Biggest Loser’s Jillian Michaels Misses the Mark

Jillian Michaels | The Paleo Diet

Many Paleo Dieters recognize the name, Jillian Michaels, who is best known as a personal athletic trainer on NBC’s reality television show, The Biggest Loser. She recently commented upon The Paleo Diet on a video “Paleo Diet Daily Dose with Jillian Michaels | Everyday Health” trending on YouTube.

Because of Jillian’s national notoriety and widespread recognition as a personal trainer, she certainly can influence the way people think about weight loss, healthy eating and exercise.

Nevertheless, her characterization of The Paleo Diet as a “fad diet” shows her naiveté and nearly complete lack of understanding of this lifelong way of eating to maximize health and wellbeing.

The video begins with a woman asking Jillian what she thinks about The Paleo Diet and Paleo lifestyles. From the get go, it is obvious Jillian has little or no familiarity with Paleo Diets and immediately replies, “OK, can I presume then that you are in CrossFit, if you ask me that question?”

The woman responds that she is indeed interested in CrossFit, however Jillian still fails to answer the question directly or why she needs to know the woman’s background before she can answer the question.

Jillian then goes on to say that, “It’s my understanding of [Paleo] is that they don’t eat grains; they’re (sic) predominantly protein and greens. Does that sound right to you?”

The woman responds by saying, “no grains, no dairy.” Jillian says, “Right, forgot the dairy, forgive me.”

This initial interchange is revealing in that Jillian relies upon the questioner to determine just what exactly comprises a Paleo Diet. As the interview proceeds, it become obvious that Jillian has not done her homework and knows next to nothing about the science or logic underlying this lifelong way of eating and how it can improve health and wellbeing while also being effective in promoting weight loss in the overweight and obese.

What Jillian probably doesn’t realize is that her ideas of proper nutrition are similar to The Paleo Diet recommendations. She makes the statement, “Truth of matter, eat healthy, fresh, clean food. Eat in balanced portions – don’t eat more calories a day than you burn. Avoid chemicals and fake foods. I don’t want to see you eating Twinkies, Ding Dongs and cheese balls. That is not food.”

If she would take the time to read some of the popular Paleo Diet books or more importantly the vast peer review scientific literature underlying the evolutionary logic to this way of eating, she might finally understand why “fake foods” are not good for us and why “healthy, fresh, clean foods” promote wellbeing and optimal body weight.

If The Paleo Diet is a “fad diet” as Jillian states, then it is humanity’s oldest “fad diet” having served humanity for at least 2.5 million years. Staple foods introduced during the Neolithic (5,000 to 10,000 years ago) such as grains, dairy and legumes or processed foods (refined sugars, grains, vegetable oils, salt and feedlot meats) introduced during the Industrial and Technological eras comprise humanity’s real “fad diets.”

Our species has had little or no evolutionary experience with the foods (refined sugars, grains, vegetable oils and dairy) that now comprise 70 % of the calories in the typical western diet. By replacing these foods with fresh fruits, vegetables, grass produced meats (if possible), poultry, fish, seafood and nuts, we restore the food types which conditioned our present day genome through eons of evolutionary experience.

To Jillian, the next time you criticize the Paleo Diet, I would highly recommend that you read the key scientific papers I’ve listed in reference below.


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus


1. Cordain L, Eaton SB, Sebastian A, Mann N, Lindeberg S, Watkins BA, O’Keefe JH, Brand-Miller J. Origins and evolution of the western diet: Health implications for the 21st century. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81:341-54.

2. Cordain L, The nutritional characteristics of a contemporary diet based upon Paleolithic food groups. J Am Neutraceut Assoc 2002; 5:15-24.

3. Cordain L, (1999). Cereal grains: humanity’s double edged sword. World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics, 84: 19-73.

4. Carrera-Bastos P, Fontes Villalba M, O’Keefe JH, Lindeberg S, Cordain L. The western diet and lifestyle and diseases of civilization. Res Rep Clin Cardiol 2011; 2: 215-235.

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About Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor Emeritus

Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor EmeritusDr. Loren Cordain is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. His research emphasis over the past 20 years has focused upon the evolutionary and anthropological basis for diet, health and well being in modern humans. Dr. Cordain’s scientific publications have examined the nutritional characteristics of worldwide hunter-gatherer diets as well as the nutrient composition of wild plant and animal foods consumed by foraging humans. He is the world’s leading expert on Paleolithic diets and has lectured extensively on the Paleolithic nutrition worldwide. Dr. Cordain is the author of six popular bestselling books including The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook, The Paleo Diet, The Paleo Answer, and The Paleo Diet Cookbook, summarizing his research findings.

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“11” Comments

  1. Or maybe she’s just relying on her years of experience to know that you don’t need a “diet” plan like paleo to eat sensibly, lose weight and be healthy.

  2. When Jillian ended with , “Oatmeal is not going to kill you”…I cringed. Oatmeal, along with Popcorn, rice, rice wraps – even though I was gluten free for 10 years – these other foods, including Oatmeal – I could not stop eating ! I would have one big bowl of healthy plain oatmeal, with salt, and I would need yet another bowl. And then I felt all drunk afterwards. I dont get “drunk” on Paleo. I still don’t understand all the Science. But I “feel” the science. She is an awesome trainer, but she should do a little more research on Paleo please, for being such an “expert” in nutrition. There are many many many people of all sizes that absolutely should not be eating grains. Taking away grains could save their life / health / sanity. This whole MODERATION thing is tough to swallow. Give me one rice cake and I will eat half the pack. And I dont know why. Its not fair for nutritionists to give poison in small amounts. Its hard to describe the madness of a binge. But Paleo helps the binge not even get started. I did like when Jillian said if you are going to cut out grains, make sure you are eating alot of veggies. i do like that part, because i find paleo alot easier , and i get more full when i am vigilant on my veggies! paleo rocks. peace out.

  3. She has her own Jillian Michaels/Biggest Loser cash cow empire. She has her own line of diet products, DVDs, books, TV show, equipment, websites that can be joined for “x” amount of money, etc. She makes money off of people being fat like the rest of the companies. She knows what she does isn’t a realistic lifestyle.
    Why would she endorse Paleo, (a simple and realistic lifestyle) that can kill her “cow”?

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  5. Pingback: Biggest Loser’s Jillian Michaels Misses the Mark | Holistic Nutrition & Performance

  6. Jillian is to fitness/nutrition knowledge as Ryan Seacrest is to a music mogul. In both cases they’re just basically spokes models. No one should look for them to provide genuine insights

  7. While I respect some of Jillian’s physical training techniques, she has very little understanding, or does a very poor representation of how her clients should eat. Instead, she has become a marketing tool for many soy-based, chemically created products in the guise of supplements…I am a work in Paleo progress, and always can tell when I consume things like grains, etc…She should have simply said, “I have not done enough research into the lifestyle to answer your question beyond personal opinion.”

  8. All Of The Biggest Loser Trainers Push Low fat “Foods” And Gum Containing Aspartame Too…. How Healthy Is A Toxin?

    She Obviously Doesn’t Know Anything About The Paleo diet.

    I Haven’t Seen A Contestant From That Show That Keeps The WeIght Off Long Term.

    They Always Look Gooey A Few Years Later Or Just Plain Fat Again.

  9. I saw this a while back and was shocked that she was so anti Paleo and called it a fad diet. I think, however, what shocked me the most was her statement, “I don’t think it is good to disregard a whole food group” (or something like that). She really should do a little more research and go back on air and say she was misinformed at the first interview. Voice her concerns, if she has any, but at least she should acknowledge she wasn’t well informed during that interview.

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