The glass-topped table in the marble-accented kitchen of Jillian Michaels's Hollywood Hills home is, like most kitchen tables in America, the center of all activity in the house. Here, Michaels welcomes guests; serves tea in her eclectic mug collection; and plans, plans, plans. Hearing the 37-year-old Michaels share her goals and ideas makes it clear that she embodies the philosophy she laid out in her best-selling book, Unlimited, in which she guides readers to build what she calls "an exceptional life" by using the right attitude and skills to change their lives, without hype or false promises.
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But despite her voluble passion (which she describes as "helping people be happy and healthy in every facet of their lives, whether it's career, relationships, or physical well-being"), nowhere is there a hint of the signature boot-camp persona that she honed for 10 seasons on The Biggest Loser. In its place: a heightened empathy that Michaels rarely lets out of the cage. "I don't watch the news because I try not to expose myself to too much darkness in the world," she says. "Besides, if anything big happens, it'll be on Twitter."
Now Michaels wants to further expose the more gentle aspects of her personality. Since leaving Loser, she has been trying to jettison what she calls the "cartoon" that the show drew of her. "One of the problems with Loser is that it doesn't give the audience the 360 [view] of what's going on," Michaels says. "It doesn't show the deeper conversations or the interview where you explain why you did this or that, because they don't think it makes good TV. People didn't get that this was a job that I was doing in a very specific environment with a group of individuals who are, quite frankly, committing suicide. It's very different from who I am in my personal life. I say to people, 'If you're a lawyer, do you interrogate your children? If you're a scientist, do you run experiments on your kids?' People have a hard time understanding that that job is a very special one that requires a specific skill set. And I think I did it very well. But now people underestimate my soft side. That's a big reason why I needed to leave the show."
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But Michaels hardly left TV completely; instead, she now showcases her special brand of self-help on The Doctors and Dr. Phil. "On The Doctors, I'm a voice of prevention. If someone has PMS, I will ask, 'Why is your PMS so bad? What are you eating? How are you living? What can we do holistically to improve this?' So it will be a natural, lifestyle approach to solving problems." Dr. Phil has her reporting from the field on issues such as teen runaway communities in Las Vegas.
Michaels rounds out the rest of her days by dedicating time to charities such as Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which encourages healthy lifestyle choices in the country's youngest—and most vulnerable—citizens. And one other little thing: She also wants to change the federal government's farm bill.
"If I can use my voice to reverse the farm bill so we stop spending billions subsidizing genetically modified crops that go to processed foods and instead put that money toward organics, you'll suddenly see that healthy meat, fruits, and vegetables will become affordable," Michaels says.
At press time, she was also waiting to adopt a baby; but she is far from alone in the pursuit, since she has a substantial support system in her assistants, who have gleefully dubbed themselves Team Baby. "I honestly don't know how somebody without money and help could ever get this done," Michaels says of the international adoption process. "It's a full-time job. If I called the girls down here to where we're sitting, they would run you through how many times the notary has been here this week." Without taking a breath, she then proceeds to call the girls down.
"Where are we at with the Haiti paperwork?" she asks one of them. (Worried that her first choice, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, might not come through, Michaels has begun a second adoption in Haiti.) "Where are we at?" Rosie the assistant repeats.
"Um, we need to get more things notarized."
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