- The Ashley
- Biggest Loser Then and Now: Have Former Winners Kept the Weight Off?
- Original Biggest Loser Ryan Benson
- Kelly Miner: Season 1 Runner Up
- Matt and Suzy Hoover: Season 2
- Erik Chopin: Season 3
- Bill Germanakos: Season 4
- Ali Vincent: Season 5
- Michelle Aguilar: Season 6
- Helen Phillips: Season 7
- Danny Cahill: Season 8
- Michael Ventrella: Season 9
- Patrick House: Season 10
- Olivia Ward: Season 11
- John Rhode: Season 12
- Jeremy Britt: Season 13
- Danni Allen: Season 14
- Rachel Fredrickson: Season 15
- Season 16: Toma Dobrosavljevic
- Season 17: Roberto Hernandez
- HOME > The Biggest Loser > The Biggest Loser 10
That awkward moment when you realize ‘The Biggest Loser’ has a better track record at lasting relationships than ‘The Bachelor’ does…
They may have met on The Biggest Loser but Jessica Limpert and Ramon Medeiros ended up winning in love.
The couple, who met when they both starred on Season 12 (“Battle of the Ages”) in 2011, got married on Saturday after six years together. The ceremony took place at Heinz Memorial Chapel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Jessica posted a few photos from before and after the ceremony and reception.
“Today our fairy tale becomes reality #finallyforever,” she captioned a photo posted on Saturday, later adding, “It’s official! Thank you to everyone who witnessed our special day and to those who have supported and congratulated us near and far! We love you all! We are off to celebrate being Mr. and Mrs.!!”
The couple has been engaged since February 2017.
Ramon and Jessica lost 154 and 84 lbs., respectively, on ‘The Biggest Loser.’ Although neither took home the season’s grand prize, they did both score jobs working at the Biggest Loser Ranch as certified personal trainers and motivational speakers for a period of time after their season ended. However, Jessica came forward in a 2017 Women’s Health article to reveal she now weighed more than she did when she began ‘The Biggest Loser.’
“Three years post-show, I was hiding under a rock and gained all the weight back and then some,” she told the magazine. “At that point, I weighed 323 pounds.”
Ramon had also gained back most of the weight he had lost on ‘Loser.’ The couple decided to go on The Big Fat Truth in 2016, which helped them learn to deal with their emotional ties to food, as well as the physical aspects of weight loss.
Jessica and Ramon are not the only couple from ‘The Biggest Loser’ to find love. Season 8’s Rebecca Meyer and Daniel Wright are still married, as are Season 2 winner and runner-up Matt and Suzy Hoover. Antoine Dove is still married to Alexandra Wright, whom he proposed to during the Season 8 finale. Marty Wolff and Amy Hildreth, who met on Season 3, are still married as well. Season 14’s Jeff Nichols and Francy Morillo have been together since their season aired in 2013.
See photos from Jessica and Ramon’s big day below:
Just a preview of the best day of my life ? #heinzchapel #finallyforever
What a day!! ???
John Rhode has been crowned the winner of The Biggest Loser: Battle of the Ages.
The 40-year-old Mesa, Arizona native beat out runner-up Antone Davis and third place winner Ramon Medeiros to take home the title of the Biggest Loser as well as the $250,000 (£161,416) cash prize during Tuesday night’s live finale.
Rhode, who began his journey at 445lb, weighed in at 225lb after stepping on the scale for the final time. That number was enough to beat out Davis’ 202lb loss and Medeiro’s 154lb drop.
He attributed much of his success to having the support of his wife, who was in attendance during the broadcast, telling her: “Baby, I didn’t waste a single minute on the ranch. The sacrifices I made there will never match what you’ve done for me.
“I owe you a debt of gratitude forever and I love you from the bottom of my heart.”
> ‘Biggest Loser’ John Rode: ‘I feel like a living miracle’ – Video
> ‘The Biggest Loser’ season 12 finale recap: A winner is crowned
The Biggest Loser finale also saw the return of the 12 previously eliminated contestants, each of whom weighed in once more. Jennifer Rumple’s 43.94% of lost body weight was enough to award her the $100,000 (£64,579) prize set aside for the contestant with the largest percentage shed.
During the opening moments of the show, Train took to the stage for a live performance of the show’s theme song, ‘Brand New Book’.
The Biggest Loser will return to NBC on January 3, with its new No Excuses edition, which will see duos face off against each other as they work with different trainers.
> ‘Biggest Loser’ Ramon Medeiros: ‘I’m ready to face the giants’ – Video
> ‘Biggest Loser’ Antone Davis – ‘Now the game is really on’ – Video
Watch the winning moment below:
Biggest Loser Then and Now: Have Former Winners Kept the Weight Off?
I wonder if most people who watch The Biggest Loser think, “I wish I could do that” -or- “If they can do it, so can I”?
The contestants are luckily surrounded by all the tools and support they need to lose weight, BUT reality is much different and most people don’t have a multi-million dollar production budget at their disposal.
