Jillian Perih endured more tragedy in her first 21 years than most people experience in a lifetime. As such, she turned to food as a comfort, and fell away from physical activity she once loved, resulting in massive weight gain and a loss of self-love. After trying (and failing) multiple times to lose weight with things like CrossFit and running, Jillian applied to be on Revenge Body, and the experience transformed her in more ways than one. Her experience with Body By Simone dance cardio gave her the opportunities and perspective needed to turn her life around (including scoring an incredible job as Simone De La Rue's assistant!) . . . and get to a healthy weight on top of it all. What we noticed most from her after photos? Her smile and confidence. As Jillian says, "I'm the happiest I've ever been." Here's how she got there.
POPSUGAR: What made you decide to start your weight-loss journey?
Jillian Perih: The moment that motivated me was the day I found out about Revenge Body. However, my whole life has been a weight-loss journey. I have gained and lost weight many times. This particular time wasn't a weight-loss journey at all. This past year was a journey of self-love and body positivity.
PS: Can you talk about the cause of your weight gain?
JP: My weight gain(s) stem from emotional eating. I can trace it as far back as fourth grade when I started weighing myself and sneaking food. The following two were the biggest causes of my 50-plus pound weight gain in my teen years and early 20s.
In high school, both of my parents passed away. I kind of gave up on sports because I no longer had that drive pushing me. I associated the sports I played with my mom and dad — and it just made me sad. Also, living on your own at 16 with your 21-year-old sister means eating kid foods — cookie dough, pizza, pasta, take out. All of this adds up!
At my most fit — 20 years old and 175 pounds — I was the happiest I had been, and a collegiate athlete at UCLA. On Halloween of my junior year, I was sexually assaulted. In the year following the attack, I got up to 240 pounds. The more weight I gained, the less motivation I had to lose it.
PS: What made you choose to go on Revenge Body?
JP: I had an epiphany moment when I saw they were casting for the show — two of my guiltiest pleasures: weight-loss shows and the Kardashians. It was a no-brainer. I actually called everyone I knew telling them that they were casting a weight-loss show for Khloé and we knew I needed to be on it!
PS: Had you tried other approaches before Revenge Body?
JP:I had tried other things. And they worked for a while — but inevitably I gained the weight back. I tried heavy lifting, CrossFit, running, you name it. I didn't know that the reason I gained it back wasn't the type of workout — but my motives. My usual goal was to lose weight. On the show, my goal was to gain confidence and self-love; the weight fell off when I achieved that.
"My goal was to gain confidence and self-love; the weight fell off when I achieved that."
PS: What's your favorite way to work out?
JP: I love working out in any way! I have grown to love MANY types of working out — which is what made my weight loss enjoyable. I don't dread it. If I am dreading a workout, I know it is the wrong one for me. Working out should be FUN. Working out should not be a chore. Find ways to mix it up instead of the classic monotonous gym routine!
Jillian: Before and After
PS: What do you love most about working out at BBS and dance cardio?
JP: I legit smile every time I go to a BBS class, usually when I mess up a dance. I get so caught up in the dancing that I think I know every move — then I mess up — then I laugh at myself. That is exactly why I love BBS. I am not a professional dancer and I don't pretend to be. I go into class just ready to hear loud music and sweat my a$$ off!
PS: What's your weekly exercise schedule?
JP: I work out when I can, sometimes it's three days a week, sometimes it's six days. In general, I do two days of one-hour long cardio (walk, run, intervals, StairMaster). I go to BBS two to three times a week and switch between Full Body and Dance Cardio. And usually try to lift one to two times a week.
PS: How much weight have you lost?
JP: My heaviest ever was 240 pounds and I started the show at 220 pounds. Currently I am 190 pounds which is 50 pounds overall.
PS: What was the first big difference, other than the number on the scale, that really made you feel proud and excited?
JP: Fitting into my old jeans was amazing. Trying on bathing suits!!
PS: How do you track your weight loss?
JP: How I feel and fit in my clothes. I do not really weigh myself anymore — because I know how much is behind that number. If I do weigh myself, it's more to track changes, not my physical weight, because the number on the scale doesn't matter anymore!
PS: What's a typical day of meals and snacks?
JP: Breakfast: 1 egg, 1/2 cup egg whites, 1 cup spinach, 1 or 2 pieces of sugar-free bacon, and 1/2 cup sweet potato ribbons in an omelet. Sometimes crumbled goat cheese. Snack 1: No-sugar-added all-natural beef jerky. Lunch: Model Meal Delivery (Whole30, Paleo, grain-free, and sugar-free). Snack 2: Greek Yogurt with fruit or hummus and celery. Dinner: 35 grams organic grass-fed whey protein shake or salad with chicken or turkey breast.
PS: Do you count calories? What's the range of calories you eat per day?
JP: Not really . . . I eat when I am hungry and stop when I am full. I try not to cave into cravings and if I do, just hit it extra hard at the gym. I try to trust my body now that I know what it is asking for.
PS: What are the healthy staples that are always in your fridge?
JP: Eggs, spinach, coconut milk, organic almond butter, Whole Foods organic hummus, and celery.
PS: How do you strategize for meals out?
JP: I don't — I honestly eat what my body is craving — and stop when I am full!
"It is vital to know you don't need a gym. You don't need a trainer. You need your body — and that's it."
PS: Do you use a fitness tracker? Which one, and how do you think it helped you?
JP: FitBit Charge 2 — I love that it gives me reminders to walk during the day since I have a desk job. Also, I like how it tracks my workouts and syncs in one place.
PS: What role did Revenge Body and BBS each play in your journey?
JP: Revenge Body gave me all the tools I needed to change my emotional eating habits that stemmed from all the loss in my life. It gave me three months of unapologetic selfishness to heal. I also met amazing castmates who I adore.
Body By Simone gave me perspective. I always thought I knew how to work out, until I tried BBS. They taught me how to work out on my own, with no equipment. It is VITAL to know you don't NEED a gym. You don't NEED a trainer. You need your body — and that's it. I can take what I learned anywhere I go.
And of course both, of these things gave me Simone. She was so much more than a trainer. She is my friend, my boss, and a lead female mentor in my life. I love her dearly!
Jillian and Simone
PS: What advice do you have for anyone starting out on a weight-loss journey?
JP: I forget who told me this saying first but ENJOY THE JOURNEY. It takes a long time to see changes and make lifelong decisions about your health. Imagine if you only wait to be happy until you see your "goal weight" on that scale. It will be a DAMN long time and a miserable one at that. Enjoy all of the little moments. Enjoy every lost inch, every healthy meal, and every workout. It's all the little things that make you love your body, not just your weight.