Great British Bake Off winner John Whaite reveals ‘very raw’ secret battle with bulimia
Great British Bake Off winner and celebrity chef John Whaite has opened up about his battle and ‘very raw’ experiences with an eating disorder.
Whaite appeared on Channel 4’s Steph’s Packed Lunch on Wednesday (10 February) and said his struggles with his body image started when he was a teenager. He said his body image “as I grew up was very difficult”, and he was “so conscious of being fat”. Whaite said he what was “aware of as being problematic for 12, 14 years was overeating and then purging”.
He explained: “If I was making a batch of muffins and something went wrong in my life that day, or around that time, I would sit there, and I would eat all 12 of the muffins, and then I’d run to the bathroom, and I’d make myself sick.”
The TV personality and chef, who won the third series of Great British Bake Off in 2012, said he “only accepted” his problem as an eating disorder in the past two years and called the experience “very raw”.
John Whaite and the ‘stigma of living with an eating disorder’
Whaite said it has been hard for him to accept that he had an eating disorder, which he explained “is down to the stigma of an eating disorder”. He said he previously felt ashamed of his eating disorder and struggles because of his career.
“Especially as a chef, I didn’t really want to talk about it because I felt like it kind of undermined my entire career,” Whaite said. “How can a chef who writes recipes, books and cooks on TV, how can he realistically have bulimia?”
He said he felt like a “weight has been lifted” after talking about the disorder. Whaite said he hopes his battle with an eating disorder will help others speak out about their own experiences and not stay “silent”.
He explained: “I’ve been an advocate for mental health since being on Bake Off, and when I’ve talked to my psychotherapist about this, I didn’t really realise I had an eating disorder until about two years ago when she said ‘this is bulimia’.
“Until that point, I just thought it was a slight way of coping with overeating, I didn’t think it was a huge problem.”
What is bulimia?
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Bulimia is an eating disorder and mental health condition. The NHS says people who have bulimia go through periods where they eat a large amount of food in a short period – defined as “binge eating” – and then make themselves sick, use medicine or do excessive exercise, or a combination of these, to try to stop themselves from gaining weight.
Anyone can get bulimia, but it’s more common in young people aged 13 to 17 according to the NHS. It’s estimated that over one million people in the UK live with an eating disorder, with one in four being men.
John Whaite said a lot of people struggle, “whether you’re a man, woman, non-binary“, but he thought men are “conditioned” to not speak out about their mental health struggles because of toxic masculinity. He explained: “We hear a lot about this phrase ‘toxic masculinity’, but I think the real poison in manhood is silence.
“If men don’t speak, it starts to erode them from the inside out.
“I just want to say to men, it doesn’t matter if you’re straight, it doesn’t matter if you’re gay, asexual, whatever you are, you have to speak, you have to talk, you have to find the help that you need, the help is there.”