Sunday, February 25th, 2018

Why Does Jillian Michaels Yell At Biggest Loser Contestants?


Episode 601  Season Premiere I have heard some people complaining about how Jillian is yelling at the contestants on Season 8 of the Biggest Loser.  I thought I would comment.

Here is how things used to be way back on Season 2.  Jillian was on the ranch almost daily and as Bill Germanakos says “We could not get her to go home!”  While there, she spent time training us contestants in groups of 2 for a couple hours each group.  So at the very least she was there for approximately 6 hours each day training.  However on most days she was there much longer for filming and challenges etc. A reality show can be very boring behind the scenes.

It was during this extra time that she built a relationship with us contestants.  At the dinner table and down time was when she got to know us and our lives and what made us tick and what motivated us and eventually when we were slacking off.  It was during these extra times that she even gave us special instruction on nutrition and exercise.  We also got to know her and would talk about everything from relationships to her house hunting to her motorcycles.  We even developed nicknames for each other (I wont reveal those here since people just wouldn’t understand :-)

It was during one of these down times that she even tried to cut my hair!  She tried to have the other guys hold me down so she could clip my air.   As soon as she flicked on the clippers I bucked her off onto the floor and threw three fellas off me as well.  She got a tidy bruise on her rear end for that one!

At one point during Season Two NBC was consecutively filming Season Two and The Biggest Loser Special Edition (Military Wives, Engaged Couples etc). We were under strict orders not to use the gym while the special edition contestants were in there with cameras and not to interfere with the filming of the other show.  It was during this time that Matt Hoover found out that his Uncle had died.  It was an especially emotional time for him as you might imagine and our immediate response was to yell out the balcony window for Jillian to come quickly because one of us needed her – right while she was filming the other show.  Jillian’s immediate response was to cut her lines short and literally run from the other set and comfort Matt during one of his worst times on the ranch. The cameras who were not filming our show that day were diverted to come over to the balcony and catch part of the scene.  But it was not something contrived for the cameras.  It was a moment when someone needed help and Jillian was immediately there. Because she had a relationship with us. You see we knew Jillian cared for us. Because she cared for us she earned the right to challenge and say certain things to you that the average trainer has not earned.

Then in the gym Jillian was a genius. You learned this the longer you stayed around her. The gym was her territory and her knowledge was far superior to nearly eveyone else in her field.  

But again her knowledge alone is not enough for her yell at us.  As my Pastor says, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  She could yell because she had proven herself outside of the gym by spending that time to develop that relationship with us.   She earned the right to yell at you because you knew this was not out of meanness but because deep down this psycho lady must be seing something you don’t see.

And it is because we knew Jillian and that she knew her subject that we would do whatever she asked us to do in the gym.  If Jillian had asked me to jump off of the roof of the gym I would have trusted her that I could do it. That type of trust comes from time outside of the gym building relationship.  If Jillian had asked me to jump off the roof it would have only been because she knew that I could do.  That only comes from one on one time with us in the gym observing and pushing each of us.

One day I remember Jillian getting pissed off that we were ‘slacking’ in the gym and she immediately knew from our effort that we had been eating poorly (we did not want to admit to it at first but it was true).  She threw a cursing tirade and canceled the workout and made us go eat and walked out of the gym.  We valued our workouts with her so much that there was never a problem ‘fueling the machine’ after that.  I later learned that working out in that state would have been conter prodcutive. If Jillian was just a psycho then she would have pushed us even though it would have been ineffective. Instead she did what a pro does, the right thing, by cancelling the workout.

In some regards Jillian was the producers enemy and in conflict with the show itself – The producers would constantly try to interrupt the workouts with interviews and other show related ‘stuff’.  Jillian would vehemently oppose these interruptions when they were during her time to train us.  She would even yell and curse the poor production assistant that tried in vain to drag us away from the gym. We were all that mattered to her. Now I am not a fool either and our success leads to her success but the equation has to start somewhere.

So in the gym it was all about focus and effort.  If you were slacking you got yelled at for slacking. Point Blank. And rightly so.  Normal trainers have to build relationships during the actual training sessions on many occasions. That is super hard!