Season after season the show continues to wow its viewers, but is the dramatic weight loss permanent after the show is over?
How do these contestants fare when they return to the reality of normal life?
Original Biggest Loser Ryan Benson
In one season, he was able to lose a staggering 122 pounds!
So how is Ryan Benson doing these days?
An article in Time magazine checked in with some of the former “Biggest Loser” winners, including Benson who has gained back roughly 90 pounds after the show was over.
He claims that as soon as the show was over, he regained “32 pounds in 5 days simply by drinking water.” This is incredible and points to the fact that when any person loses weight rapidly, (faster than 1-2 pounds a week) normally the weight loss is mostly due to water loss.
At last report, Ryan now weighs 300 pounds.
Kelly Miner: Season 1 Runner Up
Kelly lost 79 pounds during the show.
Where is Kelly Minner Now?
One former participant who is still losing weight after losing the show is Kelly Minner.
The first-season runner-up went from “242 lbs. to 163 lbs. by the finale and now weighs 140 lbs.”
Matt and Suzy Hoover: Season 2
He lost 157 pounds and she lost 95 pounds but have since gained some of the weight back.
They aren’t giving up though and are continuing on the weight loss journey.
Matt now weighs 237 and Suzy weighs 175.
Please see our comprehensive guide to flexible dieting/IIFYM. It contains everything you need to know and do to be successful with tracking macros to lose weight while eating what you love.
Get Yours Here
Erik Chopin: Season 3
Although he had one of the most dramatic weight losses in the show’s history, he gained most of the weight back.
He weighed 407 pounds before the show and returned to 368 pounds after the show.
He ended his weight rebound after a 2010 documentary featured his story.
He now weighs 245 pounds.
Bill Germanakos: Season 4
He lost 164 pounds on The Biggest Loser and only gained 37 pounds back after the show.
He’s now a spinning instructor and weighs 207 pounds.
Ali Vincent: Season 5
She was the first female to win on the show with a 112-pound weight loss. She managed to maintain the weight after the show.
This weight loss launched her new career with her own book and website.
Update: Ali reveals, “It’s been 5 years since I won (The Biggest Loser) and I’ve seen myself gain at least 5 pounds a year. I’m stuck in the middle.”
She has a new show: Live Big with Ali Vincent where she gets back on the scale and intends to get back on track. It airs on The Live Well Network.
Michelle Aguilar: Season 6
She weighed 242 pounds at the beginning of the show and 132 pounds at the end to claim the prize.
However, she doesn’t disclose what she now weighs. Never ask a woman her weight, I guess.
From pictures and current videos, it looks like she has kept most of the weight off.
Helen Phillips: Season 7
Helen lost 140 pounds on the show and only gained back 18 pounds.
She is the oldest Biggest Loser and has the record for losing the most weight.
She now works to end childhood obesity and she speaks candidly about her plastic surgery to remove excess skin in this video.
Danny Cahill: Season 8
Danny lost a whopping 239 pounds to win season 8 and he has kept most of the weight off since.
He is now a motivational weight loss speaker and singer that travels the country. Here’s his website.
According to the NY Times, Danny currently weighs 295 pounds
Michael Ventrella: Season 9
He started at 526 pounds and weighed 262 pounds at the show’s finale.
After the show, he became a trainer and professional public speaker.
He now weighs 289 pounds but says he no longer focuses on the scale but his measurements.
Patrick House: Season 10
Patrick only weighs 16 pounds more than he did when he won The Biggest Loser and has been working on building muscle.
He now works with overweight teens and completed his 3rd Boston Marathon.
He also wrote a book is called “As Big as a House”.
Patrick’s current weight is 235 pounds.
Olivia Ward: Season 11
She started The Biggest Loser weighing 261 pounds and then dropped to 132 to claim the show’s title.
Now she’s just 10 pounds heavier and appears regularly on the Dr. Drew Show as a weight-loss guru along with her sister Hannah. Here’s their website.
It looks like she has kept the weight off.
John Rhode: Season 12
John was a 40-year-old teacher and coach when he entered the Biggest Loser Ranch and weighed 445 pounds.
He dropped an amazing 220 pounds and won season 12 weighing 225 pounds.
It looks like John has gained a little of the weight back, but is active running marathons and doing Crossfit while inspiring others to get fit and live healthier.
He now weighs between 225 and 230 pounds depending on what he’s training for.
Jeremy Britt: Season 13
22-year-old Jeremy was 389 pounds when he joined the competition and had been overweight most of his life.
He won season 13 by losing 190 pounds weighing just 190 at the finale.
Since winning Jeremy is working on maintaining his weight loss.
Danni Allen: Season 14
The newest winner is Danni Allen. She started the competition at 258 pounds and finished at 137 for a loss of 121 pounds.
She is now enjoying her win and is doing the talk show circuit talking about her experience on The Biggest Loser.
