Tuesday, July 31, 2007

meeting Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07

It's just so hard to say goodbye to BlogHer '07. If you want to find out about what went on in other sessions, check out the liveblogs of them created by various lightning-quick typists.

On toledolefty, I posted about the experience of meeting Elizabeth Edwards. I have to admit that I was almost as thrilled to get to sit in on a lunchtime session with "The Biggest Loser" trainer Jillian Michaels, sponsored by AOL Body and AOL Coaches. I got to sit right in front of Jillian and even ask her a question or two. Here I am with Jillian and another blogger. I'm the one on the right. (Thank you to Carmen from The ELFF Diet for the photo!)

In real life, she is even tinier and more buff than she appears on the show. She's probably right around 5' tall. I thought she might fit in my carryon bag if I could somehow wrestle her in there, and then I'd have my own kick-ass personal trainer. Here she is with the beautiful and charming Shauna. Check out those biceps!

I took three and a half pages of notes on this session, because Jillian had so much wisdom about the tricky weight-loss business. She just seemed very down-to-earth and caring, and relatively calm compared to her hyperkinetic TBL persona.

I was happy to hear that Jillian had many of the same feelings about TBL that I do. She says she doesn't like the weigh-ins, the temptations, the eliminations, the unrealistic idea that people should lose ten pounds in a week. Despite all that, so many people are inspired by it that "the show's doing more good in the world than bad." I agree. I commented on how at the beginning of each season, the contestants seem to have no hope in their eyes, but at the end, they all seem to feel like badasses. I asked what Jillian does to kick off such a huge transformation in attitude. She said, "I scoop them up into a tornado where they really can't think at all."

All the yelling and seemingly crazy behavior on the show is her way to keep the contestants from saying they can't do it. She says she is good at gaging people's abilities, so she knows what they're capable of if they got out of their own way. "I'm not a big believer in motivation," she said. People who wait to get motivated never start an exercise program. She makes people do it first, and then eventually they become internally motivated.

In the real world, she said, people need to find a support system first, and tell their cheering section exactly what kind of support they want. After educating themselves a little on exercise and nutrition, wanna-be losers should make sure to start slowly with activity, but they should start right away. "Just go for a walk, get outside, find things you like." If they don't love exercise, they shouldn't be surprised, Jillian said, because "there's never a moment when I'm lifting a weight or doing a push-up where I think I love this! But I love the results." The first step for many people, she said, is "just not moving backwards" -- once they stop gaining, they can start the weight-loss process and get more fit.

One woman asked about her husband, who is reluctant to try to lose weight and says, "maybe I'm just meant to be heavy." Jillian said, "A lot of times, people hide behind the weight because it allows them to hide from life." They're afraid of failing, or that they won't be able to live up to the new expectations that people might have for them once they lose the weight. "Successful people fail all the time," she said. "If you're not failing, you're not really living. Being successful is a matter of attrition," succeeding just a little more often than you fail.

Jillian knows that many people, especially moms, think it's selfish to devote so much time to meal preparation and planning and exercise. "Your health is the platform on which you build your life," she said. For some of the people she helps, it may be a question of spending a couple of hours a day on fitness versus having their time with their children cut short by early death or chronic diseases. "What is it you want for yourself?" she asks. She suggests that people write out what they hope to accomplish from weight loss, whether it's having more energy to play with their kids or looking better in a bathing suit. During the tough times, they can refer back to those goals to remind themselves that the effort is worth it.

My favorite quote from the session is, "I'm not a big believer in moderation." Jillian knows that many people aren't going to be satisfied with "just little bits of everything," so she keeps the everyday food plan of her contestants fairly strict so that when they splurge, they can really splurge. But the catch is that they also need to plan to work out harder on splurge days. It's all about balance, she said, not moderation. The payoff is that "maintenance is actually easier than weight loss." A little extra effort during the losing process will get people to goal faster, and the calorie balance required to maintain the weight is easier than that required for dropping pounds.

Jillian's final weight loss advice? "Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bullshit."

P.S. Chicago finally broke my vacation weight-loss trend. But with the shot of Jillianspiration, I will be working to get that line on the graph moving back down.

Weight Chart


  1. Wow - this was like reading an interview with her and I feel as though I was there. Thanks for absorbing so much and sharing it. Food for thought :)

  2. I definitely like her a lot more than I used to now.

  3. thank you so much for posting this -- she seems so awesome! have you ever tried any of her workout videos? i wonder how they are...

  4. I haven't tried any of her videos or read her books -- but I definitely will look for them now.

  5. Man, I agree with just about everything she said. Too bad I missed the lunch.

  6. What an awesome post. I wish I could have attended, but thanks much for sharing all of her tips. I especially love her thing about balance, as opposed to moderation.

  7. WOW! I love JILLIAN MICHALES!! Can't believe you got to meet her. Thanks for sharing the info that you learned from her. - Dawn

  8. Thank you for sharing your experiences with Jillian. I don't watch the show, but she sounds very inspirational. I really liked her final weight loss advice. It makes the whole journey seem manageable.

  9. I remember seeing you in the small group session last week. I linked to this post from BlogHer (soon to be cross-posted from my blog tomorrow morning). :)


  10. You know what I love about Jillian is that in her newer book "Making The Cut" she herself talks about how she finds it hard to stick to her own regime and the tricks of the trade. It gives all us reason to be inspired and say "if she can do it, so can I". Big Ed

  11. This is great info. I love Jillian and think she is such an inspiration to so many people. I love her passion for healthy living. I too am a trainer and she is a role model. I agree 100% with her comment about starting slowly but getting started right away...to many people put off tomorrow what could be in the works today, out of fear. Here is a resource that I recommend to my clients as a way to get started or stay committed to regular exercise with ease...www.youcanmakeitfit.com

  12. That's so awesome you got to meet her! Thank you for posting this! This answered many of my own questions.


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07