Losing It With Jillian Michaels

Not everyone can combine body shaming, inaccurate information about health and fitness, and cultural incompetence – but Jillian Michaels sure can. A while ago some troll signed me up for Jillian Michael’s e-mail list.  I find it fascinatingly horrifying that she seems to have no professional ethics and will say absolutely anything for money and so I never unsubscribed, instead dumping her e-mails – all with the subject “Losing it with Jillian Michaels” – into a folder for future blogging.  Well, today is the day:

It will be no surprise to regular readers that I think Jillian Michaels is an abusive ego-maniac, who puts people in danger both on the abomination of a television show that made her famous, and in her subsequent solo work. Today I want to take a look at a few of the “greatest hits” from her “Losing it with Jillian Michaels” emails:

Losing it with Jillian 2

Screenshot of E-mail  Subject: Want to Get Into Your Skinny Jeans?  Try These Moves. Body:  Tone Your Abs and legs With These Moves.  Are you battling the dreaded “muffin top?”  Trust me, some heart-pumping cardio is going to make a world of different in helping you burn off the fat. These three killer moves will really help you sculpt those trouble zones.

“Skinny jeans”?  No, I’ll just rock my fat jeans, thanks.

“Dreaded Muffin Top”? Jillian loves to use this kind panic-inducing body shaming language. to get her readers to hate their bodies so that they keep paying her money. This is, as my friend CJ Legare puts it, stealing people’s self-esteem so that she can cheapen it and sell it to us at a profit.

“Trust me.”  Ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha. Good one Jillian, you might be dangerously incompetent, but at least you’re hilarious!

“Really help you sculpt those trouble zones”?  Say it with me, there’s no such thing as spot reducing, I started teaching aerobics in the early nineties and even then they told us that it was important to counteract the myth that you can “spot-sculpt” any part of the body. It’s 20 years later and Jillian doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo on this.

Losing it with Jillian 3

E-mail subject:  What is Your idea of Beauty?  Body: Why “Perfection” Isn’t Perfect for You Do you pick yourself apart or wish you looked a certain way? Compared to airbrushed photos of beautiful celebrities, we’re always going to come up short.  Let go of unrealistic notions and focus on living a healthier life.

This would be hilarious if it weren’t so messed up.  First she’s trying to make us fear the “dreaded muffin top,” now she wants us to focus on health and love our “imperfect” body?  The most ridiculous thing though, is the picture of Jillian that accompanies this message:

Losing it with Jillian 4

“Let go of unrealistic notions.” she said.  Maybe she can show us how it’s done by letting go of unrealistic Photoshopping.

Then there is the e-mail I noticed today:

Jillian Sumo Squat

Subject: Tone Your Legs With This Move  Body: Have you ever seen a sumo match?  These wrestlers may look funny (and flabby), but they’re actually powerhouses of strength and balance…You’ll probably never have to intimidate a competitor in the ring, but doing this sumo-inspired exercise will strengthen your inner and outer thighs.  Best of all, there’s no loincloth required.

First of all, this is hella disrespectful to Japanese Sumo culture.  No loincloth?  Wrestlers may look funny and flabby?  As long we we’re talking about words that start with F, I have one for Jillian.

Then there’s the “funny and flabby BUT strength and balance” mess. This “someone who looks like this” BUT “they are actually physically fit/talented etc.” is the language of stigma and stereotypes and, in this case, fatphobia. The wrestlers look “funny” to her because she’s culturally incompetent. The fact that she thinks that she needs to say that they are “flabby BUT they’re ACTUALLY powerhouses of strength and balance” tells you that Jillian holds certain stereotypes about fat people, and instead of using this opportunity to examine her appearance-based prejudices,  she’s creating a very specific exception so that she can hold onto her stereotypes.

I’m “Losing it with Jillian Michaels” alright – I’m losing any shred of respect, any lingering hope that she might become competent, and any patience or compassion that I might have had for her. I’m losing everything but the certainty that she will say absolutely anything for money and fame, and that she is hurting people and it no longer matters whether it’s because she’s delusional, incompetent, or she just doesn’t care.

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Published in: on January 20, 2016 at 7:34 am  Comments (6)  

6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Oh, wow, that second one. The saddest/funniest thing about it is that most people hawking some variety of weight loss snake oil run an ad like that at some point. They might as well just come out and say, “There’s a 95% chance you won’t lose a pound long-term on our product, but please keep paying us for it anyway, because self-love and positivity and perfect imperfections. As long as you’re still buying our crap, you’re in the club!”

  2. Brilliant piece! I especially love your friend’s quote about stealing people’s self esteem, to be cheapened and sold back to us as a profit.

  3. I don’t know if she still has it, but she used to have a radio show that was really enlightening about her view of her own body. I’m not saying it’s justifiable at all, but she has definitely drank the Kool-aid on this stuff. She admitted to various crash diets she does for photo shoots, her ongoing fight with cellulite & being a more pear shaped person…it’s really eating disordered and I left feeling sorry for her on some level (but not enough to forgive her….she’s like the abusive relative that’s just easier to ignore….)

    • YES THIS. I listened to her on some podcasts on iHeartRadio – I think she has BIG-TIME self-esteem/body issues. She hates her butt, BTW. Misery loves company, I guess – ?

  4. I think you came up with one of the best slogans of all time, in response to Jillian’s bodyshaming: “Rock your fat jeans!”

  5. Maybe this is irrelevant, but the fact that she’s queer makes it even worse to me. Like, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I expect her to think thoughtful about things like how bodies are presented and interpreted in the world at large. But it seems like she skipped all the queer history and identity politics and is just another schmoe reinforcing the status quo with nary a deep thought to be found. She just also happens to be attracted to women– but only skinny, femme women! I mean, gotta keep our queerness palatable.


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