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Jillian Michaels talks adoption, motherhood, new fitness book and more

Jillian Michaels, star of NBC's

Jillian Michaels, star of NBC's "The Biggest Loser" with her daughter, Lukensia, front, and son, Phoenix. Credit: Jillian Michaels

Jillian Michaels may be best known for her aggressive weight-loss approach on NBC's "The Biggest Loser," but the bestselling author has shown a much softer side since becoming a mom of two last year.

In May, Michaels and her partner Heidi Rhoades adopted their daughter Lukensia, 2, from Haiti. That same month, Rhoades gave birth to their son, Phoenix. After her kids arrived, Michaels said she realized the importance of family fitness, which inspired her to rejoin the "Loser" cast for its 14th season, which features kids for the first time.

In addition to starring on the show and raising her children, Michaels' new book, "Slim for Life: My Insider Secrets to Simple, Fast, and Lasting Weight Loss" (Harmony; $25), along with a DVD, "Jillian Michaels Hard Body," is launching tomorrow. For more information, visit

I had a chance to catch up with her about finding time for fitness, adoption and balancing it all. Here's what she had to say:

Q. How have you been balancing work and family? Any tricks to share with other working moms?
I definitely understand how hectic life can be as a working mom. With both a baby and a toddler at home -- as well as a full-time job -- I feel like I'm running around in circles sometimes just to keep everything going. I've learned that multitasking is key. I know, I know -- there are some longtime moms out there who've known that for years, but I'm discovering more every day how true it is. For example, I still feel it's crucial to get a workout in. It's important for moms to be healthy for their kids and to set a good example early on. So I do my best to maximize the time I have for a workout (which isn't much most days.)

Q. Do you have tips on helping moms find time for fitness?
I've developed many strategies for fitting in workouts with kids, all of which are in "Slim For Life," but here are a few key strategies to employ: Enlist the help of family and friends. Don't be afraid to ask grandma to come spend the evening with the kids so that you can get to the gym or have a date night. Another trick is to work out with the kids. I'll put my kids in a bike seat and go for a ride on the bike path from Santa Monica to Marina del Rey, or go for a hike with Phoenix in the Baby Bjorn. Also, trade off with your spouse. For example, Heidi will watch the kids while I go for a run, and I'll watch them while she gets in a yoga class.

Q. Can you talk a bit about the adoption process and what it was like bringing home Lukensia?
Adoption is much like pregnancy -- unique for each family. There's no clear-cut path. The key is to talk with your social worker about your options. It was a lengthy process and I won't say that it was easy -- it wasn't -- and there were a lot of frustrations and fears along the way. That being said, I cannot begin to describe how I felt stepping into that play room in Haiti, the day I finally got to take my daughter home. Picking her up and knowing that I wouldn't have to put her back down again -- that I was finally able to bring her back to join our family -- was an extraordinary feeling. Then to bring her home and see her for the first time with her brother -- I melted, I really did. I looked at my two kids and realized that everything had worked out exactly as it was meant to, and that all the frustrations and difficult times we faced in the adoption process were completely, absolutely worth experiencing.

Q. Advice for parents looking to adopt?
Know your options. Really do your homework when it comes to the kinds of adoptions that are available, and be honest with yourself in determining which is the best option for you and your family. It's a difficult process -- more difficult than I anticipated -- so I recommend being prepared. It doesn't happen overnight. I also do highly recommend exploring fostering to adopt. It's a wonderful option to consider.

Q. What have you learned from your kids?
Kids are like little mirrors. You see all your good qualities in them and some of your not-so-good qualities. One key lesson I've learned is how to love something even with the fear of "otherness." What I mean by this is that often we want our kids to be everything we weren't able to be. To achieve all we want, but couldn't. We want them to be reflections of our ideal self. This implies no risk. If our kids aren't different from us, there is no fear of separation. I want to be a parent that is OK with my kids being totally different from me. I can't tell you I am there yet, but I hope to be one day.

Q. When you're not working, what is your favorite downtime activity to do with your family?
I love spending time with the kids. We like to go out and spend time with the horses, or take the paddleboard out and play on the beach. Lu loves to explore, and it's so fun to watch her discover things. Phoenix is really getting more active too, and starting to explore the things around him as well. It's just really fun to spend time together when we can. Heidi and I also try to make sure to take time with each other. We'll have grandma come spend some time with the kids and go out to dinner on our own. With so much going on, it's important to have some one-on-one time to talk, enjoy each other's company, catch up on the kids, life and all of the things that we may not have had a chance to talk about when the craziness of the day-to-day takes hold.

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