Feminism

Bringing Up Baby: TV Celeb’s Adoption Comment Controversy

Jillian Michaels, the feisty fitness trainer for TV’s Biggest Loser, stirs up controversy in this month’s issue of Women’s Health.  In her interview, Michaels discusses her desire to have kids.  But she wants to adopt rather than give birth to her own children.  Part of her decision stems from her fear of being overweight, as she admits she faced obesity as a child.  She says,

“I’m going to adopt. I can’t handle doing that to my body. Also, when you rescue something, it’s like rescuing a part of yourself.”

I think we should applaud people for opening their hearts and adopting children.  Yet her statement upset some people, including those in the health community.  Dr. Leslie Seppinni, a psychologist and family therapist, focuses on the issue of body image.  She told Fox News,

“She [Jillian Michaels] is teaching people about body image and self-esteem…Women have children all the time and get right back in shape, particularly if they exercise. If this is how she truly feels, she should seek counsel before coaching others on issues of body image.”

Yes, Michaels teaches women and men how to be happy with their bodies while getting them strong and in shape.  She tells Women’s Health, “I want to empower people to find happiness via a healthy lifestyle.”  And yes, women get back into shape after giving birth.  But Seppinni misses the point.  It is Jillian Michaels’ choice, not Dr. Seppinni’s or anyone else’s, to decide what she wishes to do with her own body.  Whatever happened to it being a woman’s body and therefore a woman’s choice?  And I can’t help but wonder…what if Michaels didn’t want children at all?  Would her choice be respected?  Or, as many women without children face, would she instead be criticized for being selfish?

Psychologist Dr. Haleh Stahl came to Michaels’ defense saying,

“She is in a profession where she’s looked up to for her body and she’s an inspiration to others for losing weight and getting in shape and staying in shape, so the fact that she wants to preserve that for herself has a lot also to do with the image that she is representing as a way of promoting what she does…I think it’s different for a person who doesn’t rely on the shape of their body for their livelihood, this is what she’s known for, and she’s in the business of inspiring others to get in shape.”

Michaels isn’t running around warning her clients not to procreate so as not to destroy their physiques.  She shared her own perspective for her own life.  We need to stop demonizing women’s personal choices and start embracing them.

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5 thoughts on “Bringing Up Baby: TV Celeb’s Adoption Comment Controversy

  1. I was a big fan of ‘The Biggest Loser’ in general and Jillian Michaels in particular for a quite awhile. But I gradually realized that the show isn’t about being healthy; it’s about losing weight at a ridiculously unhealthy pace and Jillian is a big part of the problem. She’s currently dealing with a lawsuit stemming from her line of diet pills.
    While I have no problem with how she chooses to build her family, she, by her own admission, has a lot of severe body image issues and I think it’s disingenuous to act like her statements are the result of conscientious reflection, instead of a mental health issue.

  2. @Sarah, thank you for your insightful observations. Yes, the people on Biggest Loser lose weight at ridiculously rapid rates. And yes, I’m aware of the three lawsuits Michaels is currently facing. My post wasn’t to endorse Michaels or Biggest Loser but rather the concept of choice. I have no doubt that she has body image issues. But who doesn’t to some degree in our beauty obsessed culture? And someone’s state of mental health is not necessarily a precursor for having children as many people who contend with depression, anorexia, schizophrenia or low self-esteem raise children and have families. Bottom line: I would have no problem with people criticizing Michaels’ fitness methods or training techniques. But I do have a problem with the criticism surrounding how she chooses to start a family.

  3. Despite the similarities regarding our first names (Jillian, Julian, Jilles, Jules…), i, in no way, endorse Jillian Michaels methods for weight-loss.
    Subjecting morbidly obese individuals to extreme fitness routines, sounds like a heartattack waiting to happen.
    It may be entertaining, but it’s also irresponsible.

    However, i applaud her interest in adoption & bluntness, in terms, of what child-bearing will do to her wonderfully toned body.
    Imagine if she does carry a child to term, yet never gets her body to it’s previous sculpted state?
    She will resent the kid, for years afterward!
    “Look what you did to me, you ungrateful brat?!!!
    I had a show, once…”

    Seriously, there are plenty of children out there, that Angelina Jolie hasn’t scooped up, yet.
    Michaels is merely stating the merits of adoption, for both herself, personally, and for the unwanted kids looking for a place to call home.

  4. Oh come ON! Of COURSE her stupid, thoughtless comment was offensive! She wasn’t touting her right to choose the reproductive path that’s best for her – she was saying pregnancy is GROSS and heavily implying that it doesn’t really mesh well with ‘Biggest Loser’-sanctioned healthy living. She might have stepped back from that implication in later statements, but her initial quote makes it pretty clear she thinks it’s impossible to regain a toned, healthy body after childbirth – and what kind of thing is THAT for any kind of fitness ‘expert’ to say?

    Not to mention that idiotic clarification of hers, that when you adopt something you really feel like a PART of it! Yeah, because that’s exactly what’s usually MISSING when women actually lug around a fetus inside their bodies for nine months … that feeling of CONNECTION. Geez.

    Clearly in her quest for the perfect body, the first pound this woman lost was the one between her ears.

  5. I think Mary Timony said it best on the ‘Pirate Prude’ record:

    “I’ve got a baby vampire in me, what’s good for you…isn’t…always…good…for…me.”

    Michaels has a point, though.
    Undoubtedly, childbirth is gonna severely stretch out your stomach & vagina…there will be marks to tell the tale, when all is said & done.
    While the average person can come to terms with this, Michael’s entire lifeblood is reflected on her persona as THE fitness guru.
    Her tight & toned bod, is her callng card.
    I’m sure the very thought of swelling & bloating, not to mention eating for two, has as much appeal as getting a root canal, to her.

    People who are that disciplined, driven & single-minded, the very idea of anything less than perfection (in their chosen obsession), is not an option.
    Michaels is obsessed wih her body to an absurd degree.
    From her mindset, i can understand her desire to adopt.

    It’s her body, and i don’t think she should be criticized for her comments by other women (or anyone else, for that matter).
    If she chastised a contestant, on her show, for opting against adoption, screaming, “You’ll ruin your body,” then i would believe her to be out of line.
    But this is not the case.

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