Overeating a problem after trauma: Webb

LIFE-threatening incidents in underground mines often exasperate the chronic bad-eating habits of the miners involved and they resort to food as a “feel good” factor during post-traumatic stress, says Beaconsfield gold mine disaster survivor Brant Webb.
Overeating a problem after trauma: Webb Overeating a problem after trauma: Webb Overeating a problem after trauma: Webb Overeating a problem after trauma: Webb Overeating a problem after trauma: Webb

Brant Webb

Lou Caruana

Many miners working underground have little regard for good diets and, when grappling with the shock of a serious incident, resort to overeating and drinking as a way of normalising the body.

One of only two miners rescued from the Beaconsfield mine collapse in Tasmania in 2006, Webb spent two weeks trapped underground in a small cage with no water, food or room to move.

“After any accident like we had, your body goes into survival mode and really packs it on,” Webb told ILN.

“After you’ve been starved, everything is going to be good. You want all the food you can get.

“It’s a ‘feel good’ part of life. I put on a stack of weight and I still have a lot of weight.”

Webb said many miners in that situation applied the same motivation to mine ore efficiently to the consumption of food and alcohol as they sought to bring order back to their lives.

“At work, getting productivity is a priority,” he said. “We work to production timelines and think of speed and efficiency. Blokes apply this to food as well. They say, ‘the faster I can put this food down my gut the quicker I can start drinking’.”

Webb said male miners were not game enough to eat healthy foods because they did not want to attract negative attention.

“If you take a salad down the crib everyone will say it’s rabbit food,” he said.

“There’s a peer group mentality that you don’t want to be the one that’s different.

“In the mining industry, we have a whole stack of men that have a lot of money who take their ladies to really good restaurants. The food tastes good, but the amount of taste is one thing and the amount of calories is a different thing.”

Despite rebuilding his life after the Beaconsfield incident and travelling the country talking about safety, Webb still found it difficult to manage his weight and received a lot of advice from the dietician on TV reality showExcess Baggage, in which he is a contestant.

“When I did Excess Baggage we had Jo the nutritionist put calories down into simple terms. She would get a lolly and equate it to a cube of sugar.

“She put a shot glass of alcohol and a shot glass of oil. ‘For every nip of alcohol, you are having a nip of oil,’ she would say.

“Breaking it down into simplistic terms was what was needed so our male minds could comprehend.”

Webb said it was good to see mining companies seeking to encourage healthy diets on mine sites, but many male miners were still not receptive.

“As males we tend to eat and drink what we want,” he said. “Women count calories. Men don’t. We’re slowly getting educated.

“I see a lot of work programs trying to enforce nutrition – what’s good and what’s bad.

“There are programs out there, but trying to get miners to tune into them is hard.

“Guys perceive we burn a lot, so we eat a lot. In this culture you get bored, so food is part of life.”