Meeting Jillian Michaels

Buff Lady and Big Loser

Holy jet lag, Batman. When I finally went to sleep last night I'd been up for 30 hours, and now I'm awake again and still buzzing. Bzzz bzzz. I feel completely delirious and insane. Am I annoying you yet? Huh huh?

Let's begin with a burning question from the last entryWhat is that yellow goo with the pretzels? On the left is mustard, on the right is some sort of Processed Cheese Produkt. Which didn't really do much for my tastebuds. So I ate two Chicago hot dogs to compensate πŸ˜‰

Another question – Is Jillian Michaels wee or are you eleventeen million feet tall? I'm 5'8" and she is tiny! As Jen said, you could fit her in your handbag. And smuggle her out of the country so you could put her on your mantelpiece at home. Which is what I am sure many of us wanted to do after that soiree.

I had another one of those You've Come A Long Way Baby moments when everyone was lining up to have their photies taken with her. Despite Jillian being minuscule, I did not for one moment hesitate to get in the frame with her. Instead of fretting about our David/Goliath contrast all I could think was, "I cannae wait to show this to the blogging dames!"

All weekend I shocked myself at my ridiculous levels of boldness and enthusiasm. I think folk may have thought I was on drugs. Maybe it was the jet lag or maybe it's because I've been very busy and isolated this year and haven't been out of the house much — but I just wanted to yap to everyone and hear all about their lives. I wanted to jump into photos, I wanted to tackle people to the floor and tell them how tops it was to meet them in the flesh, I wanted to burst into tears about 10,000 times. I didn't think about my arms or wobbly thighs or my bite-infested ankles.

I feel like I've shaken off so many old doubts and insecurities. I'm pretty damn excited about life lately. As the leather-trousered Mr Morrison sang in Light My Fire, the time to hesitate is through.


Righto. Focus Shauna, focus!

Okay, today I will zoom in on the Jillian Michaels Lunchtime Chinwag. The AOL Body folks sponsored some lunchtime chats with various health-type people, so I pounced on the chance to meet The Buffed One. I thought there'd be hundreds of chicks in a barn and Jillian would be a dot on the horizon, but there was only a dozen or so, clustered around a table. It was all very cosy with some very honest and frank conversations.

Jen wrote an excellent recap of the discussions if you'd like to know the nitty gritty, so I will just sprout my impressions. I'd only known JM from two episodes of The Biggest Loser I saw in Australia back in 2005, in her hyper fembot trainer mode. She was equally hyper in person, but also warm, kind, funny, wise and so generous and open. She only had to be there for an hour, but she stayed for two – answering our questions, cracking jokes, offering advice and insight and juicy anecdotes about the show.

I was busting to ask her a question, so I sat there listening while I mulled over the possibilities:

  1. How do I get arms like that? How many reps? How heavy? Huh huh huh?
  2. Did you notice any difference between the Australian and American Biggest Losers? Which country had the whiniest losers?

Hehe. Instead I asked her about giving advice. I get lots of emails from people with oodles of weight to lose saying they don't know where to start. What did she recommend I tell them?

I do get a bit angsty-pants when answering emails, because they're often heartbreaking and I desperately want to say something helpful. I realise people have to find their own answers, but I know when I was getting started I was gagging for a wee spark of encouragement. So I usually write about what worked for me – baby steps, finding a source of support, and forgetting about the big fat picture and just focusing on ONE tiny thing. Like say, decide to go for a 20 minute walk, twice a week (or in my case, it was 5 minutes before I thought I would keel over). Once you have that mastered, you pick another new thing and add it to your fledgling repertoire of healthy habits… and so on, until you have almost tricked yourself into being healthier πŸ™‚

I guess I was sneakily looking for some reassurance from Jillian's answer. She said the two big things were 1) getting educated  and 2) getting support. And baby steps. I snavelled Jen's summary from her entry:

In the real world, [Jillian] 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.

