Jillian Michaels

Jillian Michaels graces Good Housekeeping’s January cover, and in the interview, the master motivator opens up about her life after The Biggest Loser and her secrets to reaching your goals.

On leaving The Biggest Loser: "The minute I wasn't on the show, it opened up a lot of opportunities," she says of the many projects she's already begun, like taking her "Maximize Your Life" tour to Australia and the U.K., launching a Kmart clothing line and exploring a return to TV.

"I recently had a meeting with a television executive who asked if people hire me just to scream at them. I'm like, 'Do you think I'm not actually a trainer?' I am extremely appreciative of the Biggest Loser platform, but it started to warp my message and [public] persona. It was just, 'She's a psycho.' "

In reality, Jillian is self-aware and introspective, thanks in part to having been in therapy since the age of 5 and having a close relationship with her mom, Jo Ann McKarus, a psychotherapist in her 60s. "My mom gave me enough self-worth to carry me through difficult experiences," Jillian says. "She was very loving and accepting. She was like, 'Whelp, you're gay? OK, cool."

While growing up, Jillian struggled with her parents' divorce, rebelling and eventually leaving her mom's home to live with her dad. At 17, she went out on her own. After Jillian left home for the second time, Jo Ann agreed to pay Jillian's rent for a year, and for her therapy and health insurance, as long as her daughter went to school and got a job. "She gave me enough to do something, but not enough to do nothing," Jillian says. "People who become successful in spite of [challenges] usually have a person who really loved them and believed in them. For me, it was my mom." In fact, Jo Ann did a lot more to help shape her daughter's path in life. "She taught me about finding meaning and purpose," Jillian says, "through connecting with people."

Now 40 and doing work she believes in, Jillian seems relaxed — not to mention really happy. "I don't have that killer instinct anymore," she says. "Now I crave collaboration instead of competition. It comes from a place of satisfaction, feeling good about where I am and what I've accomplished."

Good Housekeeping’s January cover hits newsstands December 16.