Just Lost My Last Shred of Respect for Jillian Michaels

For Jillian Michaels it's all about the Benjamins ...

I'm still shaking my head, I'm appalled.  I recently started looking into affiliate programs for my site.  I am thinking of adding a clothing company for which I'd make a small commission for any sales that happen through my site.  To sign up for this one company I had to sign up for this big clearing house place where a bunch of companies are listed.  There are a lot of reputable companies here like Champion, Sephora, The North Face.  Their commissions for sales that happen as a result of clicking through my site run in the neighborhood of 5% to 8%. I was sorting through the health and fitness categories and ran across Jillian Michael's affiliate program.  They are offering 70% to 90% commission on her products.  What!  That would explain why her face is plastered all over the web, the profits from any sale, even a measly sale are huge! Here's a sample of some of her products, I'll use 70% as an example of what the owner of the web site gets.
  • Jumpstart, 14 day Cleanse & Burn, Retail $39.99 to the referral site, $27.99
  • 30 Day Shred DVD Retail, $10.99 to the referral site, $7.69
  • Fitness Ultimate 2010 Wii Game, Retail $39.99 to the referral site, $27.99
I'm assuming the percentage of payout is higher if you get more referrals from your site.  But the majority of companies out there pay under 10%.  What on earth is the level of quality here if they can give that much to a referring site?  The DVDs I can see to a point as it's pennies these days to press a DVD and package it, but she is also selling food products such as Whey Protein and whatever the heck is in that 14 day cleanse. This is what gives the fitness industry a bad name.  This is one of the main reasons I have this blog, to let people know when they're being had.  Ladies and gentlemen, you're being had.  Please stop supporting this woman no matter how chipper and adorable she appears on TV.  You're getting advice from a very pretty, personable girl who only has an on-line personal training certification and is simply hawking products trying to make a buck.  Please stop.  And No! I will not becoming an affiliate for her questionable products. Let me know your thoughts, I'd love to start a lively discussion here. Lisa

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.


42 Responses to Just Lost My Last Shred of Respect for Jillian Michaels

  1. ConfessionsMom May 19, 2010 at 7:55 am #

    I agree that it’s odd. But how can it be all about the money for her if she’s not making any profit? Or the products are worth nothing at the beginning? Is that what you’re thinking? Very strange.

  2. Michelle May 19, 2010 at 7:56 am #

    Maybe she is not in it for the money!

  3. Lisa Johnson May 19, 2010 at 8:01 am #

    If you look at the whey protein, the company itself is getting less than $9. With that they’re creating a food product (yikes!) with packaging, labelling, etc. Of course they’re making a profit off of it, so how much is $$ is actually going into the product! What is the quality of what she’s convincing people to buy? It’s all about driving traffic to the site and making money off of products & enriching her brand in a cheap, low-life way.

    It’s just flat out wrong, it *is* what is the worst part of the fitness industry. She is the poster child for that right now. Shame on her. I hope she enjoys her fancy house, cars and friends because she’s doing it on the backs of sincere Americans who just want to look & feel better.

    (getting off my soapbox now).


  4. Dave May 19, 2010 at 9:05 am #

    Surely most poeple realize that supplements are BS, no?

  5. Lisa Johnson May 19, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    I think most people get their fitness info from marketers, even high end fitness magazines need advertisers and they have to be careful what they say so they don’t anger a potential advertiser …

  6. Christine May 19, 2010 at 9:43 am #

    I COMPLETELY agree. Jillian Michaels is a sell-out. Do you think she would let any of her clients (such as contestants on Biggest Loser) touch ANY of that shit that she’s peddling? Would she let any client buy that ridiculous cleanser? Would she allow a client to use that Wii workout as their only workout of the day?! HELL NO SHE WOULDN’T. She’s pawning crap that she doesn’t even agree with or really believe in. All to make a buck. It’s very sad. I loved Jillian as a trainer but unfortunately she “jumped the shark” and is now hurting more people than she’s helping by peddling this garbage.

  7. Dave May 19, 2010 at 9:57 am #

    What annoys me about Jillian is that she fancies herself a psychologist. She’s not happy until she’s made someone cry. Sorry, Jillian, but you are not a trained and licensed therapist, and you should not act like one. It’s off-putting and very irresponsible.

  8. Lisa Johnson May 19, 2010 at 10:22 am #

    Thanks Christine a blunt opinion to be sure. :-)

  9. Kim Greenlee May 19, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    Is it possible she is offering such a high referral fee as a sort of loss leader? Grocery stores often advertise items they are losing money on to get you in the store… So perhaps she is doing something similar? Getting her products on as many sites as possible and then counting on customers buying again and again (without the referral payout) to make her margin?

