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If some of this stuff gets a little technical (she prescribes workouts complete with calories-per-minute burned for each exercise), Michaels also packs the book with simple no-brainers: Eat before you head to the party so you’re less tempted by those fatty hors d’oeuvres. Nix foods tagged with “danger words” like smothered, loaded, tender, deep-fried and creamy. At the supermarket, avoid the center aisles (high-trafficked destinations for junk food, she warns) in favor of the store perimeter, where fresh foods are likely to be stocked.

For imbibers who aren’t satisfied with the occasional red wine (pretty healthy in moderation), she even offers recipes for low-cal cocktails.

“I’m going to show you exactly what you need to understand, exactly what never to do, and what it looks like in your life,” she says. “This is never going to be easy. But it’s never gonna be easier than this.”

Growing up, physical health wasn’t something that came easily to Michaels.

Her dad was overweight, she says, “and one of the ways that we spent time together was through food: `Let’s go get a pizza.’”

Her parents went through what she calls an ugly divorce when she was 12, which only hardened her image of herself as “a fat kid, a loser, someone who deserved to get picked on.”

But a few years later she got hooked on martial arts. She had long felt like an outsider in school and most everywhere else, a feeling heightened by the fact that she was gay and hadn’t yet accepted it. But here in the dojo she was part of a community. She felt supported. She blossomed.

Then came a real turning point: She broke two boards with a sidekick.

“The next day when I walked into the school, no one ever (messed) with me again,” she says, her eyes blazing at the memory.

From there a career unfolded for Michaels as a trainer, physical therapy aide, then sports-medicine professional.

A decade ago, she signed on to “The Biggest Loser.” There, instantly, she stood out as a taskmaster, even a bully.

“I always identify with the underdog, and I think that’s one reason I feel fine yelling at them,” she explains. “I feel like I’m yelling at a peer: Take responsibility, own this situation and bring your best. Let’s start exploring your potential.”

As “The Biggest Loser” heads toward its season conclusion (Monday at 8 p.m. EDT), Michaels has seen full potential reached by her current charge, Danni. A 26-year-old advertising account coordinator from Wheeling, Ill., Danni has lost 95 pounds under Michaels‘ dogged coaching and has guaranteed herself a slot as a finalist.

“You found yourself and you just soared,” Michaels told her last week in a voice choked with emotion, “and you became everything that I had hoped you would be.”

Michaels returned to “The Biggest Loser” this season after a two-year absence. Her reasons for coming back included “a whole new group of producers I really trust and like,” she says. “Besides, it’s a heckuva platform.”

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