Sydney - Wallabies star David Pocock has revealed he is suffering from an eating disorder he developed as a neurotic teenager when his family fled Zimbabwe for their own safety almost 10 years ago.
In his new autobiography, Openside: My Journey to the Rugby World Cup, the 23-year-old goes into detail about his family's escape to Australia from Zimbabwe, before revealing the start and extent of an eating disorder he still manages today.
''When our family first moved from Zimbabwe in 2002 I developed a stress-related eating disorder,'' he says in the book, where he describes his early determination to become a world-class rugby player.
''I was irrationally strict about what I ate and had a very skewed idea of my body image and what I looked like. Looking back at photos I was ridiculously lean but in my head I was still not lean enough. I remember bursting into tears a few times when the family went out to dinner or when travelling and there weren't any healthy or ultra low-fat options to eat. I was unsure about how to deal with my obvious anxiety towards food.
''This was possibly a response to the fear I experienced living in Zimbabwe for those last few years on the farm when I felt so powerless, and when we moved to Australia I used it as a way to give myself a sense of control and certainty. I've worked on this a lot with the psychologist.''
He told The Sun-Herald his wife, Emma, still has to cook approved meals as he battles to fully overcome his anxiety. ''I go into a few different issues from my past and I was pretty honest,'' he said. ''At times I wouldn't say it was tough going, but fairly draining. I tried to be pretty truthful and not avoid stuff.
''I don't just focus on rugby. I try to talk about other things that I feel are important and get the messages across. Hopefully, people enjoy that and particularly young people who aspire to great things will enjoy it and see the work that went into it. I guess, it'd be good if it served as an inspiration and encouragement.''
And therein lies the purpose of his warm, tell-all autobiography, to give readers an insight into the challenges he has faced to become one of the world's best rugby players. Though you get the sense Pocock still isn't fully satisfied.
To prove his sincerity - after all it was the publishers New Holland who approached him to write a World Cup diary - the social activist is donating every cent of his proceeds to charities through his website, heroesboots.com.
''It definitely hasn't been about the money for me and I guess if you're writing books for money you're probably not going to make a lot,'' said Pocock, who wrote the 85 000 words between Super Rugby and World Cup training sessions.
''I'd love to see it raise a bit of money. With the website we are
trying to set up a company that will give away its profits to make less
successful charities more sustainable and relying less on donors.
Initially I was asked to write a World Cup diary but it turned into my
story up to the World Cup. I didn't think anyone would be too interested
in reading what I had to write. But it was a great experience.''