food and the modern seb, part four: supersize, me?

Prior posts – part one, part two, part three

1990 – At DC’s nightclub.

At age 19 I had my first relationship. It only lasted 11 months but the way it ended effected me for years afterwards.  Shocking to say but I’ve discovered that if you don’t value yourself you end up making some pretty bad relationship choices. I know, right? – bringing the revelations since 2010. 

It turned out that my first boyfriend – this seemingly kind, smart and handsome 27 year old I’d all but moved in with was an escort. He’d met me through friends, fallen for me and decided to get a legitimate job and ‘go straight’ as it were.

Three months in he’d started seeing clients again but kept this, as well as a return to amphetamine abuse hidden from me.

After eleven months he became so worried about me finding out he ended the relationship – waking me up at two in the morning by burning me with a lighter. He then screamed at me to get dressed, pulled me downstairs and threw me out of his house.

He didn’t speak to me again and a month later a friend of his told me about the escort work and drug use. He said my ex had decided that making me hate him was the easiest way to get me away from ‘the situation’ without hurting me. He did this because he loved me.

Now you see why I crossed out ‘smart’ in the preceding paragraph.

I was already heartbroken and blaming myself for the breakup and this news pushed me over the edge. That night I had a complete meltdown and ended up walking the streets, alternating between fits of crying and furiously hitting myself.

I ended up on the front porch of a friend’s house and the poor guy opened his door to find me standing there hyperventilating,with red welts all over my face and arms, unable to speak.  He put me in his bedroom but he couldn’t calm me down and eventually had to call another friend to come and get me.

While this is not the most flattering of incidents (I should delete my online dating profiles now, yeah?) it highlights the mindset of someone who receives abuse to the point where their self esteem is all but destroyed so I believe it’s important to share. Validation from others feels so amazing when you don’t like yourself and it’s so gut wrenchingly painful when it’s taken away.

When you’ve spent your formative years being beaten up and called disgusting names it’s frightening how adept you become at carrying on the tradition as an adult, in your own head.

If so many people acted that way toward me there I knew there had to be a reason, and in my mind that reason was plain and simple. Me.

Teachers used to ask me that all the time. If I was found with the shit kicked out of me in the boys toilets –  “Well, you must have done something to deserve it – what did you do to them?”

Over the next year my hatred of myself became stronger and my bulimia got worse. I was eating and purging several times on most days and it started to show. Already thin, I dropped more weight and felt tired all the time. I wasn’t happy with anything in my life and would cry over the smallest things.

I was never skeletally thin but there was a period where my head looked too large for my body and lack of nutrition was beginning to effect my hair, skin and nails. My obsession with the way I looked and my weight had created so much more for me to find fault with.

Bulimia taking it’s toll – smiling with my friend Justin in 1991 but looking incredibly unwell.

There were times that I would get dressed to go out when I looked in the mirror I’d become furious with how ugly I was and tear apart or cut my clothes – often something I’d bought that day – and throw them across the room in a rage before dissolving into sobs on the floor.

I always felt I looked disgusting. I had a picture in my mind of how I wanted to look and the mirror always showed me a revolting, fat freak.

I met my second partner around this time. He was the first person I’d ever spoken to about my problems with eating and he was an incredible listener.

The relief of not constantly trying to hide my problems went a long way toward me starting to get better.  With his support and a year’s work with a psychologist I was only purging once a month.

The key was to use my obsession with my supposed ugliness. My fear of losing more hair and destroying my teeth eventually won out over the need to vomit the food back up.

Still too thin in 1991 but getting some much needed help.

Talking about my past helped but we weren’t able to get to the root of my self esteem issues and I was still completely addicted to food. Around the same time I stopped working in clubs and money became very tight for a few months.

I had to stop seeing the psych but it didn’t seem like we were making progress at the time so I wasn’t too worried. My concerns were now all financial.

After rent and bills were paid there was usually $30 left over to feed two people for a week – and one of us was a food addict. It was awful. I sold off some of my belongings and he used to go to his parent’s house and take food from their pantry.

After a while our phone was cut off and things got so bad one week we ran out of food, soap, toilet paper and toothpaste. We ended up having to use old newspaper and showered twice a day. I drank litre after litre of water to try and keep my stomach full.

The whole time both of us were too proud (read: stupid) to ask anyone for help.

We sometimes could only afford to have one meal in a day and I wasn’t coping mentally. I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t sleep properly and I felt physically uncomfortable  constantly – a feeling of dread and panic filled the pit of my stomach and didn’t budge.

Taking away my ability to binge eat didn’t cure me of the disease, it made the need stronger than ever. It’s very similar to being in ‘fight or flight’ mode, but there’s nowhere you can run and nothing to fight. I thought about killing myself most days.

