the biggest loser

If you’re anything like us, nights home alone mean enjoying a casual amount of sauv blanc and crying through binge-watching "The Biggest Loser." As viewers, we are led to believe that we are watching people change their lives for the better. The coaches are tough and sometimes offensive, but since the contestants don’t seem to squawk about it, we’ve always assumed it is just part of the deal. That is until a few brave ex-contestants started speaking out about the truth behind "The Biggest Loser," and trainer Jillian Michaels quit the show out of concern for the contestants’ wellbeing (via New York Post).

We digress — "The Biggest Loser" is a reality TV show that takes place on "the ranch." Obese contestants are pitted against one and other in a competition to see who can lose the most weight throughout the course of filming. Since its premiere in 2004, "The Biggest Loser" has helped countless people drop unwanted poundage, but concerns over the safety of the contestants, the integrity of the environment, and the truth behind what it takes to maintain sustainable weight loss have mounted. Many of the behind-the-scenes things that we didn’t know about "The Biggest Loser" are being brought to light before our eyes. Some of these little-known facts are downright brutal.

There is a lot of fat-shaming

Sign reading Stop Body Shaming

We fully endorse people wanting to lose weight for health reasons, but it is never okay to fat-shame anyone, period. Unfortunately, the culture on the set of "The Biggest Loser," and even occasionally on camera, has left many contestants feeling ashamed of their weight (via New York Post). Furthermore, it seems that the producers can skew the storyline to fill a generic "fat and lazy" trope whenever they so choose. But according to Kai Hibbard, a past contestant on the show, the general vibe is more about shaming the contestants for being fat than celebrating their successes.

Many of the trainers have fallen under harsh criticism for their aggressive verbiage and downright mean-spirited means of "motivation" (per Screen Rant). According to Hibbard, some of the trainers would endeavor to ignite a fear of death in them so they would keep working out. In addition to trainers allegedly telling contestants to vomit to "lose calories," one account states that the contestants had to shower together without any curtains.

Some contestants walk away with eating disorders

sad girl and scale

Living under extreme conditions is likely to change your habits and your thinking. Unfortunately, the rigid and strict environment at The Biggest Loser ranch has led to more than a few contestants walking away with extreme eating disorders (via Screen Rant). It’s no wonder, really. They arrive likely feeling uncomfortable in their bodies and are told that if they do X, Y, and Z, they will win the competition. So, the habits enacted in order to win end up getting transferred into real-life scenarios and can cause harm.

Ex-contestant Ryan Benson admitted publicly that he starved himself and avoided drinking water in order to bolster his weigh-ins. This why the competitive nature of the show has been under such controversy. It is healthy for obese people to lose weight, but not by means of ignoring their most basic needs.

Kai Hibbard lost 118 pounds on the show, and after living under such extreme conditions, she says she did not realize it how it would affect her day-to-day experiences post-show (via ABC News). Experts attribute the praise, adulation, and attention paid to contestants as one factor that can contribute to disordered eating. Ultimately, "The Biggest Loser" does not endorse healthy or sustainable weight loss, which can spell disaster for many contestants as they re-assimilate into the real world.

skinny woman in too-big pants
fork wrapped in a measuring tape
Woman bound to scale with measuring tape
weight and weigh-in concept