Gillian McKeith became a household name with her TV programme You Are What You Eat. The nutritionist would give people a food/lifestyle makeover. She would look at current eating patterns, giving people information about what those habits were doing to their bodies/health and proposing new regimes based on her philosophy of food. Her methods would include diagnosis of dietary issues through examining tongues (for instance a line down the middle of the tongue could indicate weak digestion) and bodily wastes – a recipe for popular TV! McKeith suffers from the painful condition scoliosis (curvature of the spine) which may help explain her small stature.
I have had her You Are What You Eat Cookbook for many years, and have made some of the recipes in the book. My favourite is Warming Split Pea Soup - main ingredients are yellow split peas, sweet potato and carrots which give the soup a warm, orangey yellow glow. Looking over the book for this article I’ve decided to try another recipe - Chickpea Burgers - the burgers are made from equal amounts of chickpeas and kidney beans and are cooked in the oven. I have to admit there are several recipes I would not try because I do not see the point of buying specific products I am unlikely to use regularly such as barley groats, shiro miso or uemboshi paste (a Japanese fruit based paste).
Gillian McKeith was born in Perth in 1957 and obtained a degree in Linguistics from the University of Edinburgh. She was not always a healthy eater, and says it took time for her to understand how easy healthy eating could be. Once she took on board this philosophy and could see the benefits for herself she embarked on further study in nutrition. There has been some controversy as to the veracity of McKeith’s qualifications (she removed the title “Dr” from her name following suggestions that her PhD – undertaken through distance learning - came from an American college that was not accredited).
McKeith has made a solid business out of her work – books, TV programmes and health food products. In 2010 she took part in the TV series I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here and received mixed reviews. She was voted by the viewing public again and again for Bushtucker Trials – challenges which brought her face to face with her phobias. She fainted during filming and was sometimes excused from activities on medical grounds.
Whilst some of McKeith’s beliefs are seen as controversial – Ben Goldacre in his book Bad Science devotes a chapter to challenging McKeith’s theories – the success of McKeith’s formula is evident in the weightloss achieved by participants in the TV show You Are What You Eat.