The Biggest Loser, the hit reality show on which contestants compete to see who can lose the most weight, has been going up against a lot of controversy as of late involving everything from illegal drugs to diet pills. Just hours ago, it was reported by Fortune that some ex-contestants of the show have come out and demanded it be cancelled, portraying the show in a worse light than ever and saying that The Biggest Loser actively makes contestants feel worse about their bodies.
The claims were spurred on by a government-backed study published by the New York Times several weeks ago in which most Biggest Loser contestants were found to gain back the weight lost on the show (or even more) within a few years because of the show’s overly drastic methods of forced weight loss had permanently damaged the contestants’ metabolisms.
“To continue this body-shaming physically and psychologically damaging monstrosity with future contestants in light of this current study and others is irresponsible and unconscionable,” said Season 3 contestant Kai Hibbard.
Suzanne Mendonca, a contestant from The Biggest Loser‘s second season, told FOX that showrunners had attempted to control who remained on the show and who got kicked off for failing to lose enough weight by ordering the Biggest Loser contestants to engage in often dangerous and illegal weight loss practices.
For instance, Mendonca said, Biggest Loser crew members would force the overweight contestants to eat baking soda, which would prevent sweating, thereby retaining water weight and making the contestants weigh more if they wanted to make a certain contestant get booted off the show.
The Biggest Loser cast members who were “supposed” to stay on the show were given diet pills and sometimes even banned drugs that would help shed the pounds. They were also allegedly encouraged to engage in harmful weight loss activities like vomiting up meals on command.
And physical damage is not the only negative impact The Biggest Loser has allegedly had on its contestants, as psychological trauma is a very real side effect of the show as well.
“The Biggest Loser doesn’t save lives; it ruins lives.” Mendonca told The New York Post.
“Mentally, emotionally, financially — you come back a different person. Half the people from my season have gotten divorced. The ripple effect isn’t just weeks or months. It’s years.”
She continued that, when she applied to be on the show in the first place, she had been told that she was “not fat enough” and had to gain a considerable amount of weight before coming on The Biggest Loser so she could lose more on the show.
The publication notes that almost every Biggest Loser contestant that has come forth to trash-talk the show — and there are a lot of them — claims that they have experienced the same post-traumatic stress, and it is likely a reason the damage done by The Biggest Loser is so hard to come back from.
“They manipulate you,” said another contestant, Lezlye Donahue of The Biggest Loser Season 4.
Lezlye lived in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, she said, and she was left in debt and vulnerable. One of the doctors working for The Biggest Loser had found her at the time and had allegedly taken advantage of her vulnerable and confused state to scare her into joining the show by explaining how pressing her obesity issues were; Donahue had gained 1115 pounds after Katrina.
The show scarred her with cruel and unusual treatment, both physical and psychological in nature, and after leaving The Biggest Loser she was even more depressed than she had been before, she claimed. She lost her job, gained back all the weight she had lost, and accrued thousands of dollars in medical debt resulting from what she had gone through on the show.
“It is the worst thing to happen to sensible weight loss, ever,” said Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity specialist, in reference to The Biggest Loser.
“Nobody should be able to get away with this stuff,” said Mendonca.
“It should’ve been canceled ten years ago.”
[Photo via Pete Thomas/Flickr]