A wise woman with six-pack abs once said, “Transformation is not a future event. It is a present activity.” That wise woman was Jillian Michaels, and here, she spills all of her diet secrets.
During her many seasons as a “tough love” trainer on NBC’s reality weight-loss competition show The Biggest Loser, Michaels transformed countless bodies, and more importantly, she gave contestants the skill set and drive to keep the pounds off after the cameras stopped rolling. And over the years, she’s helped plenty of others get the bodies of their dreams. From workout DVDs and best-selling books to countless media interviews, she’s shared tons of her diet and exercise secrets with the masses. To help you accelerate your weight loss wins, we tracked down her best-ever weight loss tips. Pick a few below that seem like they’d fit well into your routine, commit to them for the long haul, and sit back and watch as your body transforms before your eyes—and stay that way for life!
Don’t Do Exercises You Hate
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what the ‘best’ workout for weight loss is. I could tell you exactly what to do, but if you don’t like it, you’re not going to do it,” says Michaels. “Find a few things that you enjoy, and then mix it up. Keeping your workout routine varied (and constantly progressing), will help prevent injuries, boredom, and plateaus.”
Swear off Fads
“Stop turning to fad diets and use common sense. This is where so many people go wrong, from cutting out all carbs to eating only fat-free foods to fasting. It’s all bull, and not only is it bull, but it harms your metabolism in the process,” Jillian Michaels warns about your chosen diet. “The fad diets are doing way more harm than good. They key is to master a few simple ways to exercise that will burn the most calories in the least time. And you also need to figure out how can you eat more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff without feeling deprived so your diet regimen feels manageable.”
Crank Up the Incline
Typically hit the treadmill while you’re at the gym? Amp up the incline to burn more calories—without logging more time at the gym. (#Winning!) “All it takes to torch 15 percent more calories on the treadmill is a little incline,” says Michaels.
Get More Shut-Eye
“Sleep is a cornerstone of weight management because of the impact it has on your hormones that control how you burn fat, how you store fat, and how you’re maintaining muscle. The better your hormone balance, the better your weight management,” explains Michaels, who typically aims to log 8-hours per night.
Sodas is hands down one of the worst beverages for you, says Jillian. “It’ll put weight on you, dehydrate you, and deplete the minerals from your system,” she tells Prevention. If you get sick of plain ol’ water, fill up on sparkling water, detox water (which is a fancy name for water filled with sliced fruit), or unsweetened teas, a beverage known for its waist-whittling effects. Make the most of the benefits of tea with The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse! Test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in one week!
Try the 80/20 Rule
“Make 80 percent of the food you eat healthy and take 20 percent of your daily calories and make them fun.” Otherwise, you’ll feel deprived and more tempted to go off the deep end,” Jillian says. The key to success here, however, is to pick indulgent(ish) treats that aren’t totally horrible for you. Opt for a cheeseburger, over a triple- patty burger, for example. If sweets are your weakness, opt for a healthy dessert instead of scarfing down an entire pint of Ben & Jerry.
Learn to Navigate a Menu
According to a European Journal of Clinical Nutrition study, people eat an average of 200 more calories on days when they eat a restaurant meal than they do when they eat every meal at home, which can really put a wrench into your weight loss progress. To stay on track, Jillian suggests sticking to items that are steamed, boiled, baked, grilled, poached, or roasted. That means no french fries or tempura-topped sushi rolls, sorry! If you don’t see anything that fits the nutritional bill on the menu, speak up and make a special request. Restaurant kitchens are filled will all sorts of stuff so it shouldn’t a problem to fulfill your specific requests. “If you’re too uncomfortable to ask for what you need, tell a white lie: Say you’re allergic. I know it’s controversial to suggest this, but women, in particular, can really have trouble standing up for their own needs. So if you want the broccoli soup puréed without cream, tell the waiter you’re lactose intolerant,” says Jillian.
Better Yet, Don’t Even Read It
If seeing dishes like ‘spaghetti bolognese’ and ‘bacon cheeseburger’ are often too hard for you to ignore, don’t even open your menu. “Almost every restaurant has the basics—veggies, grains, and protein. If you go in knowing what you want, I guarantee you’ll be able to make a meal,” suggests Jillian.
Scan for Chemicals
Even though calories are an important factor, the quality of your food plays a vital role in weight loss, too. The reason: If your body is spending time trying to process chemicals and dyes and other funky stuff found in foods these days, it’s not doing what you want it to: using the food you eat as fuel. The cleaner your diet, the better your results. It’s as simple as that. Whether you’re buying a bag of chips or a yogurt, read the label,” says Michaels. “You have to be proactive about your own health in every possible way. And if you don’t know what the hell it is, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.” That doesn’t mean all packaged foods are off-limits, though.
