Q&A: Jillian Michaels from Biggest Loser and Losing It With Jillian

May 27th, 2010 by

Now that The Biggest Loser season is over, I am going to miss my favorite ass-kicking trainers on TV. Lucky for me (and us!), Jillian Michaels will be back on a new show premiering next week on NBC. “Losing It With Jillian” centers around Jillian spending a week with a family getting their diet and their lives back on track. Game playing and immunity challenges are left for her other show, as she delves deep into what got the families down an unhealthy role to begin with. I am very excited for this show, and I was thrilled to chat with Jillian on a media call. She talks about the biggest surprises filming the show, her most memorable moment, and her methods to help people lose weight. You also might be surprised to see a softer side of Jillian on this show, and I can’t wait!

A lot of this has validity because you went through this yourself and you lost weight and so forth. Could you run us through that just a little bit? How old were you when you started to put on weight and when you took it off again?
Okay. You know, I went sort of up and down from being a toddler to being a pre-teen. I got my heaviest after my parent’s divorce when I was about 12, 13 years old. I was about 175 and 5′ tall, so roughly two to three inches shorter than I am now and about 60 pounds heavier than I am now. You know, this is something that we have a genetic predisposition. Some of us are predisposed to gaining weight when, you know, we don’t eat properly and what have you while others of us can get away with murder, which I’m very bitter about even still to this day. But nevertheless, it was also systemic within my family. You know, my father was overweight and I learned the behaviors of bonding over food and late night eating and being rewarded with food and food is love and all of that stuff, you know, as a product of nurture as well. So it’s – becomes kind of a combination. Then after my parent’s divorce, my mom, not really making this about my weight but more about me being kind of angry and having problems in school and she was looking for an outlet for me because I didn’t have any friends. I was like the loser kid. And she got me into martial arts and that’s really what turned things around for me over time – mind you, did not happen right away. It took at least a year for me to kind of take it seriously and appreciate what it was about and – but that really is where I learned to appreciate fitness as a means to transform your whole life, not just your body.

 I understand you did some filming in the Boston area, and I was wondering if you could tell me a bit about the families you worked with up here….and maybe some of the challenges you had up here with them.
Absolutely. Absolutely. Okay. The first family we worked with, they’re they Mastropietro family. Jimbo and Agnes Mastropietro and then they have a 20 year old son and I think Michelle their daughter is like 23. And each family has an instigating event that becomes sort of their unwinding. And what I mean is in this show, you will see how physical health and emotional health are really symptoms of deeper problems. You know, we deal with the why, which we do on Biggest Loser as well, but it’s kind of, you know, you don’t see as much of it. And I tend to think of this show as the behind the scenes of Biggest Loser, all the stuff that America isn’t getting to see. You know, why they got unhealthy and all the tools we implement for them to use at home and so forth. So this family lost a child. And granted this was 22 years ago but they lost a child. They were children themselves practically when it happened. They were in their 20s. And it’s become a kind of don’t ask-don’t tell policy in the family of not pushing each other to confront issues, demons. They enable each other with food. Food has become love. Food has become this thing to kind of comfort the pain because no one’s talking. And when we get this family to sort of communicate with one another and we create space for conversation and dialogue and healing, you’ll see that all of the various aspects from health to the interpersonal dynamics of their relationships fall into play. So, that’s our first family. And then the second family is a single mom – well, she’s – I’m sorry. She’s actually a widow named (Deb Jones) and she has a 10 year old and a 12 year old, a boy and a girl. Her husband passed away 5 years prior and they are sort of just coming out of the aftermath of that and getting ready to get back into living. Their whole entire lives sort of went on hold. And now, you know, obviously after going through something that traumatic, there comes a time where you finally start to heal and you’re ready to move forward and that’s kind of what that is oddly both of these families have deaths in them. The other – there’s none of that in the other families but both of these families had those two particular issues. And it becomes about her taking charge of her family and learning to manage time as a now, you know, solo parent and catalyzing her children with positive reinforcement and getting them all on the same page to move forward towards health and her kind of taking control because she didn’t feel like, you know, I think that there was a certain amount of like she kind of gave up. She flat out gave up on life. And you’re going to see her reclaim her life and her health and her kids and her relationships in the process. 

