Nigella Lawson and Gillian McKeith: A Challenge and an Opportunity

by Gena on February 2, 2012


Image courtesy of Wendy

About a week ago, I received the following email from a reader:

“…I felt compelled to message because of an image in circulation. It’s aimed at a British audience, as it consists of two British TV personalities and is targeted at women who are considering vegetarianism/veganism. It depicts a juxtaposition of an image of Gillian McKeith (vegetarian health guru) and another with Nigella Lawson. The former looks ravaged…the latter is shown looking radiant with youthful skin. The caption is long but says something to the effect of: both are 51, one is a vegetarian and looks like this, one eats copious amounts of butter and meat and looks like that. It sounds trivial but it is a powerful and disturbing image and sums up the reason why I’m still shy about my veganism despite the fact that it has saved me from a life of disordered eating.”

I quickly went to find the image in question (there are now several iterations of it), and understood precisely why it is so potent and disturbing. And then I spent a week deciding out whether or not I ought to write a post about it, as I’m loathe to give attention/hits/publicity to the image, or to participate in its circulation. Ultimately, I decided that remaining silent was probably less helpful than offering my readers a perspective on how to confront these kinds of messages without getting depressed or angry. So that’s why I’m posting today.

I will not actually paste the images into this post, because some of my readers might prefer not to look. Instead, I’ll direct you to the two I’ve found. In the first, here, the caption reads,

This woman is 51. She is TV health guru Gillian McKeith, advocating a holistic approach to nutrition and health, promoting exercise, a vegetarian diet high in organic fruits and vegetables. She recommends detox diets, colonic irrigation and supplements.

This woman is also 51. She is Nigella Lawson a TV cook, who eats meat, butter and desserts. I rest my case.

As my reader said, Lawson looks radiant.

The other image, visible here, reads

This woman is 51 years old. She’s Gillian McKeith, the health guru who talks about a holistic approach between health and food with lots of exercise and a diet rich in fruits and organic vegetables. She recommends a vegetarian diet and colon cleansing.

This woman is 51 years old. She’s Nigella Lawson, a chef who smokes, drinks, eats meat and butter and desserts considered to be “unhealthy.”

Before I begin, let me say that this post is not an endorsement of McKeith’s work. I think it’s chock full of dubious theories, which wouldn’t bother me so much if McKeith didn’t frequently posture as a doctor or scientist, posing in lab coats and with test tubes. In fact, she is a nutritionist just like I am, and whether her degree is holistic (as mine is), or not, it seems to me that the expertise she assumes is out of keeping with the level of scientific research she’s actually conducting or studying. (Ben Goldacre presents a rather scathing, if compelling criticism of her work in his book Bad Science.)

Nor, for the record, do I have anything against the charming Nigella Lawson, except of course that the food she creates is not the food I’d recommend to my readers from either a health or ethical standpoint. I’ve watched Nigella’s show and have been thoroughly entertained by her passion for food. So this post is not about pitting one woman’s approach against the other’s, because the image I’m referencing isn’t really about either McKeith or Lawson as individuals. Rather, it uses their appearances to make a point about “healthy” living versus “unhealthy” living, and tries to poke holes in the idea that a vigilant and plant-based diet is really connected to vibrant health or beauty.

The first thing I noticed about the image is that I’m not so sure that McKeith looks either haggard or gaunt. I think she looks as though she’s not wearing any makeup, and has been caught in a candid photo. Lawson, on the other hand, is wearing an evening gown, and is posing in makeup for a camera. In the second image, McKeith is dressed up too, and the only difference between the relatively “health” of these two women, insofar as it can be judged from a photo, is that McKeith might arguably look a little older than the dewy Lawson, who appears unusually young for her age.

So what’s really going on here? A camera-ready Lawson is juxtaposed with a candid, perhaps unflattering photo of McKeith. McKeith doesn’t look sick or unwell or frighteningly thin; rather, she looks less manicured and stunningly youthful than Lawson. What the picture is really doing is not making claims about how healthy these women are, but rather making statements about who is better and younger looking.

The construct of this image is to publically compare these women’s good looks, and ridicule one of them as the less attractive and older. It is misogynistic, and even it weren’t meant to make fun of vegans, it would offend me because its intention is to shame and insult one woman for not being as “good looking”—at least in the creator’s eyes—as another one. And the image dooms McKeith from the very start, because few women who are caught off guard in a candid snapshot can manage to look as manicured as women who have been dressed up, made up, and asked to smile for a camera.

But let’s get to the vegan thing. This image is the same old tired song vegan-bashing we’re all used to: vegans are sickly. Vegans are unwell. Vegans aren’t as “supple” or “robust” as their omni counterparts. There’s really nothing to say about this, except that it’s a stupid generalization that is becoming increasingly outdated. Vegan athletes like Brendan are proving that vegans have strength and endurance in droves, while any number of fabulous vegan personalities, leaders, and celebs are showing the world just how rich, vibrant, and health-generating the lifestyle is.

The idea that vegans are a sickly breed is simply incorrect: there is as much variance in health among vegans as there is among any lifestyle group, except that vegetarians and vegans are on average more slender and less likely to develop heart disease or high blood pressure. If I wanted to deal in insulting and unfair generalizations about eating habits, I might post a photo of Alicia Silverstone, Ellen DeGeneres, Rory Freedman, and juxtapose it with a photo of a person in a hospital bed, being treated for any number of diseases of affluence, and suggest that the latter’s appearance is caused specifically by consumption of meat and cheese.

This photo, however, doesn’t only take a jab at veganism as a health choice. It also conflates vegetarianism with theories about cleansing and detox diets, which isn’t fair: maybe McKeith recommends them, but a good many plant based eaters have no illusions about the idea of “detox.” And if this conflation of one person’s more extreme theories with the viewpoints of an entire population isn’t troublesome enough, I should point out that McKeith is not a dedicated advocate of vegetarianism; she is herself a pescatarian, and recommends fish to her readers.

What this image really does is channel the age old idea that fastidious attention to health and diet is a waste of time. People love to laugh off “healthy eating” as a fool’s errand, remind you that their great grandfather lived to 100 with bacon and cigarettes and scotch every day. What they don’t tell you is that a good many other relatives probably died young because of strokes or heart diseases, that the meat our great-grandparents ate was infinitely more moderate than what most Americans eat now, and that the unfortunate victims of our carnivorous habits are the billions of farm animals who die or live in captivity every year. So please, let’s not get swept up into thinking that our attachment to animal foods is somehow more “sane” than eating plant-based. Industries that breed sentient beings to be raised in captivity and killed by the billions, while also destroying our ecosystem and promoting diseases of affluence? That’s insane. And if you need more proof that the logic behind this image is whack, just look at the second one, in which cigarette smoking is defended.

There will always be people who insist that a diet without animal products must be a weak and disadvantaged one; it’s visible everywhere from the psuedoscience of the Weston Price Foundation to your opinionated Aunt Sally’s assertion that all vegans eat is “rabbit food.” Ignore it. While vegan diet may pose some challenges—the procurement of B-12, for example—we live in a day and age in which those challenges can be gotten around with a simple supplement. It’s easier than ever to plan and enjoy a rich, healthy, and nourishing diet that is 100% plant-based. And this diet has never been more ethically and ecologically urgent than it is right now.

