‘The Biggest Loser’s’ out fitness guru Jillian Michaels brings her mantra of self-empowerment to Dallas



You know her as the ultimate ass-kicker from TV’s The Biggest Loser, the trainer whose intensity manifests in some of the most intimidating facial expressions known to man … not to mention a yelling spell or two. The thing is, Jillian Michaels’ passion — her single-minded focus — may be intimidating, but it’s also effective. As fans of TBL and her other show, Losing It With Jillian, can attest, Michaels has changed lives.

We picked the brain of the openly gay Michaels in advance of the Dallas stop of her Maximize Your Life Tour, a motivational live show which she says is intended to “awaken you to reignite your passion, define your goals and live in your authentic truth.”

— Jonanna Widner

Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 2.20.17 PMDallas Voice: At your live show, you focus on three key health aspects, what you call “self, science and sweat.” What are those, and how do they relate to each other?  Michaels: “Science” covers, quite literally, the simple science of proper eating to lose weight, keep it off and attain optimal health. The “sweat” section is about how to exercise in the most effective way so you don’t spend hours in the gym, and you get results quickly to help you stay motivated. And the “self” section is really the bulk of the show. This is where we look at where and why we are stuck in our lives and unfulfilled: Learn how to transform pain, suffering and old wounds into wisdom, power and empathy; move through fear; dramatically enhance our self-worth and self-esteem; harness our potential and achieve our life goals once and for all.

What do you think is the biggest roadblock people face when they are trying to shift something in their lives? It always comes down to self-worth issues. People either don’t feel the goal is worthy, or that they are worthy of it, and even worse, they doubt their ability to achieve it.

What’s the hardest exercise you do? Like, the one you just absolutely dread?  I have a friend I work out with who is an absolute monster named Dan Solomone, and I truly hate it.

If you could only recommend one exercise a person could do besides cardio, what would it be and why?  I don’t believe in that. It’s like asking a heart surgeon the same question — he couldn’t perform the surgery. The key to fitness is to progress, differentiate and be holistic with your training, which means as many fitness modalities as possible and training as many muscle groups as possible.

What would you say to people who just don’t like physical activity to get them motivated?  When you are training properly 30 minutes a day, four to five times a week will be enough to get great results in conjunction with a healthy diet. And [it helps you] gain perspective. While you might not like fitness, surely you like what it affords you: skinny jeans, bikinis, meeting your grandchildren, walking your daughter down the aisle.

In some ways, the health and fitness situation in the U.S. has been atrocious. In others, it seems like awareness and activity has risen—Michelle Obama’s influence on awareness, shows like The Biggest Loser and Losing it. What is your assessment of the state of the fitness union?  I think, with everything, you win some battles and you lose some, but statistically speaking our obesity rates are gradually trending down, and that’s something to really celebrate.

You are known as someone who cuts straight through the bull. Where did that part of your personality come from?  Ha! It’s been a long life filled with many different characters who have helped shape me and my persona along the way. Without writing a biography, I would simply say that I personally appreciate the truth even when it’s hard to hear. Authenticity is critical when you are giving advice to people, and in order to truly help someone change an aspect of their lives you must deliver honest solutions that produce real results.

You’ve been open about having had difficulty in your childhood—night terrors, bullying, you were overweight. How did that shape your relationship to physical fitness?  I was fortunate enough to get into martial arts when I was around 12 years old, and while my transformation didn’t happen overnight, I learned very early on that feeling strong physically transcended into every facet of my life. I had more confidence in every aspect of my life. Fitness to me is not just about building a better body, it’s one tool I use of many to help people build a better life.

Do you think the LGBT community has a different relationship to being healthy?  Honestly, I don’t differentiate. I see people struggling from all walks of life with their health regardless of who they choose to sleep with.

This season of The Biggest Loser was not without controversy. What was the first thought that went through your head when you saw Rachel Frederickson come on stage after losing all that weight? What is the proper balance between healthy and unhealthy weight loss? Obviously, I was shocked and concerned. Rachel is a good kid, and I believe that only her trainer, Dolvett, can comment on her journey as he was the one working with her.

Looking back, is there anything that you would have done in your career differently, say on Biggest Loser or Losing It? Why?  I have to say… being in the public eye you get credit for things you don’t deserve and criticism for things you don’t deserve. Ultimately, I don’t believe in regret because I think all setbacks in life are nothing other than entry points for learning.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 28, 2014.