5 things Jillian Michaels wants us to learn from “Losing It”

by Sarah McColl

Our girl crush, Jillian Michaels, has a new makeover show on which she will do whatever it takes to help you change your life. That means hours of sweaty workouts, dredging up the past, and lots and lots of tears. And despite the rocky start of the predictable (and slightly awkward) premiere episode, we find ourselves kind of won over by this show. Yes, it is manufactured sentimentalism, but we’re willing to look past that because of Jillian herself: girl is real. And if she’s just acting like she cares about these people’s emotional, mental, and physical well-being, she might as well join the ranks of Meryl Streep. Here, our favorite takeaways from what could possibly be our new favorite tear-jerker show:

The idea of change is exciting. The work of change? Not so much.

Three episodes in, there’s something it appears we can count on: Even though these people have willingly volunteered themselves as makeover subjects for this show, when Jillian calls from her iPhone and says, “I’m in Worcester, Mass! Come meet me in 20 minutes!”, these people are not pleased. A look of doom and fear comes over their faces. And when they change into their workout clothes and are led through the first workout, they look like they’d be happy to kill America’s toughest trainer. “I can’t,” they all say, over and over, when Jillian asks them to run faster, jump higher, work harder. And yet, they wanted to enough to subject themselves to a national reality show. It’s interesting to watch the disconnect between wanting transformation in your life, and being totally averse to the hard work change requires. It’s probably something a lot of us can recognize in ourselves.

Don’t be a victim to your own life.

When things get tough once Jillian shows up, these people have a million excuses: I’m alone, I’m tired, I don’t have any help, It’s the way I’ve always done it. But, of course, Jillian blows those excuses to smithereens. Life isn’t happening at you, she says, you are happening to life. Yet so many of us have adopted a stance of victimhood in our own lives. To more politely paraphrase the bumper sticker, bad stuff happens. To all of us. We can keep telling ourselves the story of our crappy childhood, how we’ve never accomplished what we wanted, how we’ve been wrecked by heartache and loss. But Jillian Michaels simply will not abide us being martyrs in our own lives. She wants us to start telling ourselves a new story about what we deserve and what we want. She expects us to take control and grab the wheel. And in each episode, people do. That, in a nutshell, is what makes us cry like big ole babies.

You can’t fix everything in one week, but you can put an action plan in place.

The concept, at first, seems absurd. The show identifies a family that is coming apart at the seams, and Jillian moves in with them for five days to help them turn their lives around. Five days?! This is a very different beast than living on The Biggest Loser ranch for months. What’s amazing, though, is how many wheels can be set in motion in five days. The families start an exercise routine, they learn some new recipes. Jillian gives them tools to talk to each other instead of eating their feelings. And by the time she leaves, everything isn’t magically fixed, but these people have created a road map to take them where they want to go. And so far, when Jillian checks in with them six or eight weeks later, they are well on their way.

Jillian will cut a b–tch.

Jillian Michaels will scream in your face. Jillian Michaels will make you cry. This isn’t news, perhaps, but it is surprising to see how receptive people are to tough love. Personally, I’m not into the drill sergeant approach and it can be a little uncomfortable to watch, especially when Jillian is pushing people to an emotional breakthrough/breakdown. She will make you run on the treadmill until you start crying about your dead husband/child/dream. And then she gets sweet, holds your face, and tells you to look in her eyes. It makes good television, I guess, and saves time to combine a workout with an excavation of your soul, but shouldn’t these people just be in therapy?

Transformation is a present-time activity.

We meet Ruth in the third episode of the season. This is a woman filled with anger and crushed dreams, a woman who went through a divorce that she didn’t see coming, who looks forlorn and empty when she says, “The life that I saw myself living is gone.” Jillian puts Ruth through the wringer in what is probably the best episode of the season so far. When Ruth starts to give up during their first workout, Jillian pulls her trademark let-me-get-in-your-face move. “You know when transformation happens?” she barks in Ruth’s face. “Right now. It’s a present activity. Show me the new you! Decide the woman you want to be!” It’s kind of an amazing moment, watching something click in Ruth’s mind. If she wants to be different, she’s going to have to do things differently, and that starts right now in this moment. It’s an idea that’s both terrifying and empowering, but let’s focus on the silver lining: If you want to change, it’s a matter of letting your actions today align with want you want in the future. And from the safety of your own home, you do just that without Jillian up in your grill.

The Editor’s Review:

The Mims just said all there is to say about Jillian Michaels in two sentences.

It just makes me sad to see how many people agree that what Jillian does is “helping people get healthy.” Yes, we all know that being morbidly obese is not being physically healthy (and that in most cases it’s being emotionally unhealthy that lead them to pack on the weight), but extreme calorie reduction and overexercising paired with a few sessions of being bullied is NOT the way to turn around that unhealthy physical and emotional state for morbidly obese people.

Here’s the definition of anorexia nervosa: an eating disorder primarily affecting adolescent girls and young women, characterized by pathological fear of becoming fat, distorted body image, excessive dieting, and emaciation.

I don’t care if Jillian is technically at a healthy weight for her height — she CLEARLY suffers from this psychological disorder: she freely admits (repeatedly, and at length) that she’s terrified of losing control and gaining weight, and she literally spends all of her time obsessed with not only her own body, but everyone else’s bodies as well. “Learning” from that is not helping anyone become healthy.

If you’re obese (or just a little overweight) and want to change your life: first make the decision to change, then turn off the TV, stay away from any “advice” from Jillian, and go out and get appropriate help — a REAL psychologist, a REAL nutritionist, and a REAL trainer. Make a commitment to HEALTH and learning to balance eating appropriate foods with realistic exercise and focus on losing the weight slowly and permanently without it ever becoming an obsession. That will help you become healthy — Jillian’s methods will make you become thin at any cost and freak out about it: who wants to live like that? Don’t be bullied into thinking it’s all or nothing and the ends always justify the means! Just be healthy!!