Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Some thoughts on "Losing It with Jillian"

I decided not to do recaps of "Losing it with Jillian" the way I did with "The Biggest Loser." Recaps wouldn' t do the episodes justice, because "Losing It" is a more complex show than "The Biggest Loser." Instead of focusing on the gameplay and the massive weight loss, Jillian's new show focuses more on some of the family dynamics that contribute to weight gain.  Still, now that I've watched 5 episodes, I thought I'd pull together some of the common threads that these families seem to share. If you're looking for recaps, there are some good ones on Jillian's site.

The basic premise of the show: Jillian travels the country, spending a week with each family and, besides teaching them the diet and fitness plan she used on "The Biggest Loser," but also trying to untangle some of the problems that are making the family turn to food for comfort.  If you hated "The Biggest Loser" because of the massive weight loss numbers, you are probably not going to like "Losing It" either.  On the most recent episode I watched, two of the family members lost 50 pounds in two months and one lost 30. 

What I like is that Jillian doesn't act like it's "Just calories in, calories out" like so many diet gurus do. I'm getting a little sick of that phrase.  Sure, calories are important, but even more important to address are the beliefs and blocks that are keeping people stuck.  If knowledge was enough, we'd all be thin already, or at least most of us would. Jillian acknowledges that there is a lot more to weight loss than losing weight.  Many of these families have gone through traumatic events -- a child or parent who died, a painful divorce, serious illnesses -- that were so difficult to deal with that they retreated into food as an escape from their problems.

Some of the common problems families seem to share on the show:

Communication Breakdowns: The Mastropietros couldn't talk about their child who died shortly after birth. Debra Jones's preteen daughter couldn't tell her mom that she was carrying too much responsibility for a child her age.  The May family children were afraid to talk to their mother because she was carrying so much bottled-up anger about her divorce and would become hostile and defensive. The wife in the Northern family couldn't talk to her husband about how overwhelmed she felt. The Vivios had adopted a "suck it up" attitude that made it impossible to talk about how they were feeling.

A Sense of Powerlessness and Hopelessness: At some point all members of these families seemed to demonstrate a sense that they were not in control of their lives anymore.  At one point during a workout, Jillian yelled at a woman who was half-heartedly going through the motions, "This isn't happening to you! YOU are happening to it!  Act like it!" That seemed to be a theme, from Elijah who didn't think he could tell his father that he didn't like football, to the father in the Northerns, who seemed to feel like everything good that could ever happen in his life was behind him and retreated from life. 

A Cluttered Environment: Most of these families seemed to hang on to a lot of stuff.  It came out especially with the Mays and the Joneses, but the Vivios had a lot of knick-knacks and junk in their yard.

A Fear of Failure, or of Success: None of these families were risk-takers.  They seemed to be afraid to try new things or reach for ambitious goals.  Often during a workout, they would stop just short of what Jillian was asking of them, and it seemed like a part of them didn't know how to handle new information that they were actually strong and successful people. 

Macho-Man Dads and Low-Self-Esteem Moms: When the dads were around, other family members seemed to tiptoe around them and cater to them.  Even as the wives became overloaded and unhappy, they didn't ask their husbands for help. The wives tended to avoid upsetting their husbands and resisted compliments.

Have you been watching the show? What do you think? Did I miss any important common themes?


  1. Very interesting thoughts. As I've moved towards a healthier life, both physically and mentally, I've had to deal with many of these issues. Thanks for the post!

  2. I find that very interesting. It is kind of scary though that I see a lot of similarities with my family.

  3. Sounds like quite an interesting show. Must be hard to edit all those issues into one little episode...

  4. I've only seen one episode, so haven't had the chance to notice any common themes. I think it is interesting that you identified so many. It makes me want to check out more episodes.

  5. Looking at a bunch of shows as a group really does let you see common themes/issues. I only watched one episode but I'm afraid of Jillian before she even shows up so watching was painful.

  6. I love the show, I haven't missed an episode.

    I find it absolutely AMAZING that she can go in, diagnose the problem and motivate these people in 7 DAYS to change their lives.

    Although I do think it is true that a lot of weight problems DO surround ISSUES such as the HUGE ones that these people have faced (death of a parent, death of a child, loss of a job, etc) -- for MOST people the formula of calories in, calories out, and moving more really does work!


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07