GBBO’s Nadiya shares her mental health struggles

Nadiya Hussain

I loved chatting to former Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain. She was so genuine and frank, telling me about her decision to re-marry husband Abdal, the pressures to look good on camera and her battles with anxiety.

Baking star Nadiya Hussain talks about her anxiety, her marriage and loving herself more than ever…

Nadiya Hussain is counting the months since her last panic attack. ‘It’s been six months,’ she tells OK! ‘I used to have one every week.’ Since winning The Great British Bake Off in 2015, the mum-of-three’s life has changed immensely. With cookbooks, a homeware range, a children’s novel, cookery shows and her recent documentary Nadiya: Anxiety And Me, she’s barely paused for breath.

Her husband Abdal is a great support when it comes to caring for their two sons Musa and Dawud and daughter, Maryam. After an arranged Islamic marriage 14 years previously, the couple re-married last year in a no-frills ceremony during Abdal’s lunch break.

Here, the 34-year-old baking queen talks to OK! about dealing with her anxiety, which stemmed from her experience of racist bullying at primary school, learning to love herself and the time-saving kitchen tips that have inspired her new BBC series Nadiya’s Time To Eat

Do you feel the pressure to look perfect on camera? Of course. Sometimes I watch myself back and think: ‘My a*** looks huge!’ I have moments when I think I could lose a couple of pounds but I finally feel the happiest right now as I am. I follow amazing body positive people on Instagram like Bryony Gordon. She makes you feel you can be on top of the world no matter what your size.

What have you learnt about yourself since winning Bake Off? I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was and I don’t hate myself as much as I thought I did. In fact, I love myself more than I did five years ago and I’m a better parent for it. Before, I was showing my kids that we should hide the way we feel. Now we talk about anxiety like it’s a normal topic.

Have you had supportive messages since speaking out about your anxiety? Overall I’ve had wonderful feedback but with it comes the negative comments and that makes me feel really sad. The documentary was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I’d never seen a therapist before. I hadn’t realised I’d buried a lot of memories and emotions quite deep.

Have you carried on with the cognitive behaviour therapy? I haven’t, but then I haven’t had a panic attack for six months now. It’s the longest I’ve been without one. I used to have one every week. The anxiety is still there and I can feel it sometimes rising to the surface but I’ve learnt that it’s not going to kill me. I talk to my panic attack and tell it that I’m not going to lock myself in my bedroom to hide from it any more. Then it just goes away. It’s weird.

Why did you and Abdal decide to marry again? We originally had an Islamic wedding but we’d never officially got married in this country. As Muslims, that was important so that our children are secure. Sometimes I’d go to bed thinking: ‘Have I got everything in place in case anything happens to me?’ I’m morbid, but as someone who suffers from anxiety I think about death every single day.

In what context? If I think about anyone that I love, I think, Oh my God they’re going to die today! It’s terrible but it’s something I’ve always done.

Has your relationship with Abdal changed? We appreciate each other’s company a lot more. It’s so important to stop and make eye contact with the people you love because life gets in the way and you stop looking at each other.

Did you go on a honeymoon? No, I ended up cleaning up sick all afternoon because my youngest son had a vomiting bug! We’ve never had a honeymoon. Maybe one day. It’ll be somewhere with white sands and clear water.

Tell us about your new BBC show Nadiya’s Time To Eat These days we’re all so time-poor we struggle to eat together as a family and we’re not cooking as much as we should. So it’s all about thinking ahead: stretching recipes to make two days’ worth of meals, using leftovers, not buying more than we need and stocking the freezer up. I store three months’ worth of food in the freezer. Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with takeaways. Eating fish and chips in the park on a summer’s night is the best thing in the world.

Does your husband cook? He can’t cook, but he does the laundry and he cleans the toilet. Too often people talk about husbands who ‘pitch in’ at home. But it’s their house, they live in it, so they can clean it too!