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The Truth Behind “The Biggest Loser Reality Show” Which Has Never Been Told

July 9th, 2008 · 54 Comments ·


The Biggest Loser is one of American reality shows which I happened to watch couple of episodes last year. With the offer of $250,000 grand prize and dramatic weight loss stories, the show is quite popular in US. I believe that the show is actually in the fourth or fifth season now with more than 100,000 applicants wanting to be part of the show.

I do not deny that the show is inspiring, but to lose 10 to 25 pounds within a week may not be safe. This figure is definitely much different from the 3-pound a week recommended by many health professionals.

In the first season, the winner, Ryan Benson has lost by 122 pounds from 330 pounds to 208 pounds over a period of 10-week. No joke, he lost 37% of his original weight and 18% of his body fat.


When I found out what Ryan Benson said, I almost fell down from my chair learning the way he has used just to win the competition.

“I wanted to win so bad that the last ten days before the final weigh-in I didn’t eat one piece of solid food! If you’ve heard of “The Master Cleanse” that’s what I did. It is basically drinking lemonade made with water, fresh squeezed lemon juice, pure maple syrup, and cayenne pepper. The rules of the show said we couldn’t use any weight-loss drugs, well I didn’t take any drugs, I just starved myself!

Twenty-four hours before the final weigh-in I stopped putting ANYTHING in my body, liquid or solid, then I started using some old high school wrestling tricks. I wore a rubber suit while jogging on the treadmill, and then spent a lot of time in the steam room. In the final 24 hours I probably dropped 10-13 lbs in just pure water weight. By the time of the final weigh-in I was peeing blood.”

Yeah, you read it right. Peeing in blood. The show supposed to impose penalties on anyone for being dehydrated “intentionally”, but the producer has yet to issue any violations.

After the show has ended, Ryan admitted about his depression he felt after falling back into his old eating habits. Also, he mentioned that as soon as the show was over, he regained 32 pounds in 5 days simply by drinking water.


What I am trying to highlight is that weight can be affected by hydration, rather than actual body fat loss. The other issue worth mentioning is overexercising. The participants of the show were exercising with trainers between 4 to 5 hours a day. Before they joined the show, they hardly did any exercise. By exercising so many hours right after participating the show is actually not safe at all. I just worry about the high risk for injuries that could make these participants stopping exercise altogether after the show.

In short, losing 10 to 25 pounds a week is unrealistic and impossible to maintain in normal life. A gradual approach with sustainable lifestyle changes will definitely be a better choice.

So, don’t get me wrong.  The Biggest Loser is still a good reality show.  In fact, I have written another article – Why You Should Also Watch The Biggest Loser Reality TV ShowMust read.

By the way, the trainers, both Jillian Michael and Bob Harper are very fit in the show!
For those who wish to find out more about the workout in the reality show – The Biggest Loser, check out the DVD from Amazon.




Category: Weight Loss

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54 responses so far ↓
  • Daniel Lee // Jul 9, 2008 at 6:41 AM

    Yikes, peeing blood? I’d rather be fat!

  • simon // Jul 9, 2008 at 10:27 AM

    i watched the last few episodes of that season. its a bit unfair the way the calculate the score, because some contestants just have more weight to lose.

  • foongpc // Jul 10, 2008 at 11:38 AM

    yes, i disagree with the weight loss method used. It’s not safe. But that’s reality TV – they only show what viewers like to watch and don’t reveal the truth or behind the scenes. However, I do find myself enjoying the show : )

  • Angie Tan // Jul 12, 2008 at 5:11 PM

    omg… that’s absolutely drastic!!!

    although the PTs out there are pushing for people to lose weight fast, please do insist with them that you want to lose weight the healthy and right manner.

    i pushed myself too hard with the PT that i was with that i injured myself so badly that it took me 1 month to recover… what’s the point of losing all that weight fast, only to gain more health problems and getting depressed over that?

  • savlo // Aug 12, 2008 at 9:29 AM

    I have to digress.

    What Ryan did was out of desperation to win the contest and the extreme measures in exercising was deployed for extreme circumstances.

    Like in Season 5, some of them can’t even qualify for health insurance unless they drop the pounds and people makes tonnes of excuses for not exercising.

