Helen Lederer: ‘Food is an issue for all mums because you’re surrounded by it’

Comedy actress Helen Lederer reveals her experiences of piling on the pounds, useless diets and being a single mum

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Helen Lederer is probably best known as Patsy and Eddie’s sidekick, the dim and ditsy Catriona, in TV series Absolutely Fabulous. In fact, Helen has spun together a career of comedy, theatre, radio, TV and now a novel, Losing It. Much of her early success coincided with her being a single parent of daughter Hannah (now 24), and she laughingly admits that among the triumphs, it’s been a time of ups and downs – both as a parent and with her weight…

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How long were you parenting solo?

I became a single parent when my daughter Hannah was one, and as Prince Charles said, you don’t recommend it. You don’t set out to get married, have a child and get divorced in a short period of time and there was a lot of sadness and grief.  But looking back, a divorce is not the worst thing that can happen in life.

How has it affected your relationship with your daughter?

Being on our own created a strong bond between me and Hannah, and although we do scream a lot, it’s resolved quickly. Hannah’s now an adult and one thing she still has a problem with is the chicken dinosaurs I used to give her for tea. But that’s just what you did!

Your new novel, Losing It, is about a single mum battling weight issues. Anyone you know?

In Losing It, the main character Millie is a single mum. She’s divorced, in debt and desperate to lose weight. She’s given the chance to get £20,000 for losing 3 stone in 3 months, a situation that I was in too. The book follows her on her journey to try and lose weight but the thing is that of course you know that she is going to eat afterwards because food and wine are lovely…

My relationship with food is pretty dysfunctional, I don’t know what food to eat. I get muddled by all the diets so I can be good for 2 days and then I go mad and eat loads of carbs. So I think the only way to do it is to do a gastric band but then you’re going to be sick in front of your friends at the dinner table!

So mums and food…

Food is an issue for all mums because you’re surrounded by it all the time. There are people who are short and fat and hate exercise, like me, and there are people who preach everything in moderation, like that Katie Hopkins but she’s stick thin!

And any of it passed from mum to daughter?

Thankfully Hannah didn’t inherit my body. I’ve always been round and even when I’m not round I believe that I am round, I’m like a peasant who could be a farmer – but she’s is a graceful person with long feet and things like that. She definitely has issues with food though, but that’s like all the people she went to school with – they also all have excellent teeth because they all went to the same dentist.

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Losing It is available from Amazon and all good bookstores.

Photos: Helen Lederer

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