Jillian Michaels: Overweight people can ‘absolutely’ be healthy

Jillian Michaels

Jillian Michaels appeared on Wendy Williams’ show yesterday. I was trying to figure out what she’s promoting lately on this press tour. Jillian keeps talking about how she’s about to turn 40, but I think she’s promoting The Biggest Loser. That makes much more sense. It is a bit strange that we’re covering Jillian (who isn’t the typical gossip subject) two days in a row, right? Weird things happen when it comes to the post-awards gossip cycle.

Yesterday we talked about how Jillian admits her distaste for working out. Now Jillian is covering a whole bunch of other topics related to fitness. Jillian discusses how she “used to be a fat kid” and admits she still hates her own booty. Jillian also takes a different approach from fitness experts who claim all fat people are unhealthy. Even though Jillian often plays the villain of The Biggest Loser, she speaks the truth here:

Can an overweight person be healthy? “Absolutely. The contestants are healthy and are still overweight and have weight to lose, but that is … say, they’re actively getting healthy. They’ve changed their diet, and they are exercising. Ultimately, if you’re not practicing healthy habits, it is a time bomb.”

On turning 40: “It’s such a powerful number. ‘Cause I’m going, ‘I’m middle aged! I’m middle aged!’ I’m really trying to like breathe and embrace it. And it’s kind of shocking, cause I don’t think of myself as middle aged.”

Her least favorite body part: “I’d have to say booty. I’ve never fully loved my booty. It fits in the clothes nicely. In clothes, I can stuff that sucker into a pair of jeans and you would never know. But out of the jeans it just kinda…falls.” [Williams asks if it is dimply.] “Yes, it is. I’m trying lunges. My goal for 40 is to not get up and walk away backwards. And [my partner] Heidi has told me, ‘I’ve seen your butt.’ I’m like, ‘No, not really. Not in the bright light.’”

She’s an admitted hardass: “The reality is I’m not a sympathetic person. Sympathy to me is an agreement that you are sad and sorry and (can’t do it). I’m empathetic. I get it. It’s hard. It sucks. But I also know that you can do it. I could take somebody that is a second away from having a heart attack and in four months I can have them running a marathon. That’s amazing. I would never have thought that was possible 10 years ago.”

Jillian also talks about her own trainer, which blows my mind. Would Tracy Anderson ever admit to having her own trainer? Not likely. So Jillian is a personal trainer who doesn’t trust her own expertise enough to work on her own body. That’s either refreshing or obnoxious depending on how you look at it.

One personal beef that I have with Jillian’s words: It is nowhere near smart to start exercising from stratch and run a marathon four months later. Injury will happen is all I’m saying. Other than that, I still like her a lot more than many other trainers who are in the public eye. Jillian is no Harley Pasternak, but she’ll do.

Here’s a video clip of Jillian’s appearance:

Jillian Michaels

Jillian Michaels

Screencap courtesy of YouTube; photos courtesy of WENN

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69 Responses to “Jillian Michaels: Overweight people can ‘absolutely’ be healthy”

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  1. Beatrice says:

    My trainer has a trainer–don’t think it’s that unusual. Sometimes you need someone to push you to the next level. Also, even trainers can benefit from having someone evaluate their form.

  2. yennefer says:

    I don’t know who she is, but she seems cool.

  3. QQ says:

    I Like Jillian for several reasons, her uncuddly attitude is pretty much it for me, i can be empathetic BUT we either looking for a solution or giving you a one day mope, im not here to cry with you or be a ninny myself (also her arms?? Im having a severely fat arms day so I covet in the strongest terms!)

    • Artemis says:

      I love her workouts, they get me in shape quick and I love how her demeanor.

      That said, she has divulged that she sometimes eats while standing as it burns more calories so she is one of those typical sport/weight fanatics who can find exercise in everything which I find compulsive, unhealthy and unnecessary. When I run up the stairs, I don’t need to do it 10 times or with larger steps just to burn 20 kcal.

