- Weight Loss Myths From ‘The Biggest Loser’ You Should Never Believe
- It’s totally safe to take supplements for weight loss
- Extremely low-calorie diets are the right way to go
- Losing weight at an extreme rate doesn’t impact your metabolism
- Rapid weight loss has no psychological effect
- Working out for hours is safe if it’s under a trainer’s guidance
- If you gain weight back after losing it, it’s your fault
- Rapid weight loss has no long-term health consequences
- Lessons from “The Biggest Loser”
- Fast weight loss can result in slow metabolism.
- One Hot Mama: How Alison Sweeney Got in the Best Shape of Her Life
- Alison Sweeney Reveals How She Cheats on Her Diet Without Gaining Weight
- Things You Didn’t Know About Days Of Our Lives Star Alison Sweeney
- Be confident with what you decide.
- It’s OK to ask for help.
- Let go of what no longer serves you.
- The brutal secrets behind ‘The Biggest Loser’
- Should ‘The Biggest Loser’ Reboot Even Bother?: Former ‘Losers’ Who Gained It All Back
- This isn’t really the first reboot of ‘The Biggest Loser’
- ‘Losers’ who gained it back
- Is the new ‘The Biggest Loser’ going to be any different?
Weight Loss Myths From ‘The Biggest Loser’ You Should Never Believe
You’re familiar with The Biggest Loser — one of the most popular reality TV shows centering around rapid weight loss for its overweight participants. The show illustrates their weight-loss journeys from the very beginning. And by the end, you see the smiling face of one winner. The “Biggest Loser” walks away with $250,000, but more importantly, they gleam in the show lights with happiness at their profound weight loss. Sounds fantastic, right? No.
Here’s what the producers don’t show you and the lies you shouldn’t believe.
It’s totally safe to take supplements for weight loss
Weight loss supplements aren’t a miracle in a bottle. | Theevening/iStock/Getty Images
Here’s where the controversy begins. Rob Huizenga, the show’s resident doctor, told the New York Post that no one on the show is allowed to take weight-loss supplements. But several contestants have said trainers on the show, notably Bob Harper, have given them amphetamines or diuretics to aid in losing weight.
If you’re considering taking pills for weight loss, we highly advise you talk to a doctor first, as the risks can outweigh the benefits.
Extremely low-calorie diets are the right way to go
Add veggies and protein to your salad for the perfect hearty dinner. | wmaster890/Getty Images
Reducing your caloric intake is vital in weight loss — this is the truth. But on The Biggest Loser, contestants are encouraged to drop their calories to extreme levels. One 2008 contestant, Joelle Gwynn, alleges the trainers told her to eat just 800 calories a day, but to report she was eating up to 1,500 calories to avoid suspicion, Us Weekly reports. Whether this is true or not, we’ll never know. But we do know that to safely lose weight, you should cut no more than 500 calories a day from your diet.
Losing weight at an extreme rate doesn’t impact your metabolism
Let your body adjust to a new health lifestyle. | Halfpoint/iStock/Getty Images Plus
There’s a reason many of The Biggest Loser contestants have gone on to regain all the weight they lost after the show. It’s not because they suddenly lost their willpower or went back to their old unhealthy ways. A lot of it has to do with their metabolism getting destroyed. A study published in the journal Obesity studied 14 participants from the show and found the 30 week competition had altered their metabolism. And this lead to weight gain in many.
If you go on an extreme diet, you can expect your metabolism to go totally out of whack. Go for gradual weight loss so your body can adjust properly.
Rapid weight loss has no psychological effect
Rapid weight loss can be extremely stressful on your body and mind. | Bowdenimages/iStock/Getty Images
The last person standing on The Biggest Loser might look happy. But post-show reports find the contestants experienced severe psychological consequences. Dr. Yoni Freedhoff calls the show an “atrocity” to the New York Post, partly because of the physical stress on the body, but also because of how the participants were affected mentally. And Season 2 contestant Suzanne Mendonca says the show ruins lives “entally, emotionally, financially — you come back a different person.”
Case in point: If you go to extremes for weight loss, don’t be surprised when your brain backfires on you.
Working out for hours is safe if it’s under a trainer’s guidance
The gym can be your happy place … but you don’t have to stay there all day. | Funduck/iStock/Getty Images Plus
The contestants on the show were all given trainers, but many report they were asked to do punishing workouts for hours at a time. The Guardian reports participants were doing approximately 10 times more exercise than the recommended daily amount. A good weekly goal is to get 150 minutes of moderate exercise in, or 75 minutes or rigorous activity.