Hitting the gym once and while won’t give you those washboard abs and chiseled arms you desire. It’s all about consistency when you’re building a healthy body you’ll want to show off. “Try to go at least four times a week, and try to get in at least four half-hour routines,” says the Santa Monica native. “Consistency is critical.” If half-hour workouts seem overwhelming, try breaking it down into two 15-minute workouts, four times per week. As you get into better shape, you can slowly work up to 30-minute sessions. And for those day’s when you hit the weight room hard, refuel with one of these homemade protein shake!
Don’t Drag Your Feet
The primary mistake Jillian sees people making at the gym? Not maximize their time. “They might be on an elliptical reading a magazine. Or they may be using the machines and resting after every exercise. They should be doing high-intensity circuit training. If you work out in the right way, you burn calories while you work out, and you burn more calories after the exercise is over,” Jillian explained in a USA Today interview. In need of some motivation? Load your iPhone with some fast-paced jams that include phrases like “push it,” “I believe,” and “work it.” According to various studies, this type of music can help you move faster and subconsciously motivates you to keep at it, which will supercharge your weight loss progress.
Work to Fatigue —Not Failure
At the same time, you shouldn’t push yourself to the point of failure, either. Going too hard can lead to overtraining, decreased strength, or worse, cause an injury that could sideline you from the gym altogether. Jillian suggests working to the point of fatigue but not failure. That means pushing yourself to the point where you can do one more rep but you’d have to sacrifice good form to do it.
Consider How You’ll Feel
If you have trouble making healthy food choices, think about how your food choices will make you feel before you put fork to mouth, suggest Michaels. “If you’re going to have a donut over oatmeal or pizza over a grilled chicken sandwich, ask yourself how you are going to feel 15-minutes after you eat it, the next day when you feel bloated, the next week when you’ve gained weight and at the end of the year when you’ve gained even more. On the flip side, think about how you are going to feel if you eat the healthy food … how you are going to look in a bikini next summer or in skinny jeans. Think about feeling strong, healthy, confident. You’ll be more confident in the bedroom, more confident at the office. These things are going to be far more beneficial than any piece of pizza is going to taste in the moment.”
Don’t Throw In the Towel
Just because you fall off the diet or exercise bandwagon during one meal, doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel, skip your workout and down an entire sleeve of cookies. It’s totally normal to fall off track from time to time. The important thing is that you don’t let it throw you off track for good. “If you get a flat tire, you don’t get out of the car and slash all three other tires. You fix the flat, and you keep going,” says Jillian, adding: “So you missed [a workout] today. Control your diet a little bit better and go tomorrow. It’s that simple.”
Define Your Why
Losing weight isn’t just about your workout routine and your diet, there’s a major mental element, too, Jillian explains. It’s important to pinpoint your exact reason for wanting to lose weight if you want to stay on track for the long haul. “Identify your why, and really go into detail,” advises Michaels. “Not like, I want better health. I don’t know what that means. Maybe it’s, I want to keep up with my two toddlers. I want to run the New York City Marathon. Those kinds of things. Post it everywhere, and emotionally connect to it. Because let’s be honest: Pizza is going to taste better than chicken any day of the week. However, whatever it is that matters to you, if you [really care] about it, it’s going to matter more than pizza.”
Make a Date With Your Scale
Resist the urge to step on the scale on the daily, which will likely just make you go crazy, and instead, weigh yourself only once a week. The key to accurate tracking: consistency. “Use the same scale on the same day at the same time. Your weight shifts throughout the day, so what may be perceived as weight gain can be discouraging. Consistency gives you a more accurate read. Also, waiting a week allows time for the scale to actually show your weight loss,” explains Michaels.
Sure, you live off of hummus, kale, chicken, and oatmeal, but if you’re eating too much of the stuff, the scale likely won’t budge. “Weight maintenance and weight loss are about how much you’re taking in. I don’t care how healthy the food is. Don’t overeat!” stresses Michaels. “Granted, healthier foods will do a better job of fueling your body, but at the end of the day, a calorie is a calorie.”
Have a Plan B
Bringing your lunch to the office each day is a smart move for your wallet and your waistline. If you pack your meals yourself, there’s no way you’ll accidentally overeat or consume any weird chemicals or nutrients you’re trying to avoid. But let’s be honest; even if your meal prep game is on point, life happens. Which means sometimes you’ll have to order in or grab something from a nearby restaurant. To ensure you’ll be able to order something healthy in a hurry, Jillian suggests compiling a list of ‘slim lunch options.’ “When I used to have an office job I’d think: ‘Okay, there’s the Italian place, but I can get the antipasto salad with light cheese, no salami, dressing on the side.’”
