The TV chef discusses the importance of diet and exercise on mental health and the inspiration he takes from his father.
Simon Rimmer is one of the nation’s most popular celebrity chefs. Perhaps best known for Sunday morning show, Sunday Brunch, Rimmer also dusted off his dancing shoes in Strictly Come Dancing. We caught up with the Merseysider to discuss the importance of diet and exercise on his mental health and how he’s inspired by his father.
Hello, what are you working on at the moment?
Well, the ‘Sunday Brunch’ show is ongoing, I’ve just finished another series of ‘Tricks of the Restaurant Trade’ for Channel 4 and I also put a lot of work into my ten restaurants – I have a stressful life but, I am grateful to be working this much and I enjoy being busy.
As a chef, what are your thoughts on the role of healthy eating in contributing to good mental health?
It’s massive. I think a nutritionally rich diet is essential to all aspects of your life. I believe what you put into your body has a direct correlation to how you feel and how you act as a human being. There’s lots of evidence to suggest that poor diet contributes to illness on all levels – both physical and mentally.
What do you eat to stay healthy?
I eat really really well. I’ve always been very sporty and athletic and tried to look after myself. I eat loads of fish, masses of vegetables and fruit. I drink gallons and gallons of water! However, I will also succumb to having a dirty kebab or a curry and things like that and I think that’s important. Not to be too prescriptive and to enjoy a folly or two but, there is always an understanding of having a healthy lifestyle and diet is at the centre of that for me.
You are known for being quite athletic. Have you reflected on the role of exercise in your life and its impact on your mental health?
Again, massively. I had a big knee operation about three and half years ago and during the time I was doing rehab I couldn’t really do any exercise. I realised that this had a huge impact on how I felt. I have a relatively stressful life, but it seemed that every little thing seemed to affect me so much more because I didn’t have any release. I felt like I wasn’t creating enough endorphins to make myself feel good – almost put myself in neutral. When I used to run before the knee op that exercise would allow me to centre myself and put myself in neutral – reset my whole well-being which allowed me to face things again.
But it is also important to be mindful of your relationship to it and equally, the downside to it is when you stop exercising or take a break – it can have a big impact on how you feel and how you cope with things.
What has been your biggest life challenge so far and what did you do to overcome
As I look back, to my childhood I remember being nine years old and my dad being diagnosed with cancer and was told he had very little chance of survival – he’s now 84 and still going strong! I remember my dad being a very strong human being and I remember him using that when he was fighting his illness – he had the power of positivity and mental agility and that always stuck with me. That approach to his survival has played a big part in how I look to deal with difficult and stressful times in my life.
There have been times in my life when I have had to draw from that strength. For example, about 16 years ago, I almost went bankrupt and I remember feeling that I wanted to give up. However, I found a way of getting myself out of that situation and then went from strength to strength – that was a huge learning curve.
Then there are more personal challenges that require a different kind of strength and commitment. I have been married for 22 years and like most people we have our ups and we have our downs. However, communication is so important – to be open and honest with someone about your feelings is just so important – and we have managed to stay strong and committed throughout all of the things we have been through.
What would constitute a perfect day for you?
Well, delving into any fantasy perfect day would involve travel and food. If it was on day, I would travel to New York and fill the whole experience with food, shopping and feeling the energy of the city. After stuffing my face all day and night in NY, I’d catch a first-class flight home and then spend the evening with my family.
What do you feel the most grateful for?
On a professional level, I have been very fortunate in that I’ve always been able to take advantage of the opportunities that have come my way. The TV work I have done was completely unexpected but, when I was offered it, I was able to adapt to it pretty quickly and I really really enjoy it. It’s also opened so many doors and provided so many amazing experiences that I’ll always be thankful that I was able to get involved in media work.
On a personal level, I am very happy and fortunate to have the family I do. My wife is my rock and my partner in life and we have marvellous children who I am so proud of.
What three artists and/or songs help lift your spirits?
Counting Crows – one of my favourite artists. I went to see them twice and also while my wife was pregnant – we always say the kids have been to see them too!
Luther Van Dross – always reminds me of good times with friends and family; very uplifting.
The song You’ll Never Walk Alone. I was at the Hillsborough disaster and that song is very emotionally powerful for me – it always makes me feel proud and strong, it always makes me cry. Just everything about it and everything it means and everything it reminds me of. A beautiful song.
What is your favourite self-help book, or motivational quote?
I think about my dad’s words when he was advising me on employing people, “give people the opportunity to succeed rather than the chance to fail’.
Very good advice professionally and I adopt it in my business life but, I also believe that applies to other areas such as my role as a father. I want to give my children every opportunity to succeed and is what drives me both personally and professionally. I want to allow my children to grow and reach their potential and give them the platform on which they can live happy lives.