Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Jillian Michaels: Maximize Your Life

Disclaimer: this is going to be a pretty long post, but I think it's worth it, even if you're not -- and maybe especially if you're not -- a Jillian Michaels fan. Bear with me. :)

As I mentioned in Sunday's daily recap, I had the opportunity to see Jillian Michaels on her Maximize Your Life tour.

Of course, I bragged to everyone who would listen that I was lucky enough to attend this show. And, I was shocked when I didn't receive much excitement. In fact, it was quite the opposite: people basically stated their outright disgust with her, primarily for her motivation tactics. (If you are one who dislikes her for her yelling and screaming, read on: she gave rationale.)

First, I should discuss my background with Jillian (yes, we're on a first-name basis because she's my new best friend). I have watched a few episodes of The Biggest Loser, but definitely not enough to truly get a feel for her antics as a coach/trainer. While the show never fails to reel me in to singular episodes (and then make me cry despite knowing nothing about the contestants), I have a hard time coming back to it each week, likely because I do not fully believe in the premise of it.

(I think it's awesome that contestants lose a bunch of weight, but I don't believe it's a realistically sustainable lifestyle change -- which in and of itself could be an entire blog post.)

So, instead of knowing Jillian from her work on the show, I know Jillian far too well from her ridiculously difficult fitness DVDs, specifically 30-Day Shred and Six-Week Six Pack. I swear she tries to kill me (or, more likely, I want to kill her) every time I pop one of those in.

I've also read several articles about her (none that I can, of course, cite right now), which have made me really appreciate her as a fitness guru and source of motivation.

I was so excited -- ridiculously thrilled -- to get to see her in person.


The show was at Hoyt Sherman Place, a fairly intimate venue that holds around 1,200 people. I'm pretty sure the show was sold out, as the lower seating and the balcony were both full: we were jam-packed in there.

Two stools sat on the stage, and a huge movie screen hung behind them:

Shortly after 7:00, a video started: crazily disturbing images flashed across the screen, and discordant noises blasted through the auditorium. Seriously, my anxiety level was at like a 15. Then, the video transitioned to calming images, peaceful music.

Immediately after the video montage ended, an announcer welcomed Jillian:

She joked a lot, told us all how this was her first time in Des Moines (shocking), how she thought there was a collective drug habit in this city because we are all just so nice.

After making friends with all of us, Jillian explained her opening videos: each video was a reality that exists in this world, and in which reality we ourselves exist is a choice. She went on to show us her "fat picture" and say that she's had to deal with some crap in her life, that she's been where we are currently, etc., but that now, after figuring her shit out, is "happier a hell lot more than sad."

She asked us a question: WHY? Why aren't more people happy? Why aren't more people successful? Why aren't more people in love? Why aren't more people actually living their lives rather than going through them like zombies?

Then she said something that really stuck with me, something that I've finally -- after 30 years -- been realizing:

Each of us is equally deserving of everything wonderful.

Each of us is deserving, and each of us is able to achieve greatness: it is a simple question, then, of can versus will.

She said she believes in us, in each and every one of us, and then the Jillian that we know (and you hate, I love), said that she's "too much of a bitch to blow smoke," that she legit believed in us.

The remainder of her presentation was divided into three parts: science, sweat, self.


For the first of the Big Three, Jillian talked about nutrition.

She started this discussion with a few definitions: fat, calorie, metabolism, etc.

And here is the one point where I disagreed with her: she said that we should count calories. (And she even mentioned the "magic" 1200 number.) I know that I used to do this, and I know that so many people still do this, but I just don't think it's necessary: it's tiresome, it's mundane, it's monotonous, and it makes food not enjoyable. There are ways to eat healthy and lose weight without counting calories: I'm proof.

However, after that brief little spat that we had, she started talking more along the lines of what I'm used to: eating good, quality food.

Essentially, don't put crap in your body: things like pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics are obesogens, and our bodies do not know what to do with those compounds.

A huge focus of the nutrition piece was the idea of a perspective shift, something I talked a little about before: yes, eating organic produce and grass-fed meat is more expensive, but isn't a longer, better quality life worth it?

We can either eat GMO meat, or we can see our children's children.

(Side note: according to Jillian, and I think I've read this elsewhere, too, a grass-fed cow takes five years to go to slaughter while a factory-farm cow takes six months. Can you believe that?!)

And that pretty much covered the nutrition -- the science -- section.


In addition to not eating crap food, we need to exercise more. As Jillian said (in a way that only Jillian can), "I've made millions saying these four words: eat less, move more. How, I have no fucking idea."

She introduced this segment of the evening with a discussion of important numbers: BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate -- the number of calories you'd burn doing nothing all day), AMR (Active Metabolic Rate -- the number of calories you'd burn doing your basic day-to-day things), MHR (Maximum Heart Rate), and THR (Target Heart Rate).

Jillian says the AMR is the magic number: the number of calories that she cannot go over so that her butt doesn't get bigger. Active Metabolic Rate is maintenance mode.

She also says that if your THR is not where it should be, you need to move your ass faster. (And then she said, "Except for the sex part. For the five men in the audience, slow that shit down." I about lost it.)

