Heavy go­ing

TEARS AND EMO­TIONS TIP THE SCALES ON THE NEW SEA­SON OF THE BIG­GEST LOSER

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - FRONT PAGE -

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.’’

FIGHT­ING

FIT: Shan­nan Pon­ton, Michelle Bridges and Steve Wil­lis.

FAM­ILY TIME: Par­ents and chil­dren make up the teams on

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