When I found full time work in a cafe later that year we were allowed staff meals. The owners charged us $4.00 for anything on the menu and I ate myself sick every shift on the large portions as well as the leftovers from patron’s plates. I’d cut away the part they’d been eating from and gorge on the rest.

My body, deprived of caloric intake for months began to store fat and my weight ballooned.

These photos were taken five months apart. By this time I’d stopped purging and was putting weight back on, there’s about 10kg difference here.


I remember the service station near us opening up for 24 hour trading and night after night standing at the counter at 3am in a daze, holding packets of crisps, chocolate bars and a tub of ice cream. I hadn’t wanted to walk there but I had.

I could hear my own voice in my head screaming at me ‘SOMEONE FUCKING HELP ME. I DON’T WANT THIS. I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS’ as I smiled at the attendant and handed over money I’d earmarked for our electricity bill. I did this night after night as part of my routine. As soon as I’d eaten it all I’d promise myself I’d stop. But I couldn’t.

The deli at the end of my street knew my order as soon as I’d walked in. I worked nights at the cafe, so woke up at 11.30am and went straight there for a large chips, choc milk, a bag of Burger Rings and a large fried rice. This was breakfast every day.

At 2:30pm I’d leave the house and start the half hour walk to work. I’d buy another ice cream or packet of chips from the deli (no doubt they retired early based on how much I spent with them) and eat as I made my way up the hill. I’d stop at the next deli and do the same, finishing the ‘snack’ just before I walked in.

On my first break I’d try and find an orphaned slice of cake (the last slice in every display was seldom bought because it ended up looking dry and a bit sorry for itself) and then at dinner I’d have two large toasted foccaccias loaded with cured meats, sun dried tomatoes and cheese with a giant milkshake.

By this time I’d been promoted to shift supervisor and the owner allowed us to have anything we wanted as long as it was recorded – I can only think that he assumed my partner was coming in to eat with me because he never questioned the amount of food I wrote down and it was a lot.

After my shift there would be another half hour walk home, then a trip to the service station to complete the day’s ritual before beginning it all again the next day.

On my days off I would go into the city and go to two separate food halls, gorging on huge combination plates of Chinese and Thai food.

Once my weight hit around 100kg/220lb (I was 78kg/171lb at my thinnest) I stayed at that weight for  a couple of years, the amount of walking I did daily thankfully stopped further gain and kept my health in check.

My cholesterol and blood pressure were normal and I didn’t get short of breath walking long distances. Physically I was overweight but doing okay. Mentally I was slipping into a deep depression and  agoraphobia really started to take hold.

I stopped wanting to go outside except for work or to get food and I’d hide if someone knocked on the door.

My partner had long given up on trying to talk to me about my eating – it only lead to arguments and I’d storm out of the house because it was just too confronting.

Eventually the toll of watching me channel my depression and self hatred into slowly destroying myself with food got too much for him and after four years he finally left.

At this point, people reading this will either know exactly what I mean or will be thinking there’s no such thing as a food addiction. I can completely understand this viewpoint, after all – surely we’re in control of what we put into our bodies? It’s a conscious thing. I wonder why some of us lack this control – be it psychological or a physiological disposition to an eating disorder. Unfortunately I have yet to find the answer myself.

Another question that comes up a lot- If you feel hungry all the time, why not just eat more but choose healthier foods?  I met a man a few years ago with a terrible binge eating disorder that managed to force himself onto binging on fruit and vegetables.  It didn’t help. He was still destroying his body. Sure he was thin, but he had an eating disorder. The food a person binges on is only a tiny component of the disease.

The feeling – for me at least – of trying not to binge on particular foods is like trying to hold your breath until you pass out.  Your body will fight and fight and fight and you have to exhale. Doing that brings immediate relief to all the pressure. An eating disorder does this but the fight is in your head.

Next: food and the modern seb, part five: exercise to exorcise.



food and the modern seb, part three: modelling should help, right?

In previous posts I’ve discussed my relationship with food as a boy and in my early teens. I stopped binging on food when I left school and things were ‘normal’ for a while. I rarely thought about food and was just your average teenager with a penchant for disco.

At 16 I got my first full-time job, bringing home a staggering $140 a week. Would I be a philanthropist with my newfound millions? Perhaps, but I had houses and boats to purchase first and I knew that if I worked hard and saved every cent I could, I’d be able to afford a 1972 poo brown Torana and part ownership in an outdoor toilet by the time I’d retired at 95. I was nothing if not ambitious.

I worked in a record store (dream job) under the management of a woman called Perri (dream shattered) who on my first day refused to speak to me because she only liked working with girls. She left it up to the other staff to tell me that she didn’t want me there and she’d told the boss it was her or me. Thanks for the welcome.  That first day was the nicest time I had working there, because she turned out to be incredibly vindictive and became almost pathological in her hatred of me.

