BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS

Hay­ley Lewis, who has bat­tled weight is­sues, breaks down on The Big­gest Loser set

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page -

ALONE fig­ure is crouched in the fe­tal po­si­tion on the sands of Manly beach cry­ing. Clutch­ing her mo­bile phone and ob­vi­ously talk­ing to a loved one, the woman says sim­ply: ‘‘I can’t do this.’’

The per­son is for­mer Olympic swim­ming star Hay­ley Lewis (right) and she is find­ing it dif­fi­cult to stop the tears flow­ing.

As the 35-year-old col­lapses on the Syd­ney beach, she di­als the num­ber of her hus­band Greg Tay­lor, who is al­most 1000km away with their two sons Ja­cob, 11, and Kai, 6.

The down-to-earth sportswoman has just en­dured her first day host­ing the fifth sea­son of re­al­ity weight-loss pro­gram The Big­gest Loser. Liv­ing in a new lo­ca­tion, start­ing a new job and meet­ing new peo­ple has left her feel­ing like a fish out of wa­ter.

‘‘The first two weeks I did have a few melt­downs, I must ad­mit,’’ says Lewis, who has dab­bled in TV sports com­men­tary but never pre­sented a ma­jor pro­gram.

‘‘The first week af­ter their first weigh-in, they (the Loser con­tes­tants) cried and it was like eight hours of them all telling their sto­ries. I re­mem­ber I left here (the set) and went down to Manly beach, rang my hus­band and just cried. It was heart­break­ing to hear the things they’d gone through. It was phys­i­cally drain­ing and I’d never been in high heels be­fore and be­ing in them for eight hours . . . my feet were killing me. So I was pretty much just feel­ing sorry for my­self,’’ she says.

For the first time in her life, Lewis was alone. Dur­ing her time as a pro­fes­sional swim­mer she was al­ways trav­el­ling with her fam­ily or the team. Then when she re­turned from the At­lanta Olympics in 1996 she moved straight in with her hus­band. Lewis says she found be­ing alone con­fronting.

‘‘I’ve never had to be alone, ever, so that’s been re­ally weird,’’ she says from The Big­gest Loser set in Manly.

Lewis made her youngest son a cal­en­dar so he can track when she is com­ing home. She flies home each week­end.

‘‘I miss them a lot’’, Lewis says. ‘‘Me and Lisa (Hose, one of the con­tes­tants) share a con­nec­tion be­cause she is the only mum in the house and has been away from her fam­ily too.

‘‘We about it.

‘‘The first week­end I came home the lit­tle one got con­fused. He thought that was it, he didn’t un­der­stand the con­cept. Now he has a

cry

con­stantly

to­gether cal­en­dar and I mark off the days I will be home.’’

An avid viewer of The Big­gest Loser, Lewis ac­tively pur­sued shar­ing the spot­light with train­ers Michelle Bridges and Shan­nan Pon­ton by go­ing af­ter the pre­sent­ing role when it was an­nounced that the show’s for­mer host Ajay Rochester had left the se­ries.

Lewis thought she mucked up the first au­di­tion. ‘‘I will never for­get that au­di­tion. It was more nerver­ack­ing than any race I’ve ever done,’’ she says. ‘‘I was so pumped up for it, but when I got there I just couldn’t do it. I was over­whelmed.’’

The pro­duc­ers ob­vi­ously thought oth­er­wise. Lewis made it through ev­ery round of screen tests.

Though Lewis is trim and taut, it hasn’t al­ways been that way. At 15, she was ridiculed for her un­con­ven­tional swim­ming fig­ure af­ter she re­turned from the Auck­land Com­mon­wealth Games, where she won five gold medals. Lewis knows how the con­tes­tants feel.

‘‘I have been through ex­tremely low points in my life, where my weight and body-im­age is­sues have changed my per­son­al­ity to a point where I didn’t want to go out in pub­lic or so­cialise and just wanted to lock my­self away,’’ she says.

‘‘There were times I didn’t want to get out of bed or put on my togs be­cause I was too em­bar­rassed. A glossy mag­a­zine came out and high­lighted what I had achieved and it said I wasn’t your typ­i­cal ath­lete and was a lit­tle bit heavy-legged. I re­mem­ber ask­ing Mum what they meant and it was re­ally hard.

‘‘I was only a young girl and I had to wear togs ev­ery day of my life. I was em­bar­rassed and up­set. It’s tough and more prob­lems came when I had chil­dren.’’

LThe Big­gest Loser (PG) Starts Sun­day, Chan­nel 10, 6.30pm Weight-loss re­al­ity show Du­ra­tion: 1 hour EWIS gained 25kg while preg­nant with Ja­cob. She says her wake-up call came when weight-loss com­pany Jenny Craig rang her to be­come an am­bas­sador.

‘‘When I got the phone call go­ing, ‘Do you want to be part of Jenny Craig?’ I re­alised how over­weight I was,’’ she says.

‘‘I’ve watched The Big­gest Loser since the first sea­son and to see what th­ese con­tes­tants over­come is so in­spir­ing. I can em­pathise with them be­cause I’ve been in their shoes and know how low you can feel.’’

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