She also talked a lot about the word balance. This was the big key to her approach. You have to find a way to juggle all the variables in your life so that being healthy is both sustainable and enjoyable. I remember a time when it seemed bloody impossible to me that it really could be that simple. But if you're willing to take the time to figure out what works for you, and do what you can feasibly stick to instead of driving yourself mad with unrealistic expectations or someone's elses notions that you must do X exercise Y times a week and eat Z… then suddenly everything really does slot into place. And you just end up healthier, on your own terms and your own pace, without so much angst and stress.

She also talked about how many people have an "all or nothing" approach to fitness and weight loss – if you're a perfectionist it can really paralyse your efforts. She said something like, "Just say your car has one flat tyre, would you go crazy and slash the other three?" No, you would just fix the one tyre then move on and start a new day…

One thing she said resonated with me like a brick to the noggin – "Successful people fail all the time". Nobody gets anywhere interesting without screwing up royally along the way. That sang to me in so many arenas, not just the fitness stuff. "Success is about attrition," Ms Jillian concluded, and I wholeheartedly agree. Just dig in, get your claws dirty and hang in there for the long haul, baby! Even when everything goes stinky. Especially when everything goes stinky.

38 thoughts on “Meeting Jillian Michaels

  1. Yes shauna mou. ESPECIALLY when everything goes stinky!!!!!

    Youre a legend mate.

    I am just so proud of you!


    larch hug!

  2. Wow Shauna….you don’t know how much I needed to hear that! Thank you soooo much!

    A fan from Canada

  3. glad to hear michelle πŸ™‚

    btw people I AM SORRY THIS ENTRY IS SO LONG! I am trying to cut them down but I cannae shut up. Someone at BlogHer was talking about too-long blog entries. GUIL-TAY!!!

  4. I don’t mind too long blog entries at all, especially if they are well written and topical like yours always are. There are some blogs that are just not that interesting to begin with that someone just uses for free association rambling, which can be quite cathartic for them, but not very enjoyable to read for us. But yours are never like that in my opinion. In fact, I can’t get enough of your story, and wish you wrote more often and longer! Or wrote a book!

    And I definately needed to hear your blog today. After working so hard finding my own plan that works for me to lose over 100 lbs over the course of about 3 years, I find that I am now about 40 lbs heavier due to too many life changes and losing the support structure I had and it’s scaring me to death that I see that weight back and that it might just all creep back on slowly. I used to live all alone, commuted to a job 10 minutes away, lived near my family, enjoyed my job somewhat, and basically did little socializing so I could focus on getting fit. Well…I got fit, and married a wonderful man, but that meant I had to move to another city, different job, different kind of home. Where I previously had room for my own treadmill set up in an extra room with a tv, I am now crammed into a 1 bedroom apartment. We have a fitness center, but I miss having my own private treadmill time. Anyway, now *I* am the long message here…sorry. But you insprired me to try to find a way to make this work so I dont gain back the rest of my weight.

  5. oops! i went back to change the first one because I left out “not” before “very enjoyable to read” but it posted twice! can you delete the first one? sorry!!

  6. No – thank you for the long blog entry. I was so thrilled that so many bloggers I read are so nice and friendly in person, and you were absolutely ah-mazing! And thanks for recaping the experience for those of us who couldn’t attend!

  7. Hey it’s Tanya the SEO Expert! It was really lovely meeting ya πŸ™‚

    Suzan – no worries! Your story sounds familiar, I think I owe you an email… apologies for my tardiness!

    But just quickly, I really empathise with your situation. I only moved across the river when I got married and at first I found myself feeling pissed off giving up my fancy gym and short commute, and was rather resentful at having to find a new way of doing things. My precious routines were RUINED! I spose the husband thing was worth the adjustment tho πŸ˜›

  8. That sounded like a great conference, and I could have gone, I have people I could stay with in Chicago, and it is only a 6 hour drive away! But alas, I do not blog enough; I would have felt like a fraud! Maybe I can get things in gear and make it to next years blogher conference.

