Out on a mining site, you either become addicted to fitness or fatness.
Many who’ve previously shown no inclination either way expand and soften, or contract and harden, the longer they’re trapped in the FIFO life.
When I first arrived, I gravitated towards fatness. Unable to resist all-you-can-eat bacon every morning, cold cuts at lunchtime, and steaks and cakes every evening, I piled on the pud, at an average of 5 kilos a fortnight.
The days onsite are long, but for many they’re not physically hard, just monotonous, and, as with most jobs that involve lots of sitting and not much thinking, people tend to overeat because they’re bored. Which is especially easy when the options include ice cream and donuts.
Then in the evenings there’s little to do apart from eating, drinking and smoking, or going to the gym. It’s as if one of those putrid reality television gameshows has made it out there, but instead of The Biggest Loser it’s The Biggest Winner, and the race is to see who can have the first heart attack.
Everyone packs their own lunches and another common problem is that everyone takes too much, because it’s free and you don’t know how hungry you’re going to get. Meaning the wastage is also out of control.
Six weeks into my FIFO life, I’d even started to disgust myself. Surrounded by similarly expanding waistlines I felt like I was trapped in a land of Teletubbies, and was worried that I too would soon lose sight of my feet and penis.
So I switched my allegiance to team fitness, which appears to be split into two camps – those that hit the gym because it’s good for them and there are no other exercise options out here, and the few who lift weights because they’re incredibly turned on by prominent veins, so are trying their hardest to resemble a muscle bursting with them.
Another problem of being stuck somewhere so remote and working swings is that involving yourself in any team sport is near impossible and, stranded at the mining camp, you don’t even have easy access to the town’s local pool or anywhere worth running.
Mining-camp food is also renowned for its lack of variety, with guys often escaping into town for a petrol-station pie, a pub steak or Chinese food.
One night, a chef explained to me that the food on offer wasn’t solely to blame:
‘We keep getting complaints that the soup’s grey, runny and tastes like crap. Also, that it’s always the same, but there are two soups on every night. So these complaints, they confused the hell out of me.
So I found one of the whingers and made him show me what he was on about, and I kid you not, he said soup, but he pointed at the gravy. He’d been eating bowls of gravy and thinking it was soup. What a unit.
And they say there’s not enough variety, but they always take a bit of each dish and it doesn’t work like that. You’re supposed to eat like you would at home, you know like a meat or a fish and a couple of other things, then leave the rest for another night.’
Recent news stories have detailed the issues caused by all the unhealthy options on offer at mining camps. One study found that 83 per cent of FIFO workers at a particular camp were overweight or obese, more than 80 per cent had an increased risk of developing diabetes and heart disease, and that nearly 60 per cent of the meals offered included highly salty and fatty foods.
Then the first night they had tofu on the menu, I got a bit over excited and was called out on it when I sat with three diesel mechanics.
‘Mate, what’s with all that tofu? You’re not some vego are you mate?’ said mechanic one.
‘What about gluten? Do you eat gluten?’ said two.
‘I don’t believe in gluten. Like I reckon it was made up by the fitness freaks to sell us shit,’ said three.
‘And make us feel bad for eating food that actually tastes good,’ said two.
‘I bet you above his bed, he’s even got a dreamcatcher that’s gluten-free,’ said diesel mechanic three, and they all laughed.
Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.
This bit of whatever was adapted from his second comedy memoir ‘Going Out of My Mined’.
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