The Biggest Loser is a rather popular TV show, all about rather obese people trying to lose weight. Are its trainers really qualified to assist the participants?
Lose All You Can!
I know at least some of you have watched the show. If not, it basically is about a bunch of very overweight people being pushed into losing as much weight as they can in x amount of time. The winner is the one who lost the most and for his efforts he receives a cash prize.
The ways by which these people are made to lose weight are, shall we say, questionable, as they involve severe caloric restriction and up to six hours of physical exercise per day – done by individuals who until then probably couldn’t tell a jogging from a hiking shoe.
One contestant supplied the New York Times with the release form participants have to sign to take part in the show. According to the Times this release says:
No warranty, representation or guarantee has been made as to the qualifications or credentials of the medical professionals who examine me or perform any procedures on me in connection with my participation in the series, or their ability to diagnose medical conditions that may affect my fitness to participate in the series.
Keep this in mind when now in comes James Fell, a Canadian fitness writer, who strikes me as a bit pompous, but whose fitness column at AOL to my eye contains mostly sensible and good advice. Fell is also well-respected in the fitness sphere and his credentials are solid.
And what did he do? He posted an article about the qualifications, or lack thereof, of one of the show’s fitness coaches, Jillian Michaels. In an article for the Los Angeles Times he highlighted this with the help of Michaels’ new kettlebell training DVD and wrote:
(…) she’s an actress playing the role of fitness trainer on TV and in a line of popular DVDs.
Is Fell just jealous? Well, Michaels’ personal website mentions that she received two personal training certificates in 1993 and nothing ever since. She is also using her fame to promote questionable diet, “detox” and “cleansing” products – which got her four lawsuits just this year. And she sells those various fitness DVDs that Fell thinks she better shouldn’t do, but his sentiments are shared by qualified fitness instructors. Fell quotes a good number of them in his article and one of Michaels’ performances on the show already two years ago prompted a professional spinning teacher to write her an open letter that said:
What you did with your participants on the Biggest Loser last night was horrendous and very sad. It showed great disrespect for your participants, for the Spinning program, and for indoor cycling in general. You showed rampant disregard for safety, for biomechanics, for understanding of training principles, and for concern for your participants. It shows that you know nothing about riding a bike, either.
Now how does I-got-sued-four-times-just-this-year-Michaels react after reading Fell’s piece? She sues him for defamation.
I’m looking forward to see how that turns out.
Picture courtesy of Petr Kratochvil.