Whether you are vegan, vegetarian, or simply a conscious eater, use images like this as an opportunity to set an example. Do your best to openly decry and privately disregard these visuals, which set out to ridicule people who prioritize healthy lifestyle choices, and to make women feel ugly, devalued, and vulnerable about their age. If you hear the image mentioned in conversation, do your best to point out how false it is.

More importantly, never let these kinds of stereotypes and insults make you feel ashamed of the way you eat. I say this to the reader who emailed me about the image, but I also say it to all of my readers who are trying to make healthy, compassionate, and/or eco-conscious food choices. Small minded people always have and always will mock lifestyle choices and viewpoints that challenge their own. You have chosen a lifestyle that can be as healthy as it is compassionate. Embrace that choice with confidence, pride, and a sense of communion with everyone here in the CR community who is making those choices with you.


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{ 109 comments… read them below or add one }

Lauren Slayton February 2, 2012 at 11:57 am

I’m glad you decided to post about this. I’m not extremely familiar with either personality pictured. Having said that on first glance Nigella does look younger (less sun exposure? or “work”? not sure). Does this have anything to do with their diets or about plant-based or animal-rich diets in general? In my opinion, it doesn’t. I don’t think we should use aesthetics to determine what we should eat. To be fair though, when I clicked through to Rip Esselstyn’s site, if ever anyone was using looks/image to push a way of eating we see it plainly there. “Real Men Eat Plants.” What’s suggested is you can be a rugged, fire-fighting manly man and vegan. Where’s health, ethics or anything substantive in that suggestion? There are robust vegans and omnivores and haggard ones but that’s not really all that important if you ask me.


Gena February 2, 2012 at 12:02 pm

I adore this comment. And i am so ashamed to admit this, but I linked to Rip’s site only bc he’s an athlete, and without going on the homepage. I didn’t realize his messaging was so macho and full of assumptions. So I deleted the link. Really happy you called that to my attention.


Heather @ For the Love of Kale February 2, 2012 at 11:58 am

Beautiful and articulate. It all comes back to the same mantra I coach myself in every day: Know yourself, trust yourself, and love yourself. If you have those three components, you have the key to a life well-lived. If you know your commitment to veganism (i.e. research and study the lifestyle), trust your commitment to veganism (i.e. know it is the best way of life for you), and love your commitment to veganism, that is all that matters.

Other people will always talk. We should always listen because that makes us more compassionate…but, as in this case, we don’t always have to respond. The “author” of this article is probably never going to agree or sympathize with veganism. At least, that is what I can see from their strong approach. So, what do you do about it? You continue to live your vegan life and love it.


Kendall February 2, 2012 at 12:07 pm

These are the type of posts that make me love your blog even more!


Maria @ Scandifoodie February 2, 2012 at 12:11 pm

I’ve seen the photos too and all I could think of was that Nigella has obviously been under the knife! But that aside, thank you for addressing this issue with your sensible style I adore so much! :-)


Amanda February 2, 2012 at 12:14 pm

How silly to posit that a diet can be evaluated based solely on appearances. It would have been much more interesting to look at their cholesterol levels, for example, but even then, it’s more complicated than that.

I think your response is intelligent and very well said. Thank you for sharing.


Leslie Paquette February 2, 2012 at 12:33 pm

What a great post! Extremely well written and a great response to the photos. I too saw them a few days ago and I was very taken back. I really wasn’t sure what to think except that there are certainly a lot more details to both women’s stories than what is portrayed in the photos and captions. Thank you for the well thought out explanation.


Kathryn February 2, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Love this thoughtful post. My friend and I were having a discussion the other day about how so many diets or supposed healthy eating regimens are really focused on the outside appearance. You can lose weight by cutting calories and maintaining a diet of twinkies, but how would that make you feel and more importantly what does it do to you on the inside. I recently had an in-law pass away from what the doctors deemed being borderline diabetic and having heart disease, he was the picture of health on the outside, but his insides were hurting. It is too bad we can’t do something simple like looking in a mirror and see we have a clogged artery as simply as we can see we have a bad hair day.


Nada (One Arab Vegan) February 2, 2012 at 12:38 pm

I was kind of caught off guard when I saw the title of this post – seems oddly reminiscent of something you’d find in a trashy British tabloid (which I can’t imagine you get a lot of in D.C. :)). Anyways, I love love LOVE this post. It really bothers me when people make such haphazard assumptions about plant-based diets and veganism, but attributing a woman’s overall perceived physical attractiveness (or lack thereof) to a specific lifestyle is just ignorant. I agree with you on both ladies (although I’d go so far as to say I find Gillian McKeith irksome) andI think you articulated your points so well. I should point out that first picture of her was taken when she was in the jungle as a contestant on “I’m A Celebrity! Get Me Out of Here”, so obviously she wasn’t going to look as polished as Nigella at some sort of public event.

Again, very well said. It’s unfortunate that people abuse the power of the internet to perpetuate aged stereotypes like this, but luckily we have you to set the record straight. And I might be contradicting myself here, but talk about vegan glow – all anyone needs to do is take a second look at you! You (along with a plethora of vegan celebrities, some of which you mentioned) are the picture of radiance.


Lisa February 2, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Well said. Thank you for discussing this.


Christine (The Raw Project) February 2, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Fabulous post on that image, it reminds me of all the over-photoshopped makeup ad images promising misleading results. But the image did not bother or detour me from veganism because, as you noted, the pictures were taken in two very different circumstances.


Lillian February 2, 2012 at 1:10 pm

I know, right? Do people not know how much makeup artists get paid these days? I thought this was common knowledge.


Jody February 2, 2012 at 12:59 pm

I recently came across your blog and I just have to say that I LOVE it! I have been vegetarian for 4 years and within the past 6 months have been making the transition to fully vegan. What I often come across are people who do not believe I am vegeterian/vegan because I am a bigger size. I didn’t become veg to lose weight, I did it for my love of animals. Although I have not dropped significant lbs I do feel happier, healthier, more energized than I did before. So, I guess my point is that as you said vegans come in all shapes and forms.


Zarah February 2, 2012 at 1:08 pm

I adore you!!
I have been so angry with these (stupid) pictures when they’ve popped up on Facebook and all over and this post – THIS POST just says everything I’ve tried to say to the posters (and then some).
Thank you!


Nikki FYC February 2, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Thanks for writing about this. I saw the image on Facebook a while back and was infuriated that a female friend of mine would post something that was obviously so contrived and ridiculous and demeaning. Great job articulating why this image is wrong on so many different levels.


Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga February 2, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Thank you for this post, Gena, and for addressing some issues that many don’t or won’t. To each her own; what she eats, wears, does in her free time, what political party she supports, what her stance on social issues are, what she looks like, whether she eats this, that, or the other thing…we all should be able to make the choices we want and if people think certain things about our choice, I guess that’s their prerogative but as my grandmother said, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. You never know why someone is the size or shape they are, what they have going on in their life, or other factors behind xyz choice.

When I hear strangers comment that another person is too thin, this one is too fat, this one shouldn’t be eating this, this one eats too much of that…who cares. Go live your own life, I say and let that person worry about their appearance :)


alex February 2, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Great post. I think it is always important to be well informed about not only what you think and believe but also what else is going on surrounding your beliefs and way of life….It is sad that others would want to attack a perfectly healthful way of eating and living.

Yes being vegetarian or vegan can be unhealthy if not done properly. But the scientifically proven benefits of this lifestyle far surpass the jabs that nonvegans throw.