I’m pretty sure she lived on a staple diet of live rats, lemons and barbed wire to help maintain her level of nastiness. She worked out very early on that I was easily rattled and took great delight in pointing out to the other staff how stupid and clumsy I was.

So…. I told her to fuck off and walked out of there with my head held high. I lodged a workplace harassment complaint and successfully took her to court. She was fired and I received thousands of dollars in compensation which I used to record a duet with Dannii Minogue. It went to number one in several european countries and I still live off the residuals today.

Well, that was the fantasy at least.

No, instead of complaining I put up with it and when it was time for lunch I ate like I was about to go into hibernation. I’d start at the cafe opposite the store and get a large chips and a hot ham and swiss cheese roll with mayonnaise. Then I’d go to the food hall around the corner and buy a coke and a large Chinese combination. I had an hour, so there was plenty of time to scoff it all down and I always ate as if there were bonus points for not chewing. Don’t be too grossed out though, I always used a napkin. I’m classy, me.

Why did I do this? No idea. It was a compulsion. With apologies to Nike, I just did it. And when I moved out of home it got worse. I got another job at another record store where the staff were great to work with (I left Perri a badge that said ‘I’m a fucking bitch’ and a card that told her to wear it with pride) and I continued with my lunchtime binges, always one lunch followed by another but by now I was doing the same with breakfast and dinner too.

1989: New job in at the coolest record store in town.

It was around this time, in the staff toilet at the top of the building that I tried purging for the first time. Someone I worked with mentioned that they’d been so drunk on the weekend they’d had to make themselves throw up (how very rock and roll, right?). I asked how someone makes themselves be sick and they told me.

Being the perfectionist that I am, I mastered the art of un-eating in a matter of days and thus a bulimic was born. It wasn’t a weight thing for me to begin with. I just wanted to stop feeling like I was about to pass out because of the all-you-can-eat-and-then-some-that-you-shouldn’t-and-come-on-you-should-stop-now-you’ll-do-yourself-an-injury sessions I was having. The craving for food was constant, confusing and uncomfortable. Fear of not having food caused me to spiral into a panic.  I’ve described it before as having ants swarming over your brain and you not being able to get to them because of your skull.

Food always stopped that feeling but I needed to eat a hell of a lot and the relief was always short lived. Half an hour later I would feel physically sick, guilty and completely disgusted with myself. Every binge was followed with promises to myself that I would stop.

The danger for me was that I discovered purging was followed by a frighteningly dangerous reset of my feelings.

After I’d emptied the contents of my stomach I felt as if I’d suddenly regained control of myself.  Peaceful. Cleansed. Unbroken. My mind was quiet and it was if the binge had never occurred. I had clarity of mind. The trap of bulimia.

I started going to clubs four nights a week and danced for hours on end. I eventually got work as a podium dancer in a gay club (stop laughing!)  and the intensity of the sets – these were the rave days where we flung ourselves around like windmills – meant that my body didn’t succumb to the bloating so many bulimics suffer from.

I was in the best shape of my life, but I hated my looks and was convinced that I was hideously ugly. I’d frequently spit in the face of my reflection in the mirror at home and had fits of rage where I’d punch the sides of my head over and over, furious at how disgusting and fucked up I was.

1990: About to go and bounce about on a podium to techno for $25 an hour. Don’t mention the pants. We never talk about the pants.

I’m ashamed to say that I still occasionally have these moments of violent self hatred. It’s deeply rooted and connected to thoughts about myself I developed the around the time I became bulimic. It’s very rare that it will occur but it’s still there, all these years later. Yay, bulimia.

I met a woman in one of the clubs that owned a model/casting agency I did some work for a couple of designers in fashion shows and some magazines. She also got me gigs as a backup dancer for club acts and a truly shameful two gig career as a rapper in a truly awful house music act called ‘Lurex Groove’ – fronted by a lesbian singer who later became a hooker.

1991: Hipster Seb doing blue steel before it was invented.

I got fired from my day job because I was always turning up late, looking like a zombie but I was getting plenty of club work. Of course purging had never been so important and I found new levels of obsession with my body. Sure, I ended up with some cool stories and there were some short lived boosts to my ego but I used it as a justification for my eating disorder. This ended up damaging my mental health further and created the first seeds of the agoraphobia that dictates so much of my existence today.

1991: “You’re trapped behind a weird membrane, you’re wearing a disco shirt and have an over-gelled caesar cut. Now look sad about all that… PERFECT!” *flash*


Next: food and the modern seb, part four: supersize, me?

food and the modern seb, part one.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll be writing about my issues with food and my experiences with eating disorders. I wanted to share this as it seems to be such a taboo subject for many and as with all mental health issues, if you don’t communicate what you’re experiencing with someone the disease starts to gain advantage. It’s so important that people know they’re not alone and that as well as that seventh helping of black forest gateaux with double cream, there is hope.

