Jillian Michaels is having a big year. She’s twenty years into a career that has transformed her from an overweight, bullied teenager into one of the most recognized health and fitness gurus in America — and she’s still going strong. Not only has she turned her name into a name brand with DVDs, books, health supplements, fitness gear, podcasts, and a slew of other products aimed at improving people’s health, but she does all this with passion and a genuine desire to change the lives of her clients and fans.
Her tale of finding the inner strength to overcome being treated like a “loser and token fat kid” when she started martial arts classes gives her a been-there-done-that credibility and the deep desire to influence others to the same epiphany of self-worth. We’re used to her, er, motivating persona on The Biggest Loser – which she just returned to after a two-season hiatus to coach winner Danni Allen – but what’s up with her newly revealed “softer approach” she credits to welcoming two children with partner Heidi Rhoades last year?
Jillian unleashed a whole new gang of toddler-toting fans when she opened up to Fitness Magazine in March, admitting, “in my previous life, I could enjoy a long workout, go see a movie, order in. Now at the end of the day, I come home, and I’m like, OK, let me bathe you, change you, feed you, read you books, put you to bed – wait, how am I supposed to do all this? Son of a bitch, this is hard!” About finding the additional time to work out, she agreed that people could rub her nose in the strict attitude of yesteryear permanently frozen in her past opinions. “I used to say, ‘if you’re going to exercise, do it 100 percent.’ Now if I’ve got to answer e-mails while I work out on the StairMaster, well, then that’s what it is.”
Darby Brender, creator and owner of Fusion Fitness, and I spoke with her about her upcoming tour Maximize Your Life (hitting KC May 12th), her new book Slim For Life: My Insider Secrets to Simple, Fast, and Lasting Weight Loss, and why motherhood loosened the reigns she used to hold so tight.
Each season of The Biggest Loser, you embark on these vast emotional and grueling journeys with contestants. When you’re expected to be an endless fountain of energy for everyone else (while still tending to yourself), how do you keep from being completely drained?
You know it is tiring and tough in the beginning. It’s like I’m this little Mini Cooper trying to jump start a Mack truck with a dead battery. But it doesn’t take long until we get their engine running and from that point we both start feeding off of their successes. To watch them say ‘I am ready to take responsibility’ and know that they are truly hearing me – that’s what keeps me going – driving towards that end result.
Your ‘cut-the-crap’ motto has been referred to as overly intense and even brutal, but the success of the Jillian Michaels name is obvious: people really like you. What do you think it is about you that pulls out the strength in people to push beyond their perceived limits?
I know how to reach people because I was somebody who lived beneath and below my potential and capability. I know what it felt like to finally grasp the concept of ‘no other individual on this planet is more capable than me.’ When you see people finally get it and have that life-building moment – that’s when it starts and that’s my high. We feed off of each other.
With all the platforms you’re successfully balancing on – television, DVDs, books, etc. – what’s your favorite way to reach people?
I love the direct connection I get when I see someone has finally understood me. It’s the tears streaming down their faces when they’ve reached a goal, the huge smile — that’s what drives me to keep going — the personal connections. It’s so emotional and exciting on Biggest Loser when we’re seeing the results in front of a live audience. I love it.
Focusing on the emotional aspect of weight loss is something we have seen from you on Biggest Loser, and it’s now a huge part of your current projects. The mental struggle is sometimes worse than the physical requirements of losing weight – what do you say to contestants on their way home – how do you help them evolve from the supported and regimented camp mentality to surviving with their new healthy habits in ‘real life’? Our Weight Loss Boot Camp clients at Fusion face the same challenges after their twelve weeks of reinforcing one another.
Psychological training has always been a part of my connection with clients. You’ve got to find out the relational process: ‘why do I overeat?’ ‘why do I comfort myself with food?’ We need to find where and why you struggle and make a game plan. Figure out what else we can do besides turn to food. I’ve always been about the bigger picture — you’re not necessarily just building a better body – you’re building a better life. It’s very important to engage a game plan before the end of camp to be prepared to deal with triggers, temptations and old habits.
Our society is constantly bombarded with get-slim-quick schemes to lose weight without the work, but you’re right, it’s as much a mental battle as a physical one. How does Slim For Life address this for readers?
There is so much misinformation out there. From people thinking ‘if I fast or eliminate an entire food group I’ll get thin quick’ or people without Celiac disease going, ‘if I don’t eat gluten I’ll be skinny.’ It’s all such nonsense and this book really clears everything up. I give realistic steps for people to take within their reach and help readers create their game plan for being healthy whatever their stage in life.
With your busy schedule filled with a crazy successful career and two kids, you model your ‘no excuses’ mentality of finding time to make health a priority. In Slim For Life you get right to it, telling us to “accept your state of affairs, get out of denial, take responsibility, and choose to make a change” while standing naked in front of the mirror. You lay out the facts and then let readers tailor your point-based tips to their own lives – was this approach inspired by your new identity as a mom to Lukensia and Phoenix?
Becoming a mother opened my eyes that my hopes of people cooking every meal at home, buying all foods organic, and fitting in a high-intensity workout everyday just aren’t it sometimes. It’s all dependent on your level of commitment – I can take off two pounds or ten in a week – whatever pace you’re wanting to work at. It’s an approachable, affordable, and realistic guide for everyone. From the chapter ‘Staying Motivated’: “Although I’ve tried to make it as uncomplicated and stress-free as possible for you, ultimately there’ll be some sacrifice involved. Sacrifice is a part of being a grown-up, isn’t it?”
We can’t wait to attend Maximize Your Life coming to Kansas City on May 12th. You show such commitment to bringing people these life-changing moments where it finally clicks and they begin their journey towards happiness, both physically and mentally. What does it start with?
You know, taking responsibility, realizing your potential, gaining mental strength and physical strength – these all family together. Once people realize there’s no difference between them and someone else who has already achieved their dreams, and they sit back and go, ‘I am deserving.’ ‘Why not me?’ That’s the beginning to it all.
Don’t Drink Your Calories
Most caloric drinks are loaded with sugar and send your insulin levels skyrocketing…and don’t have fiber to help you feel full. Adding insult to injury, you’re still going to feel hungry.
Follow the 80/20 Rule
Eat great food for eighty percent of your daily calorie allowance and make twenty percent of it treat foods. Willpower will take us only so far, and when we deprive ourselves of the things we really like to eat, the desire for what we can’t have can ultimately, in a weak moment, lead to a binge.
Baby-Step Your Way to Fewer Calories
Consistent, daily calorie cutbacks are a positive and effective way to baby-step yourself into even bigger calorie savings over the long term. Save 100 calories per day (1 can of soda, 1.1 ounces of french fries) to remove 10-12 unwanted pounds in a year.
Clear Out the Kitchen Cabinets
Remove the junk. You can’t eat what’s not there.
Push it Good
You need to learn to HIIT it right. High-Intensity Interval Training – alternating periods of short, intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods – is the game changer when it comes to calorie burn and fat utilization. Your body will burn far more calories long after the workout is over.
Clients at Fusion may remember our last post, HIIT It Hard, focusing on the why behind our intense style of training. Like Jillian, we know the most effective way to burn cals and build muscle, plus get the most bang for your buck, is found in interval training. “If you look at the science behind it,” she says, “with the initial work out and EPOC, it ignites your metabolic furnace and gives you the quickest results possible.” For full class descriptions and schedule at Fusion, check us out here.