I’m sure you had expectations going in this show, but what was the biggest surprise for you that you, you know, didn’t see coming?
Wow. Truthfully we, you know, we had thought that it would be like okay I move in with families across the country and we teach them how to eat and we teach them how to work out and yay everybody’s happier and healthier. But I found that moving in with these families, they already knew the information. And we underestimate how intelligent we are as a society. And all these families, they were like ashamed to show me what was in the fridge, ashamed to make the foods they normally eat. And that’s when we realized that the show wasn’t about calories and crunches, that it was more about what the breakdown is and how come people aren’t living their dreams and pursuing their destinies and living their best lives. And, you know, after doing the pilot, the show changed and it became kind of a life makeover. And that was what was so surprising to me is, you know, going in thinking okay we’re going to clean out the cabinets and then we’re going to go to the office and clean out the work kitchen and it’s not about that at all – not at all. I mean it’s in there and you see all of it because that is an integral part of the show so of course there’s the workouts and there’s the healthy cooking and all that stuff but it’s – becomes much more about the why, not the what of health and wellness. Does that make any sense? And you know, since you’re living with the family, is it – do your emotions get wrapped up in it more because you’re actually getting to know them really well on a very intimate level. Oh my God. I don’t think that I have cried so much in my entire life. I mean every week I am hysterical crying. It is just – it’s horrible. And it definitely – it’s very strange. Like my show runner who travels with me, her name’s Stef Wagstaff, and she’s like Jill, you’re becoming – I become sort of like the families when I move in. I take on their accents, their – the way that they walk, kind of the things that they say. And she’s like you are so strange the way you kind of meld into the family and like a sponge. You sort of take on their dynamic and their personalities and I become very empathic with the families. And I think it’s – I had to really process that. I think part of it’s so that I can understand them and kind of get in their heads and try to help them implement solutions that will work for them as, you know, a unique family entity and unique – uniquely as individuals. But it’s definitely a roller coaster ride and it brings up so many different things for me of being a latch key kid, going through the divorce, losing loved ones, and it’s just – it just – it wrecks you. It just wrecks you but in the most beautiful way because you’re also a huge part of their healing process. And of that aha moment and those transformations, and I wouldn’t have it any other way but honestly I think I’ve gone through more Kleenex, a whole forest worth. So it’s pretty intense.

Could you at least share one or two of the best ways that parents can get their children interested in fitness and restructuring how they eat …because as we all know, kids are so consumed with fast food like most of us are.
Of course. Of course. Okay. I have a great episode that I just did with a 7 and a 9 year old in Detroit. And one of the things we did is first thing is we made the cooking fun. So for example, we played little games of okay, pick colors and then go and buy two fruits and two vegetables in your favorite color. So if it was purple or if it was orange, they had to find two orange fruits and two orange vegetables. And it kind of makes it fun for them. It makes it a game. And then with the kids I also incorporated cooking with them so that they felt involved and invested in the foods. Like they would pick a recipe and we would make it together and I would explain to them the healthy ingredients and the differences what they do in their bodies. And honestly, tell kids the truth. So – they can handle it. Tell them the truth. I took – with the 7 year old, she was really upset because I was throwing away all these white bleached processed breads that they had in the house. And I sat her down and I took out a piece of my bread and a piece of her bread. And I said, “You know, what do you see in my bread?” And she was like, “I see all kinds of stuff in there, and nuts and seeds.” And I explained to her what those things do for her body and how they’re going to help her grow strong and healthy and live a really long time. And then I asked her what she saw in her bread and she said, “Nothing.” And I said, “Exactly. There’s nothing in here that’s good for you or that’s going to make you strong or healthy.” And then I said, “What color is your bread.” And she said, “White.” And I just leveled with her. I was like, “How do you think it gets that color?” And she said, “I don’t know.” And I said, “Have you ever watched mommy do the laundry?” And she said, “Yes.” And I said, “Have you seen her put bleach in the laundry?” And she said, “Yes.” And I said, “That’s what’s making your bread white.” And she was horrified and I was like, “So what do you think? You want to eat it?” And she was like, “No I never want to eat it again,” and we threw it away. Level with them. Tell them the truth. And, you know, don’t scare them like oh bleach is going to cause cancer and kill you, but tell them what’s in there. They’re super smart. They can wrap their heads around that. And then again, get them invested. Start a garden with them. Make it fun. Cut things into fun shapes and sizes and you can sneak it into – like I made brownies with these kids and my brownies had, you know, applesauce, yogurt and olive oil and like unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder instead of, you know, white sugar, white flour, tons and tons of butter. So you can also sneak healthy stuff into their favorite foods and you don’t even need to let them know. But make it fun for them, invest them, incorporate them, educate them in the process. And then when it comes to fitness stuff, you have to lead by example. It can’t be about – you can’t be a do what I say not what I do because that will just never happen. You your child’s primary role model. And when they see you putting your health first, they’re going to follow suit. Make it something you can do as a family, you know, with my Boston family we went – the mom and the daughter took dance classes together. We all went canoeing on the Charles River together. Make it something that you guys can do as a family where you’re healthy and active and find a sport that the kids love. You know, we’ve been basically utilizing resources in these communities. So one of our kids loved swimming and we got him on a swim team at the Y. Another one of our girls wanted to be a majorette. You know, she was 14. Another one of our boys wanted to be – wanted to try out for basketball. So find an activity that your kids can love that’s fun and social that they can enjoy, and then set the example yourself because you are their primary role model.

