It’s me or the cake!

How Sunita Pattani beat binge eating

Posted: 10.12.12

Show us a girl who doesn’t like chocolate cake…you’d be hard-pressed to find one. Especially in our office! We will happily confess to munching on the brown stuff throughout the day – a biccie for elevensees, a cupcake at teatime and possibly even a bar of choc for dessert. It’s not a bad thing…unless your addiction for sweet stuff turns into comfort eating and takes over your life. Which is what happened to Sunita Pattani. Her new book My Secret Affair With Chocolate Cake may sound like a delicious read, but it actually deals with Sunita’s experience of binge eating.

In it she reveals how sweet treats took over her life, to the point her husband whom she’d know since she was a teenager turned around and gave her an ultimatum, ‘It’s me, or the cake!’ Sunita confesses;  ‘A couple of years ago we stopped socialising and I stopped dressing up. Then out of the blue my husband said to me told me ‘it’s not that I don’t love you anymore, but I just can’t watch you do this to yourself, you’re going to end up killing yourself!’ Most people would see this as a wake up call but I continued.’

Recalling her school days, Sunita says she always felt bigger than the other kids, especially as she was taller. He weight constantly yo-yoed due to crash diets and binge eating.  Her first official diet begun when she was 18, which she recalls is where it all went wrong. She explains: ‘It made me think a lot about which foods I was and wasn’t able to eat which led to deprivation and this resulted in binging.’

Sunita’s regular binges included crisps, chocolate, ice cream and cream cakes – she even once ate an entire gateaux while it was frozen. The bingeing came to a halt when she got married at 22 but started again when she was 25, following the death of her grandfather. She recalls: ‘I felt out of control. I binged, put on weight and then fell into cycle of self-loathing.’

In the end, her addiction got so drastic that her husband left her. Following this life-changing event, Sunita underwent hypnosis, therapy and visited several dieticians. In the end it was her sister-in-law, a mental health physician, who was finally able to get her on the right track. Inspired by the mantra ‘Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you get full’, Sunita says she was able to introduce a routine into her diet consisting of breakfast, snack, lunch and dinner and this allowed her to get her eating back into control without any form of deprivation. She explains: 'if you take your focus off the weight and put it on correcting your relationship with food the rest will fall into place.’

The strap line of Sunita’s new book is, ‘An emotional eater's guide to breaking free’. She now describes her relationship with food as a happy one and admits that after she was able to get to a place where she started to listen to her body and hunger and give her body what it wanted instead of what she wanted her body evened itself out.  She admits: ‘I don’t believe that our bodies are designed to run on junk food, the more in touch you are with what your body wants the more you’ll learn to give it what it needs, if you’re in a dieting mentality then you are always going to face a battle of having to decide what to eat based on whether it’s supposedly good or bad but when you get to a place when you can say I’m hungry or I’m full then you get rid of the struggle.’

Sunita’s top tips on eating:
1. Hunger Strikes?
Every time you pick up a snack, ask your self am I actually hungry? Do I need actually it or just want it? People are in the habit of having a packet of crisps or a chocolate bar every day but when you actually take a moment to ask yourself if you want it and become aware of your body, you find that you lose the reasoning and desire behind the craving in the first place.

2. Keep a record
Journaling and chronicling your food habits is a great method of correcting your relationship with food. Start by writing a food diary and include the times at which you are eating and why you are eating. When you start to think about what you are doing and why you are doing it you become aware of the underlying issues then start making a choice. For example if you feel sad try and think of something else you can do instead of eating that will adjust your mood.

3. Listen to your body
Start listening to your body instead of your mind. Everybody has issues in their life, but people manage these issues in different ways, food is usually not the answer. If you feel you’ve got issues you can’t solve, get help. Whether you have an addiction, anger or depression; explore your struggle, you will learn so much about yourself.

My Secret Affair With Chocolate Cake by Sunita Pattani is out now.

She will be signing copies at Waterstones bookshop in Greenwich on January 12th.
Interview by Gayatri Sahay


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