My first encounter with body shaming was at primary school. I got picked on for being bigger and chubbier than most of the kids in my class. The bullying was typical kid stuff - calling me fatty boomba, laughing at the swimming carnival. Nana Betty was the one person I’d always turn to.
She was the rock of our family. An amazing woman, so warm and caring. She never saw the bad in anyone and was always the first to offer words of encouragement. In many ways, she was my idol. Every time I flew from Melbourne (where I grew up) to see Nana Betty in New Zealand, she would always smile and give me the biggest hug. “Don’t worry about what other people think,” she would say. “Just concentrate on yourself.”
By the time I hit high school, I was 6’3. I played a lot of representative sport; basketball, rugby - anything to get out of school. I was encouraged for being big as it was beneficial to the team. Body confidence was at an all time high. But that all changed when I went to uni. I swapped playing sport for partying. I was known as ‘Big Dan’ and I started to balloon.
It was the good old uni diet of noodles, pizza, burgers and fried chicken, and I topped the scales at 138kgs! I hit rock bottom. And then, I got really sick. I was rushed to hospital. Tests revealed high sugar levels, a fatty liver and high blood pressure. Nothing a 22-year-old should be showing. I felt ashamed – how did I let myself get to this point?
I realised that if I did nothing I could die. So I started to train again. Got back into a good routine. Ate a balanced diet. Within a year I had dropped 35kgs. It was a pivotal experience because it showed me what hard work could do. And it proved to myself that if I put my mind and energy towards a goal, I could achieve it. Still, being confident in my own skin is 100 percent an ongoing journey.
Weight has always been an insecurity of mine. I’m not one to take my shirt off at the beach, and I don’t like the feeling of being sluggish and unproductive. It motivates me to keep smashing goals. To challenge my behaviours and better myself, and to always live by Nana Betty’s values.