I’m a fan of Nigella Lawson’s cooking shows. Not the competition-shows, just the “cooking in her home” shows. I like the way she cooks, and the unapologetic way she enjoys good food. She uses real butter, real chocolate, real sugar and more. This is by design: part of Nigella’s brand is that she enjoys all kinds of food, even the naughty stuff that we’re not supposed to openly enjoy. I’m not saying she’s the English Paula Deen or anything, but Nigella is friends with butter, oil and sugar and there’s room for that in today’s food-centric marketplace. Well, as it turns out, Nigella has many thoughts on the so-called “clean eating” trends, as well as the various trendy diets.
Nigella Lawson is no stranger to speaking out against the health craze—yes, against—previously telling the BBC that she thinks “the notion of ‘clean eating’ is an implication that any other form of eating is dirty or shameful.” And now, she’s back at it and slamming the continuous trendy diet term that is currently making the rounds.
While speaking at the JW3 Speaker Series in London earlier this week, Lawson exclaimed, “People are using certain diets as a way to hide an eating disorder or a great sense of unhappiness and unease with their own body. There is a way in which food is used either to self-congratulate—you’re a better person because you’re eating like that—or to self-persecute, because you’ll not allow yourself to eat the foods you want.”
The Simply Nigella author continued the conversation at the speaker series by explaining that she believes complimenting a person on their weight loss only feeds the mentality of thinking that skinnier is better.
“I generally think it is not food if it is through that being thinner is always better. What happens as a result is that somehow you are seen as a better person,” she said. “If you are naturally thin, that is fantastic, but if you have to starve yourself to be thin, it is not good to encourage people to be in that shape because it is not good for you.”
Lawson has experienced an eating disorder in her personal life, not with herself, but with her mother. The chef shared the story while appearing on The Late Late Show last week, saying she “later on” realized her mom had an eating disorder after her death at the age of 48.
“I kind of put two and two together. I knew she had a thing about thinness but I worked it out later,” she said. “When she was dying she allowed herself to eat. To wait until you’ve got a terminal disease to enjoy eating is an awful thing.”
So what’s Nigella’s advice? Everything in moderation. “There are times when you need a slice of cake,” she said. “You don’t eat it every day, but life has to be balanced and not too restricted.”
I don’t want to start a dieting flame war, but I pretty much agree with Nigella. I think the big diet trends these days are more about putting a fancy label on an eating disorder, or just another way that some people can feel smug and superior for eating “better” than someone else. I’m not talking about those people who really are trying to be healthier and eat more salads and greens. I’m talking about the Gwyneth Paltrows of the world, the people who wield their strict, nonsensical diets like weapons against fat peasants. I’m talking about the people who act as self-appointed diet/nutrition/health experts who basically make their careers out of shaming women. There are a lot of people – remember this “vegan blogger”? – who take it way too far.
Photos courtesy of WENN.