Jillian Michaels Under Fire by Fitness Experts

Jillian Michaels, the well-known trainer for the popular TV show, The Biggest Loser, is being panned by fitness experts and a Los Angeles Times article in recent news.

Specifically, references to Jillian Michaels being an “actress not a real fitness trainer” have been buzzing over the Internet for the past several hours.

Sparks starting flying after James Fell, who’s apparently a self-proclaimed fitness expert from Calgary (Canada), wrote an article published in the Los Angeles Times.

Specifically, James Fell’s article chastises Jillian for making unrealistic weight-loss claims in her workout DVD along with his concerns over poor-techniques used in the DVD itself.

In my esteemed opinion, there’s no question that losing 20 lbs in a single month is completely unrealistic for most people unless perhaps they’re extremely obese to start off with.

From James Fell’s article:

Typical viewers think she’s great, yet the collective jaws of professional trainers hit the floor after witnessing her regular displays of poor technique and unsafe training practices.

Michaels obtained some introductory fitness certifications (National Exercise & Sports Trainers Assn. and Aerobics and Fitness Assn. of America) 17 years ago and does not seem to ever have recertified. The biography on her website goes on and on about her multimedia endeavors, but there is not a single mention of any health-and-fitness education or credentials.

In the article itself, Jillian Michael was unavailable to respond according to her publicist.  However, James did solicit feedback on the kettle bell technique used in the video.  For this evaluation, Mark Cheng, chief instructor of Kettlebell Los Angeles provided his opinion:

“Her technique is appalling,” Cheng told me. “What she says in the video and what she demonstrates are two different things. She doesn’t break things down into manageable pieces that prompt people to get the correct form, so instead she is enabling bad form… I would not recommend this from a safety perspective.”

Cheng continued with comments suggesting that Jillian’s just trying to capitalize on the popularity of kettle bells without doing her due diligence.

More thoughts from James suggested that the picture of Jillian on her DVD may have been ‘Photoshopped’ which probably isn’t uncommon given that magazines do this all of the time:

And now, seemingly without any qualifications, Michaels is teaching amateurs how to use kettle bells in her latest DVD, “Shred-It With Weights.” Her toned, tanned and possibly Photoshopped physique stands proudly on the cover holding a kettle bell, while a bubble on the cover exclaims, “Lose up to 5 pounds a week!”

After taking a look at the wall in my office, I was unable to spot any credentials that qualify me as a fitness expert myself.  Given the circumstances here, I thought I would look for feedback and thoughts on Jillian Michael’s fitness techniques from our community here at Hive Health Media.

26 thoughts on “Jillian Michaels Under Fire by Fitness Experts

  • December 26, 2011 at 3:42 pm
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  • October 15, 2010 at 10:41 am
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    I have paid for 4 personal trainers in an effort to lose 80 lbs., but it wasn’t until joining Jillian Michaels website, using her DVDs, and listening to her podcasts that the weight finally came off through clean eating and the really amazing online meal plans, incentives and support groups on the website. I agree that the supplements are not for me, but as a responsible consumer, it’s my job to read every package and label and decide what to put in my mouth no matter who endorses it. This is her profession, so I can only reasonably expect her need to profit from, as all trainers and fitness experts do, from her work. After all the diets, trainers, gyms, and pills I have tried, I can promise that no one in your chosen field does this job for charity. Even if Jillian Michaels herself turned out to be a total fraud, that doesn’t affect the changes I internalized thanks to her words– her podcasts and shows encouraged listeners to seek therapy, to get to the emotional core behind harmful behaviors, and to recognize that internal emotional changes will cure me of the symptom that was obesity. I spent a lot of time and money with other trainers and didn’t get that advice– they just talked to me about willpower and carbs.

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    • October 16, 2010 at 6:31 pm
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      Nancy, I haven’t watched Jillian Michaels or The Biggest Loser show for more than a few minutes, but I did get the sense that she tried to address some of the psychological issues surrounding obesity instead of just focusing on workout techniques.

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      • February 4, 2014 at 7:17 pm
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        I believe this is the reason that she is so successful. Because she addresses the psychological issue. Being overweight is more mental than anything. You cannot just focus on the workout technique. I think Jillian learned a lot about helping people from the inside out, from her mom, who holds an advanced degree; a psycho analyst.

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  • October 15, 2010 at 7:19 am
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    Two points about the Jillian’s certifications:

    1. Jillian has a business arrangement with AFFA – http://www.e-afaa.com/154.e-afaa

    2. IMHO, the certification requirements for both of these companies are pretty weak.

    http://www.nestacertified.com/personal-fitness-trainer-certification.html

    http://www.afaa.com/103.afa

    And while I agree with Alexandra that in theory, fitness certifications provide a necessary baseline of competence….in practice, most certified personal trainers coast along on a six-pack & a smile.