I find myself, even in the world of nutrition, constantly defending the way I live and choose to eat (vegan). I think that changing the social norm about the way we eat, is the answer to breaking down the stigmas and sterotypes of a veggie based lifestyle.

I love this post and your blog, very inspirational and a great community to be a part of!


Stacy February 2, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Wow! What a terrific, thoughtful post on this topic! I’m so pleased that you wrote this!


Sarah E. February 2, 2012 at 1:26 pm

This is an extremely important post, Gena. I am so glad you shared these insights. If I may, I’d like to share a bit of my take on the subject from my experience working at a raw vegan holistic health center. I saw firsthand the intense pressure for holistic health folks to look a certain way so that people would follow their advice and/or buy their products and supplements. The raw vegan medical doctor with whom I worked for several years frequently got weekly facials, acid peels, and other regular “holistic” aesthetic work done. His argument for doing this (according to my spa friend who administered said peels and facials) was that people would judge his work based on his appearance. When my friend let me in on this, I felt kind of sorry for him, a well-intentioned doctor in his silver years constantly walking around with a puffy red face while he was waiting for his weekly acid peel effects to subside, and a nagging fear that if he got wrinkles or looked less than Hollywood-esque people would be less likely to follow his advice. The doctor encouraged his staff to “stay on point” with their diets, as guests would see us as “models of the lifestyle”. I felt uncomfortable with this dynamic, convincing guests to eat all raw because, hey, look how great the staff look! I think that sharing research and peer-reviewed literature substantiating the positive health effects of a well-balanced, adequately supplemented plant-strong diet aught to be sufficient to address the misconception that you can’t be a healthy vegan, but I have always believed that veganism’s best selling point is that it is most ethical diet in terms of environmental and animal welfare concerns. I had a great e-mail exchange with Peter Singer, one of my idols and the author of Animal Liberation. Singer said that he thought the spiritual arguments of a vegan diet were just not provable, and that therefore we should stick to what we can prove: veganism is great for the environment and animal welfare. I haven’t seen any peer-reviewed studies suggesting that veganism is definitively the healthiest diet on the planet. Rather than focusing on bogus claims or beauty promises, I believe we, the plant-strong people, would do well to share that a vegan diet can be healthful and meet all our nutrition needs without claiming it is the best diet out there for beauty and sexiness. I suspect it may be, but I’d have a hard time proving it.


Sarah E. February 2, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Ack! Sorry this was so long!


JL goes Vegan February 2, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Bravo! Yep, this is absolutely about lookism and sexism. When the “other side” wants to scare you away from something go for the Achilles heel, right? So many of us are caught up on our looks, our size, our youth, our beauty that maybe, just maybe that a misguided used of an image could sway someone from what most of us know is an incredibly healthy, vibrant way of eating.


Karen February 2, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Right on JL…their strategy just plays on our cutlure’s obsession and adoration of all things that appear bright and shiny!


Aimee February 2, 2012 at 1:42 pm

You have such an eloquent way with words Gena. This was beautifully written as are all of your posts. I really love the approach you took in addressing this issue, classy and respectful.


M February 2, 2012 at 1:43 pm

A few hours after reading this post, I stumbled upon the same picture on another blog, which focuses mainly about eating disorder advocacy. That post was talking about the lure (and deception) of the diet industry, and the picture was presented as an example of what living an overly strict, “permanently hungry” lifestyle can do to your appearance. It kind of left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Addmitedly, I don’t know much about Gillian McKeith’s lifestyle or her additude towards food. I also agree that being too strict with your food is no way to life a full, happy life. But come on. I don’t like the insinuation that simply being vegetarian/vegan or consuming mostly whole foods is a restrictive diet. Especially since my relationship with food has become much more peacedul and less restrictive once I became vegan than it ever was when I was eating a lot more processed foods. Plus, as you said, what you look like shouldn’t have anything to do with anything. If you are living in a way that makes you happy while maintaining physical health, it doesn’t matter how “good” you look for your age.


Stephanie February 2, 2012 at 1:49 pm

One of my friends posted that picture to Facebook a few days ago with the caption “enough said” and a follow up comment “nothing sexier than a girl that eats a juicy steak” It pissed me off for more than just the jab at veg/vegans…he also used the word girl. Those ladies pictured are WOMEN. The double dose of misogyny deeply upset me . This same “friend” came to my apartment a few nights ago and mocked the “emptiness” of my fridge (I guess his eyes just skim right over a bright, leafy, bounty of health) and made fun of me for growing my own wheatgrass. I faked a headache and asked him to leave shortly thereafter. I wish I’d had the strength to truly confront him. I adore your argument. I was emphatically nodding the whole time! Please never hesitate to post responses like this one. They give me a powerful tool to keep in my back pocket and help me stand up for my beliefs. I haven’t always agreed with you in the past, but disagreeing has certainly made me do my homework and start thinking about not just living by my ethical and nutritional tenants, but being transparent about them with the people I encounter. To do that you need serious knowledge about what and why you do what you do. Thanks, Gena!


Karen February 2, 2012 at 1:52 pm

I had not seen this propaganda before, but feel equally passionate as you about its absurdity. As you discuss, their inference is based on nothing more than a beauty contest based on strategically selected images of two middle-aged woman! What a fabulous, intelligent protest, Gena!


elise February 2, 2012 at 1:53 pm

as always, your voice is sound, fair, and thoughtful. brilliant post gena.


Andrea February 2, 2012 at 2:15 pm

As a feminist and a decent human being, “hot or not” type assessments irk me. Not to mention, it’s overly reductive as to the factors at play in how someone’s skin looks. However, I do think that what people eat has an impact on their looks. I think one thing that nobody mentioned is that Gillian McKeith’s diet sounds really low in fat. Not eating fat does not do good things for your skin, so the fact that she looks “older” could have more to do with fat intake than vegetarianism. Aside from genetics, Nigella’s skin probably looks better because she eats more fat than McKeith. This is not to say that her fat comes from particularly healthy or ethical sources. As someone who’s paged through Lawson’s cookbooks, no one ever mentions how rich in vegetables many of her dishes are and how few processed foods she uses in her recipes. So some of the unhealthy things she does could be balanced out by a higher vegetable intake and a lack of processed food. She probably also uses sunscreen –which many people into holistic living shun because of the chemicals. Who knows? I do know that I find Nigella much more appealing than Ms. McKeith because I prefer Nigella’s healthy attitude towards pleasure and body image to Ms. McKeith’s body shaming, pleasure hating, gimmicky antics.


Anonymous February 2, 2012 at 8:03 pm

I do love Nigella, but I agree the comparison is ridiculous and I love your argument. I once saw someone make the opposite argument comparing Brigitte Mars (who is raw and very beautiful) with someone – I forget whom – decisively older looking. I agree with the commenter above that it’s important to note how few processed foods Nigella is eating, and how few – given her upper class childhood, and the fact that she had a mother who loved to cook – she’s probably ever eaten. Whereas McKeith (whom I’d never heard of til I looked her up on Wikipedia just now) was raised in working class environs and admits that she grew up eating junk food. I do believe with a healthy diet we can reverse a lot of early programming, but there is something to be said for lineage.


Denise February 2, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Brilliant response, Gena! Beyond the health/diet issue, this is really about misogyny. Thanks for taking to time to articulate your thoughts.