Can you talk about how the new show gives people a more realistic and practical timeframe to get healthy as compared to the competition aspects of the Biggest Loser?
Of course. Of course. Will you – I’m glad you asked me that question because what we’re seeing is – we’re seeing great numbers but nothing like Biggest Loser numbers. You know, this show – we’re going into people’s homes. So that means they’re working full time jobs, sometimes over the 40 hours a week. Some of our parents are working 60 hours a week to make ends meet. You know, we’re going into homes with two kids, three kids, young kids, teenagers. You know, people are juggling real crazy lives. And it’s – and by way we’re working within their budgets. So we’re working with their timeframe and with their economic restrictions and with their environmental restrictions. You know, I have an episode where I’m in the farm, and the – literally in the middle of nowhere outside of Nashville in Tennessee. And, you know, there’s not a Whole Foods around the corner and even if that was economically viable for this family, which it isn’t. So it is about sort of creating solutions based on, you know, all of those factors and the resources that they have available to them. And then you’re also seeing, you know, what I’ve seen so far because I’m obviously been keeping in touch with my families despite the fact that we haven’t shot their reveals yet, but I’m seeing the guys are losing about – we can expect about 50 pounds in two months which by the way I think is awesome. And the women are losing around 30. But, you know, on Biggest Loser, I have, you know, guys lose 50 pounds in three weeks… I mean all they’re doing is basically working out all, you know, eight hours a day. So I think what we’re showing them, and we’re coming back and they’re not done. I’m coming back in six weeks to eight weeks. So they are pretty heavy. You know, a lot of these people are 300 pounds. The men are about 300, the women are 200 plus. And, you know, in six to eight weeks we’re not coming back and they’re not like ta-da. It’s not kind of that Biggest Loser finale moment. But the message is, look it’s been six to eight weeks. We’ve come back. You know, they’ve gotten off their diabetes medication. Their cholesterol has dropped 25 points. They’re, you know, they’ve got the new job. They’ve lost 50 pounds. It’s really showing America that they’re back on track. And the message here is that life is an ongoing journey. It’s constantly a process but you’re either off course or you’re on course. And we’re coming back to see did they utilize these tools and reboot their lives and are they back on track? And they’re having to work with, again, their own – the money that they have available to them for health, the environmental resources that they have available to them and we’re working within their schedule and their time constraints. So, that’s – and I think America’s going to see that along the way. And we will also be doing stuff online because we only have 43 minutes to show you, you know, over 100 hours of me living with this family. So we’re going to have tools online of saying, okay, learn what Jillian did with (Todd) to help him curb his nighttime eating. Okay. See the grocery list that Jillian gave the family. Oh for tips on planning your own garden, you know, go to NBC Losing It dot com. So we’re going to make sure and give America the tools that they’re not seeing on the show due to time restrictions as well online.

You touched on a lot so far, but I wanted to know what your most memorable experience from filming Losing It so far has been.
Wow. I’m going to have to say the medicine man on the Yavapai Apache reservation destroyed me. I mean destroyed me. So, we have one episode that’s a little bit different than the others. And we decided that we went down to Arizona and we met with the elders of the Yavapai Apache nation. And their entire community, due to genetic predispositions is rife with diabetes and heart disease and they wanted us to come down there, and I say us because it’s not just me obviously. You know, there’s doctors and nutritionists and therapists and producers and the whole thing that are really at work here…to get these people healthy. So we went down and they wanted us to come in and help mobilize a nation of people. And we do this by using a family on the reservation as a conduit or examples and messengers or what have you or even translators to the tribe and – or the nation. And we had a diabetes meeting with our doctor who’s incredible, Dr. (Kodzi VonHurley). And she flew out from LA for me to have this meeting with the tribe. And at the meeting, their medicine man comes up to me and he’s like I brought gifts for you. And he starts giving me – he’s like you’re going to need these things on your journey. And he starts giving me these gifts. And I – I mean started to instantaneously cry and fall apart. And he’s like, you know, you’ll need this and you’ll need to be like this and you have a long journey ahead of you and take this and this will do that and do this. And I just – it was kind of amazing. It was really profound because first of all the advice and the information he gave me was really deep and useful, not to sound silly, but – and just to kind of have somebody from another culture reach out to me and understand and see eye to eye with me especially when I was having some trouble there because I was an outsider. It was heavy. It was really heavy. And I think when you see it, it’s really profound and I’m hoping it resonates with people the way it did with me.

