The Biggest Loser has sort of been a staple of reality TV, and to be honest, I’m a bit lost as to why. Sure, it’s a show where fat people can come together with a shared goal of losing weight so they can “gain back their health” and become the “biggest loser,” so it does have the potential to be inspiring. Many people have actually been inspired by it, in fact. It could have become a good thing, but from the beginning, it promoted terrible ways to lose weight and created a dangerous environment where not only did people get sick trying to lose weight, but people put themselves in a position to get really sick. To make matters worse, the show is still on, so people are still trying to do this to themselves.
While the show appears inspiring and positive on the surface, scratch that surface and you’ll find mistreatment bordering on torture and a lot of sick ex-contestants. Some of these stories come from former competitors on the show who experienced the mistreatment by trainers and producers firsthand. Over the years, they’ve told stories of psychological, physical and mental torture. Other stories have come from insiders and producers on the show, who shed light on scandals that were just downright weird. Either way, the longer this show goes on, the deeper the darkness on it goes. Here are twenty of the craziest secrets from The Biggest Loser, from tactics the show uses to the first-hand word of the contestants.
20. Kal Hibbard Was Really Sick During Her Finale
Kai Hibbard is the winner of season 3 of the show, but she’s not happy with her experience. In fact, she’s been among the most outspoken about the damage the show can cause. It turned out while the country was celebrating her huge weight loss, she was really sick, but the show didn’t care. She wrote in a scathing Facebook post afterward: “They would not give a f*** if I lost the weight doing cocaine as long as I came back to the finale thinner.” She also gained 31 pounds in the three weeks immediately following the finale because she reintroduced water to her diet! “They want the dramatic results. They want America to be amazed,” she told the New York Post. “We are all looking for that help, that magic, and The Biggest Loser looks like magic when people are losing 20 lbs in a week. Why would they change that? They won’t unless someone gets really sick. Our lives are at risk.”
19. Part Of The Routine Is Intentional Dehydration
According to former contestant Suzanne Mendonca, the show would actively encourage people to dehydrate themselves. For those of you who don’t know what intentional dehydration is, it’s when you don’t drink water and do your best to rid your body of all the water it has. Considering your body is made up majorly of water, this is a pretty impossible task, but it didn’t stop people from trying. “People would take amphetamines, water pills, diuretics, and throw up in the bathroom,” Season 2’s Mendonca says. “They would take their spin bikes into the steam room to work up a sweat. I vomited every single day. Bob Harper tells people to throw up: ‘Good,’ he says. ‘You’ll lose more calories.’” While some representatives of the show vehemently deny those claims, others seem aware of what’s going on and aren’t too motivated to rectify the situation. “Oh, absolutely!” said TBL trainer Jillian Michaels. “Are you kidding me? There’s a lot of game playing that goes on.”
18. Contestants Don’t Eat Or Drink Anything Before Weigh-Ins
In order to win the show, you have to lose the most weight. As much as the show claims to be about health, that couldn’t be further from the truth. One great example of how toxic people are about weight loss “One or two days before the weigh-in, we would cut liquid consumption and we wouldn’t eat.” one former constant told Star. “The morning of the weigh-in, we’d get up in the 1113-degree heat and put on several layers of clothing under a zipped up sweatsuit. We’d shut the windows of the gym…and we’d work out for two to three hours, not drinking water.”
17. Ryan Benson Was Peeing Blood By The End
Ryan Benson is the winner for the first season of the show, but he didn’t keep that weight off for long. “Once the show was over, I was never able to maintain my ideal weight for more than a few days,” he said. “One thing I didn’t expect when the show ended was that for the next year or so, every time I’d go out to eat, or was in the grocery store, I’d feel like people were watching everything I ate, or watching what I put in my shopping cart.” Unfortunately, his inability to keep the weight off probably has less to do with him and more to do with the methods the show used to make sure people lost weight. “I wore a rubber suit while jogging on the treadmill and then spent a lot of time in the steam room. In the final 24 hours, I probably dropped 10 to 13 pounds in just pure water weight. By the time of the final weigh in, I was peeing blood,” he confessed.
16. Season Three Was Eight Months Long, Not Three
During season 3, we are led to believe that the filming took place over the course of three months. That means that the cast, shown above, lost different amounts of weight, sometimes extreme amounts of weight, over the course of twelve weeks, give or take a few weeks. That’s not actually how it went down. Season 3 actually took place over the course of eight months, which definitely changes the nature of what we see. The show made it look like contestants were losing five pounds in a week, while they were actually losing something like 1.9 pounds a week, which is much more reasonable. 1.9 pounds lost in a week is still nothing to sneeze at, but producers must have thought healthy weight loss doesn’t make good television.
15. The Weigh-Ins Are Fake
Considering that everyone is jumping through all of these hoops in order to lose weight and win the weigh-ins, you might actually be shocked to know that the weigh-ins themselves are totally fake as well. According to insiders, the contestants actually get weighed earlier in the day and everything we see at the televised weigh-in is acting. “They actually get weighed earlier in the day on a cattle scale,” an insider told Star. “The scale viewers see is a prop and contestants are filmed ‘reacting’ several times.” This is actually pretty sad. For one, people are being weighed on cattle scales, which is pretty dehumanizing. On top of that, people are reacting to numbers on a scale over and over again until the producers get something they like, and the number itself isn’t totally based on truth. It just goes to show how fake the show really is.