    Not trying to be difficult, just trying to play devil’s advocate, I guess. I don’t know anything about her products or their quality, so don’t feel I can really comment on anything but possible reasons for her marketing strategy.

  10. diyworkouts May 19, 2010 at 11:51 am #

    I’m just not a big person on assuming things, so I e-mailed them. That is really interested and I can’t wait to see if and/or how they reply. As has already been said, I definitely don’t understand how they are able to pay that high of a commission.

    PS- I wish you had a check box so I could subscribe to your comments quickly and easily.

  11. Lisa Johnson May 19, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    Hi Kim,

    I can tell you that she’s being sued for the 14 day cleanse because of alleged false claims on the packaging. The other question to ask is if most affiliate partners share about 5% to 10% of their revenue with the referring site, how is she able to do it for 70% to 90% that isn’t the normal business model and smacks of shenanigans.


    I’ll check with my web designer about the check box, you’re the first person who asked. But I’m glad you’re passionate enough about the subject. I’m not sure if you’ll get an answer and I suspect that you won’t. She has gotten a lot of criticism for her kettlebell exercises (she actually made a DVD which then got pulled off the shelves after *a lot* of criticism from people who are actually trained in kettlebells.) I know one expert who referred her to someone who lives right in her area, but she never contacted him. If I remember correctly he even offered to train her for free. She didn’t want to learn, just profit.


  12. Lisa Johnson May 19, 2010 at 11:59 am #

    Dave, I agree, a licensed therapist has years of schooling and has gone through a “residency” program where they learn to work with humans over time. To just start landing pop psychology on someone seems pretty dangerous. Especially for some of the contestants who have faced some really awful ordeals. The Mom who lost her whole family in a car accident comes to mind, as well as Shay with a horrible upbringing that she has had to overcome.

    I am hoping this post serves more as a wake up call than just a rant. They have the opportunity to do so much good & they’re dashing it on profits and exposure.

    I’d like to say this is no way reflects on the contestants themselves. They are full of hope and trying their hardest and truly want to change their lives. I wish them nothing but success. They are all coming from difficult situations and it’s so inspiring to watch them try and succeed to hit their goals. That is truly the heart of the show for me.


  13. Jennifer Sage May 19, 2010 at 12:34 pm #

    I am an affiliate for a few products and have affiliates to sell my ebooks. You’re right, in the nutrition and clothing products industry, affiliate commissions are 5-15%, because there is not that much margin. If it’s an information product, it’s often much higher 40-75%, because there IS a large margin to play with. If she is able to give that high of referral fee, you are right, there is something AMISS here, because they only play with their margin. This is NO LOSS LEADER! This only means what you are inferring that it means – that there is nothing of quality (or expense) in those products, perhaps it is cheaply assembled in a third world country (I do not know this for a fact, just speculating). The DVDs, yes, commissions can be high on that – but we in the fitness industry know there ain’t no quality in those! It’s not just Kettlebells where she has been called-out on her improper and unsafe form, it’s in her “Spinning” classes on TBL. 18 months ago I wrote an open letter to Jillian questioning what she did to those poor hapless obese folk on Spin bikes, and I even offered to certify her for free (I worked for Spinning at the time). Check out my letter here:


    Oh and NOW she’s teaching YOGA, without a shred of knowledge about it.

  14. Kelly May 19, 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    As Dave said (above), people should know by now that taking supplements isn’t going to do anything if you’re sitting around all day and eating crap. That is pretty much the message Jillian puts out there on TV, her radio show, her website, etc. If people are buying it, that’s their own fault. Unfortunately there are a lot of naive people out there who just don’t want to accept the fact that if they want to get into shape they need to exercise more and eat less. End of story.

    I don’t fault her for trying to make money. Who isn’t? She knows that people will purchase her DVDs, so why not make more of them? I’m not sure where the proof is that she hasn’t a “shred of knowledge” about yoga. I know enough about yoga from the classes I have taken to teach a class.

    If someone who is out of shape tries to get on a spin bike at their local gym and do a workout like on TBL and ends up in the ER, that’s their fault. People may not heed the warning, but all equipment clearly states to consult a physician before embarking on a fitness regimen.

    I guess what I’m getting at is that people need to take responsibility for their own lives, stop blaming people like Jillian, do research and start using their brain.

