BWW EXCLUSIVE: JILLIAN MICHAELS - Hardcore Trainer Warmly Opens Up on Weight Loss, Motherhood, Accountability, Her Next 'Maximize Your Life' Tour & More!
By: BWWFitnessWorld Editor-in-Chief,
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Jillian Michaels, bestselling author, Daytime Emmy-nominated television personality, expert trainer of NBC's THE BIGGEST LOSER, entrepreneur, and one of the nation's leading health and wellness experts, has just launched her second National MAXIMIZE YOUR LIFE Tour across 28 U.S. cities and Canada. Perhaps considered one of the most inspiring people on television through her role as trainer, wellness expert, and life coach on her hit TV shows and regular TV appearances, Michaels continues to impact and change the lives of millions of people worldwide.
BWWFitnessWorld caught up with Jillian, who was preparing for her third stop on her latest tour. Contrary to her aggressive, hardcore attitude that she's known for on THE BIGGEST LOSER, Michaels is very humble, generous, and open about her personal life, values, motherhood, weight loss secrets, and the tools of success.
Congratulations! You just launched your second National Tour which includes 28 cities in approximately 2 months, similar to your first tour. You have inspired millions of people worldwide. What do you hope to accomplish by this next tour and can you tell us a little about what people can expect when they come to your show?
We engage in deeper conversation on this tour. It's still the same show, but the goal is to finish touring the rest of America. When I look at the people I've worked with, and I look at myself for that matter and the transformations I've been able to make personally, professionally and physically in my own life, I realize that people can accomplish anything if they determine their goals are worth it, that THEY are worth it, and that they're capable.
That's really what I aim to do during the show is help people cultivate their passion, which quite honestly so many people are living the lives they think they should instead of the lives they want, and they've gotten very out of touch with that. Then I work on the origin of their negative attitude or self-defeating behavior and root that out and transform them into positive attitudes. There's a very how-to aspect of doing that so that we can dramatically enhance self-worth, self-esteem, transform someone's identity or story of who they think they are and then give them the tools so they subsequently feel empowered and capable of achieving the goals they set for themselves.
Many people will be inspired by your show to change their lives. But typically (and unfortunately), people seek quick fixes. How can they keep that motivation alive in their everyday life?
That's the first thing that we talk about when it comes to the how-to of becoming capable. "How do you stay motivated" is always the question I get, and the reality is that it's not something that's going to come outside of you, although something external can catapult a change. The reality is that the lasting and permanent change has to be intrinsic. And the bigger question is, why have you come to me seeking motivation? What is it that you want to be motivated to accomplish? What does it look like in your life in great detail? Don't tell me "house, money and love." Give me DETAILS. What does it look like in your life? What is health? Is it a two-piece bathing suit? Is it bouncing your great-grandchildren on your knee at 90? What is it? And when you really help people cultivate that and connect with their personal lie, then they can tolerate any "how," and the "how" is the war in achieving anything worth having.
You talk about attacking inhibitions and unleashing your potential to pursue dreams and make them realities. What would you say is the #1 impediment that stops women (or men) from reaching their goals?
YES (sighs). Without fail it's ALWAYS a lack of self-worth - Which is why people say, "It's MONEY!" Well, eating less is free (give me a break!). "It's TIME!" Well, I BET you have time to watch your favorite television show. Those are always self-defense mechanisms and excuses to cover up that bigger issue of feeling worth it and feeling capable. And that's ALWAYS what people who struggle in these areas have to contend with.
What was your own personal biggest obstacle that you had to overcome to get to where you are now?
I was very lucky that a a young age, I had a few key people come into my life to tell me that I was worth it and give me the tools so that when I did take those chances and go out on a skinny branch, I was set up to succeed. Even when I failed, I knew how to handle that in the most productive way. So, I guess it would be as of late.
We always struggle with our true worth. We think, "Ok, if I'm able to meet everybody's needs, then I have value." There's no doubt that it's been very hard for me to go back to the basics of just getting my time as opposed to big promises or bailing people out of situations financially. That definitely became a part of my persona over the last 10 years -- "I'm a big shot, I can bail you out of a situation" -- and I learned very recently through a trip to India that it's not about writing a check or bailing somebody out or calling somebody in a higher position. It's about just showing up and just listening and just being there. And that was the hardest thing for me, because doing that job... there's nothing you can do. You don't get to fulfill your ego's needs for the day, you don't get to feel powerful; you feel helpless, and you feel empathy for the other person. That's been an ongoing struggle for me. It was something I thought I had mastered until very recently.
Is there one specific thing you can pinpoint or blame with regard to the growing rate of childhood obesity, increased lack of self-worth, and even the recent (alarming) rate of teen suicide?
(Sighs.) That's a very interesting question and I get asked that in very specific ways. The other day I did an interview for an African-American outlet, and they said that black people suffer the most from diabetes, so there's always something. They think their particular group is struggling the most or there's one particular thing you can point out for each and every individual, but the reality is that EVERYONE struggles.
If I can make one differentiation, I would say we struggle most in America because we have become a perfect storm here, in that we are ALL struggling... Economically we're struggling, and because of that people do what they think they should instead of what they really want, and they find that the only way to reward themselves that's affordable with regard to time and finances, is crap food. And so, there's a lot of things that need changed.
Obviously, we want the economy to be better and we want food policy to be different so that healthier food is more affordable instead of the opposite. But while we can't sit here and point out all the ways that BIG government and BIG religion and BIG business could help us and could save us, at the end of the day, even if ALL those changes were made, it still comes down to personal accountability. We can't sit here and wait for somebody to fix us. So, ultimately, that decision has to come from inside of us and we've got to be motivated to do things differently and find a way despite the things we struggle with.
