Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Jillian Michaels Transforms America One Family at a Time

Just when you thought it was safe to take the ice cream out of the freezer and step away from the treadmill, Jillian Michaels is back. Her new series, Losing It with Jillian, started last night and will take The Biggest Loser timeslot on Tuesdays this summer. In it, she takes the Loser concept on the road, making house calls, with families nationwide who need help getting healthy. In the season premiere she moves in with a family who lost a child 22 years ago. You can expect similarities with Loser along the inspirational, tearjerker vain.

We sat in on a panel discussion recently with Jillian and her executive producers Ellen Rakieten and Mark Koops. Here's what they said about excuses, motivation, and fast food.

Q: Jillian, you were a pretty tough trainer on The Biggest Loser. Did any of these families express any trepidation about letting you come into their homes?

JILLIAN: Oh, yeah.

MARK: Jillian is the toughest trainer. When she shows up, as you'll see in the episodes, there's moments of elation and fear mixed together. They know what they've let themselves in for to a degree because they've seen it… You should all work out with Jillian once. What you think you've seen, it's nothing like the pain unless you actually work out with her. So they think they know what it's going to be like, but until you really work out with Jillian, you don't know what it's like.

Q: Do you find having done this for a while that you get the same sort of basic excuses for not trying to lose the weight, and also, is there one thing you just tell people, "Look, just do this one thing to sort of start down that path"?

JILLIAN: Wow, everybody has a different story and unique set of experiences that are individual to them. With that said, there is one through-line that I see, and it's a lack of self-worth. It's a part of the work that I try to do is to boost up their confidence and their self-esteem so they know they're able to implement the tools they are given.

As for one piece of advice, I would simply say this, "People can do anything if they believe that the why is worth the how." So in essence, establish all of the reasons that you want to change your life. That's going to be worth any amount of broccoli and treadmill. Seeing your grandchild graduate from college, find those inner sources of inspiration and motivation and keep those in mind every time you make a conscious choice about what to eat, whether or not to work out, and every other facet of your life.

MARK: That was definitely part of the motivation for the show. Everywhere she goes, she's hearing people make excuses. "I don't have time. I'm busy with my kids. I work." And there are excuses. We all make in our own life, we make choices, and they're arguing, "If I went to The Biggest Loser, I would be able to it lose the weight"… She's going in there saying, "You can change it by making very simple life choices today on the budget you have and in the lifestyle and in the environment you already are." She shifts that environment to shift the excuses, because we do all make excuses for the weight gain, and we've seen that.

ELLEN: Having come from a background of seeing lots of transformational and creative transformational television, one of the things I love about this show and what I've seen so far with this show is the relatability of it. You can watch a wife who's lost her husband and have two small kids, which is not my story at all, but I saw something in her that clicked within me. So I think that inspirational aspect. On Biggest Loser, 20 million pounds have been lost around the world and maybe a million on the show. This is really a reclaim, reboot, restart your life, get to the core of why you're living an unhealthy lifestyle and passing that to a family. So it's really relatable, and what I also love about it, Jillian is a badass. There's no question about it. I call this the 360 Jillian, because you get to see Jillian in ways and just really the most -- like right when it's needed, the most soft, tender, caring, dutiful moments, some that I've ever seen.

Q: Obviously it does work on Biggest Loser, but for myself, if somebody screamed in my face about losing weight, my reaction would not necessarily be to cooperate. How does -- does it take a specific type of person to be able to not only need the help, but to be able to respond to that brand of help?

JILLIAN: That is a technique that I utilize when I'm trying to circumvent a story in someone's mind. So, for example, when somebody is caught up in, "Oh, I can't do this. It's not who I am. I'm the weak, lazy" -- insert whatever negative adjective you have here, I will scare them into an action and utilize fear to tap into survival mechanisms so they'll end up doing the task, and at the end of it, they will go, "Oh, my God. I just ran a mile" or "I was able to do a pushup" or "I was able to achieve the goal." And what that does is it helps me redefine their self-image. Again, I'm not there to make friends. I'm there to create breakthrough experiences that I can use to catalyze change in their lives, and these are people that are in a life-or-death circumstance very often.

MARK: Also, equally when she's on Loser, if you see a snapshot of two hours a of week of hours of training that go into helping elicit change within people that come with really real issues, and then when she goes on the road and moves in, she has five days to get people to sometimes get rid of problems they've had for 15, 20-plus years. She has to move quickly… There's always a method behind the madness. I think that is what you will see with this show is the real methodology of what she does. She doesn't ever be mean for mean's sake. She's mean, in quotes, to try to encourage them to face up to a fear or face up to change that they have to make or they're going to be facing much more dire consequences than having a trainer shout at them, quite frankly.

ELLEN: I think what Jillian's really just asking during those moments is love yourself enough to try –

JILLIAN: Take a risk.

ELLEN: Take a risk. Do it, and it's her way of communicating. I have just seen these people go "Whoo" and do things they never thought they could do. It's really unbelievable and inspiring.

MARK: Within the first five minutes of every workout, I think without exception, you will hear the words "I can't"… And by the end of the week, that's changed to "I can." And I think that's pretty phenomenal to be able to shift someone's perception of what they can achieve for themselves. As a kid, we all dream that we can do anything, and then life beats you down. What Jillian shows is you can fight back and you can make conscious decisions every day to make your life better. I think that's what the show is about.

ELLEN: Absolutely. Mark's so right. You're right. That's an unbelievable thing to accomplish in five days, especially when people have been interfering. And you know what I else I love, too… A lot of these shows the children are watching the unhealthy behaviors of their parents, and they're yearning for somebody to come in and save their family because they see it all disintegrating, and it's really quite rampant. In the casting… there wasn't a shortage of people looking for Jillian to come to their house.

Q: Where do you go for fast food?

JILLIAN: God. I hate to give somebody an unnecessary plug. But to be truthful, I have been on the road quite a bit, and there are not many options, and I get the vegetarian sandwich at Subway. I get the sandwich with mustard and vinegar, all the veggies, and I keep it at that. I hope to create more options for Americans that are accessible. That's something that I'm working on in various aspects, my business. It's something we are hoping to tackle with the show. It's a process.

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