Me VS Jillian Michaels

Me vs. Jillian Michaels

Sherri Foam Roller Me VS Jillian Micheals                                                     jillian michaels Me VS Jillian Micheals

Who is your money on??!

I’ve been in the fitness industry for almost 25 years so when The Biggest Loser debuted back in 2005, people asked me all the time what I thought of the show.  I’ve always been on the fence with my opinion of the show so stayed pretty neutral with my comments.  I was able to see the pros and the cons of the program.  I thought to myself “I don’t agree with the approach to weight loss and the training style of Jillian Michaels but at the very least, the show gets people thinking about exercise and healthy eating and could potentially inspire a lot of people to get off the couch and start exercising.’  Viewers at home may see these dramatic physical transformations and think ‘”Gosh, if they can do it, so can I!  If they can lose 200 pounds, I can at least lose 30 or 50 or 100 pounds!”   My initial thought was that the show could give a lot of people hope and the inspiration they need to finally take action.  So I perceived there was enough potential good to not be too hard on the show.

But then a recent study out of the University of Alberta had me thinking that maybe the show was even worse than I thought.  Researchers in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation found that the program’s extreme depiction of exercise is more likely to turn people off than get them off the couch.  In fact, watching a short video clip of “The Biggest Loser” fueled negative attitudes toward exercise.  The research suggests that the show is not motivational at all and maybe counterproductive to any initiatives to help people adopt a more healthy and fit lifestyle.

The “Biggest Loser” buzz died down for a few years but with Jillian Michaels back on the show after a short hiatus, I’ve noticed people are talking about it again.  People have started pressing again for my opinion of the show and whether I feel that  Jillian has gone too far this year for the sake of entertainment. 

So based on the research out of Alberta and Jillian’s recent more aggressive training approach, I’ve decided to come out and express my thoughts on whether I feel “The Biggest Loser” and Jillian Michaels in particular does a disservice to the fitness industry and to our world in a general, a world that continues to struggle with prevalent health issues related to obesity.  I proceed forward knowing that I will probably create some enemies with my position considering that there are many out there, friends and colleagues included, who are huge Jillian Michaels fans and will defend her to their death.  Others who despise and loathe the program and are disgusted and outraged with Jillian’s training style will wildly applaud me.  Sometimes it’s easier to just stay quiet but I’m feeling a little risqué and brave today so here goes nothing…

I thought an interesting way to approach my thoughts was to position Jillian’s approach to training clients against mine.

So it’s going to be a Sherri vs Jillian smack-down.  Who do you think is going to win this battle?  Keep in mind, although she’s younger than me (39 vs 43 years), she’s only 5’2” vs my statuous 5’5” and weighs a measly 120 pounds vs my 140 pounds (of pure muscle icon smile Me VS Jillian Micheals ) so I’m quite confident that I could easily take her.  Anyone want to try and arrange that wrestling match?  I bet it could be a great fund-raiser! icon smile Me VS Jillian Micheals Oh crap, I just saw that she has 17 years martial arts experience. Yikes. Well, I might be a little scrappy but I’m sure I could give her a good fight!  Let’s consider this more of a “Jillian vs the average trainer” with my training approach indicative of what I believe would be the approach that most ‘real-life’ career fitness professionals would take with ‘real-life’ clients.

I will try to be objective and understand that I am comparing myself (and the average industry personal trainer) to the Jillian Michaels TV persona.  This may not be at all what she is like as a real-life trainer.  She most likely does and says things for the shock value because it’s good entertainment and that’s what sells and gets the viewers to tune in every single week.  The wild popularity of the show is an indication that the show has got something right…while it may be right for sponsors and ratings and ‘good’ TV, the question remains whether it is good for weight loss and inspiring our world to adopt a healthy and fit lifestyle.