She recently shot a commercial for Subway restaurants
Rachel Fredrickson: Season 15
Rachel Fredrickson recently became the Biggest Loser in the show’s history with an astounding 60% weight loss for a total of 155 pounds shed.
Some of the show’s fans on twitter expressed concerns that she actually looked too thin at 105 pounds during the show’s finale.
She has gained about 20 pounds back since the show.
Season 16: Toma Dobrosavljevic
This season of NBC’s Biggest Loser featured former star athletes who had let their once fit bodies decline after they quit playing their sport.
Former soccer player, Toma Dobrosavljevic took the grand prize with an astounding 171-pound weight loss!
His starting weight was 336 pounds and he weighed just 165 pounds at the finale.
A year later, Toma is going strong and has kept the weight off. He now being paid by Planet Fitness and DietBet.com to endorse their services.
Season 17: Roberto Hernandez
Roberto Hernandez, a teacher from Chicago, took the grand prize after losing 160 pounds in all. He started the season weighing 348 pounds and at the finale weighed in at 188 pounds.
His twin brother Luis won the “at home” prize with an amazing 139-pound weight loss.
This season contestants were constantly being tempted with cash to give up and go home which was a first for the reality show and Bob Harper took over as the show’s host.
In 2017 NBC officially canceled the Biggest Loser.
In 2020 The Biggest Loser is back but on The USA Network. Bob Harper is back as the host/coach.
Based on the previous Biggest Loser contestants, do you think the show promotes long-term weight loss success or just short term benefits?
It shows us all just how easy it is to put on weight when getting fit is no longer part of a show’s production value.
Credit: Thanks to NBC for the images.
Disclaimer: Your results may vary and the contestants’ were largely due to their dedication and adherence to their calorie/macro protocols.
Ted Kallmyer is an ISSA certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition, a Certified Fitness Trainer, and is Healthy Eater’s author and nutitional coach. If you need help reaching your weight loss/fitness goals see his personal macros coaching options. Last Updated: January 31, 2020
“The Biggest Loser” has been canceled after 17 seasons, according to a new report.
The reality TV show’s resident doctor, Dr. Robert Huizenga, tells the Daily Mail that the weight loss competition won’t be returning due to recent bad publicity. Court documents show that Huizenga blamed a former contestant’s allegations that participants were encouraged to take illegal weight loss pills in a lawsuit.
Huizenga sued Joelle Gwynn, who appeared on the show in 2008, and the New York Post last year over an article claiming he was giving out Adderall, typically prescribed for ADHD symptoms, to suppress appetite. He also denied giving contestants drugs containing ephedra extract, which has been banned by the FDA.
“Ms. Gwynn’s outrageous accusations, which resulted in the cancellation of ‘The Biggest Loser’ and Dr. Huizenga losing two other opportunities on television, are particularly egregious given Dr. Huizenga’s strict life-long anti-drug beliefs and strict anti-drug policy on ‘The Biggest Loser,’ where he did not even permit contestants to take legal, over-the-counter caffeine pills or drink more than one cup of coffee, much less illegal drugs,” court papers state.
NBC has not confirmed whether or not the show is cancelled, but a rep told the Post that no episodes of “The Biggest Loser” are currently in production.
There is “no update at this time about a future season,” the spokesperson said.
Auburn’s Joe Messina competed on season 13 of “The Biggest Loser” in 2012, but quit after three episodes after his brother was eliminated and felt he needed to be with his fiancee and children.
“The Biggest Loser,” which premiered in 2004, has faced a number of controversies. Fitness guru Jillian Michaels said she was fired from the show in 2014 after criticizing how much weight season 15 winner Rachel Frederickson lost — 155 pounds, or 60 percent of her body weight. Personal trainer Bob Harper, who had been on the show every season and hosted the 17th season last year, sparked health concerns when he collapsed at a gym in February with a heart attack.
The show has also been accused of encouraging unhealthy weight loss regimens for years. A 2016 study of 14 contestants from season 8 of “The Biggest Loser” found most regained weight lost on the show, sometimes exceeding their original weight. Attempts to keep the weight off was nearly impossible, as metabolic rates slowed and hormones triggered constant state of hunger and cravings.
“The Biggest Loser” last aired in February 2016, when Roberto Hernandez won the $250,000 grand prize on season 17. Past contestants included Auburn’s Joe Messina, who quit the show’s 13th season after just three episodes.
by Gina Scarpa and David McAlpine
Last week, on The Biggest Loser, Jessica fell below the yellow line and, up against Elizabeth for elimination, was voted out unanimously by her fellow competitors. With the ranch being ruled by Brendan, Frado, and Patrick, their decision to save Elizabeth and keep her around was pretty much set in stone. Today, we caught up with Jessica in an exclusive interview to get her opinions on what went down at the ranch and how she’s keeping the weight off at home.
