The star who spent the beginning of her career as a model later started an acting career, despite having no formal acting training at drama school. Her role as a Bond girl led her onto more major roles within The Avengers, Sapphire & Steel, and in the 1990s Patsy Stone in BBC comedy Absolutely Fabulous. More recently the star has presented numerous travel docu-series and has joined the team at Sky News covering all of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations. Keeping up with a hectic work schedule in her later life is a challenge in itself, but for Lumley it seems that by keeping her health in-check, she is able to avoid many of the curses of older age.
Talking on a recent podcast, the actress said that she has been a vegetarian for around 40 to 45 years, after first deciding to give up meat and fish the same way someone would give up alcohol or smoking.
She explained: “I suddenly thought I am not going to do this anymore. I am not going to eat meat or fish. No more finished. Gone.
“But I am not a vegan. That is the next step, but I love cheese.”
For Lumley, keeping up with a vegetarian diet is easy, especially with her travels to the Middle and Far East, as a lot of this cuisine is vegetable based.
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Instead of going to the gym regularly or working with a personal trainer, Lumley admitted that she instead rushes about, doing things with “vigour” such as housework, gardening and going up the stairs “two at a time” in order to get her daily workout in.
In the past, the star has caused quite the controversy when she revealed that she doesn’t eat any meals, opting for snacking throughout the day instead.
Speaking back in 2015 she said: “I don’t eat any meals. I eat a bit throughout the day if I’m hungry, but not a big meal. I’ll have some nuts or maybe some crisps and that’s enough.”
After her confession, Lumley came under criticism for her dietary choices, with one nutritionist, Alice Mackintoshat, giving a warning to others that eating like the star should be done with “caution”. She said: “Snack foods can often seem as though they may be healthy when in fact they may not deliver sufficient levels of essential nutrients from fresh colourful fruits and veg, as well as protein, healthy fats or complex carbohydrates.
“Though Joanna isn’t eating sugar, regularly snacking on crisps is a far cry from a balanced and healthy diet and many may find that relying on easy convenience foods like this can cause energy levels to dwindle, immunity to become suppressed and concentration to waver.”
Another top nutritionist, Libby Limon, also commented on the star’s poor diet, instead giving a reason as to why she didn’t want to eat the three recommended meals. She said: “As we get older our metabolism slows so you don’t need as many calories, however, maintaining a nutrient dense diet is important for optimal health. Everyone is different so some people prefer to eat smaller ‘snacky meals’ throughout the day while others work better on two or three main meals.
“As long as these meals are balanced including lean quality protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates to maintain a energy via balanced blood sugar, as well as plenty vegetables for vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, it is what works best for you. Often a side effect of age is low stomach acid, so smaller meals often can be easier to digest.”
Giving their insight on her diet, none of the nutritionists would recommend any of their clients try to replicate the star’s past dietary choices. More recently it seems that the star has changed her eating habits, but still admits to being a “dull” chef and not following recipe books.
Although seemingly simple, the definition of a vegetarian diet provided by nutritionist Kerry Torrens is a diet that “excludes meat, poultry, game, fish and shellfish, as well as animal by-products such as gelatine”. It may include some other animal products – what you eat will determine the type of vegetarian diet you follow. These can be summarised as:
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarian – includes both dairy and eggs
- Lacto-vegetarian – includes dairy foods only
- Ovo-vegetarian – includes eggs only.
Importantly, studies show predominantly plant-based diets may be a healthier way to eat, with fewer reported cases of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes in comparison to meat-eaters.
Specifically, those with high blood pressure may benefit from a vegetarian diet as studies show a lower incidence of elevated blood pressure. There may also be a lower overall risk of cancer, even more so for vegans.
A varied, appropriately planned whole food vegetarian diet contains less saturated fat and more folate, fibre and protective antioxidants including vitamins C, E and carotenoids – which are all necessary for growth, development and the repairing of body tissues. In addition, most vegetarians are likely to exceed the recommended five-a-day of fruit and vegetables. Eating more plant-based foods rich in phytonutrients may help protect against age-related conditions including those affecting the eye, such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.