For a woman who found fame as the tough personal trainer on The Biggest Loser, Jillian Michaels has a surprising love and appreciation for food. We met up with the PT in New York recently to find out all about what she’d eat on her ultimate cheat day, and the reason why she doesn’t allow herself to consume those calories and toxins regularly. Michaels also talked to us about girl power, her perception of feminism, and trusting your gut instincts. If she weren’t already a trainer, we’d say she missed her calling because just hearing Michaels’ voice can motivate you to make a change.
From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?
You mean from a nutrition standpoint or a happiness standpoint? If I had a magic power (other than time travel), it would be that no matter what I ate, the calories and the chemicals didn’t matter. So on that day, I would wake up and I would have doughnuts. I would get a dozen doughnuts for breakfast. I love doughnuts, and I haven’t had them in a thousand years. Then for lunch, I would probably do chilli cheese fries from Johnny Rockets. I don’t eat bacon anymore because we have a pet pig, but again, if I was getting my exempt, I would do a crazy bacon blue cheese avocado chipotle mayo cheeseburger. For my snack – I ate so much shit as a kid – so I’d want to do the spicy hot Cheetos, and hot dogs. This stuff could not be more disgusting.
This is my complete fantasy. If I wasn’t going to die of cancer, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, this would be my dream. And then for dessert, I would do fudge on top of ice cream, or those Fat Witch brownies. Oh my god, they’re so good! Then, for my midnight snack, I would have pizza and Reese’s peanut butter cups.
What does your typical food day look like?
On a normal day, I usually have organic, free-range eggs for breakfast, and whole-grain toast. Then for lunch, I’ll grab some sort of salad, and it usually has some sort of grain or legume for carbs – quinoa, garbanzo beans, or kidney beans – and then I’ll add salmon on top of it. I don’t usually eat a ton of meat. I only eat sustainable seafood and beef, that’s it. We have so many frickin’ animals, so the kind of meat I eat really matters to me. I only eat stuff that doesn’t have a lot of crap in it. So for a snack, Krave Jerky is great – and my kids like it. It doesn’t go bad when you throw it in your backpack. I keep it in the dashboard of my car, which sounds so gross but it’s just so easy, because nuts go everywhere, chips crumble, popcorn makes a mess, cheese and yogurt go bad, so it’s just great. For dinner, I love to go out to eat. It could be Indian, Chinese, sushi, or Mexican. So if I do Mexican food, I’ll get the shrimp fajitas, or corn tortillas. I’ll go to Café Habana, and they’ll bring me guacamole with cucumbers instead of chips, which is so good, dude. The good part of that day is when you fit in your jeans. That’s the key.
How do you practice beauty from the inside out?
In truth, I think that anything beautiful has to be generated from a mindset. There’s a great quote I really love it, and it goes “I work out because I love my body not because I hate it.” I think having that attitude is so important.
So that mindset I think is crucial, and only from there do I think you can feel worthy of, and capable of, improving the quality of your life. For me personally, I try to workout four times a week. And when I go, I go hard; I make it count. Even if it’s thirty minutes, every thirty minutes is going to count. Sometimes I do free running, sometimes I do yoga, sometimes I do boxing, sometimes I do weight lifting, sometimes I do calisthenics…the whole idea for me is intensity – it’s training multiple muscle groups, in a synergistic and simultaneous way.
I also find that more and more as I’ve gotten older, it’s really important for me to do brainless stuff. I still find a way to watch one show a night. I need for my brain to stop. It could be a book on tape in the car for an hour a day. I just want shit to shut down.
I also like spending more quality time with my kids. We live on a farm, so whether I’m out with my horse, or I’m playing with my kids on their trampoline, it’s just finding that balance. I’m an ambitious person; I work harder than most people I’ve ever met, but there’s a way to find that time. Without it I think you get to the end of your life and you’re like, “What the fuck was that all for? To be buried with a pile of money?” So I think that’s really important. Without it, I don’t think you feel beautiful. I don’t think you enjoy beautiful things, and I don’t think your mindset is in a really great place. On a literal level, I think anything in the house, whether it’s beauty products, or cleaning products, should be as chemical-free as possible.
