Note: This article contains coarse language that may offend some readers.
“The Biggest Loser” first graced American television in 2004, and for 17 seasons, the show has seen countless overweight adults fight toward their weight-loss goals for a healthier lifestyle.
But were those healthier lifestyle goals actually being reached via unhealthy methods?
Well, according to multiple former contestants, including 2008’s Joelle Gwynn, they were.
Now, in a string of lawsuits and countersuits, the show’s doctor, Dr. Robert Huizenga, says the show is being cancelled all because of Gwynn’s claims.
In 2016, the New York Post published an article detailing the brutal conditions the show’s contestants are subject to. Season 4’s Lezlye Donahue, a survivor of Hurricane Katrina, said being on “The Biggest Loser” was worse:
“It’s my biggest nightmare, and it’s with me to this day.”
Season 2’s Suzanne Mendonca said the show created massive health problems for contestants:
“People were passing out in Dr. H’s office at the finale weigh-in. On my season, five people had to be rushed to the hospital. He knew exactly what we were doing and never tried to stop it.”
But what was causing those health problems? According to Gwynn, she, and numerous other contestants were given illegal drugs and diet pills to aid in their rapid weight-loss journey:
“Bob Harper was my trainer. He goes away and his assistant comes in. He’s got this brown paper bag that’s bundled up. He says, ‘Take this drug, it’ll really help you.’ It was yellow and black. I was like, ‘What the f-**k is this?'”
She continued, telling the New York Post she only took the pill once:
“I felt jittery and hyper. I went and told the sports medicine guy. The next day, Dr. H gave us some lame explanation of why they got added to our regimen and that it was up to us to take them …”
However, she said it was akin to being violated (emphasis added):
“People chastise Bill Cosby for allegedly offering meds to women, but it’s acceptable to do to fat people to make them lose weight. I feel like we got raped, too.”
A source “close to production” confirmed with the New York Post that Bob Harper and one of his assistant have, in fact, “supplied contestants with Adderall and ‘yellow jackets.'” According to the New York Post, a “yellow jacket” is a pill containing ephedra extract, which was purposed for aiding weight loss.
Ephedra was banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2004 — the year the show first aired.
Additionally, season 2’s Mendonca told the New York Post:
“People would take amphetamines, water pills, diuretics, and throw up in the bathroom. They would take their spin bikes into the steam room to work up a sweat. I vomited every single day. Bob Harper tells people to throw up: ‘Good,’ he says. ‘You’ll lose more calories.’”
The article also referenced humiliating living conditions, suffering long-term “psychological stress,” and leaving the show with “permanent metabolic damage.”
However, Huizenga told the New York Post another story. He said contestants “rarely” work out to the point of dizziness or nausea, and he said Gwynn’s claims of supplying drugs was a flat-out lie:
“Nothing could be further from the truth. Contestants are told at the start of the show that there is zero tolerance for any weight-loss drugs. Urine drug screens and the evaluation of serial weights are repeatedly used to flush out possible illicit use.”
And the show’s producers echoed Huizenga’s statement, telling the New York Post:
“The safety and well-being of our contestants is, and always has 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.”
But after the article ran, the Daily Mail obtained court documents revealing that the show isn’t being renewed, and that Huizenga is blaming Gywnn’s claims of drug use.
Although NBC has yet to publicly comment on the show’s unclear future, Huizenga filed a recent motion which stated Gywnn’s “accusations … resulted in the cancellation of The Biggest Loser.”
His initial suit stated her article and Gywnn’s comments were “fabricated, fictitious and outright libelous”:
“Nothing could be further from the truth. [Huizenga is] a world-renowned health expert and esteemed sports doctor who advocates for safe and effective weight loss methods.”
The Daily Mail reported that in response to Huizenga’s suit, Gywnn filed a motion for his suit to be dismissed and that he pay her attorney fees for having to file a motion.
However, his most recent motion calls for Gwynn’s motion to be denied, and revealed that it was, in fact her comments that caused the show’s cancellation. It states:
“Ms. Gwynn’s outrageous accusations, which resulted in the cancellation of The Biggest Loser and Dr. Huizenga losing two other opportunities on television, are particularly egregious given Dr. Huizenga’s strict life-long anti-drug beliefs and strict anti-drug policy on The Biggest Loser, where he did not even permit contestants to take legal, over-the-counter caffeine pills or drink more than one cup of coffee, much less illegal drugs.”
“The Biggest Loser,” labeled an “atrocity” by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff at the University of Ottawa in Canada, aired its last episode in February 2016 — just months before Dr. Kevin Hall at the National Institutes of Health published a study on the show and why majority of its contestants gain the weight back.