Q. Gina, RealityWanted: What was the wakeup call that made you realize you should try out for The Biggest Loser?
A. Jessica: I had lost quite a bit of weight before I actually ried out for the show but I was still stuck at 282. I was trying for three years to get under that number and no matter what I did, I was not losing the weight. Looking back, I know it was because I wasn’t eating well. I would work out and work out and then give myself a green light to eat whatever I wanted. I was like, “Why is the scale not moving?” It’s common sense now. I was getting really frustrated. I had had surgery and I was still fat. Watching The Biggest Loser, I thought maybe they had a golden ticket or something I didn’t know. I saw there was an open call back in season 8. I made it and they said they loved me but not that season. I tried out again and again and finally, in season 10, I made it.
Q. Gina, RealityWanted: What was the most surprising part about actually being on the show as opposed to watching it on tv?
A. Jessica: Watching it on tv, you see the workouts and you think it’s hard but that you can do it. Everybody can’t go to the gym but they should! What I learned about myself is that I’m much more capable than I thought I was and can push way further than I thought I could. That’s what you see on the show. You see us breaking barriers and breaking these ceilings that we’ve set for ourselves. It was every day, overcoming those things. That’s what I encourage people to do at the gym. They say, “I can’t run 5 miles.” And I say, “Okay get on the treadmill and just do it. It doesn’t matter how long it takes.” That’s a huge mental thing to get over.
Q. Gina, RealityWanted: What was the general feeling when you all saw that Ada had no family video? Who’s idea was it to give her her own video?
A. Jessica: Completely honest, not on camera, we didn’t know what happened. Nobody was telling us why she wasn’t with us. That reaction that you saw was 100% real. We didn’t wanna watch our videos if Ada wasn’t there. We refused to watch our tapes until someone told us where she was. Finally, someone told us she didn’t get one and we were heartbroken. It was not staged. She had become family to us. We wanted to make a video for her. I can’t remember specifically whose idea it was. We wanted to show her how much we love her and support her and encourage her. It was really upsetting to a lot of us.
Q. Gina, RealityWanted: It’s been clear for weeks now to the viewers that Frado, Brendan and Patrick have been running the game – was it that obvious to you at the time?
A. Jessica: I would say yes and no. The thing with them is that we were all very tight and then it became every man for themselves. I don’t fault everyone for their gameplay. I think everyone went in with the best intentions. Towards the end, it became kind of skewed as to why we were there. When you’re thinking about winning the game, you kind of forget reality. Do I hold grudges? No. Was I disappointed? Absolutely. I consider these guys my friends. It is what it is.
Q. Gina, RealityWanted: Were you worried when you saw it was Elizabeth you were going up against in the elimination room?
A. Jessica: Yeah! I pretty much knew at that point. If it was anybody else, I would think that I had a chance and maybe they’d save me. When I saw it was Elizabeth, I had booked a ticket home in my mind. I love the girl, she’s great, but as a competitor, it was frustrating to watch over and over again. There were people working hard who had a bad week and going home against her. I wish her all the best though.
Q. Gina, RealityWanted: What are you doing to keep the weight off?
A. Jessica: For me, it’s all about keeping it very fresh and new. I get bored really easy. I need to mix it up! Every morning, I go to spin class. I do bikram yoga, I’m training for a 200 mile relay in southern California with other Biggest Loser alumni. Running has become a big passion of mine. I’m just trying to change it up with all kinds of stuff to make sure my body doesn’t get used too much and just mentally.
Q. Gina, RealityWanted: What do you think now when you look at pictures of you when you first arrived at The Biggest Loser ranch?
A. Jessica: Oh man! I actually just looked at a couple pictures that I had sent in when I tried out this season. It is surreal! You think back like, “Wow, we’ve been at this 5 months and I don’t even know that person anymore!” Physically, it’s just insane to see the difference. I think that even bigger than that is that I look at that girl and not even know her anymore, mentally and emotionally. Everything has completely changed in 5 months and that’s the cool part! I look at that and say, “Wow, I’m never going to be that again.” I know a lot of past contestants have said that but if you could feel what I feel, you would know. That’s the biggest gift I take away from the show.
The Biggest Loser airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on NBC.
(Image courtesy of NBC)
Follow Gina at twitter.com/ginascarpa and David at twitter.com/davidmcalpine
For more Biggest Loser links, visit SirLinksALot.net
HOME > The Biggest Loser > The Biggest Loser 10
The Biggest Loser eliminated Jessica Delfs during Tuesday night’s broadcast of the NBC reality weight-loss competition’s ninth tenth-season episode.
“One of the things I learned when I was there is that I cling to people and I depend on them –which is fantastic, and there’s always a place for that — but I’ve never stood on my own two feet, and I’ve never done it by myself, and I’ve never pushed myself, and I’ve never encouraged myself, and that’s something I need to learn,” Jessica said following her ouster.
“The best journey that I saw while I was there was just how precious the journey to me and my mom was… people can fix what’s broken, and I feel like I really fixed a lot of what was broken with me.”
