PC Culture

Jillian Michaels Is Right: Political Correctness Is Worsening the Obesity Crisis

Fitness guru Jillian Michaels gives exercise instructions while promoting her new workout for the Curves franchise in New York in 2014. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
To deny the link between obesity and health issues is to deny reality.

In an interview for Women’s Health UK, fitness guru Jillian Michaels said that political correctness is making the obesity crisis worse.

“I think we’re politically correct to the point of endangering people,” Michaels said in an interview for the publication’s Jan/Feb issue. “Yes, we want to be inclusive of everyone [and respect that] everyone comes in all different shapes and sizes.”

“That nobody should ever be body shamed or fat shamed or excluded and that everyone is equally deserving and should feel equally valuable,” she continued. “But obesity in itself is not something that should be glamourised. But we’ve become so politically correct that no one wants to say it.”

Personally, I couldn’t agree with Michaels more — especially because she was sensitive when making her point about the health risks associated with obesity by clarifying that body-shaming and fat-shaming are absolutely not okay.

Despite this sensitivity, however, Michaels has (perhaps unsurprisingly) faced some backlash. In a piece in Yahoo Canada Style, Elizabeth Di Filippo declared that she was “disappointed” in Michaels.

“It’s exclusive and narrow-minded for Michaels to suggest that by being in a larger or fat body (whatever phrase you’re comfortable using), people’s lives are in danger, instead of recognizing that weight is not the sole determinant of health,” she writes.

“Genetics, environment, mental health, sleep quality, medical issues and prescribed medications all play a factor on a person’s weight in addition to diet and exercise,” she continued. “It takes effort for people to expand their minds and think of weight as a symptom of disease in the body, rather than the culprit.”

Actress Jameela Jamil also went on a Twitter rant slamming Michaels.

“Elitist ignorance from a renowned long time bully of fat people,” Jamil stated. “Don’t just shame and blame.”

“Cheap food, which most can afford is full of hormones and sugars,” she continued. “Many work too many jobs to have time/money to work out.”

More outrage can be found — where else?! — on Twitter.

The thing is, though, criticisms like Di Filippo’s and Jamil’s actually don’t make me question my agreement with Michaels on this.

First of all, both Di Filippo and Jamil presented arguments that were, essentially, strawmen. For example: Although it is true that factors such as income can make obesity more likely, and although it is true that “that weight is not the sole determinant of health,” Michaels never denied either of these things. She never addressed them all, and the fact that both of these things are also true does not mean that what Michaels said isn’t.

What’s more, I think that, ironically, some of Jamil’s comments actually did a pretty good job of proving Michael’s point. In one instance, Jamil criticized Michaels as being “exclusive,” adding that we shouldn’t “shame” people about this issue. As I mentioned earlier, Michaels herself said the exact same thing in her own statement. She herself said that shaming and exclusion were wrong, and she said so specifically. Jamil having had this kind of knee-jerk of response anyway is a pretty good piece of evidence pointing to the fact that nearly anything about the health risks associated with obesity is likely to come off as being some kind of bullying due to the way the issue is now treated in PC culture.

The outrage is stupid, but it’s not surprising. After all, this is far from the first time that I’ve seen people get upset about these sorts of things, or even the first time that I’ve written about them. In 2016, I wrote an article about how college campuses nationwide were launching classes teaching that it isn’t unhealthy to be overweight. Earlier this year, I wrote about how a self-described “Fat Sex Therapist” gave a speech at a university in which she dismissed all of the science linking obesity to health problems as “fatphobic science,” and compared fitness instructors to Nazis and putting children on diets to rape.

Honestly, I wouldn’t be so bothered by this trend if it were net-neutral. But the truth is, it’s not. Michaels is right: To deny the link between obesity and health issues is to deny reality — and, unfortunately, one thing about reality is that it doesn’t care how we feel about it. It’s going to stay real regardless. It is, of course, important to be respectful (as Michaels said herself) but what you shouldn’t do is make people believe things that aren’t true — because that only serves to discourage them from getting the help they need to reduce the risk of some very serious issues.

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