Digging up a healthy lifestyle

00:30, Feb 25 2013
Iosefa Leo
Homegrown: Samoan couple Velonika Vele, left, and Iosefa Leo are enjoying the health benefits of eating more vegetables after starting the Marlborough Primary Health Organisation’s ‘Back Yard Garden’ programme.

The health benefits of having your own vegetable garden are stacking up for Samoan man Iosefa Leo.

He has dropped two shirt sizes and can see his toes again when he stands up.

But, most importantly, Mr Leo can give his partner a proper hug, he said.

"Now when we hug, we are actually close."

Mr Leo started the Marlborough Primary Health Organisation's Pacific "Back Yard Garden" programme about 15 months ago.

His vegetable patch has tomatoes, cabbage, corn, pak choi, lettuce, potatoes and silverbeet.


"Anytime you need something, you just hop outside and it's fresh," Mr Leo said.

"I used to walk outside and would puff a lot. Even getting up was hard for me. Now I feel healthy and I'm a lot happier."

Mr Leo had never taken his health seriously before starting the programme, he said. "My partner was always telling me to eat better but I didn't listen. It was advice from others that made me think, ‘If I want to live longer I have to do it'. I was a fat guy and used to wear clothes that were 6X. I'm down to 4X."

The "Back Yard Garden" programme had completely changed Mr Leo's eating habits, he said.

"I used to eat six or seven times a day but now we just eat breakfast, lunch and a light meal in the evening."

Having the support of his partner, Velonika Vele, who had started eating healthily as well, really helped, Mr Leo said.

Ms Vele said their vegetable garden also saved them money at the supermarket.

Marlborough Primary Health Organisation Pacific Fanau advocate Lasike Kula said the "Back Yard Garden" programme was a good way for them to meet Pacific families.

The Marlborough Express