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Michelle Bridges ‘My menopause struggle’

Despite being a seasoned health professional, Michelle Bridges floundered when it came to her own menopause journey.

The second day in a row that Michelle Bridges “forgot” to exercise, she knew something was wrong. For months, she’d been feeling lethargic and unmotivated. While others might be tempted to brush this feeling off, for Michelle, a high-energy and intensely motivated woman whose body was her business, this was unfamiliar territory.

Michelle, 53, first found fame as the tough yet compassionate trainer on the reality weight loss series, The Biggest Loser, in 2007 and has since built a fitness empire aimed at helping women feel their best selves.

She launched her popular 12WBT (12 Week Body Transformation) program of customisable diet and exercise routines in 2010, building a community of hundreds of thousands of eager subscribers who sing Michelle’ Bridges’ praises while sharing photos of their progress in online groups.

Many have stayed with the program since inception. Then, in recent years, Michelle began to notice calls for a new kind of content – to help women dealing with perimenopause and menopause – and she also began to look within.

“I just didn’t feel that it was a space I was ready to dabble in,” she tells The Weekly, speaking for the first time about her own experience. “And I don’t know if that was because I didn’t know if it would work in my model. And now, of course – when I’m authentically in that space myself – it makes perfect sense.”

Michelle Bridges sitting on floor with her dog

For Michelle, perimenopause first entered her world when her periods became erratic soon after turning 50.

Having always been regular and light – her period would last “three days, four at the absolute max” – suddenly she was either early or late; her bleeds far heavier and longer. Her waistline “looked different, something I wasn’t particularly happy about”.

Then came the night sweats.

“And waking up at two in the morning going, ‘I’m awake!’,” she says. “If it wasn’t the night sweats waking me up, sometimes I’d just wake up anyway and couldn’t get back to sleep. Then I’d get out of bed at 5.30am and I’d be a mess. It was the knock-on effect into that as well.

“I just wasn’t feeling life. Not all the time, but there were moments where I’d feel a bit flat. I didn’t want to train, which is really unlike me.”

At first, she figured, she’d be able to sort things out herself. She was in the health industry after all. Surely it couldn’t be that hard? But despite her best intentions and wealth of knowledge, Michelle continued to struggle.

“I thought, I know what this is all about, I know what I need to do,” she says of her multiple attempts to restart her health journey. “But then that wasn’t particularly working.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 21:  'The Biggest Loser' reality tv show host Ajay Rochester (L) with trainers Shannon Ponton (C) and Michelle Bridges (R) attend Network Ten's 2008 Program Launch at the Hordern Pavillion on November 20, 2007 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Gaye Gerard/Getty Images)
With The Biggest Loser team – Ajay Rochester and Shannon Ponton – in 2007. (Photo by Gaye Gerard/Getty Images)

Where is Michelle Bridges now?

In the wake of her split from Steve “Commando” Willis in 2020, Michelle had relocated from Sydney to a beautiful, but isolated, property in the NSW Southern Highlands with their son, Axel.

Their rambling home was built on a park, meaning Axel had a built-in playground at his disposal, a child’s dream come true. It was the perfect haven to heal and ride out the pandemic. It allowed Michelle to step back from public life and “really throw myself at [Axel’s] childhood. Those magical years between four and eight were pretty special.”

But the isolation was the tip on the perimenopause iceberg. Without a built-in community and finding it increasingly hard to self-motivate, Michelle threw caution to the wind. The duo packed up and returned to Sydney in 2023, finally moving into the leafy eastern suburbs home. It’s here we meet today for our shoot.

It was returning to familiar ground that also saw her finally seek help from a GP. “I was like: ‘Right, I’m going to sort myself out’,” she says.

“I started doing all of the things that a woman my age should be doing: Going and getting all of my blood tests, getting all the checks done, seeing where my hormone levels are, understanding all my options.

“And that’s when I realised I had to do The Menopause Method. Because if I’m in the health industry and I’m learning things for the first time about this transition – which is a really big milestone in a woman’s life – and for someone who doesn’t work in the health industry or exercise as much as I do, where do they look towards?”

Michelle Bridges lying on floor at home

What is the Michelle Bridges Menopause Method?

The’ Menopause Method is an extension of her popular 12WBT program and what the community there had been asking for in droves. In the quest for answers of her own, Michelle interviewed a variety of experts. Those learnings are being employed in this new program, which launched on March 4, 2024.

In addition to specialised diet and exercise routines – including those specifically devised to increase brain plasticity (and combat the dreaded brain fog) – there will be up-to-the-moment research, as well as online resources devised by specialists who have waitlists so long they’d never be able to treat every woman in need.

