Jillian Michaels hopes her tour will spur ‘aha’ moments

CorrespondentApril 22, 2013 

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Jillian Michaels speaks during the 2013 Get Radical Women's Conference at Hyatt Regency Reston on March 23, 2013 in Reston, Virginia. She is headed April 25 to the Duke Energy Center for Performing Arts (Memorial Auditorium) in Raleigh.

KRIS CONNOR — Getty Images

Fitness trainer Jillian Michaels has 1.5 million likes on Facebook, 981,000 Twitter followers, and 7.4 million people watched her on the finale of “The Biggest Loser” on NBC.

But nothing beats being there when someone has that “aha” moment about why they overeat or don’t exercise, she says. That why she’s enjoying her 34-city Maximize Your Life tour, headed Thursday to the Duke Energy Center for Performing Arts in Raleigh.

“Although I reach millions, I essentially put that out in the world and hope for the best,” she says. “Speaking face to face, I can see that light bulb go off in their lives.

“I love it every time I help someone see his pattern that keeps playing out. It’s cathartic.”

Michaels hopes the tour shows a different side of her than the drill-sergeant persona that brings obese weight-loss contestants to tears on “The Biggest Loser.”

On tour, she pulls out audience members and asks what’s standing in the way. Through questioning, she says, one woman realized her loser boyfriends were like her mom: critical of her weight, verbally abusive and emotionally distant.

“She hopes to finally win that someone who would love her,” Michaels says. “Once I’m able to show her this is why you are re-creating this situation, she can understand why it’s happening, why she keeps doing this.”

“She can say, ‘I’m going to walk away from this situation to find someone who values me.’ It’s about awareness and recognition of the negative behavior.”

During a phone interview last month from her home in Los Angeles, Michaels talked about her tour.

Q: What is your goal with this tour?

What I’m trying to do is help (the audience) build a healthier and happier life. It’s a combination of waking them up and getting them to understand how they have come to this place in their life. And give them the tools and skill set to achieve anything they are looking to do. … It’s everything you don’t see behind the scenes of “The Biggest Loser.”

Q: Do you feel like you want to just tell people to get off their lazy butts?

It’s not that simple. A lot of people think when you have a weight issue that you’re just lazy. Lazy is not real. Lazy is a symptom of a much bigger problem. Self esteem (is lacking)… I want to show them they are able when they do take action… Show them that there is nothing about them that is different than people who do achieve their goals.

Q: How do you motivate people on the road, from the stage?

It’s very interactive. They have to be ready to be pulled in. The goal is to create awareness. (This is) not just a visual journey, but of self-exploration. Until they understand what they contribute, they can’t establish positive recovery behaviors.

Q: You’ve talked about having a weight problem as a child. Obviously you overcame that. But is that past forgotten?

It’s never forgotten. Ever…. I would say very much like an alcoholic is always an alcoholic, someone who uses food as a coping mechanism will always have this problem. I’ve been able to build recovery behaviors. (But) once you have that fat-girl mentality, it will always be there.

Q: Was there negative trauma involved in that experience that makes you too hard on yourself?

It definitely does, so yes, but in the best of possible ways. What you can do is give (those problems) a meaning and purpose for your life. With my weight, 90 percent of what came out of that is positive. So it made me who I am and love what I do…. I’m sure there are lasting insecurities. But I deal with it every day and I look at why I’m feeling insecure. And look at if the behavior will get me where I want to be. … (And although sometimes I slip), 9 out of 10 I make the better choice.

Q: In Redbook magazine, you talked about putting on 5 pounds since you had kids. (Her partner, Heidi Rhoades, gave birth to their son, Phoenix, now 1, and they adopted Lukensia, now 2.)

For me 5 pounds is nothing; I subsequently lost it because I got the flu and lost weight. ... (Gaining weight) allowed me to be in a place where the cracks showed.… And I can’t always portray that I’ve got it all together. Kids force you to not keep up the façade. Things fall through the cracks. I found it very liberating. I’ve grown into a more curvaceous body with more hips, more bust…. And I think pop culture is turning that way to be more accepting of a curvaceous body.

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