Jillian Yelling Me VS Jillian Micheals                042 Me VS Jillian Micheals

Jillian Michaels
Sherri McMillan‘aka indicative of a ‘real-life’ career Personal Trainer’ training ‘real-life’ clients
Academic/Professional Background
National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association (NESTA) CertifiedAerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) Certified.Kettlebell Concepts certifiedNutrition and wellness consultant certificate with the American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA).(Taken from her personal bio)
Bachelor’s Degree in Human Kinetics (4 year program)Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology (3 year program)American Council of Exercise (ACE) CertifiedCanFitPro CertifiedSchwinn, IndoRow, SHOCKWAVE and various other specialty courses and workshops
Industry accolades
Star of top rated TV Reality Shows “The Biggest Loser”, & “Losing it with Jillian” and guest appearances on shows all over the world.  Author of 5 books including Master your Metabolism,Winning by Losing &Making the Cut.  Star of numerous best selling DVDs, podcasts, weight loss solutions. Yep, she’s made millions, is doing very well and is a high demand personality for appearances internationally. People would line up for hours to meet Jillian.
Well, let’s just say I haven’t made it big “Jillian Michaels” caliber but I’m proud of my accomplishments.  2010 CanFitPro International Fitness Presenter of the Year, 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year and 2005/2006 ACE Fitness Educator of the Year – Runner up.  Fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals including “Go For Fit – the Winning Way to Fat Loss”, “Fit over Forty” & “The Successful Trainers Guide to Marketing”, featured presenter in various fitness DVDs, and international fitness presenter.  But I’m not fithy rich – just living a good life! And no one would line up to meet me! icon smile Me VS Jillian Micheals
Physical qualities
Fit, toned, athletic – Ok, I admit, she’s hot and definitely looks the part
Well, I’m not chopped liver. icon smile Me VS Jillian Micheals  Probably a more realistic body composition for the average North American
17 years of martial arts practice in Muay Thai and Akarui-Do. Okay, maybe she’s starting to scare me!
Recreational runner, cyclist, triathlete, climber, snowboarder…lifestyle sports.
Weight loss approach
She sells “Lose 20 pounds in 30 days” and supports weight loss on the Biggest Loser as much as 30 pounds in one week with most participants losing 50-60% (100-200+ pounds) of their total body weight in 12 weeks.
Safe and effective fat loss is about 1-2 pound weight loss per week.  (Note, I do understand that would be boring and not ‘good’ TV and anyone losing those numbers would be sent home quickly on the Biggest Loser).
I believe if it comes off fast, you will most likely put it right back on just as quickly. Remember the message ‘Slow and steady pace wins the race!’  Excessive exercise and crash dieting that one cannot continue for the long term is not the key for permanent results.  In fact many contestants report they starved themselves and limited even water intake before final weigh ins so they didn’t get voted off and in order to experience those dramatic weight loss results.  It seems like unless you measure a 10 pound weight loss each week on the show, you’re deemed a failure to your team.  Clearly not a healthy approach to weight loss. That’s one of the biggest complaints that I have of the show – it sets up a weight loss expectation that is unrealistic.  Nothing frustrates me more than when a client who has just lost a reasonable amount of 2-3 pounds in a week expresses their disappointment because they compare themselves to the people on the Biggest Loser. It is so difficult to persuade clients these days that a 1-2 pound weight loss is incredible and a perfect approach to fat loss.  Since the Biggest Loser show, it’s so much more difficult to get clients to feel happy and content with slow and steady weight loss. Instead of celebrating their successes, they feel like they’ve fallen short and are discouraged.  And this sense of failure can often result in them ‘throwing in the towel’ because the weight is just not coming off fast enough. The effort is not matching the expected reward so they quit.  But losing weight is the easy part, especially when you get to leave your home, quit your job and move to the Biggest Loser camp where you will have trainers and nutritionists keeping you on track every single day and millions of people all around the world watching whether you will fail or succeed.  Keeping the weight off is the hard part, especially when you’re back at home in ‘real-life’ situations with kids and a job and laundry and bills to pay and groceries to get and you’ve got to make your own meals, and there are no TV cameras watching your every move and no $250,000 carrot to keep you going!  Being home  – that’s when the hard work begins and that’s why most Biggest Loser participants gain most of their weight back and suffer the resulting sense of failure, low self esteem, shame and depression.  Effective, safe and permanent fat loss is a process that requires someone to take complete responsibility for their actions, regardless of who is watching, and to set up their entire lifestyle for success. The Biggest Loser show doesn’t address what is the underlying reason that someone has allowed themselves to get so unhealthy.  Any of the Biggest Loser participants who have succeeded at maintaining their new physique, you will notice that they had to work hard to completely transform their entire life.  Successful weight loss programs teach losers how to succeed in normal, real-life scenarios.
Training style
Jillian seems to have no issues with pushing clients beyond their physical capacity to the point where they are throwing up, crying, passing out, collapsing, falling off treadmills, suffering from stress fractures, injuries and being rushed to the hospital.
I believe in proper progression.
