Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels has sparked criticism with her statement that she doesn't want biological kids because "I can't handle doing that to my body." But not all the critics have the right idea.
Michaels told Women's Health she planned to adopt because she didn't want her body to go through pregnancy and because "when you rescue something, it's like rescuing a part of yourself." Fox's Hollie McKay talked with several doctors who disagreed with Michaels's message, including Dr. Leslie Seppinni, who says, "Women [...] have children all the time and get right back in shape particularly if they exercise." But this isn't necessarily the best perspective either.
It's certainly disturbing that Michaels, who likely represents health to millions of Americans, seems to equate pregnancy with some sort of bodily injury. But the best response to this would be to acknowledge that pregnancy does change women's bodies, and that they shouldn't be under pressure to "get right back in shape" — at least not in the exact shape they were in before conceiving. This pressure — the baby-to-bikini-in-sixty-seconds ethos that now permeates tabloids — likely contributes to the kind of fear Michaels is expressing.
Of course, this fear is relatively common, and Michaels is entitled to talk about anxieties that a lot of women probably feel. As psychologist Dr. Haleh Stahl points out, she may feel these anxieties even more acutely because, "She is in a profession where she's looked up to for her body and she's an inspiration to others for losing weight and getting in shape and staying in shape." This profession, however, also means she's perfectly placed to tell women that overall health isn't about instantaneously dropping the baby weight, and that the physical changes of pregnancy aren't something to revile.
Whether Michaels wants have a baby or not is her business, but as her public profile grows, she might want to think about promoting a more holistic, less restrictive view of health. She already knows how to do this — she also told Women's Health, "I want to empower people to find happiness via a healthy lifestyle, and when I say healthy, I don't just mean diet and exercise. Those are just tools." Michaels isn't satisfied with her current fame — she's apparently gunning for Oprah's spot as queen of daytime talk when she goes off the air in 2011. If that happens, let's hope she focuses on achieving happiness — with or without a flat belly.