    And with all sorts of high quality health & fitness info available online, the average consumer can very easily be better informed than the average trainer at a big box health club.

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    • October 16, 2010 at 6:34 pm
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      I’ve only had a few personal trainers for brief periods in my life. In choosing one, I admittedly relied more on recommendations from friends than checking into their certification. Average consumers don’t stand a chance against all of the confusion regarding the various organizations that provide certification without doing background research.

      Prior to this discussion, I wouldn’t have known off the top of my head if a certified trainer bought his certification over the Internet for ten bucks or had legitimately worked to obtain it.

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  • October 14, 2010 at 6:47 pm
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    Well, Jarrett has asked me for my professional opinion. I shall not call myself a “self-proclaimed” expert, but shall let my credentials/experience speak for me. My bottom line – I am a fan of research and proper technique. And I actually support certification. It’s an excellent baseline. If you cannot pass a baseline test, then I don’t want you working on my body! I have written several articles on the topic and there are currently 14 certifying bodies (for personal trainers) that have been accredited by a 3rd party.
    Here is an article on certification that I did in 2/2009. The 2010 updated version has not yet been printed (there were 11 in 2009).
    http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/personal-trainer-certification.
    Only those 14 should be considered. Jillian used to be certified, but she lapsed. And it was NOT one of the 14. Here is an excellent article on the show, written by a colleague of mine: http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/weighing-in-on-the-biggest-loser.
    As to the people who follow her DVDs, sadly, most of them regain the weight or get hurt/discouraged. I have a colleague in DC who has gotten a sort of “niche market” working with the show contestants after the show is over. Why? Because they tend to come to him worse off than they were before the show! Sad, but verifiable.
    I am all for consumers exercising, and if Jillian is the one thing that makes them exercise, and they otherwise wouldn’t, then I wouldn’t stop them. But I have yet to meet an industry pro who respects what she does (or agrees with her methods).

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    • October 14, 2010 at 10:42 pm
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      Hey Alexandra, thanks for your input. As I mentioned, I don’t consider myself a fitness expert in that sense–I have no particular expertise with resistance training techniques or kettle bells–though I have worked out for years myself.

      As you noted the one positive is that she does promote the ‘idea’ of health and fitness though some might disagree with her execution. I’ll take a look at your colleague’s article when I get the chance for his/her perspective.

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  • October 14, 2010 at 10:03 am
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    Wow, people are finally catching on! If you read Jillian first book she trash talks cleanses and fast. I saw a Jillian Michaels cleanse on the shelf at the store the other day. The previous poster is right. Once fame starts to roll beliefs and principle are often the first to go.

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  • October 14, 2010 at 9:40 am
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    Let’s compare the Jillian Michaels KB workout to

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNfO2MWQ8Rw

    Jude Howe’s response video

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1ieQjO_Ods

    Obviously, Jillian’s form is terrible.

    With that being said, the author of the Time’s article comes off as a bit of a bitch to me. This is the most press he has ever had and it comes via a poorly researched personal attack on a fellow trainer. A very rich & maybe not that great a trainer, but seriously, dude WTF?

    If you’re going to claim that someone isn’t qualified to do their job, maybe you should be sure of your facts before printing your opinion for the entire world to see.

    Moving on to the topic of health & fitness certifications…

    Like most trainers I know, the author seems to be obsessed with certifications. (notice how I said “seems” as opposed to “is” – I don’t know for sure that he is obsessed with fit certs, he may just be mildly interested in them)

    And while I think holding fitness certifications is a good first step in the education process, the guy who showed me how to use kettlebells properly was a sixty-something year old Russian grandfather with a big gut and no certifications. He learned from his dad who learned from his dad.

    End of rant

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    • October 14, 2010 at 6:10 pm
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      Hey Doug, I’m sure the author is facing a backlash for what appears to be shoddy reporting as you mention.

      The old saying is that when you point your finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you…

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  • October 14, 2010 at 8:01 am
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    OK. I’m no ‘proclaimed’ fitness expert. I am a formally educated health professional. I hold certifications as well.
    I personally do not like nor support anything related to the ‘The Biggest Loser’ due to its unsafe practices and unrealistic ‘reality’.
    Here are a couple points of interest with regards to Jillian and her credentials:
    1.credentials do not make or break the ‘efficacy’, strength or ‘realness’ of a ‘trainer’s’ ability to get results.
    2. The credentialing in the fitness world are so vague, overlapping, and simplified that unfortunately you can’t rely on a simple credential to prove your ‘worth’. (Most of these credential do not require a bachelor’s degree, or any formal school education)
    3. People’s perception is their reality. The public is going to believe what they want regardless of what ‘proof’ or ‘evidence’ is out there.
    It’s sad to say, but the world of weight loss and the fitness industry monopolize on the gullibility of the public. What is popular becomes what is ‘correct’.

