Pinch of Nom: Are these women in the best shape to launch a best-selling diet book? Yes, actually
‘We’re not skinny minnies, we’re not poster girls, not the type of people that will appear on the front of magazines’
Kate Allinson (left) and Kay Featherstone whose debut cookbook has broken records. Photograph: Mike English
Internalised misogyny: When an individual enacts sexist actions and attitudes towards themselves and people of their own sex.
Until recently, I didn’t know it was a thing, never mind that I might be guilty of it.
But if you take a look at the publicity photograph above, of two British women chefs who have just published a book of diet recipes, and the merest hint of surprise crosses your mind, you might be guilty too.
Before we pass judgment on the physical appearance of the women, who have just written the fastest selling non-fiction book in history, there is something we should know. Me, and anyone else who raised an eyebrow, or wondered if they were really the right sort (or shape) of people to be doling out diet advice, that is.
Between them, the pair have lost more than 76kg over the past three years, and their weight loss is ongoing.
Kay Featherstone and Kate Allinson’s book Pinch of Nom: 100 Slimming, Home-style Recipes, made publishing history this week, knocking Mary Berry off the bestseller table and raking in more than £2 million (€2.34m in sales in its first week. To put it in context, only JK Rowling, EL James and Dan Brown have sold more books in a single week.
The couple, who have been together for 14 years and live in the Wirral, near Liverpool, are astonished and delighted by the record sales of their book, which is a spin-off from their successful Pinch of Nom website, which has more than 1.5 million regular users, a Facebook group with almost 800,000 active members, and is one of the most visited food sites in the UK.
“We’ve still got weight to lose, of course, but it is a journey, it’s not going to happen overnight,” Featherstone says, speaking to The Irish Times on behalf of both authors, as Allinson is recovering from root canal treatment.
“We used to have a restaurant and when you cook for people every day, you don’t want to cook for yourself, so we got into some really bad eating habits.”
In 2016, the couple decided to try to lose weight, following a diet programme, and started a recipe blog when they found they were being asked to share the recipes they had devised to support their efforts. It quickly earned a strong following, based on its simple, accessible recipes, including suggestions for “fakeaways”, and a community of regular users and contributors.
“We do food that people can eat, and not feel like they’re dieting on their own,” Featherstone says. Community is at the heart of the venture’s success. “We know how hard this is, it’s really difficult when you’ve got a lot of weight to shift, to get to that target.”
The name of the blog, and the book, is deliberatively provocative. “It was all to irritate Lisa, Kate’s sister – she is the person who told us to lose some weight – and she hates the word ‘nom’. She works with us now, and I don’t think she hates it as much as she used to.”
She puts the success of the website, and the book, down to the fact that she and Allinson are honest in relating their experiences. “We’re in it too. We’re certainly not skinny minnies, we’re not poster girls, not the type of people that will appear on the front of magazines. We are just normal people who are trying to do something which, to be honest, is one of the most difficult things people will do in their lifetime.”
But back to that knee-jerk reaction to the women’s publicity shots. Food writer and TV presenter Trish Deseine raised an interesting point on Twitter, in response to a news piece about the book’s record-breaking sales, accompanied by the authors’ photograph. “It’s interesting how we don’t SEE the diet book authors as we did, say, Tom K or the Hairy Bikers”, she wrote.
She is completely right, of course. Did anyone ever tell the once fat, now slim chef and TV star Tom Kerridge to try harder, or the Hairy Bikers to pedal a bit faster? Not when they were launching their diet books at least.
Featherstone hasn’t yet had to deal with any unwanted, and unwarranted, comments about her and her partner’s appearance, “but I am expecting it. I am pretty sure that is to come”, she says.