Cannock man's bulimia battle inspires gut health recipes

image copyrightSunni Patel
image captionDr Patel now comes up with gut-healthy-recipes

A man who had bulimia in his teens says it "shaped" his project coming up with gut-healthy-recipes.

Clinician-scientist Dr Sunni Patel, 35, said he thought he was "chubby" and experienced the eating disorder when he was aged 15 to 18.

Binge eating was his "solace" and he used religious fasting "as a cover".

Dr Patel, from Staffordshire, who started a website sharing recipes, urged people not to underestimate how gut health affects mental health.

He said he would fast for four days a week, eating fruit at the end of the day.

Being from a traditional Asian background, the way "one looks and acts tends to be judged a lot more", he said.

"Because I'd got bulimia as a get out, I'd binge eat. I might eat six or seven crisp packets at one sitting. I'd find comfort and my escapism via food."

Dr Patel, who was bullied at school, said there was "pressure as a teenager to look cool".

He said he had become "quite chubby" in his early teens and "the thinner I got, the more attractive I felt". Bulimia became the "solution", he added.

image copyrightSunni Patel
image captionDr Sunni Patel said he suffered from bulimia and restricted eating between the ages of 15 and 18

As he lost weight, he began receiving compliments which would "feed the beast".

Experts have estimated at least 1.5m people in the UK - of which 25% are male - have an eating disorder.

Dr Patel said after he went to university he stopped, "I wasn't able to find the safe space to have the... episodes, I didn't want the truth to come out."

He received cognitive behavioural therapy from around the age of 24 and in recent years has had psychotherapy.

"I was diagnosed with gut issues in 2014 and that's when I started exploring the link between gut health and depression. As my diet became healthier so did my mind."

The business director now comes up with gut-healthy-recipes that are shared on his Dish Dash Deets website, set up during the Covid-19 pandemic, where he also blogs.

The recipes include his top foods to combat depression and low mood, such as bananas, berries, beans and lentils.

Advising anyone in a similar position to the one he was in, he said "find a safe person to talk to", who would not judge, and added: "Don't feel any shame. You're human."

"The more that you rely on it, you use it as your way of escaping, the more it becomes your norm," he said.

He also does live Instagram cook-alongs with celebrities and chefs.

"Food is still my escapism. Now I enjoy being in the kitchen and making things that will serve my needs, not make things worse."

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