    It sounds like you came away with loads of information, inspiration, and validation. Jillian Michaels seems like a great person to meet, I didn’t really like her at first because she was so in peoples face, but then she showed a picture of when she was unfit, and how it is so important to her to help others get out of that lifestyle….you just wanted to give her a big hug and go jog up a big hill!

    Which is worse, jet lag from going to the US or leaving?

  9. It’s not the length of the entry, it’s how clever it is, and I always feel better and smarter and more motivated after I leave here, so don’t change a thing! πŸ™‚

  10. Wow, wow, wow! So timely! And clearly this post resonated with a lot of your readers (me, too)!

    Over in LL land (Sandra included), several of us are struggling in phase 2 (Development) and this could not have been written at a better time. I will send everyone over here to read and absorb!

    I know you sometimes feel you are done with all this lardbusting/blogging malarkey BUT dear DG you write so amazingly well and thanks to Jen for contributing (indirectly)!

    THANK YOU (said with huge sincerity and appreciation).

    Mrs Lxxxxxxxx

  11. First, I’m so glad you enjoyed the conference and Chicago. And I’ll echo what has already been said about the length of the entries not being the point.

    I’m not familiar with Ms Michaels since I don’t own a tv, but I must say that the quote “there’s never a moment when I’m lifting a weight or doing a push-up where I think I love this” struck me as incredibly sad. “I love this” is a thought I get often while training. I find that I have it more frequently the more pushups I do and the heavier the weight I lift. πŸ™‚

  12. Envy, I know it’s a sin but damn it, I want to meet Jillian!! Actually I want Jillian to whip my arse with a riding crop so that I get moving and don’t end up the fattest bride in the whole of the Southern Alps.

  13. This is an excellent entry! I’m so sorry I missed the lunch, but now I feel as though I had actually been there. Thank you!

    I suspect the yellow stuff is nacho cheese sauce, a former passion of mine. I’m glad I didn’t see it, or things could have gotten ugly. πŸ™‚

  14. I have been thinking of you a lot lately as I have been doing a clearout of old photo albums – so I’ve kept all the photos of me in interesting places even if I think I look hideous, and only chucked the snaps of my ex husband LOL. I’m so happy for you how everything is turning out πŸ™‚

  15. Very very cool… πŸ™‚ My sister will be so jealous about your having lunch with Jillian…

    Good points re. balance and practicality – it can be hard to find exercise that’s fun and fits into a busy lifestyle! I find dance and BodyPump work for me when I can find classes that fit in the lifestyle – I can get into the music, and I don’t get BORED, so an hour’s exercise flies by… πŸ™‚

    …and don’t get stressed about blog length – they are always interesting, and it’s so inspiring to see what you’ve achieved. You rock!!! πŸ™‚

  16. “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.”

    I got really mad when I read this. She doesn’t love what she does? Lifting weights IS great. Every time in the gym, every time I squat, every rep, every sweat drop, every grunt, every ounce of energy that goes into lifting I can seriously say I LOVE IT!!!!!

    I’m sad that she only loves the results, it seems a shame to waste your life doing something for only the results. If that was the way people thought, we’d all be living on Slim-Fast and be thin as rails.

    Perhaps Ms Trainer needs to change activities and find something that she does enjoy doing.