If you gain weight back after losing it, it’s your fault
Don’t be hard on yourself when you see some weight gain — it’s normal! | Rostislav Sedlacek/iStock/Getty Images
As we stated before, losing weight has a severe affect on your metabolism. But that aside, there’s also something else to consider. When you lose a significant amount of weight, your body fights as hard as it can to gain it back. Business Insider explains studies suggest those who go through extreme weight loss produce less hormones that make you feel full and more hormones that make you feel hungry. This, combined with a slower metabolism, can lead to the weight creeping back. The Biggest Loser producers reject this notion and suggest it’s the participants’ bad habits that cause them to regain the weight. But research says otherwise.
Rapid weight loss has no long-term health consequences
Picking up healthy habits (like hitting a fitness class after work) will be better in the long run than rapid weight loss plans. | Guido De Bortoli/Getty Images
We know by now why the pounds might creep back on after losing a ton of weight quickly. But rapid weight loss can have even more severe consequences for your health. The New York Post reports Season 2 finalist Mark Yesitis had his gall bladder removed after having severe stomach pain. “I’d never had issues with my gall bladder before the rapid weight loss,” he said. And many other contestants left the show with bad knees and memory problems.
Rapid weight loss isn’t just unhealthy — it’s downright dangerous. If you want to lose a significant amount of weight, always speak to a doctor about the safest way to go about it.
Lessons from “The Biggest Loser”
Fast weight loss can result in slow metabolism.
Published: January, 2018
For people who are extremely overweight, a program of diet and exercise may seem like the healthy way to effect drastic weight loss. But a study of contestants on the popular reality TV show “The Biggest Loser” suggests that’s not true. It turns out, drastic weight loss is associated with a slow metabolism and with low levels of hormones that affect hunger.
About the show
“The Biggest Loser” seemed to offer tremendous hope. People who struggled with extreme obesity (a BMI of 40 or greater) competed to lose weight in a short amount of time. They worked with teams of doctors, nutritionists, and personal trainers. The contestant who experienced the most drastic weight loss by the end of the TV season (just 30 weeks) won the competition.
In a 2016 study published in the journal Obesity, researchers followed 14 contestants during and after one season of the show. Contestants experienced drastic weight loss, losing an average of more than a hundred pounds each. By the final weigh-in, contestants’ leptin levels had plummeted, so that they had very little of the hormone, rendering them constantly hungry. They also had a slow metabolism. In other words, their thyroid function—which governs metabolism and many other bodily functions—had slowed.
Over the following six years, the combined effects of these hormonal changes conspired to make the contestants regain much, if not all, of the weight they’d lost. But the truly shocking part was that their leptin and metabolism levels never rebounded to what they had been before the show. In fact, the more weight a contestant lost, the worse his or her slow metabolism became. This explains why weight regain was inevitable, even though they were eating less food than ever.
In the real world, of course, we’re unlikely to experience such drastic weight loss so quickly, since we don’t have round-the-clock coaching from doctors, nutritionists, and personal trainers. However, the broader lesson still applies—namely, that drastic weight loss in a short amount of time comes with a price. Whether you’re trying to lose 10 pounds or 50, slow and steady is far more effective. Because gradual weight loss doesn’t cause the extreme changes in hunger hormones and the slow metabolism seen with the “Biggest Loser” contestants, you’re less likely to regain weight with the slower route.
However, “The Biggest Loser” also suggests that for those who have severe obesity, the most effective path to drastic weight loss that is sustained may not be diet and exercise, even though those are key elements of a healthy lifestyle and important for maintaining weight loss.
So far, the strongest evidence is for weight-loss surgery, which can change the “set point” of weight and metabolism that your body strives to maintain. But not everyone is a candidate for weight-loss surgery. Talk to your doctor to find out if it’s right for you.
– By Heidi Godman
Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter
For a range of weight-loss solutions that can be tailored to your needs, buy the Harvard Special Health Report Lose Weight and Keep It Off: Smart approaches to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
One Hot Mama: How Alison Sweeney Got in the Best Shape of Her Life
Alison Sweeney knows a thing or two about body confidence. Take this morning, when she stepped out of the shower in front of a dozen crew members on Days of Our Lives. It doesn’t get much more intimidating than that, but such moments are all in a day’s work for Alison. “As an actress, you know these kinds of scenes can come up at any time, so you have to stay in great shape,” she says. She admits, though, that it hasn’t always been easy, which is why she has a strong camaraderie with the contestants on The Biggest Loser, the blockbuster show she’s hosted since 2007.
Alison was just 16 when she started on Days, and for the first decade she struggled publicly with her weight. Hollywood casting agents called her fat. After trying dozens of diets Alison finally began eating healthy foods and doing almost daily exercise sessions. It worked. She went from a size 12 to a 2 or 4, maintaining her weight for the last decade, except when she was pregnant with Ben, now 6, and Megan, now 2. Inspired, Alison wrote a book about motherhood and weight called The Mommy Diet, which is about to come out in paperback. At age 35, she’s fitter than ever.
