Why Jillian Michaels’ Comments on Lizzo Are More Hurtful Than Just Body Shaming

During a BuzzFeed News appearance, celebrity trainer and former The Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels raised eyebrows and ignited Twitter fingers everywhere with her comments on “Truth Hurts” singer Lizzo’s body.

“Why are we celebrating her body? Why does it matter? Why aren’t we celebrating her music? ‘Cause it isn’t going to be awesome if she gets diabetes. 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?”

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Lizzo, a plus-size singer bursting with self-confidence, has spoken often about how she gets called “brave” for doing things or wearing clothes that a thinner celebrity would.

“When people look at my body and be like, ‘Oh my God, she’s so brave,’ it’s like, ‘No, I’m not.’ I’m just fine. I’m just me. I’m just sexy… If you saw Anne Hathaway in a bikini on a billboard, you wouldn’t call her brave. I just think there’s a double standard when it comes to women. I don’t like it when people think it’s hard for me to see myself as beautiful. I don’t like it when people are shocked that I’m doing it.”

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After Michaels’ comments went live, the Internet launched into attack mode to defend Lizzo and wonder: what gave Michaels’ the right to comment on Lizzo’s body in any capacity?

Why Michaels’ comments go beyond anti-body positivity

At first listen, Michaels’ comments are quickly read as being anti-body positivity; Michaels seems to feel that Lizzo should be ashamed of her weight and that others shouldn’t glorify her size by asking “Why are we celebrating her body?”. In doing so, she implied that Lizzo’s value as a human is directly correlated to her physical size.

But more than that, Michaels shouldn’t have felt like she had the right to comment on Lizzo’s body in the first place. Our bodies aren’t out there for others to comment on, whether it’s a guy at a bar saying “nice rack” or a fellow gym-goer saying, “Wow, you look really skinny.” Bodies are personal, not up for your commentary unless I specifically ask for it (plus, there are a ton of ways to give a compliment without resorting to commenting on how someone looks).

Plus, while Michaels may have illustrious training credentials, the fact remains that she’s not *Lizzo’s* trainer, nor is she Lizzo’s doctor—hell, it doesn’t seem like the two have ever met in real life, period. Michaels knows absolutely nothing about Lizzo’s health (plus, research shows that blood pressure, insulin resistance, and high cholesterol are much stronger at predicting your risk for diabetes).

And guys, have you ever SEEN Lizzo perform? The amount of endurance and stamina she must have to bounce around a stage non-stop for a full set shows way more about her health than the number on a scale does.

Bottom line: Michaels was wrong to assume that Lizzo’s health is *only* defined by her weight (and doubly wrong to state those assumptions in such a public manner that wasn’t helpful, kind, or even necessary). But beyond that, Michaels’ comments are a strong reminder that we don’t need to be commenting on anyone’s body but our own in the first place, because we don’t truly know what’s going on underneath anyone else’s skin.

At aSweatLife, it’s written in our content guidelines that we follow “the Thumper rule”; that is, if we can’t say anything nice, we don’t say anything at all publicly. Maybe Michaels could take a leaf out of our book the next time she feels the urge to comment on another woman’s size.

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About Kristen Geil

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Kristen moved to Chicago in 2011 and received her MA in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse from DePaul while trying to maintain her southern accent. Kristen grew up playing sports, and since moving to Chicago, she’s fallen in love with the lakefront running path and the lively group fitness scene. Now, as a currently retired marathoner and sweat junkie, you can usually find her trying new workouts around the city and meticulously crafting Instagram-friendly smoothie bowls. Kristen came on to A Sweat Life full-time in 2018 as Editor-in-Chief, and she spends her days managing writers, building content strategy, and fighting for the Oxford comma.

2 thoughts on “Why Jillian Michaels’ Comments on Lizzo Are More Hurtful Than Just Body Shaming

  1. I wasn’t even aware of the comments until I just read your article, Kristen. It makes me think of one of my favorite authors, Roxane Gay, and her book Hunger. There is a passage specifically about the toxic effect of The Biggest Loser in particular. A quote from Gay: “When you’re overweight, your body becomes a matter of public record in many respects. Your body is constantly and prominently on display. People project assumed narratives onto your body and are not at all interested in the truth of your body, whatever that truth might be. Fat, much like skin color, is something you cannot hide, no matter how dark the clothing you wear, or how diligently you avoid horizontal stripes.” (p. 120) In Hunger, Gay talks at length about fatphobia and the impact of pop culture on our ideas about weight. It is a must read. I appreciated reading your thoughts here.

  2. sorry…but morbid obesity is NOT healthy. Obesity is the number one cause of disease. I don’t care what a person looks like – and body acceptance is fine – but when you say, as someone interested in health, that morbid obesity is ok – that just is not true. It is not okay from a health perspective. Ask any doctor.

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