I don't know if that applies in this case. Since the family is participating in a TV reality show, it probably doesn't consider itself traditional. Cora-Lei, the woman who invited Jillian Michaels to the rez, is a tribal councilwoman. Also, the family asked for the doctor's advice, and doctors are supposed to be honest and direct.
Really? Are we supposed to believe Jillian didn't do any research on tribal health issues or practices before the show? That she's totally ignorant about frybread? I suppose that's possible. It's also possible that every scene was scripted and staged--that nothing happened spontaneously.
The frybread incident
A boy approaches with a plate of frybread, perhaps wanting more. Jillian says he's got to be kidding. She tries to grab the plate from his hands. He warns her that he'll throw the frybread at her, then does it. She brushes it off and says okay, maybe you'll live longer, kid.
I'd say Jillian got what she deserved for her rude behavior. The boy is 11 or 12 and not overweight. He's exactly the type of person who can eat frybread without worrying about it right away. What's next...snatching bottles from babies and forcing them to breast-feed?
Sure, Jillian may be concerned about his future health. But to take the frybread from a healthy person's plate? At a welcoming ceremony in her honor? I don't think so.
Interesting to note the power dynamics here. White woman moves to physically assault a Native boy. Yet it seems to work out okay.
If Jillian had snatched the frybread from a grown woman, an elder of either sex, or a girl, it might've seemed like bullying. The boy is one of the few people she could've confronted physically without looking bad. Since she's an older white woman and a celebrity, the boy wouldn't do anything too challenging in response. And since boys are supposedly rambunctious, no one would get too upset at the altercation.
Of course, Jillian and company may have staged some or all of this incident. Beforehand, she even hints that the Indians may not like what she does. Whether she staged the boy's response or not, she apparently had a good sense of how far she could go without going too far.
The diabetes lecture
Only about 20 people show up. Which conveniently gives the show more drama. How can I get through to these people? Jillian asks the camera. This is her toughest challenge yet.
The poor attendance isn't surprising. There's no evidence the tribe lacks health and nutrition information. This is a tribe located on a well-traveled freeway between Flagstaff and Phoenix with its own casino. It's not in some remote location without doctors or clinics.
What the tribe lacks is something else--perhaps motivation or willpower. But Jillian isn't asking them what they need, she's telling them. She's harangued people and disrupted their ceremony; now she's flying in an outside expert to lecture them about something they probably already know. The Indians naturally don't respond to this Great White Father (or Mother) routine.
Gee, really...ya think? The tribe won't listen to a rude outsider but may listen to a respected insider? Brilliant deduction, Sherlock!
I wonder if Jillian really hands out her phone number so people can call her at 3 am and say, "I have an uncontrollable craving for ice cream. Can you talk me out of it?" It's possible, but somehow I doubt it.
The big walk
Left unsaid is what the other people think. Jillian allows only her side of the story on camera. If others think she's rude, disrespectful, insulting, outrageous, an ugly American, a smug know-it-all, a rich white phony, etc., we don't get to hear it.
At the end of the walk, Jillian congratulates them on taking the first step. She says she's given them the "tools and information" they need, which apparently refers to her harangues and her website. As a special bonus, she'll give them free memberships in JillianMichaels.com, where they can develop personalized recipes and workout plans.
This seems ludicrously wide of the mark. How many of these Indians have computers and Internet access? How many of the older ones know how to navigate websites? Etc.
What these people seem to need is leadership and motivation, not "tools and information."
Jillian returns to check on the family's progress. Lo and behold, they've lost an average of 33 pounds each. Not bad for a six-week effort. Jillian finally gives them something real. She says local trainers have developed a five-week program and she'll help fund it.
Some key questions go unanswered. Does tribe still serve frybread at events? Did it continue the walking program? Has anyone other than the Plunkett-Marquez family committed to losing weight? A year from now, will the family members have gained the weight back, or will they continue to diet and exercise?
Despite my criticism, Jillian's "tough love" approach may be the only one that'll work. These people know they're overweight. They know frybread is bad for them. They know they're susceptible to diabetes and heart disease. They know they need to diet and exercise.
It seems they're in denial, which is probably true of a lot of overweight Americans. If a kinder, gentler approach hasn't worked, maybe they need someone yelling at them to their faces. As I'm sure Jillian would agree, they can blame the messenger all they want, but it's the message that counts. Even if it means being unpopular, someone has to set them straight.
For more on Losing It with Jillian, see How Jillian Came to the Rez and Jillian Stirs Frybread Furor.