LOS ANGELES -- Jillian Michaels didn't think she had another weight-loss book in her. She'd already written several, including "Master Your Metabolism," "Winning by Losing" and "Making the Cut." What else was there to say?
Plenty, as it turns out. Her latest book is "Slim for Life," and it represents Michaels' most accessible approach to health and fitness. Not exactly what you might expect from the star of NBC's "The Biggest Loser," known for ripped abs and a no-excuses, take-no-prisoners approach to diet and exercise.
You see, Superwoman has been transformed into Everywoman.
Michaels' life changed dramatically last May when she became a mother to two: Lukensia, 3, whose adoption from Haiti was finalized the same week that Michaels' partner, Heidi Rhoades, gave birth to their son, Phoenix. Cue the missed workouts, less-than-ideal snacks and -- surprise, surprise -- not enough sleep.
And 5 extra pounds on the scale.
Now that might not seem like much to us mere mortals, but it gave Michaels a glimpse into the lives of millions of Americans struggling to wedge healthful food choices and exercise into lives packed with work and family obligations.
"It used to be that I didn't accept 'limitations,'" Michaels said over breakfast one recent morning while dining on a bowl of fresh berries at Le Pain Quotidien on Ventura Boulevard, where she was virtually unrecognizable -- no makeup, ball cap, sweats and flip-flops -- to the diners around her.
"I was like, 'It's a state of mind! No excuses!'
"But adding kids to the mix added a whole 'nother layer of responsibility, of time management, of financial obligations, of no sleep. It definitely made me understand."
It was a point driven home on one day in particular when she looked at her schedule and realized that she had only three hours to spare once she carved out time for work, travel and sleep. "I was sitting there thinking, 'Am I going to work out, or do I spend the time with my kids?'"
That's the vantage point of "Slim for Life."
Michaels said she tried to tackle every "excuse" she's heard over the years, including such well-worn favorites as not enough time, not enough money and no idea where to start. "Slim for Life" readers will find hundreds of strategies and tactics for weaving fitness and healthful food choices into their current lives (instead of the other way around).
"Slim for Life" is intended to be a lifestyle approach, Michaels said, and one that readers will ideally return to again and again as their commitment to health and fitness grows.
Readers are asked to pick from among Michaels' suggestions, but with those choices come consequences. They can take the easy route, but it doesn't come with the eye-popping results that most of us want. The middle road is a bit tougher, and then there's the all-in approach.
Example: When traveling, you can get in lots of walking while sightseeing (easy) or you can find daily calorie-blasting activities that are fun for the family, like paddle boarding (the middle-of-the-road approach). Or you can bring your own fitness DVD collection and laptop and turn your hotel room into your gym (the gung-ho approach).
But what about the real stumbling block for most people, the foods that we love? (Looking at you, chocolate!)
Michaels offers ways to enjoy such favorites while adhering to the 80 /20 rule. Anyone who has ever picked up a diet book has heard of this -- eat "clean" 80 percent of the time and loosen the reins a bit for 20 percent. But "Slim for Life" has concrete examples of what that actually looks like.
For Michaels, it's taking her daily calories (1,800) and calculating that she can spend 1,450 of those calories on "super-healthy stuff" like fish and leafy greens, leaving her with 350 calories for cookies or ice cream. Or, if a splurge meal is involved, she makes sure to follow that meal with at least five healthful meals, including snacks. "Deprivation is miserable and isn't sustainable. You're not going to go the rest of your life without a bite of chocolate or a piece of pizza." She does not condone a "cheat day" strategy, however, because it's too easy for people to overeat and "wipe out all the hard work they put in during the week."
Another trouble area for many people is food on the job, particularly in big offices where candy dishes, group lunches, happy-hour celebrations and birthday cakes are the norm.
Michaels suggests some commonsense tactics such as keeping a stash of healthful foods in your desk and takeout menus offering smart food choices within reach. But her strategy for dealing with the never-ending birthday cake extravaganzas is simple and brilliant, and too good not to pass along: "Send a happy birthday email. Explain that you won't be making it over for the celebration because you're 'saving the extra calories' and can't handle the temptation."
"I know that you can't do everything," Michaels said. "But this book is about a lifestyle. This is how I want you to live. ... I'm saying, 'I get it, I feel you, I hear all your obstacles.' I'm going to make it as easy as possible. And it's not going to get easier than this."