Jillian Michaels was born in Los Angeles, California to Jo Ann McKarus, a psychotherapist, and Douglas G. McKarus, a personal-injury lawyer. She grew up an only child but has two younger siblings, a brother named George and a half-sister named Lauren. Michaels endured a rough childhood marred by low self-esteem and psychological issues. Her mother put her into therapy when she was 5 for night terrors.
Michaels’ parents divorced when she was 12, after being married for 18 years, causing her to develop anger issues and act out. The breakup took an emotional toll on Michaels, one manifestation of which was weight gain. By the time she was 13, Michaels was 5’2″ and 175 pounds.
Her mother signed her up for martial arts at age 14 as a way for her to get out her frustrations and to develop self-confidence. At the age of 17, and after years of fighting, her mother kicked her out to teach her how to fend for herself.
I became pretty angry — no one wanted to deal with me — so when I was 17, my mom was like, ‘You’re not living here.’ I learned a lot being on my own. I grew up. I had to make money. I learned how to make decisions that are right for me.