James Fell’s to-the-point, no-sugar-coating take on health and fitness has garnered him a steady following, but what really gained him notoriety was his 2010 Los Angeles Times column citing The Biggest Loser’s trainer Jillian Michaels as a fraud.
With the help of experts in the fitness industry, Fell, BA’93, MA’96, MBA’99, challenged Michaels’ experience as a trainer. Through a review of her fitness DVD about kettlebell exercises, Fell argued she demonstrated incorrect methods of exercise and promised results that were impossible in the suggested time frame. Michaels threatened to sue, and Fell was written about around the world and landed on the pages of People and US magazine.
For Fell, challenging Michaels was about helping people love exercise and not see it as a quick fix like some celebrity trainers and authors would have you believe. This passion for honest, to-the-point, no-holds-barred, fitness consulting came from first discovering his own love of exercise. The discovery wasn’t easy; it took a vacation and meeting the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.
After finishing his first degree he took a trip to British Columbia. The trip photos revealed that his time spent at the Den, the popular Students’ Union-run pub, had added up to more than just the usual Freshman 15 extra pounds.
“I remember thinking ‘oh man, I’m unhealthy,’ ” says Fell. “I had met a wonderful, intelligent and beautiful woman and I wanted to propose, but I thought it would be a good idea to get in shape first.”
While working his way through a master’s in history, followed by an MBA, he hit the gym with enthusiasm, cleaned up his diet and lost 50 pounds of fat and gained 20 pounds of muscle. He also proposed to—and married—the girl of his dreams.
It was after the MBA that Fell began to pursue his other passion, writing. It was during his master’s, under then thesis advisor Chris Archer, that he discovered how much he enjoyed writing.
“I owe so much to him,” says Fell. His red ink was vicious and it made me grow as a writer, made me want to be better.”
After exploring science fiction writing, putting his MBA to work as a marketing executive and working as the Faculty of Kinesiology’s director of marketing, inspiration struck. He was passionate about fitness and writing so why not combine the two? He started writing part-time, landing columns in the Los Angeles Times, Chatelaine.com and AskMen.com.
These days Fell focuses solely on his fitness consulting services in which he teaches people to love exercise and eat healthy. His ”In-Your-Face Fitness” column for the Los Angeles Times, is also carried by the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sun and other Tribune family papers. Now with close to 300 published articles to his name, and recognition as an expert in the realm of health and fitness, Fell is working on a book he hopes will hit the New York Times bestsellers list.
“It’s not just about book sales, or vanity and wanting to look good,” says Fell. “It’s something I love to do, and passion, like life, is everything.”