West London TV presenter Cherry Healey on the importance of regular family meal times are the destructiveness of food anxiety

A modern day everywoman, presenter Cherry Healey has publicly got candid about an array of controversial topics in a bid to get everyone talking more about women’s issues. She’s hosted a string of BBC Three documentaries on drinking, childbirth, body image, money and dating and, this year, she’s addressing health myths that have gone viral by way of Channel 4’s The Health Detectives, helping to put the hypochondriacs among us at ease.

Straight away, Healey reveals that she grew up with regular family meal times, including healthy home-cooked food, yet she didn’t instill such a routine within her own young family, which caused chaos when eating.

‘It got to a point where I really needed reminding about how important it is to eat together as a family,’ she explains. ‘When I became a mum, I didn’t really think about meal times. With such a busy schedule, meal times sort of happened how they happened, sporadically. The kids would eat in front of the TV a lot of the time.’

The vivacious presenter says that eventually the penny just dropped and she completely overhauled the way her family approached food, and she’s keen to tell us about it thanks to a little help from HelloFresh.

‘Now, we don’t have any phones or iPads at the table, nobody eats in front of the TV and we have set meal times where we all sit and eat together. HelloFresh boxes have really helped me along this journey because they push me to mix things up a bit. Even if you dance over instructions, like I do, they make it so simple and even the kids get involved. I want to give my children the experience I had growing up. Just for a moment I feel like, check me out, I’m Gwyneth Paltrow, I’m one of those wholesome mums!’

Just for a moment I feel like, check me out, I’m Gwyneth Paltrow, I’m one of those wholesome mums!

Modern day life means that many of us simply grab a bite to eat when we can, which the west Londoner feels is contributing to the rapid rise of food anxiety. The traditional way of eating together has gone out the window, and instead we’re obsessed with calorie counting and are constantly bombarded with food fads.

‘Food anxiety is a multi-layered thing. The French say “bon appétit” because they really treasure being hungry. It’s OK to be hungry, don’t be scared of it. That is something that I follow. I have my big meal at the end of the day where I eat absolutely what I want within reason and I really enjoy it.

‘This is something that I realise works for me and is a mentally healthy way of eating food,’ says Healey. ‘I’ve bought into every diet going, you name it I’ve done it. Now I am in a place where I eat what I want in moderation. I don’t want to count calories or cut out entire food groups – and if I want bread or pasta, then I’ll have bread or pasta!’

As someone who’s enslaved to their own food neurosis, it’s exhilarating to hear a woman reclaiming her right to carbs. As insignificant as it may seem, too many of us view bread as a cardinal sin that’s going to expand in our stomachs overnight and leave us looking like a plumped up Violet Beauregarde from Charlie & The Chocolate Factory by sunrise.

We really need to start considering the level of anxiety that food is bringing into our lives. I don’t want to reach 60-years-old and realise I wasted life feeling guilt-ridden about food

Cutting out entire food groups won’t end well for most of us, although a select few with very specific health problems might benefit – but they certainly shouldn’t be schooling the rest of us.

As Healey rightly says, ‘find what’s right for you’, before adding frankly that ‘we really need to start considering the level of anxiety that food is bringing into our lives. I don’t want to reach 60-years-old and realise I wasted the bulk of my precious, precious life guilt ridden about food’.

Healey feels a deep connection with every woman who has suffered from food anxiety and it’s something that drives her when investigating on The Health Detectives, as she knows first hand the damage incorrect health advice can reek on everyday routines. Her aim is to get people questioning and to get the real experts to answer.

‘It’s a very relatable, bonkers experience and a bit covert and shameful at the same time. Past the baby food diet, the Atkins diet, the juicing diet and all the rest of it, you get to a point where life comes first,’ says Healey. ‘It’s not about letting yourself go; it’s about establishing a balanced lifestyle that is healthy and sustainable.’

Focusing on the here and now, Healey’s series for Women’s Hour to do with single parent stigma has just launched, an issue that is close to her heart having gone through a divorce and become a single mother herself.

The Shepherd’s Bush resident actually grew up in Chiswick and hails from the line of Chadwyck-Healey baronets, though she swears Chiswick wasn’t the ‘posh hot spot’ it’s known as now, but simply just a great, no-frills place to grow up in.

‘Basically what I’ve been getting at is, if you want pizza, just have the bloody pizza!’

Cherry Healey is supporting HelloFresh’s #DinnerTimeChallenge, encouraging the nation to eat together as much as they can for 30 days to discover the physical and emotional benefits of eating around the table

Lead image: Cherry Healey arrives for the Tesco Mum of the Year Awards 2012 (photo: Steve Vas / Featureflash / Shutterstock)


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