Trainer Jillian Michaels is tough-as-nails on The Biggest Loser, but a softer side emerged when she became a mother to two kids in zero-to-sixty fashion. First, she and partner Heidi Rhoades adopted a 2-year-old daughter, Lukensia, from Haiti. Then, less than a week later, Rhoades gave birth to their son Phoenix. Here, Michaels, also the creator of the Body Revolution weight-loss plan, lets us in on what life is like in her household, the meaning behind her kids’ names, and her personal feelings on adoption.
You became a mom to two kids in one week! Describe what the first few days at home with them was like.
Chaos. Having a brand new baby and a toddler come into our lives all at once was definitely a wake-up call. There were a few of those crazy, unexpected moments when all I could think was, "What have we gotten ourselves into?" But then there were other moments when I would look at these two amazing little people and realize we were in for the most incredible journey of our lives.
Do you still feel like a new mom or are you getting the hang of things?
We have a rhythm. There are still crazy days, and I wouldn't say it's easy, but I don't wake up feeling completely overwhelmed. The kids are fun! And it is so amazing to watch them learn, grow and discover things.
What’s the best parenting advice you’ve gotten so far?
Follow your heart. There is so much conflicting advice out there and everyone has an opinion (ironically, just like weight loss). You have to follow your heart and do what you think is right for you and your family.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about adoption?
Gosh, I honestly wouldn't know. I don't really engage in negative conversations about it. I can tell you there are parts of the process that can be challenging, but there were parts of Heidi's conception and pregnancy that were also challenging. I can only speak for myself when I tell you that although my daughter is adopted I truly feel as though she is 100% my kid. You grow to love them so much and they become such a part of you that it’s actually hard to imagine they didn't come from you. I feel the same about my son despite the fact that Heidi is the one who carried him.
How did you name your kids?
We adopted Lu and kept her name Lukensia. As for Phoenix it was something that Lu's name actually inspired. My little sister is a bit of a scholar and told me that Lukensia means “the bringer of the light.” I thought it might be sweet to have a name that was linked in some way to Lu's. A phoenix is a firebird that dies and is reborn from fire. Plus, we thought it sounded cool.
Describe your most bizarre mommy moment to date.
Having my son poop, pee, and puke on me in a 10-minute time period. I know this is par for the motherhood course, but as a new mom I found it a bit overwhelming for lack of a better word.
You’re returning to The Biggest Loser this winter to work with overweight teens. What should a parent who sees their young child getting chubby say to them? It’s such a delicate topic.
The most important thing a parent can do is NOT make an issue of their child’s weight. Kids interpret this as a form of criticism and often rebel by eating even more. The best thing to do is lead by example by keeping yourself fit and healthy. Make efforts to get the whole family healthy so it's not about singling your chubby little one out. Find fun social activities your child can do that will keep them active like soccer, cheerleading etc. Teach them about healthy goods to help them become a healthy grown-up. Don't make it about pounds or calorie counting. Involve them in the food. Let them start a little vegetable garden so they are invested. Challenge them to find fruits and veggies in their favorite colors and so on. This helps to keep health fun and make them feel in control of their choices.
What’s the kid product you can’t live without?
The iPad. I'm so gross. I know. My-two-year old has an iPad. But it's so great because she can watch shows on it, read books on it, put her pictures and her music on it, and she learns from the apps we download. It's like ten different toys in one AND it's portable. For our son, he has gone through so many stages so fast. When he was a newborn the BioGaia baby probiotics were a godsend. They cleared up his cradle cap immediately and helped with his gas. Now that he's 7 months, his little car that serves as a walker is genius. He feels very independent in it because he can scoot around on his own.
You’re a sleep-deprived new mom and also now a spokesperson for EBOOST energy drink. Coincidence?
Maybe more like fate. I fell in love with EBOOST after having two kids. It's a natural energy boost, but it's also loaded with electrolytes and antioxidants to help support your health and immune system. For me it's ideal because it comes in handy little packets that I can just slip into my bag and then mix with water when I need that extra little energy punch.
You’ve admitted that motherhood made you eat your words that women should always put themselves first. Anything else you realized you were totally wrong about once you had kids?
Yeah (sigh). You can't have it all... at once anyway. As a person who was always on my own for so many years I truly thought I could find a way to have it all. That said, I was a fool. With anything amazing will come sacrifice. And that's ok. I realize it's about having balance in my life, acceptance, and patience. If you want kids, you have to know that life is going to change dramatically--and there will probably be a period where you grieve your old life--but that loss is so, so worth it.