Earlier this spring, Jillian Michaels, the "Biggest Loser" trainer perhaps more famous for her screaming and shredded body than the weight-loss and self-esteem results for her clients, was given a lashing of her own.
After a much-publicized Women's Health interview quoted Michaels as saying she'd prefer to adopt rather than be pregnant herself because of the changes it would cause in her body, she was criticized for giving women a very bad message.
Headlines screamed: "Jillian Michaels: I won't ruin my body with pregnancy." Both her quote in the magazine article and the press that covered the sensationalized, summarized (however accurately or not so) part of the story spurred much talk. Of course.
The Women's Health piece really reads:
She also hopes to have kids someday, saying, "I'm going to adopt." One of the reasons: Jillian admits to having an aversion to pregnancy, the result of being an overweight kid. "I can't handle doing that to my body," she explains. "Also, when you rescue something, it's like rescuing a part of yourself."
Although it's nowhere near the word "ruin," it still had some people fired up at the fitness star. In an interview out today in the Los Angeles Times, Michaels says her words were misconstrued and that she was "just crushed." She tells the paper that being misquoted and then criticized was, in part, painful because her message to women has long been to strive to be their fittest selves and not stick to media images of what their bodies should look like.
She also offers up the explanation that she can't "physically handle" pregnancy due to her own hormonal and healthy issues.
So, what is it? Is Jillian Michael afraid of what bearing a child might do to her body or is her body unable to bear having child?
Although Michaels hasn't, at least to my knowledge, gone into depth on this in the L.A. Times or any magazine, I am going to go ahead and step in with a response.
The answer is: It doesn't matter.
If Michaels doesn't want to conceive and carry a child, if she ever chooses to adopt or find a surrogate or to be child-free for the rest of her days on this planet, that's between her and her uterus. I'm sure her doctor has an informed opinion, and I would imagine there's a long line of family, friends, and fans who'd like to weigh in as well. But really, the choice and the reasons behind it shouldn't even be open for discussion.
Yes, she's firmly planted her killer biceps and amazing obliques and completely flat abs and even her big mouth in the spotlight. She's even discussed children and pregnancy and adoption public. Still, the decision about when and how to have a baby is very personal and also private.
I don't think we can help having opinions when this kind of information is revealed publicly. But I do think that one woman's decisions and issues about how or how not to use her body to procreate shouldn't speak to or for all women, just her.
Maybe it's that Jillian Michaels said something many, if not all, of us have thought and that's part of the reason it is so touchy. I was certainly scared that growing a human in my womb would stretch my skin and kill my sex life and annihilate my breasts and make my belly even poochier. My fear -- and eventually the reality of how it did radically change my body -- wasn't enough to stop me from getting pregnant. That was me. My issues. My decision.
Maybe it's also that Jillian Michaels said something we're not allowed to say out loud. Even if many, if not all, of us have thought, "I've worked really hard for this body and I want it to stay mine alone," we'd probably never dream of speaking the words to our best friends or moms at the park.
And maybe none of it is true anyway. Maybe Jillian Michaels has a body or issues from her childhood or whatever that make being pregnant a physical or emotional impossibility for her. No matter. That's all her. Her stuff. Her choice.
What we can focus on are our visceral reactions to what women in the spotlight say about their bodies and being healthy and even having babies. We can use the opportunity, not to bash what they choose, but to ask ourselves why it's so touchy to say (or imply) you'd rather have a flat belly than invite a fetus inside you.
To get there, to get to the real conversation, we have to first take the radical step of saying that a woman's choice to get pregnant or not isn't about us. It's only about her. Even if she is Jillian Michaels.
- Jillian Michaels busts women's biggest exercise and diet excuses
- 5 things I learned from Jillian Michaels
- How did you handle being a pregnant bride?
- Is it time to stop hating your belly -- for good?
[photo credit: Mark Sullivan/Wired Images]