By Harriet Mallinson | Published on July 3, 2017
Today, TV chef Lisa Roukin is a slim, smiling blonde who loves cooking and enjoying food, but it hasn’t always been this way.
After reaching 13 stone at 13-years-old, Lisa struggled with severe anorexia and bulimia that saw her admitted into eating disorder clinics. Her hair fell out, her periods stopped and she was unable to take her GCSEs.
Thankfully, due to the support and therapy she received, Lisa has managed to turn her life around and embrace a healthy relationship with food.
Now, a London-based chef, teacher and writer, Lisa runs her own cookery school, Cook with Lisa, and successfully published her debut cookbook, My Relationship with Food, featuring 100 gluten-free recipes. She has appeared on Channel 4, cooked live on BBC radio and was a finalist on Gordon Ramsay’s The F-Word.
MACROS spoke to Lisa about her eating disorder, how she overcame it and her words of wisdom on creating a healthy relationship with food.
Can you tell us a bit more about your eating disorder?
I was overweight as a child but at 16 I managed to shed three and a half stone. However, at that point I began to feel more social pressure to look good as boys started to come on the scene. I became really concerned I’d put the weight back on if I wasn’t careful.
Due to my lack of nutrition knowledge, my natural reaction was to cut out lots of food groups until I had a very limited diet altogether. I totally avoided oil or fats and spent the majority of my time eating cereal and lots of dried fruit.
Lisa, aged 12
What made you realize something had to change?
I knew I wasn’t happy – nothing was making me happy. Not only was I utterly miserable but I was also causing my family and friends tremendous strain and upset. It was this that finally made me think that being slim was preventing me from enjoying all that life had to offer.
I went through therapy, attended two eating disorder clinics and worked with a team of people to help identify the issues that I had around food and myself.
However, it took a number of years to heal. Having an eating disorder isn’t something that can be cured like the common cold; it takes years of work, understanding and belief that you will be okay.
What’s your attitude to food now?
I absolutely love food! I now have a very healthy relationship with it, even though it’s taken me years to get to this level of enjoying good, wholesome nourishment.
As a chef, I’ve now mastered the art of cooking mindfully and love nothing more than developing healthy, delicious recipes to share with my friends and family. Even my desserts and treats are healthy.
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What’s your diet like now?
I get to test and develop lots of delicious recipes due to the nature of my job. Therefore, most of my mealtimes are very varied. I like to change my choices at mealtimes as often as I can, ensuring that I don’t stick to the same options. I love looking in my fridge and creating a meal out of whatever is inside.
I think I’ll always have to watch my weight but I have a very healthy relationship with myself now. I was born with a body which I now work in harmony with.
Today, Lisa is a successful London-based chef, teacher and writer
How do you advise we manage our relationship with food?
It’s very important to understand that our bodies change over time and they can sometimes work differently with certain foods. One of the best investments you can make in your life is to be connected with yourself about the choices you make when it comes to eating.
Food is a pleasure but it doesn’t have to be abused. Incorporating a varied diet and trying new ways of cooking is a great way to elaborate on yourself.
What is your weight loss advice?
Once you set your mind to the fact that you do want to lose weight, you have to accept that it won’t happen overnight; often, the slower the process, the better the results.
Initially, over the first few weeks of dieting, you will probably lose weight easily but after that is when the difficult period kicks in. My advice is to not give up and keep working with it.
Like anything in life, if you want good results, you have to work hard.
Harriet is Editor of MACROS and perfectly capable of eating an entire log of goat’s cheese in one sitting.