You can’t treat all clients the same.  As a good trainer, you have to understand where your clients are on the fitness spectrum and deal with them accordingly.  For example, they may have never exercised before or they may have prior injuries or health issues you need to consider.  These participants on the show go from zero activity level, completely sedentary to exercising hours every day. In the fitness industry we call it the “Terrible Toos”; too much, too soon, too hard, too fast leading to trouble.  The ‘Biggest Loser’ is overtraining at its worst and can lead to irreversible damage to joints, connective tissue, cardiovascular stress and potentially death.  There is no gradual increase to intensity, duration and frequency – the most basic training guideline that exists.  Some of the exercises Jillian has brand new clients doing are completely irresponsible and negligent.  You can’t have clients doing BOSU jump squats if they can’t do a basic squat with good form and pain free.  You can’t have them racing up a Jacob’s ladder when they can’t climb stairs comfortably. You can’t have them run a one mile race when they weigh 350 pounds, a heart-attack waiting to happen and they can’t even walk without pain.  You can’t have them pushing sleds and swinging Kettebells when they can’t stabilize their torso and their core strength is non-existent.  You can’t have them doing jumping jacks and plyometrics and other high impact movements when they can’t even do the low impact versions correctly.  I cringe when I watch the form of most of the participants on Biggest Loser. The training style seems to neglect teaching people how to move their bodies safely and effectively before adding intensity. Quantity and intensity at all costs seems to be the approach vs considering quality of movement, correct articulation of joints, and proper mechanics. It’s just wrong and set’s people up for failure and injuries.You have to go easy on sedentary, overweight exercisers in the beginning. Most people fear that they’re going to do things wrong, aren’t going to be able to keep up or are going to let you down.  Their body awareness will be poor in the beginning and they will have a difficult time performing any activity that requires balance, and multi-muscle and joint movements. Chose exercises that are simpler to perform in the beginning so they can feel successful. Once a client masters proper execution and technique and starts to get stronger and more fit, then you can then make the exercises more challenging.I would love, love, LOVE to take Jillian through an equally intense workout for her current fitness level that had her puking, passing out and collapsing all the while yelling at her and telling her to suck it up and stop being a quitter, a loser.  See how she likes it! I’m betting every past Biggest Loser contestant would pay big bucks to see that happen!
Motivational Style
Jillian seems to use yelling, swearing, berating, belittling & demoralizing as her go-to approach to motivating clients.
I do believe that people need to be challenged and pushed beyond their comfort zone but I prefer to help clients find the power within themselves, to build them up, and to empower them. I don’t find it necessary to yell at clients, swear at them, be rude or disrespect people as a way to motivate.  But again, that probably wouldn’t be very interesting to watch.  I think part of the popularity of Jillian Michaels is you just want to watch to see what the heck she is going to say or do next.  It’s the shock value!
A good trainer is able to put themselves into their clients’ shoes and to be able to empathize with their current situation.  Clients do not want to feel incompetent or super unfit.  Imagine what it’s like to be so overweight that people stare at you, make fun of you, that moving your body hurts so much because you are so out of shape.  Imagine how much bravery and courage it takes to just start an exercise program.Of course, most of our clients need accountability.  That’s why they’ve hired us – to help them stick to the program.   But clients need to know that you will be there to support them during the stumbling blocks. There will be times when they just need our understanding.  There will be periods when your clients are not adhering to the program and it may appear that they’re slipping and losing all the great benefits you’ve both worked so hard to achieve.  During these stages, as their trainers, it is critical that we not judge their actions and instead be patient.  We run into problems with our clients when we want them to achieve their goals more than they want it for themselves.  Of course, we want to see them succeed because we get so much satisfaction from seeing them achieve a goal and knowing that we were a factor in helping them.  And when we see them struggling, we think “Well, if you just followed the program!!”  It’s not like we are to be indifferent to whether a client succeeds or not but we have to avoid getting frustrated with them when they are consciously or unconsciously sabotaging progress.  We have to understand that clients do have other things going on in their lives. We must be committed to educating them, guiding them and supporting them and to not judging them when they are perhaps not placing their exercise program at the top of their priorities.  We have to be very careful when providing constructive feedback to a client because they may feel hurt or threatened.  The most important aspect when dealing with clients in these situations is not what you say, but how you say it.  Be sensitive and understanding at all times.  If they are going through a tough time, the last thing they need is their trainer to ‘kick em when they’re down!” It is never okay to call a client names, belittle them, berate them or disrespect them.All clients want to know that they are improving and progressing.  Instead of pointing out how poorly they are doing, regularly point out how much a client has improved.  Show them how far they’ve progressed since the first time they saw you and since the last session.  Be sure that all your feedback is quantitative and objective.  For example, comment on how much more weight they’re lifting, how many more reps they’re performing, the increase in the level they exercise at on an indoor cardio machine, or the increase in the length of time they can keep up at a certain pace.  When you do need to offer constructive feedback to correct technique errors or misconceptions, be sure to avoid focusing on the client.  Instead of saying, “Sally, your technique is wrong” focus on the technique itself by commenting “Sally, the speed of this repetition is a bit too quick.  Try going a little slower and see if you can feel the muscle working more….How does that feel?”Remember this, “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them become what they are capable of becoming.” -GoetheThis is so true! Our job is so very important! We make a difference and there is a lot at stake for our clients. We have a key role in their lives, even if we are unaware of how much their relationship with us impacts everything else they do!! We can build them up or tear them down.  We can make them feel better about themselves or make them feel worse! The work we do as a Personal Trainers is extremely meaningful and so important to our world – Please take it seriously and as doctors pledge to “Do more Good than Harm!”