“The word, ‘holistic’ kept coming up again and again,” she says now. “You can’t just think ‘Oh, I’ll take a tablet or slap a patch on and that’s going to fix everything.’ No. It’s a multi-pronged approach, it’s not just one thing. It’s not two things. It’s probably more like three to five things and you’re going to have to experiment a little bit.”

One of the things Michelle is looking into – something she’d never previously thought of trying – is Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT). Like many women of her generation, Michelle had read and taken as gospel the supposed link between Hormone Replacement Therapy (now known as MHT) and breast cancer.

“I thought you shouldn’t go near that, that’s what I remembered from all the newspaper articles,” she says.

“What surprised me is that it’s all been debunked. I’m exploring [using MHT] with my specialist and she’s taking me through what is going to work for me if I do. I’m like, why wouldn’t you seek out all your options and find out what works for you?”

Finding out what works for you is something Michelle has been exploring since we last caught up with her in 2019, on a photo shoot with her mum, Maureen Partridge. Back then, she was collaborating with Maureen, who suffers badly with osteoarthritis – something Michelle is keen to stave off herself – on exercises for seniors.

She was also still with Steve and raising Axel in a two-parent home. The adjustment to life as a single mum was hard, she admits.

“I don’t think anyone who comes out of a relationship which unfortunately separates goes through it with a perfect run,” she says. “It’s tough, it’s challenging and there are raw emotions there too. We are human, we feel.

“Fifty per cent of the population are co-parenting, it seems. It’s a real balancing act. But in my world, the sentence should always start with, ‘In Axel’s best interests’.”

Michelle Bridges with son Axel

If Steve wants to keep Axel for an extra night over “his” weekend, Michelle asks herself, “Is this in Axel’s best interest?”

“And yes, because I have him for the majority of the time, take that extra night,” she says. “I’m getting better with practice. When it’s early days everybody is still tender but as you progress you become more attuned to what [Axel’s] needs are. And what he needs is both his mum and dad in his life. He needs to see both his mum and dad working together.”

And as a result of this approach to co-parenting, she’s proud that their son is happy, healthy and inquisitive. Axel’s vocabulary, she says, is beyond his years. And his attention to detail and ability to tune into the emotions of others continually surprise her.

“He’s a good kid,” Michelle grins. “He’s got a cracking sense of humour. His timing is phenomenal. He is switched on. He has a very strong sense of self and gets frustrated when he’s not being heard. He stops me in my tracks and makes me listen which, for an eight-year-old boy, I think is quite something. He stands up for himself. But he also takes responsibility if he says words that are hurtful. It’s nice.”

Is Michelle Bridges single?

The past four years have been just the two of them. Before Michelle and Steve began dating, she had been in a long-term marriage to fellow personal trainer Bill Moore. Long-term relationships had always been her thing, she muses.

This is one of the longest times she’s been single, and she’s enjoyed every minute of it: “I’ve just been reading ‘chapter Axel’ for the past four years. I haven’t been out on dates or anything. Not even one! It’s just not something I’ve been very interested in doing. There’s something to be said for just being with your son and yourself for four years.”

And while dating isn’t off the table forever, the fact that the only other person outside of Axel that she needs to worry about is herself is freeing.

“I’m very happy with where I’m at right now,” she explains. “I’ve had a big life. I’ve done a lot. And I don’t plan on it getting any smaller.”

For now, that includes expanding The Menopause Method. Given it’s something every woman will go through, she wants to debunk the fears around it. She wants to start a positive conversation that empowers women to take control of their own journey, to reframe menopause and look at it as a milestone to be proud of.

“Because, you know what?” she says, her voice rising with passion. “If you haven’t hit menopause or perimenopause then you didn’t make it. I’d rather be 53 than not here at all – and I’ve been to a few funerals of late. I am proud to be the age I am, I am proud to have done life lessons and come out the other side.

“Women age. This is a new chapter I’m moving into. Do I wave the white flag and say this is my lot in life? Or do I take stock and do a health and honesty audit and take a good hard look at how I’m looking after myself?”

She’s done that, she says. And now it’s time to help other women do the same. Helping others, Michelle feels, has been her calling in life. And empowering other women whilst letting them know they are not alone is firmly tied in with that.

“I’m so grateful that I get to do a job that actually makes a difference,” she says as we wrap up our chat for the day. “I’m excited about how many ladies we’re going to be able to help.”

The first round of The Menopause Method begins on March 4. Register at 12wbt.com

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