    It’s a contest and they agreed to the methods of determining the winner. Besides, in season 5, a female contestant won. so no excuse if they join the show and make frivolous claims.

    On overexercising, they have physicians on standby and measures are taken to ensure the contestants are fine.

  • asithi // Oct 28, 2008 at 11:34 PM

    We has a Biggest Loser contest in our office. The winner gets a $250 prize. One of the guys did what Ryan did with the water weight. It turn into fiasco with one camp claiming that the guy was right and another camp clamoring for disqualification. And to make matters worst, the guy also has side bets with other co-workers for a few hundred dollars that he would be the winner. Needless to say, we can never have another weight loss contest at work again.

  • PW // Nov 3, 2008 at 4:28 AM

    Nice article and I agree with you; more people need to be informed that winning the weight loss war is not about numbers alone.

    But I would change the title of your article; as it is now it reads “The Truth Behind ‘The Biggest Loser Reality Show’ Which Never Being Told”, which is grammatically incorrect. It should read “The Truth Behind ‘The Biggest Loser Reality Show’ Which Has Never Being Told”

  • ooga // Nov 3, 2008 at 2:43 PM

    PW — your correction of the article title isn’t any better. It should read “The Truth Behind ‘The Biggest Loser Reality Show’ Which Has Never Been Told”.


  • PW // Nov 3, 2008 at 3:21 PM

    Ooga, you are right, of course. I noticed that right after I submitted it!


  • Johnny // Nov 7, 2008 at 3:28 AM

    I’m not sure how much has actually changed… But in the last two season, there has been less of the “double-digit weight loss” for multiple weeks in a row. Also the show in general and the trainers specifically have put much more stress on life-style changes, calorie regulation, and proper eating & exercise habits.

  • Mathew // Dec 3, 2008 at 4:17 AM

    I have to agree that, while watching the show, I have wondered many times why they never mention the incredible weekly loses of the contestants as unrealistic goals for any “normal” person. . . but it makes for good TV ;)

  • Rhonda // Dec 11, 2008 at 7:22 AM

    I had heard that Ryan has regained ALL of that weight!! Wow; to go through all that and regain it – I could see putting on some of it but not all. But that’s what Bob the trainer said on the recent Biggest Loser. Interesting reading what he (Ryan) went through in those last few weeks before the weigh in. But hey, he still has that money to play with…

    I think it would be great if they had a Biggest Loser showing all of the past winners and how the look now. That would be awesome to see.

    But yeah the whole show is drastic, some of it melodramatic and sort of phony, but I do enjoy it and make it a point to watch every single week!

  • Michelle // Dec 14, 2008 at 6:22 AM

    I love BL! I watch every week and blog about everything that happens on the show and about the contestants. I am a BL fanatic! :0)lol
    I am glad to see that they are doing more about focusing on lifestyle changes and proper nutrition. which are important for being able to keep the weight off

  • Bill // Dec 15, 2008 at 1:19 PM

    The person who wrote this, is fat themselves. Losing weight is a lot healthier than keeping on the weight. The guy pissed blood because of a retarded diet he was on.

    This article is just giving fat people more reasons not to attempt to lose weight. Because you’re making them think losing weight is unhealthy.


  • Michelle // Dec 16, 2008 at 4:25 AM

    I agree with Rhonda. How about a reunion show to help fill in those dreaded weeks between seasons when BL fanatics like me are BL deprived and have to go though withdrawals? :0)lol

    As for Bill’s comment? I don’t think that this blog is meant to scare people into NOT losing weight but more to get them to realize that they need to do it the right way.
    Crazy diets are not a healthy way to lose the weight, they can damage your body and you are much more likely to gain the weight back if you are not learning, and utilizing that knowledge, about proper nutrition and dealing with WHY you gained the weight in the first place

  • Emily // Dec 23, 2008 at 1:22 AM

    That’s to bad. He went on that show for NOTHING, nothing at all. He should’nt of went on the show if he was going to gain it back why go on the show? He just has to eat healthy food, and i guess start working out again. I would feel bad if i was him because you went through all that hard work, and it didnt pay off.