Has using chemical-free products always been important to you?
I didn’t really understand it until I was about thirty three. It just wasn’t common knowledge, but I started to notice these things that were wrong with my body. It started out from a very organic place of problem solving and my own health, immunity and aging – and ever since then I take it pretty seriously. A lot of people think it’s elitist, and that makes me sad, because I think more and more you’re starting to see companies like Thrive Market that – no matter where you live – can ship right to your door. Yes, it costs a little bit more money, but guess what? It’s going to save you money on cancer treatments and medication down the road.
What advice would you give to someone who hasn’t really been working out to really jump start that routine?
Well, the first thing is a mindset shift. When you look at the difference between inspiration and motivation, inspiration is something from an outside source. You saw it, you heard it, you watched it, you read it, you’re inspired. It’s usually a person that you identify with, or a story where you go “Wow, if they can do it, I can do it.” That doesn’t work. It works as a jumpstart, but motivation is something that comes from inside of you. So while that catalyst of inspiration serves a fantastic purpose, you have to couple that with an internal source of motivation. A great quote is “If you have the why to live, you can tolerate the how.” How is the work associated with the goal? You have to have that why to make those better choices. So if you want to go on spring break and wear a bikini, great. If you’re thirty-five, and you want to keep up with your two toddlers, great. If you’re sixty, and want to see your grandchildren graduate from high school one day, great. If you want to live to be a centurion, great. All that matters is that it dramatically improves the quality of your life, in a way that only you really truly care about, and in a really organic way that you form an emotional connection to. All those things on your list are going to be accomplished.
What advice would you give your younger self?
The worst mistakes I’ve ever made – and the worst mistakes I’ve ever heard any mogul talk about – was when I didn’t listen to my gut instincts. We as women constantly dumb ourselves down to not intimidate people, and we are very quick to defer. That’s the weapon against women. People say “she’s a bitch” or “difficult” for speaking her mind. If you’re not a bitch or difficult, it’s going to fail, and they’re not going to want to work with you anyway. So if you can do it without being a bitch, fantastic, but that’s what they’re going to call you the minute you don’t agree.
I’m the hardest working woman in the business. I’m one of the best at what I do in the world. I’ve proven results globally, I show up on time, I work longer than anybody else, and my results are just as good if not better – so what makes me a bitch? That I don’t like the way that you suggest I market or package this product? Any time you’re like “No it’s not right,” but you want to be the good girl and get along, it will always fail – and they won’t want to work with you anyway.
Do you think that things are changing for women?
No, I don’t. In fact, I think they’re going backwards. I look at millennials, and they’re so smart and ambitious. They’re like, “Screw the gatekeepers, we’re reinventing the wheel.” They’re awesome at it. But I do not see a strong understanding of the kind of sisterhood standing behind each other. I still see that catty, old school mentality of ‘there’s only room in this town for one of us and I’m going to be the winner’. I see women attacking women, tearing each other down, and judging one another, I see it in the mommy community and I see it in the fitness community. I see it everywhere. I don’t see a really supportive group of girls. We’re working on a big fitness project called Fit Fusion, and it’s a streaming platform for fitness workouts. I went to some of the top names in the business – like the Tone it Up girls, Cassey Ho, and Tara Stiles - and was like listen, we’re stronger together as a team. We need to work together here, and when we do, we will be unstoppable. But traditionally speaking, its kind of every woman for herself. And I’ve seen a lot women say they aren’t feminists. Why not? All it means is you want equality. I think a lot of women think it is synonymous with man-hating. I don’t get at all. Not at all.
*Jillian Michaels, photographed in New York, NY by Danielle Kosann