What Jillian Michaels Got Wrong about Lizzo and Body Positivity”

If the body positivity movement had to select its unofficial MVP, it would definitely be Lizzo. Known for her catchy songs like “Truth Hurts” and “Good as Hell,” this singer-songwriter, rapper, and flutist unabashedly celebrates her own body and urges fans to accept themselves, no matter their shape, size, color, gender, or sexuality. Recently, though, celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels (famous for her tenure on the reality television show The Biggest Loser) drew ire from Lizzo’s fans by expressing concern about Lizzo’s health on social media. Little did she know that she was treading on controversial ground in the body positivity movement: the intersection between size and health. Enter into this debate yourself by reading Katelyn Esmonde’s Voxarticle “What Jillian Michaels Got Wrong about Lizzo and Body Positivity” and answer the following questions.

  • In response to praise of Lizzo’s self-acceptance, Jillian Michaels declared, “Why are we celebrating her [Lizzo’s] body? … ‘Cause it isn’t going to be awesome if she gets diabetes. I’m just being honest. Like, I love her music. … But there’s never a moment where I’m like, ‘And I’m so glad she’s overweight!’” Do you feel that Michaels is justified in her comments? Why or why not? Also, consider Michaels’s potential authority on the topics of health and body. Do these lend more credibility to her comments on Lizzo? Why or why not?
  • Esmonde (the author of the article) argues that “by publicly speculating about Lizzo’s susceptibility to diabetes or other chronic diseases, Michaels is doing more harm than good.” What specifically does the writer mean by this? How exactly does she see Michaels’s comments as causing harm (sometimes even literal) to fat people?
  • The author also explores scientific research that complicates our understanding of the relationship between health and weight. Explain how Esmonde argues that poor health is not always related to fatness (and vice versa), using specific examples from the text.
  • Lastly, the author attempts to distinguish expressing concern for someone’s health and fat-shaming. What do you see as the difference between these two things? Do you believe that Jillian Michaels was legitimately worried about Lizzo’s health or was she engaging in a type of fat shaming (or even something else entirely)? Explain your reasoning.

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