  • Emily // Dec 23, 2008 at 1:25 AM

    I agree with Rhonda and Michelle. :)

  • Nikki // Jan 2, 2009 at 4:55 PM

    Well Im glad I read this article because I was really interested in going on the show but if I have to do all that hard work and then worry about regaining it then nevermind. I can do bad all by myself.

    P.S. Bill if you’re on here calling people fatty what is your skinny @$$ doing chatting about this topic. We could say you have no life and enjoy bloggin about BS that doesn’t pertain to you; but we won’t say that.

  • Beth // Jan 8, 2009 at 11:08 AM

    I agree with Rhonda and Michelle and Emily. I would love to see the biggest losers from previous shows on a reunion show!!!

  • Michelle // Jan 9, 2009 at 4:57 AM

    Maybe if we all contact BL and ask them to do a reunion show over the summer? This would give us something to look forward to when we will be BL deprived :0) It would be interesting to see who is still thin and who has gained the weight back.

  • Terry Byrd // Jan 15, 2009 at 5:35 AM

    I would really like to be on your show and not just for the money i’m 42 years young and i want to get back to the weight i had when i was in high school i was a size 7 and now i’m a size 20 and i am very committed with this i just need a chance to do this please help me.

  • Michelle // Jan 15, 2009 at 9:22 AM

    I LOVE BL and while some might not agree with their methods they DO get results. The important thing to long lasting results is to change the way that we feel about food. Most overweight people are addicted to food or have very bad eating habits. For anyone that wants to lose weight and can’t, & can’t get on the show, please read my free report and try it.
    Losing weight need not be an ordeal nor does it need to put your health at risk.
    Good luck :0)

  • Dale // Mar 7, 2009 at 2:03 AM

    I understand that dropping weight that fast can be a bad thing but staying the size that these folks are is worse. I myself need to drop some weight but some of these people are in a dangerous situation with the weight they are carrying now. As far as keeping the weight off; Someone said earlier that it is a matter of changing how you think about food and it is but it is even more. It is changing the whole lifestyle and not allowing yourself to fall back into the same old habits that got you where you were. It is not easy but it can be done.

  • Jan // May 12, 2009 at 5:09 PM

    I went through a period in my life where I lost alot of weight in a short period of time and then I put all of it right back on – and MORE. The fact is slow and steady wins the race. I have now lost in total 75 pounds in a healthy way. I don’t spend more than one hour in the gym, I walk alot rather than take the bus and I watch my carbs. I steadily lose 2-4 pounds per week without starving myself or *over exercising*. I am not surprised that former biggest loser contestants have put back on the weight they lost through blood sweat and tears. With the knowledge of proper fitness I have now, I can spot the flawed approach to weight loss on this show, an approach which will ultimately lead to a contestant’s inability to keep the weight off when they’re back home and have to deal with jobs, work and family.

  • Michelle // May 13, 2009 at 2:31 AM

    I have to say that I do not agree with the previous comment. Yes, some of the former Biggest Loser contestants may have gained back the weight but that doesn’t mean that Biggest Loser’s approach is flawed.
    Look how many are still thin? I am in touch with many of the former contestants and all of the ones that I am in contact with are still thin.
    Just in last weeks rpisode we saw several former contestants that are still thin.

  • Jan // May 13, 2009 at 8:33 AM

    I read your blog Michelle and of course, food can be seen as just another addiction to cope with emotional issues. I have done this since I was once very very overweight. Unleashing newbie unfit contestants in a gym unsupervised resulting in one contestant collapsing , insisting contestants train inspite of obvious pain and injuries and I have to ask: Do the trainers pace the exercise programme to meet the needs of the contestants? Someone who is grossly overweight and used to a sedentary lifestyle should be gradually introduced to exercises that increase in difficulty over time and it doesn’t help having a trainer screaming in your face for the benefit of a prurient audience, some of whom are probably just interested in seeing fatties being run through the mill.

    Another thing is the obsession with numbers. I know it’s a competition and the whole point is for someone to win but it should not be about how much weight you lose per week but how you feel. Can you run up a flight of stairs fairly comfortably without feeling winded? Do you feel you have more energy during the day? Do you find you sleep better or your cravings for certain foods decreasing? Are your clothes fitting you better or just falling off of you? I remember a period where I stayed the same weight for two weeks but lost 6 inches around my waist, clearly I was toning up and gaining muscle, however If I were taking part in the biggest loser competition I would have probably been eliminated. In the UK competition recently, one of the hardest working contestants lost “only a pound” in a week and was up for elimination and felt she failed – even though she worked her butt off…I just find that wrong….

