Jillian Michaels Says These Are the 3 Biggest Weight-Loss Mistakes People Make

The personal trainer spilled on the three things you should avoid if you’re trying to lose weight.

Jillian Michaels on a designed background
Photo: Getty Images / Paul Archuleta

Jillian Michaels is a personal trainer, TV personality and creator of Jillian Michaels: The Fitness App. As a former trainer on The Biggest Loser, Michaels knows a thing or two about helping people reach their health goals. We chatted with the personal trainer to get the scoop on the biggest mistakes that can hinder your weight loss—and what to do instead. Here's what she had to say.

The 3 Biggest Weight-Loss Mistakes, According to Jillian Michaels

Mistake #1: You're not doing the "deeper work."

In order to lose weight—and keep it off—Michaels says you need to "have the right information so your actions will yield the most powerful results." While your weight-loss action plan might include things like finding a healthy eating plan and sticking to an exercise routine, Michaels says that your success also depends on something a little deeper.

For example, if you struggle with emotional eating or are using food as a coping mechanism, Michaels says you're likely "being provided something significant from food." She adds that you may need to "do the deeper work" to figure out the root of the issue, which could look like "implementing a strategy, manipulating your environment or support systems and having behavioral strategies to help manage those emotions."

If you find yourself regularly turning to food for comfort, it may be worth speaking with a registered dietitian or a psychologist. This can help you tap into what's causing these patterns and allow you to create strategies to deal with stressors in a healthier way.

Mistake #2: You're trying fad diets.

Michaels says that fad diets may promise rapid weight loss, but that doesn't mean they're good for you. "You can still be skinny and not be very healthy. It's about making commonsense food choices and managing how much you eat … You don't want to adhere to any fad. It just doesn't work. Even if it works in the interim, this is what starts [yo-yo dieting]."

Michaels says that fad diets like detoxes, juice cleanses, keto or cutting out entire food groups can be a slippery slope—and can actually cause you to move further away from your weight-loss goals. She says that you can "push that pendulum to an extreme and it swings back the opposite direction. It's not sustainable long-term. You're starving your body and it can actually [damage your metabolism]."

Instead, Michaels recommends a more balanced eating approach full of lean protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Though Michaels says she tries to avoid refined sugars and processed grains, she says she follows the 80-20 rule (more than 80% of her daily calories from whole foods and less than 20% of her daily calories from treats or wine).

Mistake #3: You're not working out.

"The No. 1 worst mistake [when trying to lose weight] is not working out," Michaels says. "It's one of the best forms of preventive medicine. It helps support immunity, fight off diseases and maintain your metabolism."

But before you lace up your sneakers, Michaels recommends doing a little soul-searching. She says to ask yourself, "What are your goals? Is it losing 20 pounds, gaining muscle or building endurance?" Once you determine your goal (or goals!), you should assess your fitness level next—and be really honest with yourself.

Michaels says, "If you're a beginner, you might not want to start a marathon training program." Trying to become an Olympic athlete overnight is not only unsustainable—but it could also lead to injuries. Instead of starting a marathon program when you're easing back into exercise, start by walking every day or training for a 5K.

Lastly, Michaels recommends talking to your doctor if you have any injuries; that way you can find out your limitations or modify your exercise program to fit your needs. Once you've determined your goals and fitness level, Michaels says to find a workout you love to do. She says, "I can tell you what the most effective techniques are, but if you're not going to do them, it's not going to work. Pick something you like, because otherwise you won't show up for it. What are you not going to hate?"

Whether your favorite workout is running on the beach, hula hooping or walking your dog, it's important to just get moving. Even a little bit of exercise each day can offer some serious health benefits and help you kick-start your weight-loss journey.

The Bottom Line

We think Michaels' balanced approach to weight loss is great. Victoria Seaver, M.S., RD, a registered dietitian and EatingWell's associate editorial director, says, "Exploring your relationship with food can tell you a lot about yourself and your needs and in turn help you better strategize ways to adapt to reach your health goals." Looping in a registered dietitian or psychologist to help navigate that information can make it easier to process and adjust your behaviors accordingly. And we love Michaels' recommendation to skip the fad diets. "Research proves that fad diets don't work for long-term weight loss," Seaver adds. You're much better off eating a mix of all foods—including sweets and treats—to avoid that pendulum swing Michaels mentioned.

Seaver also agrees that exercise is important, and not just for weight loss. Exercise can also improve your mental health, boost your mood, help prevent chronic diseases and more. But remember, she says: "The more you exercise, the hungrier you'll be. Knowing this ahead of time can help you better respond to heightened hunger levels with filling, lower-calorie ingredients, like fruits and veggies."

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