Jessica, a 27-year-old professional bridal consultant from Tucson, AZ, was voted out of the competition after she finished with the lowest weight-loss percentage at the week’s weigh-in, which featured the eight remaining contestants weighing-in individually.
The contestants participated in the weigh-in after competing in an earlier challenge in which they were required to balance on one platform on one foot above a pool. The increment of time increased by five seconds every time each remaining competitor survived its length without falling in the water. When a contestant succeeded, he or she was afforded the chance to pick the next individual to go.
Mark Pinhasovich, a 31-year-old bartender and recruiter from East Brunswick, NJ, won the challenge –giving him a one-pound advantage at the subsequent weigh-in.
Mark started off the week weighing 317 pounds and lost eight pounds, dropping to 309 pounds. He posted a 2.84% weight-loss percentage, which included the one pound advantage from the challenge.
Patrick House, a 28-year-old sales representative from Vicksburg, MS, went from 311 pounds to 301, losing 10 pounds and posting a 3.22% weight-loss percentage at the weigh-in. The weigh-in results left Patrick with a total loss of 99 pounds so far, as he had started off The Biggest Loser weighing 400 pounds.
Alfredo “Frado” Dinten, a 43-year-old futures commodity trader from Staten Island, NY, lost nine pounds at the weigh-in, dropping from 276 to 267 pounds. Frado posted a 3.26% weight-loss percentage and became the second player this season to lose 100 pounds as he had started off the show weighing 367 pounds.
Brendan Donovan, a 32-year-old special education teacher from Boston, MA, started off the week at 280 pounds and slimmed down 272, losing eight pounds and posting a 2.86% weight-loss percentage.
Elizabeth Ruiz, a 31-year-old medical assistant from Lawrence, MA, lost four pounds and posted a 1.95% weight-loss percentage — she dropped from 205 pounds to 201 at the weigh-in.
Jessica only shed one pound with a 0.44% weight-loss percentage. She started off the week weighing 228 and dropped to 227 pounds.
Lisa Mosley, a 31-year-old sales representative from Norman, OK, dropped from 234 to 228 pounds. Her six-pound loss gave her a 2.56% weight-loss percentage which ensured she would finish above the yellow weigh-in line that would determine which two contestants would be in danger of elimination.
FOLLOW REALITY TV WORLD ON THE ALL-NEW GOOGLE NEWS!
Reality TV World is now available on the all-new Google News app and website. to visit our Google News page, and then click FOLLOW to add us as a news source!
Ada Wong, a 27-year-old high-tech company project coordinator from San Francisco, CA, lost a total of eight pounds. She fell from 198 pounds to 190 and shed a 4.04% weight-loss percentage. Afterward, The Biggest Loser host Alison Sweeney noted Ada was the first woman to post the largest weight-loss percentage at a weigh-in this season.
The results left Elizabeth and Jessica below the yellow line and the other six contestants in the position to decide which of the two women would be sent home from The Biggest Loser ranch.
After deliberating among themselves, the contestants met with Alison Sweeney, Elizabeth and Jessica and revealed their elimination votes. Brendan, Frado and Lisa all voted for Jessica — resulting in her automatic elimination as three votes were enough to constitute for her exit given her status as the weigh-in’s least loser.
During the episode, all eight contestants also participated in a challenge in which they had to make a subway sandwich judged on taste and calories, where everyone served as the judges. Lisa won the task and received a gift card for 100 free foot-long subs.
During a post-show update, Jessica said she now weighs 200 pounds, losing 82 pounds total from when she started on the show. Jessica said she wants to help her local YMCA and reform nutrition policies in schools by educating and encouraging the children.
“The Biggest Loser was the key that opened that door that’s always been locked. Once I was able to unlock that door, it’s more than I thought it could ever be,” Jessica said.
“I’ll always be indebted to the show, because without it, I don’t know where I’d be right now, and where I am is pretty exciting. There’s absolutely nothing holding me back — absolutely nothing.”
Bob Harper, who for more than 10 years and 17 TV seasons—17 seasons, who knew?—coached, cajoled, encouraged, tough-loved, and occasionally screamed at heavy people to make them lighter on the controversial TV megahit The Biggest Loser, is sitting at a plain wooden table in a greenroom in Santa Fe, eating baby carrots from a paper plate his assistant has set before him.
He is weeping.
Beside him are his two Havaneses, Vivienne and Karl, whose fluffy heads he periodically scratches. Outside this room are the gym facilities and sun-scorched open fields that will serve as the setting for season 18 of The Biggest Loser, a kind of comeback for the show—a reboot—which will premiere on January 28.
USA Network is my host: They paid for all transportation and lodging for me and several other reporters to be here, to herald the impending launch of the reboot. We will interview this season’s contestants, see the sets—and meet Harper, the avatar of strength and discipline to so many of the dozens of contestants he trained during 17 seasons, who is crying actual tears while he eats his baby carrots.
I’m only on my first question. Which was: So, you had a heart attack at 51?
Harper said he only had a few flash memories of the day in 2017 when he went into cardiac arrest: There was a margarita with friends in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. He walked one of his dogs (Karl).
