40 Personal Trainer-Approved Health Habits You Should Steal

Jillian Michaels' 12-hour rule is genius.


Karla Walsh and and Nina Bahadur |

If there’s one woman who can whip you into shape, it’s The Biggest Loser’s Jillian Michaels. The TV star, fitness trainer and author spent 10 years as a trainer on the hit weight-loss show and has built her career around empowering people who want to lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way. We ask the guru how she stays on track from morning to night. Ready for her health habits?

Add some energy to your a.m. routine…

Don’t believe the rumours that coffee is bad for you. “I always caffeinate first thing. In fact, coffee has a ton of antioxidants and polyphenols in it which is why its benefits have been linked to improved cognitive function, heart health, fitness performance, decreased risk of liver disease, and it can even help with type 2 diabetes,” Jillian says.

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… and opt for organic.

Jillian says the key is to make sure the coffee is organic, because coffee is a heavily-sprayed crop. Opt for one you can have hot or cold depending on your mood.

Eat a big enough breakfast.

On days that Jillian works out, she eats around 500 calories for breakfast – or about one quarter of her daily calorie allowance. “I aim for a relatively even blend of healthy complex carbohydrates, protein and polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats,” she says.

Make those morning cals count.

A few of Jillian’s favourite breakfast ideas:

• 2 eggs over easy with a two slices of organic whole grain toast

• 1 cup organic yoghurt with fresh berries and 1/4 cup crushed almonds or walnuts

• Protein shake with 1 banana + 1 scoop organic grass-fed whey protein powder + 1/2 cup coconut milk + 1 tablespoon seed butter

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Exercise AND eat right.

“Often people do one or the other, but not both,” Jillian says. “When it comes to weight loss you simply must work out and eat right to get results.”

She says to think of your body like a car. If you aren’t working out or eating right you are in reverse and probably actively gaining weight. If you’re working out but not eating right (or vice versa) you can get stuck in neutral or weight loss moves at a glacial pace. If you’re working out and eating right, the weight actively comes off at a steady pace.

Try reverse psychology.

When she’s not in the mood to sweat, Jillian says, “I do the exact opposite thing than you would think. I give myself permission to be super-lazy at the gym. I tell myself I will take it easy, maybe only do 20 minutes or so. This type of forgiving attitude takes the dread and the pressure out of it. Then usually when I am there and in the groove I almost always push a little harder or put in a little more time.”

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Pick a workout you’ll actually do.

Jillian says that the “best” workout you can do is whatever sweat sesh you’ll do consistently. That being said, here’s what she recommends for weight loss: HIIT intervals (high-intensity interval training), resistance training, plyometrics, bodyweight training and movements that incorporate multiple muscle groups, like squats, lunges, burpees and push-ups. These exercises burn the most calories during and after exercise, she says.

Assemble a pump-up playlist.

“I love hip-hop and EDM for working out,” Jillian says. Some of her current music musts: Afrojack, David Guetta, Diplo, Tritonal, Kanye West, Jay Z, 2 Chainz, Lil Wayne, Cardi B and Nicki Minaj.

Remember: Not everything has to be work.

“I really love to play and have adventures. I do this with my kid, whether it’s skiing together, riding horses or even just playing Monopoly,” she says. Learn how to infuse play into your workouts to make each and every one more fun – and possibly more effective all at once.

Be right here, right now.

“Play is so important. I swear it takes my mind off all the nonsense,” she says. “The kids force me to be mentally present. And playing just makes me smile and feel alive.”

Talk it out.

Mental and emotional health is a priority for Jillian, too. So what helps her maintain her sanity amidst the madness? “Working with my therapist to break old dysfunctional patterns and building and nurturing close relationships with friends and family,” she says.

Build your community.

“Loneliness is more pervasive than ever and I really try to maintain strong connections to those special in my life,” she says. For Jillian, having a sense of community (like with a workout buddy) is key.

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Declare a mantra.

Jillian’s is: “‘Feel the fear and do it anyway.’ This reminds me to use fear as a source of motivation instead of a paralysing one.”