But does she have to yell? To understand this a little more think of the relationship that a Sports Coach has with his players or how much time a Drill Sargent spends with his troops and you get the picture of why we allowed the yelling.  Literally peoples lives were on the line.  Yours and your teammates.  Think about this.  If you slacked off in the gym then your team could drop below the line and someone would go home.  Had the person voted to go home learned enough to make a lifelong change?  Remember, prior to the ranch we were literally eating oursleves to death.  This is not normal behavior. If we were voted off would we keep up the effort or go back to our old selves and die early from obesity?  Who knows?  Better not to be up for elimination at all. The only way for that to happen is not to slack off in the first place.

When a 29 year old 470+ lb woman wants to quit in the middle of a workout at Fat Loss University or Weight Loss Heaven, there are really only two choices, 1 – Do like everyone else and feel sorry for her and let her go, or 2 – try right then, to get through to her in a way no one else would. You might have to scream or yell at her to try to stimulate something deep within her.  A buried sense of self-pride maybe, a sense of competition maybe, a sense of determiniation maybe.  But in that moment the worst possible thing that Jillian or anyone else could do is let her have her way. Everyone else in her life already does that.  And it is killing you as you eat yourself to death.  I know because I have been there.

Now I will admit that over time things have changed.  The show has grown exponentially and the demands on everyone have changed. Contracts get renegotiated and now some things are handled in front of the camera that normally would be handled at the dinner table.  The trainers dont mess with the production like they use to etc.  As I watched the premier I was even thinking that Bob and Jillian are way more dramatic than normal.  But in my day the contestants really did not notice the yelling or the nicknames etc.  Nowadays Jillian and Bob have a track record of results that speak volumes for them so they are granted more leeway from the contestants and may not spend as time on relationships as they did in our day.  And as the show has grown contestants sort of know what is coming so Bob and Jillian have to adapt as well.  And yes it is a tv show.

At the end of the day you probably need someone to get you out of your comfort zone more than allow you to stay in it.  Especially if it is a matter of life and death.

Talk To You Soon and Remember,

There’s A Winner Within You!


25 Responses to “Why Does Jillian Michaels Yell At Biggest Loser Contestants?”
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  5. Anne says:

    My son and I just watched season 8 finale last night. We get so excited about seeing how far people have come. I appreciated Pete’s comments. As a fat person myself (hoping for the biggest loser Wii game for Christmas) I understand the yelling. I did the track and cross country thing when I was in school, my coach knew when I was slacking and he would come and yell at me – because I didn’t have food to “stuff down” my anger – I ran and ran and ran because I had to deal with those emotions. As a fat person I eat to deal with my emotions – I don’t confront them. When confronted by a trainer I imagine like Jillian and she pushes those buttons and you don’t have food to turn to – you turn instead to yourself and what can you do – lets run that minute on the treadmill – I’ll prove them wrong – I can do it. They in some ways are asking you to deal with all of those “bully” moments we experience in life in a positive manner – workout and take care of yourself – find that inner strength. As a fat person I get “bullied” a lot in my day to day life (the looks, that shame look by the person behind me in line when I buy a candy bar, by the women at clothing stores when I visit the plus size section, etc). I am bullied all the time – maybe not verbally, but non-verbals often times speak louder than words. Jillian is just putting words to these images we carry around everyday. These images that we aren’t good enough, aren’t pretty enough – or if you just lost a few pounds you would be so pretty. Jillian yelling at contestants is a safe environment to yell back and say “I am good enough and worthy”. When you fight back thats when the fun begins – because you now are fighting for yourself so you can handle the “real world” when you get home in a positive manner..

    Another comment – regarding the profanity – yeah its not pretty, but I turn the tv on at night because there is SO MUCH of it in the real world that the tv is usually a whole lot less (sorry to say). That’s also my time to talk to my son about what’s right and not right – every moment is a teachable moment.

    Good luck to everyone fighting the battle – two steps forward one step back.

  6. kathryn says:

    I still want the answer how many hours a day they work out. Someone working cannot possibly work out 6 hrs a day to lose the weight like they do.

  7. DR says:

    Wow, lots of food for thought. I’m the type of person who likes to see the good in people. And it’s nice to know that Jillian is not always a bully.
    Personally, I don’t think I would respond well to someone screaming in my face and calling me names, regardless of our relationship. Not that I’d want to be pampered, by any means, but I’m sure the voice of reason plays a big part in my ability to stay on track. I too was bothered by the profanity. I would not sit through any television show or movie that makes this behavior look okay. I can’t say that I will be able to watch the full season for that reason.

