Three weeks and 13 kilograms later, actor and TV host Jay Laga'aia, 53, has emerged from the South African jungle a leaner — but not meaner — guy. The second celebrity to leave Ten's I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! talks about his weight loss revelations and next steps.
Q: In three weeks, you lost 13.1 kg, or 10 percent of your body weight. How much did you weigh going in the jungle and did you expect that?
A: You look at the background of the whole program itself and you know you're going to lose weight. They say it's 800 calories a day per person and after the way they cook, which is they cook the life out of it, I doubt very much if it's 800! You expected to lose some, but in three weeks to lose 13 kilos, for me, it's a huge shock. Coming to see the Doctor and Julia afterwards, I'm looking good, I'm feeling great and you walk across the bridge and you catch a glimpse of yourself in the monitor and you go, 'Holy, my God!' You forget the exterior stuff because you don't have a mirror in the camp.
Q: Surely others were losing weight, too?
A: Steve Price has lost so much weight. He looks like Frodo, like a little hobbit walking around going, 'My pants keep falling down!' Now I don't want to see the two moons of Endor, so pull them up!
Q: Of your own weight loss, did you think, wow, this is something I want to maintain?
A: I think once I got back to the lodge and went through the process of just playing with a flushing toilet for a while, and after charging my phone, sitting there for a half an hour going, 'I don't even remember what my code is,' I went in and had three showers with hot water and came out, and it was only then you had a glimpse of yourself and I was shocked. You lose so much weight, not only off your face but off your body. But the true indicator is when you put on clothes that you wore beforehand and it's really loose. It's almost like you stole somebody else's clothes. It's a pleasant surprise. I'm eating quietly. I'm not stuffing my face because I need my family to see me before anything else happens!
Q: You spoke of your responsibility as a father, specifically a Polynesian father, to set a model of health for your kids. How did this experience affect you?
A: The epiphany for me was when we won challenges and they'd send special treats to us, a cake or something, and I realised really quickly that I couldn't participate in it because that's how I rewarded my children. If they did something great or got a certificate or something, or they did well at a certain thing, or I was proud because I saw a performance of theirs, we'd go, 'Let's get something to eat,' instead of, 'let's go to the pools, I'm going to take you for a swim,' or 'let's go to the park.' That was the thing that I realised when I got out and they offered me a mango smoothie and m&m's, and the realisation dawned on me that you're also trying to reward me with food and as Polynesians, we do that all the time to our kids and we wonder why they're obese and why our old people have got Type II diabetes. You've to walk the walk sometimes and this program has allowed me to understand in order to be a mouthpiece, you've got to lead by example.
Q: Do you have new fitness or diet goals now?
A: I'm hoping to keep this girlish figure for a while!
Q: So what happened to your spare jar of contraband Nutella?
A: When I showed them the one I smuggled into camp quite happily, they said, 'Is it the fourth or the fifth week when you were going to eat it?' And I said, 'No, I got through three weeks without eating it.' The idea was simply I had this thing looking at me going, 'If you want to fall off the wagon, I'm here.' So the challenge was personal. Hence I brought it back out of the jungle once I was eliminated.
Q: Where is it now?
A: It is on my person at the moment. It's in my bag. I'm hoping to get a sponsorship and lead a happy and fat life!