From tipping the scales at 119.7kg at age 16, to featuring on Campbell Live at 80kg and becoming Oamaru “Hottie of the Day”, Blake van Rooy never expected his personal weight-loss journey to raise such interest.
In the Christmas holidays of 2011, the 17-year-old Waitaki Boys’ High School student sold his Playstation console and used the money to buy a membership for the Waitaki Rec Centre – a life-changing journey that saw him shed 40kg of excess body fat in just a year and a-half.
Earlier in the month, his weight-loss journey caught the attention of Campbell Live and after screening on TV3, he’s had an overwhelming response.
“All the support that I’ve got, even as it was on TV people were on Facebook saying ‘you’re amazing’, even random people, I got about 20 friend requests,” he said.
“I was like ‘really, people care?’ I didn’t think people would really care because I’m just doing my thing and when people are interested it’s quite nice to hear that they want to know why you did it, how you did it, it’s quite cool.”
After national media exposure, he’s been contacted by strangers across the country and as far away as Ireland, congratulating him on his success and asking for advice.
“I’ve had people asking for help, for them, for their son and I’ve got about six or seven of them on wee programmes, nothing crazy at the moment, but something to start them off,” he said.
“It’s quite weird when people ask you for advice, this time last year I was that guy asking for advice… Its scary, but in a cool way.”
He said his life had done a complete 180.
“[Before] all I thought about was Playstation, but now there’s important things on my mind, things that actually matter, like my future and my school work,” he said.
“I was a freak on [the Playstation], there was one game I was ranked 91st in the world and at the time when you’re playing you think ‘yeah, bragging rights, I’m going to get the girls with that one’, but it got to the point where I weighed myself and I was 119.7kg and I’d just turned 16 and it’s not a very nice thing, even if you’re 30 that’s a pretty hefty weight.”
He can’t remember the exact moment when he realised he needed to change his lifestyle, but he does remember selling his Playstation for way too cheap.
“I went and bought some running shoes – just some cheap ones from the Warehouse because I didn’t think I’d last.”
Looking back, he says he had no idea what he was getting himself into.
“I was under the impression, like a lot of people, that I would go to the gym and lose 20kg in a week, and in a month I’d be in perfect condition, but it doesn’t work like that,” he said.
“Once you start seeing results it starts becoming an addiction. At the start, it’s just harder to see.”
After the first year, he knew he was making good progress, but it wasn’t until other people started commenting that it really kicked in.
“When people say ‘oh, you’re looking good’ you’re like really? This is working? And you push harder and the gym and watch what you eat that bit more and it helps to keep you committed.”
When he started he knew nothing about it, he’d never taken PE at Waitaki Boys’ High School and he was conveniently “sick” when athletics and cross country days came around.
“I was that stereotypical playstation person, I had no clue, I didn’t even know how to read nutrition labels,” he said.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, as he tore his rotator cuff and was out of action for four months and struggled to keep motivated.
This year, he realised that personal training was something he’d like to pursue after graduation from high school.
“If I did want to get a personal trainer I’d worry more about their experience, than what they have on paper. If they’ve been through it they know what I’m going through,” he said.
Starting to look better, feel more confident, know more about nutrition and exercise and enjoying helping others who had been inspired by his weight-loss, he’s applied for Otago University’s PE School.
“I just love the feeling of helping other people, so I thought if I could do that as a job, that’d be cool,” he said.
“It just feels so good to see other people lose it. You can’t really explain it – just do it. It feels so good while you’re doing it and when you’re finished.”
As well as the physical changes, he’s feeling “crazy” good on the inside.
Once on blood pressure pills, with a blood pressure of 180/80, his most recent visit to the doctor showed his level is now perfectly normal – and that’s the most important change.
His friends, family and strangers have contributed to making his success go viral, even the nation Subway Facebook Page shared a photo of him with a blurb about his journey. It attracted more than 700 likes and was shared by people around the country.
But probably the most entertaining social media shout out was on the newly-formed “Oamaru Hottie of the Day” Facebook Page.
“I’m still trying to find out who did that,” he said.
“The boys will not let me live that down – that and being approached by Women’s Day for a story – but it’s pretty funny and the comments from people, some who I’ve never met, that’s what keeps ya going.”
He’s just so grateful for all of the support, and expressed a massive thank you to friends and family.
“Thank you every one, the whole town has been supportive, just for being Oamaru,” he said.
“Everyone’s wee comments here and there, I couldn’t have done it without them.”