Can you talk about some of the experts that you’ll be bringing in to help you? You mentioned some doctors. I think Curtis Stone is going to be there. Can you talk about some of them?
Sure. Some are on camera some are not. So, Dr. (Kodzi VonHurley) is on camera. And although she’s on camera briefly because again we only have 43 minutes, she does full medicals, full physicals. She sits down with the families. She’s sort of following them through the process. We also have Dr. Robert Huizenga behind the scenes who is working in tandem with Dr. (VonHurley) to make sure that we are overseeing this for them medically every step of the way. (VonHurley) is on camera. Huizenga isn’t on camera. We have a nutritionist named Dr. Cheryl Forberg who I work hand in hand with and who’s amazing. And she has helped me create the diet program for the families. After I leave she goes out and boot camps them for two days to make sure that they feel like they understand everything, every aspect of the diet and then we’re both in contact with them practically daily or at least, you know, we trade off if it’s every other day to make sure that they’re not confused or in case they have questions we help follow through or if they run into plateaus or what have you. You know, we did have Curtis but Curtis – it turns out that Curtis is – he is in one of our episodes and he helps teach the family how to cook healthy, but now he’s also doing a cooking show for NBC. So that part I can’t comment on because I don’t know anything about it. But he is in one of our episodes as well and he’s wonderful in it as always. And then we have our therapists and our doctors at NBC that help the family. And if the family chooses to pursue counseling after the show, grief counseling, marriage counseling, our doctors and our legal team help them find the appropriate person for their family as well.

Mark Koops: Yes. And one thing about that is, I mean obviously there’s a team surrounding Jillian, but I think what we realize, you know, as we shot these shows, it’s really about the voyage Jillian goes on as well because she really, you know, by going to them it’s a very different experience for her from Biggest Loser. You know, and she’s really having to attack the why in their local environment which is much harder than – well either way she gets to take them away to the ranch. So I think, you know, following Jillian’s emotional journey as well, and it is emotional for her…is really where we wanted to focus the story on a long time.

So what do you think you learned the most about your time filming Losing It so far?
God I hope this doesn’t come off wrong. I haven’t really experienced America like this. You know, I grew up in Los Angeles, you know, in a suburb of Los Angeles. And to be honest, I had kind of a sheltered life. I mean issues, you know, family dysfunctions and all kinds of that stuff. But you’ve seen families that are working 60 hours, 80 hours a week to make ends meet. And the sacrifices that people will go to out of love for their children or their spouses. And I just learned so much about the fabric of resilience in America and I don’t think I’ve ever been so quite patriotic. It’s had a kind of a really profound effect on me in that way of just understanding what the backbone of this country is really about and what we’re made of and made up of as a nation of people and as individuals. And I have a whole new respect for being an American that I didn’t have before which I hope doesn’t come off strange, but, you know, I kind – I think I took it for granted in a way that I will never do again. And it’s just I’m grateful every day and I have a whole new respect for my fellow Americans. It’s kind of intense when you do that, when you get a chance to sort of go into these communities and take to the streets and meet the people and see how hard they work. And despite all of the hardships that have hit them, it’s inspiring. 