      • QQ says:

        Really? …I refuse to believe Jillian is like those Obnoxious IG fitness people always going on and on about protein pancakes, shakes, tooting their butt up, chanting about if they did it you can and Macros and doing a flag … Nothing can be worse than them

    • Tulip Garden says:

      Her arms…..wish they were mine. Since hitting the big 4 0, my arms are sad and getting sadder :(
      Okay Celebitches, tell me how to tone up my arms, just please don’t say “gym membership”! I literally don’t have the time. I will work at home, elliptical or weights or whatever. Appreciate any suggestions in advance ! :)

      • Meow Mix says:

        Just buy some 2 or 5 pound weights and do bicep and tricep curls. It will work wonders.

      • Josephine says:

        Chair dips are key to the back of the arm. The nice thing is that arms tone quickly! Self magazine, among others, always have those tear out workouts – they’re perfect for the arms. You can do it!!

      • QQ says:

        Push ups, even the modified ones or against the walls or the bands if you cant get 8-10 pounders for biceps and tricep curls

      • TheOriginalKitten says:

        3 lbs weight won’t do anything for you. I use 10 lbs but maybe start with 5 lbs if you’ve never done any weight training before?
        If you don’t want to buy weights, just use your body weight–push-ups and dips (which you can off of a chair or a stair in your house) are unbelievable for your arms. Mountain climbers if you want to do core, arms and legs all in one.

        If you can only do ONE exercise for your arms, I suggest push-ups because they target chest, deltoids, triceps, and core all at once.
        Also, don’t underestimate shoulder exercises. My shoulders are really defined which makes my arms look a lot better overall, even when they chunk up a bit (which they tend to). Lateral raises, pec decks, rear delt rows, back flyes and arm circles are all awesome for shoulders.

        Do it twice a week for 15 minutes (combined with a good diet) and you’ll start to see a difference.

      • dweep says:

        @tulip garden I know Tracy Anderson is kind of insufferable but her mat video does it for me for the arms. It has a 20 minute arm section- with and without weights. It is challenging and fun and it really works.

      • littlestar says:

        Glad to hear you ladies promoting push ups! So great for toning (not just arms but also abs too) and they actually help make you physically stronger. I like to do them using my bosu ball, makes them a bit harder to do.

        I’ve resigned to the fact that I have my Baba’s arms :( . Soft upper arms that are incredibly hard to tone. She passed them down to me, my sister, and all my female cousins. What a thing to inherit lol.

      • tealily says:

        Coincidentally, I’m on Day 13 of Jillian’s 30 Day Shred, and my arms are shaping up nicely! I can’t recommend it enough. I’ve already lost an inch off my waist. All you need is some hand weights and a mat. The DVD is cheap, and each workout (there are 3 levels) is around 20 minutes.

      • Jupiter says:

        kettlebell exercises. google them…tons of videos and I see a much better definition than using reg. free weights :)

      • sienna says:

        What about turkish get ups and burpees (adding the push up). They are both very challenging and make you fit fast, because they incorporate so many muscle groups. I add 25 of each, along with a tabata (great 8 minute workout), to the end of my home sessions to ensure I hit fatigue.

        edit: Here is my question… I am a week into a 30 day challenge to eat as clean as I can. I feel great, my skin is awesome, I have tons of energy and am sleeping well. Problem? I am FREEZING cold all the time (unless working out). Anyone have insight to why I can’t get warm?

      • Amelia says:

        Swan Arms.
        You know in Swan Lake where dozens of the corps de ballet gather on stage and do those crazy, elegant moves in sync with each other? That.
        I genuinely can’t believe how much they’ve helped my arms. Hell on the shoulders for a while, but I’ve seen a massive difference.

      • GreenTurtle says:

        For triceps (the part of your arm that waves back at you): underhand sandbag tosses. I don’t have sandbags, so I use a 12 lb medicine ball. Use anything heavy that can’t break, honestly. Toss it underhand for 10-12 reps and do a couple of sets. I’ve never done anything that made my triceps that sore!

