Health and fitness guru Michelle Bridges is best known as a trainer on television’s The Biggest Loser. She has six best-selling books and her online 12 Week Body Transformation has helped Aussies shed more than a million kilograms collectively. I chatted to Bridges about being a “foodie”, outmanoeuvring paparazzi and her relationship with her beau, Steve “The Commando” Willis.
When you started out as a personal trainer, did you ever envisage having such a successful empire?
Yes but I don’t really think I ever thought it would be this big. But I certainly remember at the age of 14, lying awake at night seeing myself talking to people about something that was really positive for them and I hadn’t quite nailed that it was health and fitness. The only reason why I remember that is because I recall at that age, lying in bed stressing out: “if I get married and have children, how am I going to have the time to cook dinner?” And I distinctly remember just saying to myself: “hang on a minute. I can’t cook dinner now.”
If you hadn’t gone down that career path, what would you be doing?
I have no idea… If I could have my wish list, I would totally be a rock star. That would be the ultimate.
What is the best part of your job?
Seeing the transformation in people; watching people grow and becoming the best version of themselves and knowing that I’ve played a part in that.
What’s the worst part?
My schedule. Without question that is the hardest thing – trying to balance that jigsaw puzzle. It’s just a case of really forward planning. The calendar year has to be planned out at least a year. I know exactly what I’ll be doing right through to Christmas, even down to the hour.
What is the secret to juggling it all?
I have an amazing team. When we’re growing the team it’s always about finding people who are passionate about what they do. I’ve got a passionate dentist, I’ve got a passionate osteo, I’ve got a passionate hairdresser. Anyone that I work with, they have to be passionate about what they do. I really believe in it. It took me ages to find a passionate doctor!
You’ve inspired so many people. What is the most inspirational story that stands out in your mind?
At the end of 12 week [program] we have a celebration. I was about to go on stage to announce our heroes for the 12 weeks and my EA [executive assistant] passed me an email that had come through. It was from this gentleman who wrote, “My daughter is in the audience there tonight. She has lost about 20 something kilos. Her son, my grandchild, is in the need of a kidney replacement and she wanted to be that person, she had to lose the weight for it to happen … So she has done your program and she has since donated her kidney to my grandson and I just think that that’s amazing and would you please thank her?” That’s amazing. That’s powerful.
What has been your career highlight?
I think breaking a Guinness World Record in Rockefeller Plaza [for the Largest Exercise Ball Class] on [NBC’s] Today show in New York was pretty wild. I never in my wildest imagination ever thought that I would be a Guinness World Record holder and I’ve got two now!
This week you launched The Michelle Bridges by Blackmores. How did that come about?
I’ve always wanted to do my own vitamins and supplement range – something that I would use and is not overwhelming. I don’t know about you, but if you’ve ever stood in front of a vitamin wall and gone… “What? I need to take all of this?” So I wanted it to be non-threatening, user-friendly and just accessible. So the idea that we are located in supermarkets is a big key factor in that. Even going to a health food store for some people is an overwhelming experience.
What is your biggest indulgence?
For me, an indulgence would be coming to a restaurant like this where I indulge in the bread and some butter, a great entree, a beautiful main and couple of glasses of wine. I love it. I’m a foodie. But I’ll set myself up for success. Let’s say, for example, it’s a Saturday night: Saturday morning I’ll do an hour and a half training session. Then throughout the day I’ll eat clean and light and then I’ll go into Saturday night and have an amazing meal and enjoy it, no guilt attached at all. I never feel like I’m ever denying myself, but there are lots of things I say no to.
What are the hardest things to say “no” to?
Probably a beautiful slice of cake or a beautiful cookie or some nice chocolates.
When do you feel your most confident?
At the end of a workout.
Do you have days you don’t feel confident?
Yes there are days where I feel like I just want to wrap myself up in a little cocoon and just stay inside. That’s OK [but], something that no one can take away from me is my exercise. It’s my rock. It has got me through all of the ups and downs of my life. It doesn’t necessarily solve the problem or the issues, but it changes your perception. You come out of a session and you just think, “OK. I can deal with this.” I had a girl yesterday, she said, “Your program got me through the hardest time in my life.” That’s what exercise can do for people. I get over people banging the drum of “five minutes to better abs” or “bikini body in three seconds”. Like, can we talk about how amazing it is for your head!
There are paparazzi taking your picture as we speak. How do cope with them following you all the time?
I used to get really a bit upset about it and I’d be taken aback by it and it used to freak me out. Now I’ve learnt to just accept it and I have a lot of fun with them. The other day there was one following me around and I ducked down an alley and waited and I saw him walk past and I could see him scratching his head thinking “Where did she go?” It felt so undercover. It was awesome [laughs].
Does it get annoying when it’s your private life and they follow you when you’re out with your boyfriend?
It’s a little intrusive. A lot of people would say, “Well, it comes with a territory, so deal with it.” Fair enough. To be honest, I think that there is far more interesting things than me buying my toiletries!
How is it going with Commando?
It’s great. We’re just getting on with our lives and enjoying it.
WE WENT TO The Apollo Restaurant, Potts Point.
WE ATE vine leaf parcel baked with onion, pork & tomato; barramundi fillet with yoghurt nettle dressing; fried okra with vinegar mint.
WE DRANK Sparkling mineral water