An interview with Michelle Bridges
Michelle Bridges, 41
Personal trainer, author, Sunday Life columnist, television personality
My mum will tell anyone who'll listen that when I was less than 18 months old, she fed me a full baked dinner, then ice-cream and strawberries, and then gave me a bottle and thought that I would throw everything up. But I went straight to sleep and slept right through. I've always liked my food, and still do.
I was a bit of a chubby kid, but as so often happens, it dropped off when I started running around. I was into everything - debating, drama club, choir - and every sport you can imagine. I was captain of a lot of teams: netball, basketball, volleyball, water polo, hockey, soccer, touch football and softball. I played in both the boys' and girls' teams. I even loved the training. I started teaching fitness classes when I was 14, so I was aware of my body. At that point it was more about my sport: how can I run faster? How can I be stronger? How can I jump higher?
I remember I would get up and ride my bike to the swimming pool and swim 20 laps and then I'd ride home and go to school. It wasn't about trying to be skinny or anything - it was just about having a release and also staying fit.
Of course, I am certainly not going to pretend I didn't have insecurities as a teenager - I think every teenager does. I remember thinking that I would like to have a good set of boobs! Girls were self-conscious about their bodies when I was growing up, and it's probably even worse now. At school, you would see the girls looking at themselves; their school uniforms were either too tight, too long or too short.
My mum was always very conscious of her health. She exercised regularly and chose to eat really healthy food, which is how, of course, I ate as well. A healthy sandwich and a piece of fruit, and that would be pretty much it in my lunch box.
As soon as I left home, I went down the grocery aisle and grabbed everything I wasn't allowed to have: Coco Pops, white bread, ice-cream -- you name it, I got it. I think it lasted a week and then I was back to brown bread, fish and salad.
When I first started appearing on The Biggest Loser, people saw me as a hard-core, full-on, brutal trainer. They would think I was a bully, maybe also because I represent weight loss, which is a very personal topic. Anyone who knows me knows that is completely the opposite of who I am.
I have always been a big believer in "walking the walk". I work out one hour a day, sometimes two. My husband, Bill, and I have a very good diet, lots of green, leafy vegetables, lean protein, a lot of fish - we don't eat a lot of snacks. I think that's the downfall for heaps of people, who are always on the hunt for their next snack.
My breakfast is either porridge or cereal, and on the weekend we might have eggs on toast. Lunch today, for example, was a chicken wrap. Or in winter it might be a soup. It's all pretty simple.
Of course, I have comfort food. At the moment, we are enjoying a glass of pinot with dinner because it's so beautiful on a winter evening. I also have this thing for strawberry liquorice, and I like hot chips, as long as they are really good. I am not going to waste kilojoules on soggy ones: they have to be beautifully crispy, gourmet, rosemary-salted ones. And just on the odd occasion.
I've definitely got a good appetite, and a high metabolism. I eat more than most of my girlfriends. I'm not one of those trainers who says, "My body is my temple and never shall chocolate touch my lips." I know plenty of trainers who are in that rigid regimen, where they weigh everything. But if you are that rigid, how can you relate to your clients?
I've always loved dressing up. I've got a mad collection of heels in my wardrobe, sexy clothes and feminine clothes, as well as tomboy clothes. At times I can feel sexy, but what I like first and foremost is that my body is functional. Fitness-wise, it works as well as it did when I was in my 20s. In some ways it's better, because I'm stronger in my head - I ran a marathon a couple of years ago and I don't think I could have done that in my 20s.
Occasionally I say to myself, "God, I'm getting older", but it doesn't stress me out. I like that my body is ageing well. I think it looks pretty good, and that comes down to the lifestyle choices I've made. I'm 41 and I can still fit into the same size-8 clothes I wore in my 20s, but my physique has certainly changed. I've got "muscle maturity" - a quality and depth within the muscle because it's been worked over the years.
Okay, all my life I've hated my bum. It's big! It's like an African-American woman's booty. But with maturity, I've learnt to love it.
I can tap into women's body issues because I understand them; the way women check each other out, the way they will self-sabotage. It's a lot of psychology. If we start to unravel that, then you can start to move forward. I'm overwhelmed by how much unhappiness is out there about body issues.
So many of us focus on exercise to lose weight, but the key factor for me is what exercise does for my head. It's an antidepressant. It's when we don't exercise that the head games start.
My exercise is my rock. It's the one thing that's mine, that's given me solace, that's got me through the death of my nan or problems at work. It's the one thing I'll always turn to.
From: Sunday Life