Okay, I have to ask….where did you get the bracelet in the picture at the beginning of the post?! :)


Jami February 2, 2012 at 2:21 pm

AWESOME POST!!!! One might also point out certain fashion icons who look “flawless” and claim to eat a diet saturated with animal products and fried foods – they’re just naturally “perfect” no matter how much trash they put in their bodies or how many lattes they scald their throats with in a day. Some people are just born that way, some aren’t, the media tells us. I don’t buy it!


Laura Agar Wilson (@keephealthstyle) February 2, 2012 at 2:30 pm

So glad that you have blogged about this! I’m from the UK where I believe this image has been more widely distributed via chain email type things that we sometimes get at work. I got it and it became a subject of discussion between me and my work mates and me being put into the position of having to defend my vegan / healthy lifestyle choices. I also pointed out the way each photo had clearly been taken (one without make up and one all glammed up) as well as the fact that the lovely Nigella appears to have had some ‘work’ done (each to their own on that one) but the fact that the most disturbing thing about the images was the way that two women where being ‘pitted’ against one another purely with regards to their looks. Unfortunately some of my work mates enjoyed the image for making them feel less guilty about their less than perfect diets and choices and as an opportunity to attack me for mine. Thank you so much for writing a such an intelligent and well considered response to it!


bitt February 2, 2012 at 2:34 pm

I have seen way too many of these stupid types of things ciruclating the internet. Some raw food forums even try to trash raw food chefs or leaders by a certain picture. It’s really unfair. With today’s plastic surgery, it is very hard to tell what is going on, and I highly suspect that a woman over 50 in the television business would be very pressured to get botox, therefore leaving us with a different impression of her age.

I think it’s unfair to judge someone on how they look. I have had people say to me “you look awful” when I felt fine, and have other people think I look “great” when I feel absolutely terrible. It’s part of the trouble with an invisible illness. A little make up and some sun exposure can make someone look a lot better but does not heal the inside.

Thanks for straightening out some myths. Would love your take on the whole green smoothie debate but maybe it would give it even more attention than it should really get at this point.


Nicole Partridge February 2, 2012 at 2:35 pm

“If I wanted to deal in insulting and unfair generalizations about eating habits, I might post a photo of Alicia Silverstone, Ellen DeGeneres, Rory Freedman, and juxtapose it with a photo of a person in a hospital bed, being treated for any number of diseases of affluence, and suggest that the latter’s appearance is caused specifically by consumption of meat and cheese.” THANK YOU! So beautifully stated! I’ve shared your post with my readers at


Caity @ Moi Contre La Vie February 2, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Great topic, thank you for tackling an interesting and controversial discussion.


Stacy February 2, 2012 at 2:44 pm

BTW, does anyone know the origins of this photo comparison? Is it premature to form a conspiracy theory about the involvement of the meat/dairy industries?!?


Laura @ LauraLivesLife February 2, 2012 at 2:49 pm

I think it’s sad that people feel like they have to take sides, or, for that matter, inform me or anyone else that my diet is unhealthy or morally wrong. What I choose to eat is no one’s business except my doctor’s and mine. What it really reminds me is of a former uncle who used to justify his smoking by touting examples of a friend that smoked until he was 100. Therefore, he claimed, smoking doesn’t cause cancer. We can always find exceptions and create stereotypes, but it doesn’t mean that they are true on either extreme – instead, if we can simply judge each person, diet, habit, etc individually, we can couteract a lot of negativity and judgement.


Audrey February 2, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Great post, Gena! You really said it all.


Valerie @ City|Life|Eats February 2, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Thank you for your eloquence -regarding “Small minded people always have and always will mock lifestyle choices and viewpoints that challenge their own” – I have definitely had my share of the mocking and challenging over the years – heck, when I was the first person to eat Greek yogurt at my old job, pre-Greek-yogurt craze/rise in popularity, at least two people though it looked weird – I almost wish I could show up there with my chia puddings and green smoothies and vegan gluten-free lifestyle to see if they are more freaked out than by the Greek yogurt, but I digress. Back to topic on hand – you are of course so right, this nigella v gillian campaign is all about sexism/lookism/agism.

On a personal note, I have noticed myself in recent months disengaging from images – ranging from magazine covers to images such as the ones you discuss, ie designed to shock. I guess it is the cynic in me, who believes photoshop is always at work in some way.

I did want to note two more things about the pictures – 1. Nigella avoids the sun like the plague apparently, which might explain her looking arguably a bit younger and 2. I am not convinced the glamor picture of her is that recent. These are both smaller points compared to your eloquent argument, but I did want to mention them because really, the whole juxtaposition is about artifice, and those are two additional elements of it.


Shelley @ MileHighHealthy February 2, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Wow I love this post so very much. My question is about the person that actually created the juxtaposed image of the two women…does that person actually know about health and wellness? And yes, they pitted a “regular” picture of a woman against someone who had a team to help her look beautiful. It seems unfair. I have been vegan for over a year now and promise that I am not frail or sickly. In fact, I am in the best physical shape of my life. I am also in the best mental and emotional shape as well as I know I am taking steps to not only make myself healthier, but to help the world around me.


andrea devon February 2, 2012 at 3:16 pm

great post Gena- I was horrified at this image when I first saw it, but was not sure what to do with that gut response. Your post is an effective and eloquent critique on the assumptions of healthy/beautiful!!!


Noelle February 2, 2012 at 3:18 pm

THIS. Thank you so much for this post. Beautifully articulated, as usual.


Nae February 2, 2012 at 3:18 pm

You are preaching to the choir here; we are your readers and we eat the same as you do, therefor, we already agree. Did you send this on to the jerks who posted all that crap?


Jaclyn February 2, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Wonderful post Gena. Thanks so much for such thoughtful and complete ideas. I totally agree with you on all of this. We live in a very superficial world and there are so many things wrong with the punks who are trying to use this image in defense of murdering animals and consuming them for their own selfish pleasure.


Skye February 2, 2012 at 3:56 pm

I had not seen these images before, but how disturbing. Thank you for speaking up. You are so well-spoken, which really helps readers like me whose minds tend to go blank during arguments/debates!


Tierney @ Get Your Veg On February 2, 2012 at 4:19 pm

I saw that picture on Facebook and just rolled my eyes and moved on. I’m really glad you took the time to write out such a great response. I also appreciate the fact that you point out the misogynistic issues of the picture and not just the vegan ones. I could go off on a whole rant about this, but I’ll end this comment with a simple thanks.


amanda February 2, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Bravo Gena. Absolutely love your analysis of this photo.


Lyn February 2, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Excellent response! I also rolled my eyes when I saw it on facebook. Surely, it was posted by someone who wanted to justify their terrible eating habits.


sarah February 2, 2012 at 5:04 pm

You never know what other event, health issues, or stresses have shaped a person and perhaps their appearance. I think most compassionate people have learned not to judge a person by appearance. You do not know what has caused a person to look or act the way they do. Looks aren’t always about what you are putting in your body…
Enjoyed your post


Sarah February 2, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Thank you for your post, Gena! Great thoughts, as usual. I’m glad to see you were able to articulate the annoyance and aggravation that so many of us felt when the image started circulating.