Over a bowl of oatmeal and skim milk at her favorite cafe, Alison told FITNESS how she does it.
With two shows, a hectic filming schedule, and two kids, what’s your secret for fitting in workouts?
My weeks are always different, so part of my challenge is finding ways to exercise within the chaos. I can’t say I’m going to work out five days a week, because if I’m a day short, I’ll feel like a failure. Instead I made a deal with myself that I would work out every day that I had time to, no excuses. Each night I figure out how I’m going to exercise tomorrow. Work out at home with a Bob Harper or Jillian Michaels DVD? Grab a quick workout at The Biggest Loser ranch? Take my favorite Spinning class at the gym? Or go on a hike with the kids, where I’ll do some squats, lunges, and jumping jacks while they’re playing?
You credit your husband and kids in your weight-loss journey. What did you learn from them?
My husband, Dave, taught me not to tie my self-worth to what I eat. Women attach all these emotions to a plate of food. Men don’t. Whether or not you eat too much sugar has nothing to do with what type of person you are. I also love that my kids will wear themselves out. They’ll stay in the bouncy house until they’re drenched in sweat and I drag them out. Adults too often just sit on the sofa and watch TV.
Do you ever freak out when you have to film a scene in which you’re wearing almost nothing?
I get a case of nerves. But I feel really proud of how hard I’ve worked to look good and be fit and athletic. So today when I had that shower scene I thought, I can be really self-conscious and make everyone uncomfortable. Or I can just go out there and have fun. And that’s what I did.
The weigh-in is a huge moment on Loser. Yet you don’t use a scale. Why not?
When I was younger I let the scale define me. Paying attention to the way my clothes fit, my ability to compete in a class, or whether I’m out of breath getting up a hill I ran easily last week — those all feel like healthier ways for me to stay in check.
If your jeans start feeling tight, what do you do?
I should be eating 1,500 calories a day. So if my clothes don’t fit, I’m aware of exactly what I did to get there: I went to two birthday parties and had cake at both, for instance. My rule is I do not lie to myself about what I’m eating. Instead of beating myself up, though, I look ahead to the next step. So I’ll cut out the extra stuff and exercise more.
Do you give in to cravings when they strike?
From time to time. My biggest weakness is homemade desserts. But I try to keep portions under control. I was at a friend’s birthday and she had these gorgeous cupcakes. I knew that one of them was about 500 calories, so I cut it in fourths and had a piece. That bit was completely satisfying.
You’ve worked out with both Jillian and Bob. Were they tough on you?
When Jillian trained me, she was merciless, but she never failed to compliment me. As women, we tend to downplay our achievements, but Jillian taught me to celebrate them. Bob showed me that I could do more than I thought. One day I’d been on the treadmill for 40 minutes. I was about to get off, when he asked, “When are we running sprints?” He proceeded to put me through this intense circuit. It turned out I ran at a 10 inclination and a speed of 10 miles per hour. It was the toughest thing I’d ever done, but I learned to let go of my preconceived notion of my limits.
If you were a contestant on Loser, how would you do?
I’m an extremely competitive person. I have to believe I’d make it all the way to the end.
Get Alison Sweeney’s At-Home Workout
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, November/December 2011.
Alison Sweeney Reveals How She Cheats on Her Diet Without Gaining Weight
Alison Sweeney is no stranger to the weight-loss struggle. As the former host of The Biggest Loser, she’s witnessed people’s difficulty cutting calories and amping up workouts. However, Sweeney, 40, won’t deprive herself of foods she loves in order to keep her weight in check, and instead uses portion control, regular exercise and a bit of motivation from friends to get the results she wants. Get a sneak peek at how she keeps her diet balanced and health in check (even after sustaining a major injury!) in our exclusive interview—read on!
You May Also Like: How 7 Celebrities Over 40 Maintain Their Best Body Ever
NewBeauty: You recently tore your ACL. Are there any tips you can give to others who also have a physical setback and can’t partake in their usual workouts?
Alison Sweeney: It’s hard. Since tearing my ACL and MCL, I’ve definitely realized how important physical and mental strength is to offset adversity. I’ve had to pay more attention to my nutrition and portion control, as well as really focus on my physical therapy. It’s amazing how hard a workout is when recovering from injury, but the satisfaction is definitely a great reward. For others who are struggling, remind yourself that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and focus on what you can accomplish, not what you can’t.
NB: What’s your best tip for maintaining a healthy lifestyle as a busy working mom?
AS: Preparation is key. I don’t have time every day to wash fruit, chop vegetables or go to the market, so I really focus on having only healthy options readily available, from stocking my refrigerator with great fruits and raw vegetables to having raw nuts in the pantry and planning ahead as much as possible. Salads are always satisfying and easy to prepare, so those are a definite go-to. Also, I’m a big fan of having my family help in the kitchen so it’s part of the meal experience and we all can enjoy the quality time together.
