Last week the internet erupted over comments that Jillian Michaels, former host of The Biggest Loser and well-known fatphobe, made about Lizzo, a larger-bodied black female artist who has been making waves in the hip-hop community for over a year now.
Lizzo’s music is often hailed as some of the best pump up, body-positive jams out there. Songs like “Good as Hell” and “Tempo” have become body-positive anthems, and seeing someone like Lizzo on stage and having a successful music career means a lot for young black girls.
Why, then, would Michaels be publicly commenting on Lizzo’s health? It’s a great question, and one that might boggle the mind if you didn’t live in diet culture. But we do! And that means that everyone’s body is up for public commentary, even though we have really good research that tells us that body commentary is never a good idea.
Not only does Michaels believe that she has every right to comment on Lizzo’s body, but Michaels went onto suggest that Lizzo’s body size is indicative of her health, and that Lizzo is “promoting obesity” and an unhealthy lifestyle by not attempting to change her body size. This is an insult often hurled at fat individuals. Somehow, their mere existence “promotes” a lifestyle of a certain kind, one that the culture assumes is filled with junk food, laziness, and all-around poor health behaviors and outcome.
Truth be told, we have a lot of evidence that Lizzo is actually in pretty great health. She performs internationally, dances on stage while also singing and playing a flute, and is very clearly a vivacious young woman who appreciates her body and where it can take her in this life. We also have a lot of evidence that Michaels is a repeat offender when it comes to being fatphobic. She built her career on it and continues to profit from making us feel like shit about ourselves so we buy her weight-loss products and tune-in to her gross tv show which is premised on hating fat people. Nothing new here, even if she’s trying to couch it in the language of “self-love.”
More importantly though, Lizzo’s health is irrelevant. It’s awesome that she can dance around, sing, and play the flute. It’s also awesome that thinner stars can do that too. It shouldn’t be any more shocking that a fat person has that level of fitness/stamina than any other person. And to be clear, it’s a feat at any size. We need to shift the focus away from a fat person’s health as if the fact that they are healthy makes it okay for them to exist. Fat people are deserving of respect regardless of their health status. And someone else’s health really isn’t any of your business.
So what’s the moral of our story here? Well, there’s a few:
Your body is nobody else’s business. Other people’s bodies are also not yours to comment on.
Weight does not determine someone’s health, and someone’s health does not determine their worth as a human being.
We all deserve respect and autonomy, no matter our size.
Judging by some of the pushback Michaels got on social media, 2020 may be a new year for diet culture. I have my fingers crossed, and I hope you do too.