Star February 2, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Well Done Gena!


crista February 2, 2012 at 7:12 pm

glad you addressed this. Several friends sent to me with a “hope you find this funny” message attached (since Im the only veg). I can laugh at something funny of course. I just said – hmmm that is funny. You could do that with anything though.


sarah February 2, 2012 at 7:45 pm

What a well-written, eloquent response. My husband showed me this image the other day (we love Nigella for her over the top sexualisation of food, which I recognise is a bit weird), and we just laughed. I didn’t give it another thought, and it certainly never occurred to me that I should be ashamed of my diet. However, you are right to point out how wrong the assumptions and the intentions behind the images are. I hadn’t realised how popular the images had become!

I love you for mentioning Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Science, by the way. I hadn’t given much thought to Gillian McKieth prior to reading that (even though I had seen the show – I hadn’t realised she claimed to be a doctor), and like your critique here, it made me realise that what I had just blown off as light entertainment was actually taken much more seriously by some.


wendy (healthy girls kitchen) February 2, 2012 at 7:58 pm

What a shock to see my arm on Choosing Raw! ;) Great post Gena.


ChenaRaw February 2, 2012 at 8:17 pm

What a fabulous post! May I post a link to it on my blog?


AmandaRunsNY February 2, 2012 at 9:01 pm

That comparison is so ridiculous…I’m sure Nigella enjoys her bacon and butter but really, does she eat that much of it? A slice of bacon has only a handful of calories and enjoying butter on toast is hardly going to pack on the pounds. I highly doubt Nigella eats everything that she cooks in huge portions.

Aside from that, they forget about a lot of other factors. What about sun exposure and plain old genetics? Also, lets not forget the fact that being a bit plump as you age, lessons the appearance of wrinkles. Thanks for addressing this topic.


Kristen Suzanne February 2, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Bravo, Gena. Thoughtful.
I’ve enjoyed reading the comments, too.



Rose-Anne February 2, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Hi, Gena! Long time no talk. In general, I agree with your frustration with the way images are used to manipulate or confuse our thoughts on diet. And I too find Nigella entertaining, even though I won’t cook half of what she does because of the meat. But I sometimes feel that in discussions of vegan vs. non-vegan diets, it’s cast as a choice between no meat and horrible factory-farmed meat. I would love to see the discussion move in the direction of more ethical, more sustainable, more nutritious choices for vegans and non-vegans. It really does matter where the food was grown and how it was grown: is it local? organic? If it’s meat or animal products, did the animals eat grass or worms or whatever they would eat if we weren’t stuffing corn into them? I have no issue with people choosing a vegan diet, but I feel like it’s a straw-man argument to say the choice is either veganism or factory-farmed meat.


Gena February 3, 2012 at 8:50 am

I have missed you, friend!

It would be insincere not to disclaim that I have some inherent discomfort with the notion of “ethical” meat. Of course that meat is a stride forward from the factory farming model, and I support it insofar as it decreases animal suffering, but it still doesn’t strike me as the ethical choice, in that the animal is still bred to be killed. That it suffers less before it dies doesn’t change the fact that death is the end result, even if it is a step up from suffering AND death combined. Is it a healthier, more sustainable, more nourishing choice? Absolutely. But I can’t be comfortable with choices that result in the breeding and captivity of animals, even if I consider them the lesser (much lesser) of two evils.

At some point, it may be that the dichotomy we talk about is veg vs. small farmed, local animal foods. Right now, I know many people who aspire to the latter lifestyle, but still make concessions when they eat out, on the road, etc. So it will be interesting to see how it takes hold (with people like you leading the way), and whether it does profoundly enough for us to change our cultural dialog in the fashion you suggest!



Rose-Anne February 6, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Hi, friend!

I saw your reply a few days ago, but I wanted to think before responding. And as coincidence would have it, I’ve been listening to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s podcast, which I find thoughtful and entertaining, even if I am skeptical about some of her arguments.
As far as compassion goes, yes, I think veganism wins. It is the most compassionate choice. But the damage that factory farming is doing to our health and to animals is so great that I hate to make the perfect the enemy of the good, so to speak. While I choose vegetarianism, I recognize that most people are not going to give up meat. Maybe they’ll eat less meat, which would be good. But I still care where that meat comes from, even if I am not a fan of eating meat. I feel that anything, ANYTHING, I can do to encourage people not to eat factory-farmed meat is an improvement.
I do think the jury is still out on the nutritional benefits of eating animal products. So much attention has been paid to the negative effects, but I think the trans-fat issue that clouded the research is a serious confounding factor. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that we MUST eat animal products for the nutrition, but I’m not convinced that veganism is the healthier choice for humans. It may be one of several healthy choices.
And I definitely hear you on the issue of what to eat when eating out, on the road, etc.! This issue is big for vegetarians and vegans. I try very hard to stay consistent with my values, but I admit, if the meat is local, sustainably raised, etc., then sometimes I eat it. I’m an environmental vegetarian, so to me, the amount of meat one eats is an important factor to consider. Often in veg conversations, it can seem like an all-or-nothing proposition, but because I care most about sustainability and health, I feel fine about eating meat at less than 1% of my meals.
I hope this made sense :-) I admire your open-mindedness and your compassion.


Zena February 2, 2012 at 11:36 pm

Thanks, Gena. Awesome, inspiring post :)


Jeanne February 2, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Am I the only ex ED with a little ED still in the back of her mind who is embarrassed to say but will shamefully admit that I saw these photos and against all of my intellectual feminist ideals thought….I do not want to look like this woman. I’m a hard core vegan and have been since age 10, but I’m also approaching forty and am extra sensitive about physique, aging, skin and vanity. I am not familiar with McKeith, so I googled her image for more flattering photos that do not exist.


Kait February 2, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Thank you for this wonderful, well-written, and FAIR post. Today was one of those days where I just wanted to throw the towel in. Some days I just get so sick of defending my food choices and being constantly aware of and criticized for everything I eat that it brings me to tears (circa: now). Earlier in the week with the Whole Food scandal I was enraged…today it was just a general, “why do I bother?” feeling.

Healthy food bloggers like you are such a huge inspiration and motivation for so many of us. Thank you. :)


Fiona Schmidt February 3, 2012 at 12:02 am

Wow! You said it. I love when you post posts like these. If you ever decide not to be a doctor you could be a writer. This is superbly written and inspiring too!


Marisa February 3, 2012 at 4:28 am

I got that “joke” via e-mail just this week. It left me feeling irrated and angry, so I just went shift delete and forgot about it. Delighted that you discussed it here and articulated so well what I was feeling. Great post and thank you as always! Lots of love.


Hannah February 3, 2012 at 4:35 am

I really, really value that you acknowledged the insidious way in which these images, and this ridiculous “argument”, focuses on physical “beauty” and yet again positions women as inherently in competition with each other and posits their worth as based on physicality. If it didn’t feel rude to swear on another’s blog, I’d be mouthing off right now ;)

Thank you, Gena.


Sigrid February 3, 2012 at 5:19 am

Thank you so much for posting this! I saw both pictures a while ago and it disturbed me greatly… I’m not going to quit being vegan anytime soon, but it still made me uncomfortable and nervous. My friends also took these pictures as a way to sort of make fun of my ethical choice of not eating meat or other animal products.

I really wish someone would open their eyes to what is the right thing to do…


Beth February 3, 2012 at 5:33 am

By the way if it has any bearing upon the point (not really) Gillian McKeith was in the jungle on a kind of “I’m a celebrity, get me out of here” challenge and had been living in the amazonian jungle, “rough” for at least a week.


