Jillian Michaels’ advice on how to live the life you want

When Jillian Michaels was a teenager, she side-kicked through two wooden boards as a second-degree blue belt in martial arts. The next day, she walked into school with her head held high.

“I was like, ‘OK, I’m ready for this today. Let’s do it,’” Michaels said.

Before she began her 20-year career as one of America’s most well-known fitness gurus, before she was adored as the no-nonsense trainer on The Biggest Loser, Michaels herself struggled with weight as a 175-pound teenager who was tormented at school. But the day after she broke two boards, everything changed. She respected herself, and the tormenting stopped.

“No one said a word, and I realized in that moment that because I respected myself, and I was proud of myself; I commanded the respect from other people—even if they didn’t like me, even if they thought I was a loser,” Michaels said. “From that young age, I grew to understand that fitness was just a tool to utilize that would redefine someone’s self-image.”

It’s the idea that transformed Michaels’s life and the idea behind “The Biggest Loser,” which is not always caught on camera. From the time contestants are falling off treadmills to the time they’re teary-eyed and trim, pursing their dreams – they experience a 180-degree change, Michaels said.

She said she knows that change is about more than physical fitness – it’s about holistic wellness that starts with the most important part of any fitness regimen: a shift in attitude, behavior and mindset.

That’s the message behind her “Maximize your Life” tour, which will visit 35 cities in the United States and Canada between April 4 and May 21.

“What I’m hoping to convey to people is that there’s more to a transformation than just your physical health,” Michaels said. “It’s about learning the how-to of redefining your self-image and the tools and skill sets to attack your goals and dreams in ways that are methodical, informed and specific, so you achieve results instead of just spinning your wheels.”

Although Michaels shares the science of everything from shedding pounds to balancing hormones, the 2-hour presentation will focus on helping people identify mental and emotional barriers that need to be broken down before they diet or exercise, so they have a firm foundation for sustainable change. She wants to draw attention to how people are living beneath their potential and capability and then help them attack their inhibitions, so they can find hope in their lives.

In 2010, about two-thirds (68.8 percent) of Americans aged 20 and older are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Michaels knows a lack of exercise is not their only issue.

“I would venture to bet that at least that many are unhappy,” she said.

That’s because they’re not living in what Michaels calls their authentic truth. According to Michaels, this means living the life you dream about—the life you want to live instead of the life you feel obligated to live. It means setting goals high and making sustainable steps to achieve them.

“When you do, that’s when the universe conspires on your behalf,” Michaels said. “How many of us are living a life where we wake up every morning and think, ‘I can’t believe I have to go through one more day?’ That is not living in your truth. That’s living a life of what I call the responsibility sandwich of obligation, responsibility, fear, shame.”

And no matter how unhealthy that sandwich is, Michaels said Americans everywhere are eating it up, afraid to pursue lives they find meaningful, rewarding and enjoyable (their authentic truth) because they’re convinced it is too irresponsible, risky or unconventional.

Michaels said the path to achieving authentic truth begins when people identify why they engage in defense and coping mechanisms, such as overeating, which distract them from the life they want to live. Without identifying and addressing these problems, they’re more likely to perpetuate them through binge-and-purge cycles. Ultimately, what separates successful goal-setters from failures is the information they have and what they do with it, she said.

“If you look at super-achievers—Coco Chanel or Mrs. Fields or Oprah Winfrey—what makes them any different than you? Nothing, other than the knowledge that they had and possibly the help they were given,” Michaels said. “My job is to go in, and say, ‘I’m here to help. I’m here to tell you the truth. You’ve been living beneath your potential. Here’s what you’re capable of, and here’s how you go about achieving it.’”

For more information on Michaels’ tour, visit JillianMichaels.com.