If there was one starting point for any family wrestling with the issues of overweight parents and kids, too much processed food, too little exercise, what would you suggest that starting line behavior or practice…would be?
I’m going to go with first of all identifying your source of motivation because these things are not going to be easy. And you’ll find that the weight is affording them something, whether it’s – they believe that it’s holding the marriage together, be it that one person gets healthy and one person doesn’t the marriage is going to fall apart so it’s like the wife stays overweight because she doesn’t want to threaten the husband but then she secretly resents the hell of out of him. You know, it’s identifying the why of getting healthy because if you have a why to live for you can tolerate any how. And the how is gutting the house, you know, watching your calories, eating broccoli instead of French fries, going to the gym for an hour five days a week and making that time, and by the way creating those risks and shaking things up and confronting one another. Those things are really hard to do. And if you haven’t established that those kinds of risks and behaviors are worth it, it’s not going to stick. So, you know, it becomes well what the hell am I doing this for? And it’s kind of like look at your 7 year old and your 9 year old. You know, the 7 year old is already gaining weight. She’s already got crazy issues with food. You know, she’s getting bullied at school. She’s following in all your footsteps. She’s getting – the 9 year old has anxiety and can’t sleep because she’s worried the parents are going to die in the middle of the night. I mean, you know, it’s like what do you want out of life because if you can establish why you want to get healthy, it will transcend all of the hardship and all of the risk that you need to endure to get healthy. So that’s step number 1. And then on a very literal level, I’m asking people to learn what is in their foods. So I feel like we’ve all got the calories thing now. I feel like that message is out there and people aren’t stupid. And, you know, you give them a little tweak here and there of okay no, read the – you’re being confused on that food label. Here’s how you measure things out on a kitchen scale. Here are some tools to count calories, eat this many calories. You know, burn this many calories on your Bodybugg yay. That part’s not hard. But learn what the hell is in the foods you’re eating because so many of our families have got, whether its overcome – I’ve got two parents that have overcome cancer. Almost everybody’s got full-blown diabetes, if they’re not pre-diabetic. I’ve got people with stents in their heart, I mean you name it. And it goes well beyond overeating. And it has a tremendous amount to do with the chemicals, the toxins and the preservatives in their food. So I want them to learn obviously how to count calories but I also want them to learn what the hell is in their food so they can choose, you know, one chip over another, one piece of bread over another, one cheese over another and not get cancer and heart disease and diabetes. And then I also want them to learn that fitness can be fun. And I help them identify something that they enjoy doing either as an individual or as a family whether it’s dancing with your husband on Thursdays or, you know, again coaching your son’s basketball team and helping him practice so that he gets on the team in his sophomore year, finding something that you can do as a family that makes fitness fun, social and active.

How do you deal with a family member who might be a little resistant?
It has been really hard. We’ve had two so far that have been resistant. And I think I’ve got one more episode that I’m actually leaving for tomorrow. And I’ve heard that, you know, this guy like doesn’t think there’s a problem kind of a thing. And his son is having real problems. And I hear that he’s going to be sort of like the mother of all episodes. Everyone’s like he’s not – you’re not going to be able to do it. He’s going to throw you out of the house. And I’m going to wait and see how I handle that in the moment. But I’ll tell you that what I have been doing – I had a flat out intervention with one of them. Like our doctor sits down with them and she’s like dude, you’re a walking time bomb. You are the most unhealthy of anyone I’ve seen. You are full blown diabetic. I mean she goes through the list with him and he looks at her in the eyes and he goes, tell me something I don’t know. And doesn’t care, doesn’t show any emotion. The wife is like you make me sick. She starts crying. The kids are not in the room by the way when this is happening. So by day four, I’m like, okay this is a disaster. What are we going to do? And I had a full blown intervention. I had all of his friends, I had his mother, I had his wife there. I had the kids leave and they all basically sat down with them and they’re like we love you, you’re going to die, you know, you’re going to basically orphan your children. You know, your kids, you know, then we showed footage of his kids basically begging him, you know, saying how worried they are about his dog or about their dad dying in the middle of the night and their anxiety issues and that broke him. But I got to tell you, I didn’t think we were going to do it. I really didn’t. I was like oh my God, it’s not going to happen. It’s just not going to happen. And I mean granted I just left that family so, you know, we’re going to see how they do. But he finally broke. He broke down hysterically crying and it was like, you know, I know I’ve been this way. I’m on my Island. I’m ashamed. I’m so sorry. And, you know, I just shut down when I’m scared. And so it’s through confrontation and intervention of family friends and loved ones that I’ve been utilizing that tool to kind of break through to people that are shut down and resistant in established stakes because we have kind of series of events that will occur whether it’s our doctor laying it on the line, me going through kind of that first workout where they’re like holy crap I can barely walk or workout for five minutes, you know, the kids begging and when that stuff doesn’t work, I went to something extreme and we tried this intervention and it worked pretty well so I’m hoping it sticks.