Two days later, Harper woke up from a coma. He was told that, in the middle of a workout at his gym, “I had laid down on my side and rolled over,” he said. He started turning blue, and a trainer yelled for someone to call 911. A stranger performed CPR until the paramedics arrived, which saved Harper’s life.
“I thank God for this man every single day, because if it wasn’t for his persistence, I wouldn’t be sitting here,” he said.
Harper’s heart attack is just one of the seismic events that shook the Biggest Loser universe since it went off the air in 2016. There was the scientific study that suggested that the show might cause irreversible health problems for the contestants. (In reporting this story, Prevention.com has found gross misinterpretation of that study by news outlets including the New York Times—more on that in a moment.) There was also the rise of the plus-size model, the modern advent of body positivity, and society’s migration away from things like fat-shaming and TV shows about weight-loss.
While in cardiac rehab, Harper—former CrossFit enthusiast, picture of fitness, a man who looks like he could free solo the Empire State Building—wasn’t able to walk a city block without getting winded. For the first time, he said, he could understand, truly understand, all those contestants with morbid obesity that he trained on television for so many years.
“The emotional struggles that I went through have been so relatable to a Biggest Loser contestant,” he said. “I’ve had to change the way I work out. I’ve had to change the way I eat. I realize that in talking to the contestants here, the choices you make when it comes to food aren’t about you anymore. It’s about the people that were there for me. This is where I get so emotional about it, but for the people who were there for me every step of the way, I owe it to them. You’ve got me crying, but it’s true.”
The reboot of The Biggest Loser purports to incorporate this kind of thinking, altering its approach to include wellness and mental health. Are those changes a façade covering up a show that’s really still about the schadenfreude of watching fat people sweat? A knee-jerk reaction to the zeitgeist? Or are they real?
And either way, in 2020, will we still watch this show?
In 2014, more people were tuning in to watch trainers Jillian Michaels and Harper coach contestants on The Biggest Loser than there were watching the State of the Union Address. The goal: lose as much weight as possible as quickly as possible. Of the many unscripted TV shows depicting dramatic weight loss in the 2010s—TLC’s My 600 Lb. Life, MTV’s I Used to Be Fat, ABC’s Extreme Weight Loss—The Biggest Loser, which aired on NBC, was by far the most popular. Michaels and Harper became stars.
The show was controversial in its ruthless methods to slide the scale. A typical day for contestants involved five to six hours of intense exercise. High-gloss red and blue vomit buckets decorated the set, and they did not go unused. There is a famous YouTube clip called “Bob’s Freakout Extended,” in which Harper hurls 10 f-bombs at a Season 7 contestant in less than four minutes.
The final consecutive season of the original Biggest Loser premiered in January 2016. That spring, in May 2016, Kevin Hall, Ph.D., a researcher at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and his team published a landmark study in the journal Obesity on 14 Biggest Loser contestants from Season 8, many of whom had regained most of the weight they’d lost on the show.
Danny Cahill, on the set of The Biggest Loser: Where Are They Now? in 2011. NBCGetty Images
The findings were shocking. The New York Times published a 3,000-word story examining the reasons behind the regained weight. “It has to do with resting metabolism,” the article said. “As the years went by and the numbers on the scale climbed, the contestants’ metabolisms did not recover. They became even slower, and the pounds kept piling on.”
A Season 8 contestant named David Cahill was the story’s leading example: “As he regained more than 100 pounds, his metabolism slowed so much that, just to maintain his current weight of 295 pounds, he now has to eat 800 calories a day less than a typical man his size,” wrote author Gina Kolata, the well-known Times health and science reporter. “Anything more turns to fat.”
More coverage of Hall’s study followed, mostly feeding off the Times story—in The Atlantic (“the culprit appears to be the contestants’ metabolisms”), in Vox (“the most remarkable finding was that the participants’ metabolisms had vastly slowed down through the study period”), and in other outlets.
But Hall told me that this viral interpretation of his work was, at best, misleading, and at worst, completely wrong.
“In some ways,” he said, “the opposite is true.”
“The way that most people have portrayed this has been: These poor folks went on the show, they did this crazy intervention—which I agree with—and as a result their metabolisms were destroyed, they slowed down, and that’s what was responsible for them regaining all the weight,” Hall said in an interview two weeks before the premiere of the reboot. “And that’s not accurate.”
Hall found that, in fact, “the people who were most successful at keeping the weight off were actually the ones who had the greatest amount of metabolic slowing.” Metabolism was a side effect of Hall’s findings. On average, his study participants regained about two thirds of the weight that they’d lost. But they maintained 12% to 13% weight loss over six years. The most successful were the ones who kept up a rigorous exercise regimen.
“It just looks like a failure because they lost so much, so quickly early on,” Hall said.
