I love the Ellen show. I love the sweet, silly nature of it. I love the dance breaks. I love Ellen’s work to end bullying. So I was so very sad when one of my readers gave me a heads up that Jillian Michaels was going to be interviewed on the Ellen show. Sure enough, the show aired yesterday, and I am so very disappointed. I am so sad that Ellen had professional bully Jillian Michaels on her show for a super soft interview. First, she let Jillian go on and on about how she’s helping people with The Biggest Loser. Please. Who exactly is Jillian helping with that show? Scientific studies have been conducted. One of those studies indicates that people are less likely to exercise after watching The Biggest Loser. So the show discourages exercise. What about weight loss? According to Yoni Freedhoff in his excellent article “When Science Met the Biggest Loser” even former contestants of the show are unlikely to keep the weight off. There are a few, who have since made their body size into a career with lucrative speaking engagements and product endorsements who manage to stay thin. A group of researchers including the show’s own Robert Huizenga have determined that those participating in shows like The Biggest Loser face an extremely significant metabolic slowdown after their weight loss, making it very difficulty and extremely unlikely that participants will maintain their weight loss. Another study cited in Freedhoff’s excellent article indicates that people who watched even a single episode of The Biggest Loser led viewers to “dramatically increase their own hateful and negative biases towards those with obesity”.
So who is Jillian helping? She’s making millions of dollars participating in a show that increases stigma against people of size, makes people less likely to exercise and espouses a weight loss method almost guaranteed to leave participants even larger in the long run.
Next, Jillian went on to complain that her role on the show is taken out of context and that people see her as a “cartoon caricature”. Yet, in this same episode of Ellen, Jillian participates in a segment where she “yells at Ellen” and is in turn yelled at by Sean Hays for not, yelling at Ellen well enough. The clip concludes with Ellen and Sean making sure Jillian is gone and then stuffing popcorn and donuts into their face as quickly as they can. So if Jillian worried about her image as the woman who yells at people a lot, she sure has a funny way of dispelling that image. I think it important to mention the one thing in this clip that is accurate. There are studies that indicate that shaming and bullying people is more likely to produce binge eating and other negative health habits than to encourage healthy habits. So score one for accuracy there. But I don’t think Jillian is misunderstood. She is a professional bully. She makes her living by finding new ways to humiliate and shame fat people. She makes MILLIONS of dollars at it. Misunderstood? I think she’s understood only too well. If by chance there is some shred of decency in her, if she really doesn’t believe in behaving like a cartoon villain, guess what? All she had to do was walk away from the show and not come back. All she had to do was turn down those big fat paychecks. She didn’t. She may use that “I’m helping people” line to make herself feel better, but she isn’t making people feel better. She isn’t making people healthier. What she’s making is money and LOTS of it. What’s not to understand?
Then Jillian went on to a section where she busted some exercise myths. Please. As if Jillian Michaels is somebody we should trust to fill us in on health and fitness. The Biggest Loser is one of the greatest perpetrators of exercise myths on the planet. As I pointed out in two previous posts, just about everything they do on The Biggest Loser goes against solid exercise science. And as was stated previously in this post, science indicates that The Biggest Loser does more harm than good. Either Jillian is in agreement with what happens on The Biggest Loser which demonstrates poor analytical skills, or she’s in disagreement with what happens on The Biggest Loser and participates merely to make a buck. Either way, this is not a person I’m going to turn to for solid advice about health and fitness.
I can’t say I’m disappointed in Jillian. She delivered exactly the kind of nonsense I thought she would. But I am disappointed that Ellen caved to whatever pressure was brought to bear and allowed someone like Jillian Michaels on her show. I’m so sad that Ellen offered yet another media platform to a person who makes her living hurting and humiliating fat people.
The Fat Chick