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Image / Editorial

‘Instead of eating healthily, I now choose to eat happily’


by Louise Bruton
12th Jul 2018
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Sitting in the hairdressers four years ago and flicking through a dogeared copy of Red from 2012, I didn’t expect to leave with a new outlook on food on top of my new ‘do. I went in as a woman that prayed at the altar of goji berries and protein shakes and reemerged as a woman who realised that life is in fact quite short and I shouldn’t spend so much time trying to be a skinny Minnie, missing out on time with good pals and even better food. And, among many other things, I have Nigella Lawson to thank for this.

There’s a difference between eating healthily and eating to be skinny and the latter comes wrapped up in regimented meals, worry, anxiety and fad diets. The former brings balance, choice and room for a little indulgence. In times where fun needs to override rules, you deserve to say “f*ckit” from time to time and that’s what Lawson does. 

When the TV chef orders a meal in a restaurant, she pictures herself eating everything on the menu and whatever makes her salivate the most in her mind is what ends up on her plate. She cuts out the element of eating what she thinks she should eat and ends up eating what she wants to eat instead. She removes the element of food FOMO, something that rears its ugly head if you’ve ordered the super salad and your friend is tucking into a creamy ravioli dish, with blasts of basil and garlic suffocating the forkfuls of sunflower seeds and beetroot that you’re chewing on the way a cow chews on cud. Think of this as dipping into your F*ckit List and embrace the fact that life is short and eat the food that makes you happy.

Replace healthy, with happy

Retelling a story about a friend’s mother whose last words were “all that worry!” Lawson placed that expression into her own lifestyle. “So I try to think, what would happen if you found out tomorrow that you had cancer?” she said to Elene Andreou. “Would you not think you were incredibly stupid for worrying?” So instead of eating healthily, I now choose to eat happily.

Eating happily doesn’t mean pizza and chicken nuggets every single night for dinner, although I well and truly wish that it did, it means striking a balance between food that is good for you and food that is good to share in good company. So save those nug nugs for a hangover takeaway with your mates, where you dissect details from the previous night and in between slivers of juicy, juicy gossip, suggest getting deep-fried mozzarella balls as well as a side of wedges to go with your family-sized pizza. And don’t punish yourself for that. You’ve just ticked a box off on the F*ckit List, a list that magically doesn’t have a cut-off point. It’s a list that comes into play when you need it most, like if you’re feeling a bit sad and buttery mashed potato is the cure. Or if you have your period and you simply want a cup of tea to go with your packet of Caramel Hob Nobs. 

The Lawson method

In a separate 2014 Guardian interview with Lawson, who lost her mother at an early age and whose sister died at the age of 31, she explains how she sees sharing good food as a celebration – and that’s fed into the way she lays out her cookbooks. Her first cookbook How to Eat, acts as a continued food conversation with her sister Thomasina.

“…Cooking and enjoying food is a way of accepting and celebrating being alive, which can be hard when those you love have died. Call it survivor’s guilt, or simply an etiolated ability to take pleasure in life, a reduced sense of self, but whatever, cooking and writing about food restored me to life, and still does.”

With the heightened focus healthy eating and living, thanks to the heavily edited lifestyles seen on Instagram, unrealistic standards are set so instead of comparing yourself to fitness gurus or the Kardashians, who hire in bodybuilders to their home gyms and wear actual waist-training corsets, develop a routine that makes sense to you.

Life is genuinely hard enough so don’t be the person who skips BBQs with friends because they’d rather have a wet salad alone. Never replace an Easter egg or a selection box at Christmas with a protein bar set from the fitness shop and please don’t let your birthday cake be a hard-boiled egg. There’s a time for boiled chicken breasts and plain broccoli but in the grand scheme of happiness, check in with your F*ckit List and order the heartiest, cheesiest, bacon-iest pasta dish on the menu and let the wine pour because… f*ckit,  you deserve it.

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