When someone mentions Jillian Michaels in today’s fitness community, people tend to pay attention. She is a fitness guru to many folk. In this book about eating and treating your body well to maintain metabolism, she showcases how much she does know.

Or at least she talks a good talk.

The first part of Master Your Metabolism is about Michaels’ early career. She admits for the first season of Biggest Loser, she over-worked herself to maintain a certain image. It’s a trend I’ve noticed with female fitness professionals. And actresses. And public figures. Okay, with women.

We are too often judged on our appearance. We feel we are judged on our appearance so we struggle to make ourselves fit a certain mold we think is appropriate for us to be attractive. It isn’t fair. And it isn’t healthy.

I still struggle with it. I’m well on my way. Tonight, I wore pants I haven’t touched in a year because I felt too fat in them.

Fitness is not just a physical manifest, it’s psychological, too. There are definitely mental aspects and emotional aspects. I think it’s important for a program to start recognizing these concepts and addressing them in the literature and media.

Michaels discovered she does have (or had) hypothyroidism. It wasn’t her lack of hard work which didn’t give her results, it was her lack of knowledge and understanding of metabolism which held her back.

Her journey led to her writing this book. The second part of the book is Michaels sharing the vast amount of information about hormones, metabolism, and chemical balances and imbalances in our body.

I’m not going to lie. My mind MAY have glazed over several times while she discussed what different hormones do, how they are affected by food, and how certain foods affect certain balances. There’s a lot to look out for.

What brought my attention back was when Michaels discussed diet and what foods were best to maintain a healthy metabolism, which foods boosted it, which ones provided certain vitamins and minerals to our system, and which ones were power packed.

I like methods of instruction which tell me what TO do, not what to avoid. It’s something I call positive reinforcement communication. It’s how animal trainers communicate to their animals. We teach them what we want them to do, not the dozens of behaviors we don’t want them to do.

So when Michaels introduced her 10 Super Foods for Metabolism, I started paying attention, and taking notes.

  1. Legumes- legumes are a healthy source of carbs and proteins. Red beans are the best, but black beans, chickpeas, and pinto are very healthy as well.
  2. Alliums- this is all our bulb foods, such as onions, garlic, leeks, and chives. Garlic is our best choice, so use it well, and use it often to flavor your favorite dishes. Leeks are also especially good for their manganese, which provides a good source of fiber.
  3. Berries- Like chocolate and wine, berries contain polyphenol. But with the berries, you gain the health benefits of antioxidants and lowering risk for Type 2 diabetes and heart disease without the caffeine or fattening calories.
  4. Meat- specifically, Alaskan wild caught salmon and eggs. Salmon is a pure superfood, and if you can get your hands on ethically sourced, fresh, wild salmon, you have a perfect food with high protein and high in omega-3 fatty acids. Wild caught is so much better for you than farmed salmon, and it’s better for the environment.
    Eggs on the other hand, has nearly all the minerals and vitamins our bodies need. It is the near perfect food. Guess which type of egg is healthier and better for you? That’s right, eggs from free-range, pasture-raised hens. Getting the cheaper eggs with the “cage free” label is not the same thing. Cage free does not equal even remotely the same thing as free-range/pasture-raised. And if this food is near perfect, we should want the best of the best, right?
  5. Colorful fruits and veggies (mainly veggies)- Tomatoes were Jillian’s top pick here. But other colors to choose from the rainbow include: orange (carrots for beta carotene), yellow (mostly citrus fruits for vitamin C), purple (think beets, but also mentioned grapes and olives), and red (like tomatoes, which the lycopene helps fight cancer.
  6. Non-leafy green veggies- think broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower (I know, technically not green). These foods are lower in calories, but high in fiber, and well, in my opinion, high in taste too.
  7. Dark green leafy veggies- Love them. Eat them.
  8. Nuts and seeds- these are powerful snack foods where a little goes a long way. Pine nuts are especially helpful in preventing hunger (take that Snickers).
  9. Grass-fed Dairy Products- Okay, these are hard to measure whether the dairy is coming from truly pasture-raised, ethically treated sources, but do your homework, and you should be fine. Specifically highlighted in the book was yogurt, which contains probiotics our bodies need. Women in particular need to ensure we are getting enough calcium and the healthy vitamins from organic dairy products. Cottage cheese, yogurt, a little milk, and cream. Eating Green tip: look for glass containers when possible. While many plastic containers are recyclable, glass is easier to recycle, and even if it misses the mark, it is more biodegradable than plastic.
  10. Unrefined, unprocessed, whole grains- no, not bread. Not cereal. Not enriched pasta. Unprocessed. Think oats. Barley. Quinoa. These grains, when unprocessed, are excellent energy sources, boost metabolism, and are a healthy carbohydrate.

So, this book was WAY more than just a list of healthy foods. I know I should listen to it again to get a better understanding of what she was talking about with the metabolism and hormones. It’s important knowledge, but it was a little over my head the first time around.

Honestly, I don’t know how most fitness professionals, or experts in the field, think about Jillian Michaels. Is she like the Steve Irwin or David Attenborough for zookeepers? Do people watch her, read her books, or follow her and want to get into fitness? Or do fitness and nutrition experts look at her as a Hollywood fitness quack? Like zoo people feel about PETA and IDA. Those quacks don’t know a lick about animal welfare, but tote factoids like it’s the bible.

I don’t know. I feel most of her advice is pretty solid. She certainly has the background to sound like she knows what she is talking about. And I feel most of what she talks about stands the test of time. This book was written in 2010. That’s actually considerable ancient in terms of fitness books.

I feel I can always learn from well-known experts in the field. I want to learn more, and discover ways to improve my program, make it more accessible to the public, more relevant, and more effective.

In the meantime, I’m working on making a better version of myself, for me, and for the planet. That’s the only thing that really matters. How I feel when I wake up in the morning and if I made a difference.