Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - NEWS -

EACH sea­son of The Big­gest Loser presents a unique set of chal­lenges, but Shan­nan Pon­ton says this year is the tough­est yet. New­cas­tle’s Pestell fam­ily – Terry and daugh­ters Melissa, Ali and Jodie – have a com­bined weight of 560kg.

Pon­ton, left, says the closeknit fam­ily bring out the worst in each other, sub­con­sciously fuelling each other’s bad habits: “They band to­gether and make their un­healthy eat­ing and in­ac­tiv­ity worse,” he says.

They are used to push­ing peo­ple away – and Pon­ton was no ex­cep­tion – mak­ing the first few weeks of the show a “liv­ing night­mare”. “They al­most broke me,” Pon­ton says.

One daugh­ter has never been in love, another can’t get work be­cause of her size and the third re­fuses to marry her part­ner at her cur­rent weight.

“They’ve had peo­ple say­ing the most aw­ful things … that drove them to re­treat into them­selves,” Pon­ton says.

“They stopped go­ing out. With that came pain and anger. They were so an­gry. They started out as this pack of bloody ban­shees.”

With­out giv­ing too much away, Pon­ton says the trans­for­ma­tion – while very, very grad­ual – is in­cred­i­ble.

The new­est sea­son of the long- run­ning Chan­nel Ten show once again fo­cuses on fam­i­lies. It starts with the train­ers spend­ing a week liv­ing with their teams, eat­ing what they eat.

“We’ve done that once be­fore and I swore to God I’d never do it again,” Pon­ton says. “The dam­age it did to my body last time … my energy lev­els and my con­fi­dence.”

It was no less har­row­ing this time, the Pes­tels’ eat­ing habits as mon­strous as you’d imag­ine.

“One af­ter­noon, we had a snack that was a whole Bavar­ian cho­co­late cheese­cake, prob­a­bly 30cm in di­am­e­ter,” he says. “One of the girls de­voured the whole thing. And that was a snack. In­cred­i­ble.”

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