TEARS AND EMOTIONS TIP THE SCALES ON THE NEW SEASON OF THE BIGGEST LOSER
THE BIGGEST LOSER Sunday, 6.45pm, Ten
MICHELLE Bridges concedes it may well be The Biggest Loser’s biggest challenge: tackling the touchy topic of generational obesity. But the fitness guru makes no apologies for that. In seven years as a trainer on the weight-loss reality show, she’s heard all the criticisms about it exploiting the obese for entertainment.
She doesn’t subscribe to them, nor does she make apologies for them.
‘‘The criticisms aren’t new and they can be shot down in a ball of flames when you do the numbers and you look at those people who have been on the show who are now no longer diabetics, are no longer needing blood pressure medication, have extended their lives by 15 to 20 years, and have a hip-to-waist ratio that’s now in the healthy range,’’ the forthright 42-year-old says.
‘‘The numbers and the doctors give us the facts. And the facts are these people are healthier – way healthier – than they were before they walked in the house.’’
The Biggest Loser has always been an emotioncharged journey but Bridges and fellow trainer Steve ‘‘Commando’’ Willis (Shannan Ponton completes the trio of trainers again this season, pictured below) say it is even more poignant this year, with parent and child teams making up the show.
Willis says prepare for raw emotion – and tears from the hard man himself – early on. ‘‘I’ve cried, most definitely,’’ Willis says. Bringing teenagers – with all their teen insecurities, coupled with their problems with obesity – into focus is a responsibility both producers and trainers thought long and hard about before proceeding with The Biggest Loser: The Next Generation, Bridges says.
‘‘We were conscious from the outset of the guidelines and parameters we’d have to deal with,’’ Bridges says.
‘‘It’s a touchy topic, but generational obesity is just too important an issue to not address.’’
Filming for this season of Loser has taken place for Bridges around the breakdown of her relationship. A fortnight ago, she and husband Bill Moore announced they were splitting after nine years of marriage.
‘‘This is a tough period in our lives but Bill and I have been very honest with ourselves and each other,’’ Bridges said in a statement, refusing to be drawn further on the split.
‘‘This has led to us prioritising our passion for teaching the steps to health transformation at the cost of our marriage but not at the cost of our friendship and love for each other. We are best mates and that will always be the case.’’
Back on Loser, but still on the subject of mates, Bridges’ quickest discovery was the trap many parents in the house had fallen into of trying to be their child’s best mate.
‘‘There were interesting behaviours, patterns and habits that quickly became obvious,’’ she says.
‘‘The parents wanted to be their children’s best friend, they wanted their kids to like them.
‘‘They don’t need a best friend, they need a parent, they need a leader and a role model – they have plenty of friends.
‘‘I can understand parents wanting the children to have a life that perhaps they never had but it meant no discipline had been given.’’
At one stage, Bridges confesses, frustrated with being the one drawing the lines and instilling the discipline, she lost it with one parent.
‘‘I said, ‘Why am I being the parent to your child?’,’’ she says.
‘‘We’re not talking babies – they’re aged 15 to 20 – although at the beginning, some of the 19 and 20 year olds were acting like 12 year olds.’’ Willis agrees. ‘‘I’ve found I’ve done a lot of parenting with the children in place of the parent and the parents are actually learning from me what the parenting should be like,’’ he says.
But there were victories as the lines were – however belatedly – drawn. ‘‘Alarm bells were ringing,’’ Bridges says. ‘‘The parents were brave and courageous enough to openly admit that there’s some downfalls to the way they have communicated with their kids and they are making amends.
‘‘Now we’re seeing a parent-child synergy happening, physically and emotionally and you see the kids thriving on it.’’
Bridges remembers well the trials of being a teenager, despite not battling with her weight growing up.
‘‘I was a teenager once. I remember distinctly and completely the challenges. Add obesity to that and it’s just like, ‘Really, do they have to do all this teenage stuff with obesity at the same time? Can it get any harder?’ ’’
The show’s approach has been changed slightly this season to accommodate teen sensibilities.
‘‘The format is different in that it is not as highly intensely competitive as it has been in previous years,’’ Bridges says. ‘‘It’s a lot about empowerment and having these kids feel they have their hands back on the controls.
‘‘There’s a different rollout as to how we have formatted the show.
‘‘We trainers have trained everybody. We’ve mixed it up, there are no official teams to start with.
‘‘Every day we roll up and choose who we’re going to train. They never know who they are going to get.
‘‘It’s been interesting. What I may not be able to get out of one contestant, perhaps Commando can get out of them.’’
It means the focus is less on the trainers and more on the contestants.
‘‘Which is as it should be. We don’t need to lose weight or get fit – they’re the heroes of the show.’’
FIT: Shannan Ponton, Michelle Bridges and Steve Willis.
FAMILY TIME: Parents and children make up the teams on