      • Tuliip GArden says:

        @All You Lovely Posters:

        Thanks for all the advice! I sincerely appreciate it. Not sure which route I’m going yet but I appreciate all the input :)

      • Dommy Dearest says:


        Forearms on the ground, toes holding you up. Kinda like the push-up position however you hold it. It tones your whole body. Suck the belly in as that’ll help tighten your abs. You can hold it for 10 seconds starting off and progress as you grow stronger. It’s a good workout for your whole body.

  4. Lucinda says:

    I don’t think she actually means someone should go from near heart attack to marathon in 4 months as much as she is saying it’s never too late to start exercising and she can get amazing results from anyone. I don’t watch her show but I like her. I think she is real and I respect that.

  5. Artemis says:

    There are overweight people running marathons so yeah of course they can be healthy just like underweight or ‘normal’ weight can be unhealthy.

    My best friend can eat whatever she wants, parties like crazy, drinks like a fish and smokes like a chimney but her alien genes have her and the rest of her unhealthy family looking like friggin’ topmodels. And I’m the opposite. People see her as a perfect person (ugh she looks so good) but that girl is so unhealthy yet people would label ME unhealthy just because I’m not that skinny and good-looking. Beauty standards are powerful.

    As for her having her own trainer, it keeps you fresh and motivated. She might exchange ideas, I don’t think it’s weird at all.

    • Jupiter says:

      your friends genes MAY catch up with her. I had a friend as well who seemed to defy all aging/health standards…all of the above like your friend, throw tanning in there as well…she looked fabulous til 47…than WAPOW. All hell broke loose and all of it caught up with her within a year.

    • Lisa says:

      It’s not so much body envy that I have of these people, because I’m short and petite (though I would love to be able to eat chips for breakfast just because)… It’s SKIN ENVY. The people who won’t even look sideways at a vegetable unless it’s on a pizza sometimes have freakin’ glowing skin. Yet, I exercise, eat well, avoid allergenic foods, and my skin looks like that pizza. :( Wtf!

  6. Tazina says:

    I’m glad there are people around like her to motivate the huge numbers of overweight people out there. The statistics for the future of obesity are staggering. It’s going to take a huge toll on our health care system dealing with all the illnesses that obesity brings with it. We don’t need to be babied. We need someone strong and no-nonsense and that’s why I like her.

  7. Zigggy says:

    I think she’s promoting her new 30 minute circuit at Curves.

  8. JB says:

    I think it’s great that she has a trainer. I taught yoga for many years and I still needed to go to other teachers’ classes so that I could just practice and not be thinking my way through a whole class. It’s really hard to train yourself. I think her admission that she has a trainer just speaks to her belief in the value of her own profession.

  9. Sullivan says:

    That little boy she’s holding is darling.

  10. Lipsy says:

    I don’t care for her nor the show, but these past two interviews I’ve read, I find her pretty relatable.

  11. kibbles says:

    I have never watched her show so I can only comment on these particular comments. I agree with what she has to say. I am someone who is not naturally thin. I am a bit on the chubby side even though I eat fairly healthily and exercise regularly. I admit that I do not follow any fad diet or am hardcore at the gym, so of course, if I was really hardcore I’d probably be 15 pounds lighter, but I care about being happy and healthy rather than thin and miserable, so that is the trade-off.

    I know people who are genetically thin and unhealthy. They rarely go to the gym and pig out on junk food. I know for a fact that I am healthier, but people who are fooled into thinking that thin equates to being healthy will automatically assume that I’m the unhealthy one. I’ve been able to run up stairs and power walk while my thinner friends are out of breath and can barely catch up.

    For the record, my healthy size is around US 10-12. In no way am I obese, but in a society where very woman in a magazine is photoshopped to death to look like a size 4, some health nuts (like Goop Paltrow and Tracy Anderson) would look at normal woman like me and call me fat and unhealthy. I’m pretty sure that I am a much healthier and happier person than Goop will ever be. I’ve never felt the need to get Botox or starve myself on detox diets to feel good about myself. I have larger boobs than her (size C which in my opinion is a great size to have), a booty, and curves. I think I look great – even better than these women who work out to the point where they look masculine and lack any curves. But yes, there are crazy celebrity trainers who point to the average sized or curvy woman and call them fat because they don’t have a six pack or stick thin legs and arms.

