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Hello, my name is Dave and I am an anorexic.
I have been recovering from anorexia for the past eight or nine years;
everyone needs a hobby.
That is what this is all about.
Before we kick off, I am very comfortable talking about this.
I do not want anyone to be awkward or kind of cringing.
You can see me, I am not butch or tough.
I will be honest; I do not even have a strong bladder.
That is what this is for. It is just a massive TENA pad.
If you saw me in the street, you are not going to think,
"Phwoa! There is an alpha male."
Much more likely, "Oh, vegetarian!"
You would be right because I have been veggie for a while now.
There are certain things that I miss.
A lot of respect.
There is a really good reason that I bring it up.
There are 1.6 million people in the UK that suffer with eating disorders.
Probably more, because a lot of people feel embarrassed to talk about it.
A lot of people do not realise that they are suffering,
and that was exactly the same for me.
A lot of my friends, when I slipped into all of this,
asked me how I was losing so much weight so quickly,
and I guess I was embarrassed.
I used to tell them it was a combination
of the Atkins diet, coupled with being vegetarian.
Just sounds much nicer, right?
By trade, I am a stand-up comic
and I love the unique ability that comedy has to reach people.
I really wanted to use that in order to help,
and in order to change how we see mental health.
It was a difficult show to write.
It was a really tricky one because I had to be funny,
but I had to be informative as well.
Obviously I wanted to be sensitive.
We did not always get the balance right.
When we took it on tour to the Leicester Comedy Festival,
one of the first reviews said that the bit I did on bulimia was too, "Gag-heavy".
It is like saying a show on domestic violence lacks punchlines.
But it is absolutely true.
I want to promote change, especially towards mental health,
because we have not changed our attitude in the UK to mental health
since the Victorian era, really.
Then we would have freak shows, now we have reality TV.
We just have not come that far, and I wanted to use that.
I will never forget the first time that I ever tried this in a show.
It was awkward. It was horrible, it was awkward, everyone was really...
and it wasn't ready.
After the show, a woman came up to me, and she stood there, and she said,
"You were not really anorexic, were you?"
I could not help but think, "Are you calling me fat?"
I said, "It is all absolutely true."
She just turned around, and she walked off.
I thought, "I have offended this woman," and that is the last thing I want to do.
Then five minutes later, she came back, and she stood there, and she said,
"I can help you. I can help you get over this."
Then from behind her back, she produced a packet of crisps.
Like the answer to this neurological, psychological, mental health disorder
was a packet of Monster Munch.
It was only then that I realised
how little people actually know about this.
So I decided to start telling my story.
For me, this all began when I was 17,
and I had just got the lead role in a play.
It was a play called, "Sparkleshark".
I am not even gay.
I am as surprised as you.
So is my boyfriend.
I am not homophobic either.
Some of my best friends enjoy musicals.
I am of course kidding.
I am a very left-wing person, I am very liberal.
The only thing I cannot tolerate is gluten.
I got this role in this play, and I had to appear topless.
I guess it was the first time that I have ever had to think about my body.
I decided to lose a little bit of weight.
I just did the usual thing; cut out snacking.
I just had three meals, and I lost a bit of weight.
Wanted to lose more, so I cut out breakfast,
just had two meals, lost a bit of weight.
Wanted to lose a bit more,
and then cut out breakfast and dinner and just had tea,
and lost a bit more.
It was a great way to save money on food bills.
Although what I did lose in weight, I also lost in Nectar points.
It is not all happy families.
As I lost the weight, something incredible happened,
and I got noticed by this one amazing, beautiful, wonderful, awesome girl.
For legal reasons, I am not going to name her.
I am not going to get within 50 feet of her after this goes online.
All you need to know is she was amazing, we started dating, and I fell in love.
She became my heroine.
By which I mean, she was addictive, exciting, and blooming expensive.
But like heroine, she also became a cause for me to lose weight;
she became an inspiration to draw me on, to lose more of my fat.
Not that she ever made me. I really want to get that across as well.
She actually never actively made me lost weight.
She hated that I was skinnier than her.
I will never forget one conversation.
"Does my bum look big in this"
"No, Dave."
"I am over this."
You have to understand that in my mind,
I correlated getting skinny with getting this incredible girl.
In my mind, I correlated getting skinny with being good-looking,
skinny meant success.
I know that is mental now.
I understand no girl has ever been asked, "What do you look for in the ideal bloke?"
"Ooh, rickets!"
In my mind, that made sense.
Inevitably when we broke up and she broke my heart,
that was when it spiraled out of control.
If we are talking about change, one of the things that I want to change
is that anorexia is not to do with vanity, and it is very little to do with weight.
It is about addiction, obsession, and control.
For example, I became absolutely obsessed with exercising.
Anytime I had eaten anything, no matter how much,
I would run upstairs to my room, I would do 50 push-ups,
I would do 50 sit-ups and I would do 20 squats.
It was then that my mum and dad realised that something was up.
They never approached me. They never said anything to me about this.
I did not know the reason until I asked them recently.
I said to my mum, "Why, when you knew something was up with the exercise,
why didn't you say anything to me?"
She gave the most beautiful answer.
She said, "Dave, when your teenage son keeps on running up to his room,
and all you can hear is rhythmical banging, followed by repeated grunting,
you tend not to ask questions."
I thought it was really sweet until my dad put his hand on her shoulder and said,
"I thought you were a sex pest".
"Sex pest". You never expected those words at TEDx.
Also, I became obsessed with weighing myself, on a neurological level.
I started weighing myself in the morning,
then I started weighing myself in the evening,
to see how much my weight fluctuated.
Then mid-day to inspire me to eat less.
On average, about five times a day,
I used to run upstairs, lock my door, and weigh myself.
