Jorge Cruise: Transforming Pain Into Power

For the celebrated fitness coach, “play” means balance in life, every day.

Seven years ago, celebrity trainer Jorge Cruise was at the top of his game, having written 20 books on diet and fitness and working with celebrities from Oprah Winfrey to Angelina Jolie. He was in great shape, had a beautiful wife and two wonderful kids, and enjoyed a reputation as one of the top fitness experts in the country. Still, he says, he was deeply unhappy.

“There was just something missing,” Cruise reveals, yet, “I never took a minute to stop and say, ‘What’s going on here?’ I never asked that question, ‘Who am I?’ ‘Why am I not happy, even though I have it all?’”

After separating from his wife, a talk with one of his employees led to some serious soul-searching and a decision that seemed incredibly risky at the time—to come out as gay at age 39. It’s a journey he talks about in his forthcoming book, “The 3 Choices.”

He says the decision distanced him from family and friends and caused him considerable pain as he worked to rebuild his personal life.

However, it has given him a new sense of fulfillment, including a happy marriage of three years to his business partner, Sam, as well as a more holistic approach to helping clients achieve their goals on the scale and in life. Cruise says, “You have to play with yourself! We all get a little too stressed because we think there isn’t enough time for everything. You have to take charge of your time and spend it wisely. We all need a minute to breathe.”

He adds, “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. And it’s not because I’m more successful. It’s because I have someone that I share a genuine love with. And it’s a different thing when it comes from a genuine place.”

Cruise’s book “The 3 Choices” is about self-love and acceptance, breathing through life’s anxiety and stress, and exercising because it makes you feel more positive rather than because it keeps the number down on the scale.

These three simple habits or practices, he says, can spark a surprising amount of change.

“There are patterns to happiness and health, and there are patterns to sadness and disease,” Cruise shares. “You just have to find the right recipe that works for you.”

Cruise’s journey

Cruise discovered his love of fitness in college. Slightly overweight, with dwindling confidence and a lot of pain as his dad battled prostate cancer, Cruise decided to prioritize health. He remembered his mentor and former employer, life coach Tony Robbins, saying that “health is your greatest asset.” With his father so gravely ill, the idea of being able to control his own health and gain confidence felt empowering.

After graduating from the University of California, San Diego, and studying at Dartmouth College, he received his fitness credentials from the Cooper Institute, the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise.

Several years later, he got his big break when Oprah hired him as her trainer, featuring him on her television show and in her magazine. Since that time, he’s written 32 books on diet and exercise, from “8 Minutes in the Morning” to “The Belly Fat Cure” and “Body at Home.” He’s also logged regular appearances on television shows, including a gig on E’s weight-loss makeover show “Revenge Body With Khloé Kardashian.”

Whether it’s contestants on this show or clients of his LIVE Fit Club online coaching business, Cruise says it all starts with getting people to find their motivation for losing weight. It’s usually not about just losing 20 pounds or having a tiny waist. Rather, they want that good feeling that comes from confidence or knowing they can keep up with their kids. Once you know your why, he says, it gets easier to take those first steps each day, from getting to the gym to turning down the tortilla chips at your local restaurant.

“It isn’t hard to get healthy. All you have to do is realize that you can do it. You have to make that decision in your mind even if your environment doesn’t support you,” he asserts. “Just believe in yourself and get a support system,” whether it’s at the gym, on Facebook or through a private online support group.

A comprehensive approach to health

Getting healthy doesn’t have to take a lot of time, Cruise says. From the very start, he has favored short but intense workouts that build lean muscle over hour-long slogs on the treadmill. And over the years, his advice has expanded to include diet plans designed to help clients eat more frequent plant-based meals and less sugar and refined carbohydrates.

Cruise states, “For me, it’s a mission I’m on to help people understand that being fit is this comprehensive thing that’s not just the gym.”

As a matter of fact, he says that one of his healthiest habits is journaling upon waking at 4 a.m. to help visualize what he wants out of his day. “It’s that morning ritual of … connecting to the source of what you’re doing. Whatever it is you’re going to do today, ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing it?’ And if there isn’t a strong enough why, find it, or don’t do it.”

Cruise also says, “Life is all about balance—we have to do a constant juggling act to keep work and play in place.” He schedules “white space” in his and the family’s calendar, because “dedication to enjoying life is the key to happiness.”

Both personally and professionally, he has observed that when there is too much going on in our lives, and says, “We tend to think we shouldn’t be playing. Remember, not everyone can climb Mount Everest in a day. Taking a break is necessary, even though sometimes it may seem counterproductive. “

Three choices

While you’re going about your day, Cruise advises adopting these three important practices to support your goals.

1. Be imperfectly you

This, he says, means connecting with your authentic self, accepting your body, flaws and all, and building up your confidence. Cruise uses affirmations to help clients feel happy and develop an empowered mindset.

“It’s just remembering we have the power and to claim it,” he says.

2. Don’t hold your breath

Before Cruise came out, he says he felt a lot of stress and anxiety and would hold his breath throughout the day. “When you don’t feel like yourself, you hold your breath,” he notes, which further fuels your anxiety.

But he says that stress and anxiety can’t coexist with breath. “That’s the power of things like yoga and deep diaphragmatic breathing.” He also counsels his clients to get an activity tracker with a breathing or meditation app to take them through short breathing sessions throughout the day. “If you want to be happy, you have to breathe.”

3. Move to improve

Cruise says that if you want to improve something in your life, movement is the quickest shortcut to getting there. But it’s not just about getting better abs. It’s also about your brain. After just a few minutes of walking or working out, your endorphins, dopamine and serotonin levels change, and you start to flood your body with powerful feel-good chemicals. “It’s like drinking a glass of happiness,” Cruise remarks. Once clients realize this, he says, they get hooked.

Cruise’s personal revolution

The three simple practices above have greatly improved Cruise’s personal life, helping him build a better friendship with his ex-wife and a happier, more authentic family life with Sam and his two kids, aged 10 and 13.

Looking back, he doesn’t have a lot of regrets about coming out when he did. He says it just took him a long time to realize that being straight wasn’t a choice he could make to please others, including his very conservative Catholic family from Mexico.

Deciding to take a huge risk and be his authentic self—no matter when it happened—has led to the biggest payoffs in his happiness.

“Even if you feel like the first half of your life wasn’t the perfect first half, there’s always a second chance and a third chance. There’s always another day,” Cruise concludes. “A lot of people are scared of taking risks. And the thing I’ve learned at my age doing this for 20 years … is that if you don’t take a risk, there is no reward.”

Just for June, tag @jorgecruise on Instagram with proof of purchase of “The 3 Choices,” and Jorge will DM you and answer any questions you have about living a better life, whether it’s health, fitness or self-help related.

Photo credit: Tom Casey,
Grooming: Mariah Nicole,