    I realise that there is an obesity epidemic in many parts of the developed world, but there has to be a middle ground. I think people are more inclined to give up and not bother – or on the other end of the unhealthy spectrum – starve or develop an eating disorder, because of the insane expectations the celebrity world places on normal people. Most of us do not have the time, money, resources, or motivation (since our job isn’t to look perfect like Hollywood celebrities) to exercise constantly and deny ourselves food that we naturally crave in order to look like celebrities who are still photoshopped to death even though they are thinner than most of us.

    • Seriously says:

      I just want to point out that some people happen to have no curves thanks to genetics. Just like it makes people who are not a size four feel bad, people like me, who will forever be mistaken for a girl who hasn’t gone through puberty, don’t especially like it when someone suggests that curves always look better.

      Taking care of yourself and trying to be as healthy as possible is what matters. A number on the back of a dress shouldn’t.

      • Happyhat says:

        Ditto – and this isn’t pointing fingers at anyone, but my boobs are an A cup and always were no matter how big I was. A cup all the way. If anything, losing weight has taken me from an A cup to an AA cup. But still… I was never able to say “I may be big but I have boobs!” There is no ‘perfect’ shape to be, it always comes down to health.

  12. Annie says:

    Yeah, there’s no way in hell obese people are healthy. It’s really worrisome how in this country people are in denial that obesity is a huge problem, and the fact that so much of the population suffers from it should be seen as a national health crisis and taken more seriously. Enough coddling! This is serious. If it were normal, all the countries in the world would have a large obese population. They don’t. This reflects the poor eating habits and diets Americans have. Nobody eats like Americans. All that sugar and fat. Fast food places are the worst as well as the chain restaurants. Some people refuse to admit to that. Also, how can it be healthy when obese people have shorter life spans and risks of several other serious illnesses? Stop kidding yourselves.
    Like she said, overweight people can be healthy if they try to follow healthy habits like excercise and a good diet. If you don’t have a single healthy habit, no matter what you weigh, you’re screwed.

    Also, I’m seeing way more fat children than ever before. But people are becoming so overly sensitive that they will come after anyone who expresses concern, like Michelle Obama.

    • ALJsMom says:

      There is a pretty big difference between overweight and obese

    • MonicaQ says:

      Mexico has more obese people than America. And UAE is catching up. It’s not just an “American Problem”.

    • megs283 says:

      In denial…? Every other commercial is for Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, some sort of fat blaster or protein shake. Every celebrity, in every interview, has to say something about their body (typically a “problem spot”). Obese people are being charged for two seats on an airplane. (I’m not getting into that, just stating a fact.) Michelle Obama launched “Let’s Move,” and the NFL has “Play 60.” Everywhere, everyday, people are bombarded with messages from the media, politicians, and society about weight.

      This nation is many things, but it’s not in denial about obesity. So one could see why “concern” from a stranger – or even a friend – could be received the wrong way.

  13. Blannie says:

    I totally disagree that you can’t be obese and healthy. I’m 5’9″, 252 pounds right now and don’t take any medications. I am 63 years old and a vegetarian for 46 years. I do cardio and strength training. Virtually all of my friends and family my age and younger (most much thinner) have all kinds of health problems. The only thing I have is a possible meniscus tear in my knee. Some of it is genetics and I think a LOT of it is being vegetarian. I’m considered very obese, but would say I’m healthy.

  14. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    I don’t agree with her definition of sympathy, but I do think she has a good attitude for a trainer. If I say I’m tired, my trainer says, “yeah. Me too. Back to work.” I need that.

  15. gin-genie says:

    Seriously?!! The definition of obesity is rather arbitrary, and there’s plenty of evidence that using BMI to define ranges is less than perfect, and that we should be taking into account other factors such as race and lean mass. I wonder what percentage of Olympic athletes are defined as obese because of very high muscle mass. So for the general population, yes, obesity correlates well with poor health, but that is not the case for all, there are always outliers. It’s perfectly possible to be obese (as defined using BMI) and healthy, it’s just very rare.