14. The Contestants Are Totally Isolated For The First Six Weeks
Isolation is a tactic some of the most prolific abusers use, and this show is no exception. One former contestant told Star how they were totally cut off from the world during their time on the show. “For the first six weeks, we weren’t allowed mail or phone calls,” the contestant told Star. “When we finally got mail, it had been censored, blacked out. And all our phone calls were limited to five minutes and chaperoned by a production assistant.” The point seems to be to make the contestants focus on what they’re dealing with on the ranch, but it actually serves a scarier purpose. For six weeks, you’re not allowed to talk to anyone who could possibly tell you that what’s being done to you is wrong, and by the time six weeks is up, you’re already mentally ingratiated with the trainers and producers, kind of like Stockholm Syndrome.
13. There’s A Psychologist On Retainer, But Contestants Never Knew Where To Find Him
You’d think that with everything going on that there would be ample mental health services on the show, and you’d be right. There was a psychologist around that the contestants could have benefited from…if they could ever find him. According to a former contestant, finding the psychologist was totally impossible. “He was hardly ever around. I never knew where to reach that man during the show, and I never heard from him again after.” This is particularly telling because any psychologist worth their salt would have told the contestants that what they were doing was harmful to their mental health. That might actually explain the psychologist’s absence.
12. Jillian Michaels Has Been Sued Four Times Over Her Supplements
Trainer Jillian Michaels is known for being tough in the gym but still kind (her episode of Say Yes To The Dress solidified this), but for everyone who sees her as a hero, just as many people see her as a villain. Back in 2010, she faced four separate lawsuits claiming that her dietary supplements didn’t work. The lawsuits claimed that the supplements were either totally useless or had dangerous ingredients in them. Michaels called the suits “baseless” and denied the allegations but still reached a class action settlement over the claims anyway. All four cases were eventually dismissed, but that shadow over her supplements is still there. She also came under fire over accusations from fitness author James Fell that claimed Michaels “is not actually a real fitness trainer—she’s an actress playing the role of fitness trainer on TV and in a line of popular DVDs.”
11. A Contestant In 2010 Had To Be Written Out Over Inappropriate Child Content
On the 2010 season of TBL Australia, one contestant had to be taken off the show to be prosecuted for possessing X-rated materials featuring children. The show had to be rewritten without explaining where the contestant went, and he was sentenced to a maximum two years in jail. The contestant, Derrick James Ward, was eliminated before the charges were filed, as was his sister, who had nothing to do with her brother’s crime. However, the show didn’t want any mention of him on their show and made a huge effort to write him out. “Given the seriousness of these charges and that this matter is to be resolved in the courts, the network decided it will not broadcast any episode in which Mr.Ward would have appeared,” a Ten [the network TBL Australia airs on] spokeswoman said of the incident as it was unfolding. “We believe this is in every party’s interest, including Mr. Ward’s.”
10. Diet Pills Aren’t Allowed, But Caffeine Pills Are
The show’s trainers make a big deal about not allowing diet pills on the show, but they’re a lot more cavalier about caffeine pills. The caffeine pills are distributed by the show’s medical team, which just goes to show how the show is totally okay with the contestants taking things to lose weight. In fact, Jillian Michaels gave her team caffeine pills one season without the permission of the doctor, and her team got punished not because of the pills being unhealthy, but because she bypassed the doctor. The show could have written this out or edited it, or even highlighted the behavior as unhealthy, but they didn’t. It just goes to show that the show is okay with any tactic that makes someone lose weight at any cost.
The pills are supposed to help the contestants wake up and power through the workouts, according to multiple sources. The problem is that in combination with everything else the contestants do to themselves to stay on the show and lose weight, the caffeine pills just add fuel to the fire.
9. The Contract Does Not Guarantee The Qualifications Of Medical Staff
According to a TBL contract reviewed by Radar, contestants have to sign that “no guarantee has been made as to the qualifications or credentials of the medical professionals that examine me.” This is true of everyone. No matter what’s actually going on, contestants need to say that they are “in excellent physical, emotional, psychological, and mental health.” This makes sense considering that no part of this show can be considered healthy. “That show is an atrocity,” says Dr. Yoni Freedhoff at the University of Ottawa, who specializes in obesity. “This approach is not endorsed by anyone in the medical community. NBC [has] made an awful lot of money off of damaging these individuals.”
8. The Trainers Just Turn A Blind Eye
You’d be right to wonder where the trainers are in all of this. It’s not like you can miss people peeing blood and intentionally dehydrating themselves to the point of shedding several pounds over a few days, after all. Unfortunately, the trainers are pretty cavalier about all of this. “The Biggest Loser is a game show,” Jillian Michaels said. “If they can manipulate weigh-ins, I can’t hold it against them. It is what it is.” The show basically works by making people participate in intermittent fasting, which means that you’re eating a ton on some days and eating nothing on others to make sure your body never gets used to eating a specific amount, which is supposed to keep you in a constant state of weight loss. That’s not healthy, and trainers on this show know it.
