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Jillian Michaels smashes myths, fears in Chicago

"Maximize Your Life" Chicago tour poster.
“Maximize Your Life” Chicago tour poster.

Fitness guru Jillian Michaels says that when it comes to the top health problems in the United States – non-communicable diseases like Type 2 diabetes — “we make those ourselves.”

Michaels, who spoke Friday night at Roosevelt University Auditorium, said Americans damage their health by eating cheap fast food. “You think you’re saving in the moment, but it costs you more down the road,” she said.

Hundreds of fans listened as Michaels shared her secrets to health and happiness on her “Maximize Your Life” tour.

Michaels joined the NBC reality show “The Biggest Loser” in 2004 as its strength coach. She has built an empire by releasing her own workout videos, a clothing line, a newsletter with millions of subscribers and several books, including “Unlimited: How to Build an Exceptional Life.”

The audience laughed, applauded and occasionally hollered in agreement throughout the night. Michaels urged her audience to make educated food choices and be physically active.

Season 15 “Biggest Loser” champion Danni Allen, a Chicago native, made a brief appearance on stage, drawing cheers. With visual aids and simple equations, Michaels guided her attentive audience through the science of getting in shape and achieving success, just as Allen did.

“Eat less, move more,” Michaels said sarcastically, joking that she continues to make money from saying the same thing over and over. She encouraged the audience to activate their “bullshit meter” when any health trick sounds too good to be true, because it usually it is, she said. Eating as natural as possible and knowing what’s in food, she added, are crucial to permanent results.

Michaels mentioned three lists, which contain foods to eat often, which to buy organic and what chemicals to steer clear of when possible. The “Clean Fifteen,” “Dirty Dozen” and “Always Avoid” lists can be found on Michaels’s website, along with more information for weight loss.

Pairing this information with quality workouts will produce lasting effects, Michaels said. “Move your ass to lose your ass,” she said, “and move it fast!”

An effective workout is one with a high intensity level in a short amount of time, Michaels said. Body weight, free weights and circuit training will all result in weight loss, she said, adding that the most important thing is consistency because movement will help over time.

Some fans said were gaining a new perspective from Michaels’s words.

Megan Peace, 31, said she admires Michaels. “She re-energizes the message of health,” Peace said.

Michaels’s mantra of “anyone can do it” motivates Peace during her workouts, she said. Peace also owns many of Michaels’s DVDs and books, but said she’s “obsessed” with her Jillian Michaels calorie counting app on her phone.

Peace’s husband, Marcus Boynton, 32, tagged along for the event. As a physical education teacher, Boynton already knows a lot about fitness, but he agreed that Michaels reinforces the importance of healthy choices.

Boynton said he admires Michaels’s “passion and commitment” to help others change their lives.

A change in physical health wasn’t the only topic of the night. Happiness and fulfillment in other aspects of life were the highlight of Michaels’s final dialogue.

“What does healthy look like in your life?” she asked, adding that healthy relationships, dreams and thoughts are central to physical health. Taking risks and truly believing in aspirations will help “crystalize your vision” for success, Michaels said.

Michaels urged her listeners to conquer their fears. She said people waste their energy worrying about failure, which deters them from trying anything new or pursuing dreams. “A cynic is nothing but a disillusioned, disappointed idealist,” Michaels said. “Failure is the only way to learn.”

Daryl D’Amato, 60, considers herself an ‘absolute’ fan of Michaels, evidence being her newly purchased signed copy of Michaels’ book “Unlimited.” She shared that she met Michaels five years ago during Self Magazine’s “Workout in the Park” at Grant Park, describing Michaels as “the most personable, loving woman,” which is far from Michaels’ rough reputation on “Biggest Loser.”

The perception people have of Michaels is misconstrued, D’Amato said. “Everyone needs a different motivator,” she said. “[Michaels] sees that in people and knows who to be tougher on.”

Michaels concluded by reinforcing how detrimental it is to not take responsibility in your life. It is through a positive mindset, willpower and being present that will “set the environment for success,” she said.

To learn more about Michaels and her program, go to www.jillianmichaels.com.