“I was scared of even hearing the word love,” the 43-year-old tells New Idea. “Love really carried no significance or meaning to me, because I felt that my younger years were devoid of it.”
Growing up in Redcliffe, Qld, the Commando’s childhood saw him searching for an emotional output, but instead of finding it, he discovered a culture of machismo.
“Being a young boy and looking at the men around me they were really incapable of expressing that way of being,” he reflects.
“You don’t know any different. And we’re all at that place now, everyone’s talking about this masculine toxicity.”
Armed with a perception of himself that was “quite negative”, Steve sought control of his life and turned to the gym as a way to distract himself from the issues he was facing.
“What exercise provided for me was a safe haven,” he reveals. “It was something certain. It enabled me to express my anger, my disappointment, my upset. All of those things that I guess were bubbling away inside me.
“In my teens it was around self-worth, and I think a lot of that stems from me as a child and not knowing any different. It really comes back to that nurture and love and feeling safe and acknowledgement. And when it’s not there, we don’t feel grounded – we don’t feel safe.”
This search for acceptance would unwittingly set Steve on the path to stardom, although after finding fame on the small screen, the attention he received left him blindsided.
“I had been out of the army for a few years, and that’s when the profile really started to build for me,” he recalls. “And I was unsure how to handle it. It was almost overwhelming and at times I just wanted to retract and run away.”
Steve – whose partner is former Biggest Loser trainer Michelle Bridges, 49 – admits his new-found fame saw him
out of his depth. “I struggled,” he says. “People would stop me on the street saying things like: ‘I really love what you do.’ And I didn't know how to handle it, because I’d never had people giving me attention, and all of a sudden there was all this attention, and I was very resistant to it all.”
Thankfully, the fitness guru began to develop tools to help. From his mid-30s – and over the subsequent nine series of Australia’s Biggest Loser – the PT swapped his military swagger for spirituality. Reading books on Buddhist philosophy, practising yoga and meditation, and “just slowing down”.