The Biggest Loser tests a new generation ........
Overweight parents and kids team up to trim down, writes Guy Davis
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.