Oddly enough, even after all the love and support everyone has shown me I’m a little scared to write about this so if you can send me a few mental mirrorballs as you’re reading I’d really appreciate it. There’s also so much to cover that I’ve broken this down *unconvincing rapper pose* into parts so it’s not a giant unreadable clump of “AND THEN THE SNICKERS BAR TRIED TO KILL ME AND WAH AND SUCH”.

Please be warned that this and the next few posts can be triggering for those with eating disorders, that I’m not an expert and I’m not offering any advice, help or judgement, I’m just a man with a keyboard and a love of tasty crispy fried things that is in a bad place and wants to share the woe dread agony chips and mayonnaise story with you.


Eating. When I was a small disco enthusiast in a lime green Kermit the frog t-shirt and brown corduroy flares I liked eating but I didn’t like eating a considerable amount of much. At primary school I’d take a bite from a sandwich and throw the rest away. On the days that I’d forget to open my lunchbox altogether, Mum would look at me witheringly as she unpacked my bag to find yet another untouched polony and tomato sauce sandwich that she’d sliced lovingly into perfect squares be returned to sender.

I tried to tell her that Karlene Orbetski had polony for lunch then spent the afternoon doing farts so potent that our carefully drawn crayon portraits would melt into dali-esque nightmares but she didn’t care. She wanted me to eat.

I was born with a taste for most everything that was good for me. I would only eat chicken breast and the skin had to be removed or it was the dawn of the apocalypse down at 22 Princess Street (I know, I know). I hated sausages, chops and any type of steak. I wouldn’t touch cheese and preferred plain bread without butter.  I was never really given soft drinks and loved milk and water.

My favourite treat was tinned tuna or a delicious ham and salad sandwich from the local bakery  – I would could eat salad and vegetables until most everyone was convinced that I was part rabbit. I wasn’t averse to a bowl of ice cream or coco pops, I just didn’t crave these things in the same way I did the healthier options.

When I was growing up, kids ate what the adults were having and unless it was a special occasion you weren’t offered a choice. Mum was a fantastic cook (she made a killer Satay Beef that no restaurant has ever bettered) – this meant a large variety of foods made it on to our plates, most of which I loved but the portions were always too big for me. The unfortunate thing about the era that I grew up in was that the consensus among parents was that if your kid wasn’t a member of the clean plate club then you clearly weren’t doing your job.

Everything had to be eaten, regardless of your child’s preference or appetite for it because they’d wither away and die before the nightly news had finished if you didn’t force them to eat, eat, eat. Failing to have a child in the clean plate club meant that you were a terrible parent and would immediately be cast out of the town and forced to live a nomadic lifestyle with the other unfortunates that couldn’t get little Gregory or Melissa to finish that last spoonful of mashed parsnip.

Most struggles with me came over food I didn’t find palatable but was part of the great Aussie diet. I have vivid memories of retching repeatedly while trying to swallow pieces of fat or gristle in a steak, with my Stepdad telling me off for doing so. Sometimes he’d become furious and yell at me while I’d be bawling, trying to choke the food down so I could get away from the table. I’ve never understood why it was so important to him that I pretend to like something I clearly didn’t.

No doubt it wasn’t wonderfully appetising to have a 9 year old sound like he was about to present an explosive encore of tonight’s dinner while you’re trying to enjoy your meal but to this day, (and I believe this to be completely true) his well intentionedeat it, it’s good for you’ approach has meant that I will start dry heaving the second I find anything texturally similar to fat or sinew in a mouthful of food.

There was also the time honoured battle of ‘if you don’t finish it you’re not leaving this table’ where I’d sit, crying in front of a plate of cold sausage and congealed gravy for half an hour while Skyhooks played on the radio in the background before Mum complained I was drowning out the television and to just go to my room.  And of course the worst of all techniques – ‘what you don’t finish tonight will be your breakfast, if you don’t finish it then it’s going in your lunchbox’. 

My parents only tried this once and after I’d not eaten a very depressed looking lamb chop for the following day’s breakfast, lunch or dinner they realised they had a formidable opponent and filed the technique away under ‘oops’ right next to ‘get him to stop playing with dolls’ and ‘get him to join the junior football team’. Nuh-huh, girlfriend.

These occasions were thankfully not very frequent but are certainly ingrained. I also have vivid memories of visiting my Grandparents after school and not wanting to refuse the kind offer of a biscuit, because I was scared to hurt their feelings so I’d put it in my pocket and throw it over the fence into the ditch drain next door. If I wasn’t hungry, I didn’t eat and that was that. I was always thin, but I didn’t lack for energy and I loved food that I…well… loved.

 Next: food and the modern seb, part two: winning at lunch, losing at manboobs.