How one man lost 170kg: 'Where the mind goes, the body will follow'

Dramatic change: Werner Burgin has lost 170kg through the Big Boys/Big Girls programme at Genetics Gym.
Samantha Smith

Dramatic change: Werner Burgin has lost 170kg through the Big Boys/Big Girls programme at Genetics Gym.

When Werner Burgin was handed a weight-loss testimony booklet, he initially ignored it. 

The Papatoetoe man, who weighed 272 kilograms, saw nothing wrong with his life.

But after listening to what others had to say, he got thinking. 

"Here are two people who know me as a co-worker [who] were that worried for my life they broached a really hard-to-raise subject," he says. 

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Based on that alone, Burgin decided that it was time to look at the testimonial booklet that Genetics Gym owner Buck Stowers had provided.

Werner Burgin tipped the scales at 272kg before he decided it was time to lose weight.

Werner Burgin tipped the scales at 272kg before he decided it was time to lose weight.

He says the people's experiences struck home with him because what they had gone through was a mirror image of his life.

"I got thinking and the fact that the way I was going I would be forcing my mother to bury another son before herself and that is something I didn't want her to go through.  

"I realised I was regarded well and worth something to people other than my family, I started to really look at my life and decided to make a change for me."

Almost four years later, Burgin has lost 170 kilograms through diet, exercise and the support of the Big Boys/Big Girls programme and has managed to keep it off. 

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After Burgins first Big Boys class, Buck Stowers gave the tip for the day.

"Buck said 'where the mind goes the body will follow'. Eight small words that have become the cornerstone of my desire to make a change in my life."

Burgin says along the journey there is good days and bad days but don't give up as long as in the long run you are trending down then use that as the motivation to figure out where you went wrong and adjust your thinking and actions to get the results you want.

"Other than keeping myself alive for my mother the biggest motivation was I had gotten my own mind to the place where this wasn't for everyone else this was for me and I was not going to let myself down like I had many times in the past," he says. 

"Both my trainer Darron Steele and Buck are the kind of human beings I try to be, they have given me a new life and the chance to experience life instead of existing."


The Big Girls and Big Boys is a weight loss and fitness programme and is accessible to people Auckland wide on a doctor's referral from health provider ProCare.

The referrals are for 12 weeks and clients can repeat the programme four times.

Burgin says the Big Boys One group have become a second family.

"Its a bunch of people going through the same thing I was going through that didn't know me from a bar of soap but took me into the group and made me feel at home and comfortable to be trying to exercise while being as big as some small cars."

He says he knows it's hard but if you really want to make a change then don't be afraid to try.

"There are people out there that will see you for the real you and do their utmost to help you reach goal you think are not attainable.

"The single biggest thing is to remember that it took a long time to put the weight on and it will also take a long time to take it off.  My journey has taken three years and now I am on the longest part of the journey, keeping it off and enjoying the rest of my life,"

Go to for more information on the programme and how to get a referral. 

 - Stuff


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