Jillian Michaels spent five days in Springfield, Tennessee with the Vivio family. The family members are all over six feet tall and made petite Jillian look like a self-described leprechaun. Mark and Laverne have four children, two living with them. The youngest Elijah had a weight issue just like his parents, plus a problem with being bullied in school.
Jillian took the family out to their backyard for the first workout. They live in the country so she used wheelbarrows, tractors, and tires as exercise equipment. Mark has had 13 heart procedures due to his health so he had to have a modified work out consisting of brisk walking. Jillian said anyone can get healthy regardless of their health obstacles; you just have to work around them.
Jillian noticed Elijah was having trouble so she took him aside to talk. He shared with her his feelings of failure, he didn't feel he could do anything right. He was getting picked on at school and felt he disappointed his dad because he's not good at football — something Mark and the other kids have in common.
Jillian told Elijah she was bullied in school too for being overweight and how getting involved in martial arts helped her get into shape. She said she was about his age when things changed for her. She went to school with Elijah to talk to his leadership class about not accepting any kind of abuse. She had them all tell her something they felt was good about themselves. Jillian made sure they understood feeling proud of themselves isn't the same as saying they are better than anyone else. She said it was important for them to like themselves and not accept abusive behavior from others.
I was impressed with Jillian's candor about her own childhood difficulties to help this young boy. You could tell she still feels twinges of pain when talking about being picked on as a fat kid. It's this empathy that I believe helped her to reach Elijah and enabled him to find the courage to believe in himself. It's Jillian's willingness to risk being vulnerable in order to help others that I think makes her special. Recently she allowed a magazine to publish photos of her when she was fat. Those photos are going to help motivate many people. She has — and continues to — show it can be done because she has done it.
I love how Jillian initially used whatever was around as exercise equipment. She was showing that you don't have to go to a gym for a workout. However, later they were at a gym using the equipment. It would be great to see an entire episode of a family only using things around them and still reaching their weight loss goals. Not everyone who needs help with their weight can afford a gym. I'm probably going to sound like a broken record throughout this series talking about money and working out. I do this because the fattest segment of our population is poor. Fatty foods are cheaper and gym memberships are too expensive. I love this show for focusing on the average person, but it still requires money for people to get the best benefits. NBC does have recipes and tips on their official site; some from Jillian. But people are watching this show for Jillian, so she gets major kudos for effort but some disappointment in follow through. I will add that her program cost less than most and this is where she gets the money to give the families at the end of each episode. Paying it forward is a generous thing to do.
While working with this family, Jillian discovered that Mark was known for telling his family to "suck it up." He felt showing emotion was a weakness. Jillian talked to him about how this attitude was destroying his son and encouraged him to talk to Elijah one -on-one. It made all the difference, Elijah found out his father was proud of him even though he wasn't an athlete. Viewers witnessed a stronger bond form between them as the discussion came to a close.
At the end of the week, Jillian had the family set goals. Elijah said he wanted to get closer with his dad. Jillian doesn't have kids set weight loss goals, she wants them to make healthy changes in lifestyle. Laverne said she would lose 30 pounds. Mark said 30 but Jillian took the number up to 50 pounds. Mark also said he would stop telling his family to "suck it up."
Before Jillian left she had the family work on a bridge they had built before Mark got sick. They seemed to look at it as a symbol of all the bad things that happened. When the bridge fell Mark was hurt, and the doctors found his heart problems. Jillian chose to put a positive spin on it. She told them if all those things hadn't happened, Mark could be dead now because they wouldn't have known about his heart condition. So Jillian wanted them to rebuild the bridge. It's rather symbolic of the rebuilding of the family after their "fall." Jillian told them she wanted it complete when she returned in eight weeks.
Eight weeks later, the family walked across the bridge one at a time to greet Jillian. Elijah lost 50 pounds and gained a lot of confidence. Laverne looked wonderful with a 31 pound weight loss. Mark had been cleared for exercise by his doctor and lost 56 pounds. The family also connected emotionally, Mark no longer tells them to "suck it up." To help the family, Jillian's site gave them $50,000.00. The money will help, but it's the time they spent with Jillian that will benefit this family the most.
Losing It With Jillian airs on NBC Tuesdays 8pm EDT.