Jillian doesn’t realize her fat-shaming is more harmful than a larger body could ever be
Jillian Michaels made a name for herself screaming fat people into thinner bodies, so it’s not surprising that she thinks all fat people are unhealthy. But it is surprising that there has been no growth in this world view of hers in the past decade. This morning, on the Buzzfeed morning talk show AM2DM, the topic of Lizzo came up, and Jillian had some things to say.
“I love celebrities like Lizzo and Ashley Graham who are really preaching self acceptance,” mused AM2DM show host, Alex Berg. “I love her music, a hundred percent,” said Michaels. “I don’t know anything about her, I’m sure she’s an awesome chick.” At this point, Berg probably assumes the two women are about to have a let’s-embrace-body-positivity moment, saying “I love that they’re putting images out there that we don’t normally get to see, of bodies that we don’t get to see being celebrated.” Jillian interrupts her here to ask, “But why are we celebrating her body? Why does it matter? That’s what I’m saying. Like, why aren’t we celebrating her music?”
At this point, listeners may have been slightly confused, since you’d have to be living under a rock to not realize that basically everyone in the world is celebrating her music. She’s been nominated for eight Grammys. But okay, you want to talk about talent over physical appearance — we’re with you here, Jillian. Only — that’s not where she was going with this at all.
“But why are we celebrating her body? Why does it matter? That’s what I’m saying. Like, why aren’t we celebrating her music? Cuz, it isn’t gonna be awesome if she gets diabetes.”
And she didn’t stop there.
“I’m just being honest. I love her music, my kid loves her music, but there’s never a moment when I’m like, ‘I’m so glad she’s overweight.’ Why do I even care? Why is it my job to care about her weight?”
It’s funny hearing a person who has literally built her entire career caring about people’s weight saying something like “Why do I even care? Why is it my job to care about someone’s weight?” Maybe what Jillian really means here is, But why do I have to care about her weight since she’s fat? We don’t care about fat people! We scream at them until they do enough pushups and diets to lose all their gross fat!
Even the host was totally thrown off by her comments, later tweeting, “What I was going to say here is that Lizzo has been incredibly important in giving so many of us a possibility model for accepting our bodies as we are and celebrating bodies that are normally ridiculed. Had to restrain myself from defending Lizzo’s honor!”
This new worldview — of accepting bodies that aren’t thin — must be really hard for people like Jillian, who have spent their entire lives in a fitness orbit. What if all bodies were celebrated, not just super lean ones? Why not celebrate them? Jillian Michaels is not a doctor. She’s essentially a fitness influencer. Why does she feel comfortable speculating on the health of someone she doesn’t know?
Jillian Michaels definitely has a brand. Her brand is fitness and celebrating her perfectly toned physique. Oddly enough, her brand is also celebrating food, but I guess these memes are only cute if you’re a skinny woman eating the food.
In the interview, Jillian almost seemed offended that anyone would dare talk about a larger body, let alone celebrate it. I mean, she looks absolutely beside herself with the idea that she should ever give Lizzo’s body a second look. Well — take it all in, Jillian. It’s fucking glorious.
I take such issue with this type of view of larger bodies — that they should be hidden and not celebrated — because had I had role models like Lizzo when I was growing up, my life — and my health — would likely be much different. I was never even what you would call “fat” really — I just wasn’t thin. And thin was literally all there was to see in the world. And trying to achieve “thin” sent me down a three decade eating disorder rabbit hole.
I was thirteen when I learned how to be invisible.
I wanted to fly under the radar and not have my weight-obsessed mother realize I was growing into the curvy Greek-Italian body I was destined for. We lived in a very white suburb of Northern California and everyone around me had the same body: tall, thin, pale. I desperately wanted to be one of those girls whose thighs didn’t rub together, who didn’t need to wear a bra, whose moms packed them Lays potato chips for lunch.
From as young as I can remember, I hated the way I looked. Fitness magazines littered our home, the latest issues of Cosmopolitan on the coffee table. I didn’t look like the women who adorned those covers. I’ve always been short. I’ve never had a thigh gap in my life. What if Lizzo or Ashley Graham were on those covers?
At 13, a childhood friend tipped me off to her new “diet” — the only thing it involved was sticking her finger down her throat. “But, what happens,” I remember asking.
“You get skinny.”
So I got skinny.
It was the summer before I started ninth grade. That summer was spent drinking Slim Fast shakes instead of eating meals, doing the Jane Fonda workout in front of our wood-paneled swivel TV, and throwing up any bit of solid food I let myself eat. I still remember the outfit I wore on the first day; an acid washed denim mini-skirt with matching jacket, a red tank top, and matching red Esprit slip-on sandals. I was probably 115 pounds. My mother beamed as she took my pictures that morning. Everything felt tight.
What if I had spent that summer listening to Lizzo? Watching her shake her big, beautiful ass, instead of staring at Jane Fonda’s flat belly? I’ll never know if my life would be different because it was an opportunity I was never afforded.
In college I started to faint regularly, an unfortunate side effect of starving yourself. At that point I’d had my eating disorder for about six years. It would take me another 20 to conquer it. I’m glad I didn’t know that.
For the first time in my life I don’t want to change the way I look and I’m pissed as hell that it took me nearly three decades to get here. If I was able to see bodies like Lizzo, Ashley Graham, and Tess Holliday being celebrated — would I have wanted to change mine so bad?
So I understand you, Jillian. You’re fighting for the body “status quo,” because it’s served you so well all your life. If women love themselves, really love themselves, you don’t have a platform. But you’ve had the entire stage for so long — I’m so ready for your brand of “health” to go the way of the dinosaur — so girls like me don’t have to spend their lives sick.