Jillian Michaels makes her return to “The Biggest Loser”

When Jillian Michaels left The Biggest Loser, NBC’s hit reality show about weight loss struggled to find its footing. A few trainers came in, including tennis pro Anna Kornikova, and didn’t go over well with the audience. But Jillian was intent on taking time off to start a family, making public her adoption process which finally culminated in the announcement of not only one but two new kids for Jillian and her partner Heidi Rhoades this past year. So now that she’s got the family she wanted, it seems Jillian Michaels can have it all, as she made a triumphant return to The Biggest Loser as it premiered its 14th season this week.

“Several things brought me back,” Jillian said at the TCA panel for the show this week. “First of all, of course, I missed this one [Bob Harper] and I was excited to meet that one [Dolvett Quince]. But with that said, also, you leave the show, you want to do new things. And everyone’s like, ‘That’s great. You know, you want to do this. Good for you. We support you. That’s wonderful. Can you go back to Biggest Loser? And, you know, Bob and I saw Madonna in concert recently and she played a lot of new music and we were like cool, when she’s gonna do “Holiday”? And Biggest Loser is sort of my version of “Holiday.” And I greatly underestimated how tremendously inspired the American public gets by the show. So I’m excited to be back for that reason as well.”

The new season is also a little different in format, as Jillian and her trainers attempt to tackle childhood obesity by working with three kids in addition to the adults who are competing for the prize money. (The kids won’t be eliminated, nor will they be eligible to win the $250,000.) As a new mom, Jillian has a lot to say on how to avoid obesity from the outset, and it includes her wife’s stomach.

“There have been some studies suggesting that your baby, as a fetus, can actually develop a predilection for certain foods, so eat vegetables when you’re pregnant and make your baby purees,” Jillian said. “I get it, I would never do it, Heidi does it and bless her heart. But feed your baby vegetables.”

Jillian said she thinks the government should be more involved with regulating certain kinds of things, including the availability of farmers markets and accessibility to fresh produce, in order to help our country become healthier.

“I think the government is supposed to be there to protect us,” she said. “I’m actually disappointed in how little they protect us because they don’t understand how much our federal policy helps our ability to be healthful. I expect the government to step in. I wish they could make a difference. I could think of a million things our government could do to make healthier food way more affordable. I think the American people don’t want to be controlled. I think they like to be supported, but I don’t think they like to feel controlled.”

On the fitness side of things, Jillian says she has been doing Parkour to be active lately, and hopes someday she’ll be able to include her kids in her athletic endeavors.

“They’re a little too young,” Jillian said. “I have this vision of doing it with my son one day, like “We’re gonna do Brazilian jiu jitsu together, we’re going to do Parkour together, and then I know he’s going ot be like ‘Mom, I want to take ballet!’ And I’ll be like ‘OK!” So we’ll see! Hopefully.”

Besides Jillian’s return, another exciting addition to the show is the first out gay contestant in Jackson Carter. A 21-year-old out Mormon, Jackson was bullied when he came out as a teen and began to seek comfort in food. But his sexuality, Jillian says, was not the culprit.

“He didn’t struggle with his sexuality, not at all,” she said. “He was one hundred percent confident with who he was coming into that house and I actually found Jackson to be the most well adjusted, and for that reason, he actually gets the least amount of my attention, which is such a shame!”

The Biggest Loser host Alison Sweeney said she was “so excited” to have Jillian back, and their affection for one another was obvious on stage during the show’s panel, as Jillian referred to Alison as “pumpkin” and Alison made sure Jillian got her say when the panel was asked a question. Alison said she was thrilled to see the show’s first out gay contestant, although she isn’t sure why it took 14 seasons to get there.

“That’s a tough question. I think people have to make their own decisions, what it is for them and it’s a tough thing to talk about on TV I think,” she said. “I mean, talk about exposing yourself. Sometimes it’s a very personal journey and you know our show is not about — we want excitement and fun and entertain and help people lose weight and get healthy but we are not all about — we’re not interested in causing that negative kind of drama. We don’t want to hurt people. We want to lift them up so if people don’t want to talk about it, they don’t have to talk about it.”

The contestants, Alison said, must go through all kinds of tests before they can become a part of the show, which can ultimately weed out a lot of people.

“We want everybody to come through our doors and try out and, unfortunately for us, we have a lot of medical limitations,” she said. “We do lots of testing for the people before they get on the show so we have to make sure these people can do what they need to do and so that limits our pool.”

As for Jackson, the kids and the rest of this season’s adults, they will not be shown any mercy just because Jillian’s a mom. When asked if she ever felt she pushed anyone too hard to the point of crying, puking or fainting, she curtly answered, “No.” And when it comes to what she hopes anyone can learn from the show, whether they are contestants or viewers at home, it’s that being overweight isn’t “just about working out and eating right.”

“You want to know what’s the gist of it? Heartbreak.” Jillian said. “It’s a coping mechanism. It’s a coping mechanism for the kids. It’s a coping mechanism for the adults. And the reality is that we, as human beings, develop these destructive and dysfunctional patterns as defense mechanisms to things that are wounding us in other areas of our lives. And we do deal with it. We deal with it with the kids, and we deal with it with our adults. And we handle it across the board.”

The Biggest Loser airs Monday nights on NBC.