‘Survivor’ Star Malcolm Freberg Reveals His Eating Habits, How the Show Affected His Body

As any Survivor fan knows, the show really isn’t for the weak-willed. Jeff Probst is well-known for talking a big game about his show, but just because he makes big claims doesn’t mean they’re not true. From physical exhaustion, to social maneuvering, to emotional management and literacy, Survivor takes a huge toll on its castaways. 

Malcolm Freberg knows this, and he’s opening up about what it took for him to personally feel prepared for the show — especially when it comes to meals. 

Freberg’s thoughts on preparation

Malcolm Freberg
Malcolm Freberg | Jeffrey Neira/CBS via Getty Images

According to Malcolm Freberg, there are a few different schools of thought when it comes to preparation for Survivor. He explains that some players aim to pack on the pounds before the show, in an effort to preserve fat and energy the way a bear gains weight before hibernating throughout winter. 

Freberg explained to Thrillist, “Jonathan Penner (a three-time player, famous for mutinying in Cook Islands and perpetually sounding like Alan Alda) was all about that fat life before his third season.” 

Freberg explains that Penner talked often about the fact that he’d made an effort to bulk up before the game, knowing that he’d have little to actually eat on the island itself. Freberg went on to say that some players make an effort to get in shape before the show, but he adds that there’s a fatal flaw to this system — your body begins to need massive amounts of calories per day because of its musculature.

Freberg did a mix

Malcolm Freberg and Michaela Bradshaw
Malcolm Freberg and Michaela Bradshaw | Jeffrey Neira/CBS via Getty Images

Freberg revealed that the secret to his preparation was fasting. While Freberg continued to eat unhealthy foods, he’d also make a point of exercising on an empty stomach — essentially while fasted.

Freberg explained to Thrillist, “My meals were crafted from gastronomic delights like DiGiorno and éclairs and sour gummy worms and Taco Bell and whiskey. I kept the calories low and exercised hard, yes, but the quality of stuff going in was about as nutritious as deep-fried butter tastefully garnished with lard.”

He went on to add, “On top of that, I’d do all my workouts first thing in the morning. If you’re worried about your midsection (me) and still want to be in peak physical form come day one (also me), it’s a win-win. Experts say the body burns more fat when doing cardio without fuel in the system, and you’re training yourself to perform while on empty. Pretty and prepared.”

However, no matter how prepared you might be, Survivor does wreak havoc on the human body.

How ‘Survivor’ affects physical health

Jeff Varner, Aubry Bracco and Malcolm Freberg
Jeff Varner, Aubry Bracco and Malcolm Freberg | Robert Voets/CBS via Getty Images

According to Freberg, Survivor had a massive toll on his body, despite his preparations. When it comes to food intake, the show is true to what fans see — castaways are given only the rice on hand and whatever tools they might have to forage or fish. 

“I once heard it works out to about 400 calories of food daily, but even if that’s an exaggeration, you’d better believe that you will be legitimately, literally starving,” said Freberg.

He went on to add, “The muscle mass I lost after nearly 80 days of food deprivation clearly has no intention of ever returning, and to this day I’m stuck with backward eating habits and a too-sensitive digestive system.”

From the sound of it, Freberg prepared hard, but was still hit hard by the reality of the show — and there’s an ‘I told you so’ to any of the Survivor doubters out there. Jeff Probst isn’t pulling any punches.