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An open letter to Jillian Michaels

October 12, 2009

Dear Ms. Michaels,

I was surprised to receive your tweet the other day, to say the least (see end of letter for Jillian Michaels tweet). I was surprised and delighted. Thank you. I want to say here that I feel that it was a tremendously stand up thing for you to respond to my tweets with a clear statement of support of your product. It would have been much easier to ignore me and hope that I went away. This to me is the number one sign that you really believe in your product. You are willing to argue for it, with people that you don’t have to, in a public forum.

Thank you for giving me the peace of mind that when I watch the Biggest Loser, I am looking at people with integrity (not that you had to, nor probably that you cared, but still it does matter to this fan). I always thought that the people on the show had the highest integrity, as integrity is a hard thing to fake, but it is nice to know. Since your response, I have seen your twitter feed and I have to say that I think it is awesome how your interact with your fans. No wonder so many of them came to your defense. You have a very loyal fanbase, with good reason.

With that said, I will add a disclaimer to the blog entry “Say it ain’t so Jill…” that I have written that wonders whether it is a lack of integrity or a different set of beliefs that has led you to develop your Triple Process Cleanse and Detox (you are welcome to add any comment to that blog post yourself), and as well, I will stop retweeting that post. I do feel compelled though to tweet about the following post, one in which I explain why I feel that Cleanses and Detoxes are not a good idea and one in which I challenge the claims of your product.

Why I need to speak out against your product so publicly is that you are tremendously influential. You have visibly helped so many people. When you sell a product you have the power to make millions of people believe it will help them, simply by the fact that you are ‘Jillian Michaels’, Celebrity Trainer. This fact does not eliminate the possibility that some of your ideas (and in turn your products) may be judged by the vast bulk of experts, doctors and scientists (and me) to be entirely without merit. There are no studies to support the claims that you make regarding your Triple Process Cleanse and Detox (you can see my response here). In fact, to quote Wikipedia, under body cleansing:

Body cleansing and detoxification have been referred to as an elaborate hoax used by con artists to cure nonexistent illnesses. Most doctors contend that the ‘toxins’ in question do not even exist.[17][18] In response, alternative medicine proponents frequently cite heavy metals or pesticides as the source of toxification, however no evidence exists that detoxification approaches have a measurable effect on these or any other chemical levels. Medical experts state that body cleansing is unnecessary as the human body is naturally capable of maintaining itself, with several organs dedicated to cleansing the blood and gut.[19] Professor Alan Boobis OBE, Toxicologist, Division of Medicine, Imperial College London states that “The body’s own detoxification systems are remarkably sophisticated and versatile. They have to be, as the natural environment that we evolved in is hostile. It is remarkable that people are prepared to risk seriously disrupting these systems with unproven ‘detox’ diets, which could well do more harm than good.”[11] Finally, while many testimonial and anecdotal accounts exist of health improvements following a “detox”, these are more likely attributable to the placebo effect; where people actually believe that they are doing something good and healthy. Yet, there is a severe lack of quantitative data. Some changes recommended in certain “detox” lifestyles are also found in mainstream medical advice (such as consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables). These changes can often produce beneficial effects in and of themselves, and it is accordingly difficult to separate these effects from those caused by the more controversial detoxification recommendations.

I believe that with the power of your public persona, created by the opportunities of the biggest loser, your very fit physique and your undeniable charisma, that making money off of a product that has at its core, claims that are not scientifically supported is wrong. I know that people will probably respond with the claim that the fact that there is no research in the marketplace regarding cleanses and detoxes isn’t your fault, but it is. The market for products like this is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Dollars which you will be earning your share of. It is incumbent upon the manufacturers of products that make claims like yours to prove the claims are true BEFORE they make them.

I make this point because it is extremely important. After all, how is the public supposed to separate you from people like Dr. Suzanne Gudakunst? At this website, you can find her claiming:

The Reason You Can’t Lose Weight has Nothing to Do With Your Will-Power, Over-Eating or the Right Diet! … The Reason You are Fat and Unhealthy is Because You Have Disgusting Plaque and Horrible Little ‘CRITTERS’ Living in Your Guts!” “…And Now I’m Going to Show You How to Get Rid of All of It so You Can Shed 10 lbs, 25 lbs, 50 lbs even 100 lbs or more – and Keep It Off FOREVER!!”