So on the show it sounds like you have to be more than just a trainer, that you yourself are kind of, you know, a bit of a psychiatrist, maybe a marriage counselor, dietician. Can you tell me what the most challenging other hat you have to wear is?
That’s a great question. Well I’m really lucky because I surround myself with all those experts. So what goes beyond the scope of my knowledge I can plug those people in whether it’s on camera or behind the scenes. So I’m fully supported. But with that said, I think the hardest part is – God – being a friend. You know, this is very different. It’s not like Biggest Loser. You know, when they come to Biggest Loser they’re kind of on my – they’re on my turf and I make the rules and you’re in my house now and I really kind of there’s no attention to, you know, what happens in their home or no kind of respect in being in their environment. It’s like you’re here. It’s my way or the highway. And, you know, you become sort of – you become their friends, but you definitely do it differently. You know, there’s kind of no time for friendship and it’s like, you know, you got to get the message across. And while that is happening on Losing It, and to be truthful, the first workout is – is people will, oh God, the mean Jillian that some people so love to kind of like identify me as, that is out in spades in the first workout because it’s me trying to kind of create a rock bottom moment for them. But beyond that, it really is kind of becoming their friend because you’re living in their home and they have to sort of trust you and give over to you. And on Biggest Loser, people know what to expect. They don’t know what to expect here. And it’s like, oh my God, you’re in my home, you’re in my marriage. You’re evaluating the relationship with my children. You’re going to my place of business. And it’s kind of a violation, you know, that they, I guess – I think they didn’t even know that it would be. It’s like holy crap I feel really exposed and vulnerable and you have to become that friend to them and you have to let them know that they’re going to be safe and you’re going to protect them and it’s going to be okay and you’re there to help. But all the while, I’m also trying to do my job which requires a certain amount of scared straight. So it’s a real kind of delicate balance and when you become their friend, I can kind of lose objectivity. And there’s a moment or two where my show runner, she was like you are – where are you right now. You’re way too deep in sympathy here. I need you to come back. This, you know, you’re being yes’ed to death and you’re not calling them out in the way that you need to and it’s tough. It’s like I’m definitely walking that fine line of, you know, con, you know, confronting them and being in their face and, you know, making them own up to things and doing crazy stuff, but I’m also living in the next door, you know, the bedroom next door to theirs and, you know, I’m trying to get them to open up every facet of their lives to me so it’s a, you know, and trust me. And it’s a delicate balance.

So I guess with the families that you’re moving in with, you may encounter some differences in terms of how much they have to lose in order to get healthy. So can you talk a little bit about how your method may changed based on if somebody has to lose 20 pounds, 40 pounds, 100 pounds. Do you do anything different with them to motivate them?
You know, it all sort of comes down to again finding their reasons for wanting to change. So whether it’s 20 pounds, 40 pounds, 60 pounds, whether they all have the same amount of weight to lose, their reasons will always be different. So I use the same techniques to help them identify their reasons and then I teach them that with every decision they’re about to make in their day, ask themselves how their choice is going to get them closer to their ultimate goals or the whys of their desired transformation. Now when it comes to the physicality of losing 20 pounds, we pretty much don’t have anybody that’s in that category. There are some kids on the show that could lose 15, 20 pounds, but we’re not focusing on their weight. We’re focusing more on teaching them about a healthy lifestyle. So it’s like okay, instead of playing video games, let’s get you, you know, on the cheerleading team or let’s get you on the hockey team or kind of changing how they’re spending their day and their time and how they’re relating to their friends and to their family. You know, and again, it’s not so much we teach the kids about calories, but we’re really teaching them about the quality of their foods. The adults are pretty far beyond 20 pounds. And that is much more – you give them the universal rules of health, you know, weight loss and health of, you know, counting calories, food quality, exercise and what have you. But it definitely becomes more about their why. And that is different with each family. And then once we kind of establish why they are where they are and why they want to change, the episode takes form and that’s why all of them are so different is because of that reason.

 And in your follow ups with the families, have you met any people who have kind of hit the wall where they were really with you for, you know, three weeks and then they kind of just lost their motivation? And if so, how have you handled that?
We, you know, you deal with it along the way. So, because we haven’t shot like their final reveal…but I’ll be dialoguing with the families and of course our producers are also talking with them regularly and so yes, they’ll have days where they’re like I had a week and I lost nothing. You know, and they freak out and it’s like what’s it all for. And of course they have those moments, without a doubt. You know, we all do where we – it’s three steps forward, one step back and the backslides. And then you just kind of bring them back and you remind them of, you know, why they’re doing this and what can we learn from the setback and we go back through the week and we figure out what went wrong or what we can change. And you teach them to see these setbacks as entry points for learning as opposed to a validation of failure. It’s all about attitude. When you constantly teach them how to adjust their attitude and to change the way they see the world and to make things opportunities instead of sentences as in like oh you’re doomed, oh I knew you – I was going to mess up. Oh I knew I couldn’t do it. And instead of it’s like, okay what happened and how can I change it and how can I become better. It helps them push through and transcend. So people are pretty much, you know, they’re on that sort of three steps forward, one step back, three steps forward, one step back and they’re progressing. So far we haven’t had any real trouble with anybody not being able to do it. 

