Jillian Michaels on the Reality Behind The Biggest Loser and Overcoming Childhood Obesity
Photo by Don Flood
Jillian Michaels is this generation's Jack LaLanne. She's a fitness guru, a wellness coach, an author, a charity spokeswoman, and one
terrifying motivating presence in the gym. For 11 years, her presence on the Biggest Loser has inspired countless overweight Americans to get off their asses and transform their bodies and themselves in the process.
And after she was much-missed on a season away from the show, Michaels returned to The Biggest Loser this year, whipping people into shape and inspiring the masses. Now, with another season under her belt, Michaels has embarked upon a new endeavor -- one designed to take the transformation past the physical and help people across America make changes from the inside out. Her "Maximize Your Life" tour hits Miami's Knight Center on April 20.
We spoke to Michaels about childhood obesity, overcoming your demons, and why juice cleanses are a no-no.
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Cultist: So Maximize Your Life is all about creating the total package as a person. What can people expect to take away from the show?
Jillian Michaels: Of course I'm going to teach people the science behind optimizing their metabolism and maximizing their workouts so they get a great transformation with their physicality, whether it's for losing that last ten or 30 or losing 100 pounds. That's a given, simply because I'm known for it and I would never want anybody to come to the show and feel like they didn't get what they signed up for.
But that first part of the show isn't the crux of what it's actually about. I can teach you very quickly the answer to those problems. If you can add and subtract, I can impart that info in about ten minutes. The real question you have to ask yourself is, why have so many people not engaged in these behaviors? Whether it's finding a job they love or finding a relationship or partner or creating a healthier physical self. That's the bigger question -- that's the crux of everyone's destructive behaviors.
What I want them to walk away with is the wisdom about what makes them tick, the why and how. I will give them the tools to attack their inhibitions, to achieve their goals and dreams. They're going to have that "Aha!" moment when they truly realize they're as deserving as any high achiever. All that they're lacking is the proper info and skill set, and that's what I'm going to give them. That's what happens behind the scenes at the Biggest Loser, but it's such a shame you never see it. Danni lost 121 pounds in 12 months, and she was on the Today Show talking to Savannah, and she said, "I've learned to dream again." Why not me? -- that's why I want every member of the audience walking out of that show feeling and thinking.
I think confidence issues are at the heart of a lot of people's struggles. What do you say to people who lack in confidence or self-worth?
First, you have to help them identify: What's your story? What is this self-worth issue you have? Do you call yourself lazy? Pathetic? Weak? A victim?
[Next], where does it come from originally? How are you repeating this pattern in every situation? Once I help them go back and identify where this pattern started, they're able to see it isn't true.
I was working with a woman on a speaking engagement over the weekend, and she talks about how she keeps getting in these relationships where the person doesn't love her back. I asked her, "How long has your life gone this way?" She says, "As long as I can remember." I said, "When was the first time you remember feeling this way?" She says, "With my mother." Basically she's playing out same dynamics with her mother and hoping to finally be good enough for the unavailable person to love her. She keeps attracting her mother and thinks if she can win the person over, she'll heal the wound. But she needs to go back and look at her mother and understand that her mother was projecting her own lack of value and lack of self-worth on her. It was never about her.
You create that awareness and understanding for people. The show is very interactive. They need to ask themselves these questions and explore the deeper issues. Once they have that awareness, I'll give them tools and skill set to create a new reality. Here's how we set boundaries, here's how we build a support system, here's how you control your environment so it works for you and not against you. Subsequently they'll have these small successes that they can begin to believe in. Not just, "Gosh, I'm going to pretend to be positive." Success begins to beget success. And success boosts self-esteem, and sense of worth goes on from there.
It is intense. I promise you it will be eye-opening and confrontational, but you're going to come out of there -- in my opinion, this is what I do -- you're going to come out with a whole new perspective on yourself and who you are in the world.
Photo by Don Flood
Juicing has become a huge trend here in Miami. How do you feel about it? With everything in life, it's how and why you do it. I don't like juice cleanses because I don't want anyone to go without food. That's absurd. But a cleanse where you're eating clean and maybe incorporating dandelion and garlic to detoxify your system and probiotics -- have a blast as long as you're not doing it too fast and you're utilizing juice to supplement a healthy diet. With that said, I prefer that there's little fruit juice and more veggies. If it's fruit, I don't want to see you eat all that sugar and no fiber with the impact it's going to have on your blood sugar. If it's predominantly veggies with a little fruit juice in there for flavor, go for it.
Lack of motivation is a real problem for a lot of people, particularly when it comes to healthy living. What motivates you?
Again this is a big part of the show. It's you're why. You've got to create that vision of the thing that's going to motivate you to change, because change is hard. Being successful is hard; relationships are hard. What you have to ask yourself is, why do you want these things? How is it going to impact your quality of life?
In my 20s, it was skinny jeans; in my 30s, it was my career; and now that I'm nearing 40, it's my family. I think about my son, he's going to be 11 when I'm 50 -- I want to make sure I'm the mom on the slopes next to him. I don't want to be on the sidelines of his life, and my daughter as well. This is a huge motivating force for me now.
Why did you decide to come back to the Biggest Loser?
There were many reasons. They're dealing with childhood obesity, which is something important to me. The show became one season a year instead of two, which means it's four months out of my life instead of almost ten. It allows me to go on a speaking tour, do a radio show, raise my kids, and be present, which is, of course, very important to me. We got a group of new producers who I really like and trust and think they're going in great directions with the show, which has been an issue for me in the past. I just didn't agree with the powers that be. I didn't like the direction they were going or trust them. The people in charge now I know, I trust, I value, and so it's just been a really great experience.
What do you say to people who criticize the show and say it's unrealistic?
It isn't realistic, without a doubt. But I think we've been really good at showing that and telling you that if this person can lose 121 pounds in four months, then you can lose 30. The point of the show is to show you the resiliency of the human spirit and the human body and illustrate for you what's possible so you can make healthy changes in your life.
When it's a legit critique of the show, I'll always respond, but when it's a projection of somebody's issues -- you can't please everybody all the time. My number-one answer to people is, really, if you think I'm so awful and the show's so awful, look at the end result! Look at what these people are saying, doesn't that say it all? That's just the way it is. If I had a dollar for every time someone said, "She's horrible!" But they're completely different people, so how do you not understand that there are reasons for why I'm doing what I'm doing? And by the way they always work ... how do you not get that? People are going to see what they want to see.
What's the number-one thing we can do to combat childhood obesity as a nation?
That's the first thing I would address -- that you can't deal with it as a country. It has to be something we deal with as individuals. You're not going to see that shift from government or big business. We have to be the example and be the role models. We have to educate ourselves and heal this problem within our own families.
Parents, you've to got to eat better. You've got to take the time, even when you don't have it, you've got to pull it from somewhere else. You've got to make their lunches; we've gotta limit their screen time. Even if you can't afford organic or healthy foods, if we eat less junk, we're still better off. And moving is free, for God's sake! Get outside, be more active, and your kids will too.
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