The Biggest Loser’s ‘Commando’ is driven by deep passion on and off screen
STEVE “The Commando” Willis has witnessed the good and bad side of fame during the past nine months. On the one hand, it has allowed
The Biggest Loser trainer to achieve his dream of helping hundreds of Australians across the country change their lives and live a healthier existence.
On the other hand, it has shined a very bright spotlight on his controversial personal life.
In May last year, it was revealed Willis and his TV co-star Michelle Bridges were in a relationship. She had split from her husband two months earlier and he had left his long-time partner and mother to two of his children.
However, after only a few months together, things went sour for the television pair with Willis returning home to try to reconcile and save his family.
But in October, Willis and Bridges were back together and remain so today.
It was an experience that created countless headlines and had the public judging their every move.
“It comes with the territory. Unfortunately, it’s a double-edged sword,” Willis says of the fame and public attention.
“You kind of live your life in that space. I just get on with life. I’m the same person I’ve always been and I truly try to live my life and lead by example.
“Everyone’s got a say on it but that’s their opinion, that’s for them to deal with. But I just keep moving forward and doing what I do.”
Willis won’t be drawn much further on the relationship with his co-star, but reveals it’s been a difficult time for him and his family.
“I don’t want to get caught up in conflict or anything like that and, at the end of the day, my children are very special to me and they don’t need this,” he says.
Instead, the personal trainer wants to focus on creating a healthier and fitter Australia, which he says the new season of Biggest Loser is all about.
The ninth series sees the trainers, Willis, Bridges and Shannan Ponton, travel to one of the country’s fattest towns, Ararat in country Victoria.
Here, the trainers choose 14 “town champions” to take back to the Biggest
Loser house and educate on how to eat well and exercise. The contestants will compete to raise money for a healthy living legacy for the community, while inspiring the town’s 7000-strong population to embrace a healthier lifestyle.
It’s a weighty experiment and one Willis says was quite nerve-racking at first.
“To have to connect with a town and a town that you don’t even know whether they’re going to engage and really want to be a part of it was daunting,” he says. “But those nerves were put to rest within the first few hours and days of being in Ararat, and we got a huge response. So many people wanted to be a part of the program.”
However, the mission also had its challenges.
As the contestants all knew each other, when it came to elimination time things quickly became tricky.
“At some point you’re going to have to eliminate each other and you’re all going to have to go back to the town, so you’ll probably see that person five times a day, it’s awkward,” Willis says.
“But they really took it upon themselves to remind themselves of the bigger picture and about removing that label of obesity in their town. The respect they had for one another was amazing … and there are some really heart-felt moments.”
Surprisingly, there’s also a lot less of the bitchiness and fighting from previous seasons, Willis says.
“From all accounts, they really were looking out for each other and were motivating and encouraging and inspiring each other,” he says.
“Sometimes someone would slip and there would be some words said, but that’s going to happen, especially in the context of something like Biggest
Loser because at the end of the day it is a competition.”
The end result, though, is Willis’ favourite season of the show so far.
“The thing that was fantastic about it was that in engaging the town, they were all on board as well, so when the contestants would go home, the town folk would look up to them and they would all motivate each other so that support network is there,” he says.
“And then the children see the adults changing their lifestyle choices and want to be a part of it as well, so the groundswell was really throughout the whole town.”
And Willis says they have the medical statistics to prove the experiment worked. Not only did the town lose weight, but their risk of heart-disease, stroke, and other weight-related problems decreased.
In fact, the fitness guru thinks the show may have even stumbled upon the answer to tackling Australia’s obesity problem.
By following a similar approach across the country, Willis believes that Aussies could be in much better shape.
“It was huge success. It’s the shining light for rural Australia and all those small towns out there, and even some of the bigger cities and the like,” he says.
THE BIGGEST LOSER: CHALLENGE AUSTRALIA
SUNDAY, 6.30PM, TEN COVER STORY STEVE WILLIS