Jillian Michaels may be best known for her hardcore workouts and aggressive training style on The Biggest Loser, but the mom of two has a lot more to offer than lessons on "lunges, chicken, and broccoli," as she jokes. In an effort to share information, tools, and inspiration that will help people create the lives of their dreams, she's launched her "Maximize Your Life" Tour.
Jillian recently caught up with us from the road to discuss this 34-city adventure she's embarked on and offer fellow moms practical and passionate fitness pointers. Oh, but not before sharing the "stage" with her 3-year-old, Lukensia, who interrupted to say hello! "Every time I'm on a call, I'm not allowed to continue the phone call until Lu has had an opportunity to say what she needs to say," she explained. Ha, so cute!
What will you be sharing with audiences on your tour?
It's actually not a diet or fitness show. ... It's really a show about helping people understand why they're stuck in their lives, where they're stuck in their lives, and how to get unstuck so we can unleash their potential, and they can start living their dream.
What inspired you to do the tour?
I get asked to do speaking engagements from time to time throughout the year, and of course, you know there's not many I can do, because it always conflicts with my work schedule. But one day, I was coming off the stage for something I did in D.C., and I looked at my business partner, and I just said, "This is what we're missing. This next direction should be give the audience -- not just show them a transformation but show them how to achieve the transformation and have that deeper dialogue and conversation in the intimate setting and environment." ... The next thing you know, a speaking tour was born.
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What do you have to say about this idea that you're all "tough love"?
People are going to see what they want to see. So, sure, there are aspects of me that are "tough love," you know, not necessarily Biggest Loser tough love. People think Biggest Loser is a TV show, because they watch it on TV. But you have to understand from my perspective, I have a job, and I'm trying to run an intervention and save people's lives. People who are killing themselves at an accelerated pace with food. On a timeframe, mind you. It's not like I have a year to break through to them. It may be a week. So, on that show, it does require a very aggressive strategy. With that said, when I'm not on Biggest Loser, I am going to ask people to step up and take responsibility for their lives and their choices and push themselves to recognize their potential, because if you don't do that, then you're fundamentally disempowered to live your best, your most full and complete and purposeful and meaningful life. I'm never ever going to give someone a false message of lethargy, like "Just take the stairs!" I know that they're capable of more, and I'm going to encourage them to do more. And it is in the message to everybody, and I've known for a very long time you're not going to please all the people all the time. The people it resonates with, that's great. I'm just lucky to have my audience, and I appreciate them.
What do you think people will find most surprising when they see the show?
I think a lot of people came and anticipated a show about lunges, chicken, and broccoli! But they're just like, "I love her and I'm curious to see what she has to say." Or they think, "Oh, she's a drill sergeant," and they got pulled in by a friend. And then, at the end of the show, they're able to see the method to my madness. Why I do what I do, how I'm able to transform those BL contestants -- not just physically, but emotionally and psychologically. And subsequently how it's possible for them as well, to realize and recognize their worth and capability and, quite honestly, their destiny and their passion and purpose, their reason for being.
It sounds like you believe there's a mind-body connection when it comes to pain, weight, energy, etc. Is that true?
If you show me that someone's unhealthy, I would think 99 percent of the time, you'll be showing me somebody who is unhappy. Of course, stress will manifest into physical conditions and what have you. But when it comes to weight or spending too much or drinking too much, it's either a defense mechanism (and you have to understand the origin of that), a repetition compulsion (a pattern they've been playing out since childhood, and they have to understand the origin of that and how to break that cycle and turn it around into a positive loop), or a coping mechanism (where they're [addressing] pain with food, alcohol, or buying things). And they have to learn how to manage behaviors that's life-affirming versus self-destructive with information, tools, and inspiration.
Now that you're a mom, you've said you can relate to other moms who struggle to find the time/energy to work out. What are you doing yourself, and what do you advise fellow moms?
I do get it and I try to make it as simple for them as possible, because I needed to make it as simple for myself as possible! If you understand how to handle your food, then it does make fitness a lesser piece of the equation. It's not that it isn't important, it is. It's a form of medicine, and if you want to have your best body, sure, you need to work out. And if you're eating well 80 percent of the time, then basically, you set yourself up for not having to work out as often. And then, when you do exercise, if you incorporate some key fitness techniques, you can make a half an hour count like it's 60. It comes back to information. ... Working out is never easy and neither is choosing an omelet over a doughnut for God's sake! I can make this very simple for you, and then we need to connect with our perspective, and that means being around for your daughter's daughter to be born. Or not being on the sidelines of your kid's life.
What workouts would you say are most effective if you're short on time?
It's not one move or one workout. It's the technique you apply to the move or the workout. It's things like circuit training or working out at 85 percent of max heart rate no matter what workout you choose, and you'll get the intensity. Cardio intervals, doing body weight training or classes, like body shred or Zumba or capoeira or dance class. Multiple muscle group training, so you burn as many calories as possible and you save time.
What about natural, effective ways to pump up energy?
You know, look, I'm a caffeine person -- that's the reality! But with caffeine, you want to take a clean form, and you don't want to go over 400mg a day, which would be two strong cups coffee. For me, I do eBoost, it's 160 mg green tea with immunity boosters and electrolytes. It helps me. You can do that, if you're looking for an edge. But really just do your best to prioritize your sleep, which is extremely difficult when you have young kids, and then the less garbage, processed crap, junk you eat, the more energy you're going to have.
Was there something funny or poignant that's happened to you on the road so far?
Traveling on a bus with two small babies, in diapers -- although, Lu is just now out of diapers -- probably could have been thought out a little better before we began! Especially because you're not allowed to go number two on the bus, which is hard to explain to a 3-year-old who you've been aggressively potty training. So, I mean ... Also, we have a pet parrot, and birds are not like dogs, and they bond with a few people, and that's it. So, we decided to take Bonzai the parrot with us on the tour, and ended up getting held up in immigration coming back from Canada. And I'm sitting there having a pow-wow with five armed guards, the USDA, the Dept. of Fish, Game, and Wildlife, literally for two hours, trying to explain that I'm not a bird smuggler! The kids were just running around dancing in the frickin' immigration office, the guards are playing with the kids, it was ridiculous. It was an episode of Homeland and Larry David all rolled up into one. I kid you not. I wanted to have that moment where I was like, "Google me. I'm not a bird smuggler!" Though, we did manage to get Bonzai home, so she will live to fly another day.
What's one of the most challenging Qs you've heard from women recently?
Usually not a whole lot stumps me, I've been doing this a really long time, and it's my job to have answers to questions in my area of expertise. I think the thing that is the most difficult for me, though, is when somebody comes to the table looking for answers, but they're not prepared for the answers I'm going to give them. And they're not ready to hear the truth. And if you're not ready, it's like taking a horse to water. I can take a horse to water, but I cannot force them to drink. That's always been a challenge for me -- trying to get people ready, and that is not something I can do. They have to show up with an open mind and a willing heart.
Image by Don Flood