I try to stay out of conversations that target weight issues because as someone who has been thin all her life, except for the brief period of hormonal issues, there has been the understanding that if you can’t relate, you should give the floor to those who can.
But the recent controversy involving the amazing Lizzo, and health and fitness extraordinaire, Jillian Michaels has forced me out of my shell of silence.
You would have to be living under a rock if you dodged the uproar on social media that was swiftly activated after the problematic clip of an exchange between Michaels and a BuzzFeed interviewer went viral for all the wrong reasons.
Michaels, who is best known for being the “coach from hell” on the popular show The Biggest Loser ruffled a lot of feathers, including mine, when she flat out denounced the trend of celebrating body types that fit the description of “overweight” because of associated health risks, like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc.
Based on her assessment, she would rather celebrate Lizzo’s music, instead of applauding the beloved singer’s ability to be a positive role model for young women, who appreciate the stellar representation that provides the much-needed boost to self-esteem.
It didn’t take long for the passionate debate to erupt on Twitter, as celebs and commoners presented their arguments for or against Lizzo’s right to be contentedly confident with her weight.
There was also the “middle finger” given to Michaels for her unabashed “fat shaming,” and how she failed to utilize her massive platform in the manner that befits someone of her esteemed status.
Lizzo for her part remains supremely unbothered, as she sent out a memorable message to her oppressor that graphically captures exactly how she feels, and why living her best life is sweet revenge.
Let’s be clear, it’s no surprise that Jillian Michaels prefers to stay on brand by being the killjoy of polarizing discussions that warrant her expertise, since her favored input has garnered her fame and fortune as a revered authority in the realm of health and fitness.
And I don’t mind her unwillingness to deviate from the talking points that validate why she gets paid the big bucks to spread her invaluable knowledge to those who yearn for her words of wisdom.
But I do have a problem with her inflexibility when it comes to touting the falsehood of how being overweight demonstrates a closer proximity to life-threatening conditions in a way that’s disproportionately higher, compared to thinner counterparts.
We have been trained to assume that leaner and toner templates automatically represent the glowing picture of health, while the population who are the opposite of “perfection” are deemed as unfit and unhealthy at first glance.
Our BMI (body mass index) can be calculated using our height and weight to determine if whether or not we are obese. And while our exterior can do the talking, while the interior harbors all the secrets, I have to admit that based on personal experience — looks can be deceiving.
And this is where my criticism over the way Jillian Michaels handled things takes precedence.
As a distinguished expert in her field of study, it would’ve been helpful and even enlightening if she had generously added the fact that being thin and toned doesn’t always guarantee that the “model-like” figure belongs to a healthy host.
It’s so convenient to resort to fat shaming because of how we readily criminalize anyone who dares to proudly display their assets, by crossing those barriers that are put in place to stifle allowances typically bestowed on the body types that are culturally viable.
Lady Gaga can strut on stage in a bra and panties, and appear on the red carpet slathered in chunks of meat, but when Lizzo shows up in an outfit that exposes her ass cheeks, she gets slammed for not having the decency to “cover up.”
When Michaels expresses her refusal to join in the lovefest over Lizzo’s spirited ownership of her body, despite not being the acceptable size for public self-love, by firmly asking:
“Why are we celebrating her body?”
“Why does it matter?”
Followed by the expected warning assigned to folks who are generally considered obese:
“Because it isn’t going to be awesome if she gets diabetes.”
It was infuriating to watch a privileged White woman, who makes a lucrative living, celebrating her power over the voiceless and oppressed, casually dismiss the worthiness of an accomplished Black woman, who is merely demanding to be treated with human decency regardless of how much she weighs.
Yes, it doesn’t always have to be about race, but as a Black woman who has been on the receiving end of mouthy White women, rudely infringing on my personal space with unsolicited advice, this was absolutely triggering.
And more than that, as a health and fitness guru with impressive professional experience, the goal for Michaels when tackling this ultra-sensitive topic, should be the desire to move with caution.
She has to be aware of how her harsh delivery can profoundly impact a follower, who happens to stumble on her vilification of a huge population of consumers, who are powerful enough to demolish willfully biased brands like Victoria Secret.
The standard messaging should always encapsulate the hard truths of how the picture of wellness can’t be measured by how “thin or fat” we appear to observers or wealthy influencers, who prefer to downplay the evidence that proves why its more complicated than reducing your waistline in record time.
Singer Adele has been trending for weeks because of the praises an admiration over her drastic weight loss, depicted in viral photos that contain the smiling disposition of a super star who was loved and idolized before she took matters into her own hands.
Lizzo is enjoying her immense success with the worldwide appeal that solidifies her A-list status, and a lot of that comes from her unapologetic quest to flaunt her assets without censorship for the sake of seasoned haters, and the so-called experts who get paid to diminish her Black womanhood.
Nobody is suggesting the irresponsibility of encouraging bad habits that lead to high levels of cholesterol, high blood pressure and a host of problems that could shorten your lifespan. But the important lesson is the equal distribution of that lifesaving narrative in ways that don’t unfairly harass or berate people who are always subject to mistreatment.
Jillian Michaels needs to “perfect” her delivery by broadening her target audience to include those who seem healthy on the outside, but are actually rotting on the inside, from bad dieting, and dependency on hazardous regimens that produce results at a high price.
The transcript that Michaels relies on can be categorized as the kind of abuse that’s permitted because of societal dysfunction.
We should celebrate Lizzo’s body because she’s doing exactly that under the harshest spotlight imaginable, and her joyousness is both infectious and refreshingly inspiring.
It’s not about authorizing the weight gain of impressionable young girls, but rather embracing those who are vulnerable enough to appreciate the splashy representation, that provides permission to interpret that self-worth for betterment on their terms.
A healthy mind is a terrible thing to waste and walking diseases come all shapes and sizes.