Agnes February 3, 2012 at 6:35 am

Gena, thank you for your thoughtful commentary. Much appreciated.


Lauren February 3, 2012 at 8:26 am

Very well written! I felt the same way about the photo.


Brigitte February 3, 2012 at 9:51 am

Hi Gena,
First of all kudos to you for writing so level headed and fair about this ! I have lived in England and am very familiar with these 2 ladies and you basically nailed it when you described these 2 ladies for what they stand for – now Ms. Lawson has recently dropped 2 dress sizes by cutting down on animal products because she was bigger than in the picture shown (which is i’d say 4 years old ) Ms.Mc Keith , well …I think she would still look a bit haggard even if she would eat animal products (just the type…) For me , I have been a vegan before I had my last 2 children and I never looked better , but because of pregnancies , getting married and basically life , I started eating meat again… Now since December I am a vegan again and I dropped 2 dress sizes already , feel better,
clear skin, and this the most important I feel NO MORE ASTHMA ! I stopped using my asthma pump and this is purely because of what I am eating !!!
I have always cooked from scratch and fresh for my family 5-6 days a week and do not have a lot of processed foods in my house , BUT , meat and dairy are for me no good – I have always known this but living with people who love all this has made get of the vegan path. I do not feel I can impose my eating habits on my family but I do replace meat once in a while with vegan options (and they like it as long as I don’t mention it). If anyone of my children decides to go vegetarian or vegan I will be very happy . But in the mean time keeping them healthy with freshly cooked meals (organic meats and dairy as much as possible) is my only option. I think as long as you eat fresh and allow some healthy fats into your diet (I don’t think Ms. Mc Keith eats any fats) it will show in your skin and hair. Radicalism is never good in anything…


Jasper Naomi @ crunchylittlebites February 3, 2012 at 11:16 am

Gena, thank you for sharing what you thought about these publications, articles, viewpoints, etc. It’s always more and MORE freeing to know that we are all individuals and should exercise our rights to each our owns’ opinion!? (does that make sense?) feeling like it’s a daily battle to survive my own disease (bulimia nervosa, EDNOS, binge eating disorder, CED, etc.) I find the constraints of labels to be added weights on my already heavy load…freedom of speech and discussion helps disintegrate such chains and I appreciate CR in this way: that I am ENCOURAGED by the free discussion and others’ opinions. thanks Gena – jasper


Carrie (Carrie On Vegan) February 3, 2012 at 11:57 am

I love this post, Gena! I’ve had so many compliments on my appearance since I became a healthy vegan, but I always try to communicate to people how much better I feel on the inside. True health to me means feeling energetic, vibrant and balanced. What we see on the outside is only one part of the story and, besides, we all know about the wonders of makeup and photoshop. What you see is not always what you get.


Christina @ HealthyCosmos February 3, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Wonderful post. Thoughtful and articulate, and you couldn’t have addressed the issue (an issue that sadly continues to need to be addressed–if only people could be more conscious and open-minded) better.


Kelsey February 3, 2012 at 4:14 pm

wonderful post, Gena. there are so many things wrong with the juxtaposition of images and you address the issues so well. these images speak to our country’s obsession with outer appearance, consumption, and individualism/competition. the “argument” is, of course, incredibly unfounded and ridiculous. like you say, “Small minded people always have and always will mock lifestyle choices and viewpoints that challenge their own.” i find that when it comes to food and food choices, people often get extremely defensive. instead of listening to a plant-based perspective (or even simply accepting a plant-based perspective!), they attack so they can feel okay about the way they eat or continue to not think deeply about what they are eating. this has happened to me from someone who was a friend. I like how you point out that we shouldn’t let things like this make us ashamed about the way we eat. totally agreed–that would be giving them way too much power!


Samantha February 3, 2012 at 7:00 pm

As a graphic artist (who does a lot of photo retouching and restoration), these kinds of comparisons are so frustrating and largely comparing apples to oranges. Nigella presents lovely on tv and in print. As you said, she’s been made up, and posed accordingly. McKeith shows her age more. But it’s very apparent her images haven’t been touched, or rather SHE hasn’t been RETOUCHED, and in one image, is caught candidly.

There are so many factors being their eating choices that it’s pointless to make this comparison. How about genetics folks? I have a friend who is MY age (33) with 3 kids, 2 of which are teen/preteen. She’s not had a touch of cosmetic surgery, eats like a trucker, and is still an naturally stunning individual. She works out “when she feels like it” but doesn’t have a single dimple or wrinkle, and still looks like the Hooters calendar girl she was years ago. I on the other hand work out daily, take meticulous scare of my skin, am very food and healthy conscious, and I look much older and tired than my years.

What saddens me is just how many people will buy into it because they aren’t educated on what vegetarianism or veganism is, and justify their unhealthy habits by using the “but look at THEM” argument. If there’s one thing I learned during my stint with you as my nutritionist it was to EDUCATE yourself. Don’t rely on others to supply you with your reasons why, dig in, learn, and then determine what is best for you, your body, and your lifestyle through that process. Not through the media, not through widely circulating images tacked onto someone’s opinion, etc.


Jessica February 3, 2012 at 9:47 pm
Marty February 4, 2012 at 1:54 am

Where can I get a bracelet like that?

I’ve gotten emails that are circulating around the biosphere of both, and I just delete it, because I think it’s bull and ridiculous. Im a very healthy 50′s+ GFSFV. I think I look healthier than most of my HS classmates. Sure I attribute some if it to good genes, but as much to a healthy, plant-strong lifestyle. I don’t try and convince my carnivore friends anything, as I have learned it’s futile, others, that are open, I’m happy to talk about how my diet choices and how it can help. I try to live by example and realize we all have our own path to follow.


supercarrot February 4, 2012 at 2:27 pm

to be fair, they really should have chosen a picture of mimi kirk as the vegan. (but then their ridicule wouldn’t have worked, since she looks amazing, and is even older than nigella.)


Hannah February 4, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Wow. I received this in my reader a couple days ago but had to hold off on it cause of schoolwork. I’m glad I did so I can absorb it now. Compelling, strong argument, Gena. Even though you hesitated at first to write about this, clearly a lot of people (including myself) are happy you did.


jenny February 4, 2012 at 7:03 pm

This is so intelligent (the post and the comments) that I will be sharing this link widely with everyone despite the fact I am not vegan or vegetarian. You and your readers have brought up points that tie into more than just the meat vs. no-meat argument, and you did it well.


Aly February 5, 2012 at 11:59 am

Amazing entry. Definitely going to be bookmarking it for future reference. I’ve always felt a little weird visiting your website because I’m not vegan, but I try to limit animal products for health reasons and people always seem to need their voice opinion about it. Your last paragraph was spot on.


Dreena Burton February 5, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Gena, what an insightful post. This kind of imaging is so unfair to women, and women are targets for this kind of thing continually.

There are so many things wrong with the comparisons made between these two women. And, do we know if Nigella is ‘natural’ in her appearance, ie, has she had botox, fillers, and/or plastic surgery? That photo was likely retouched as well to smooth out any lines and skin flaws.