    And as to the journal comments, are you trying to imply that research is not valid if it appears outside of those two publications? I dread to think how much scientific knowledge we’d have to discount if that was the case. Indeed most scientists contribute nothing to science if that’s your definition.

  16. littlestar says:

    Well… This interview actually makes me like her! Or maybe the gossip in me thinks she’s doing this to be a stark contrast to someone as disliked as Tracey Anderson.

  17. Whateverworksforyou says:

    Why should she get shade for having her own trainer? It’s difficult for most people to view their body objectively. Think of the disconnect between what you see in the mirror and in pictures. Hiring a professional to take an objective look at your routine and determine what areas need strengthening and what areas are being overworked is not a bad idea for anyone.

  18. Sara says:

    The ladies (or gents) who run this website pass so much judgment on everybody constantly, its exhausting just reading it. I’m not sure its particularly admirable either.

  19. FLORC says:

    At risk of feeding the troll…
    Obese people can certainly be healthy! You can be obese for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with you sitting on a couch eating potato chips all day.
    Obese, Morbidly obese, etc.. are labels. The criteria neeed to reach those labels changes more often than you think. It doesn’t mean because you meet the requirements for that label that you are just unhealthy.

    Jillian is spot on here. Those Obese people on the show are being absurdly healthy on that show and they still have that fat that falls off slowly. So, right there your statement is debunked.

  20. Brown Eyed Girl says:

    When I was obese (lets not sugar coat it), I had high blood pressure, irregular periods, migraines, bad acid reflux, bad skin and brittle hair, got out of breath walking up the stairs as well as walking as a tourist on vacations, could barely find clothing that made me feel pretty even at plus size clothing stores which led to depression, I was a crazy jealous wife which led to unhappy moments in my marriage, and AND I had higher cholesterol than my senior citizen parents. I wasn’t dying (at least not immediately), i didnt take medicines everyday but i wasnt healthy either.

    tell me why every single symptom i listed above disappeared when i lost weight into a healthy range. Obesity is never healthy and its one of the easiest and cheapest illnesses to cure. I simply just stopped eating junk food and started walking then running in my neighborhood and the pounds dropped which lead to my health improving.
    Jillian Michaels needs to update her personal trainer certifications because she obviously forgot a lot of what she learned.

    • Lisa says:

      This is why I said that her statement about being a time bomb should have been bolded. She’s not doing an about-face. She’s really just saying that you can be fat and healthy, but only if you’re working on undoing the habits that mad you fat and UNhealthy. Not that you should sit on the couch and do what you’ve been doing.

    • Seagulls says:

      I’m really glad it was cheap and easy for you. It obviously isn’t for most people, and it certainly hasn’t been for me. But then I cook most of my own food, don’t eat a lot of it, don’t eat junk, and exercise – still obese.

  21. Lisa says:

    Ultimately, if you’re not practicing healthy habits, it is a time bomb.”

    This should be in bold.

  22. Ginger says:

    She’s probably also promoting her tour. Love her!

  23. WendyNerd says:

    She’s right. People treat weight as an illness rather than something that can just put you at a greater risk for some illness. It’s not necessarily being overweight but things that can happen to overweight people like heart disease, diabetes, lack of mobility, etc. Also, the standards for what is overweight vs what is not changes quite a bit. Are you devoid of disease, with proper blood pressure/cholesterol, physically capable, getting all the right nutrients, etc? Then you’re healthy. I know technically “overweight” people who are healthier than some “normal” weight people. There are some who are just naturally skinny, eat whatever they want and don’t exercise that much, and they end up with high blood pressure and high cholesterol whereas there are people in the “overweight” range who have perfect test results, can run for miles, and are really strong. I will be the first to tell you that being big can cause a shit load of problems, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will. I say this as someone who was too big and ended up losing a ton of weight and got healthier. I’m in perfect health now aside from my neurological disorders, work out a lot, watch my diet, and am in great physical condition now, best shape of my life. These days I literally have people who ask to squeeze my calf muscles because they look like apples made of solid granite. I’m partly known around my college campus as “the girl who goes to the gym a lot”. But I’m still technically overweight according to most height/weight charts, but my body fat percentage is below 24%, easily in the fitness range.

