The Los Angeles Times came out with a scathing article on Jillian Michaels this week. I’ve been writing about “The Biggest Loser” and the show’s fitness tactics for well over a year, really hoping to get them to change their ways. I’ve gone after Jillian because her lack of credentials hasn’t stopped her from endorsing diet pills or putting out yoga videos. She seems to be an opportunist who is striking while the iron is hot and running with a quite tidy sum all the way to the bank. Can you really blame her for that?
The Times article was written by a friend of mine, James Fell, and we were actually talking about the piece while he was researching it. I referred him to a couple of my posts on the topic. I couldn’t be happier that he has finally gotten some traction with the public on what I consider to be a very serious issue. He has rattled some cages and I hope this finally brings about real change to “reality” television.
But you know what? Jillian isn’t the problem. It’s the producers who chose her in the first place and the marketers who handed her wads of cash and exploited her perky personality for their own financial gain.
Why They Chose Jillian
I was asking on Twitter why the television industry doesn’t pick true fitness professionals to work on these weight loss shows. Why is it always a bunch of people with online certifications like Jillian and Bob Harper from “The Biggest Loser” and Jackie Warner of “Thintervention”? Why aren’t professionals with master’s in Exercise Physiology or Kinesiology and top level certs from places like the ACSM on my TV screen?
I got an astonishingly simple answer: because they aren’t members of SAG, the Screen Actors Guild. Producers and casting agents always go there first to look for talent.
Why hadn’t that occurred to me before?
Jillian Could Have Prevented the Backlash
Jillian Michaels could have headed off this backlash. I know at least two professional fitness organizations that offered her free certifications (a kettle bell organization and Spinning) if she would do their program. She never bothered to give them a response.
She could have seen the burble on the blogs last year and said, maybe I should get that ACSM cert and then people will back off. She didn’t bother. She could have increased her level of professionalism and everyone would have supported her. I, for one, would have been ecstatic.
So to some extent she really did this to herself.
A Proposal to You
Please question where your fitness advice is coming from. If you go to a fitness expert’s website and look at their “About” page if it lists zero certifications it’s probably because they don’t have any. Please keep in mind that these shows are really just marketing vehicles for sales of product. Always keep that in mind.
A Proposal to the Fitness Pros
If you are a fitness professional, the barrier to becoming a SAG member is high. It’s a bit of a “chicken-egg” situation in that to shoot these shows, you need to be a SAG member, but in order to become a member of the Guild, you need to have worked on one of these shows. And, the initiation fee is more than $2200 (even gyms can’t charge that much).
So what can you do? Get content out there, be it through blogs like this one, or YouTube videos or podcasts or any other number of channels that exist in today’s wired world. The challenge becomes working to get your message heard, but if you’re passionate about the topic like I am, then it’s worth the time, effort, and energy. And who knows? Maybe a casting agent will see your content and contact you for a future project that is looking to focus on proper fitness.
A Proposal to the Entertainment Industry
Please seek us fitness professionals out. Please ask for our help. Please go to universities to look for your experts, not to your filing cabinets for headshots. We give great advice, and some of us are cute enough to meet your needs and great on camera too. Please let us help you produce quality shows that will actually have a real impact on the obesity epidemic that the US is facing.
What do you think? I would love your feedback here.