“I would never want anyone to feel judged. Equally if the data shows that currently there is no scientific evidence behind something, I will stand by what I say. Even if you don’t love it.”
Mills knows acutely how it feels to be judged. In 2017 there was a backlash against the approach she was advocating when a BBC Three documentary, Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets, drew attention to the issue of “orthorexia”, an eating disorder characterised by obsessive behaviour in pursuit of a healthy diet. Mills, with her sugar-free, gluten-free and dairy-free recipes, was an obvious target for media criticism.
It was a bruising experience. Especially, as she says, “clean eating” was never a term she used.
“I wrote clearly in the first book, ‘Do what works for you’, ‘Adapt it to suit your life’, But that’s nuanced. You have to read it to see it.”
She understands that a lot of people might have felt the need to push back against this sudden onslaught of health missives being hurled at them, but that vitriol she coolly distils down to: “A few pieces that were just personal attacks on a young woman in her early 20s, who’d had a bad health problem.”
Instead of standing her ground, she got hurt. If the same thing happened today, she says she would feel better equipped to reply to her critics.
“But I was so young. I was an absolute baby and it was really challenging on a personal level. And I think you can’t move past the fact that everyone in the firing line was a woman – and a young one, and equally had a message which from a public health perspective we need and that the government is completely ignoring.”
The latter point is what she finds so ironic about the whole clean-eating backlash.
“In retrospect it’s frustrating, because we know that we have a health crisis, but if I had published books about making double-chocolate cakes, I wouldn’t have had a problem. And I think that is a problem. I didn’t have the confidence to say that at the time.”
Equally, she thinks people are more receptive and less challenged by her message today.
The idea that what you eat affects your health is well and truly…