamp run by Dave Letele, known as the 'Brown Buttabean'. Regular training helped to improve his heart health, but Tele'a says the biggest change came from a better diet. 

"Now it's just clean protein, lots of greens, whole foods. Cut out any processed carbs."

He now weighs 159kg - a stunning loss of 136kg - and has set a goal weight of 110 to 120kg. He says the key to success is remembering why you want to get healthy. 

"My 'why' was my life," he says. "I wanted to carry on living my life, and the way I was, I was actually waiting to die."

He now helps to train others at his gym, and credits Letele for helping him to turn his life around.

"I'm blessed to have him as my mentor, he's real and he's genuine."

Tele'a says he's seen enormous mental improvement as well as physical. 

"I feel like I'm a whole new man. I feel good about myself. Life's just good right now."