Hello #fitnessfriday ! I had tears in my eyes getting on a bike again for the first time since my accident. I can finally do a full rotation and it felt so good! This #PT is all about celebrating every little victory, every milestone. 🏃🏼♀️💪 #ACL #physicaltherapy with @isportspt #gettingstronger #spinning #enjoyingthejourney #fitstagram #fitness
NB: A well-balanced diet doesn’t mean having to deprive yourself of the foods you love. Do you have any “cheat meals” that you tend to gravitate toward?
AS: I totally agree! I don’t believe in not having something, but I do believe in moderation. For example, I’ll definitely have a burger but it might be without the bun or with a salad instead of fries.
NB: Do you have any tips for how to stay motivated when starting to change your diet and workout routine into a healthier one?
AS: My biggest advice is to find what you love. It’s so much harder to work out and change your diet if your replacements are things you don’t enjoy. Find the foods and workouts that you do like, find ways to make those more a part of your life and get your family or friends on board to be your partner on the journey. Maybe you and a group of friends challenge one another to a sugar-free month or to cut out soda for a month. You’ll find by having the encouragement of others, the process becomes a lot more fun.
NB: You recently partnered with Arm & Hammer. Why did you feel this brand was a good fit for you?
AS: I think of my beauty routine as part of my healthy living and so it’s important to pay close attention to the ingredients in everything I use. That’s why I love Arm & Hammer Truly Radiant Toothpaste—it contains baking soda, which gently whitens, making it safe for my enamel and for everyday use. Plus, it leaves my teeth clean and polished so I have a bright and strong smile.
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Things You Didn’t Know About Days Of Our Lives Star Alison Sweeney
Fans have been able to watch soap star Alison Sweeney on television for quite some time now. She became the host of reality television’s The Biggest Loser in 2007, and of course played Days of Our Lives’ (DOOL) Sami Brady for over two decades. After being gone from Salem for quite some time, Sweeney shocked fans when she recently announced she is set to return to the daytime drama world! She made the announcement on her Instagram account. Even though she’s been around for so long, there’s still so much more to know! Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about Alison Sweeney.
10. She’s A Fan Of DOOL
It would be hard not to be considering she started (officially) on the show in 1993. After two decades, she’s clearly become quite attached to the role, the cast members, and the larger-than-life characters on the show. In an interview with US Weekly, Sweeney revealed that regardless of whether or not she was on Days, she’d still watch it. It’s been reported that before she entered the Sami role, Sweeney had been a fan of the soap.
9. Sweeney’s First Days Stint Wasn’t As Sami
A teenage Sami Brady was SORASed (Soap Opera Aging Syndrome) in 1993, and the land of Salem was forever changed. One thing DOOL fans may not be aware of is the fact that this wasn’t the first role Alison Sweeney played on the show. In fact, Sweeney made her official DOOL debut in 1987, playing the character Adrienne Johnson.
8. She Paid Her Dues
Alison is undoubtedly one of the most popular and successful daytime actresses to grace the soap opera world in a long time. However, while she started on DOOL at the young age of 16, she’s still paid her acting dues along the way. Sweeney entered the land of show biz at the tender age of five, participating in a Kodak commercial. She would move on to do an episode of Tales from the Darkside, have a role on the show Family Man, and even participate in a Disney miniseries along with Barbara Eden called Brand New Life. After many years in the acting business, Sweeney got her big break in 1993 when she was cast as Sami Brady on DOOL!
7. Amazing Race Connection
While we all know Sweeney had a long stint on the reality television show The Biggest Loser, seems that there was a time she fancied being on another reality-based program. In a US Magazine article, Sweeney revealed that at one point in time she and her BFF sent in an audition tape to The Amazing Race. Sadly, she’s never been on the show, but if she was, she would surely knock the competition off its feet.
6. Most Of Her ‘Firsts’ Were Onscreen
In her book, All of the Days of My Life (So Far), Sweeney outlines how many of her firsts were done onscreen due to her budding Hollywood career. She was allowed to get her ears pierced earlier than normal due to an acting job. Sweeney would go on to relay the fact that her first dance and kiss were all done on television for the world to see.
5. Sami Made Love Before She Did
As stated above, Sweeney’s first kiss took place on television … which makes it no surprise that a character she was playing would make love before she got to. After all, Sami Brady was busy causing chaos in Salem and trying to win Austin’s affections, while Sweeney was busy working on her career! Sweeney reveals in her memoir that the first time she acted like she was making love was when she was playing Sami on DOOL.