  15. Lisa Johnson May 19, 2010 at 2:19 pm #

    Kelly, I know what you’re saying and I used to have that attitude until I became a personal trainer and then a Pilates instructor. I thought because I worked out a lot that I could easily become a trainer and it just wasn’t true. Being able to spot properly, keep people safe, design effective programs for different body types, know what the muscles groups are and what they do. These are all critical elements to being a trainer and not necessarily something you can pick up just by taking the classes.

    As far as it’s people’s own fault for doing it, look at the example they’ve been given. Some really, really overweight guy hops on a bike and gets a Biggest Loser workout for all to see. The cameras don’t show the staff behind them, they don’t show program design, the don’t show the medical professionals overseeing these killer workouts. They just see a guy on a bike sweating his butt off to a better life. It’s easy to think that they can do it do and wind up with an injury, possibly a serious one.

    Keep in mind 65% of the US is overweight/obese, that means most of the people watching the show don’t know good fitness protocol. The people most in need of inspiration have the least amount of information. It’s a formula for disaster, or at least some really really sore muscles and a person who thinks exercise is horrible.

    Just some thoughts,


  16. Lisa Johnson May 19, 2010 at 2:21 pm #

    Jennifer thanks for chiming in with more information about affiliates … I am a noob at it and am just learning the ropes. I appreciate the perspective and the reinforcement of my assumptions!



  17. Betsy May 19, 2010 at 2:33 pm #

    Once again, I am learning from you (and the other posters)- about how affiliate sales works. I had no idea the vast spectrum of compensation that was out there- though it make sense when as Jennifer explains it.

    I’d have a hard time hawking products for a Jillian- besides not being in that business, more the smart-ass blog biz than health– it preys on the desperate, the ill-informed, those that want a quick-fix. Where research, common sense and credentials don’t matter. That being said I feel like things like this should be regulated or at least have HUGE disclaimers – “Jillian has a 3rd-rate certification and has no idea what she’s talking about” on the front.

    You’re right Lisa, it is a formula for disaster.

  18. Lisa Johnson May 19, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    Thanks Betsy :-)

  19. James Fell May 19, 2010 at 3:58 pm #


    I agree completely, except for the part about Jillian being “very pretty.”

    Coming from a guy who has a high appreciation for the opposite gender: Jillian does nothing for me.

  20. Kelly May 19, 2010 at 7:25 pm #

    Lisa –

    Thank you for the response! :)

    It is often mentioned on the show (by the trainers and contestants) that there is a medical staff on site during all the workouts. I guess I just find it hard to believe that people are naive enough to think that, as you said, an overweight person is jumping on a bike with no supervision/testing/etc. and that they should do the same if they want to lose 100s of pounds.

    People may not have much information, but that is their own fault for taking something they see on TV for face value. It would be like if I bought a knife from an infomercial that promises to cut through steel and conrete without researching the product online.

    Plus, all of Jillian’s products (and all of these ‘diet’ supplements or whatever they might be called) have very specific warnings on them. Again, if people are naive enough to take them, whose fault is it?

    If someone is overweight, they should talk to their physician. When I suffered from depression, I didn’t try to find pills online to solve my problem (and I’m sure you can find them!). I went to a professional. I see it the same way.


  21. Lisa Johnson May 19, 2010 at 8:05 pm #

    Thanks for the comment James! I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. :-)


    Thanks so much for commenting again. I really go back and forth with exactly what you’re saying. You have a valid point, but (there’s always a but right) there is so much misinformation out there. And Bob & Jillian are very much put forth as “experts.” Jillian has even been on Oprah who supported her as an expert. So at what point does seeing the hype over and over again, become fact?

    You also have to realize the desperation of people who are overweight. It’s frustrating and yes, everyone knows the basic formula is move more, eat less but everyone wants that magic bullet too or we wouldn’t have a multi-billion dollar fitness industry loaded with questionable gadgets, supplements & what not …

    It’s such a complicated process, cravings, obesity, serving sizes, processed foods, longer work weeks, social norms. You can’t just pull one thread without upsetting everything else.

    Thanks again for commenting back, I appreciate it :-)


  22. Jamie Bull May 19, 2010 at 8:20 pm #

    I think that she just hears her 15 minutes ticking away and that she is doing all she can to cash in on it before time runs out. I have to admit that I would do that too. Not in the same ways, but at least “get while the getting is good.”

  23. Mike May 20, 2010 at 5:36 am #

    High commission percentages are often a signal for products that are high quality. The marketer is thinking in terms of customer lifetime value. If the customer does not reorder or recommend the product to a friend, no money is made.

    In fact, companies often don’t mind losing money for the first order. For instance, a company my be willing to spend X dollars as a customer acquisition cost because of the lifetime value of the customer.