Take baby steps.

“I try to remember the all-or-nothing mentality only leads to misery. Remembering it’s about progress not perfection helps me put one foot in front of the other with an open mind and minimal judgement,” she says.

Pack emergency snacks.

Combat hanger by preparing a few just-in-case snacks to store in your gym bag, car, or desk. “I always keep food with me, and in order to do that, most of my go-tos are grab-and-go options.” She says organic biltong, trail mixes and nut butter packets with a piece of fruit are all easy and portable.

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Try this trail mix.

Snacks should be about 250 calories per serving, Jillian says. Toss together this totable trail mix recipe from her blog for a mini meal that hits that mark:

• 6 pecan halves

• 6 walnut halves

• 1 crushed Brazil nut

• 1/2 tablespoon pumpkin seeds

• 1/2 tablespoon sunflower seeds

• 2 tablespoons dried golden berries

• 2 tablespoons black mulberries

• 1/2 tablespoon raw cacao nibs

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Cut down on booze.

Jillian suggests giving up drinking entirely – when trying to lose weight, that is. “Get on the wagon,” she says. “Alcohol is the worst when it comes to fat metabolism and can actually inhibit it by 73 percent.”

Research has shown that when you’ve consumed alcohol, your body prioritises metabolising booze, which means burning fat and carbs take a back seat. Experts also believe that alcohol breaks down amino acids and stores them as fat. All bad news if you want to lose weight.

“When in maintenance mode, moderate alcohol consumption is okay. Certain alcohols like red wine, whiskey and dark beer can actually help with heart health and remove amyloid plaque associated with Alzheimer’s,” Jillian says. “Just stick to no more than four to six drinks a week max!”

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Instead, add some sparkle.

Struggle to sip enough H2O? Get bubbly. “Any slightly-flavoured sparkling water has me,” Jillian admits. “It REALLY helps me get my water consumption up because I hate drinking water. I know, I know…”

Fix your fats.

Jillian is a culinary queen when it comes to ingredient substitutes for a nutrition boost. “I like to swap out butter when possible for a polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fat. Olive oil instead of butter works well for cooking proteins,” she says.

Bake better.

“In icings, avocado works great as a butter replacement. And when baking, if I’m trying keep calories down, I use mashed banana or apple sauce instead of butter,” she says. Genius.

Pump up the protein in pancakes or baked goods.

“I swap out white flour for a nut flour and an organic whey protein powder,” she says, adding that you just may have to experiment and add a little bit of a rising agent.

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Pair protein with fibre.

“There’s a reason a veggie omelette holds you off from eating until lunchtime better than that carb-loaded bagel,” Jillian shares on her blog. She suggests aiming for 30 percent of your calories to come from protein.

“And don’t forget about adding fibre-rich foods like beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils to soups, salads and sandwiches to keep you from mindlessly snacking.”

When possible, substitute for the sodium.

Call in the spice, girls. “Seasonings can often stand in for salt in savoury dishes. I like different kinds of ground pepper, cumin, paprika, garlic, onion and oregano,” she says.

Streamline your sugar consumption.

Sugar isn’t the only ingredient that can help satisfy your dessert cravings. “I often add cinnamon and vanilla extract as flavour-enhancers in sweet recipes, so I can cut sugar content down by a third,” she says.

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Slash stress without emotional eating.

If you find you’re snacking when you’re sad or stressed, “the most important thing is to be aware of it – and to find ways to redirect your stress or anxiety that don’t involve food,” Jillian says on her blog. Her advice? Reconnect with a friend. Get a massage. Dive into an inspirational book.

Make your menu 80/20.

The number-one mistake people make when it comes to weight loss is following an intense fad diet that isn’t sustainable, says Jillian. She says these drastic eating plans ultimately damage your metabolism and instigate a vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting.

“Choose a diet that’s balanced,” Jillian says. “Allow yourself treats daily. Deprivation and extremes don’t work. Try the 80/20 rule. Make 80 percent of your daily food intake high quality and then let 20 percent be treats.”