  8. rlball2 says:


    Glad you mentioned the drill instructor example. When I joined the Army I was yelled at daily for weeks by my instructors. Was it because they hated me? NO, it was because they had only so much time to change me from a teen to a soilder.
    In the same way, Jillian has only so much time to change a fatty (like me) to someone who is healthy.
    Unlike my drill instuctor, from what you say, she builds relationships with her teams.
    Last night I watched this show on TV about an 800 lb teen. There was fat mom bringing her son 30000 calories a day in food. Never once denying him whatever he wanted. Though mom loved her son, she was killing him.
    Now since Jillian cares about her people, and wants to change the bad habits of the past, then yell away!
    I for one would love to be the person she yells at.

  9. Diane L. Stym says:

    I thot that Jillian yelling, esp at the huge Samoan girl, was too much. But now that i read this, i see. We do not see the investment the coaches have made, and sitting at home, we forget that even our own wii fit obesity is SERIOUS. Thank you for writing this. And thank you to Jillian and Bob for caring.

  10. Michelle says:

    Sep. 29, 2009, on The Biggest Loser: Jillian Michaels is very immature and unprofessional, and seems very smug in being one of “the world’s best trainers”. Tracey upset a lot of people, but still managed to lose weight despite having some kind of injury. The Red team showed great sacrifice, and their current results (shown at the end of the show) are wonderful. So happy for them both! Coach Mo is a good guy; he stayed loyal and supported his teammate. The Pink team girls are immature; they expected Tracey to “have their back”, but seemed willing to drop her if she were in the bottom two. How come no one got mad at Red team guy for also eating cupcakes? If he had been the only one to eat, would Jillian have cussed him out? How immature. Isn’t this a game, too? If you don’t like game antics, why make it a game? Whatever …

    The lady who lost her family should be highly commended. What a strong woman. I truly hope the best for her, and for healing to take place in her heart. I can only imagine that pain.

    The entire show last night, which is the very first time I watched it, was filled with a lot of emotion as the contestants’ challenges and victories were displayed for all to see. Jillian is a distraction to me, as a viewer. I think I would have to fastforward when she is at center of attention.

  11. Adri says:

    Wow, its hard to believe that so many people are that deterred by the profanity. Granted its not pretty to hear and it may at times be down right mean and ugly. And I will agree that I dont believe one can earn the right to yell at me but its a part of life. These people are trainers and Jillian knows first hand she’s transformed her own life through health and execersice so its easy to understand why she gets upset, upset enough to yell and curse because she sees where they are headed and where they could be if they tried. Sometimes some people need to be confronted in such a mannor so that they can step up to the plate. Some of these people have been coddled and/or ignored and thats why they are where they are, if yelling and cursing gets them to snap out of that mentality at least for the remainder of the work out then job well done. I love this show and the inspiration it brings and there is no way I would let a few bleeps keep me from watching. Its really not that bad anyway.

  12. Terri says:

    I to am trying to understand why the show had to change. The language is hard to bare for me and my family. I have Diabetes , cholesterol, and starting to have trouble with my joints. I am 40 years old and weigh 265lbs. I was watching the show to get some motivation but didn’t find it.

  13. Michelle_BL6 says:

    Pete!!! Love the Post…thanks for clearing things up for people.

  14. Caral says:

    This is the same principle that parents and teachers must come to understand (not about “yelling” perse). Before discipline or constructive criticism can be accepted, the discipler must have a relationship with the disciple. Some people cannot accept correction. Proverbs calls them “fools.” While I don’t approve of the bad language, and unfortunately that means my family does not watch – because we have kids and like to keep our evenings as family time doing stuff together, even if that’s watching a program on TV – I get it. Makes me curious how many potential viewers are lost, though, due to the language.