4. Career Influences
Starting Days at the age of sixteen, Sweeney was surrounded with an incredible and supportive DOOL cast – some of the best of the best when it comes to daytime drama. As such, it is no surprise that Sweeney once listed onscreen dads and mom Wayne Northrop (ex-Roman Brady and Dr. Alex North), Deidre Hall (Marlena Evans), and Drake Hogestyn (John Black) as career influences, saying she has “learned many lessons from them.”
3. Worst Part Of Her Job?
From 2007 to 2015, Sweeney was the host of The Biggest Loser, a primetime reality show that aired on NBC. While she clearly enjoyed the eight-year gig which afforded her many opportunities, there was one part about the show she liked the least. According to a US Magazine article, Sweeney listed the elimination room as a part of the hosting job she did not prefer.
2. Her Industry Crush Is …
Alison Sweeney has worked with a number of good-looking actors during her tenure at Days, so it is surprising that her industry crush is Mike Rowe, known for his work on CNN’s Somebody’s Gotta Do It and Discovery’s Dirty Jobs is the culprit. Wonder if Sami Brady would approve of Sweeney’s industry crush choice?
1. Movie Lover
Everyone has their favorite film, one that you could watch over and over again and still find new things embedded within scenes. In a Us Magazine article, Sweeney revealed two movies that are close to her heart. First, she admitted to owning the Dudley Moore film, Arthur, in every possible format. She also revealed in the article that she can recite every line throughout the movie, The Princess Bride.
Losing weight (and keeping it off) is not an easy task — it’s extremely difficult to overhaul old habits and adopt a completely new lifestyle, especially with everything that life continues to throw your away. But this week, we spoke to someone who not only shed a lot of weight, but is also a thyroid cancer survivor, who uses her experience to inspire others.
You might recognize Erica Lugo from Instagram as @EricaFitLove, but you’ll soon see her in her new gig as one of the trainers on the new season of The Biggest Loser airing tonight, January 28 (9 pm ET/8 pm CT) on USA Network. Lugo was chosen to motivate the contestants not only because she is a bonafide trainer with her own boutique fitness studio in Dayton, Ohio, but because she has lost over 150 pounds herself .
At her heaviest about seven years ago, Lugo had reached 322 pounds, but her son provided a wake up call. “My son was about three and a half at the time, and I couldn’t play with him,” Lugo explains. “I had zero energy, and that aha moment for me was when he asked me to play with him on the floor, and I said ‘no.’ I thought, ‘My god, I don’t even want to get up off the couch to play with my son.’ It made me think… he needed a mother who could keep up.”
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Lugo began her fitness journey by starting with the basics. “I grew up with no idea what health and fitness really was, so I was a little fish in a really big pond,” she says. “All I knew about weight loss was ‘less calories in, more calories out,’ so I downloaded MyFitnessPal and started walking on the treadmill.” With this simple routine, she started to shed some real weight!
When Lugo started losing weight, other things in her life started to shift as well. Her marriage came to an end and she became a single mom. This could easily break a person down, but Lugo was able to use her new found health and vitality to swim through the muddy waters. “I felt like everything was out of control — the divorce, my job — the dynamic of my life was changing, and fitness and getting healthy were the things I could control based on what I ate and how I moved.”
But even after she took control of her health, life dealt Lugo another blow when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in October of 2018. She had her thyroid and surrounding lymph nodes removed and underwent radiation treatment and is now cancer-free, but doctors told her that many patients gain weight after the surgery.
Lugo was determined to make sure she continued to treat her body the right way and has maintained her healthy weight and habits. To this day, she says that her son is still her number one reason for striving as hard as she does. And since her journey started, Lugo has gone on to inspire those at her fitness studio, on Instagram where she offers motivation, tips, and tricks for getting your healthiest body ever, and now on The Biggest Loser.
Read on for Lugo’s tips for anyone starting on a weight loss journey:
Be confident with what you decide.
“There are so many diets, weight loss methods, and exercises out there, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all type of thing,” she says. “Keto and crossfit won’t work for everyone. Everyone has different lifestyles, budgets, and needs, do what works for you. People will criticize you, but you have to be OK with what you decide and follow what feels good to you.”
It’s OK to ask for help.
“Whatever gym you decide to go to or fitness program you enroll in, it’s OK to ask professionals for help,” says Lugo. “A lot of us decide to keep ourselves closed off and not talk about our goals with others, because we don’t want people to think ‘she’s just doing this again and she’s going to fail,’ or we feel shameful. But asking for help has helped me so much on my journey. Even now, I still ask for help. There is no shame in asking questions and being open.”
Let go of what no longer serves you.
“All those shameful feelings and thoughts are really heavy, and you have to make sure you’re strong enough to carry them. And if you’re not, and they’re breaking you down, toss them. They no longer serve you.”
We think this is some pretty amazing life advice whether you are trying to lose weight or not.
