When I was younger, I kind of idolized Jillian Michaels. I thought that as a chunky 14-year-old, who was already finding insecurities with her body, I could be motivated by the first season of The Biggest Loser.
To my parents’ chagrin, I threw out all of the junk food, preached about getting healthier and started riding my bike in my neighborhood for exercise (short-lived, I wiped out and it was a bloody mess – walking was better and less dangerous for my clumsy self).
I thought that if I had a body that looked like Jillian’s I would have everything I needed: beauty, happiness, health, peace.
It led to a complicated relationship with my body. I was obsessed with losing weight. Not with health, with weight.
As a society, we still have a complicated relationship with weight, beauty, blackness, and health. It’s unfortunate.
Jillian Michaels highlighted that when she said this about Lizzo:
“Why are we celebrating her body? Why does it matter?
Why aren’t we celebrating her music? ‘Cause it isn’t gonna be awesome if she gets diabetes. I’m just being honest.”Jillian Michaels
So, let’s take it step by step.
Why are we celebrating Lizzo’s body? Why does it matter?
Lizzo has done something amazing in the mainstream – she’s herself. She knows she fat and she embraces it. She knows she’s beautiful, and she flaunts it. She knows she’s talented and she doesn’t let it stop her.
Why does it matter? Lizzo represents a whole demographic of women and girls who get left out because people don’t like their bodies.
People make gross assumptions about fat bodies: you’re lazy; you’re not sexy; you don’t care about yourself; you eat 12 cheeseburgers a day. Oh, and my favorite – you’re going to get heart disease and diabetes if you’re fat.
Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes, but if it were a cause, do you not think all fat people would have diabetes? Fat people get type 2 diabetes, but thin people also live with and manage the disease.
Why aren’t we celebrating her music?
We are. 8 Grammy nominations and a few #1 hits feels like a lot of celebration and validation of the work.
But we’re also celebrating her endurance. Lizzo gets up on stage night after night for hours to put on a show: she twerks, plays the flute, dances, and belts out amazing vocals.
She’s doing more every day than most of us can muster.
It isn’t going to be awesome if she gets diabetes
Remember when I mentioned that I’ve been thinking about The Biggest Loser since I was 14?
Well, after 12 years of obsessing over my weight, working out like crazy, changing my diet, and overhauling my life…I got diabetes.
And you know what? There are plenty of days where diabetes sucks, but there are many more where having diabetes is awesome.
Getting a type 2 diabetes diagnosis made me focus on my health in a healthy and positive way instead of just focusing on weight.
Type 2 diabetes made me more patient and accepting about my body.
It gave me a better relationship with food. It made me see the holistic picture of health, instead of just trying to achieve some vanity goal.
I also see my doctor more than ever, have open conversations about my health goals and have had incredible improvements in my A1C. That’s awesome.
Type 2 diabetes can be prevented. I think it’s really important to say that.
Recognizing your BMI and overall weight are two ways diabetes can be prevented – but it’s not the case for everyone.
Genetics plays a huge role, too. an article from obesityaction.org mentions that “a first-degree relative of a person with types [sic] 2 diabetes has a risk five to 10 times higher than a person without a family history.”
Diabetes is not a dirty word.Mila Clarke Buckley
There are also severe complications and risks for other diseases — like cardiovascular disease — for people who don’t take care of high blood sugars.
But, shaming someone for their weight, or shape and attributing it to diabetes is not constructive at all.
All it does is perpetuate a maddening stereotype for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
There are some days when I get so upset and I want to quit diabetes advocacy. I think “what difference does it make if this is what people are always going to think?”
Then, I remember that I started because of things like this.
People see language like this and it makes them want to hide in the shadows.
Diabetes is not a dirty word, or shameful disease and people need to stop treating it that way.
Type 2 diabetes means that your body is insulin resistant.
There are many methods for treating that. Some, like diet and exercise, are lifestyle changes that you can make. Some like taking insulin and oral medication are medical changes.
The method of controlling your blood sugar matters much less than your overall health.
It doesn’t matter how you regulate it, what matters is that you take the action to do it.
Why is this about Lizzo?
There are plenty of fat celebrities in the world. Why is Lizzo singled out? We don’t shout about James Corden, Rebel Wilson, Ashley Graham or the many others who carry extra weight.
But there seems to be this obsession with Lizzo from all angles. Honestly, do the work and think about it. I’m too tired.
Why this is an unfair label
Lizzo is so important to me because she doesn’t hide. She comes at us full-force and embraces herself fully and wholly without permission from anyone else.
She doesn’t need Jillian Michaels’ judgment or a label that she doesn’t deserve.
Instead of saying that celebrating Lizzo is glorifying obesity, let’s take a second to remember that bodies don’t come in the same size, shape, or color. They never have, and they never will.
Celebrate the fact that she loves herself, empowers women, and shakes up the status quo.
Let’s stop measuring someone’s worth by their weight, and quit perpetuating the dumbest stereotypes about diabetes.