The most disturbing thing is that she is a Doctor. Apparently she is a chiropractor, and although I have contacted her regarding her credentials, I have not heard back (nor do I expect to). The thing is, Dr. Gudakunst is claiming:

Most doctors, so-called diet gurus and fitness experts are either lying to you, or just plain don’t know what they’re really talking about!” Want PROOF? That’s easy! – Just look around you as more and more diet foods, magic diets, diet fads, health foods & even drugs supposedly designed to make you lose weight become available, people are nevertheless getting FATTER and FATTER and LESS and LESS healthy!! You don’t need such-n-such medical agency or someone at CNN telling you a bunch of fluffed up statistics and misleading numbers when all you have to do is ask yourself this easy question: “Why is it that we have 21st century medicine and the greatest resources available to us on earth now more than ever, but people are just getting fatter and more and more unhealthy?”

Without research of diet products, without evidence to support the claims, how can the public choose which products to buy? If they are willing to buy any of these products it can only be because they believe the people who are selling them. I do believe that you have given millions of people not just the belief but the knowledge that they can change their life by incorporating into it exercise and a healthy diet.  They have heard and seen this on the Biggest Loser for years. Unfortunately you have leveraged this trust to sell a product that has not been shown to provide any benefit, and belongs to a category of product that is believed by most experts to be “a waste of time and money”.

As I said in my argument against the Ab Circle Pro (it can be found here), it is so much more than that to me. You see, I spent years trying to lose weight with the wrong advice, and after many failures I began to lose confidence in myself as a dedicated person. I lost self esteem and the desire to even try any longer. These feelings still have an impact on my life today. So, to me, it is never a case of time and money, but a case of the loss of belief in self that makes me so mad. Money can be replaced and time goes on regardless of what we do, but the loss of self does not come back, it destroys one’s belief in hard work and creates an environment where ridiculous claims, like the ones that Dr. Gudakunst is making, flourish.

Think about it. You were overweight once. What if your mom had taken you to a naturopath instead of taking you to dojo to learn martial arts? We can overcome many obstacles to fitness, but the one that we cannot is misinformation. No matter how hard we work, with the wrong information, we will never see positive results. I am a huge fan of your exercise books, your exercise videos and your games (I have read reviews of each of these, but I have not read/used any of them, although I would have rented your Wii game the other night if I had a foot pad thing).  As well, reading about the pain that the users experience via twitter I am quite intrigued and encouraged. I think these items will add to the global growth of actual successful and positive fitness knowledge available to us ‘unfit’ people.

I will continue to watch the Biggest Loser as I always have, enjoying the transformations that I see. All of that said, I will also retweet out my blog posting on cleanses and detoxes every time I see your ad on TV, in a magazine or on the internet.

With the Deepest Respect,

Mark Vaughan Author of “You Are Not A Fit Person

Below see the tweet from Jillian to me:

@URNotAFitPerson Read the ingredients & science behind products then comment. Cleanse is probiotics & herbs 4 liver & kidney support. No laxatives or fasting involved. Developed w/ 1 of best bariatrics doctors in the world named Arnold Astrup at Harvard.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Michelle Mason permalink
    October 12, 2009 6:37 pm

    You are doctor of ? You have a PHD in what? In other words, why are you doing this? For attention?

    just my two cents

  2. Anamaria Grabowski permalink
    October 12, 2009 8:15 pm

    You are spot regarding the hoax of detox diets, pills, teas, etc. The human body is a miracle and detoxifies on an on-going basis.
    I am a registered nurse and have assisted in colonoscopies, both routine and emergency. I have never seen plaque, critters, or any of the other things these experts claim are there. A gentle laxative is enough to clean the intestines and reveal the mucosal lining.

    If a person were “toxic” they would be hospitalized as is the case when a person is intoxicated (i.e.: drug overdose, exposure to lead, etc…)

    The “Dr.” in question is not a medical doctor, she is a chiropractor. Chiropractors are not licensed to prescribe or dispense medication and cannot perform surgeries or other routine medical procedures (including giving shots or starting I.Vs) and the use of imaging equipment varies from state to state. Remember, a person can have a PhD in metallurgy and call themselves a “Dr.”, it doesn’t mean they are medical doctors or that they have special knowledge of the human body.

    I can say, without a doubt, and with the education and experience to back it up, the “detox” industry is a lie.


  3. Chella permalink
    December 9, 2009 3:41 am

    I’ne tried the detox and I found that it did have a laxative effect on me and then the following week the opposite effect.

    I’ve tried the fat burners too and I don’t notice any difference and I don’t drink coffee and caffinated beverages of any kind so if anyone should feel the effects of a pill full of caffine its me.

    If your taking both the fat burners and calorie control in the recommended doses at the same time you are actually consuming twice the caffine recommendations of 200mg per day that Jillian recommends. Both the fat burners and calorie control contain 50mg of caffine per metacap.

    For someone who struggles with food I don’t see how calorie control pills would help because when you eat out of emotion or stress it doesn’t matter whether you feel hungry or not your still going to eat. Just my thoughts.

    Kind Regards,

    Chella 🙂


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