Former The Biggest Loser trainer Michelle Bridges made headlines earlier this year when she appeared on The Project – alongside several body positivity advocates, eager to tell her the damage they thought her former reality show had done.
Ten’s local spin-off of the popular US show debuted on screens in 2006, running for 11 seasons. Bridges appeared as one of several tough-talking trainers throughout its run, motivating overweight contestants to intensively diet and exercise in a contest to lose the most weight in the fastest time – for a big cash prize.
In one tense moment during her May appearance on The Project, activist April Helene-Horton told Bridges she’d been unsure whether she should even appear in the same TV segment as her, given the “traumatic” presence The Biggest Loser had had in her life.
Speaking in the new issue of Stellar, out today, Bridges reflected on that controversial segment four months on, conceding that “part of the legacy” of doing The Biggest Loser is fielding criticisms about the show.
But Bridges says she now refuses to be a punching bag for the series’ complicated legacy anymore.
“I’ve had to kind of wear that, but I’m not going to wear it anymore. I’m done. I think anybody who knows me knows what I’m here for and the reasons why I do what I do,” she told Stellar.
She also said she hoped her low-key appearance in The Project segment showed she wasn’t the same intense fitness fanatic seen across nine seasons of The Biggest Loser.
“That day when I left that panel and said goodbye to everybody, I think they weren’t expecting the person who turned up. They might have been expecting that girl from
15 years ago wearing the red trainer T-shirt to come in and tell everyone to do some
squats and burpees. When I turned up and I wasn’t that girl, I think they got a bit of a
shock,” she said.
“There’s a lot more to me,” Bridges, 52, continued.
“Especially now, at my age as well – I remember being in my 20s and hearing women in their 50s say you just get to a point where, pardon my French, but you just don’t give a f**k. This is me, and I finally feel free to say that. Now that I am in my 50s, I get what they were saying because I kind of feel the same. I care, obviously, but I take on less of the negative.”
During the Project segment, Bridges and her former TV show were put in the spotlight when host Sarah Harris asked fellow guest Helene-Horton who was to blame “for the idea that larger bodies are bad”.
Helene-Horton listed “mainstream media, fashion, doctors who don’t want to see fat patients, social media” among the main culprits.
“Would you put the fitness industry in that same category?” Bridges asked.
“Yeah I would. And I’ll be really honest and say, I was somewhat nervous coming here today to see you, because I would genuinely say that the show The Biggest Loser was one of the most traumatic things that ever happened to me,” she replied.
“Yeah, I hear you. I absolutely hear you. Going on a show like that back in the day, I really had to dig deep and question my morals about why I’m in the health and fitness industry,” said Bridges.
Bridges said The Biggest Loser, which was cancelled after a 2017 rebooted season failed to attract viewers, wouldn’t “work” today.
“When I look back on it, 17 years ago, it was a totally a different culture back then. I don’t think that show would work today. In fact, I know it wouldn’t,” she said.
Bridges finished up with The Biggest Loser in 2015 – and courted controversy the following year when she defended the show against criticism in an episode of Australian Story.
“[The Biggest Loser] has all sorts of critics who say, ‘You’re putting these people up to be insulted or laughed at or made the butt of a joke,” she told the ABC show.
“I think it might be seen that I have this agenda on people who are overweight or people who are deemed fat. Honestly if you are happy where you are, genuinely, more power to you,” she continued, before uttering the line that saw her hit with a big backlash at the time: “But I can tell you now, I am yet to have met someone who is morbidly obese and happy.”
Read the full interview with Michelle Bridges in the new issue of Stellar, out today in the Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Herald Sun.