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