Thousands swear by her advice and this week her You Are What You Eat diet book nearly topped a poll of books people were most likely to pass onto their kids. Love her or loathe her, celebrity nutritionist Gillian McKeith has become a global phenomenon.
In her new series Eat Yourself Sexy, the good-food guru challenges hefty housewives in the US to break the habits of a lifetime and get healthy.
Gillian doesnât think twice about serving up some shocking home-truths in a bid to boost the chubby contestantsâ libidos. We talked to the outspoken nutritionist about her no-nonsense approach, picking through peopleâs poo and how appearing on telly saved her lifeâ¦
*Eat Yourself Sexy With Gillian is on Discovery Real Time, Monday’s at 10pm
Audiences have a Marmite reaction to you. People seem to either love you or hate you â why do think that is?
I donât know. What Iâm now realising is that food is very emotive. So there I am waving my finger saying you should not be eating that or you werenât brought up properly â thatâs quite hard to take. Itâs really a big deal for people to come to terms with the fact that what theyâre putting in their bodies is not good for them.
In the street – I walk a lot I donât have a car – I meet a lot of people. They come up to me and ask me things and they all seem really happy â so they canât be that scared. Of course a woman looking at peopleâs poo is going to cause a reaction.
Will there be any poop inspections in the new series?
Itâs not on TV this time but of course weâre looking through the poo off screen – itâs part of what I do. My mum used to say: âWhy do you have to look at peopleâs poo when Iâm eating?â? I said: âWell mum if youâre eating at 8pm then thatâs too late.â? She says: âGod, get off your soapbox!â?
Itâs amazing how much you can read from someoneâs poo. Iâm so used to it. Iâve been doing it for many, many years. Itâs quite fascinating. It is a taboo, thatâs probably what shocked people so much. In Brazil, the programme is out there, itâs even more of a taboo. They call me Miss Poo!
Your shows go out in 60 countries and youâve become a global brand. Do people recognise you in the street?
People act like they know you, they just come up and start talking â Iâm never sure if I know them or not. I get given gifts and invited round for tea. You just have to go along with it. One time I was at St Pancras station and this group of young guys started running towards me. It was late at night and there were about 12 of them. I thought â Iâm going to be mugged!
They got close and then a few of them recognised me. Then one drops his trousers and asks me to sign his bottom. So Iâm posing for pictures and I thought – the show has saved my life!
Some people in the scientific community have criticised your advice and methods on your programmes. They donât seem to like you very much â why do you think that is?
Iâve no idea. I canât imagine whatâs wrong with the message of take responsibility for your health and eating healthy food. Iâm proud of my message. Thereâs a lot of negativity in the world and Iâm not someone who goes towards that. Itâs so pointless. I do believe itâs shameful in a situation where weâve got the worst obesity rates ever and weâve got type two diabetes on the rise. Clearly thereâs something wrong. So I come along and give out a really good message â I canât understand why anyone would want to complain about it.
Youâre well known for your no nonsense approach, is that what you’re really like?
In You Are What You Eat the editing might have made me look more one way then if you met me in person. I think I may have come across as quite one-sided and one-dimensional in some of the edits but, and people start laughing when I say this, there is a lot of love to help them have a successful ending. Iâm not just waving my finger screaming at you all day – I just care so much about getting the results.
Where does your strict style come from?
It goes back years ago when this woman came into my office and she threw down a bottle of vodka and a pack of cigarettes across my desk and said: âIâll do your diet honey but Iâm not giving up these.â? I thought this is ridiculous, I cannot be ordered about by this person. Iâd always been very polite, the way youâre supposed to be and very nice.
But it wasnât getting me anywhere. So it was the straw that broke the camelâs back. I remember hearing this voice shouting âget out of my office I canât take you people anymore.â? I thought â was that me? Have you ever had a moment when you say something, it just tumbles out and itâs too late? You canât get it back, you canât pretend it wasnât you.
She said: âI beg your pardon, you canât speak to me like thatâ?
And I said: âWell I just did!â?
She said: âDonât you know who I am? My husband is very rich and very famous.â?
Iâm not impressed by fame or wealth and I said that to her. I think up until then sheâd always been curt and people would have said âyes, yes, yesâ? whatever the situation. She broke down in tears. I made her sign an affidavit to do everything I said. And she did. Her transformation was extraordinary. It was a turning point, not just for her but for me too. It was when I became really true to myself. So instead of taking it I would say the real thing. And I was able to go from getting really good results to really great results.
People donât always take too kindly to that tough-love style though.
Thereâs no point in me coming to your house, looking through your fridge and saying âyouâre doing a good jobâ? when youâre like 500 pounds. Howâs that going to help you? Some of them are horrified. They say âbut nobody has ever said this to me beforeâ? and I say âexactly â and look where you are.” I go out on a limb because I know that it works and I know they will get what they want.