Jillian Michaels dishes on motherhood, intensity and the 'too thin' controversy on 'Biggest Loser'

“The Biggest Loser” star is on the road, hoping her “Maximize Your Life” tour sets off a few light bulbs in her audience. In the show, the fitness expert said her message is as much about shedding psychological baggage as excess pounds.

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Trainer Jillian Michaels led YMCA instructors, members and guests through a high-intensity workout at the Mall of America last October.

Photo: Courtney Perry • Special to the Star Tribune,

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Tough-talking trainer Jillian Michaels is looking for that epiphany moment.

“The Biggest Loser” star is on the road, hoping her “Maximize Your Life” tour sets off a few light bulbs in her audience. In the show, which comes to the Pantages on Saturday, the fitness expert said her message is as much about shedding psychological baggage as excess pounds.

In advance of her appearance, Michaels talked about being a mom, her 80/20 nutrition plan and how she gets those rock-hard abs.

She also opened up about the most recent “The Biggest Loser” winner, who was criticized for losing too much weight. Michaels says she was shocked by Stillwater native Rachel Frederickson’s 105-pound figure at the finale last month.

Q: What does it feel like to potentially be one of the most frequently cussed-at women in the United States?

A: I, personally, have a bit of a potty mouth from time to time, so I take it as a compliment. I think swearing is a great form of stress relief.

Q: Do you ever cheat?

A: I eat pretty well 80 percent of the time and the other 20 percent I have the pasta, pizza, glass of wine or the brownie. [I don’t] eat great all week long and then binge on the weekend. I don’t subscribe to that mentality.

Q: Does Minneapolis pass the Jillian Michaels test?

A: I’ve actually found Minneapolis to be quite cosmopolitan. There are great restaurants there. I find the people to be really athletic and healthy and fit.

Q: Do you work out 24/7?

A: I try to get in four to five half-hours a week that are really intense. I don’t have the time for the 90-minute yoga class or the 60-minute spin class right now, so it is … stuff like lunges, pushups, pullups, situps, jump squats, burpies and so on.

Q: What can people expect at the show?

A: The show breaks down into three sections, so if you are coming because you are curious about how to lose weight, we cover it in the first 30 minutes of the show. But the real question is: If it’s so simple, how come so many of us aren’t doing it? That really is the meat and potatoes of what the show is about.

Q: You make it sound easy. Is it?

A: It’s simple to do, but it’s not easy. It becomes a question of whether or not it’s worth it. When you really take a good hard look at what those bad behaviors have cost you, it helps you deal with the fear and the uncomfortability of moving forward.

Q: What does this format allow you to accomplish that your books, workout videos and “The Biggest Loser” don’t?

A: The great thing about a live medium like this is that I can engage in an actual dialogue with the audience. Throughout the show I am pulling them up on stage, asking them questions, engaging in conversations. While it’s the most intimate medium, it’s also the most effective when you’re trying to help somebody make a life change.

Q: Cost is often cited as a barrier to being healthy. Is this a valid excuse?

A: Health-related diseases are the No. 1 cause of bankruptcy in our country. So while you might think you’re saving money in the moment, the reality is it’s costing you a fortune down the road when you become obese and sick. It’s a shift in perspective. I tell people if they can find me 20 more dollars a week, we can make this work and here’s how. I teach them what products to buy — they don’t all have to be organic. And then I talk to them about meat and dairy. This is where that $20 needs to go.

Q: But yoga classes are expensive, too, especially those yoga pants!

A: We all know that exercise doesn’t have to cost you anything. There’s a website I just got involved with. … It’s $6 a month and it’s called FitFusion.com. It’s like the future Netflix or Hulu of fitness, so to speak. There’s just no excuse. Even if you don’t have $6 a month, get outside. Hike, bike, walk. Exercise isn’t expensive. It’s really a matter of being motivated to do the work.

Q: Some people would argue that you have an intense approach. Has motherhood changed that?

A: Everyone asks me that and I find it interesting, because you would never ask a police officer if they changed the way they did their job because they had kids. You would never say to a heart surgeon, ‘Hey, are you doing that surgery a little bit differently?’ I think the implication is, this [woman] is crazy.

You see five minutes of me getting in someone’s face, which is honestly maybe 3 percent of the time. I don’t do that superfluously. When I get in someone’s face, I have very specific reasons for it. “The Biggest Loser” is a life-or-death intervention on a ticking clock. If these guys go home without having hit certain benchmarks … the chances of them maintaining their momentum are nil. Whether you like it or not, it really isn’t between me and you. It’s between me and the person I’m helping.

Q: You have two children with your partner, Heidi Rhoades. How do you get them to eat and enjoy healthy foods?

A: You can hide spinach in their brownies and whatever, but at the end of the day I have found it to be totally unnecessary. I just had a very candid conversation with my 3-year-old. I find something she aspires to, whether it’s Katy Perry or Beyoncé or Elsa from “Frozen.” I say, ‘For Elsa to use her super powers, she’s got to eat some spinach and some kale and some broccoli, but not all the time. You know how Katy Perry roars like that? Well, she eats kale.’ By showing your kids that this is going to help them be what they want to be or do what they want to do, it becomes enjoyable for them. It’s not about depriving them.

Q: “The Biggest Loser” contestant Rachel Frederickson shocked viewers with her dramatic 155-pound weight loss. Do you think she took it too far?

A: Of course I do. It’s been a huge source of frustration for me. We got slammed with it in front of millions of people during a live finale. And then everyone comes to [trainer] Bob [Harper] and I, and they’re like, ‘What happened?’ We didn’t work with her, we don’t know, no one told us, we weren’t the doctor overseeing her training program, we weren’t the trainer who put her on the training program, and I’m not the producer who OK’d the whole thing. I was shocked and I was really concerned and I had no idea, and of course I thought she was too thin.

Q: Will you be back for another season of “The Biggest Loser”?

A: I don’t know. We’re talking right now and there’s a lot that’s up in the air, to be honest with you. I don’t know if I will be coming back.

 

Aimee Blanchette • 612-673-1715

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