A redemption arc is playing out on I’m A Celebrity, but it’s not the full story.

Warning: This article deals with a description of an eating disorder that could be triggering for some readers.

I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here has long been embraced as an effective vehicle to restore a famous person's reputation. 

It's the perfect format as arguably one of the most organic and least edited reality programs and the series historically features wholesome content and fun banter instead of over-dramatised and sensationalised storylines. 

But sometimes it very much... doesn't work.

Kerri-Anne Kennerley joined the cast in 2023 but found herself labelled as 'selfish' (among other insults) for refusing to do the tasks. The only takeaway from Real Housewives of Sydney star Lisa Oldfield and One Nation founder David Oldfield's bizarre appearance on the series was to show viewers why they were destined for divorce. 

But when it works, it works damn well. 

Controversial politician Jackie Lambie found a new audience during her stint and Brendan Fevola went from disgraced footballer to one of Australia's most popular personalities after winning in 2016.

Abbie Chatfield didn't have a reputation to be redeemed, but her beloved stint on the show and crowning as jungle queen helped to pave the way for her blossoming career in media, leaving her 2019 appearance on The Bachelor as a distant memory. 

Michelle Bridges is the latest celebrity in need of an image overhaul. The former coach of the controversial reality show The Biggest Loser said before joining the show that she was hoping to separate herself from the program she was a trainer on for nine seasons between 2007 and 2015.  


Michelle Bridges and The Biggest Loser trainers. Image: Ten. 

"A lot of people think I’m gonna walk into a room, make them give me a testimonial on what they ate last night and give me 50 burpees. I think they think I’m still like that. I’m nothing like that. And I never was in the first place," she told news.com.au ahead of her debut.


“I think this is a good reason for me to be doing this show [I’m A Celebrity], because I think there’s still very much a legacy or a hangover from my days as being a trainer on The Biggest Loser."

In its heyday, The Biggest Loser was one of the biggest TV shows in the country, watched by over a million Australians every night and running for more than 500 episodes.  

In the years leading up to its 2017 cancellation and the preceding years since, people have started to question its place on Australian TV, as the series was notorious for platforming dangerous exercise and eating habits and fat-shaming people on a national scale. 

But based on the conversations happening on I'm A Celebrity, there's a startling lack of self-awareness about the TV show's reputation shared from Bridges and some of the other camp mates. 

Bridges was briefly asked about the controversial show on Monday's episode. "You would have gotten a lot of clients from The Biggest Loser," Callum said, as he pressed "Most of your people, they would come from The Biggest Loser?" 

Michelle nodded but didn't elaborate and then pivoted the conversation to talk about her training program. 

On an earlier episode that aired Sunday March 29, some of the women discussed the show, and Bridges expressed surprise over it being criticised. 

"I did this body positivity interview and we spoke about Loser back in the day," Bridges began. "From there, a bunch of different news outlets picked it up and tried to blow it up." 


At this stage, Brittany Hockley offered an explanation, adding "I guess it was because the show doesn't land anymore."

To this, Bridges seemed offended, hitting back "It was of its time!" to which Hockley backtracked to clarify "I loved watching it!" as Skye Wheatley added she loved it too.

Skye Wheatley defends The Biggest Loser on I'm A Celebrity. Image: Ten. 

In a confessional, Hockley added "The fact you had to lose the most weight to stay in.. that doesn't age well." 


However, she didn't share this sentiment with Bridges. 

At this stage, I hoped the conversation might turn into an important debate about the damaging nature of a show that encouraged rapid weight loss as the goal over overall health, happiness and well-being. 

But then Skye kept well... talking. "I don't think it was body-shaming. It was making a difference in people's lives and showing a healthy, active lifestyle," she said. 

Michelle added that "we turned them into absolute athletes" as Skye screamed out "and it made them happy!" 

The continued use of the word 'them' to describe countless contestants who don't have a voice in this conversation was wildly uncomfortable viewing. 

Hockley went on to state that "I don't think anyone thought it was body-shaming," she claimed, which a lot of people would disagree with. "It was more they said it was a high level of training in a short time." 

Thankfully, Ellie Cole offered a counterpoint to what the (all conventionally slim) women were discussing. "The biggest issue people have with that show now is... the only way you could succeed in that show is losing weight. If it was done now, it would need to be done in a completely different way." 

In her confessional, she added "We value diversity and body positivity so much more than we used to. I think we're moving in a really good direction and that's why The Biggest Loser wouldn't work anymore." 


But Bridges wasn't backing down. "I loved that show," she said. "It was the best almost decade of my life. I had an absolute ball." In her confessional, she said "I don't want to feel like I have to justify that work. I know I've changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people." 

She really just... doesn't get it, hey. 

Founder of intersectional feminism page Kaleidoscope, Demi Lynch, shared the conversation on her Instagram page @faternise to call out some of the questionable statements made by Bridges and the other women present. 


"It seems very poignant that we're having a conversation on TV about The Biggest Loser and its impact on plus-size people and the conversation is being had in a group of straight-size women," she said.

She then took aim at Bridges for having the "audacity" and "no sense of guilt" in her statements. "Michelle, you played a role in the anti-fat bias we currently have in Australia," she said. 

"You were part of a show that had people working out hours upon hours every day... yet you saw it as teaching them to live a healthy lifestyle." 

Former Bachelorette Angie Kent applauded Lynch's post and shared her own trauma watching The Biggest Loser growing up. "That show made me feel so emotionally sick. And triggered my eating disorder and so many of my friends. The way they would scream at them," she wrote. 

"The fact that the women having a discussion about it too are all fit tiny toned women. I’m not saying they haven’t had eating disorders or experience body dysmorphia. It just seemed tone-deaf."

Skye opened up about her history of disordered eating on Tuesday night's episode, sharing she has experienced periods of restrictive eating and bingeing throughout her life. 

The conversation between the women comes across as especially out of touch considering how much criticism the show has faced by former contestants in recent years. 

"I always said I thought someone was going to die on that show," 2006 contestant Tracy Moores told The Feed in 2019. In the segment, she opened up about how it felt filming the early episodes. 


Tracy Moores shares her story on The Feed. Image: SBS. 

"We were all blindfolded. And they took the curtain down and there was all this food. They basically made us out to look like a bunch of pigs. I was quite distraught about the whole thing. We were quite traumatised to the point where I was crying."


To encourage rapid weight loss, Moores said contestants were "on a treadmill for hours on end... three hours sometimes," she said. "Some of the contestants had enemas, they shaved all the hair off their body, they didn’t eat." 

Another former contestant Andrew 'Cosi' Costello from the 2008 season spoke about one particularly humiliating experience while filming the finale. "Before going on stage, there was a person behind the scenes whose job it was to help gaffer tape any 'flabby' bits of skin," he told News Corp in 2014

Former host Ajay Rochester has been a vocal opponent of The Biggest Loser and Bridges since leaving the show. In response to a 2016 when Bridges told Australian Story she was "yet to meet someone who is morbidly obese and happy," Rochester opened up about it on her appearance on I'm A Celebrity in 2019. 

"Look, I've got a fat a** and I’m happy and I try to live the biggest life possible and live the happiest life possible and just FYI, fat people can be happy," she said. 

If Michelle Bridges wants to distance herself from the 'legacy' of her reality TV reputation, a good first step is owning up to the many mistakes made by the show which made her a household name.

For help and support for eating disorders, contact the Butterfly Foundation’s National Support line and online service on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or email support@thebutterflyfoundation.org.au. You can also visit their website, here.

Feature image: Nine.

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