Life of pie

The Big­gest Loser’s Hay­ley Lewis lifts the lid on fam­i­lies’ bad eat­ing habits, writes Colin Vick­ery

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ONE of the most con­fronting im­ages TV view­ers will see this year comes early in the first episode of The Big­gest Loser: The Next Gen­er­a­tion.

We’re ac­cus­tomed to hear­ing sto­ries about con­tes­tants’ ter­ri­ble di­ets — pies, sausage rolls, cakes and chips. But there’s no deny­ing the emo­tion pro­voked by the sight of con­tes­tant Jess O’Mal­ley sit­ting down with a jumbo tub of vanilla ice cream. The 21-year-old pours choco­late on top – and con­sumes the lot in one sit­ting.

Think a Mag­num, mul­ti­ply it by about 50, and you would get some­where near the to­tal calo­rie count of Jess’s idea of dessert.

That sin­gle scene rams home the im­pact that fam­ily eat­ing habits have on obe­sity.

Jess’s favourite foods in­clude pork crack­ling as well as ice cream. Her 42-year-old dad, Sam, is way over­weight too. He craves fast food.

Jess and Sam are one of seven fam­ily teams on this year’s The Big­gest Loser: The Next Gen­er­a­tion.

Moth­ers, fa­thers, daugh­ters, sons are all at in­creased risk of car­dio­vas­cu­lar disease, high blood pres­sure and Type 2 di­a­betes. This is life and death. ‘‘ I want the view­ers at home to know this show isn’t go­ing to be a happy joyride,’’ host Hay­ley Lewis says.

‘‘ It has def­i­nitely been the most emo­tional Big­gest Loser se­ries that I have been a part of. We have had some very tense days of film­ing where the train­ers and I have had to re­move our­selves from sit­u­a­tions. Most of the con­tes­tants had a very bad re­la­tion­ship with the par­ent or the child that they came on the show with.’’

Twenty-year-old con­tes­tant Kirsten lashes out at her mum Janet, 52, for her bad weight is­sues. Hopefully this show can help view­ers at home that are deal­ing with the same kinds of things.’’

Lewis knows what she is talk­ing about. She has en­dured her own weight bat­tles — and won.

At 15, Lewis was the toast of the na­tion af­ter win­ning five gold medals and a bronze at the 1990 Auck­land Com­mon- eat­ing habits. The pair share a fond­ness for choco­late bars, chips and ta­cos.

‘‘ In a lot of fam­i­lies weight is­sues cause a lot of ten­sion and stress be­cause a par­ent be­ing over­weight is set­ting a bad ex­am­ple for their kids,’’ Lewis says.

‘‘ We’ve got quite a few par­ents who have ad­mit­ted to be­ing obese them­selves but mak­ing their kids go and get gym mem­ber­ships.

‘‘ They of­fer their kids in­cen­tives to lose weight but then they’ll be sit­ting in front of the TV eat­ing a packet of chips and hav­ing a beer. Of­ten too, par­ents don’t know how to speak to their kids about

A par­ent be­ing over­weight is set­ting a bad ex­am­ple for their kids

wealth Games. Two years later she col­lected sil­ver and bronze at the Barcelona Olympic Games.

Lewis stacked on nearly 20kg be­tween those two events. Things got so bad she was em­bar­rassed to put on a swim suit.

Her weight bal­looned 25kg with her first child, Ja­cob, as she binged on lol­lies and cakes.

‘‘ When I started to put on weight it was closely mon­i­tored by my par­ents and my coaches,’’ Lewis says. ‘‘ I know the stress and strain that put me un­der as a teenager and a girl in her young twen­ties.

‘‘ I was al­ways the one on the swim team that had the weight prob­lems. I des­per­ately just wanted to be a nor­mal per­son but hav­ing that pres­sure to win ev­ery time I got in the pool was some­thing that was very hard for a teenager to face. I guess the only way I dealt with it was through food. I look back now and I feel so sorry for that girl.

‘‘ I had a lot of com­ments from peo­ple that would meet me and say, ‘ gee, you’re a lot fat­ter than I thought’.

‘‘ I would not go back to those days if you paid me all the money in the world.’’

Lewis broke the cy­cle when a lead­ing weight loss chain con­tacted her af­ter the birth of Ja­cob.

‘‘ That was a big wake up call,’’ Lewis says. ‘‘ As the weight came off, I vowed that I would never put it back on again. I def­i­nitely (still) have to work on my weight and watch what I eat. My goal is to do at least 10,000 steps (ex­er­cise) ev­ery day.

‘‘ I try to steer away from carbs be­cause I love ev­ery­thing you’ll see in a bak­ery win­dow. Once I have a cup­cake or a crois­sant, I just spi­ral out of con­trol.’’

Weighty is­sues: host Hay­ley Lewis and (be­low) The Big­gest Loser train­ers Shan­nan Pon­ton, Michelle Bridges and Steve Wil­lis.

The Big­gest Loser: The Next Gen­er­a­tion, Chan­nel 10, Sun­day, 6.45pm

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