Like millions of Americans, NBC’s The Biggest Loser captivated me for many seasons (until I wearied of reality TV and the same synopsis year after year). The strength and motivation each contestant managed never failed to baffle and inspire me. During more than one episode, I went hard on my mom’s Tony Little Gazelle, sweating right along with go-getters on the show.
And, also like millions of Americans, the show always seemed too good to be true. My No. 1 criticism was always that there’s no way anyone with a job or family can make training their all-day, everyday occupation, which seemed to be the schedule the contestants maintained while on the show.
I don’t know what you all think of the New York Post, but the publication released a story on Sunday that includes some pretty dark allegations against The Biggest Loser, particularly the show’s on-site doctor, Rob Huizenga, aka Dr. H.
Former contestants claim to have witnessed or been told to take pills, eat 800 calories a day instead of the allotted 1,500 and vomit during exercise at least once a day, among other unsafe and unhealthy practices.
Clearly, we can’t take these allegations as fact since it’s still a game of he-said-she-said and no criminal or civil charges have surfaced, but I’ll admit that I’m inclined to believe what the quoted ex-contestants say.
For one thing, as I said, I always thought the wild transformations too good to be true. For another, a few years back, a former contestant had his own reality show to lose the weight he had gained back since appearing on The Biggest Loser – but not on NBC. Even at the time, I found that to be odd. If he was going through the trouble of losing weight again, why not up the drama and ratings by reapplying for The Biggest Loser and drawing more fame for his journey? It makes sense to me that one reason could be that he didn’t want to go back on the show because he, his family, his friends, and probably his medical doctor knew that the weight-loss methods were toxic.
As I read this article, I felt a little ill because, at one time, my mom and I discussed the possibility of her applying to the show. We even went so far as to print out the application and go over it together. The deciding factor to forget the whole thing? The required weeks of no contact with family.
Despite these unnerving claims, The Biggest Loser has done some good across the nation. Numerous businesses and nonprofits in my hometown and others held their own weight-loss competitions, prompting people to adopt a healthier lifestyle of eating right and exercising. The show has given viewers hope that they, too, can conquer what is sometimes a lifelong battle with their weight.
If, in fact, the former contestants quoted in the Post article have endured psychological trauma, screwed-up metabolisms, health issues and disintegrating marriages, then the show has done more than just a disservice; it’s done potentially irreparable damage.
In a situation like this, I don’t know how the contestants could go about bringing legal action against NBC and/or the show’s producers, trainers and doctor, but I think I’d like to see them try. If nothing else, it would prompt further discussion about body positivity and health, and proof that killing yourself to “look good” just isn’t worth it.