When Jillian Michaels rolls into Concord for her Maximize Your Life tour on March 22, she’ll have her whole crew with her — including her partner Heidi and their two kids, Lukensia, 3, and Phoenix, 21 months. “They’re in the other room right now singing ‘Let It Go’ [from Disney’s Frozen],” Michaels said from a hotel room in Colorado March 10, the day before her tour kicked off. “They love [touring]. We all sleep on the bus. It’s a friggin slumber party every night!”
Michaels talked to the Hippo about the tour, The Biggest Loser, and how she’s maximizing her own life.
You’re everywhere — on TV and radio shows, on DVDs, in magazines, and now you’re back on the road for your second Maximize Your Life tour. How is seeing you live on stage different than watching you on The Biggest Loser, reading one of your books or following you on Facebook?
It gives me a direct connection with the audience. ... I built in a Q&A and I can craft my answer so it is applied to the whole audience. [The live show is] the most fulfilling and rewarding, and the most effective way [to reach people].
You started on The Biggest Loser when you were 30, and you just turned 40 in February. Personally and professionally, it would seem you’ve had quite a decade. Would you say that you’ve been maximizing your own life?
Without a doubt, and a big part of the show consists of anecdotes from my life. Somebody might feel down and out — I’ve been there. I was an overweight kid, I was in a dysfunctional relationship — several of them — I’ve had [bad jobs], I’ve been unemployed. I am not special. There is nothing unique or gifted about me. I got the knowledge to turn these things around at a young age [and I] take that information and help people. … If we were to look at a contestant, [take Biggest Loser Season 14 winner] Danni Allen. This is a girl who has opened her own yoga studio, is in love and has maintained her weight loss. That’s what you don’t get to see on Biggest Loser. [Weight loss support] is one tool of many that we use to empower [the contestants].
You emphasize healthy practices like eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep and even taking vacations. Are there any areas that you’re still trying to improve?
I do them all. I just got back from India, and I sleep seven hours a night. The reality is, you have to give up the idea of perfection … [and appreciate] that you’re not going to be the perfect employee, the perfect mom, the perfect partner. … If you’re happy more than you’re sad, that to me is success.
I read once that you hate running but do it anyway because it’s effective. Is that true, and do you think living life to your greatest potential means that sometimes you have to do things you really don’t want to do?
It is [true]! I hate it, I’m not built for it. My body is not built for running and I go 3 miles and I wish I was dead, but it’s the easiest thing to do when you’re on the road. It’s simple; it’s free. [You have to think about] the ‘why,’ how I’m gonna feel when it’s over. I just push through it. You need to think about why you’re engaging in a behavior that’s less pleasurable, and the reason is, I want to feel good in my skinny jeans, I want to be here for my kids. … If you have the ‘why’ that you live for, you can tolerate it.
Many people thought last season’s Biggest Loser winner Rachel Fredrickson lost too much weight, and you’ve said publicly that you agree. What do you do, as a trainer, to help people find balance, rather than going from one extreme of overeating to the other?
Dolvett [Quince] was Rachel’s trainer. I’ve never had a contestant go too far, ever. It’s not about winning. It’s about changing your life. … I think [Rachel’s] goal with Dolvett was to win. Nobody ever really stopped to go, ‘Why did you get here in the first place?’ … Utilizing a relationship with food as a coping mechanism ... they’re flip sides of the same coin. Rachel’s issues did not get resolved, clearly.
Do you ever feel like this whole health and wellness empire that you’ve created puts too much pressure on you to be perfect?
I don’t think that a person in the public eye has the right to complain about pressure, haters or otherwise. While, yeah, it’s not always easy, it’s the life you asked for, and it comes with a tremendous amount of benefits as well as struggles. … It comes with the territory.
When you first became a mom, you were very open about saying that parenting is more difficult than you expected. With almost two years of parenting under your belt now, has it gotten any easier?
Yeah, it has. It required an attitude shift. I think I expected I would be the perfect mom. ... I thought my love for my children would override [any difficulties]. … What I try to do with my kids is when I make a mistake, I’m transparent. My daughter’s almost 4. … [I’ll say] ‘I’m sorry I snapped at you, Lu, it’s been a crazy day, will you forgive me?’ … Kids don’t want you to live for them. I try to role model for my daughter, being happy and living my own life, which is something my own mom did … and I never thought any less of her. Once I sort of wrapped my head around the fact that I’m not going to be perfect, that’s when it became a lot easier.
Your tour wraps up in May. What’s next for you?
Professionally, we are launching an athletic apparel line with Kmart, we’re working on a healthy snack and grab-and-go meal deal with Walgreens … and we’ll continue to put out DVDs and books, etc. On a personal level I will focus on my family and spending time with my kids. [Beyond that] what I would like to do moving forward that’s different is to create more volunteer time. [I’ve been writing checks and thinking I was doing my part], but that’s a cop-out. — Meghan Siegler
As seen in the March 13, 2014 issue of the Hippo.