NBC declined to comment on the record about why the show went off the air, but the Hall study wasn’t the first controversy the show faced near the end of its run. The year before, in 2015, contestant Rachel Frederickson shocked Harper and Michaels by walking on set for the season finale looking shockingly thin. When people learned that Frederickson, who is 5’4”, had gone from 260 to just 105 pounds, it drew public outrage.
2015 contestant Rachel Frederickson, who lost 60% of her body weight by competing on The Biggest Loser. NBCGetty Images
“I quit when Rachel Frederickson walked down that aisle emaciated,” Michaels confirmed for the first time publicly earlier this month, during a visit to Prevention’s offices in New York. “That’s when I was like, OK, I did not train Rachel, but the fact that I profited off a platform where that happened, I felt an obligation to say, ‘I am guilty by proxy here because I am a part of this machine and I have to take responsibility for that.’ So I walked away from the show and never looked back. I have no idea what the show is now.”
On the new , what the show is now is described this way:
“A revamped version of the original hit series, The Biggest Loser will provide the contestants with a 360-degree view of what it takes to make a serious lifestyle change, rather than focus solely on weight loss. In addition to competing to win a cash prize by losing the highest percentage of weight relative to their initial weight, the contestants will also learn how to prepare and make healthful food choices, and use group therapy to help overcome the obstacles that are preventing them from living a healthy life.”
On the set, I sat in a living room with this year’s Red and Blue teams. They had been prepared by the network on how to speak with me, and everyone was aware that the purpose of our conversations were to promote the show.
Still, their stories were their own, and they were undeniably compelling.
Kim Davis, 58, is a 19-year breast cancer survivor from Tennessee who told me she “could whoop cancer’s ass but can’t whoop a cheeseburger’s ass.” She compared going on the show to entering rehab. “I have a lot of respect for people who go through drug rehab, alcohol, of course,” she said. “But a drug addict cannot drive down the main street of their city and pass 15 places that they can a $5 fix in two minutes. I do—I face it every single night.”
A middle-age man from the Philadelphia suburbs, Jim DiBattista, said he liked the show’s new 360-degree approach. “This is a process,” he said. “I’m trying to change my brain.”
As they spoke, I was liking these people, media-trained though they may have been. I could never imagine being on the specific mission they were on, but I could imagine being so committed to a goal that you would do anything to achieve it.
I liked Teri Aguiar, 47, from Columbia, IL, who told me that “none of us are here because we’re looking for some ho-clothes. It has very, very little to do with trying to fit into that dress anymore. It’s about being strong and physically capable to hike, swim, run, kayak, be present with my children.”
I liked Delores Tomorrow, 33, from Chicago, who in 2010 helped former First Lady Michelle Obama start her Let’s Move campaign against childhood obesity. “I remember one day I walked into the boardroom before launching a huge rally with about 20,000 kids, and I was the only overweight person in the room,” she said. “I remember thinking, I can’t be on the Let’s Move campaign if I’m sneaking to Wendy’s eating cheeseburgers after work.”
Even given the misinterpretation of Hall’s findings, “making it stay” is what health experts I spoke with say the show’s new wellness approach still does not address.
“It’s deceptive and inauthentic,” said Elyse Resch, M.S., R.D.N., a nutrition therapist in Beverly Hills and co-author of Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works, which has been in print since 1995 (a fourth edition will be published in June). “They’re using this whole wellness thing as a cover for weight loss. This isn’t about wellness, this is about weight.”
Resch and other experts I interviewed said the problem with competing to lose weight—even if contestants are given a gym membership, healthy meal prep tutorials, and group therapy—is that biological factors are inevitably going to kick in (including metabolism, Hall’s study confirmed) that will need to be countered.
Fatima Cody Stanford, M.D., M.P.H., M.P.A., who specializes in obesity medicine and nutrition at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, compared the body to a gas tank: “Someone who has severe obesity has a gas tank the size of a big army tank. Someone who’s lean has a gas tank that’s the size of a Prius. Let’s say we have severe obesity, which is where the contestants on the show have gotten. The brain is going to do whatever it can to work with the rest of the body to bring itself back, so that the gas tank is full. This is ‘metabolic adaptation’—the body wants to get back to its highest weight.”
The issue isn’t that the new Biggest Loser contestants will go on the show and end up with a slower metabolism. As Hall pointed out, the study participants who were most successful in keeping the weight off over the six years they were monitored also had the greatest slowing in metabolism.
The question is whether they’ll be able to counter the metabolic adaptation with enough physical activity to keep it off.
That’s a challenge, particularly when contestants go from exercising for six hours a day on the show back to real life—desk jobs, commutes, the couch at the end of a long day.
Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, who specializes in obesity at the University of Ottawa, has called the original Biggest Loser “an atrocity” and said that “the approach is not endorsed by anyone in the medical community.”
When I read this feedback aloud to Harper, he said, “I’m not a doctor. All I know is that I’m the one that is walking around the airport and the grocery store, and the people that I’ve worked with thank me for being a part of something like this.”
What will be different about this new version, in his words?