  17. Jen, Mich – Hell yeah, I love weight training too and see what you mean. But she did say it in her trademark OTT way. The quote sounds so distorted plucked out like that, but if you look at it in the context of the conversation — talking about very unfit people who are having trouble getting started — she was kinda exaggerating for her effect, trying to reach out to the people who hadn’t done any exercise before because they think hate it, saying that you just have to start, somewhere, anywhere, and try these things until you find something you like, even though you may not be totally IN LOVE with it at first.

    i think she was kind of saying, “even buff crazy dames like herself find it hard sometimes. You can relate to me and my rippling abs” πŸ˜›

  18. I just wanted to comment on the thing you said about finding what works for YOU. I have always had a hard time following “diets”…and trust me I have tried every diet /eating program/way of life known to man kind! It seems as soon as I start to follow a plan set out by someone else I begin to crave things I never usually eat, and I become the laziest person on the planet!
    For me, what works is to follow simple logic. After dieting all my life I could write my own book about it. (If I was thin Id make a million dollars!!)
    I know what I should and should not be eating, and what a proper portion is, and how much exercise I need to be doing. Hell I could tell you the fat, carb and calorie content of most food items from memory!!
    So maybe I just get irritated when someone else trys to tell me what I already know. Or maybe I get frustrated becasue I DO know so much but Im still fat?
    Applying what you know is the key for me, but as you said its different for everyone. I guess the point is to find what works for YOU and stick with it. The sticking with it is the hard part.
    ( sorry for the long comment)

  19. “Once you have that mastered, you pick another new thing and add it to your fledgling repertoire of healthy habits…” That’s it exactly; if you said nothing else at all to newbies, that would be enough, that’s the heart of it right there.

  20. I have been reading you forever, Shauna…never commented before, but I just had to today, because you have absolutely motivated the tar out of me today with this post. I am two years into doing this weight loss thing and really struggling right now. This advice…and your sharing it….really helps. Never thought of it that way before. So, thanks!

  21. Thanks Shauna! I needed to hear the bit about successful people failing all the time. I’ve just started succeeding again after months of failing πŸ™‚ It feels good to be back on track.

  22. Wow. “Successful people fail all the time” What a great time – great moment – to read those words. Oh and all the rest of them too of course LOL.

    I think you are amazing and the changes you STILL make each and every day are a testimate to that.

    Have a great weekend

  23. Sounds like a great time and I can feel your “buzz” (it’s inspiring) and it is definitely not annoying. What great inspiration and tidbits of wisdom. Thank you so much for taking the time to get it written up and sharing your experience.

    Rest well!

  24. Just wanted to tell you that from the few photos I’ve seen from Blogher of you, that you look absolutely amazing! And so tiny, but more importantly confident and happy.

  25. Thanks for sharing what Jillian said. I’m always looking for things or stories or saying/advice to keep me motivated to lose the weight.

  26. Loved this entry Shauna! I fall into the perfectionist all-or-nothing trap every. Single. Time.

    And indeed, you are looking utterly gorgeous, healthy and radiant. Good for you!


  27. What a brilliant post Shauna girl. You have helped so many people and I’m so glad you have realised “the time to hesitate is through”. You’re a treasure and to share your experiences is so generous. Just look at how far you have come! I would have loved to have met Jillian. She is definitely one cool chick and straight up.

  28. Hi Shauna,

    A friend turned me on to your site about two weeks ago, and I just wanted you to know how incredibly inspirational it has been for me. I am a 31 year old man with over 200 lbs to lose. Your early posts about planning meals and setting specific, small exercise goals instead of having a half-arsed notion of “being healthier” really resonated with me. I have read your archives from Jan 2001 up to Jan 2003 and counting.

    For six days now I have been planning my meals, eating more sensibly, exercising every day, and feeling pretty good so far. I know it will be hard… but finding your blog and a number of other blogs through yours has given me the impetus I need. Thank you so much for your humour, and for being an inspiration!!!

  29. Shauna, I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time, and I was also in that jillian session with you… I really wanted to introduce myself, and I’m not sure why I didn’t… got distracted and then was late for something else, and then didn’t cross paths with you again. Anyway, just wanted to “introduce” myself and tell you congrats on your success thus far. It was great to almost meet you in the Windy City!

Comments are now closed on all Dietgirl posts. For fresh conversation please visit me at