    The battle wages on.

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    • October 14, 2010 at 9:25 am
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      I have worked with hundreds of trainers over the years and I have never found a correlation between fitness certifications & the quality of the trainer.

      Mark Rippetoe, one of the world’s foremost strength coaches recently relinquished his NSCA-CSCS designation mid-session.

      And the NSCA is one of, if not the most prestigious certification organizations in the world.

      Results count – degrees and certifications aren’t worth jack-shit if you can’t back them up with results

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      • October 14, 2010 at 6:03 pm
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        Dan / Doug – great to get your perspectives on certification in this field.

        Sean, I agree with your thoughts on the weight loss / fitness industry. People don’t often make rational decisions when purchasing products. This why the old ‘before and after photo’ trumps clinical studies since people tend to either make decisions based on emotions or follow trends.

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    • October 14, 2010 at 9:25 am
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      Well said Sean. I agree, fitness industry standards are vague and unregulated. Many certifications are too easy to obtain, allowing anyone to begin training. Jillian has done great job marketing herself. She produces amazing and very entertaining results in a very controlled environment. In the real world, we do not have the luxury of 24 hour/day fitness and nutrition bootcamps with our clients. I have not seen her kettle bell dvd, but as a fitness professional, I do not look to Jillian as a source of professional content. Its our job to educate our own clients. When you are on top, everyone wants to bring you down. She s an entertainer. If you are looking for great kettle bell stuff, check out Pavel. I wrote a great blog on choosing a personal trainer. Check it out here http://www.traindaly.com/blog/how-to-choose-a-personal-trainer/

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      • October 14, 2010 at 6:07 pm
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        Great thoughts Dan and also thanks for the link to the post on your site. I like most people didn’t have much appreciation of the various certification programs for personal trainers.

        Success can make others envious which could obviously be the case with Jillian as you mention.

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  • October 14, 2010 at 4:25 am
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    I like Jillian and she inspires me however I’ve heard from many experienced trainers that she demonstrates the kettlebells with poor form, so caveat emptor! (buyer beware!)

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    • October 14, 2010 at 5:58 pm
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      Cassandra, I would guess that successful trainers have to be proficient not only at technique, but also with motivation / psychology as well.

      I haven’t watch much of the Biggest Loser, but Jillian did seem to be psychologically minded. She appeared to use terminology suggesting that she’s either read about aspects of behavior modification or had some instruction.

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  • October 13, 2010 at 11:41 pm
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    Verna, unfortunately, so many people come here to LA to make their name in fitness, entertainment and film. Once the money and fame start rolling, some unfortunately, lose sight of why they became trainers…like many sports athletes.

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    • October 14, 2010 at 5:54 pm
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      Ken, I would guess that the impact of money and fame probably isn’t limited just to trainers as you suggest.

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  • October 13, 2010 at 11:17 pm
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    In a facebook update today, Jillian writes “Never thought LA times would resort to liable & defamation to sell papers. Guess I’m canceling my subscription. I hold 2 current certifications. NESTA & AFFA. I’ve also developed a continuing education program for trainers with AFFA. I’ve been a trainer for 19 years. I OWNED a sports medicine facility & worked as a trainer & PT aid for the physiatrists, PT’s, & chiro’s I employed. AND i’m a black belt.”

    I don’t know about her credentials and I haven’t really watched biggest loser — but, as a personal trainer myself (BCRPA Certified in Canada) I have to say I find her promises to be a bit much. She is photogenic and she inspires people to get in shape–that’s good! She loses me at the diet supplements and false promises though.

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    • October 13, 2010 at 11:31 pm
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      Lost 31 lbs thanks to JILLIAN!!!!! She is amazing and helping us regular folks who can’t afford high priced trainers and food plans.

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      • October 14, 2010 at 9:19 am
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        How much of that 31 lbs was due to Jillian & how much was due to your hard work and ability to forgo short-term pleasure for a long-term goal?

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    • October 14, 2010 at 5:52 pm
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      Hi Verna, thanks for the update regarding Jillian’s response the L.A. Times writer. I agree with you that she’s photogenic. I wonder how much the physique of trainers plays a role in being an ‘unofficial’ credential for their clients.

      Reply

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