“Overweight people are not overweight because they like to eat pizza. They’re overweight because that pizza represents something, and what we’re trying to do on this show is get to the root of that.”
Lynn Saladino, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist who has studied health psychology, was the most optimistic expert I spoke with about the reboot.
“It does sound like they’re trying,” she said. “It sounds like they’re considering things that I felt were lacking, but I’m curious how they’re going to execute those things.”
That’s where the trainers come in.
A large part of the reboot’s execution will come down to Erica Lugo, who lost more than 170 pounds on her own and was a finalist in fellow Hearst publication Women’s Health’s 2016 Next Fitness Star competition; and Steve Cook, a competitive body-builder and gym-owner who has 2.4 million Instagram followers.
In a small room, similar to the one where I spoke with Harper, Lugo talks first. “I had been overweight my whole life,” she said. Six years ago, she had her son and struggled with postpartum depression, which only made her gain more weight. One day she stepped on the scale: 322 pounds. “My heart sank through my stomach,” she said.
Lugo signed up for a membership at Planet Fitness. Her goal, in her first workout: Run for one full song. Then two songs. Then three.
She started documenting her story on Instagram, where she now has more than 565,000 followers. She found an old garage next to an auto-body shop and launched her business as a personal trainer. “I pumped whatever money I had into it. I bought all my equipment secondhand. I bought my mirrors at Lowe’s,” she said.
Erica Lugo lost 170 pounds as a single mom before she joined The Biggest Loser reboot as the trainer for the Red Team. USA NetworkGetty Images
Then, at the start of 2019—just after signing a $30,000 check to remodel her “dream” gym—Lugo was diagnosed with stage II papillary thyroid carcinoma. The doctors found a lump on her neck during an MRI for a car crash she’d survived in October 2019. She had surgery in January of last year, went through radiation and chemotherapy, and isolation. “I got my cancer-free diagnosis a month before I got this job,” she said. Today, Lugo is healthy and fit at 150 pounds.
“If you guys want, you can just focus on her,” Cook joked after listening to Lugo’s story.
Cook is one of seven children. He grew up in Idaho with a strict dad who’d “take all of us kids to the track” at night to run out their energy. He played high school football and won a scholarship at Dixie State University in Southern Utah. He married his high school sweetheart. But at 23, he hadn’t been drafted to the NFL—his dream—and he was living with his parents again, about to get a divorce.
“I was like, Where do I go from here?” he said.
Cook turned to fitness again, competing in national body-building competitions. But his outward appearance was still at odds with how he felt inside. “I realized that the way people appear on magazines, the way people appear on stage, it’s not realistic,” he said. After a couple cycles of binge eating and “really unhealthy yo-yo dieting,” Cook ditched the body competitions, deciding he could be more honest with his fans on YouTube and Instagram. He, too, fits the mold of someone who got in shape and then stayed dedicated to Hall’s “increased physical activity” success marker.
Cook, a former college football player and body builder, had millions of followers on Instagram before joining The Biggest Loser reboot to coach the Blue Team. USA NetworkGetty Images
When I spoke with Lugo and Cook, they hadn’t yet been announced as the reboot’s trainers. They were nervous about that upcoming reveal, they told me, and I knew the ideal outcome of our conversation, in their minds, would be for me to like them and write about them favorably.
I did like them. Just as I liked the contestants. That’s the point, of course: This is television, and we like to root for people, so smart producers choose likeable people.
But when you like people, you care about what happens to them. I liked the Biggest Loser folks all so much that after I got home, I couldn’t stop thinking about where the show would leave them in the long-term.
Would they lose a ton of weight and be able to keep it off?
Or would they succumb to everyday demands of work and family, demands that render exercise and healthy, homemade meals too difficult for so many Americans?
By the end of my research, it seemed like the biggest—and perhaps only—clear proponents of the Biggest Loser’s methods were the people involved in the show. The trainers and the contestants have the very best intentions, but they’re working within a system that puts rapid weight loss for the purposes of entertainment and television ratings ahead of their long-term health and wellbeing.
To return to the question: Will we watch?
Will I watch?
Some people who have gone on The Biggest Loser turned out fine. Lost weight, felt good, didn’t gain it back. Some did not turn out fine. But here’s the thing: All participated by choice. They all know, on some level, the risks. The long odds. The potential for humiliation. The manipulation that happens on these shows in the editing room. The insanity—the ridiculousness—of going on a television show and competing to lose weight faster than the other people.
But they tell themselves they have a shot. They believe they have a shot, because they have to believe they have a shot, because you know what, it just might work. And if it doesn’t work, they don’t know what they’ll do.
They are trying, and you have to give them that.
So yeah. I’ll watch.
Like what you just read? You’ll love our magazine! Go here to subscribe. Don’t miss a thing by downloading Apple News here and following Prevention. Oh, and we’re on Instagram too.
Devin Tomb Devin is Prevention.com’s executive editor and her writing has been nominated for a Hearst Excellence Award three years in a row.