The brutal secrets behind ‘The Biggest Loser’
She had always struggled with her weight, but in January 2006, Kai Hibbard was in real trouble: At just 26 years old, her 5-foot-6 frame carried 265 pounds.
Her best friend staged a mini-intervention. “She said, ‘Hey, I love you, but you’re super-fat right now,’ ” Hibbard recalls. The pal encouraged Hibbard to try out for the smash NBC reality show “The Biggest Loser.”
“So I made a videotape,” Hibbard says, “and the next thing I know, I’m on a reality TV show.”
Hibbard had never seen “The Biggest Loser.” She had no idea what she was in for.
“The whole f- -king show,” she says today, “is a fat-shaming disaster that I’m embarrassed to have participated in.”
Since its premiere in 2004, “The Biggest Loser” — which pits obese contestants against one another in a race to lose the most weight — has been one of the most popular reality shows of all time.
The 16th-season finale will air live on Jan. 29. Average weekly viewership is 7 million people, and about 200,000 people audition per season.
The show rakes in about $100 million annually in ad sales, with ancillary products such as cookbooks, DVDs, protein powder, clothing, video games and branded weight-loss camps bringing in tens of millions of dollars more per year.
Kai HibbardGetty Images
In a country where two-thirds of the population is overweight or obese, “The Biggest Loser” has multifaceted appeal: It’s aspirational and grotesque, punitive and redemptive — skinny or fat, it’s got something for you. It’s not uncommon to see contestants worked out to the point of vomiting or collapsing from exhaustion. Contestants, collegially and poignantly, refer to one another as “losers.”
“You just think you’re so lucky to be there,” Hibbard says, “that you don’t think to question or complain about anything.”
Contestants are made to sign contracts giving away rights to their own story lines and forbidding them to speak badly about the show.
Once selected, Hibbard was flown to LA. When she got to her hotel, she was greeted by a production assistant, who checked her in and took away her key card. When not filming, she was to stay in her room at all times.
“The hotel will report to them if you leave your room,” Hibbard says. “They assume you’re going to talk to other contestants.”
Another competitor, who spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity, says that when she first checked in, a production assistant also took her cellphone and laptop for 24 hours. She suspects her computer was bugged.
Kai Hibbard during the live finale of “The Biggest Loser” Season 3.Getty Images
“The camera light on my MacBook would sometimes come on when I hadn’t checked in,” she says. “It was like Big Brother was always watching you.” The sequestration lasts five days.
After an initial winnowing process, 14 of 50 finalists are taken to “the ranch,” where they live, work out and suffer in seclusion. (The remaining 36 are sent home to lose weight on their own, and return later in the season.)
Those who remain, Hibbard says, are not allowed to call home. “You might give away show secrets,” she says. After six weeks, contestants get to make a five-minute call, monitored by production.
“I know that one of the contestants’ children became very ill and was in the ICU,” Hibbard says. “He was allowed to talk to his family — but he didn’t want to leave, because the show would have been done with him.”
Once at the ranch, contestants are given a medical exam, then start working out immediately, for dangerous lengths of time — from five to eight hours straight.
“There was no easing into it,” Hibbard says. “That doesn’t make for good TV. My feet were bleeding through my shoes for the first three weeks.”
“My first workout was four hours long,” says the other contestant. She came on the show a few years ago at more than 300 pounds. On her first day, she was put through this regimen:
- Body-weight work
- Kettle bells
- Cool-down on treadmill
- Interval training
- Outside work with tires
At one point, she collapsed. “I thought I was going to die,” she says. “I couldn’t take any more.”
Her trainer yelled, “Get up!,” then made a comment about a sick and overweight relative.
“I got up,” she says. “You’re just in shock. Your body’s in shock. All the contestants would say to each other, ‘What the f- -k just happened?’ ”
The trainers, she says, took satisfaction in bringing their charges to physical and mental collapse. “They’d get a sick pleasure out of it,” she says. “They’d say, ‘It’s because you’re fat. Look at all the fat you have on you.’ And that was our fault, so this was our punishment.”
Hibbard had the same experience. “They would say things to contestants like, ‘You’re going die before your children grow up.’ ‘You’re going to die, just like your mother.’ ‘We’ve picked out your fat-person coffin’ — that was in a text message. One production assistant told a contestant to take up smoking because it would cut her appetite in half.”
Meanwhile, their calories were severely restricted. The recommended daily intake for a person of average height and weight is 1,200 to 1,600 calories per day. The contestants were ingesting far less than 1,000 per day.
Hibbard says the bulk of food on her season was provided by sponsors and had little to no nutritional value.
Kai Hibbard during the live finale of “The Biggest Loser” Season 3.Getty Images
“Your grocery list is approved by your trainer,” she says. “My season had a lot of Franken-foods: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray, Kraft fat-free cheese, Rockstar Energy Drinks, Jell-O.”
