Calling Jillian Michaels a fitness guru is kinda like saying Oprah Winfrey is sorta influential or Kim Jong-il has a little problem expressing himself. She is a fitness god…or goddess, whichever! She is the go-to for millions of people that want a full-tilt, kick-butt, take-no-prisoners approach to exercise and wellness. She sees the secret for performance squarely on a more organic/vegetarian diet and green lifestyle. Her resume says it all - from best-selling books to videogames (yeah, I didn’t believe it at first either), Michaels has made a career of empowering people to reach their personal goals, both physical and psychological. Though Biggest Loser is most famous for the perhaps the funniest 30-seconds in reality show history, it is one of the most widely acclaimed due to Michaels's dedication and commitment to helping people perform at a level that they thought was impossible. She has created a brand name for herself and motivated nearly 15 million viewers with the television series. Now, with her third book, Master Your Metabolism, she’s making the connection between how better living is directly linked with green living. She's pointing out that if you want the body of your dreams, you gotta go green.
Treehugger: Your new book has lots of references to environmental topics like organic food, water pollution and health issues - what got you to see the connection between your body and the environment? For example, your illustration of the lexus between hormones in our food/water supply and how they affect weight. Was this something you encountered on your own healthy journey?
Jillian Michaels: I find that when something is meant to be discovered and explored in life the universe hits you with many signs from many sources. A few years ago I was deeply moved by a documentary on the environment called The 11th Hour. I began exploring different avenues of "greening" my life - getting a hybrid, water conservation, air pollution etc. I was also in the process of reading books about the food industry and the pharmaceutical industry (Selling Sickness, Appetite for Profit and Food Politics). These books horrified me. I knew there was corruption in the government and corporate America, but didn't begin to fathom the extent or the depth of it. At the same time I had started seeing an endocrinologist for certain hormonal health issues (hypo-thyroid, melasma). With all of this information coming at me simultaneously I began to realize that our health and the health of our planet share the same fate. Our environment is a closed system - if it's sick ultimately we will be to.
TH: What do you do on a daily basis that impacts both your health and the environment?
JM: I have gone off the deep end on this. I find that when one has the knowledge and the means they have a responsibility to make the ethical choice. With regard to my diet, I always go organic. I shop at local farmers’ markets whenever possible. I have given up all animal products except for fish that has been ethically fished like ocean caught salmon, farmed arctic char, farmed trout, pacific cod, tilapia, crab, shrimp, and farmed oysters. I use all natural beauty products like Olive Oil, brown sugar for scrubs, avocado and ethical organic brands. My cleaning products are all green - and got rid of paper towels almost entirely and use rags instead. I use a Kangen water filter for drinking water and put in stainless steel canteens- never bottled water.
TH: On the show, the biggest loser, we get to see your amazing, almost superhuman ability to inspire and motivate people to be their best, give 110% and strive for nothing less than success. Where do you get your motivation from?
JM: I am meant to do what I do. I liken it to the Matrix - funny I know, but hear me out. This job comes very natural to me, but I have also spent years educating myself on biochemistry, fitness and self-help. I believe that I am a product of my environment. I was a troubled heavy kid and that gives me the understanding to do this job authentically and without ego. I have been in therapy since I was 5 which allows me to recognize certain psychological issues in the people I work with and help them create solutions that turn their lives around. My martial arts background was also instrumental in helping me identify a person’s potential and comprehend just how far I can push them mentally and physically to facilitate accelerated lasting positive changes.
TH: Why did you feel it was important to write a book about hormones and metabolism? This is your first "diet" book, why the departure from the workout books we have seen from you in the past?
JM: My passion has never been six pack abs. Fitness is just a tool I use to rebuild people's lives. For that reason, it is only a small piece of the equation when it comes to a holistic solution for health and wellness. Diet is an essential component of wellness. It is imperative to weight loss, but it is also plays a key role in combating aging and fighting off disease. Why hormones, because they ARE your metabolism. Weight loss and health is science. By giving people the facts and the knowledge you empower them to make powerful choices that create significant change.
TH: Organic v/s conventional foods: what's your three biggest reasons to get people to switch?
JM: Number one - Health personal. Conventional foods are loaded with so many different forms of poison - everything from hormones, trans-fats, preservatives, artificial flavors & colorings, HFC and pesticides. These things WILL kill you. They cause cancer, cognitive dysfunction, heart disease and a host of other really crappy diseases. I don't know about you, but I would rather invest another $25 a week on healthy groceries and save the thousands on chemo down the road. I am not being dramatic either. In the last year I know 4 people 40 years of age and under that have been diagnosed with cancer. 2 breast cancer, 1 thyroid, 1 ovarian.
Number two – Healthy Environment. Bottom line is that when you jack up the environment you jack up your own health. When the air is messed up you get sick. When the water is messed up you get sick. When the planet is too hot and we have all sorts of climate disasters, we are the ones that pay the price. Of course, I could sit here and lecture you about how unethical it is to make all the other species on the planet suffer because we are greedy selfish gluttonous consumers, but why bother. We are a narcissistic species and ultimately WE will be suffering the consequences of our actions.
Number three - Economics. When you go organic ultimately you are saving a fortune. Think about this statistic - every dollar you invest in preventative measures will save you $80 down the road in healthcare treatment costs for disease. You can save a fortune on bottled water by using a filter for your tap. You can save a fortune on expensive beauty and cleaning supplies by using natural products like olive oil for moisturizer or white vinegar to clean.
TH: Being a celebrity and having such an impact on so many of your viewers/listeners/readers/
fans, what do you think is the number one way you can help inspire others to be more environmentally conscious?
JM: Leading by example.
TH: I love the attention you have with environmental issues...fitness seems to be a natural place for more green stuff. What’s next for you and green living? Will we see more green stuff on Biggest Loser?
JM: Not on Biggest Loser, but I am working on my own show at the moment and you can expect to see a show about healthy living emotionally and physically. That is where the lifestyle stuff will come into play.
Can't wait. Getting a little sweaty just thinking about it.