Jillian Michaels has announced she will return to the NBC weight loss reality show "The Biggest Loser" after a two-season absence, despite saying almost two months ago that she had no intention to do so.
The 38-year-old fitness trainer has starred on the show on and off since 2004 and last left the series in 2011. She made the announcement about her return on Tuesday, September 4, on NBC's "Today" show, adding that the upcoming 14th season of the series will feature overweight teenagers, rather than adults, and that the format change contributed to her decision to come back.
"So there's been a lot of talk swirling around and the time is now to finally announce that I will be returning to the show for the next season in January."
"That's fantastic. Look, people are clapping back there," presenter and weatherman Al Roker said, gesturing to the daily crowd of spectators peering through windows into the New York City studio from outside. "They're all excited about it."
"Oh, that's cute," Michaels said, waving back at them. "Oh my gosh, that's so cute."
Roker asked her why she decided to return to "The Biggest Loser."
"The show has chosen to take on something very controversial - they're going to go after childhood obesity," Michaels replied. "They're going to be three teenagers on each team and they're not going to be on the ranch and they're not going to be competing but it's obviously something that needs to be handled with kid gloves but it's something that needs to be handled."
"And as a mom of two and a person who was an overweight kid, it's something that I'm really passionate about and I want to be involved with," she added.
Roker also cited the timing of the season 14 premiere. The show has often begun new seasons in the fall but has occasionally started at the beginning of the year, when people begin diets as part of their New Year's Resolutions.
"That is part of the reasoning, absolutely," Michaels said. "At the same time I think the show feels it's reached a huge level of success and feels a responsibility that comes with that and it wants to make an impact on this enormous problem that we're suffering as a nation."
Michaels had announced her departure from the show in December 2010, saying she wanted to take a year off to bring home a child and focus on her charity work. In May, Michaels brought home a 2-year-old girl from Haiti and her girlfriend, Heidi Rhoades, gave birth to a baby boy.
Michaels worked as a fitness trainer on "The Biggest Loser" on and off since its 2004 debut. Ratings had started to decline in early 2010, although the previous 13th season, which ended in May and featured trainers Bob Harper and Dolvett Quince, saw a small boost.
Michaels first left the series in 2006, then rejoined in the following year. She launched a short-lived spin-off show, "Losing It With Jillian," in 2010. After her second departure in 2011, she joined the talk show "The Doctors" for a short stint. In July, reports said Michaels had asked to return to "The Biggest Loser." On her Facebook page: she told her fans, "I've just heard of the rumors regarding me going back to 'Biggest Loser.' This is 100% untrue. I respect the show and wish it well but have NO intentions of returning."
Sources close to the situation told OTRC.com at the time that NBC had asked Michaels to reprise her role and that talks broke down on July 16 after producers denied her request that her salary be made equal to fellow show trainer Harper's. NBC declined to comment on the matter.
Harper voiced his support for Michaels on Tuesday on Twitter, saying: "Are you as excited as I am that @JillianMichaels is coming back to #BiggestLoser!??!?!?"
During her time on "The Biggest Loser," Michaels was known for her tough attitude towards the contestants as she helped them shed the pounds and get into shape. However, she is likely to showcase a gentler demeanor on the upcoming season.
"We won't be saying things to kids like, 'How much weight did you lose?' It's about getting them healthy. Using words like 'healthy.' They won't be getting on a scale. It's about getting them into the softball team. Things like that," she said, adding: "I couldn't miss an opportunity to be a part of it."