The Good Eater:
The True Story of One Man's Struggle with Binge Eating Disorder
What's it like to be a sexy, straight, male model appearing on TV and sharing
dressing rooms with beautiful women? And why on earth would a man throw that away?
his memoir The Good Eater former model Ron Saxen tells us.
Good Eater: The True Story of One Man's Struggle with Binge Eating Disorder is
the first darkly humorous look at binge eating disorder (BED) from a male point
of view. The book puts us inside Saxen's sharp, funny mind as he copes with the
fallout from an explosive childhood by adopting the candy isle at the local convenience
store as his surrogate family.
we hear the words "eating disorder" we think of spindly adolescent girls,
but in America one million male anorexics and bulimics, and three million binge
eaters are hiding their disease. At least one in ten of those with a full blown
disorder will die of it. In The Good Eater Saxen reveals exactly what goes on
in his head at that turning-point moment when inhaling several pounds of food
starts to sound like a good idea.
life is a wild ride that includes a childhood of extreme discipline and fundamentalist
religion, the shame of being called fatso, the world of high-fashion modeling,
his sudden and mysterious disappearance from the fashion world-and embarrassing
rediscovery when his agent tracks him down six months and seventy pounds later,
killing--and bombing--as a stand up comedian, the shock of Marine Corps Officer
Candidacy School, the "Crystal Meth Diet," nearing the 300-pound mark
the month his formerly-thin self appears in Muscle and Fitness Magazine, a failed
marriage and finally love and redemption.
take a seat. I'll let them know you're here."
I look at the receptionist.
Is she thinking, "He's cute," or "I can't believe this guy really
thinks he's got what it takes to be a model?" I bet she's a model - she's
gorgeous, a short-haired brunette with flawless makeup and a perfect smile.
I take my seat. It all feels wrong - bad. Nine months ago I weighed 267 pounds,
eighty-five more than I do now. I was rotund and flabby, no one you'd want to
imagine without the protective shield of his clothes - a joke for the pretty people,
the jocks I longed to be and cheerleaders I longed to be with. Instead, I was
the one at the dinner table eye-balling fourths before most had finished firsts,
the one who ate three pounds of chocolate in sixth grade under the cover of darkness,
the one who still thinks a good time is three Big Macs, a large order of fries,
and a chocolate shake followed by four Hostess fruit pies and a half-gallon of
Haagen-Dazs sprinkled with a pound of M&M's bathing in pint hot fudge--hardly
Hunks and hunkettes with gleaming white teeth and perfect cheekbones
stare down from the walls, judging me. A giant photo of a blonde bombshell hangs
over the receptionist's desk, the kind of knockout who scares the hell out of
me. Come to think of it, all the photos - men and women - scare the hell out of
me. What am I doing here? Who am I kidding?
I look up into the benign smile of a tall, thin woman with long, flowing
hair. The lines around her eyes reveal age without denying beauty. She is flawlessly
put together and smells like the perfume counter at Macy's. I surreptitiously
wipe my sweaty palms on my pants.
"Yes, I'm Ron."
She stretches out one elegant hand. "My name is Sharon. Did you have a hard
time finding us?"
My hand still partially moist, I shake hers. "No."
Great, a whopping one-word sentence. I'm known as a funny guy, and the best
I can do is no. This is not going well.
As I follow her down the hallway,
she says, "Andrew tells us we should take a look at you."
She's doing this as a favor to Andrew - this is now a favor to a favor to a favor.
As a favor, this cute girl I worked with introduced me to her neighbor who did
some modeling. He then did her a favor by seeing me and recommending me to his
agent, probably so she'd go out with him. Once his agent says no to me, the circle
will finally be closed.
We enter an office. An older woman, who must
have been a model at some point, looks up from her large desk. "Hello, I'm
I sheepishly grab her hand, "Hi."
My voice does the puberty thing. It's not puberty, it's nerves - I'm twenty-one
and so far I've demonstrated that I know a whole two words.
here's my portfolio. I finished it two weeks ago."