  24. Lisa Johnson May 20, 2010 at 6:55 am #

    Mike, I’m leaving your comments up, but II don’t quite believe you. Anyone else?


  25. Amy May 20, 2010 at 1:05 pm #

    Great discussion! I thought you all might be interested in an article we published by Maria Leone about how to train safely in the era of “The Biggest Loser.”

    I half believe Mike. This may be a strategy for reorders, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s high-quality.

  26. Amy May 20, 2010 at 1:06 pm #

    I linked my comment up wrong. the link was supposed to be on the title of the article (Pilates and ‘Going for the Burn’). Here’s the link again. sorry!!


  27. Raymond Cole May 20, 2010 at 1:50 pm #


    I’m the COO of Empowered Media, which operates the Jillian Michaels brand. Your blog post was brought to my attention and I wanted to take the opportunity to explain the Jillian Michaels affiliate program.

    The affiliate program is based on membership subscriptions to the jillianmichaels.com PAID website. Unlike the consumer product based affiliate programs you referenced, the Jillian Michaels affiliate program is NOT based on the purchase of products. There are no affiliate programs for any Jillian Michaels consumer products.

    To explain the aforementioned, I’ve copied below how the Jillian Michaels affiliate program works from jillianmichaels.com and also provided the direct link for your reference.

    We appreciate you noting the richness of the Jillian Michaels affiliate program and welcome you and your followers to join.

    Respectfully yours,

    Raymond C. Cole
    Empowered Media, LLC

    How the program works:

    1. Sign up to be a publisher through Linkshare.
    2. E-mail our affiliate team. Be sure to include your Linkshare member number and your website’s URL.
    3. Follow the instructions on the invite to join our program through.
    4. Place banners and text links on your site.
    5. We will pay you 70% of the sale price for every paid subscriber. You have the opportunity to earn up to 90% of the sale price per subscription. A win, win situation!


  28. Mary Noone May 20, 2010 at 2:57 pm #

    I have been following your BLOG and I love the recent post on Jillian Michaels. The layers of marketing and PR are so deep and people don’t have any idea about the workings of the advertising world. You clearly point out that if there is only $9 spent on the product then what is the actual product that people are consuming? Remember the analysis Eric Schlosser made in Fast Food Nation about marketing and how McDonald’s directed all their advertising efforts at kids to make their money. It only cost McDonald’s 7 cents for a Coke because it is all sugar!!! The same point you bring up with Jillian Michaels’ products. She is targeting people who want to become healthier to make her money, as McDonald’s does with kids. The question is what is JM really endorsing??

  29. Lisa Johnson May 21, 2010 at 7:54 am #

    Thanks for your comments Mary

  30. Lisa Johnson May 21, 2010 at 7:55 am #


    Thanks so much for the link and the comments, greatly appreciated and tell Maria I said hi!


  31. Stefani May 21, 2010 at 11:10 am #

    I have been thinking myself for quite some time now that TBL in general and Jillian Michaels are getting too commercial. It’s always about promoting something these days. My husband and I were discussing this a few days ago and then today I stumbled upon your blog by chance (never been here before). I have to say I have been a fan of Jillian’s merely because of how inspirational she is and her ability to really get into the heads of the contestants on TBL and help work out their emotional things and I still like her but I do think she is too commercial. I read on twitter a few days ago that she doesn’t do personal training at all anymore because of “time constraints”. Hmm a personal trainer that doesn’t do personal training – it all sounds a bit weird to me, but hey who am I to judge? I think Bob is the total opposite…you can tell he loves what he is doing and it seems the things he comes out with are fitness DVDs and the like. He still teaches group classes – not sure how often or anything but he announced on twitter the other day he was doing a spin class. Sorry I know that isn’t relevant but I had to put that in there.

    Anyway, I was thinking with this whole affiliate thing – maybe they can pay that much because they know that most people will research the product and buy it for cheaper elsewhere. Therefore, it is cheap (maybe even often free) advertising for the products and the real win-win is for them. I’m just sayin, it’s something to think about. I know that we rarely ever see something on a website then just buy it. We always shop around first.

  32. Karen (NYCEsthy) May 21, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

    Hi Lisa
    Great post as always! (And I am so behind on my reading, so I have to catch up!)

    Oprah endorsements, while lucrative to those she endorses, are really frightening and so problematic to those who work in the fitness, health and wellness fields.

    Simply, Oprah is booking good television. TBL is ratings gold, and she’s capitalizing on that, which unfortunately serves as an endorsement of the strategies (and trainers) on the show. Her advice, and her experts, have been growing more and more questionable as the years go by. Sometimes she dispenses downright dangerous information. The only expert that I trust from her show is Dr. Oz.

