Jillian Michaels On What Aging Means to Her: "I’m a Very Different Person Than I Was at 34 and 24"

What does the expression “aging gracefully” mean to you?

I think generally it’s come to mean, “Oh, just accept it.” For me, aging gracefully is striking a balance—between your emotional state, physical state, and your psychological state—that allows you to have longevity, vitality, and quality of life for years to come. It’s not accepting a slow descent into decrepitude. There’s just no reason for that.

One of the six key strategies in your book is managing stress. How do you do that in your own life?

You have to give up the notion of perfection, because it’s an impossible endeavor, especially once you have kids. Maria Shriver once said you can do it all, but not at the same time. I say you can do it all, but just a little bit more s—ty, and that’s life. No, I’m not getting to that 90-minute yoga class like I used to. But if I do a 20-minute workout in my living room and I eat carefully, that’s good enough.

I also have something called the 12-hour rule. On top of eight hours of sleep a night, you’ve got 16 waking hours in a day. That equals 112 hours a week. If you spend 50 running your family and household, and 50 running your career, that leaves you with 12. Twelve hours for four 20–30 minute workouts, a date night, time with friends, one doctor or a beauty appointment. If you give yourself those 12 hours, you should have the time to manage the stress in your life so it works for you and not against you.

There’s a difference between chronological age and psychological age. How old do you feel?

I actually feel my exact age, in the best way possible. At 44 I’m a very different person than I was at 34 and 24. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve matured. The world humbles you, and forces you to learn things like patience and diplomacy.

Is there one epiphany from the past decade that really stands out?

I used to have an all-or-nothing mind-set. I thought, “I’ll shoot for the stars” and “I have to win”—and I realize now that that’s really not what life is about. As much as people can tell you, like, “Hey, it’s about the journey,” it takes time to get to that frame of mind. For me now, it’s about avoiding extremes of all kinds. It’s about living in that gray zone, where you can see all points of view, and you take what works for you and leave what doesn’t.

What advice do you give to someone who’s worried about getting older?

My book is about looking at the processes that are happening in the body, and taking control of them. You can control the aging process, for the most part. You can’t control everything. But you can control it in such a way where you feel and look and live great, well into your older years.

Is there anything about aging that worries you?

Not really, not at this stage of my life. I feel more confident than I ever have. That’s another thing that comes with age: You really don’t give a s— what people think about you anymore, except for the people you love. You’re not putting on a front. You’re not trying to prove yourself. You’ve gotten past those struggles, hopefully. I believe that as you get older, if you keep doing the work, you just get better.

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