7. A Week Is Often Not What You Think It Is
“Americans need to realize that the one-week weight loss totals aren’t totally real,” Jillian Michaels has said, and she’s right. The show tends to fudge just how long a week is, so when we’re watching and we think the contestants lose X pounds in a given week, we’re not really seeing the truth there. In actuality, your body doesn’t and really can’t lose several pounds a week in a healthy way. That’s why consistent, healthy weight loss takes so long. Unfortunately, the show’s using this practice to make it look like extreme weight loss over a short period of time is healthy and possible; this encourages people at home to try and do the same, which is bad news for everyone.
6. The Whole Setup Is A Trainer’s Nightmare
While there’s been a lot of talk about how the contestants suffer under the setup the show provides for them, it turns out they’re not the only ones. The trainers have a much harder job helping the contestants thanks to the way the show’s gym works. Jillian Michaels has actually admitted that she hates the way the show is set up because it’s just not safe for anyone. “There’s nothing good about it and there’s nothing safe about it,” she said. “It’s really scary…In real life, with a 526-pound client, I wouldn’t want anyone else in the gym because I wouldn’t want the slightest distraction. When I have 22 people working out, it’s really hard.” This is without all of the tricks the show uses to make weight loss look much easier and sustainable than it actually is.
5. The Psychological Torture Was The Worst
Imagine you’re in a situation where you’re being put through what could constitute physical torture. Now, imagine you have to deal with that on top of an environment that gaslights you, makes you paranoid and feeds on your deepest insecurities. This is what every contestant on the show has had to deal with. Kal Hibbard has spoken out on the horrors the show would inflict on the contestants, and none of it sounds worth the hassle. “The psychological warfare that production plays on you is the worst part…You never knew who you could trust, and when you did, sometimes during interviews production would deliberately say something to make you suspect that you couldn’t trust your friends on the ranch.” Basically, they’d take the “I’m not here to make friends” mentality of all other reality shows and make it so everyone feels that way.
4. Some Contestants Developed Major Health Problems
Many of the people who got onto the show were totally healthy, but that changed when they got off the show, For example, Kal Hibbard started developing an eating disorder as she approached the final weigh-in. “I got to the point where I was eating less than 1,000 calories a day,” she said. “I was working out five to six hours a day. My hair started to fall out, and I was covered in bruises. When I told production this, I got no help.”
Former contestant, Paul Marks had to have six surgeries after he left the show thanks to his experiences, and friends blamed his subsequent medical troubles on the show and what it put him through. That didn’t stop reps of the show from insisting that joining TBL saved his life. Had they never gotten on the show, they would have still been fat, but they would have been healthy. It just goes to show that health doesn’t always correlate to a smaller waist size.
3. The Weight Loss Is Short Term
Season One winner Ryan Benson gained all 122 pounds he lost on the show back eventually. Season Three winner Erik Chopin gained back the weight as well. Believe it or not, science shows that this experience is the rule, not the exception. A ton of studies have come out saying that it’s nearly impossible to lose weight and keep it off, and only 5% of people actually manage to do it for anything considering long term. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make healthy decisions and make that a priority in your life. However, it does mean that this show and other weight loss shows are all selling lies disguised as reality television. They want people to think that their method of losing weight works, especially in the long term, when the opposite is true.
2. The Contestants Hook Up Behind The Scenes
The contestants, with everything going on with weight loss and psychological torture, manage to find time for extracurricular activities. The Biggest Loser actually has a better track record for romance than some shows about dating and romance, like The Bachelorette. Back during the third season, contestant Marty Wolff had an on-set affair with fellow contestant Amy Hildreth and left his wife Barbara after the show, according to the National Enquirer. During the eighth season of the show, Antoine Dove and Alexandra White fell in love and got engaged during the finale of their season on national television. The event wasn’t totally staged either, given White’s shocked face. Season two’s winner and second runner up were the first to get married after their time on the show after they’d revealed that they’d been secretly dating.
1. The Show Exploits People And Leaves Them Less Healthy Than They Were Before
The Biggest Loser is notorious for exploiting fat people with no regard for their actual health all for the sake of ratings. More and more contestants are starting to come forward with their stories, like Joelle Gwynn of 2008’s “Couples” season “Bob Harper was my trainer,” she recalled. “He goes away and his assistant comes in. He’s got this brown paper bag that’s bundled up. He says, ‘Take this drug, it’ll really help you.’ It was yellow and black. I was like, ‘What the f- -k is this?’” When she did take it, she felt very strange and not like herself at all. “I felt jittery and hyper,” she says. “I went and told the sports medicine guy. The next day, Dr. H gave us some lame explanation of why they got added to our regimen and that it was up to us to take them . . . People chastise Bill Cosby for allegedly offering meds to women, but it’s acceptable to do to fat people to make them lose weight. I feel like we got raped, too.” As much as we might find ourselves fascinated by the show, it hurts people in a very real way, and not just the contestants.
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