Supplement to fill in the gaps.

Jillian concedes that it’s nearly impossible to always eat a perfectly-varied diet and get all the nutrients your body needs.

“Consider supplementing your diet with organic, whole food-based products,” she says. Jillian takes a collagen MSM glucosamine chondroitin supplement for her skin, hair, nails, bones and connective tissue, as well as grass-fed whey protein with branched-chain aminos, and a super greens powder with antioxidants, adaptogens and probiotics.

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Parents: Make the most of every minute.

As she attempts to balance being a mom with her life as a trainer and entrepreneur, Jillian says it’s all possible because, “I’m really good at multitasking and I’m super-efficient with my time. For example, if I only have 20 or 30 minutes, I squeeze a workout in at home instead of spending a full hour driving to and from the gym.”

Get appy.

My Fitness App By Jillian Michaels allows everyone – including herself – to work out any place, anytime. “This is one of the reasons fitness apps are so successful,” Jillian says.

Put yourself first.

Happy and healthy moms raise happy and healthy kids, Jillian believes. “I think the way to move forward is changing the way you think. So many women feel like they have to be a martyr to be a good mom. I don’t feel that way. I don’t judge anyone who does, but I’m simply more the ‘put your oxygen mask on first’ kind of mom,” she says.

Take “me time.”

“Don’t get me wrong, my kids’ health and safety ALWAYS come first and I do make plenty of sacrifices on their behalf. But the world won’t end if I go on holiday without them and they stay with a grandparent for a week, or if I exercise and they play on their iPads for 30 minutes,” she says.

Teach the kids how to compromise.

“I will pick a restaurant we can all eat at instead of letting them dictate what they want solely. I make the give and take in the family mutual,” Jillian says.

Jillian takes the kiddos to play dates, “but sometimes they need to go with me to run errands or to an event I want to go to – and that’s okay in my opinion! That’s life. Their adult relationships will also involve compromise. I don’t think there is anything wrong with them learning that parents’ needs also get prioritised sometimes.”

Get your mind right.

Your attitude plays a huge role in your overall wellness and ability to choose clean foods, not overeat, move your body often (preferably at least three to five times a week for 20 minutes minimum, ideally 30), and sleep eight hours a night. “These things are simple, but, they aren’t easy,” Jillian says.

Say goodbye to guilt.

“Many times, the reason these habits aren’t easy is because we constantly feel guilty taking time for ourselves, spending money on ourselves, allowing ourselves to do something in a way that’s less than perfect,” Jillian says.

Grant yourself grace.

Jillian tries to remind herself: “You are worthy and deserving. Treat yourself with the love and care and kindness you treat your kids with.”

Grow on.

“You don’t have to be perfect. Perfect doesn’t exist and if it did then what would be the point of living? Isn’t the goal to learn and grow?” Jillian says she aims to celebrate progress of any kind, no matter how small, so she can abandon perfection.

Take your 12 hours.

Jillian practices something she calls the “12-hour rule,” which she swears keeps her healthy and sane. “There are 168 hours in a week. Of those, if you are sleeping eight hours a night, you’re awake for 112. If you give 50 to work and 50 to kids and running your household, you should have 12 left for you. Schedule every single one of those 12 hours as your time,” she says.

Then make the most of those hours.

Jillian explains that if you divvy it up wisely, “This is enough for a date night, girls’ brunch, doctor appointment, hygiene appointment, plus four 30-minute workout sessions,” she says.

Schedule time for plenty of zzzs.

“I’m a HUGE believer in prioritising sleep. The health benefits are numerous and irrefutable. From heart health, to anti-ageing, to a faster metabolism, sleep is key,” Jillian says.

And stick to a bedtime routine.

Jillian says she gets no less than seven hours of sleep a night, and never more than eight: “I usually go to bed around 10p.m. and listen to an audiobook. I’m asleep by 11:00 p.m. and up by 7:00a.m.” Bookmark that schedule, people.

This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com

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