The Big­gest Loser tests a new gen­er­a­tion ........

Over­weight par­ents and kids team up to trim down, writes Guy Davis

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY CONTENTS -

HELP­ING a group of obese peo­ple shed their ex­cess ki­los has al­ways been phys­i­cally de­mand­ing for the team from Chan­nel 10’s weight-loss se­ries The Big­gest Loser.

But this year’s twist on the for­mat, which pairs over­weight par­ents with their chil­dren, has proven emo­tion­ally tax­ing for the show’s train­ers in­clud­ing Shan­nan Pon­ton.

Call­ing from an undis­closed lo­ca­tion as the show en­ters its fi­nal week of film­ing, Pon­ton is en­thu­si­as­tic about this sea­son of The Big­gest Loser, subti­tled The Next Gen­er­a­tion – but also can­did about the hard­ships and plea­sures the process of­fered.

Pon­ton calls the fi­nal stage of a 10-week Big­gest Loser film shoot ‘‘the joy of all joys as a trainer’’.

‘‘It’s fan­tas­tic, mate – you’re down to the fi­nal few peo­ple, they’re all fit, all mo­ti­vated and all have their eyes on the prize,’’ he says.

‘‘They’re up for any chal­lenge I put in front of them, so that’s won­der­ful. The mind-numb­ing, back-break­ing part of the train­ing is the first month or two, where they’re bro­ken phys­i­cally, men­tally and spir­i­tu­ally.

‘‘This part of the jour­ney, where we are now, is just a treat. I look for­ward to go­ing to work ev­ery sin­gle day.’’

Pon­ton and his co-train­ers, Michelle Bridges and Steve ‘‘Com­mando’’ Wil­lis, takes on the chal­lenge of break­ing the cy­cle of gen­er­a­tional obe­sity in Aus­tralia by bring­ing to­gether com­bi­na­tions of moth­ers, fa­thers, sons and daugh­ters in a bid to rid them of both ex­cess weight and the psy­cho­log­i­cal and emo­tional bur­dens that con­trib­ute to their phys­i­cally un­healthy state.

It’s the men­tal break­throughs that tend to yield the great­est re­sults on The Big­gest Loser, Pon­ton has found dur­ing his seven-year stint on the show.

‘‘Is­sues that have been sup­pressed for a really long time are gen­er­ally the cause of a weight gain,’’ he says.

‘‘It can be any­thing from child­hood bul­ly­ing to sex­ual abuse to an all-round lack of self-es­teem.’’

But with the in­tro­duc­tion of a par­ent-child dy­namic in The Next Gen­er­a­tion, Pon­ton sees some­thing new: a sense of an­tag­o­nism. ‘‘It’s al­most like retri­bu­tion,’’ he says. ‘‘The par­ents try to talk to the kids about their weight and the kids go ‘Oh, so I’m fat, am I? Watch this, then!’ and they self-sab­o­tage them­selves as pay­back against their par­ents. Be­cause the par­ents are over­weight them­selves, the kids some­times see it as hypocrisy.’’

The ads lead­ing up to this year’s The Big­gest Loser’s pre­miere have in­di­cated the par­ents and kids tak­ing part are pre­sent­ing a car­ing and united front in their bat­tle of the bulge. Pon­ton says that is of­ten the case but adds it’s not an easy road the con­tes­tants are trav­el­ling.

‘‘It’s a really twisted re­la­tion­ship that ex­ists be­tween a mor­bidly obese par­ent and a mor­bidly obese child,’’ he says.

‘‘From the par­ent’s side, there’s re­gret, re­morse and, to a de­gree, re­sent­ment that they’ve raised an obese child. From the child, there’s re­sent­ment and blame lev­elled at the par­ent.

‘‘It twists the re­la­tion­ship and closes the chan­nels of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The par­ents say, ‘You should do some­thing about your weight’, the child tells them to shut up or binge-eats.’’

The Big­gest Loser: Sun­day, 6.45pm; Mon­day and Tues­day, 7.30pm, Ten, Ten SC

Train­ers Shan­nan Pon­ton, the Com­mando and Michelle Bridges.

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