  15. Pete…
    As a personal trainer, and someone who loves Jesus with all of my heart, I have to politely disagree about the cursing. Yelling to inspire, asking the right questions, not letting someone settle for less than they can give are all very healthy responses as a trainer. But throwing the “F” bomb around like it is free doesn’t show someone how much you care about them. These people have been selected to be on this show from 10s of thousands….. they know they won the lottery. I don’t believe cussing someone out makes them perform any better. It robs them of their dignity and creates a wider chasm that then needs to be bridged again. I can see coming unglued on someone who you have a relationship with, (someone who has been there for a while) but the 470lb lady was brand new…. Jillian hadn’t created any kind of a bond with her.. (coming unglued isn’t cussing, yelling and challenging, yes, but berating, never).

    I am with the person above.. My kids won’t be able to watch, unless the producers can tone it down. This doesn’t make for better tv, if makes for vulgar tv and robs something very beautiful of its beauty.

    Be blessed my friend… In the end our walk with Christ is all that matters.. and glorifying HIM with ALL of our actions is paramount..


  16. Woodstock says:

    There is a psychology to the yelling and for those naysayers you need to understand that the trainers have as little as a week to try and make a difference.

    The yelling and the pushing is a way to shock the system and a way to remodel and retraining the contestants thinking. You need to switch the response of urgency and anxiety from running to a fridge to running on a treadmill. That’s not an easy thing to do.

    Yeah it’s harsh but I think if you want to question the show stuff, question some of the contests they have to do or the show manipulation verses the training methods.


  17. cindy says:

    Wow, lots of food for thought. I’m the type of person who likes to see the good in people. And it’s nice to know that Jillian is not always a bully.
    Personally, I don’t think I would respond well to someone screaming in my face and calling me names, regardless of our relationship. Not that I’d want to be pampered, by any means, but I’m sure the voice of reason plays a big part in my ability to stay on track. I too was bothered by the profanity. I would not sit through any television show or movie that makes this behavior look okay. I can’t say that I will be able to watch the full season for that reason.

  18. Sheila Warner @CincySW says:

    So glad I found you…and Jillian. BIggest Loser is going to save my life or rather give me a life! Thank you for sharing!!

  19. Dennise says:

    “”She earned the right to yell at you because you knew this was not out of meanness but because deep down this psycho lady must be seing something you don’t see….She would even yell and curse the poor production assistant that tried in vain to drag us away from the gym””
    Make this clear: No One will ever “earn” the right to yell at me. No One. Yelling, Screaming, Bullying is not how a healthy adult treats another person. It is the tactics of a bully, of someone who does not have the mental ability to reason things through.
    I do not sell my dignity for any show. This does not make good tv, it makes others who are equally insane believe violence is ok. It isn’t. Not verbally or physically.

  20. Dianne says:

    I love that they are so intense…but I wish they could rein in the swearing a little bit. (I know people swear, I do -at times….) I don’t know if I will be able to let my kids watch so much this year because they aren’t bleeping out a lot of the words and when Jillian says ‘you’re my bitch’…well, that’s not something I want my 9 and 10 year old to hear. Even THOUGH I love for them to get the message of the show itself and to show them that life’s a lot easier if you STAY healthy instead of having to GET healthy after you’ve been fat. And my kids actually have gotten caught up in the happy endings too – they LOVE the ‘afters’ and the finales. They LOVE to see the contestants do the challenges and workouts and they love LOVE LOVE Bob and Jillian.

    I will keep watching, because it’s a motivator for me and my big fat body. But I don’t think the kids will get to watch….and that makes them and me a little sad. (It would be nice if they could hold the language until the second hour – it DOES come on at 8 – the ‘family hour’.)

    Thanks for the insight and the blogs! 😀

  21. Tamara says:

    Great post! I’ve never been offended by the yelling on the show, personally. I agree that Jillian is just trying to get her contestants to dig deeper and she’s not yelling just because it’s something to do or because she’s mean-spirited. If she didn’t care about the contestants, she wouldn’t be there in the first place.

    I must admit, some days when I’m trying to push through an interval at the gym, I imagine her voice yelling at me and it keeps me going, haha!

  22. angie says:

    Great points, Pete. We do need somebody to get us out of our comfort zones! And thank you for the behind the scenes info. It makes the show all the more precious. My mother died prematurely of complications from obesity. I know how deadly it is, and I and others had tried to get in her face, but we couldn’t make the impact that was necessary. Keep fighting the good fight!


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