    It’s fantastic some contestants have kept the weight off! It’s a testament to their will and determination which is ultimately the key to any weight loss goal. It’s doesn’t change my view that the show’s depiction of the weight loss struggle of contestants is often disturbing and infuriating.

  • sherrell // May 15, 2009 at 9:07 AM

    Hello my name is sherrell i have never been on a blog before but i
    have read all of what you all were saying and i am one of the bigger people i am 5ft.3in and i wiegh 237 i am very over wieght and depressed and have health problems now because of it and its very discouraging when u work out and dont see what you want to see in the mirror cause when i look all i can say is i have a pretty face and say uuh and disgusted with my body

  • Jan // May 16, 2009 at 7:50 PM

    hey Sherrell,

    Everyday is a new day. Forget the past. Learn to cherish who you are RIGHT NOW because if you have deep seated self esteem issues no amount of weight loss will suddenly make the world a brighter beautiful place. See yourself as beautiful at the weight you are now, and therefore recognize the need to honour your body by feeding it right and treating it with respect.

    You say you work out and aren’t seeing the results. Any kind of physical activity ought to help you so the problem is probably nutritional. Remember exercise can only do so much. It helps aid metabolism, blood circulation, flexibility and cardiovascular health however if your diet is wrong you won’t see results. Watch your carbs. You don’t have to go to the extreme like the Atkins diet although it does wonders to jumpstart weight loss. However you can restrict your carbs for the time being by eliminating refined flours and sugars from your diet. Drink lots of water. Lean Meats, Fish, Vegetables, Berries and Nuts I would recommend in the beginning. Invest in a good fish oil supplement – Nature’s Answer Liquid 3 omega oil is pretty good – and a decent multi vitamin.

    I can give you some advice re training but you say you work out. What do you do? How often do you work out per week? Have you joined a gym?

  • Melvin Crane // Jul 8, 2009 at 3:06 PM

    The Biggest Loser is exploiTV at it’s worst. The contestants are used with as much concern for their welfare as factory farm pigs. And the people that watch the show are the real biggest losers.

  • Amanda // Oct 4, 2009 at 1:55 PM

    Whatever. I’d rather pee blood than be fat. He had incredible drive. Although harming your body is very stupid, I do admire his determination. Don’t damn him for having an incredible drive to win. Get off your fat ass and change your life.

  • Buddy Guy // Oct 5, 2009 at 12:39 AM

    Whatever. I’d rather not pee blood and not be fat.

    PS ‘win at all cost’ people are sick deranged people that cause a lot of damage to themselves, other people, and the world. Get off your fat ass and change your underwear, you smell.

  • Pam // Oct 31, 2009 at 1:41 PM

    Hey Jan,
    You seem to know what to do and how to do it. I am looking for advice and help to lose 50 pounds. I struggle to know the right combination of foods to eat. It’s just so confusing. Please help

  • john h // Dec 2, 2009 at 1:10 PM

    Do Bob and Jillian do 100% of the training or are there others that we dont see?

  • Becca // Jan 28, 2010 at 9:15 PM

    I agree with the person that says they should mention every week that these results are not typical and can be dangerous to the people not on the show. It is dangerous to the people on the show too. Look at all the injuries they have had in the last few seasons. But they have doctors to watch them very closely. They mention that at the very end of every show. Also, I gotta think there is really almost no one other than the people on the show that can spend 4 to 8 hour a day exercising and exercising HARD on all the equipment. Most of us just don’t have that luxury.

    Ya know people game play trying to stay on the show another week. Not necessarily everyone, but every season at least one person has done it. As far as them getting weighed in beforehand and not knowing their weights. I find that fishy myself. When I heard that, I just can’t help but wonder that the producers or whoever is in charge of that process can easily just make the weights what they want to make the show look good. It is not a good thing to do and I am not saying for a fact that they do it, it just puts suspicion in my mind. It is all about what makes good TV.