Let's take a look. Have a seat."
In three weeks I posed for more
than five hundred photos. The cameraman was a wedding photographer looking to
branch out; I was an experiment. I think the pictures look professional, but who
am I to judge? While the photos were being shot, I was so hungry, I almost passed
It's weird to watch two ex-models scrutinizing photos of me while
I sit right there, not thirty-six inches away. Maybe I should do some selling:
"Am I cute or what?" Or maybe, "What's it gonna take to get you
interested in this nice, previously-fat model?" No. I study the framed magazine
covers that adorn the walls, check out the large bronze statues that sit on the
table behind her desk. I bet each one is worth more than my entire estate.
I look at Barbara and Sharon. They aren't showing much in the way of emotion
as they consider my worth. This can't be a good sign.
Three minutes later,
they close my portfolio. Sharon stands up and smiles. "Ron, Barbara and I
would like to speak alone. Will you please take a seat in the waiting room? We'll
call you back when we're ready."
I know what this means. We're done.
Well, that didn't take long. That's okay, I wasn't expecting much anyway. "Okay
The receptionist looks up as I enter the
lobby, and I smile uneasily as I return to the relative safety of my black leather
chair. I bet they're doing a background check on me right now. "Sorry Ron,
we've checked around and it's always been our policy not to let undercover fatties
like you in the club. Why don't you go back to the all-you-can-eat buffet you
came from? Security!"
It still amazed me that I'd gotten even this
far. I'd been at the low end of one of my many yo-yo diets (260 to 225, 260 to
225) when a customer at the coffee shop where I worked studied me for a second,
then asked, "Are you a model?"
I remember wondering whether
she was trying to be funny. Was this the punch line to a joke I'd missed the setup
of? Or maybe she was just trying to score points with the Big Guy - "Come
on, St. Peter, you've got to let me in. Remember when I was nice to that fat guy?"
But over the next few weeks, I got the modeling comment several more times.
What had made my current diet different from past ones was that this time I'd
gotten all the way down to 205. Finally, for kicks, I went to a bookstore and
found a book on male models. Most of these guys were still twenty to thirty pounds
lighter than me. I decided to go for it.
Damn, I'm hungry. It's one-thirty
and all I've had today is three cups of black coffee and a banana. At least I
was able to get my workout done before this meeting. I'd like to see one of these
pretty people run five miles, bike thirty miles, swim twenty-five Olympic-pool-sized
laps, and then lift weights - all without putting any food in their stomach before
three in the afternoon.
Until recently, I didn't know a body could be
pushed this hard. The trick seems to be to listen with a different ear. When your
body cries out in hunger, if you listen carefully, you can hear the chisel carving
fat off your statue. If faintness overwhelms you, it's simply evidence that the
tools can work no faster.
At three in the afternoon, when I'm ready
to eat my first meal, I walk with conscious virtue into Skinny Haven, a restaurant
that lists the calorie count of every item it serves. My usual, a Skinny Haven
banana split, is beautifully chaste in its mere 335 calories. Sometimes, when
I arrive at my job at six (I wait tables), I've kept my food intake for the day
to under five hundred calories. I still can't believe I'm down to 179 pounds.
I haven't seen that number since I was thirteen.
Here comes Sharon.
"Ron, we're ready for you."
My heart feels like it's going
to come out of my chest at any moment. The emotional overload has dulled my senses.
This is so strange. I have no idea how to act. Everything seems backwards - the
job requirements are based on values my parents taught me were sinful, like what's
on the outside matters more than what's inside. According to my old religion,
that's the sin of vanity. I feel so uncomfortable. Why am I putting myself through
But I know the answer. I'm here because I want this one act, becoming
a model, to do two things: to erase my embarrassing history of weakness and insanity
and to force women to accept me as worthy - it's been almost three years now without
a single date. I want magic - magic powerful enough to destroy the excruciating,
ugly film of my life that perpeptually plays in my head, magic that will kill
the fat, ugly wrong Ron and annoint me as perfect.
"Ron, Sharon and I
have made a decision."