It is so difficult for women not to (1) be scrutinized for their appearance and (2) feel self-conscious about their looks and aging. I feel it myself at 41. I’m the first to say it concerns me how my appearance will be related to “being vegan”. If I’m tired. Looking less than ‘peppy’. Showing a few more wrinkles. It’s part of getting older, and yet I think as vegans we might feel more pressure to look
more youthful so not to be judged harshly – and to put a good ‘face’ on veganism, so to speak.

I am so grateful you wrote this post and shared your mindful insight on this issue. I am late reading this post, but will share it – I know other women will value it. Thank you Gena.


Gena February 5, 2012 at 8:51 pm


Thank YOU for this kind and insightful comment. I’m honored.

For a really long time, I didn’t write about my teenage and young adult anorexia and relapses, because I was afraid they’d reflect badly on veganism (even though I found veganism after my last relapse). It took me a long time to realize that I do not have to seem “perfect” to endorse the vegan lifestyle. I can admit to the common cold or to a bad day or to wrinkles here and there, and I can admit to a troubled history with food. Those things do not make me a less representative vegan; they make me a vegan to whom I hope people can relate. And the only endorsement I need give is summarized in the facts of who I am: I am happy, I am focused, and I am healthy.


Alex @ fightcancerwithfood February 6, 2012 at 3:22 pm

I’ve only just caught up with this post, but I just wanted to thank you for expressing such a great response to the pictures. Whenever I get ill I still get people claiming that I need a good plate of meat in front of me and it’s so frustrating. In reality, I fight off illness much easier than anyone else I know. To prove my point, I just came back from a weekend away eating far too much junk and – surprise surprise – I find myself hit with the worst cold I’ve had in months! I do love watching Nigella because her programmes are gorgeous and can’t stand watching Gillian because she unwittingly ridicules everything I believe in, but it’s so unfair to compare the two side by side in this way. It’s the same media distortion that happens far too often and I’m really glad you decided to write something so well articulated in argument against it.


Megan February 6, 2012 at 3:53 pm

I love this line in your blog. It really pulls at my heart strings.

” So please, let’s not get swept up into thinking that our attachment to animal foods is somehow more “sane” than eating plant-based. Industries that breed sentient beings to be raised in captivity and killed by the billions, while also destroying our ecosystem and promoting diseases of affluence? That’s insane. ”

On thanksgiving this past year I finally made the leap to be a vegetarian (which wasn’t too far and a whole lot more simple than I thought it would be.) I love it. Since then I have got nothing but bad comments from everyone I have told. They think I’M crazy but I think they should turn that judgement inward. I’m not throwing my decision in anyone’s face and nor am I preaching to everyone about my choice. So why am I the crazy chick who stopped eating animal flesh?

By the way, I think comparing the two photos side by side is unfair. How about I catch both of them with out makeup on. It’s an unfair comparision on all levels in my eyes.


Teri February 8, 2012 at 11:33 am
Anastasia February 10, 2012 at 4:13 pm

The images are purely a comparaison of facial fillers: Nigella appears to have had them done and the other woman looks like she doesn’t eve dye her hair. I wish someone could take the pictures of their insides. And I wonder how both of them feel when they get up in the morning: I think Nigella needs two cups of coffee t get her radiant self going.


Elena March 27, 2012 at 1:39 pm

I was just searching for recipes on your site when I came across this post. Thank you for talking about this. I had a surge of anger when reading about the article and then I kept reading and I have to admit you put my thoughts into words. “Small minded people always have and always will mock lifestyle choices and viewpoints that challenge their own.” I just finished watching “Hungry For Change” and if there’s a truth I believe in is that we all have to learn to love ourselves and be proud of what we are and the things we do in our lives. We have to stop comparing ourselves to others and just be happy with the way we are. And if we are not happy than we have to strive to make changes and seek help that will make us become the person we want to be.

All the vegans I know, including myself, became vegan not because we wanted to look good but because we wanted to feel good and be healthy or because we couldn’t stand the idea that an animal is a lesser being put on this earth to satisfy our cravings. There was an article out not too long ago where Angelina Jolie claimed that being on a vegan diet nearly killed her. Being on a vegan diet doesn’t promise that you will live to 200 years old and still look 20 just like being on a regular diet if you don’t eat the right amount of each essential nutrients can also cause you to be weak and age faster. If people don’t take the time to research and experiment with the food they are eating then I think it’s fair don’t blame the food. Ok I’m done rambling.

Thank you again for the post and I will be back for sure on your website for more articles and recipes!


Katherine Bell May 14, 2012 at 3:38 am

A different perspective
I am not a vegan, nor am I a carnivorous glutton, however, I am female and I do occassionally have an average level of body, image, and appearance concerns as the next woman who wants to look their best, feel confident and hold my head up high in face of adversity (photoshop).
What I extracted from these images of Nigella Lawson and Gillian McKeith is that is it alright to eat what you want in moderation. So often ladies, young women, teenagers and now even little girls are pressured about what they eat, when they eat or how much they eat.
Women’s magazines assert that we should do this, eat that, follow this new fad diet and then and only then will we get the man of our dreams.
This advert is so much more than simply to be vegan or not to be vegan. Yes it encompasses food and diet but it also says that you don’t have to be stick thin or adopt this diet or that food religion to exude radiance.
The dieting industry is phenomenally lucrative and what I drew from these images is that is it okay to indulge, which is a refreshing change from world media and cultural norms that bombard us with a message that is the polar opposite. Unfortunately what this exhibition perhaps does show is an exaggeration of what is never the less the truth, be it genes, luck or fortunate social circumstance, thank you Nigella Lawson for going against the grain and professing, reassuring women that is it okay to eat what many others consider those bad foods.


Dick Gozina May 14, 2012 at 7:47 pm

A bunch of wholly unfulfilled Barnard alumnae if I ever saw one.

Get lives, honeys.


Gena May 14, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Columbia, actually.


Bob Long May 16, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Is it not amazing that it takes all those words to counter and or defend two Photos


Gena May 16, 2012 at 9:11 pm

I don’t think it’s so amazing. Nuanced responses and analyses often demand more than a few lines.


Bob Long May 16, 2012 at 11:33 pm

Lets keep it short! One woman is naturally lovely and the other is not. All the makeup in the world is not going to change it. And food is not the difference.


Silvina May 25, 2012 at 11:58 am

I have to say that yes: aesthetics are important. Not just beauty. The appearence of someone’s skin can tell us about their health. It’s not a matter of being an old woman. What you eat is gonna impact how you look. No doubt about it. Evolution made easy for people to know when others are sick, think about how a mother checks his son’s face in search of signs of illness. If the meat eater’s diet wasn’t good for this woman, she wouldn’t be looking like that. And I am not focusing on her beauty features, but in her skin quality and young looking appearance. When we are tired of haven’t eaten well for days, we notice it in the mirror: we don’t look so shiny, so ‘beautiful’ in this sense. So appearance does say a lot about our current health. I’m not advocating for meat or anything, just that this vegetarian woman definitely doesn’t have a healthy diet, whatever it is. She needs the basic nutrients she’s not getting.


