Let Us Give Thanks: Jillian Michaels
James WhiteJillian Michaels cannot tell a lie. Does she exercise every day? "Hell no." Does she enjoy working out? "I watch the clock every minute." What is she thinking during her weekly yoga class? "Mother of God, why do I come back here every Saturday?" Definitely not what you'd expect to hear from a woman known as America's toughest trainer. But it's this in-your-face honesty that makes Jillian—who has written seven books, has released more than a dozen high-octane DVDs and hosts a weekly podcast—the fitness guru who might make you laugh as you lunge. Really. Over an iced coffee at a café in Los Angeles, the former trainer on The Biggest Loser and mother of two young kids (with partner Heidi Rhoades) cracks jokes about herself and pauses to nuzzle her dog Seven. At the moment, Jillian has a few milestones to discuss. She has turned 40 and is about to decamp for Malibu with her family and menagerie of dogs, horses and a parrot. "My partner loves gardening and beekeeping and chickens and all that stuff," she says, then rolls her eyes. "It's going to be like The Simple Life."
It's hard to picture you pruning roses in Malibu.
Gardening is not my thing. You're digging in the dirt and then a couple of months later, something happens. It's a little slow for me.
You turned 40 earlier this year. How is life different?
There's a confidence and sense of self that comes with age that I didn't anticipate. I don't feel the need to prove myself now, which I did for a very long time. And there is a peace that I didn't have in my 30s. I no longer feel this urgency to make impulsive decisions.
Do you care less about what people think of you?
I have never cared that much, to be honest with you. Everybody has haters. I will say that when you have kids, a little bit of that devil-may-care attitude does go out the window. There were a few things that were said to them in The Biggest Loser days that were hard to hear.
Speaking of The Biggest Loser—which you left earlier this year for the third time—is this it?
People assume that I think I'm better than that show. I do not. Also, there's a misconception that I keep leaving. On season three, I was fired. On season 11, I asked for time off to start a family. In this go-round, it was a mutual decision. I wanted to make some creative changes, but I was not a producer. I need some control in something with my name attached to it.
So will you still watch it? Or is it like an ex you want to avoid?
I stopped watching it a long time ago. It's hard to explain. I knew all the miraculous things that had gone on that week. None of them made it on screen. Watching it was like looking in a fun-house mirror.
You're a guru to so many people. Who do you turn to for advice?
Suze Orman. Whenever I'm torn or conflicted about something work-related, I go to her to get a new perspective. I called her once because I felt like I was being disrespected professionally. She said, "What makes you think that you're the only one that gets treated like this?" She told me to fight fire with water instead of more fire.
I am more like an inferno. But I have learned that taking the higher ground can defuse a situation. That's power.
We all become stuck. How do you get out of your own way?
The most important thing you can do in life is pause—and I'm not a good pauser. But it's so important to pause and then play out a situation in your head: If I do this—even though it feels really good in the moment—what's the outcome going to be?
You speak more like a life coach than a trainer.
People think of me as "the fitness girl." But I utilize fitness as a tool to empower people. When you're physically strong, it transcends into other facets of your life. Your health is a platform to build on.
Next Page: Where are you channeling your passion now? [ pagebreak ]
James WhiteWhere are you channeling your passion now?
I just launched a clothing line with Kmart. I'm also writing another book for new mommies. It's about how to get your body back after pregnancy and give your kid every opportunity to be as healthy as possible.
Clearly, you're driven. Would any of this have happened if you hadn't been an overweight kid?
No way! I thank God every day for the exact life that I've had. Having been that kid who was bullied has made me identify with the have-nots of the world. I understand what people are going through.
You talk a lot about letting go of perfect. Are you more accepting of your body?
No. I've become more controlling with my body. As I've gotten older, I'm like, "I refuse to accept agingas a descent into decrepitude." And the irony is that at 40, I'm in better shape than I've ever been.
Because you work out harder or you work out smarter?
At a younger age, I knew the shortcuts around everything and just did x, y and z to look good. Now I'm actually athletic.
When you look at your body in the mirror, what is your immediate reaction to what you see?
I smile. I have my problem areas, but I'm in pretty good shape.
Name a problem area.
My butt. That's the worst. I work hard on it—and I used to have a double butt—but it's never going to be perfect. In my fantasy world, there would be some magic cure for cellulite. Nothing works. God knows that I've tried it all.
What's the wildest thing you tried?
I ironed my ass with a laser. It didn't work at all.
Ouch. With a professional on hand, we hope.
I had it done in a plastic surgeon's office. They said that this laser could break up cellulite or whatever. Don't waste the money.
Do you have that pair of Holy Grail skinny jeans in your closet that still don't fit?
No! I set myself up for success. If something does not look great on me, it comes off and I never want to see it again. It's like trying to make someone love you who doesn't. There's a pair of jeans out there that fit right now and make you feel good.
Any mind tricks for staying motivated on the elliptical?
Forget the elliptical. It's a waste of your time. Do incline walking instead. It's way more effective and burns a hell of a lot more calories.
When is it hardest for you to stay disciplined about eating healthy?
After dinner. I just want a treat so bad. Here's my rule: Allow 20% of your daily calories to be whatever you want. So for me, it's Green & Black's organic white chocolate.
Would you ever consider doing your own reality show?
I've been approached about having mutual approval over everything to do a reality show. It's interesting because we can talk about parenting, relationships, health—all the things that are important to me. But then I think, What if I open up and people attack us just because we're a gay family? It scares the hell out of me.
Have you always been comfortable talking openly about being gay?
I don't know that I am now, to be honest with you. The gay thing has always been hard for me. When Heidi and I are out and somebody older asks, "Are you sisters?" I say, "We're friends." I guess it comes from thinking that they will be shocked or disturbed. Look, I wish I had some strapping football player husband. It would be such a dream to be "normal" like that, but I'm just not.
Next Page: 5 Things You'd Never Guess About Jillian [ pagebreak ]
James White5 Things You'd Never Guess About Jillian
Most shocking thing in my fridge
Gross old stuff, which I have to throw out. We eat out a lot and forget about the leftovers.
Song that will always make me do 10 more squats
Right now it's "Levels," the Skrillex remix, by Avicii.
Beauty product I can't live without
I use coconut oil for everything. It's antimicrobial, it's antifungal, and it's moisturizing.
Person I would most like to train
Hillary Clinton. I think she's going to be the next president, and I'd like her to look good doing it.
Happiest day of my life
When we touched down in New York and I brought my daughter home from Haiti. It took about 2 1/2 years to adopt her, and there were moments when I thought it wouldn't happen.