    I also want to say that yes what they are doing is dangerous but they are well taken care of and checked on by doctors so it is a lot healthier for them to be on the show than to continue to gain weight at home like they were.

  • trag // Mar 10, 2010 at 9:22 AM

    They could decrease the winner’s prize money so people won’t be so desperate to lose drastic weight: split the 250,000 among all the finalists, with first prize being a little more than 2nd, and so on. Possibly also give special prizes for viewers’ favorite/s, trainers’ choice/s and a maybe even have a physical contest, and be sure to choose healthy contestants for the winners.

  • Sandy // Mar 17, 2010 at 7:41 AM

    Great article! I definitely agree with you. The quicker you lose weight, the faster you put it back on. 2-3 lbs per week of weight loss is recommended by doctors for a reason; it’s so the body can “slowly” get use to the decrease in calories it’s receiving, and the “slowness” of it all prevents the body from going into shock and from throwing the metabolism off track, and most importantly, it helps your mind adjust to a new way of eating so you won’t revert back to old habits.

  • Nifty hifty - dyfer // Mar 20, 2010 at 2:33 AM

    Well, the trainers must have a reason for making the contestants lose 20 – 30 a week… I mean, not only trainers, BUT the show also have doctors (who do a check up on the contestans BEFORE they join) AND the dr’s stay throughout the whole sho… WHY DON’T THEY SAY IT’S WRONG FOR contestants to lose that much weight each week?

    Although, I agree it is wrong to make the contestants endure SOOOOO much hard work and exercise on the 1st DAY! the first week or 2 should be nice, easy and slow.

  • valerie // Apr 12, 2010 at 11:49 AM

    During Lent I only ate when I was hungry. I think this is a common sense way to lose weight. It seems like if we all did this we would only consume the calories our bodies needed. I lost about 20-25 pounds in about 50 days. I still have about 50 pounds more to lose. I was surprised at the reduction in food I consumed. I probably ate about 1/3 of what I usually ate, somedays 1/2. It also made me decided if I wanted sugar or substance. I’m the person who will happily start my day off with cookies and milk for breakfast. I was surprised how often I wanted “real food” instead of sweets when I forced myself to choose.

  • Jane // Jul 2, 2010 at 1:12 PM

    whatever you do, peeing blood is never the right thing to do. But then again, the money rewards may be worth it .. hehe

  • Ry Guy // Oct 1, 2010 at 1:38 AM

    I actually agree with the methods they use on the show. Only about 2% of Americans have the will power to maintain a ‘steady’ diet of losing 1 to 3 pounds per week. Several studies on human behavior show that we inherently work in surges. 95% of the U.S. populations gets more accomplished when they work in spurts, rather than working at a ‘slow-and-steady’ pace. It may not be the healthiest way to do things, but it will definitely be the most productive way for most people to lose weight.

  • Geo // Nov 23, 2010 at 2:49 AM

    Hi, one thing I have to agree on with everyone here, this is an interesting blog! I have an answer to “Pam”, have you tried O.A.? Just go to OA.ORG on the internet and listen to some of the Podcasts there, just do it.

    Message to Valerie. You are on the golden path, you are the smartest person on this blog, IMHO.

  • Ang // Dec 9, 2010 at 2:08 PM

    this is crap. Maybe Ryan did that, but he also has gained back a lot of weight.. if you look at other contestants that have kept the weight off, it’s because they’re doing it in a healthy way. Losing weight that quickly for sure isn’t safe when it’s unsupervised and what Ryan did was very stupid, but you can’t say that’s characteristic of the show. Saying it’s the “truth” behind the biggest loser is complete crap. This show is saving lives and giving motivation. They are not telling people at home that they should be losing 15 or more per week. Losing weight is their only job on the show, of course they’re going to lose lots of weight. This show is a positive influence for people.

  • jeremy smith // Jan 29, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    look if you dont have something good to say about the show then just stop talking.