What was your experience working with kids before this show and what was it like working with them on the show?
It’s different. You know, I had – when I was – when I owned a sports medicine facility in Beverly Hills, you know, I had a lot of parents that would bring their kids. And we would have like classes for the kids to run around and play. And we would set up little obstacle courses for them at the gym. And almost like daycare so parents could bring their kids. And then we would do, you know, like once a week like the kid class where they could come and run the obstacle courses and play hopscotch and all that stuff. And, you know, teach kids that it’s like play is fun and what have you. But it was not ever so much – it was never in this kind of dynamic where it’s, you know, talking to a 10 year old about their father dying of a heart attack. You know, that’s – so it’s definitely – it’s pretty intense. And I’ve utilized a lot of the experts on the show to kind of try to understand where it’s safe to go and how to support them. And a play – quite honestly, it has been kind of tough because you don’t want to step on parents’ toes and, you know, a lot of these kids that I’ve been sort of living with have been bullied in school. One of them I went to school with him. I went to his junior high. And, you know, we sat down with the entire class and had a conversation about bullying people and how hurtful it is and how to establish boundaries for yourself. But I’ve had to really kind of defer to a lot of our experts. And you don’t want to, you know, like the 7 year old, I’m sitting there having a conversation with a 7 year old about the food, and I – every sort of conversation I had I would say to the mom, you know, I want to talk to her about this. Are you okay with me talking to her about this? And you kind of run it through the parents because it’s – I also don’t have kids. And I’m learning a lot. It’s been a really amazing experience but it’s – you’ll have to see it but I definitely am a little bit on eggshells. I’m definitely on eggshells and I’d rather not go far enough than go too far. So, you know, there’s no scare tactics. We always have the kids leave when intense things are going to happen. We always keep it super positive with the kids and everything’s always going to be okay. And, you know, but there have been one or two times where we’ve asked the kids to kind of say their feelings to mom and dad of like, you know, are you worried? Have you – do you feel worried? Tell mom and dad how you feel just so they can say what’s really going inside of them and the parents can hear it because parents tend to deny it. But that’s – it’s been a – it’s been real. I’ve been real, real, real careful about it. So, and a little bit walking on eggshells and it’s something that I’m learning to juggle. 

 So you mentioned this cookbook and there’s a lot of talk about going into people’s houses and revamping their refrigerator. What are some of the foods that you love that we can just start incorporating into our lives today?
I’m so glad you asked me that because there are key things. Okay, first of all, swap all your chips and your crackers and your garbage snack foods out for Popchips or Guiltless Gourmet corn chips. Both come in a million different flavors and they have no preservatives, no trans fats, no chemicals. They’re low in calories. Those are a huge hit, huge. Get rid of all your sodas and your juice drinks and your crap and switch that out for Crystal Light Pure Fitness and Vitamin Water Zero, both all natural, flavored with Stevia, no chemicals, no preservatives, no artificial anything including coloring. Nothing, both are perfectly natural and clean. Okay let’s see. I’ve also switched a lot of like the candies and the crap and the cookies and all that stuff out with Paul Newman products. So like Newman’s Organic Alphabet Cookies or Paul Newman’s Organic Peanut Butter Cups so that there’s something sweet in the house but it’s, you know, 180 calories for three peanut butter cups and their organic dark chocolate and all of that, much, much healthier. Let’s see what else am I missing? Just one more, let me think of one more of my favorites. Oh okay. So another thing people do is they always kind of drown their food out with sauces and dressings and crap all the time. So an obvious one would be mustards, vinegars, seasonings. But a salad dressing that I’m obsessed with and both Bob and myself have been – this is our one product that we joke has been around and stayed around since Season 1 of the Biggest Loser is a salad dressing called Galeo’s and it’s G-A-L-E-O apostrophe S, 17 calories a tablespoon, all natural and it tastes amazing and it comes in, you know, five or six different flavors. And I can like get rid of all the high fructose corn syrup, trans fat, MSG, high calorie fake Frankenfood dressing in one fell swoop by swapping those out.

So you’re not getting rid of like fun foods, I mean because these are a lot of desserts and stuff. So it’s okay to have them just in moderation and healthier versions.
Absolutely. I keep all the stuff that they love in the house. I’m just changing the product. So I put a product in, you know, that’s much higher quality or I’ll have them do air-popped popcorn with Tabasco sauce on top of it instead of, you know, the microwave version that’s 600 calories and cooked in fractionated, you know, hydrogenated soy bean oil. So it’s just – I’m just changing the products that they like and then I’m teaching them how to work those products into their calories so that, you know, they can control the quantity of their food and they’re getting a much better quality of food.

