Commando Steve on his near breakdown

TOUGH EXTERIOR: But Commando Steve Willis was forced to face up to his emotions during The Biggest Loser.
TOUGH EXTERIOR: But Commando Steve Willis was forced to face up to his emotions during The Biggest Loser.

Commando Steve Willis may be a professional tough guy, but his secret fears nearly drove him to flee his TV career and return to the army.

The Biggest Loser's hardman has revealed to S he was so afraid of his own feelings after blocking them for 10 years in the military, that normal emotions "nearly broke me".

After leaving the Australian Special Forces in 2004, Willis slowly adapted to civilian life. But when he made his 2007 debut in The Biggest Loser, he couldn't cope with the emotions the show stirred up.

"I was given a team of four women and they were emotionally struggling and I couldn't handle it," he says. "I was as lost as they were - at the margins of my experience. Military life allows you to suppress all your feelings and I wanted to run back to the safety of that comfort zone. I was freaking out, really scared.

"I went so far as to pick up the phone to ask the army to take me back. I wanted to give up."

Willis credits fellow Biggest Loser trainers Shannan Ponton and Michelle Bridges - now his girlfriend - for helping him through his turmoil. "They showed me that life isn't just about 'no excuses'. You can't be that rigid. And emotion won't kill you."

The crisis left Willis with a stronger desire to connect with people, and now he's reaching out even further with the launch of his first online interactive workout programme, GetCommandoFit.

"I see this as the next step in the journey," Willis says. "I've been so inspired by other people's battles on the show, and I've learned to love helping them. Through this new platform I can inspire, challenge and motivate more people than the show's format allows."

GetCommandoFit is a 12-week health and fitness program with daily meal plans, recipes, shopping lists, motivation lessons and weekly workout plans. Willis will be available for support and advice through a community forum and live chat.

"Sometimes just an email or a conversation really helps when someone is struggling," he says. "With this platform I can do that. It'll bring me closer."

The program, which allows you to train solo or in a squad, also draws on Willis' military training and his experience as a former CrossFit champion, and enlists a team of specialists including nutritionist Kelly Richardson and sports scientist Selasi Berdie.

Willis says he's had guidance on his first online venture by fitness mogul Bridges, who already has her own online program.

And where she's concerned, he says, his emotions are just fine.

"We're like ships in the night with all the various projects, so it's fantastic when we get personal time together." Do they ever sit down? "Yes," he says with a laugh. "But mainly we train together. There's a lot of unspoken competition there!"

Sydney Morning Herald