The Biggest Loser show is just Television, where at the end of the day it’s all about ratings and sponsors. Anthony Carey, a fitness industry leader, said it best “Although Jillian Michaels has become well known, notoriety and contribution are two different things. For me, she is like a horrible car accident that people can’t stop staring at.” I do believe part of the popularity of the show is tuning in to see what she is going to say, what she is going to make these very overweight, out of shape people do. It’s the “Jerry Springer” effect. It’s crazy and wild and ultimately, entertaining.

But if the show works at inspiring others and giving them the kick in the butt they need to start taking care of themselves, then the end justifies the means.  But if it actually does the reverse as the Alberta research study is suggesting, then perhaps it does do a disservice and may only contribute to the obesity issues our world is experiencing.

So what does work?  What is the take-home message for all of this?  Well, after working with various clients for almost 25 years (A quarter of a century! Ouch, that makes me feel really old!), I’ve noticed a number of characteristics that separate those who succeed with their fitness program and those who do not.  Those who succeed buy into the “Four Laws of Success”.  If you desire to look good, feel great, reach your personal best and live life to the fullest, then you must be ready to accept these laws without exception.

First Law –The law of possession 

You need to understand that if you are going to achieve results, it is going to be up to you.  The phrases “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me” or “If I think I can or think I can’t, I’m right,” ring very true.  You have to take ultimate ownership and responsibility for success or failure.  You cannot completely rely on someone else like Jillian Michaels, “The Biggest Loser” show and all the TV cameras, any personal trainer or workout partner to make it happen for you and likewise, you cannot blame the kids or your partner or your job or your childhood for any failures.  You are the one who must be willing to make and stick to the changes most importantly, when no one else is watching!

Second Law –The law of effort. 

Anything worth achieving is worth working for.Exercise and healthy eating takes will power, character, persistency and a commitment to delayed gratification.  You do need to be challenged and step out of your comfort zone.

Consider how much discipline it takes to workout when you just feel like staying in bed or hanging on the couch watching TV.  Think about how hard it is to keep stretching beyond our comfort zones. Consider the self-resolve required to eat healthy foods and drink lots of water every day when temptations surround us everywhere we go. But if you have the courage to respect your body – the temple that houses your mind and spirit – personal mastery will not be far away.  It says a lot about who you are as a person when you invest the time to take care of yourself.  It says you respect and love yourself enough to do the things necessary for you to be at your personal best.  Each time you get into the gym for a workout on a day when you just don’t feel like exercising, you grow a little stronger as a human being.  Each time you go for a run or walk on a cold winter’s day when you just feel like staying under the warm, cozy covers, you strengthen your character.  When you endure a tough workout, it enables you to persevere through any other challenge in your life.  Each time you opt not to eat the donut or the hot dog or the whole pint of ice cream, you get stronger, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  Working on improving your physical conditioning will not only enrich your life and make you a better person, you’ll also become a better parent, a better spouse, a better and more productive worker, and a better friend.

So yeah, you do need to work hard, but it doesn’t mean you have to workout so hard that you throw up, pass out, or collapse from exhaustion.  Proper progression is key to being able to manage the higher intensities.  I do believe that group settings, fun team challenges and friendly competitions can make exercise fun and push you a little harder than you can do on your own.

Third Law – The law of consistency.