  • kentuckywoman2 // Feb 9, 2011 at 10:41 AM

    It’s not safe to lose any more than 1-3 lbs per week. Nor is it safe to start a strenuous exercise program if one has been sedentary for a long time. Losing that much weight that fast will be much more likely to leave you with saggy baggy skin which you will have to cut off, rather than lose it gradually with muscle and nutrition build up. It’s better and safer to build muscle more slowly, as well. Less risk of injury. Safe and slow is the better, longer lasting method. When people diet and lose weight that quickly, they haven’t really learned new eating or exercise habits that will sustain their weight loss and mental attitude over the long haul. That’s why people gain the weight back – and then some – after dieting. No one can sustain starvation or fad dieting for long; similarly, no one can sustain exercising 5-6 hours a day. Shocking the body like that is risky and unnecessary. Unless you’re making a bundle off a scripted “reality” show, I guess…..

  • Katrina // Mar 26, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    I really like the biggest loser show. I wish they had the show showed on screens in the gym. If you think about it. when you are watching the show you are sitting on your lazy but and possibly gaining wait watching it.

    I wish that people did not get voted off because certain circumstances like when Arther got voted of because he was on the red team instead of the black team.

  • paul // Apr 14, 2011 at 9:47 AM

    I have heard that higher than 75% of contestants regain weight after the show copletes is this true??? can you find the truth??

  • Luna // Jun 23, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    Morbidly obese people will lose weight quicker no matter what because they have so much extra weight. They have to carry that much more in their workouts, and it gives them a higher BMR are they burn more naturally.

    He choose to do that cleanse (which many people do at home themselves anyway), no one forced him to do it. No one even recommended he do it. He did it for competition and money, the consequences were his fault alone.

    Contestants who regained water weight clearly weren’t keeping as hydrated as they should have been in the first place.

    The average work day for a person is 8 hours, and many jobs require constant movement. They don’t work out at 100% all the time, they have recovery time where they walk at a relaxed pace on the treadmills too.

    They are evaluated by doctors at the beginning, and throughout the course of the competition.

    This show is meant to help people change their lives, and inspire people. When a contestant gets so determined they decide to take it that far, that’s no one’s fault but their own.

  • rippedin30 // Nov 11, 2011 at 11:15 PM

    Great point in this article… losing weight too quick can’t possibly be healthy. Though I agree with many that larger people do lose weight much quicker, and this doesn’t necessarily mean it is unhealthy. I think the big thing is watch the diet and make sure there’s still a lot of intake. I do like the trainers and I think their exercise videos and other products offer a lot of value. It’s not so much the extreme exercise, it’s their diet.

  • Annie // Dec 22, 2011 at 11:24 PM

    I have to say its his fault for peeing blood. You get trained to eat better, workout better there is no excuse for this happening to him. What got to him was greed!!!! He wanted to win so bad that he messed himself up. In fact is it fair now that he should be the winner. He cheated!

  • Razwell // Feb 12, 2012 at 3:48 AM

    SCIENCE has shown that body weight in both humans and animals is INVOLUNTARILY regulated and controlled.

    Hellishly complex neural circuitry controls energy balance – NOT us. This nueral circuitry communicates with gut hormones and other things- INVOLUNTARILY.

    Morbid obesity is an extremely complex chronic DISEASE state for which there is no curent cure.

    All of the commercial dieting industry is UNSCIENTIFIC FRAUD.

  • Razwell // Feb 12, 2012 at 3:52 AM

    Do some PROPER research. Body weight is NOT under conscious control. Voluntary factors do NOT affect body weight substantially over the very LONG TERM.

    We need a MUCH deeper understanding of this disease.

    SCIENCE cannot defend the stigmatization of the obese. NO meaningful discussion of obesity will occur until we DROP the blame, and OUT DATED NOSTRUMS such as :eat less move more: which is an UNSCIENTIFIC approach to obesity.

    Morbid obeswity is NOT a personal choice – it’s a DISEASE


  • JustSayin' // May 23, 2012 at 6:54 AM

    Ryan was a greedy sociopath who went to extreme measures to win. He gained back all of the weight. Karma’s a b*tch! :)

  • ali // Jan 4, 2013 at 4:42 AM


    Obesity is definetly a personal choice. People can choose not to fill their faces with processed crap food and eat healthy and also not to sit on the couch all day and do nothing. You (generally speaking) have the choice. 1 lb is equal to 3500 calories your want to lose lbs, eat less calories burn more calories.

  • f // May 24, 2016 at 3:51 AM

    Ryan was such a douchebag, anyway. Who cares about his weight? He needs to work on his personality first.

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