You know her as the intense, in-your-face trainer and life coach from NBC’s hit TV show The Biggest Loser, but Jillian Michaels isn’t content just to be the motivating force behind the show’s winning contestants. While their success may be testament to her tough, no-excuses approach, Michaels also walks her talk with numerous other projects. When not working on the TV show, Michaels is busy with her popular Web site (jillianmichaels.com), radio show, best-selling DVDs, and New York Times best-selling books, such as her latest, Master Your Metabolism. This petite fitness powerhouse has even made a video game for the Nintendo Wii—Jillian Michaels’ Fitness Ultimatum 2009—and finds time to serve as an ambassador for the American Cancer Society.
Q: In the past, you struggled with your own weight. Was there a specific moment when you realized you had to change your lifestyle?
A: Yes, when my martial arts instructor threw me out of his studio at the age of 14 with the ultimatum that until I was ready to take my health seriously, he was “done with me.” That was my “aha” moment.
Q: Does this experience help you as a trainer?
A: My own struggles with weight make me empathetic, but not sympathetic. Sympathy is a useless emotion. It makes people feel pathetic. That is not what I am about. I am empathetic in that I understand it’s not easy, but I also know it can be done. So I push people—with no mercy—to realize their potential.
Q: What are the greatest challenges for those who are trying to lose weight?
A: For those with large amounts of weight to lose, it’s about confronting internal demons. That type of self-destructive behavior is psychologically motivated. When it comes to 10 to 30 pounds, the key is to eat clean. Increase the intensity of your training. Don’t undereat. Create no more than a 700-calorie deficit a day for women, and a 1,000-calorie deficit for men.
Q: Why is exercise an integral part of weight loss?
A: Exercise burns calories, and we all know that weight loss is an energy equation. Exercise also helps to rev metabolism by releasing fat-burning hormones, like testosterone, DHEA, and HGH, and it inhibits fat-storing hormones, like cortisol. Last, exercise helps to build and maintain lean muscle mass, which helps increase metabolic function.
Q: What type of exercise should we all be doing?
A: Circuit training four days a week. Cardio is extra credit because circuit training is very aerobic.
Q: What about diet?
A: Make sure to have a balanced macronutrient ratio—get protein, fat, and carbs in all meals, but leave carbs out of dinner if possible. The insulin from carbs can interrupt the release of HGH when you sleep. Count calories—always. Go organic whenever possible. Avoid processed foods at all costs.
Q: How do you personally stay motivated to be active and healthy?
A: I prioritize. When I think of what’s really important to me—feeling confident and energized, having a better sex life, and so on—those things are way more important to me than a bagel!