A month-long effort (or 12 week Biggest Loser show) is not going to get you where you want.  In order to achieve any goal, you must stick to your game plan on an ongoing, long-term, consistent basis.  Getting off track for a week is no big deal if you are consistent in your efforts.  But if you are regularly tempted away from your program, you will not succeed.  You must remember that a missed workout is much more than just a missed workout! Every time you miss a workout, you have done something to strengthen the habit of not working out. When you’ve made the promise to yourself to exercise so many times per week and then you break that promise, you start to lose trust in yourself. With each missed workout, you start to lose self-confidence and begin to question whether you can actually stick with it at all. A missed workout fuels self-doubt and makes that negative habit stronger.  Miss enough workouts, and eventually that negative habit of not working out will replace the positive habit of exercising that you have worked so hard to cultivate. Every time you fail to do the right thing, you fuel the habit of doing the wrong thing.  So the next time you’re trying to justify pressing the snooze button and skipping your workout, or working through lunch instead of taking a walk break or heading right home after work instead of stopping at the gym, just don’t do it.  Don’t even think about it.  Don’t even allow yourself the opportunity to talk yourself out of doing what you know you need to do to be at your best.  Just remember that you’ll feel like a million bucks once you’re done.  The real challenge for most people is not the workout itself, but actually overcoming the negative thoughts that try to sabotage your very good intentions.

Consistency and persistency are the keys to manifesting any goal.  Remember that if you want to be 10 pounds thinner 10 years from now, it is not what you do over the next eight weeks that matters, it is what you do over the next 10 years. Exercise and healthy eating must be continued for the rest of your life – there is no finish line! The program has got to be realistic if you’re going to stick to it; there has to be room for indulgences.  There are no short-term, quick fix solutions.  Researchers have found only one characteristic common to those who succeed with exercise.  All such people move towards their goal one step at a time.  They are committed to constant, never-ending improvement.  In practical terms, it means that regardless of anything else – busy work schedules, lack of energy, lack of time, feeling old, feeling lazy, hating exercise – they made no excuses!  They kept exercising, taking their long-term goals and splitting them up into smaller goals.  They took it one day at a time.  I do believe that accountability to a friend or trainer or group of people can help you stick to your workout and nutrition program for the long term.  Most people do not like exercise, especially in the beginning, so whatever you can do to make it more bearable whether that’s finding a form of exercise that you enjoy like Zumba or Cycling or Hiking or using music on your IPOD to motivate or working out with a buddy will really help. Figure out what you can see yourself doing FOREVER not just until the end of the show!

Fourth Law – The law of self-efficacy. 

If you are already questioning whether or not you can actually make the required changes, you are going to have a difficult time with your program.  You must believe you can do it!  Think of self-esteem as a bank.  Each time you keep a promise to yourself, the store of self-esteem gets bigger, making it easier to keep the next promise to yourself.  It’s all about “Results Momentum” – achieving one result gives you the confidence to achieve the next goal.  Set small, achievable goals and focus on reaching milestones along the way.  Each time a promise is broken, however, your self-esteem goes down, making it easier to break the next promise.  Reinforce this belief in yourself by surrounding yourself with others (workout buddies, a personal trainer) who are doing or have accomplished what you’re attempting.  They can empower and build you up and help you see your potential.  Their energy rubs off and can be extremely inspiring!

I believe Jillian Michaels was at the right place at the right time, had the right look and personality and that catapulted her career to its current superstar status.  I do believe that her intention is to help and to positively affect obesity issues.  I think she believes in her heart that her style of ‘tough love’ is what these people need and I don’t believe she is a bad person.  I just don’t agree with her.  I always question myself whether I would do things differently if I was given the same opportunity, world wide spot-light and high profile status.  I can understand the temptation of knowing what sells, what brings home the big bucks.  I only hope that I wouldn’t sell out and would always check in with myself asking “Am I contributing? Am I helping? Am I doing more good than harm?” and in Jillian’s case “Could I still accomplish the same result in a more positive fashion?”

And I still think I could take her! icon smile Me VS Jillian Micheals

Yours in Health & Fitness,
Sherri McMillan

facebook like buton1 300x279 Quick Strength and Cardio WorkoutLike us on Facebook and get FREE instant access to my “Achieving your Personal Best” eVideo – Learn the critical steps to help you lose weight, feel great and live your best life.

TD HanddrawnArrows41 300x285 Quick Strength and Cardio Workout


Don’t forget to sign up to receive my blog posts in your inbox!
Just enter your name and email in the form up here.

Posted in Fitness by Sherri | 15 Comments