What do you think of fad or extreme diets like cleanses, grapefruit diets, Paleo, and others, and what is your rule for healthy eating?
That's so funny... we get that out of the way in the first half of the show. I have 3 rules: Eat less, use common sense, and try to avoid chemicals in your foods whenever possible... Move your ass more. That's it. The rest of it, while it might help you lose weight in the moment, it's not maintainable. So, it's quite possible that you will take it off, then put it back on and then some. Or, you'll just be so miserable that you'll quit.
So, if you want to be vegan, then by all means. If you want to be Paleo, then go with that. But it's totally unnecessary to live in such a strict fashion. I don't, and I'm perfectly healthy. I've taken the weight off of thousands and thousands of people, and they're allowed to eat meats, fats, carbs. The one thing I do avoid whenever possible is chemicals because your body cannot process things like bleach, hormones, dairy, antibiotics, artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, all that crap. That's what I'd like to see removed from our foods. But other than that, it's about balance.
So is balance the secret to weight loss, or what is it? And while I'm at it... what's the secret to success? Are they connected?
The secret to weight loss is counting calories, and with counting calories, you're able to understand HOW to balance. What I tell people is to make 80% of your food the healthier choice and make 20% treat food. And I do that EVERY single day.
The secret to success is to BEGIN with information. Getting informed. While we do need to take ACTION, action with MIS-information is extremely destructive. If you opened a business without doing all your homework, more than likely the worst case scenario will occur. So, you want to get heavily, deeply, soberly informed on anything you're about to embark on BEFORE you take a step forward, BEFORE you take action. Make sure you've looked at all the different ways to skin this particular cat and move toward the one that has been evidenced to work with your personality. Then you are set up to succeed in many ways.
That said, the same rule applies to weight loss. There are different ways to skin a cat, there are different diets that will work, all of which predominantly comes down to cutting calories; so pick the one that works best with your personality.
Moving toward exercise, what is the biggest mistake people make at the gym, and what's your general philosophy on working out?
Fitness is a bit more of a Science and something I've spent YEARS studying and developing. With that said, if there is one rule of many that I would throw out there, it's intensity level. I see most people on the elliptical, reading a magazine, texting on their phone. The key is intensity, and I'd say work at 85% of your maximum heart rate. Take anything you like - whether it's dance, yoga, body strength classes, bootcamp classes - pick something you like that is predominantly bodyweight based, and make sure you're working at an intensity with enough speed, and enough power, and enough strength, and enough resistance that you get that heart rate to 85% of your MHR.
With your exhausting tour schedule, do you find it more difficult to squeeze in exercise while traveling? How do you do it and what tips do you have for travelers to keep in shape?
There's a new thing that I love called fitfusion.com, and I've been working a lot with these guys. It's very cool. It has 60+ hours of workout videos on there - yoga, pilates, zumba, all my titles, CrossFit - and it's On Demand. So it's on your computer, it's on your ipad, it's on your iphone, you can put it on your tv... so anytime, any place, anywhere, you have access to the workout of your choice. That has been really helpful to me on the road. It's something I highly recommend and it's only about $6 a month.
Do you think it's important to constantly change up your workout so that you don't plateau?
Without a doubt. We recently developed the BODYSHRED program, which we launched last year is is now going into 8 leisure markets in America this year, across Canada and coast to coast in a gym called "GoodLife." What we do is we give the trainers the philosophies and methodologies, but we've created an exercise index of 250 different exercises so that the class is always changing and people are always being challenged.
How do you find the balance with the demands of motherhood, your tour and busy career, and finding time to workout and eat healthy?
For me personally, I believe it requires an attitude shift, because while I don't do anything perfectly, you have to definitely give up the concept of "perfect" and just think about the idea of "progress." When you approach something with that attitude, like "Hey look, if I win more than I lose and I'm happy more than I'm fat" and you give up the idea of not being perfect, it frees you up and you feel less pressure. Subsequently, you also embrace the idea to just be the best mom, or the best partner, or the best coworker, or the best neighbor... you have to be YOUR best self.
It's not to say that you put your kids second, but I want to make a point that it can't be all or nothing. It can't be black or white. You do have to allot a certain amount of your time to your personal health and your personal wellness, and to your kids' personal health and your kids' wellness, to your relationships and to your job. As I said, you'll make mistakes; but if you're putting action and intention into the world, it gets better.
What do you consider your biggest personal accomplishment?
Oh wow, let's see. Honestly, I would say being a mom. I mean, I don't do it perfectly and I'm not the best mom in the world by any means, but it's been very confrontational on many levels. It really makes you look at yourself and all the ways that you are less than perfect, and it without a doubt makes you be a better person. While I don't do it perfectly, I feel like I try every day. I get up and I try to be better every day, I try to improve myself for my kids every day, so that's something that I'm proud of.
Will you be back with the next season of the Biggest Loser?
I do have one more season on my contract, and then we'll see where it goes from there.
Thank you so much for talking with me today. You are an absolute inspiration and role model to so many people who are struggling worldwide. Your passion is infectious and I look forward to seeing your show.
By: BWWFitnessWorld.com Editor-in-Chief, Christina Mancuso
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Jillian Michaels, America's leading authority in health, wellness and fitness, brings her critically acclaimed motivational live tour "Maximize Your Life" to a city near you. For more information about the tour, visit www.jillianmichaelslive.com, or check out her website at: http://www.jillianmichaels.com/fit/