Friday, May 21, 2010

Jillian Michaels Knows What Fat is all About

image Physical trainer Jillian Michaels became a household name when the exploitative show “The Biggest Loser” hit the airwaves.  Each week viewers tune in to watch Michaels whip fatties into shape.  Michaels recently did an interview with Time magazine in which she was asked, “Is obesity about emotional trauma, bad genes or poor habits?

Michaels responded with:

You can be predisposed genetically, but it's not a sentence. I'm genetically predisposed, but I manage my weight. The root of obesity, though, is usually emotional. The poor habits are a symptom of a deeper emotional issue.

Right,  and of course she is all about helping the poor fatties by participating in a show that has proven to be unhealthy and dangerous.  “Whether it’s gallbladder disease, hair falling out, skin getting dry,” said Karen Kovach, the chief scientific officer at Weight Watchers, “the more rapid the weight loss, the greater the risk.” She added: “You get above a kilogram a week, the risk really shoots up.” “The Biggest Loser” promotes weight loss at any cost, thus leaving its contestants emotionally vulnerable.  The problem is not the weight, but people like Michaels who under the guise of helping, support the idea that fat people are less than.

Season 1 winner Ryan Benson discussed the drastic measures he took on this Myspace blog:

“I wanted to win so bad that the last ten days before the final weigh-in I didn’t eat one piece of solid food! If you’ve heard of “The Master Cleanse” that’s what I did. Its basically drinking lemonade made with water, fresh squeezed lemon juice, pure maple syrup, and cayenne pepper. The rules of the show said we couldn’t use any weight-loss drugs, well I didn’t take any drugs, I just starved myself! Twenty-four hours before the final weigh-in I stopped putting ANYTHING in my body, liquid or solid, then I started using some old high school wrestling tricks. I wore a rubber suit while jogging on the treadmill, and then spent a lot of time in the steam room. In the final 24 hours I probably dropped 10-13 lbs in just pure water weight. By the time of the final weigh-in I was peeing blood.”

Season 3 contestant Kai Hibbard also blogged about the risky measures she took for the finale. The New York Times reports:

“She recently wrote on a blog that in the two weeks before the finale she severely dehydrated herself using asparagus (a diuretic), colonics and six-hour stretches of hopping in and out of a sauna. She lost 19 pounds, which as she joked, rebounded to her rear end almost immediately.’”

Considering that participation in “The Biggest Loser” is extremely risky, I fail to see how anything Jillian Michaels has to say about fat or weight loss is in the least bit relevant.  This woman is not really concerned, despite the fact that her inner fat child may be copiously weeping, because she makes her living exploiting the self loathing that many fat people negotiate the world with due to constant shaming.

Not every fat person is walking around with an eating disorder.  The two biggest factor in weight are DNA and Illness/Disability.  You will note that the later is often ignored because it props up the myth that if one just does the right thing, that health is a lifelong guarantee.  People that are fat because of medications that they take, lack of mobility, or illness/disability, are not emotionally sad and eating themselves into oblivion.  I know this first hand because I am fat and disabled.  Despite the occasional craving for chocolate, my diet is healthy and balanced.

Jillian Michaels cannot afford to be honest about fat.  She cannot afford to acknowledge connections like disability and fat, because to do so would conflict with the hateful message that she promotes every single week on the show.  She is no different than a snake oil salesman, selling people cures for illnesses they don’t even have.  It is much healthier for a person to maintain their weight and exercise moderately than it is to participate in the crash diet/exercise program that she facilitates on “The Biggest Loser.” 

It saddens me to know that millions of people are tuning into this program every week and buying into the ridiculous notion that if they were only strong enough to exercise until they throw up and tolerate international humiliation for being fat, that  they too can achieve and unrealistic body weight that is unsustainable.  The only problem with fat people is that we live in a world that has decided to stigmatize fat. The biggest losers are not the contestants, they are the staff that everyday supports a dangerous diet for a quick buck.