This piece was first published on my old site on November 13, 2013. It was very popular, being shared on Facebook over 3,000 times.
Okay, so who really cares about this?
The title of the article says “Jillian Michaels did a bad, bad thing.” That’s true, but not actually in the sense of what was intended by the person who came up with that headline.
Here’s the breakdown: She gave her team caffeine supplements to help them drop more weight. She broke the stupid rules of the stupid TV show that’s stupidly called The Biggest Loser. She cheated on their game show. It’s like playing the golf putting game on The Price is Right and stepping over the line a few inches. Who friggin’ cares about the rules of this fat shaming train wreck?
When it comes to caffeine, well, I took a couple days off coffee before the Victoria Marathon then chugged a mega Starbucks before the race to give me a boost. Was that cheating? No, it wasn’t. It wouldn’t have been cheating if I’d used pills either. In the TBL case, the pills were used without coffee because they didn’t want the liquid from the coffee. Caffeine is a diuretic that causes weight loss, whereas coffee actually isn’t. You still take in more liquid than you pee out, so it’s a net weight gain.
Anyway, was this a “bad, bad thing”?
Well, yes, in that the health of the participants is already jeopardized via the extreme methods employed by the show, and dehydrating them further only puts them at an even higher risk. One of the show’s earlier winners confessed he dehydrated himself to the point of urinating blood.
Fun fact: If your weight loss program makes you pee blood, you’re doing it wrong.
Here is the real “bad, bad thing”: EVERYTHING TO DO WITH THIS SHOW!
Seriously, everyone who is associated with this show should be ashamed. It promotes bias against the overweight, gives people wildly unrealistic ideas about weight loss, uses bad / dangerous exercise form again and again, has an astronomical relapse rate weight where most of the contestants – even the “most successful” – regain the weight, and teaches people that exercise is a horrific punishment to be endured to achieve goals.
I am amazed that someone hasn’t died on this show. In 20 years of going hard with exercise I’ve only puked once, after qualifying for the Boston Marathon. Blowing your groceries from over-exertion is a regular occurrence on The Biggest Loser, however.
Yes, Jillian Michaels did a bad, bad thing.
She did a bad thing when she agreed to be a part of this show so long ago. Without naming names, I know someone who was offered a spot on this show and turned it down for ethical reasons. This unnamed person could not in good conscience participate in a program where the health of participants was ignored in favor of creating a television spectacle.
The producers, nutrition consultants, staff doctors, directors, and even the perky Days of Our Lives star who plays game-show host have all done a bad, bad thing by bringing this show to air. The companies that advertise on this show have done a bad, bad thing by supporting it with their advertising.
Even the viewers have done a bad, bad thing by watching it, and therefore keeping it on the air.
Stop being bad. Change the channel.
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James S. Fell, CSCS, is an internationally syndicated fitness columnist for the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and AskMen.com. He is the author of Lose it Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind, published by Random House Canada.