Pro­file Steve Wil­lis

Even tough guy train­ers can ex­pe­ri­ence raw emo­tions, writes Anooska Tucker-Evans.

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - CELEBRITY -

THE BIG­GEST LOSER: THE NEXT GEN­ER­A­TION Sun­day-Tues­day, 7.30pm, Ten

FOR Steve ‘‘The Com­mando’’ Wil­lis, this sea­son of The Big­gest Loser has led him to en­gage in a lot of per­sonal re­flec­tion.

As a fa­ther of three, the com­pe­ti­tion’s usual tough guy has found him­self, at times, over­come as he bat­tles to help par­ents and their chil­dren lose weight in the se­ries en­ti­tled The Next Gen­er­a­tion.

‘‘Hav­ing chil­dren my­self, be­ing in a re­la­tion­ship, un­der­stand­ing the daily grind, the de­ci­sions and pri­or­i­ties in life . . . when you have an un­der­stand­ing of all of those things and an ap­pre­ci­a­tion, you can feel a lot more em­pa­thy to­wards your con­tes­tants and there’s an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the pain and where they’re coming from,’’ he says. ‘‘There are a num­ber of times when you’re go­ing to see some raw emo­tion (from me).’’

With this se­ries fo­cus­ing on break­ing the obe­sity cy­cle handed down from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion, Wil­lis says there have been some pretty heartwrench­ing mo­ments with chil­dren who re­sent their par­ents for pass­ing on a life­time of bad habits and par­ents who are at a loss as to how to do the right thing.

‘‘I guess the par­ents in this year’s sce­nario, it’s not that they’re bad par­ents, it’s just in cer­tain ar­eas of their par­ent­ing there’s been some hic­cups and I guess it’s ad­dress­ing those is­sues and tak­ing accountability for them,’’ he says.

‘‘It’s a sad re­al­ity that we’re so quick to judge on our own ex­pe­ri­ences and our own lessons, yet some­times we don’t have that greater un­der­stand­ing or will­ing­ness to ac­cept that other peo­ple have been brought up dif­fer­ent ways and have dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences.’’

And it’s learn­ing to ap­pre­ci­ate the dif­fer­ences in peo­ple’s lives and see how they are will­ing to change for the bet­ter that has made this se­ries the most re­ward­ing yet for Wil­lis.

‘‘It gets quite emo­tional but to see the turn­around it’s like, ‘Yes’,’’ he says.

‘‘Once the con­tes­tants re­alise that the pain of re­gret far out­weighs the pain of dis­ci­pline then we’ve got them on board.’’

That doesn’t mean the ad­ven­ture has been with­out frus­tra­tion for the trainer and former SAS sol­dier.

‘‘With the par­ents, a lot of them have come into the house for their child be­cause they un­der­stand and re­alise that change is re­quired and they think, ‘Oh, I need to lose a lit­tle bit of weight my­self’. But in ac­tual fact, they need change as much as the child does, or more,’’ he says.

While the fit­ness guru nor­mally de­liv­ers tough, army-style work­outs, he says hav­ing chil­dren on board has meant he has had to change his usual hard­line ap­proach.

‘‘My tack at the start dif­fers slightly from what I have done in the past, but it’s no dif­fer­ent to how I ac­tu­ally live my life on a daily ba­sis with my own chil­dren,’’ he says. ‘‘I un­der­stand that bound­aries need to be put in place and there needs to be re­spect all round, es­pe­cially from the child to the par­ent.

‘‘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.

‘‘(Fel­low train­ers) Shan­nan (Pon­ton) and Michelle (Bridges) are the same. And the par­ents are like, ‘Thank you very much. I didn’t think of ap­proach­ing it like that’.’’

In fact, Wil­lis says the con­tes­tants are em­brac­ing the process more so than any other group pre­vi­ously on the show.

‘‘The dif­fer­ence be­tween this year and pre­vi­ous sea­sons is mainly their in­ter­ac­tion with each other,’’ he says.

‘‘There are par­ents who are car­ry­ing a cer­tain amount of guilt for al­low­ing them­selves to end up in a cer­tain sit­u­a­tion and then the chil­dren fol­low­ing suit, so they all have a com­mon ground – so there’s an ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

‘‘In the past con­tes­tants have really come from dif­fer­ent back­grounds and life­styles and some of them mix and get along and oth­ers don’t.

‘‘I guess that cre­ates good tele­vi­sion, but when it comes to the vibe of what it is that we’re try­ing to ap­proach and over­come, when they get along it’s so much bet­ter.’’

While Wil­lis says hav­ing ev­ery­one play­ing ‘‘happy fam­i­lies’’ makes his job eas­ier, he re­veals the most re­ward­ing thing about the show is its pos­i­tive im­pact on the pub­lic.

‘‘Hopefully peo­ple sit­ting in their lounge room think to them­selves, ‘If they can do it, we can do it too’,’’ he says.

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