  24. Crunchy says:

    is that no-nothing famewhore anti-feminist ignored housewife Maria Kang now going to troll Julianne’s FB page stretching that only thin women can be healthy and loved?

  25. cleveland girl says:

    Of course she has a trainer! Would you expect a hairdresser to cut their own hair?? I am a personal trainer and I go to my trainer regularly. We need to be pushed just like everyone else!

  26. Luvy says:

    I’m curious to know what Jillian means by “overweight.” Overweight by a few pounds? or by 30, 40, 50 etc. pounds? I have a hard time believing that someone who is 20 pounds overweight is healthy. Just because you can bench press heavy weights or run a few miles while being really overweight does not make you healthy. Likewise, just because you are thin doesn’t make you healthy either. Healthy is not just weight. It’s cholesterol (good and bad), clean lungs (non-smoker), etc. People need to have a better understanding what healthy really means. It’s not just a number on a scale.

    • Happyhat says:

      “I have a hard time believing that someone who is 20 pounds overweight is healthy.”

      That’s such an odd statement, and you kinda contradict yourself with the rest of your post. It’s not just a number on the scale, so how is 20lbs overweight unhealthy? Overweight from what? Most ‘healthy weights for your height’ tables have about a 20lbs leeway. So…20lbs overweight from your highest ‘healthy weight’? And how about someone who puts on 20lbs in muscle? Are they unhealthy? Because like you said at the end, numbers on the scale are deceiving.

      But I do agree with you – what is meant by overweight? We would normally consider it to be in scale-numbers, but again, those are nonsense. I’d go by bodyfat and all-over health. Like you said.

  27. HolyShitake says:

    Jillian’s Fat Burn Metabolism (maybe not actual title but you get the gist) is my blizzard day workout video and it kicks my butt every time (and I am very active). The beauty of it is when I go through a lazy spurt and don’t exercise, I can also use the video as my “home reboot”.
    As a person who had a trainer who pushed me before, I recognize how I quit before I need to when training on my own. Some people, and not just fit people, quit after they should and they get hurt. So you need to know who you are and find the right “instructor” for you. I think Jilian’s for the former b/c she pushes you first.
    I love that Jillian speaks about how hard it is to work out. The joy comes with breaking barriers and that’s not easy to do in any aspect of life. People like Tracy Anderson talk about looking a certain way, which is just about vanity. Vanity may drive you to exercise initially (it does for me) but long term commitment of any kind takes a change in character and you can’t be vain forever (looking at you 95 yr old K Kards). Also her exercises are either impossible for the non-Bolshoi alums (Dance Cardio anyone?) or a complete snoozefest (really? 100 shoulder twists?).
    As for running, I completely disagree that it promotes injury. Most running injuries occur with bad running form. It has nothing to do with your weight, your body shape, etc. Humans are build for running and we get hurt b/c our current daily activity goes against the running motions. I’m an avid runner and I’ve worked with a few friends who claim they are not “born runners” and all of them had limbs flying in every directions when they run. Running is a very plane restrictive exercise – forward/back and to a lesser extent up/down. I see people who’s arms almost go 180 degrees each step they take. I guarantee you if they keep up running they will develop back/neck problems and you exert so much unecessary energy. Like any sport you should learn form properly. Just b/c it’s such a natural motion that everyone knows doesn’t mean you’re doing it right.

    • Bedhead says:

      Running doesn’t necessarily = injury. I’m a runner & have to battle that stereotype constantly from relatives who keep telling me all of my joints will go to hell, blah blah. But going from a couch-potato lifestyle to marathon-level training in 4 months is not safe. People should have a solid mileage base (20-30 miles per week) for 6-12 months before even thinking about marathon training. Building mileage too fast DOES lead to stress fractures & other overuse injuries. There’s no hurry to get to a marathon!