Obesity a poverty issue, says Nigella Lawson

Chef And Broadcaster Nigella Lawson.
Chef And Broadcaster Nigella Lawson.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Chef and broadcaster Nigella Lawson has urged people to stop trying to shame others into eating healthily, saying it is unhelpful.

Speaking at a Guardian Live event in London to mark the launch of her new book, Simply Nigella, she admitted she felt uneasy about the idea of trying to coerce people into eating certain types of food as not everyone has the same choices.

"I never get involved in telling people what to do because I do so many things that are wrong," she said. "I also think that obesity is a poverty issue. There's no point saying to people, 'You should be eating this or that'. I feel you have to tackle a whole lot of other things before you get into it at the level of food."

Speaking to the Guardian's Zoe Williams, Lawson said she was uncomfortable with any association between food and status.

Of course, junk food is very bad for you and fresh vegetables are much better... but the notion of thinking you can shame people into it is ridiculous and grossly unkind and I can't bear it.

Chef And Broadcaster Nigella Lawson

"I'm appalled by the way a lot of chickens are raised and I will try not to buy a chicken like that, but I feel it would be impertinent of me because I know how expensive they are and for a lot of people, that's not ever going to be possible. The counsel of perfection is a difficult one because not everyone has the choice.

"Of course, junk food is very bad for you and fresh vegetables are much better. Cooking everything from scratch, yes, that's an ideal, but the notion of thinking you can shame people into it is ridiculous and grossly unkind and I can't bear it."

Lawson said food has always been a political issue and elitism in food is nothing new. She said it was interesting that in the past, peasants would only eat locally and seasonally, while it was considered chic to do what only the rich could do - "build glass houses and get food from far away".

She said people are now being told to eat locally and seasonally and, ironically, only the rich can afford to buy these kinds of foods.

"Now that you can get food from all over the world in supermarkets, you're being told that that's really bad."

Despite her views on food, she admitted to being less political now than when she was younger.

"I feel weary with the world - it's frightening and I often feel a sense of hopelessness in terms of how it can be made a better place. But I'm not apolitical. I'm aware that I'm not active and I think if you're not, you have to take responsibility for that."

Looking ahead to Christmas, she advised the audience to get as much help as they could in the kitchen, to enlist family members, encourage guests to bring food and generally do anything to make cooking easier.

Lawson stays true to her belief in making cooking as simple and stress free as possible. "Cooking is a marvellous way of decompressing - mainly because I don't do hugely complicated things," she said, before pointing out that remaining sedentary is not exactly her idea of a good time, either.

"The idea that you relax by doing nothing is so alien to me. I've always looked to the kitchen for a place where I might feel calm... I think it's important to feed yourself."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2015, with the headline 'Obesity a poverty issue, says Nigella Lawson'. Print Edition | Subscribe