Anonymous June 9, 2012 at 3:39 am

the picture which is truly disturbing even to the not meticulous eyes just got posted on my Fb wall… as a youth formator who’s sincerely concern to every aspect of a teenager’s personality (spiritual – physical), i wanted to understand most about the issue… thanks a lot Gena for making it easier for me to get things straight in my systems. and more thanks that your courage made it even less harder for me make the youth under my guidance understand about the said issue…

i salute girls who care for their physical health & beauty and at the same time, with the ability to embrace their age & aging gracefully and need not to go through all the needles & blades and using all sorts of chemicals and make-up… i need not to dig on the backgrounds of Gillian and Nigella. but the statement placed under their pictures (the one posted on my wall by a FB friend) made it clear to me about the deception covered with earthy/worldly beauty… i just but wonder when did McKeith actually strictly started living the lifestyle which is being promoted and how often Lawson visits or gets visited by her beauty beauty expert/s…

i am the first in our family who’s practicing a vegetarian diet & respects the value of fasting and the one in the family who is so against smoking and drinking. and i intend to keep it that way and it’s never because of looking good. it’s my choice for a healthier living. and if an adult sees good health aligned with “smokes, drinks,” and “eats meat and butter and desserts considered to be “unhealthy.””, then, it’s their choice. for no one will ever reap a man’s doing but first and foremost, all but by himself… i am a guy nearly turning 30 and people often say that i look younger than my 3 other younger siblings (aging 26, 24, 21) and people even often think that i am 16 like the youth who are under my mentorship. and for me to look older in photos, that’s actually when make-up gets to be applied on my face.

again, thanks Gena. continue to touch lives… ‘bless your heart


Lester Lee June 9, 2012 at 3:45 am

the picture which is truly disturbing even to the not meticulous eyes just got posted on my Fb wall… as a youth formator who’s sincerely concern to every aspect of a teenager’s personality (spiritual – physical), i wanted to understand most about the issue… thanks a lot Gena for making it easier for me to get things straight in my systems. and more thanks that your courage made it even less harder for me make the youth under my guidance understand about the said issue…

i salute girls who care for their physical health & beauty and at the same time, with the ability to embrace their age & aging gracefully and need not to go through all the needles & blades and using all sorts of chemicals and make-up… i need not to dig on the backgrounds of Gillian and Nigella. but the statement placed under their pictures (the one posted on my wall by an FB friend) made it clear to me about the deception covered with earthy/worldly beauty… i just but wonder when did McKeith actually strictly started living the lifestyle which is being promoted and how often Lawson visits or gets visited by her beauty expert/s…

i am the first in our family who’s practicing a vegetarian diet & respects the value of fasting and the one in the family who is so against smoking and drinking. and i intend to keep it that way and it’s never because of looking good. it’s my choice for a healthier living. and if an adult sees good health aligned with “smokes, drinks,” and “eats meat and butter and desserts considered to be “unhealthy.””, then, it’s their choice. for no one will ever reap a man’s doing but first and foremost, all but by himself… i am a guy nearly turning 30 and people often say that i look younger than my 3 other younger siblings (aging 26, 24, 21) and people even often think that i am 16 like the youth who are under my mentorship. and for me to look older in photos, that’s actually when make-up gets to be applied on my face.

again, thanks Gena. continue to touch lives… ‘bless your heart


Anonymous July 17, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Get over yourselves. Great pic. And Lawson looks stunning! I’m off to bake meat pie!!!


Hannah August 8, 2012 at 9:39 am

My friend saw Nigella Lawson in the street the other day and says she literally has a “fake face” cos she’s had so much plastic surgery. I reckon that says a lot.


pinkgiwaffe August 10, 2012 at 2:03 am

“More importantly, never let these kinds of stereotypes and insults make you feel ashamed of the way you eat. I say this to the reader who emailed me about the image, but I also say it to all of my readers who are trying to make healthy, compassionate, and/or eco-conscious food choices. Small minded people always have and always will mock lifestyle choices and viewpoints that challenge their own. You have chosen a lifestyle that can be as healthy as it is compassionate. Embrace that choice with confidence, pride, and a sense of communion with everyone here in the CR community who is making those choices with you.”

And calling meat eaters murderers something to be proud of? Imposing your high-and-mighty sacrifice (of not eating meat on compassionate ground) on others when meat eaters generally just selflessly try to accommodate their friends and family members who are vegetarians/vegans/what-ever other variations as something for you to shout about?

I have nothing against vegetarianism. In fact, I think that it has lots of health benefits. What I can’t stand are vegetarians/vegans/what-ever else.


Piano August 17, 2012 at 8:55 pm

I just received an email with these photos again, I can’t believe it is still being forwarded. I took it initially as a joke, like the usual “before” and “after” photos showing initially a sad gloomy black and white photo of someone who got transformed to a smily maked- up colored photo. How silly they are and yet we see them everywhere. This photo comparison is obviously from someone who just thought funny to compare both ladies and is meant to make unhealthy food eaters feel better about themselves. Love watching Nigella’s shows, yet seeing her at the end of some shows sneeking into the fridge to eat the left overs of what she cooked in the show is disturbing.
These photos shouldn’t be taken seriously by smart people. Yet it does by looking at the amount of comments on this page, our appearance has too much importance and goes beyond good judgement. It negatively influences younger people who may not be wise enough just yet to understand, and we should play our part to stop this kind of propagation, even though it may be a “joke”.


Annie Dru September 19, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Have you read The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith?


Gena October 6, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Hi Annie,

Yep, I sure have!



James January 10, 2013 at 8:27 am

I fucking love steak. And chicken. And bacon. And cheese. And cake. I fucking love cake. And cigarettes. And wine. And beer. And cigarettes. And Cake. And bacon. And pork. And ham. And pigs in general.


mhikl February 3, 2013 at 10:33 am

“But let’s get to the vegan thing. This image is the same old tired song vegan-bashing we’re all used to: . . ”
Interesting observation by article’s author.
I practice raw Paleo with an emphasis on animal fats and on most sites I post or visit to read, little is usually said about vegans or vegetarians compared to the latter kind of whose sites constantly compare the “superiority” of their own food fare, which I suppose indicates unsureness of their own practices.
In brief, the bashers are the vegan and vegetarians. We meat eaters just know the vegans don’t have a meaty foot to stand on. Even extreme raw Paleos like myself eat all foods from nature save legumes, grains and heavy carb tubers (exceptions of course being small quantities of carrot and sweet potatoes. Some will use honey and bee pollen in extremely small quantities, too. Exclusion of any animal products is extreme and dangerous, aka B12 deficiency vegans.
By the way I’ve always relished meaty fat and I am often told I look fifteen years younger than my age and my younger mostly vegetarian brother and low fat eating sister look older for their years. It ain’t just good genes.


mhikl February 3, 2013 at 10:41 am

I forgot to add, look at the wrist and hands in the photo of the “Plant Strong” bracelet wearer. Looks terribly aged. How old is the wearer. If it’s Gillian’s, I would not be surprised. I remember admiring my late Granny’s skin into her early eighties and she lived to the ripe age of 97. Can’t remember after that, her skin in particular, but her eyes certainly held more glamour than Gillian’s tired look.
All the creams in the world will not help skin. The beauty must arise from inside.


Rania May 15, 2013 at 7:17 am

If this rant had a bit more to it I might not have commented, but the caption you are ranting about has nothing to do with good looks!! It is to do with how each of them has aged! and in the second image you directed us to, they are both in gowns with make up so your statements aren’t even valid. You could have argued that there lifestyles might have been different or something but a good or bad picture? No photo could be that bad or good to cause such a huge difference between to women of the same age.


The Scribe October 24, 2013 at 5:33 pm

I just typed in Nigella in the raw, and got raw beetroot! Tasty, but not exactly what I had in mind.


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