And honestly, that's about it for the second portion of the show. She said that she hates exercise and wants to get in and out of the gym as fast as possible, and she also said that The Biggest Loser is not to be replicated, as no one can (or should) spend six hours a day in the gym.


And, here we are to the meet of the program: the therapy section.

At the beginning of the program when she said she believed in us, said that we could do it, she also said that she knew a lot of us would not do it: again, it's not an issue of can, it's an issue of will.

The biggest question she gets asked is How do you stay motivated? Her answer? That the motivation cannot be from an external source; the motivation has to come from within you.

You don't get skinnier for your partner. You don't switch jobs to make your dad happy. You don't exercise more because your sister wants you to. The changes happen because of you and because of what you want for yourself, what you think you deserve.

Jillian also talked a lot about what she called the "responsibility sandwich" -- the shame, regret, fear, judgment, responsibility, and obligation that make us think we should act a certain way. I'm not going to go into a whole lot of detail here, as I feel like I did a pretty darn good job of covering that myself a week or so ago.

She said that we should "break the rules" that we have given ourselves, that others have placed upon us, but she did clarify that we have one obligation: to be our best self. "You are a miracle. A fucking miracle. Your job is to express yourself, to let your voice be heard."

And then, in true Jillian form, she clarified that we do have one rule that we should not break: "Don't be a dick to people." I can get behind that. :)

She stressed that we all have the capability, strength, and intelligence to make a change right now, that we need to be extremely present, that we need to give ourselves permission to be awesome. After all, no one is any more special than another. The only difference between those who are extremely successful, herself included, and those who aren't is that those who are gave themselves permission to say, why not me?

Jillian then talked a lot about fear, a lot about failure, a lot about rejection. She talked about how you choose to respond to adversity dictates your reality: are you going to be a victim, or are you going to give light and love to your tragedies, knowing that they built you into a stronger, more capable person? She talked about forgiveness, about patterns and themes in your life, about love and validation.

It was during the talk on fear that she explained her motivation strategy: "I'm a bitch. I want them to feel -- I want them to feel the agony and defeat so that it hurts less to change." She talked a lot about how contestants on The Biggest Loser are often afraid to change because the negative behavior that they indulge in affords them something. For instance, she talked about a father-son duo (Ken and Austin) who went home on break and came back to the ranch: Ken lost zero pounds, and Austin gained three pounds. Apparently when they returned home, Austin's mother saw them and started crying, as she felt that she was going to be abandoned, left behind since she was overweight and they had already lost so much. Because Austin did not want to see his mom cry, he ate more food and tried to gain weight: being overweight, like his mother, afforded him his mother's love and attention. She is "a bitch" so that they feel agony and defeat in their current state so that they can change.

And you know what? I get that.

I wrote down ten pages of notes, friends. I could go on and on and on and on about amazing things that she had to say, little nuggets of wisdom. However, this post is getting long enough, and I'm sure -- if you've made it this far -- that you're bored out of your minds.

I'm going to leave you with this, something that I really took to heart:

Wherever you are -- for better or worse -- is all your fault.

And, more importantly, it reminded me of what my mom told me about her weight-loss journey: I am the only one who can change my life; no one else is going to lose the weight, eat better, exercise more for me. I need to do it for myself.

On the last page of my notes, I circled this: ACT & BEHAVE LIKE YOU MATTER. We all need to do a better job of this. We all need to realize what we deserve from this life, from others, and most importantly, from ourselves.

Seriously, this was like therapy. It was amazing. If you get the chance to see Jillian speak, please take advantage of it: I truly got so much out of it and honestly think you would, too.

If you have any questions or comments about the information in this novel of a post, I'd love to hear them. I probably have the answers in my notes. :)

Who is your favorite motivational speaker? What is your motivational mantra, something that you try to remind yourself of when you are down and needing inspiration?

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  1. Loved this post! I love Jillian's workouts and love how hardcore she is until I feel like I am going to die! Ha! So jealous you got to hear her speak but love all the notes you took to share with us!! This will definitely be a motivator to look back on when I lose motivation!! Thanks for sharing!! :)

    1. She is SO hardcore, but she is also super relatable. Her workouts are killer, and she's a badass, but I also feel like she could be my best friend. Thanks for reading!

  2. Thank you for posting this. Some of the items really hit home.

    1. Thank you for reading, Kristin. Much of what she said really resonated with me, too, which is why I feverishly wrote down EVERYTHING she said. Seriously, if you get a chance to go see her, please do. She's wonderful. :)

  3. Went to see her on April 27 at the Beacon theatre in NYC. She's the woman. Always will be. If you don't like her, she doesn't care. She's about EMPOWERMENT. And, many feel insecure when you see, hear and feel a real woman who is willing to rise from her own hardships and thrive. Go Jillian. You rock and always will. Loved everything she says and lives by. We need more Jillian's in this world to help us see that we DO MATTER. Great Post. THank you because I needed a refresher and I just made some really great notes. I'm giving a lot of the shit sandwich back! lmao! ha!

    1. I'm so glad you loved her, too! I think about her talk often and would TOTALLY go see her again! Thanks for stopping by!

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