‘The Biggest Loser’: 1 Contestant Revealed the Horrifying Behind-the-Scenes Treatment: ‘They Created Eating Disorders’

The Biggest Loser has been a controversial addition to the reality TV world for as long as it has been on the air. From the infamous Jillian Michaels’ constant stream of verbal abuse to the series’ general premise, it’s long been decried for being dangerous to its contestants and its audience alike. According to one former contestant, however, the series did less to make people lose weight and more to trigger all-out eating disorders. 

Alison Sweeney on 'The Biggest Loser'
Alison Sweeney on ‘The Biggest Loser’ | Trae Patton/Getty Images

‘The Biggest Loser’ Diet

RELATED: ‘The Biggest Loser’ Once Produced More Successful Relationships Than ‘The Bachelor’ Franchise

The Biggest Loser doesn’t exclusively deal with chronically obese contestants. Yes, many are overweight, but not highly so. Once on the show, however, they compete in various challenges to try to win the coveted title of “Biggest Loser” while hopefully making some life changes, too. However, winning might come with just as much a cost as losing does. 

While the results play out in front of the camera, the medical science behind it doesn’t jive with health and nutrition experts. This was put on full display when several contestants accused the show of playing with their lives for the sake of entertainment. According to NBC’s website, the so-called Biggest Loser diet may look like an attainable goal, but it’s an unsustainable mess bolstered by an overbearing production that values ratings over results. 

What is wrong with the diet?

RELATED: ‘The Biggest Loser’ Is Virtually Casting for Its Next Season. Last Season’s Winner Shares Some Tips for Future Contestants

Healthline, a site that dissects popular health and diet issues, took issue with the show’s methods. Yes, it gets immediate results, but the way bodies respond to them can lead to further complications. While the site acknowledges the results, the strategies producers implement are unattainable, unsustainable, and dangerous in the long-term scope. 

Like so many other reality shows, The Biggest Loser passes itself off as a realistic look at a group of people who go on weight-loss journeys together. However, this is not always the case. Proper diets are less about tricking our bodies into a strenuous lifestyle and more about developing a sustainable plan and lifestyle. According to experts and contestants alike, The Biggest Loser doesn’t do this. 

People cannot live on the show’s low-calorie diets and hours of taxing physical exercise in the long run. While it might help them reach their short-term weight loss goals, it doesn’t build a healthy new lifestyle, either. Like many other reality shows, the show is filled with fiction passed off as fact. In the end, this can hurt anyone involved.

Contestants speak out

Suzanne Mendonca went on the show to try to change her life forever. However, in a 2016 appearance on Fox and Friends, she stated that the show did irreparable damage to her and other contestants. Mendonca claims that while many lose weight on the show, they often gain it back after the cameras, trainers, dialecticians, and drugs are taken away. The results are people whose bodies go into shock rather than adjusting to a healthier lifestyle. 

According to Mendonca, the show never wanted contestants where they actually were. They wanted them at their worst. “They told me if I wanted to be on their reality show, that I would need to gain an extra 20 to 40 pounds,” she told the show. “The bigger the weight, the more numbers you’ll see [drop] on the scale.”

Mendonca believes the show did more harm than good, going as far as to say that it creates one of the biggest problems in the weight-loss world. She noted that “Everybody thinks that the show gave wonderful tools they did not,” she told Fox, ending with saying, “they created eating disorders.”

According to Fox, NBC said in a statement: “The safety and well being of our contestants is and has always been paramount. We prohibit the use of any illegal substances in addition to the many other rules and procedures of the show that are designed to ensure safety.”

In 2016, the New York Times wrote an entire expose on the dangers of the Biggest Loser diet. According to them, people tricked their metabolisms into losing weight, which offered dangers when they left the show and had to lend themselves a healthy lifestyle. Rather than easing off of foods that make them happy, this diet tricked the metabolism into losing weight only to send it into hyperdrive at the slightest change. 

Reality television is oft-criticized for its liberal relationship with its title, but The Biggest Loser may actually do harm to those who are not careful. The show left NBC in 2016 and remained on hiatus until a revival in 2020 on USA Network. Still, the outcry will remain as long as the series continues down its path, and while its day of reckoning hasn’t come, it may with every shoddy strategy they pass off as medically acceptable.