    It’s unfortunate because she influence so many women so profoundly.

  33. Lisa Johnson May 21, 2010 at 6:11 pm #

    Karen and Stefani,

    You both hit on the real point that Jillian is very inspirational to millions. And I do love that she has probably motivated thousands of people to get off their butt and do something. But (and it’s a big but) there is a responsibility to her stature and I think she’s capitalizing on it rather than truly reaching out and helping others.

    I was talking to a group of people today during lunch about my post and one person said, I wonder if she signed a contract where they can put her name on whatever and she didn’t fully realize what she signed. I would like to think that’s true and she’s in a position she doesn’t want to be in. But I’m not really sure … maybe she really just wants the money and if someone gets hurt in the process oh well …

    It would be awesome if they answered my questions on the other post. That would show some real dignity. I know they’re hard questions but they’ll never go away until she addresses them.


  34. Khris May 21, 2010 at 11:49 pm #


    I am glad you and others are asking questions instead of accepting the marketing spiel as gospel. Sure, there needs to personal responsibility and ownership by the buyer but if they’re being mislead about the efficacy or safety of the product, there’s something terribly wrong. By asking questions in the public arena we, as consumers, are doing our due diligence – aren’t we?

    I wonder that as well. I liken it to celebrities who’ve licensed their name to big box discount stores for clothing lines only to be later called out and held responsible for those clothes being manufactured by child labor sweat shops. “But I didn’t know! I just lent my name to the clothes; I don’t manufacture them myself!”

    Thanks again for a thoughtful dialogue on this topic.

  35. Lisa Johnson May 22, 2010 at 12:17 am #

    Thanks a lot for your comments Khris. I think they speak to the heart of the matter … L–

  36. Matt July 29, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

    I don’t understand how you can knock Jillian when she has inspired and helped millions of people lose weight. As for the affiliate program you have to understand how to run an effective online business before you can knock her. First off, it is a proven fact that repeat customers are what drives business. If people are referring customers to Jillian’s website they are getting paid 90% yes but they are only getting paid one time per customer when that person clicks on the ad on the website. The website owner who places the ad doesnt know a thing about who clicked on the ad, they only know that they got paid. But Jillian gets the person who clicked on the ads email address so now as long as Jillian builds a good relationship with that customer by providing quality products, advice, and tips that customer will be a customer of Jillian’s for life! She now can market to that customer over and over and over. That customer may also refer others to Jillian’s website and products therefore increasing Jullians business even more. Having a list is like owning gold to online businesses. Why do you think websites even offer affiliate programs through places like clickbank where they will pay up to 75% of the sale. It is because that company gets the customers email and it is proven that a customer will buy over and over again and the company who ownes the affiliate program can afford to pay the website owner 90% because they know they can make their money back ten fold through email marketing, word of mouth, and repeat business

  37. Lisa Johnson July 29, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

    Dude, you have no idea what you’re talking about. I have been in the fitness industry for almost 15 years. I know the difference between a good trainer and good marketing. Jillian’s got marketing. Nuff said.

  38. matt August 4, 2011 at 12:27 am #

    What you just said about my post makes no sense nor has any reference to what I was saying. You must be blonde

  39. Lisa Johnson August 4, 2011 at 9:40 pm #

    LOL, Matt, lovely that you chose a personal attack … feel free to read other people’s blogs and not come back to this one.

  40. Colin Stone October 15, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    I have recently started a health blog trying to promote the message that it doesnt have to cost a fortune to lose weight and be healthy. It is all about eating right and exercising in a fun way. I hate all the large billion $ industries that make money off making people fat. However there are now many people selling to many products both that make us fat and promise to make us thin. Sadly I think Jillian Michaels is making to many products although I do agree with a lot of what she is promoting. The solution to obesity does not need so many DVD’s and books……in my opinion.

  41. Alex November 21, 2013 at 2:06 am #

    Lisa, I hate to say this but I have to agree with Matt on this one (no, not that bit about being blonde).

    You have a front-end product that you happily pay other people anywhere from 70% up to 100% for promoting, and then you have a back-end in place where you can sell all these people other services instead.

    There’s nothing “shocking” about this, nor should you worry that the level of quality is decreasing because of it.

    It’s simply good marketing.

    I understand where you’re coming from, and what you’re trying to say… I just don’t agree with you, that’s all :)

  42. Lisa Johnson January 27, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

    Well the quality wouldn’t be getting worse because it’s already really bad … #justsaying

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