Making the Cut

I became a Jillian Michaels fan around this time last year, thanks to the fabulous Ms. (soon-to-be Mrs.!) Katie Ide. I was sick of running outdoors in the frigid weather, and regular workout videos with peppy instructors are trying enough. I got the “30-Day Shred” through Netflix and was amazed at how effective it was as a workout, especially since it was so short. I’ve been hooked ever since.

For Christmas, Dan got me Jillian’s book “Making the Cut.” It’s a 30-day fitness and diet regimen designed to help you get in killer shape. I’d read a fair number of reviews on the book, but not many people seemed to do the program to completion. The few who did do the entire program got great results. I started the program the last week in December and am now on Day 15, though I’ve been feeling really under the weather and have had to skip two workouts, which I think I’ll just tack on to the end.

I’m already seeing serious results.  I’ve only completed about half the program, and I’ve lost over an inch on my waist and nearly an inch in my hips. I have no idea if I’ve lost weight, as we don’t keep a scale in the house, but I’m clearly thinner and stronger. You can’t argue with the numbers.

At the start of the book, Michaels  is very specific: YOU MUST FOLLOW THE PLAN TO THE LETTER TO GET THE PROMISED RESULTS. She has you do a fitness test to determine whether you’re in good enough shape to start the program. The program is NOT for beginners at all. The test consists of an aerobic step test, sit-ups, push-ups, and a timed wall sit. The program is not for beginners, and she recommends that you score at least average in every category prior to starting the regimen. She also has you take your measurements: waist, hips, bust, chest, legs, arms. She recommends you measure your body composition, but I didn’t have the resources to do that.

Another interesting thing she has you do is take a metabolic typing test to determine what types of food you should eat. There are three types: Slow Oxidizer, Balanced Oxidizer and Fast Oxidizer. Now, based on the research I’ve done, the science on the oxidizer theory isn’t 100%, but her explanation of it makes sense to me. The test is designed to tell you what types of foods you should be eating to feel full and operate at the highest level of functionality.  Slow Oxidizers should do well with carb-heavy diets, Fast Oxidizers (me) should eat more protein and fats, and Balanced Oxidizers do well with both carbs and proteins. I was surprised to be categorized as a Fast Oxidizer because I’m mostly vegetarian these days. I only eat fish and seafood; no poultry, beef, pork, etc.

She has a detailed meal plan with recipes for each of the oxidizer types. The plan for my type is very meat-heavy, so I’ve had to adapt it to fit my eating preferences. Instead of the beef and pork, I do a lot of shrimp, eggs and beans. In fact, my main grumble in regard to the book is that she doesn’t address vegetarians or provide many vegetarian options/modifications to the recipes.

Most of the recipes revolve around organic, whole foods. She also stresses the importance of eating low-sodium foods and drinking loads of water to avoid retaining water weight .

In addition to the meal plan, you must also count your calories. For the 30 days of the program, she has you eating the number of calories that coincide with your basal metabolic rate, or BMR. Your BMR is the base number of calories your body needs to function if you were to just sit on the couch all day and veg out. It doesn’t take into account any physical activity. My BMR is roughly 1,450/day, which I try to stick to. I have found, despite the lack of clear research results, that eating the foods recommended for my oxidizer type keeps me from feeling hungry, even though I’m eating so few calories and working out really hard. However, if I’m ever really feeling hungry or wiped out, I’ll allow myself an extra 200 calories or so in the form of fruit/veggies/peanut butter/hummus/almonds. I use The Daily Plate to track my calories, sodium intake and exercise.

The workouts are pretty killer. She has you work out four days per week. Two days on, a day off, two days on, two days off. Each workout is five circuits. Each circuit consists of three to five exercises capped off with a cardio boost. The workouts are designed so you do each circuit once, then move on to the next, but I’m getting to the point where I can do each circuit twice before moving on. The workouts as written take me 30 to 45 minutes to complete if I only do each circuit once, without any breaks.

Most moves require hand weights or exercise bands. A few require gym machines, but you can modify those to do them at home or substitute them with exercises that work the same muscles but don’t require gym machines.  You’ll also need an exercise ball.  I use five- and eight-pound weights. The book has an exercise index, where you can find explanations of all the exercises and photos of many of them. Some moves are really hard to understand without the pictures to help illustrate, but I’ve been able to Google them and find what I needed.

You’ll do moves like squats, dumbbell rows, planks, push-ups, dips, lunges, etc. A lot of basic calisthenics, but they really work.

I’ll keep everyone posted on my progress, but this seems like the perfect plan if you have a special event coming up. Jillian says that you can lose 10 to 20 pounds in a month following the plan, which you probably can. Even if you don’t drop that much weight, you will definitely look leaner and be stronger than you were before.


5 thoughts on “Making the Cut

  1. I suck at at-home workouts. I don’t think I could ever do this. But you can, so I’m glad it’s working for you!

    One very simple thing people don’t get about fitness is that you have to find something that works for you, something YOU actually enjoy doing. I think that’s why a lot of people quit before the end. You shouldn’t be doing it if you don’t like it!

    I like running outside (within reason), and doing it the cold makes me feel hardcore. But it’s taken me a long time for me to realize that there are other fitnessy things I could potentially enjoy,too. I never thought I would get into yoga, but I am slowly realizing I actually like it, and it gives me the strength and flexibility that cardio can’t.

    It’s great that you’re sticking to it and are liking it :-)

  2. That is really true! You have to like what you’re doing if it’s gonna stick. I loved running until I tore a disc in my back in high school. I still really enjoy it, but I have watch my miles and be so careful to not injure myself that it’s nice to mix it up with training like this!

  3. Hi, love the blog, I, too am a big Jillian Michaels fan. I think her workouts are surprisingly good for at-home, video-based workouts. I was inspired by her book to create a free tool that helps people determine their BMR, as well as an estimate of their total daily calorie burn based on their level of daily activity. Check out to use the free tool I created.

  4. I was relieved to come across your blog. I am just starting this program (with much excitement!) but I was a bit confused on how to execute a couple of the exercises. I noticed too that a couple of the pictures are inconsistent with the discription along side of it. But I continue to move forward, in anticipation of the great results!

    It baffles me how many people leave reviews for a product on the internet, when they aren’t even “reviewing” it per se. There are far too many comments such as “looks good!”, “can’t wait to try it” when it comes to this book and food recipes too! I shake my head and wonder if the word “review” has taken on a different meaning, like “anticipate”. Woah, tangent.

    Anyway, good job! Have you finished the program?

    • I did finish the program! You can read about my results here

      The one thing I didn’t do was follow the meal plan exactly. I was typed as a fast oxidizer, but I’m also a vegetarian, and most of her recipes for that type include meat. I did, however, follow the basic principles for the metabolic type by incorporating protein and healthy fats (read: nuts, cheese, avocados, Greek yogurt) into every meal and snack.

      Good luck with the cut! It’s so worth it.


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