Jillian Michaels

Are you as tough as you come across on television?

What you see is real. I think the problem is the show just doesn’t show you why I do what I do. It looks crazy all the time. They’re showing you five minutes out of a 100-hour week. When I’m being that way I have reasons. I’m trying to get through to someone. It’s an incomplete picture, which is a shame.

If you came to me and were looking for a trainer, it would be different. We would have plenty of time. With these contestants, you don’t have that kind of time to be gentle or be patient. They need to wake up and they need to wake up fast.

The show’s other trainer, Bob Harper, is all about “compassion” and “nice-guy support,” while you’re more about “tough love.” How do you compare the approaches?

With Bob, he’s very much “It’s all good. You didn’t do anything wrong I believe in you. Do it for daddy.” I don’t believe in that long term and I think that’s why Bob hasn’t won. When I do it, it’s a lot more aggressive and it’s considerably less pleasant. I try to make them think I don’t care, which isn’t true. I want them to do it for themselves. There are millions of people looking for them to be heroes. I might scare the crap out of them to be able to run a mile and then they believe they can do it. I want them to know it’s their fault and they need to take responsibility for it and then change. A lot of people can’t handle it. But in the end, it always turns out OK.

Which approach is better?

Part of the reason I’m so vicious – as in aggressive, ruthless or lacking sympathy – is that it doesn’t do them any favors to be sympathetic. It doesn’t do them any favors to treat them as if they’re weak. They’re not invested in it for me … they have to be invested in it for themselves. They own their behaviors and their actions … they need that accomplishment to build their self-esteem.

You really give people a hard time when they give you excuses. For our readers, their excuse could be arthritis pain. It hurts when they move. What would you tell them?

My mom has suffered form fibromyalgia for many years. It’s extremely painful. It’s terribly frustrating. You need to definitely validate that it’s happening for them and empower them that there are solutions, even if it's not at an accelerated pace. Tell them, “When you’re done with this process, your pain should be significantly better.” I’d only push them through something if I knew they could do it.

What are your fears when you send the players home? How well equipped are they to survive in the world?

It depends on the contestant. With (last season’s oldest contestants) Jerry and Estella, I was freaking out about it. I went to the producers and I was screaming and yelling and having a fit. “He fainted on day one and on week two he went home and this makes us so irresponsible!” And now he’s doing great.

What have you found makes a person succeed at weight loss?

There are two things that make people succeed. One, is it worth it? If it’s worth it, people will try and attempt anything. This is not going to be pleasant. You’re not going to love broccoli. You’re not going to love the gym. Are these behaviors worth the ultimate goal?

Number two is capability. Most people don’t feel capable. They’re not informed. You can’t skin a cow with a spoon. I provide the information and provide experiences where they’re capable.

Has your view or your opinions about weight loss changed after this experience?

Definitely. It’s been a real ongoing process in regards to the science of it. You don’t take hundreds of pounds off people in a matter of months. This isn’t normal. When I first started the show I was like, “We need this many carbs, this much protein …” Now my understanding of metabolism and aging is so much different. It’s the universal rule: Eat less, do more. I focus on that, go organic when possible and avoid processed food.

Are you perfect about what you eat and how often you workout?

I hate exercising. I have so many flaws; it’s ridiculous. I’m insecure. I’m demanding. I’m impatient. I eat real food. I love organic dark chocolate and a glass of wine. I do struggle with emotional eating. When I don’t have time to workout I just eat better and I’m really careful about my food and when I get to the gym I work out that much better.

Do you have any specific exercise advice for people with arthritis or joint pain?

By doing it and doing it safely you decrease your pain and increase your chance of rehabilitation. You’re helping with depression, metabolism … it can change your life. It’s about finding the things that work for you and doing them. I really believe in that mind/body connection. Chronic pain can destroy a life and you have to be proactive about handling it.