Best known as the tough personal trainer and life coach on NBC's hit reality show "The Biggest Loser," Jillian Michaels is now on the panel of CBS's "The Doctors." She is sharing her years of knowledge about nutrition, exercise and psychology with viewers. She is a best-selling author, and her most recent book, "Unlimited: How to Build an Exceptional Life," is a candid account of her own life journey. She is outspoken about the advantages that therapy gave her. She recently decided to leave "The Biggest Loser" to concentrate on raising a family.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: Were you always such a no-nonsense communicator?
A: As a child, probably not. I think you grow up in a certain way with a certain mentality and attitude, and you keep what works for you and you leave what doesn't. I'm not big on mincing words (laughs) let's put it that way.
Q: I read "Unlimited," and you talk about your father making you feel unworthy of any generosity. But didn't your mother counteract his negativity?
A: She did, and I will say because I had such a supportive mom, I was very fortunate to feel deserving of good things and capable of earning them. But I'm not very good at accepting help or gifts. I don't love to let people buy dinner — that's sort of a new thing for me. That part definitely comes from my dad. As I've gotten older, I've learned that reciprocity in a relationship is key to having mutual equality and respect and intimacy, whether it's a friend or someone you are dating. I work on it.
Q: Do you think your dad's behavior was his version of tough love?
A: I've done a lot of therapy on this topic. I think it was, sadly, that my dad didn't feel he had value. That was because of his own childhood stuff. He ended up becoming a very successful man, and he felt people only loved him for his money. So it was a constant "I don't owe you anything" and "You don't deserve anything" and "You're spoiled."
Unfortunately, I think it was about his own self-worth, but as a kid you don't have the ability to analyze your parents' issues and insecurities. You just internalize them. You think it's about you, and you grow up having to work all of that stuff out. I'm hoping I will have broken that cycle with my kids or will strike a happy balance.
Q: When you were 12, your parents were divorcing. You started eating and have said you were at your heaviest. Your mom sent you to many therapists. Being so young, did that make you feel like something was really wrong with you?
A: No, because I didn't know any better. It was always framed to me as an advocate. It was somebody I could talk to who wasn't going to judge me and who would be on my side. It was somebody who was there to listen to me and help me communicate with them — them being the parents.
Q: Seeing a therapist since you were 5, is there the danger of overanalyzing everything?
A: There is that. I do do that sometimes. I was mad at my little brother the other day, about him throwing a party in our house when I was gone. I was like, "Why is he lying to me?" Everybody was like, "He's 21. He's not thinking he was putting you in jeopardy in any way. He is a 21-year-old. He threw a party." I'll talk things through, and then I have the ability to go, "OK, yeah, I can see that." I'm still (annoyed) about it, though.
Q: You talk a lot about finishing what you start and how when you finally did that with karate things began to change. What prompted you to finally finish it?
A: Wow, um, I think I knew that I had a problem closing. Like closing a deal, closing the goal, finishing. I would get right up there, but I wouldn't close it. I can't exactly remember why because I wasn't the most responsible 21-year-old on the planet, either. There was just something in me that kind of knew if I didn't go back and do this I never would, and it could become a pattern that I would never break. So I am very conscientious about that all the time. At the end of the day, you could go crazy for 95 percent, but if you don't finish that last five, it's kind of all for nothing.
Q: Getting fit is one thing, but staying fit means it never ends or closes. You have to make that decision every day.
A: It's so true. It really does become a lifestyle. It's the way you kind of fall into a routine in your life, and there are certain things that intrinsically represent who you are as a person.
Food kind of becomes that, but life shouldn't be a perpetual diet. It should be that you eat at healthier places (regularly) and you shop at certain stores (regularly) on the regular and the farmers market is part of your Sunday routine.
Spin class is part of your life. It should sort of become a lifestyle. There are times when that lifestyle becomes more difficult. I'll be honest: I worked out for the first time yesterday in two weeks. If you go up or down 5 pounds, it's not the end of the world. You get a little older, and it gets a little harder.
Q: So why is it that older women, who have always worked out, lose the waist first?
A: Well, that's hormones, and where you carry weight is determined by your hormone balance. For example, if you look at men, they carry weight in their stomach because they have more testosterone. As women, some of us are estrogen-dominant and carry weight in our lower body like a pear. As you age, you see a shift in where your body carries weight. That said, if you follow your fitness regimen and watch what you are eating, you shouldn't gain any weight.
My mom is a perfect example. She is like 62 or something, and she keeps herself in great shape. She eats healthy and lives a healthy lifestyle. So if you have been unhealthy or practice unhealthy behaviors, you are going to see it.
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