We need to talk about Nigella… (a rant)

I have a confession to make.

I think … I think I’ve fallen out of love with Nigella.

I’ll just let you process that a moment, shall I?

Maybe it’s the therapy working (yay?) or possibly the realisation that there is not only a Fat Acceptance movement out there, but that it doesn’t mean “giving up”; or maybe I’m just sick of her being so damn SMUG all the time… but as I’ve been re-watching her “Express” tv series, I’ve come to an important understanding:

Her whole self worth is based around food.  

And that’s not how I want my life to be.

Okay, this is what she does for a living (not that she needs to work as she and her husband are both squillionaires) but it’s not as shallow as that: this is a woman who seems to judge her own success as a person – mother, carer, self-nuturer – by food.

And I understand this, I do  – I’m a comfort eater, too.  I try to comfort other people with food – it’s a pattern learnt in early childhood and reinforced throughout my life.  Feeling blah? Let’s eat.  Let me cook you something. Better yet, let me BAKE you something!

But now: I am trying to re-learn how to eat.

That might sound absurd to some of you –  but my eating is very disordered.  (That’s the psych/nutritionist way of saying “You ate WHAT?!”)  Instead of eating when I’m hungry, I eat because I’m sad. Or happy. Or bored. Or for the Himalayan Reason (because it’s THERE).

And while I accept that there can be Healthy Bodies At Any Size, for this particular body, this size is not healthy.   My arthritis is playing up (and not just in my hands) and my clothes are too tight.   There are other contributing factors (thryoid wonkiness, fibromyalgia, etc) but I feel like I’m falling into the vicious cycle of not moving because I’m getting bigger and in more pain … and so it compounds.  I need to break that cycle and find the joy in moving my body again.

I noticed that Nigella was curvier in “Express”.  That’s not what worries me – she, and everybody else, has the right to respect about whatever body shape they have.  She’s obviously happy with how she is.  Good on her.

But she can’t be a role model for me any more.

I’ve come to realise that Nigella’s late night fridge raids at the end of every episode “normalize” a disordered pattern of eating – one  I know only too well. A recent episode of “Express” ended with Nigella standing in front of the open fridge, “eeny meeny”ing between sweet leftover chocolate and pear sponge pudding and savoury cold roast chicken. For me, that’s classic eating when you’re not hungry behaviour – not even knowing if you want sweet or savoury.  And eating alone, and eating when you couldn’t possibly need any more food for the day (except for emotional reasons).  It might be a handy way to end a tv show, but it shouldn’t be the way I eat.

When I was seeing a nutritionist weekly (and don’t get me started on how that went –  calorie counting doesn’t work long term, it just made me more obsessed) she commented that she was horrified watching Nigella make a cream cheese and jam sandwich.  “I’ve never SEEN anyone use that much cream cheese before!”  Distorted portion sizes seem to be another Nigella staple.   I know this is a more widespread problem – plate sizes have increased dramatically in the last 50 years – but again, seeing Nigella do it somehow made it ok for me.   And it’s NOT ok.

I’m not against eating for enjoyment – eating purely for fuel would be boring and possibly monotonous.   What I’m trying to learn not to do is eating past satiety, past what I really need to eat for the day.

I’ve mentioned ranted before about how distressed the charming side effect of insatiable appetite that accompanies Seroquel makes me.   While that has abated somewhat on a lower dose, I still spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about food.  (I’m sure other people don’t think about food nearly as much. Do you?)

I love reading cookbooks and food magazines.  I love trying new recipes.  None of that is bad.  I even dragged poor Mr Beloved around 5 different stores this evening in search of Nigella’s latest book, “Kitchen”.  (The ones that had previously stocked it at a reasonable price were sold out, and I am not going to pay $60 for it when I can get it from The Book Depository for $36 including postage from the UK or US!!)

So while I will continue to use her recipes, I don’t think I  can bear to watch Nigella spew forth adjectives while licking her fingers and making love to the camera any more.

It’s over, Nigella.   And it’s not me, it’s you.

2 Replies to “We need to talk about Nigella… (a rant)”

  1. Wow, that was a fantastic post. It has LONG bothered me that Nigella has been seen as ‘healthier’ than, say, the Two Fat Ladies (Of whom I am a TOTAL FAN!) when they cook and serve a balanced and well-proportioned and interesting array of food. One can watch episode after episode of Nigella and rarely see her prepare a vegetable. But she is thinner than they are/were and therefore MUST AUTOMATICALLY BE MORE VIRTUOUS.
    I really don’t care if a TV cook is fat or thin – it is what kind of food and in what combinations they make it that interests me. I have a stupidly vast collection of cookbooks numbering in the…high hundreds…but none of Nigella’s – because there is only so much sour cream, butter, cream, milk, olive oil and cheese I am prepared to put into a vast bowl of mashed potato.
    Delicious it may be, but it isn’t dinner. (Seriously! Do you remember the episode in which she genuinely suggested a large bowl of mash with an array of dairy products as some kind of quick easy dinner?!)
    (And she is smug.)
    Anyway. Great post!

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