"Dr" Gillian McKeith is a straw-haired mountebank who bought her qualifications from a degree mill, pushes questionable "natural" products and fad diets towards insecure, anxious people on television (all of which she has some form of stake in), and sics her libel lawyer of a husband, Howard Magaziner, on anyone who criticises her.
There. I said it.
Jesus H. Titty-Fucking Tap-Dancing Harley-Riding Christ, I hate this woman. She is one of the few people who I would, if I were God, readily consign to the Special Hell.
She shot to fame in 2004, when she presented a dieting programme on Channel Four entitled "You Are What You Eat." In this programme, she hectored, harangued, and verbally abused "Britain's worst eaters" (her words, not mine) into losing weight for the edification of the viewers and the profit of Channel Four. Her methods, which you won't find employed by your local GP because any real medic worth his salt would be debagged and radished for doing these, most likely, included:
- Getting a balloon and a pair of straws, balancing the former on the latter, and showing it to the patient, and saying, "That's you that is."
- Making a mountain out of out-of-date meat products and claiming that this is the amount of "evil" food that the patient consumed in a week.
- Getting the patient to dump in a jar so she could inspect it and comment on its ickiness (of course it's horrible, you ridiculous quack, it's shit! That's why it's excreted - because the body doesn't want it in there!)
It was the latter of these that gave her the popular nickname, "the awful poo lady." I myself had some other nicknames for her, most of which are unprintable, but that's beside the point. Indeed, the woman does seem to have a strange fixation with excrement, as when she released the obligatory book to tie in with the series, imaginitively entitled, "You Are What You Eat," she devoted four pages in the first chapter to the different types and consistency of stool, another few pages later on to how often you should be visiting the toilet (six times a day - which is probably unavoidable given the ridiculous diet she proposes, but more on that later), and an entire chapter to colonic irrigation and enemas, thus proving once and for all that she is a pain in the arse. The book also adopts the same shrill, hectoring tone that her TV work does, however, since it's aimed at a general audience rather than some poor munchkin that the TV company's dredged up, the personal abuse is missing. Though not for want of trying, apparently if you eat red meat (processed or no), white bread, inorganic produce (as an aside, I have yet to see any hard evidence that organic produce is intrinsically healthier than inorganic produce), or drink alcohol in any quantity, you will die and your body will take over a century to decompose. In a later chapter, she refers to anyone who lives in a city, walks under pylons on their way to work, gets the tube, eats red meat or inorganic produce as a "toxic dump monster" and "orders" them to undertake her Detox Day Plan immediately. So you see... not for want of trying is the personal abuse scaled back.
Speaking of which, let's digress slightly into the area of detox for a moment. It is based on dodgy principles that even I, whose furthest venture down that path was staying awake in GCSE Biology, can call bullshit on it. McKeith claims that nowadays, we're so surrounded by nebulous "toxins," which can range from anything to chemicals in food production, inorganic produce (she pushes organic stuff so hard I can't help but detect that there may be some sort of commercial reason for this, especially since the Soil Association has given her awards for "educating the public") to, evidently, magnetic fields (!), that detoxing is a total must. She claims that these "toxins" are trapped by the body in "balls of mucus" and leak out over time, and thus are responsible for many a malady including cancer, HIV, diabetes, and weight gain. Therefore, you need to go on a binge of obscure beans, pulses, and foul-smelling brown gack that, conveniently, is sold by businesses she holds a stake in, along with slurping blue green algae, wheatgrass juice, and gallons of mineral water, which will magically neutralise these toxins. In all respects, she is talking bollox. Firstly, mucus does not work that way - it traps germs which are then coughed, sneezed, blown, or vomited out the body, not chemical toxins. Secondly, none of the things she claims to be toxins are, in fact, toxins. As I said, there is no evidence I have seen that organic produce is "safer" than inorganic produce. Nor is there any hard evidence that use of a mobile phone, living near a pylon, or suchlike gives you cancer (and if it did, how would balls of mucus form around EM radiation anyhow? What is this, quantum snot?) And thirdly, there is no evidence that certain foodstuffs magically clean toxins out your body. I suspect personally that any positive outcome of any detox plan can be attributed to the placebo effect, but I am not going to get bogged down with the mechanics of that here. But what do you expect from someone who bought her qualifications?
"Oh, but she gets those fat folks down to a socially acceptable BMI, doesn't she?" cry her supporters. Well... yes, she does. But I can confidently say that NONE of this was due to her "Diet of Abundance," as she entitled her programme. Her televised victims were not in need of anything other than cutting out their present diet of junk food and binge eating. They were not in need of wheatgrass, quinoa, aduki beans, mung beans, blue-green algae or other so-called "superfoods," or being harangued about how every mealtime is a Manichean struggle between good and evil. Nor do they need a hamper full of vitamin pills every day, another thing she promotes, and one thing that makes me wonder - if her diet is so good, why does she need to throw vitamin pills into the mix as well? After all, a balanced diet already contains enough of the different nutrients without the need for supplements, surely? No, all these people needed was to be told to eat less and exercise more - and to cut out the fags if they smoked. In other words, sound common sense.
But sound common sense can't readily be sold, and while she may be an utterly crap nutritionist, she is very good at marketing. Not only does she push "natural" foodstuffs via businesses she has a stake in and then advertise them in her books and on her programme, she also pushes dietary supplements via endorsement. As expected, these are of the variety that are expensive, marketed as being "natural," and are normally sold via spam or MLM. And yes, one of these was entitled "Horny Goat Weed Complex" and pushed as a herbal Viagra - yes, like what you get thousands of spam e-mails every day advertising. However, you can't buy these any more - in 2007, following a legal threat by her libel lawyer husband, a visitor to Ben Goldacre's blog "Bad Science" ratted her pills out to the Advertising Standards Agency because they, well, didn't work and were being sold as medication when quite clearly they were not. As such she was forced to withdraw them from sale.
Also, the fact that she goes out her way to attempt to slap down her critics with legal threats casts aspersions over the quality of her materials. In 2000, Professor John Garrow, a real-life clinical nutritionist, found himself facing a defamation claim when he lambasted her book "Living Foods for Health" as the nonsense it was. Even though he, firstly, knew what he was talking about, and secondly, could cite chapter and verse on why McKeith's advice was egregiously wrong. Secondly, she has sued bloggers for casting doubt on her bought qualifications, and given the costly and draining nature of a defamation case in Britain, a lot of them have given in rather than fight simply because they couldn't afford it. I would go on more about this, but I'd just get worked up - and this is merely a symptom of a far nastier cause.
So there we have it then. Far from being Britain's leading nutritionist and the single-handed saviour of Britain from the OBESITY EPIDEMIC, what we have in Gillian McKeith is the very essence of a mountebank. A woman who openly lies about her qualifications and experience, who tries to silence her critics, who peddles bad, if not dangerous, advice which is actually her advertising dressed up as same, and who has made a lot of money out of the credulousness and stupidity of others. Yet despite all this, people still take notice of her nutritional advice when it is, in a word, bunk. And this is why I despise her so much - not because she profits, but because she does so by deception of the lowest kind.