Bake Off’s Nadiya: ‘As Women We Spend A lot of Time Fretting About Doing Everything Perfectly’

The super shy Bake Off star turned boundary crushing warrior speaks to us about dealing with anxieties, overcoming self-imposed restrictions and her views on #CleanEating

Bake Off's Nadiya: As Women We Spend A lot of Time Fretting About Doing Everything Perfectly

by Jess Commons |
Published on

Nadiya Hussain, the winner's of last year's Great British Bake Off and holder to the key of the nation's hearts is, in real life, absolutely tiny. Like teeny tiny. Meeting her, you feel like giant next to her elegantly minute stature. Talking to her though? The tables turn.

At first, on what was the most popular series of Bake Off to date, Nadiya, a then 30-year-old mum-of-three from Leeds was unsure of herself. She questioned every decision she made and, despite receiving bonkers good feedback from judges Mary Berry and Paul-my-eyes-could-cut-you-like-laser-beams Hollywood, continued to fret about her undeniably brilliant output.

As the weeks went on, she became more confident and, when she finally won (a victory that surprsied literally no-one but brought tears to the eyes of more than a few) she gave a moving speech to the camera about how she wouldn't ever 'put boundaries' on herself again. Since then she's got herself an upcoming TV show The Chronicles of Nadiya, a weekly column for the Times, made the Queen's 90th birthday cake and now, written a cookbook. Nadiya's Kitchen is lovely and packed with easy to make, wholesome and (mostly) healthy dishes which Nadiya cooks for her family of three kids and husband Abdul which are influenced by her Bangladeshi roots.

We caught up with her to get advice on shaking off the boundaries holding you back, tips on eating well and to find out what she's been up to since Bake Off.

Hello Nadiya! What's it like for your kids now you're famous?

I don’t think my boys always enjoy me being stopped in the street but my daughter loves it! If we’re walking around having a normal day she’s say ‘Oh Mum I think someone just spotted you!’ And I’m like, well if they didn’t know who I was they do now! She loves all of that. I think she’s enjoying it.

Are loads of people still coming up to you in the street?

Yeah it does happen quite a lot and it is really nice! After Bake Off I thought I’d just fly under the radar, go back to normal and go home. But no, I still get loads of people stopping me and they’re always so positive and say how me being on the show encouraged them to do something they never thought they could. I’m always really humbled by that so I don’t mind them stopping to have a chat.

You promised at the end of the show that you’d never let boundaries hold you back any more – has that been an easy promise to keep up?

That was pretty much the point where the old Nadiya, the Nadiya that would put boundaries on herself and worry about every decision she made, changed. I don’t feel like that person anymore. If it feels right I’ll do it, if it doesn’t, I don’t and I don’t beat myself up about it. The anxiety I used to suffer, I don’t feel that any more. If I make a bad decision it’s just a way of leading me to a different path.

Do you still get scared?

Since coming off the show there is not one thing I’ve done that I thought ‘Oh yeah that’s normal’. None of it, red carpets, radio interviews, is normal to me so yeah I feel scared every time but I hate that feeling of being afraid so I’m like ‘shake it off, you’ll be fine, what’s the worst that can happen?’ I don’t allow myself to feel scared anymore.

Any advice on how we can stop feeling scared Nadiya?

I think as humans, especially as women, we spend a lot of time fretting about doing everything perfectly. I know that as a daughter, as a mother, as a wife, that all I ever want to do is do everything perfectly. I think we need to stop and say actually, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be something that you’re happy with.

So perfection is all something we’ve made up?

Our idea of perfect ion is what everybody else wants from us and actually it should be what do you want from YOU.

Since you’ve been on the show there’s been a lot talk about Clean Eating, whether it’s got out of control and what it really means – what’s your view on healthy eating?

For me, the main things is I’ve got three children and it’s very important for me and a mother when I cook and eat to portray to me children that cooking and eating is very important. One thing I would never do is take out entire food groups because it will help you lose weight. What is more important than food is a good attitude towards food. We live in a society where being slim and a certain size is really important and I know that as my children grow up there will be a million influences that I can’t control so I need to start early and help give them a good attitude towards food.

  • Nadiya's Kitchen is out now on Michael Joseph. Get it here.*

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Follow Jess on Twitter @Jess_Commons

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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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