Five times a day, I used to lock myself away.
Dad thought I converted to Islam.
When he found out what was going on,
he said, "Oh, I thought I was going to have to buy you a Qur'an."
I said, "Dad, we have been over this. I am vegetarian.
It is pronounced 'Quorn'."
Side-note on that: when we did The Birmingham Comedy Festival,
a lovely Muslim fellow came up to me after the show, and he said,
"I really enjoyed the show, it was absolutely lovely.
But you are a very weak person.
Because what you call, "anorexia", us Islamists just call Ramadan."
Really nice.
I also became obsessed with calories as well.
Obsessed with calorie counting.
To reduce calories, I reduced portion sizes,
so what I called, "Sunday lunch", everyone else just called "tapas".
It was weird for my mum and dad at this point in time;
I am cheaper to feed than the cat was.
They did not know what to do.
They went and sought help in the church, they tried to drag me along.
I was going nowhere near that place.
Bread and wine? Talk about empty calories.
I heard stories of miracles and was entirely unimpressed.
Five loaves, two fishes, 5,000 people.
That is plenty to go around, you know?
Because I did not realise I had a problem, until I ended up in hospital.
I ended up in hospital due to coffee-loading.
Side-note on that: in case you do not know what that is,
"coffee-loading" is where you substitute food for coffee.
Coffee gives you all of the energy, but none of the calories of food.
Something you might not realise about coffee
is that coffee reduces your pulse rate when you do not eat.
Because you have got no fuel in your body, that reduces your pulse too.
Mine got down to about 46 beats a minute.
If you get anywhere below 40,
it is what is medically known as 'heart block'.
And unfortunately, it is incompatible with life.
I got rushed to the hospital, and as I sat there,
I got talking to this building, builder.
It was going so well!
Do not worry. They will fix that in the edit!
Just to ruin it, I am going to do it on this side now.
The editor is going to have a massive field day.
Where were we? Serious point, thank you very much.
I was there, I was talking to this builder, a lovely bloke.
It turns out he was there because he had circular sawed though his femur.
After a while, we got talking, and he said,
"Anyway, enough about me, what about you? Why are you here?"
Let me tell you, nothing is more embarrassing in life,
than when you look at a bloke
who is bleeding through the lower part of his body and you go,
"Why am I here? Oh, too much coffee!"
You look like a bit of a 'word that I am not allowed to say'.
It is bizarre.
Anorexia is a big problem.
It affects people like Kelly Clarkson, Lily Allen, Victoria Beckham.
It is a huge problem.
It is responsible for a lot of rubbish music.
Those are famous female anorexics.
I asked my housemate if he could name any famous male anorexics,
and he just went, "Gandhi?"
I said, "No!"
There is a gap in the market for the first famous male anorexic.
It is not a very big gap.
That is not why I am doing this.
I do not want fame or glory. I am not doing it for that.
I do not want to be on television;
the camera adds ten pounds, you can go away.
Men are much more likely to get bulimia as well, that is something I meant to say.
Only about 90% of anorexics that we know of are female.
Anywhere between 10% and 25% are male, and that is on the increase.
Men are much more likely to get bulimia
so there are a lot of famous examples of male bulimics;
people like Elton John was bulimic.
So 'Rocket Man'? It is all about salad.
It is an incredibly big problem in the UK,
and I know that because I am lucky and honored to work with
an incredible charity called, "Beat", the UK's largest eating disorder charity.
They gave me an award for the show and the tour last year,
which was wonderful.
I have a women there that manages me called Rebecca,
and when we went to the Edinburgh Fringe,
I realised as I got on the train, I needed to send Rebecca at Beat an email.
I pulled a pen out of my pocket and wrote on the back of my hand, "Beat, Rebecca".
You can imagine what the bloke next to me thought.
In his mind, "This is just some really lazy domestic abuse."
I was in a really cheeky mood so I just looked at him and went, "She deserves it."
Just before Christmas as well, I found out, I am very lucky and honored,
I am the ambassador of a charity that helps promote the idea
that men get eating disorders too.
They are absolutely wonderful, I am now their media representative.
I do all their TV, radio, and press interviews.
Also, subsequently, there is an interview with me in a newspaper,
I am not allowed to say which one, but it rhymes with 'The Pluardian'.
I did this interview with them on male anorexia,
something that I feel really strongly and really seriously about.
I did not realise that the media have coined this phrase, "Manorexia".
It is just the worst word; "Manorexia."
It sounds like the world's worst superhero, right?
Like, "Manorexia and Bulimia Boy taking on the world,
one calorie at a time".
"Oh no, it is that evil nemesis, it is Carbohydrate!"
Their side-kick; "Lack-of-Iron Man".
He does not do anything, he just faints.
"In comes Captain Anemia!"
There are loads of them.
I am having a ball. What a lot of LOLs.
Besides all the jokes, besides all the mucking about,
there is a really serious point that I wanted to leave you with.
That is that one in four anorexics either tries to, or is successful at,
taking their own lives.
It has the highest mortality rate of any mental health disease.
People say to me now, "Are you over it?"
I know this is something that I am going to have for the rest of my life.
But the real question is, "Can I deal with it?"
I can deal with it now, because I can talk about it.
I want to talk about it and show that it is nothing to be ashamed of.
I want to talk about it so that we can help sufferers.
And I want to talk about it so that we can get that woman to realise that no,
a packet of Monster Munch is not how you get over anorexia.
I just want to say it has been an absolute pleasure to talk to you.
Thank you very much.
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【TEDx】'Over It', My Battle With Anorexia | Dave Chawner | TEDxClapham

9283 Folder Collection
Josie Chung published on January 26, 2016
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