It’s been almost ten years since Jillian Michaels very publicly threatened to sue me for what I wrote about her in the Los Angeles Times. It was pretty big news at the time. It even got covered in the Ethiopian press, and my uncle sent me an email from Hong Kong, asking, “What’s this about you and Jillian Michaels?”
Since that time I’ve written a number of pieces about her propensity for fat shaming and the promotion of unhealthy weight loss tactics. For years, I and others have accused her of being an actress playing the role of a trainer on TV instead of being a real trainer, referring to her lengthy career on the fat shaming train wreck game show The Biggest Loser. Four years ago I had a feature published in the Guardian about that program titled “It’s a miracle no one has died yet.”
From that article:
For 12 years, Jillian Michaels’s tactics wreaked havoc on show contestants. To motivate her team she often hurled insults, and verbally threatened contestants as they attempted to meet their weight loss targets. Here is a selection of her quotes from previous seasons:
- “Unless you faint, puke or die, keep walking!” (Link)
- “I don’t care if people die on this floor. You better die looking good.” (Link)
- “I’m proud that I made him vomit.” (Link)
- “If you don’t run I will pull Alex on the floor and I will break every bone in his body!” (Link)
- “I don’t care if one of your legs fall off or if one of your lungs explode.” (Link)
- “The only way you’re coming off this damn treadmill is if you die on it!” (Link)
- “It’s fun watching other people suffer like that.” (Link)
Fitness experts have repeatedly called Michaels’ practices on The Biggest Loser into question. An indoor cycling instructor took Michaels to task for removing the saddle on stationary bikes to “motivate” contestants. A Pilates instructor publicly called out Jillian’s behavior as “unprofessional”. In 2013, Michaels was chastised for giving her team members caffeine pills to help them drop more weight.
In that Guardian article, published at the beginning of the show’s 17th season, I proclaimed it needed to be its final season. And due to many people voicing their displeasure of its horridness over many years, it finally was.
It seems Jillian still longs for the fat-shaming spotlight, however. Last month, after blissfully dropping off our radar for a few years, she reminded the world of her shittiness. She said no one should be fat shamed, then immediately contradicted herself with the baseless accusation that “we’ve become so politically correct” that obesity is now “glamorized.” In reality, body shaming of every stripe remains rampant. The fact that body acceptance has made some inroads, and fewer people are acting like bigoted ass monkeys toward those with obesity, does not mean that extra body fat has suddenly become glamorous.
Now Jillian is back just a few weeks later going after musical artist Lizzo. “Why are we celebrating her body? Jillian said, “’Cause it isn’t gonna be awesome if she gets diabetes.”
I’ve written for The Chicago Tribune about how obesity is associated with increased health risk, but you can’t assess someone’s health based solely upon looking at them. That, however, is way beside the point.
The point is: Lizzo’s body is none of Jillian’s fucking business.
Jillian is what is known as a “concern troll” (read my piece about concern trolls here). In short, a concern troll is someone who pretends to be concerned over someone’s health in order to scorn them for their body weight.
I’m an expert in sustainable weight loss. I wrote a science-based book on the subject. And if someone asked me “What do you think about Lizzo’s body?” my reply would be “You shouldn’t ask people questions like that.”
Because it’s not my place to judge. It’s not Jillian’s place either.
And yet Jillian enjoys judging people in such a way. She made her career doing that, and appears to have missed the spotlight. But while that approach delivered her great ratings years ago, we’re less tolerant of such bigoted behavior now. It’s not glamorizing obesity; it’s growing as a society and trying to be less of an asshole about it.
It’s not our place to judge others’ bodies. Jillian needs to shut the fuck up.
My new book THE HOLY SH!T MOMENT, is now available. GET IT HERE!
James S. Fell, MA, MBA, has bylines in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, the Guardian, TIME Magazine, and many other publications. His blog has millions of readers and he is the author of two books: The Holy Sh!t Moment: How Lasting Change Can Happen in an Instant (St. Martin’s Press, 2019), and Lose it Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind (Random House Canada, 2014). Order them here.
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