I love Instagram as much as the next person but it’s hard to log on and not be bombarded with mixed messages about health, diet, nutrition, good fats, bad fats… the list goes on. In recent years, it seems as though everyone is an expert on something, making it more difficult to find reliable, honest information. There are so many food ‘myths’ flying around at the moment so I couldn’t wait to speak with Eve Simmons: one half of Not Plant Based and Deputy Health Editor at Mail On Sunday. Eve and her NPB partner Laura are on a mission to help debunk food myths and help alleviate anxieties for those that struggle with disordered eating. Read on to find out more…
For anyone that doesn’t know, talk me through Not Plant Based and what you do there…
We are a myth-busting duo; fighting pseudo science and dietary nonsense in a bid to celebrate ALL foods and alleviate anxiety around eating for those who may struggle with disordered eating patterns, but also for people who have got totally lost in all the scare-mongering nutrition nonsense. We also raise awareness for eating disorders and try to create a more positive, safe online environment for those with mental health issues.
As a chef, I see A LOT of food photos on Instagram – how do you think social media has changed the way we view and consume food?
SO much. It’s all horribly visual but in a sort of vacuous way. There’s a disconnect between what people are eating with their mouths/bellies and what they are eating with their eyes. I do worry that this cultural obsession with food – in terms of everything from nutrition to the almost pornographic pics of a cheese toasty –is a gateway into disordered or distorted eating. Intellectualising and fetishizing food – something that is so inherently emotional, automatically encourages us to eat not with our tastes and our hunger cues, but with our negotiation skills.
I can imagine you see some pretty infuriating articles and advice about ‘healthy’ food from unqualified sources, what would be your best advice for someone who struggles to maintain a healthy attitude to food?
Two things. 1. Be kind to yourself. There are no rules and the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘should nots’ are totally arbitrary and have come from nowhere apart from the circulating unnecessary panic of the media/social media. Life is stressful and shitty enough without you having to worry about what you’re eating…it’s one of life’s rare, true pleasures so enjoy it. Life is too short not too.
2. Remember that we live in a capitalist society whereby most messages we see are targeted as a way to make money for a corporate organisation. Diet culture, fitness industries, supplement companies, media organisations… everyone has targets which, ultimately, are driven by sales. No one, apart from qualified, medical professions who are not working for profit (i.e NHS) have only your best interests at heart. Be curious about everything you read and ask where has this come from and what is the intention of this campaign/advert/article?
On a positive note, what’s the most rewarding thing about your job?
My actual job: meeting people with incredible stories of relentless endeavour and overcoming adversity and having the opportunity to share their stories to empower others. Also stumbling across new, potentially life-changing health treatments pioneered by incredible NHS researchers and then being able to spread that message to the masses is pretty cool. Knowing that you could literally be saving someone’s life (or vastly improving it) with one story is pretty incredible. It’s something which makes me extremely proud to work in health journalism.
From one girl boss to another, what advice would you give you other women wanting to start their own business/website/brand?
JUST DO IT! Don’t hesitate, have faith in yourself and what you can achieve. If you’re passionate and motivated about a particular subject, it will work and you’ll inspire others to be just as fanatical. The only way to make anything happen is to give it a go and see what happens… you’ll be surprised how nice people can be. I honestly believe that women are truly amazing and their potential has long been under-played. Email other girl bosses that you admire; even if they are in a different sphere you never know what might come of it. It’s always worth taking the meeting with a fellow wonder woman…our collective power is pretty astounding.
What is your favourite part of working alongside Laura?
Having someone to pick me up when I’m feeling meh and have lost faith in myself and my abilities. And having someone to reign me in when I’m being rude about everyone on Instagram (soz not soz).
Alongside Not Plant Based, you’re also the Deputy Health Editor at Mail On Sunday – how do you find a balance between work and home life?!
HA! I am currently not doing a very good job of this…I take it each day/week as it comes and try to grapple with whatever it is that is right in front of me at any particular moment rather than getting too overwhelmed with the bigger picture of my never-ending to-do list. I have an incredible supportive boyfriend who gleefully sits in our flat playing PlayStation (with his earphones on) to keep me company on weekends whilst I am writing. I try as hard as I can to do at least two fun things each week; whether it be dinner with my boyfriend or after-work drinks, or a night out with the girls. It reminds me that I’m not yet 75 and that there is more to life than negotiating the correct usage of apostrophes. I’ve also recently tried to stop checking my work emails past 8pm at night – it doesn’t seem like a great achievement but it’s a small step which helps me to switch off.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Sitting round the dinner table, sharing a delightful selection of Spanish/Japanese fusion Tapas with my new friend, Nigella Lawson. If that happens, then nothing else matters tbh.
What do you enjoy doing to relax after a stressful day?
Listening to a great, thought-provoking podcast on the journey home (I am officially my mother) and cooking…it provides a distraction from the stress thoughts of work and massively calms me. And then I get to eat delicious food and feel smug coz I made it (smug face emoji)
Talk me through your day in food: do you have time for breakfast in the morning? What are your go-to ingredients?
Reluctant to answer this question as I feel it’s unhelpful for people and perhaps further evokes food anxieties. Every day is different and every person is different. Also…who cares? We are so much more than what we eat. It’s like saying; talk me through your day in shits…how many times a day did you drop one out and which experience was the most ‘cleansing’. I like pizza and ice cream but don’t eat them everyday, like most people.
Where are your favourite places to eat out?
My favourite restaurant of all time is The Palomar in Rupert street, London. It’s middle eastern and run by a team of largely Israeli chefs; it’s my absolute favourite kind of food and they do this octopus hummous thing and OH MY GOD IT’S THE BEST THING IN THE WORLD. Otherwise I love a restaurant in Mayfair called El Pirata. It’s a small Tapas restaurant with evocative art on the walls and an authentic, family-run vibe. It’s always heaving and the staff know us well and my boyfriend and I spend most valentines days there. It’s simple, classic and always super tasty. Oh and also The Good Egg in soho/stokey is to die for if you like your pitta bread and baba ganoush.
If I came over for dinner, what would you serve?
Oooh it depends what you like! Probably something Mediterranean like a slow roasted joint of harissa-spice lamb until it falls of the bone, with seared aubergine, hummus and yoghurt dips, and then a massive, fresh salad with plenty of basil and ripe, plump tomatoes. Oh and fluffy, charred pitta breads. Maybe cheesecake for pudding
Are there any specific ingredients/foods you couldn’t live without?
Garlic and lemons! Whenever I cook without garlic I always find a certain sense of blandness which disappears when I grate in a single clove. A generous squeeze of lemon brightens up my questionable veg that has been sitting for way too long in my vegetable drawer.