At one point, Hibbard says, production did bloodwork on all the contestants, and the show’s doctor prescribed electrolyte drinks. “And the trainer said, ‘Don’t drink that — it’ll put weight on you. You’ll lose your last chance to save your life.’ ”
Such extreme, daily workouts and calorie restriction result in steep weight losses — up to 30 pounds lost in one week.
“Safe weight loss is one to two pounds per week, and most people find that hard,” says Lynn Darby, a professor of exercise science at Bowling Green State University. “If you reduce your calories to less than 800 to 1,000 a day, your metabolism will shut down. Add five to eight hours of exercise a day — that’s like running a marathon, in poor shape, five days a week. I’m surprised that no one’s really been injured on the show.”
In fact, contestants have been seriously injured, but it’s not often shown. The first-ever “Biggest Loser,” Ryan Benson, went from 330 pounds to 208 — but after the show, he said, he was so malnourished that he was urinating blood. “That’s a sign of kidney damage, if not failure,” Darby says. Benson later gained back all the weight and was disowned by the show.
In 2009, two contestants were hospitalized — one via airlift. And 2014’s Biggest Loser, Rachel Frederickson, became the first winner to generate concern that she had lost too much weight, dropping 155 pounds in months. She appeared on the cover of People with the headline “Too Thin, Too Fast?” Frederickson (5 feet 4, 105 pounds) admitted to working out four times a day, and within one month of the finale had gained back 20 pounds.
Rachel Frederickson dropped 155 pounds — making her 105 pounds at the end of “The Biggest Loser.”Getty Images
“Just calorie restriction in and of itself has to be supervised,” Darby says. “I mean, people die. Then add that exercise load on top of it. The joints of someone who has never exercised absorbing the force of 300 pounds of jumping or bouncing? It’s just not safe.”
Frederickson at “The Biggest Loser” finale.AP
Hibbard says she and other contestants sustained major physical damage.
“One contestant had a torn calf muscle and bursitis in her knees,” Hibbard says. “The doctor told her, ‘You need to rest.’ She said, ‘Production told me I can’t rest.’ At one point after that, production ordered her to run, and she said, ‘I can’t.’ She was seriously injured. But they edited her to make her look lazy and bitchy and combative.”
Hibbard’s own health declined dramatically. “My hair was falling out,” she says. “My period stopped. I was only sleeping three hours a night.” Hibbard says that to this day, her period is irregular, her hair still falls out, and her knees “sound like Saran Wrap” every time she goes up and down stairs. “My thyroid, which I never had problems with, is now crap,” she says.
“One of the other ‘losers’ and I started taking showers together, because we couldn’t lift our arms over our heads,” says the other contestant. “We’d duck down so we could shampoo each other.”
The trainers, she says, were unmoved. “They’d say stuff like, ‘Pain is just weakness leaving the body.’ ”
This contestant says she and most of her castmates came away with bad knees. “There was one guy whose back was so bad, he could only exercise in the swimming pool. By the end of the show, I was running on 400 calories and eight- to nine-hour workouts per day. Someone asked me where I was born, and I couldn’t remember. My short-term memory still sucks.”
So why do so many contestants stick with the show?
“You’re brainwashed to believe that you’re super-lucky to be there,” Hibbard says. One doctor told a contestant she was exhibiting signs of Stockholm syndrome, and Hibbard herself fell prey to it.
“I was thinking, ‘Dear God, don’t let anybody down. You will appear ungrateful if you don’t lose more weight before the season finale.’ ”
The other contestant had a similar response. Despite “the harassment and the bullying, I wanted to please them,” she says. She lost seven pounds in one week and apologized. “I’d lost 12 pounds the week before,” she says.
For Hibbard, the low point came when she and her fellow “losers” were brought to a racetrack, where they were housed in individual horse stalls. When a bell went off, they had to run neck-and-neck like animals, picking up sacks filled with their lost weight on the way.
“I walked,” she says. It was her minor form of protest. “They edited it to look like I was lazy,” she says, “but I wasn’t participating because it was humiliating.”
When Hibbard got home, her best friend and boyfriend took her straight to the doctor. “She said I had such severe shin splints that she didn’t know how I was still walking,” Hibbard says.
The show’s most famous trainer, Jillian Michaels, quit “The Biggest Loser” for the third time in June 2014, with People magazine reporting she was “deeply concerned” about the show’s “poor care of the contestants.”
In a statement to The Post, NBC said only: “Our contestants are closely monitored and medically supervised. The consistent ‘Biggest Loser’ health transformations of over 300 contestants through 16 seasons of the program speak for themselves.”
