BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS
Hayley Lewis, who has battled weight issues, breaks down on The Biggest Loser set
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
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.’’