Stick to a Schedule
“New research suggests that the best time of day to work out is the same time, every day,” says Michaels. And it makes sense: Getting into a routine will help you stay on track and make healthy habits second nature over time.
Make Socialization Active
If your diet typically falls off track when you’re with your friends, suggest swapping in your typical happy hour or dinner meet-ups for a yoga, spin or healthy cooking class. Or you can make like Michaels and head to the bowling alley. “My friends and I go and it’s not really a workout but it’s 200 calories in 30 minutes, and that’s a heck of a lot better than sitting and drinking beers. You can work activity into every aspect of your lifestyle if you try.” And for the times when skipping a happy hour just isn’t an option, skim these tips for choosing healthy alcohol drinks before heading to the bar.
First, you were losing weight like crazy. Now? The scale won’t budge! “What you need to do is give yourself a couple of days of rest and bump up your calories by 10 percent. When you lose weight quickly, your body often responds by releasing hormones to increase your appetite and store more fat. That’s a survival instinct meant to help us conserve fuel during times of famine. You can outsmart it by eating a little more and resting. That usually helps jump-start your metabolism again,” explains Jillian. A weight loss plan that involves eating more? We’re totally on board with that!
Stop Focusing on Body Image
“I think people need to stop focusing on body image and start focusing on health. When you do that, it’s all going to fall into place,” says Jillian. Plus, research suggests that people are more apt to remain consistent if their goals aren’t fueled by superficial desires.
Fill Up Before Parties
If you arrive at a dinner reservation or party feeling ravenous, you’ll likely forget all about your weight loss goals the second you see a bread basket or a platter of pigs in a blanket. To remain consistent with your clean eating plan, Jillian suggests eating “a filling, healthy snack before you leave home.” She also suggests a healthy dish to the event. This way, you’re you’re contributing, but you’ve also brought along something you can eat without bloating up like a balloon.
Get More Vitamin C
Doing everything right, but still not dropping the pounds? If you’re constantly pulling your hair out, sky-high levels of the stress hormone cortisol may be to blame. “Vitamin C inhibits the production of cortisol, a hormone that essentially tells your body, ‘Store fat.’ Eat grapefruit slices with breakfast,” suggstes Jillian.
Eat Protein With Every Meal
Every time you sit down to eat, ask yourself: ‘Where’s my protein? Where’s my fiber? And where’s my healthy fat?’ If you have all three of these things, you’re in good shape. The reason: “Lean protein helps you stay fuller for longer; it has the amino acids that are the building blocks for muscle,” explains Michaels. Fiber and healthy fats boost the staying power of the muscle-fueling nutrient even further.
Despite what you may have heard, your on-the-go lifestyle doesn’t have to stall your weight loss progress; it’s all about being prepared. “This may seem obvious, but having some healthy options stashed for your grab-and-go convenience can make a world of difference,” says Jillian. “Whether it’s a bag of baby carrots or cherry tomatoes, organic almonds, a cheese stick, Greek yogurt, or even a 100-calorie bag of Popchips, a pre-made emergency kit can stifle the hunger pangs that often lead you to make poor food choices. Keep a few of these snacks in the fridge at work, in your car, and in your bag too. You’ll be glad you did!”
Sip More H20
The easiest weight loss tip that no one seems to want to follow: drinking more water. “Hydration can curb hunger and boost your metabolism by up to 3 percent! Drink water until your pee looks like lemonade,” suggests Michaels. Hate the taste of plain H20? Make a refreshing batch of fruit-infused detox water to keep your taste buds happy.
Clean Your Cupboards
Trying to lose with piles of junk food in your kitchen is like trying to run up a hill while carrying a car: close to impossible. “Dump everything you have that contains trans fats, artificial sweeteners, and high-fructose corn syrup,” instructs Jillian. And if you want to keep something to indulge in around, “don’t buy more treat food than you’re going to eat in one day. Get just one calorie-controlled allotment, like a small bag of chips, so you can’t continue to go back for more.”
Display Healthy Eats
If you see it, you will eat it. That’s the logic behind Jillian’s next tip, at least: “Put the healthiest things on display: fruits on the countertop, the healthiest things in the fridge at eye level, and the best snacks at the front of your cupboard [and fridge] so you’ll see those first.”
“Stand whenever you can,” stresses Jillian. “Standing burns 1.5 times more calories than sitting. Stand when you’re at the doctor’s office, when you watch TV, even when you work at your computer—I put mine on the kitchen counter. Just stand.” And for all those times when standing up is simply not possible, employ some of these tricks to lose weight while sitting down.