Derek Kawakami paddleboarding

Derek Kawakami paddleboarding. Photo courtesy of Derek Kawakami

Representative Derek Kawakami Works out!

“Food is my passion,” says Rep. Derek Kawakami (D-HI 14th District). “Food — and workouts.”

Slim and trim at 5 feet, 11 inches and weighing in at about 195 to 200 lb. — his college weight — Kawakami is into stand-up paddling and works out when he’s at home in Kapa`a, lifting a kettle bell, pounding a sledgehammer into a tractor tire and rolling and flipping the gargantuan tire around his yard. He also does typical gym-style exercises.

The young Representative is the picture of health as he dashes about Honolulu five days a week while the House is in session. He’s attending State House of Representative committee assignments, representing the 14thDistrict. Essentially it’s the North and East Kauai — Hanalei, Kilauea, Anahola, Kapa`a and Waipouli.

Rep. Kawakami with sledge hammer

Using a sledge hammer to pound a tractor tire. Photo by Anne E. O'Malley

It’s been his role since Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed him in April 2011 to replace Hermina Morita as she advanced to the chair of the Public Utilities Commission. Prior to that, he served on the Kaua`i County Council and the Board of Directors of KIUC.

“My whole life, I was athletic,” he says. “I played football and soccer and was always involved in sports, always body boarding, always in shape.

“Then came marriage and kids, an office job, sitting down, eating unhealthy and late at night and feeling stress. It all contributed to my getting out of shape.”

He says he’d lost the balance in his life.

Kawakami’s support system and his campaign manager, Brad Chiba, urged him to get into shape.

Says Kawakami, “Cheebs sat me down and we had a heart to heart. He was willing to run my campaign, but he wasn’t willing to let politics, stress, and unhealthy living run me into the ground. He’s the best friend a guy could ask for — the best campaign manager, too.

“I just changed everything. I wanted to be able to run around with my kids.  I wanted to be around for my wife”

Kawakami’s wife, Monica, stepped up and the pair started a weight loss regimen.

For starters, Monica cleaned out the cupboards, replacing foods that were high in fat and calories with more nutritional choices. She pored over diet books and keyed in on balance and common sense. They could eat what they wanted in the mornings, burning it off during the day.

Derek says, “I try to be smart about the choices I make as far as what goes in my body, but you’ve got to live life, too.

“I cheat every day, according to my wife — I go crazy sometimes.  But it’s not about completely cutting out all the things that you love, it’s about balance.”

Monica is constantly on his case, asking him what he’s eaten for lunch, dinner and snacks. He says when he’s on `Oahu, she’ll google the restaurant where he plans to eat and tell him, “OK, eat this,” selecting something healthy from the menu.

“I’ve got an angel on my shoulder,” he says, talking about Monica. “I’m thankful for that. If I didn’t have her to be my conscience, I probably wouldn’t be as healthy as I am now. We’re a team, and she’s constantly keeping me in check.”

On O`ahu, he works out and jogs. A group of legislators have gotten together with the lofty goal of emerging from Session in May healthier than when they convened in January.

“We walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator; we schedule workouts when we have breaks; and we are very fortunate to have two-time WBA World Champion Boxer Ben Villaflor donating his time to teach us the art of boxing — it’s the longest three-minutes I have ever experienced.”

On Kaua`i, he joins in fun runs whenever possible. He’s done the Captain Cook Caper, Ha`ena to Hanalei, Max Agor Memorial Run, Kaua`i Half-Marathon, Koloa S