On NBC’s The Biggest Loser, Jillian Michaels comes off as a no-nonsense trainer who demands results in the gym and on the scale. Yet in her own Los Angeles-area home, it takes every bit of Jillian’s cajoling and encouragement to get her daughter, Lukensia, 3, and son, Phoenix, 1, to take a bath before bedtime.
Motherhood is the newest challenge for the 38-year-old fitness guru who returned in January to The Biggest Loser after a two-year hiatus. “This season is especially meaningful since we’re addressing childhood obesity,” Jillian says, by featuring the first group of child contestants in the show’s history.
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Not only does the topic resonate with Jillian as a mom (with partner Heidi Rhoades), it echoes her experience as an overweight teen whose weight peaked at 175 lbs. (She’s 5 ft. tall.) It wasn’t until Jillian discovered martial arts that she dropped 50 lbs., regained her self-esteem, and went on to become one of the most prominent figures in fitness.
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In this interview, the author of the new book Slim for Life shares how she’s managing motherhood and career, and her advice for getting in the best shape of your life.
Spry: What’s your advice for moms who feel they don’t have time to exercise?
Jillian: I definitely have less time for myself now, so I have to be creative. Sometimes I trade off with Heidi, so that she watches the kids while I exercise and vice-versa. Other times, I’m multitasking and making phone calls while I’m on the treadmill, or waking up before the kids to squeeze in a workout. I encourage women to make the time to exercise, even if that means putting their little one in a baby carrier and going for a walk, or working out with an exercise DVD.
Spry: Does your “tough love” approach on The Biggest Loser work for everyone?
Jillian: I have a limited amount of time to get the contestants to take responsibility for their health and find their motivation. I praise positive behaviors, but for contestants who are selling themselves short, I do tend to push them harder. When people come to The Biggest Loser, they are at the point where they need to make some serious lifestyle changes. It’s amazing to see someone who has just completed a two-hour workout for the first time and, in the process, shatters their previous beliefs that they could never work out or get healthy. I’ve had many contestants thank me for motivating them.
Spry: Slim for Life discusses how women can cultivate lasting motivation. What’s your advice?
Jillian: Identify why you want to lose weight and be healthy. What does this mean to you and what does it look like? Try to envision how it will feel to be strong, confident and healthy. This will serve as motivation when you’re debating whether you want to eat pizza or work out.
Spry: What are some of the common obstacles faced by people trying to lose weight?
Jillian: People use food as a coping mechanism, and it can be terrifying to let go. It’s important for people to have a support system in place when trying to lose. They need to learn it’s OK to put themselves first—it’s not selfish—and that by doing so, they can be healthier and happier.
Spry: Many women focus on cardio workouts to burn calories, yet you also encourage them to include strength-training. Why?
Jillian: Strength training can help women preserve and enhance their muscle mass, increase bone density, reduce the risk of osteoporosis, and protect joints from injury.
Spry: How can parents help their children to be more active?
Jillian: Be a good role model: You can’t tell your kids to go exercise while you sit on the couch and watch TV. Heidi and I play all the time with our kids, whether it’s dancing around the house or riding our bikes. Limit television time, and go outdoors and chase them around. •