Expert Darby doesn’t buy it. “With most weight-loss programs, people gain at least half of the weight back,” she says. “And the people who are most successful in our studies are the ones who make small changes over the long term — so I can’t imagine that anyone on ‘The Biggest Loser’ has weight loss that’s sustainable.”
Hibbard, who lost 121 pounds to end up at 144, put weight back on, but won’t say how much. Yet she feels a responsibility as someone once held up as false inspiration.
“If I’m going to walk around collecting accolades, I also have a responsibility ,” she says. “There’s a moral and ethical question here when you take people who are morbidly obese and work them out to the point where they vomit, all because it makes for good TV.”
Check out these actors who have become fantastically fit:
Should ‘The Biggest Loser’ Reboot Even Bother?: Former ‘Losers’ Who Gained It All Back
A new, improved version of The Biggest Loser premieres on USA Network next month on Jan. 28. The original program ended its run on NBC in 2016.
Contestants from Season 17 of NBC’s ‘The Biggest Loser’ | Tyler Golden/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images
The question, however, is why? Why bring back this show that has only temporarily helped contestants fix the problem of obesity and the health problems associated with it? It’s well-documented now that a good majority of the contestants on The Biggest Loser gained back all the weight they’d lost.
Is a new version going to change things? Find out what’s going to be different about the show’s reboot.
This isn’t really the first reboot of ‘The Biggest Loser’
The Biggest Loser went off the air in 2016. That same year, The New York Times published findings by the journal Obesity, which kept track of 14 contestants before and after a season of the show. The study found that just one of the fourteen weighed less than when they had started the show. All the others had gained the weight – and more- back.
A year after the show’s ending and the published study, executive producer JD Roth created and produced The Big Fat Truth on Z Living network. The show featured Biggest Loser former contestants who had regained and sought to help these men and women understand the behaviors and patterns that had led them to fail at weight loss.
‘The Biggest Loser’ producer JD Roth with former show trainer Jillian Michaels
Roth said on the program that year, “How do you get lucky enough to get a lottery ticket to be on The Biggest Loser, lose all the weight, end up on the cover of People magazine, and then gain it all back? So is it your metabolism? Or is it your choices? . . .This series is proof that the mind is the gateway to transforming the body.”
It’s unknown if the contestants from this program saw lasting change or not. Hopefully, being on The Big Fat Truth helped them create new behaviors leading to positive consistency in their health.
‘Losers’ who gained it back
Ryan Benson won the first season of the popular weight loss show on NBC, gained back so much he returned to his pre-Biggest Loser weight, and then appeared on The Big Fat Truth.
“In my mind, I just thought ‘I’ve been training so hard I want to eat something I craved for a few months — a burger, fries, some ribs’,” Benson told Business Insider in 2017. “That was one of the things that propelled me to the finish line. I thought, ‘when I’m done I’m going to get this.’ It was a reward.”
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Scrubs are cool!!! #NIH #metabolism
Season 8 contestant on ‘The Biggest Loser’ Danny Cahill participating in a study with the National Institutes of Health
Danny Cahill, winner of Season 8, had one of the highest weight loss successes, incredibly losing over 200 pounds in 30 weeks. As most recently reported, Cahill had regained 100 pounds. He spoke with ABC News in 2016 about the shame he felt when he gained back some of his weight and his sense of validation at the Obesity journal study.
“When you gain weight back, even when you’re in school it’s shameful,” said Cahill. “. . . in front of America, . . . it’s 10 times as shameful. When we found we were like, ‘Okay, some of it is not our fault.’ It is our responsibility but some of it has to do with this science.”
Is the new ‘The Biggest Loser’ going to be any different?
It will remain to be seen if the reboot of the show will produce different, lasting results in contestants who are placing their hope in this public effort. Bob Harper, former Biggest Loser trainer and now host of the upcoming reboot, is confident that this time around, the show will more thoughtfully be going to the root of contestants’ issues with food and weight.
He told People in December 2019 that the new version of the show is “not about getting skinny, it’s about getting healthy. You see people getting off medication, reversing their type 2 diabetes, lowering their blood pressure.”
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Everyone keeps asking me who the new trainers are for the reboot of @biggestloser WELL… here you go! Excited to be working with Steve & Erica!!
Harper is especially excited about a major change to the revamped show: the aftercare. Whether they win or lose, each contestant gets a free membership to Planet Fitness, visits with a nutritionist, and group support in their hometown. These really are huge changes that may help contestants maintain their weight loss.
“The hardest part is keeping it off,” he explained. “This is going to be something that they have to work on for the rest of their life, and I wanted to make sure that they have the aftercare and the support.”
Catch ‘The Biggest Loser’ premiere Jan. 28 on USA Network.
Read more: ‘The Biggest Loser’ Reboot: Meet the New Trainers – One of Them Dropped 160 Pounds