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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.

  • (Laughter)

  • 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.

  • (Laughter)

  • That is what this is for. It is just a massive TENA pad.

  • (Laughter)

  • If you saw me in the street, you are not going to think,

  • "Phwoa! There is an alpha male."

  • Much more likely, "Oh, vegetarian!"

  • (Laughter)

  • You would be right because I have been veggie for a while now.

  • There are certain things that I miss.

  • A lot of respect.

  • (Laughter)

  • 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.

  • (Laughter)

  • 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".

  • (Laughter)

  • 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?"

  • (Laughter)

  • 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".

  • (Laughter)

  • I am not even gay.

  • (Laughter)

  • I am as surprised as you.

  • (Laughter)

  • So is my boyfriend.

  • (Laughter)

  • I am not homophobic either.

  • Some of my best friends enjoy musicals.

  • (Laughter)

  • 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.

  • (Laughter)

  • 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."

  • (Laughter)

  • "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!"

  • (Laughter)

  • 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".

  • (Laughter)

  • "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'."

  • (Laughter)

  • 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."

  • (Laughter)

  • 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.

  • (Laughter)

  • 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!"

  • (Laughter)

  • 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.

  • (Laughter)

  • 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.

  • (Laughter)

  • 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.