Are you hoping with this show, because I’ve heard you talk about it before…that people might get a different view of crazy, screaming Jillian?
Oh without a doubt. Although I don’t know that that’s going to happen because the reason that I was really hoping that but unfort- you know, because – again because the show is 43 minutes out of 100 hours, you know, 5 days of 15 hours a day and we can show you 43 minutes of that time, you know, I don’t know. I don’t know how much people are going to see. I’m hopeful but, you know, you’re going to see a kind – probably the most dramatic moments. And the most dramatic moments usually are me trying to kind of scare someone straight. But, you know, I think you might. I’m hoping you will. And me being in a very different environment automatically makes me kind of vulnerable in a totally different way, and being around kids and being sort of fish out of water is definitely going to present a different side. So I’m hoping so but I’ve seen some of the footage and this stuff they’re using the best.

Mark Koops: Yes. We definitely see Jillian in a new light and she, you know, interacting in a whole set of circumstances. And again, you know, she doesn’t – it’s taking her outside her comfort zone A, of traveling but still having to deal with the whole situation insitu. Anyway, it’s a big difference and I think that’s really going to make, you know, everyone see, you know, the sort of, you know, what she puts in personally into getting these people to transform. It’s not easy. You know, they’ve often been going wrong for many, many years, and it’s amazing how literally in five days she changes their attitude from I can’t to I can. And I think that’s what people are going to take away from the show is if they can do it so could I. 

And you mentioned you got to go to Detroit. And at the end of last season, remember, there were three of the four contestants were from Michigan. It’s a kind of a rough area to stay thin because it’s winter six months of the year and that. So kind of what did you notice as kind of unique or interesting out when you were in Michigan?
Gosh. Well first of all you’re right. It was freezing. I was very upset. It was like 40, lightening, thunder, pouring down rain last week, so not happy about the weather being a native Californian. But what I did notice is the people have a really – there’s a real sense of community there that – I thought Detroit was kind of a big city and, you know, I thought it was very industrial and kind of gritty. And it’s like, you know, you hear the scary statistics of oh it’s the murder capital of the country and like I don’t – I can’t tell you how welcoming, how accommodating, how kind all the people I met there were and how invested they are in their communities. So, you know, we – my assistants were going and picking up the groceries for me, you know, because it’s – we do swap outs and teach the parents about the food and what have you. And when the local restaurant – or supermarket found out that we were in town, they said, oh, you know, we’d love to donate food to the family for the first couple weeks so they learn how to eat the meals and, you know, the Yoga teacher in town basically said like oh I would love to get the mom into teacher training. And they all rallied around this family in a way that I haven’t seen in other communities. So I would just say that the sense of camaraderie and community in Detroit was exceptional, unlike what I had seen in other places.

Be sure to tune in on Tuesday, June 1st to NBC at 10 pm for the series premiere of “Losing It With Jillian.”


  • Patti Stiles
    posted on June 9th, 2010 at 11:00 am

    I watched only a brief segment of Jillian’s new show last night. I have never become more upset in my life. Jillian is a psycho bitch. I’ve never seen more pure hatred in a person’s eyes than when that poor woman collapsed and Jillian got in her face screaming at her to get up. I only watched about 10 minutes and turned it off. I couldn’t sleep from thinking about the program. It’s obvious to me that Jillian has a true hatred toward overweight people. She is NOT in this to help people, she’s in this to belittle and crush people. She makes me physically ill and I will NEVER watch another episode of ANYTHING that she’s in. I hope she gets fat. If people think this is entertaining, they need to re-examine themselves. No wonder all the people on The Biggest Loser gain all their weight back. They’ve been emotionally abused for weeks and weeks and weeks by this bitch.

  • thetvchick
    posted on June 9th, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    I just watched the episode the entire way through, and I’ll have to respectfully disagree with you. First of all, all of the families apply to be on the show, so their participation is voluntary. Second, there are doctors on staff. If Deb was in grave danger, a medical attendant would have been there to help out. From watching the episode in it’s entirety, I can tell you that it really seems like Jillian cared about this family and was invested in their well being.

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I would ask you to re-evaluate and even if you don’t want to watch this show again, try an episode of The Biggest Loser. I think you would find it inspiring. And you would see that there is not a lot of hate.

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