Former Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition Cast Member Blows Whistle On Show's Practices - A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss

Former Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition Cast Member Blows Whistle On Show’s Practices

james-garrison-extreme-makeover

Apparently, where there’s smoke, there’s fire:

Anyone who watches reality television knows that it isn’t all real, after all, whether it’s Loser, Housewives, or Hills, they still have a story to tell and a show to produce. But it’s one of those things that no one talks about.  Until now. James Garrison, a participant in Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition‘s first season earlier this year, is calling himself a whistle blower and exposing what he describes as mistreatment of the shows participants.

“You read it here first… The Biggest Extreme Makeover Loser WhistleBlower,” said Garrison at the end of a nearly 2000-word diatribe against Extreme Makeover’s producers and cast, calling out by name JD Roth (the man also behind Biggest Loser) and the show’s trainer Chris Powell.

In our interview with James after his episode aired he described health problems he was having as, he says, a result of his rapid weight loss, which meant losing 313 pounds in 365 days.

[…]

He says that post was also followed up by personal emails to Roth and Powell, explaining his health problems, the $50,000 in hospital bills from the past year, and asking for help with it all, which he says were ignored.

“I guess what is hard to understand is, after emailing JD. Roth and Chris Powell asking for assistance with my medical and over $50,000 in hospital bills I was ignored.”

The only response he got was a cease and desist from show attorneys, which he posts a copy of on his blog.

“I write a blog about my health and why I don’t think its a good idea to lose 313lbs in one year on a Saturday night because to be honest it was weighing on my conscious that America believes that this is okay and by Sunday morning I have a cease and desist letter and phone calls from show producers and attorneys. They were all threatening calls, and none of which was about helping me. The attorney asked me to take the blog down out of good faith and to see if we can get this resolved but Its been 10 days and still no word back from him other than he is looking into it?”

All of this comes from a blog post Garrison published on October 12, 2011, where he’s also posted images of emails between him and show producers. One such email is from Chris Powell to the show’s participants encouraging them and outlining for them how to do a flush to help them lose up to an extra 30 pounds of water weight before their weigh ins.

Garrison says that the flushes Powell encouraged them to do goes against everything that Powell has taught in his fitness career. He also calls out that they never followed the diet described on the show.

“None of us were on that 2,000 calorie diet that CHLI designed [the Extreme Makeover Diet]. We pretty much were told to eat less and less in email and later just verbally as in their words “your body is fighting back, we need these numbers”. Or what was better “there going to cancel the show, we wont be able to inspire anyone”. We even went without carbs 2-3 days a week,  at their suggestion to get better numbers and better results.”

Other things about the show that Garrison “outs” in his blog post include:

  • “We were made to take diet pills 2-3 times per day for an entire year.”
  • “Chris Powell did not live with us for three months each. The fact is I maybe saw him 5 days last year…”
  • “We were made to dehydrate ourselves every single week beginning on Thursday and ending on Saturday morning.”

I went out and found his blog post – it has since been deleted from his blog thanks to a cease and desist order, but nothing is ever deleted from the Internet! – and am excerpting, here:

They did set up a ranch and several of the contestants moved their for several months because they weren’t going to make their numbers. It was in Arizona, and you didn’t see that on the show because they wanted to tell you that we were able to do it on our own at home in our real environments. Which isnt true, and I think it creates unrealistic expectations for you guys and might ultimately make you wonder why you failed. However in this sense maybe he did live with a couple of them for a few days. I didn’t go, you would have to ask Alex, LaRhonda, Rachel, Wally, or Dana. Although I remember them saying he was never there he was out filming season two.

[…]

I was recruited to be on this show, I never wrote a letter and chances are if you did its not going to be anwsered. I agreed to be on this show because I wanted to help inspire. I had lost almost 100lbs on my own before the show and in fact told them in the final interview room that I did not think this was my last chance, and that the decision to save my life was something I made long ago and it wasnt theirs to make. Wham next thing I know I’m on tv. I went from 715 down to about 620… I was told to eat and drink a lot before the initial weigh in so that it would look like I was bigger. In their words “you have 5 star room service after all and its free, its not going to hurt if you weigh more : ) “. I guess this is how people get such HUGE week one weigh lossed numbers. So with the water rention from travel, and the **** load of water I drank it tacked on enough to get me to 651.

Everything about this is so wrong. Guilting the cast members by implying they’ll be the reason the show is canceled, to doing detoxes (for 30 days!) to get the weight off, to diet pills…

You know what this all highlights for me? The show was only concerned with “getting the numbers” for their episode, not James’ life or habits or any of that. I mean, sure, helping him had to be a part of it all because they needed it for filming (as in “I’m going to live with you for five months! Or not really! Let’s not talk about it, ok?!”) but did they help him or endanger him? Or both? At what point do you say “Enough!” and back out, especially when you acknowledge that what you were doing was wrong?

I also have to ask another question, here. So many people say/have said they turn to these shows for inspiration, and a few people even chided me for denigrating a show I hadn’t watched. They all follow the same formula to me, and by that logic I’m pretty much over the idea of supporting one. But I have to wonder – how motivating and inspiring can a lie really be? If you think they’re eating 2,000 calories a day – the recommended daily allowance, by the way – and working out at home to lose 300lbs in a year, even though they’re eating far less than that, working out in a ranch all day and doing detoxes to make those numbers… what kind of inspiration can you get from that? Better yet, what kind of inspiration should you get?

Thoughts?

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes health, fitness, nutrition, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She now lives in New York with her family, and is working on her 4th, 5th and 6th certificates.

90 Comments

  1. Gloria

    October 31, 2011 at 1:30 PM

    I had already kind of suspected that this show had some crazy stuff going on in the background…I mean, 313 pounds in one year??? When you don’t even have a personal trainer with you the entire time? Yeah, it seemed like a bit of a stretch to me. I think they were trying to make it seem like since this happens in people’s homes over the course of a year, as opposed to on a ranch for 3 months, viewers would see this as a more “realistic and healthy” approach to weight loss than the Biggest Loser.

    Also, I couldn’t really figure out how this trainer had the time to live with each of these contestants for 3 months…

    I understand that the point of these shows is to teach America that major weight loss is very possible. I know that before the Biggest Loser, many people were under the impression that once you had reached a certain level of obesity, there was no going back. You simply became a lost cause. The Biggest Loser taught many people (my mom included) that weight loss was possible at any weight, as long as you were willing to make the proper lifestyle changes (clean eating and regular exercise). I just wish that the results were more realistic and that the shows’ trainers and producers were more concerned about the actual contestants instead of just the ratings

    • John Houston

      May 28, 2014 at 11:53 AM

      Actually I’m not black or a girl, but wanted to weigh in on your comments.

      A few years ago I decided to try to get to a normal weight, at well over 300 lbs. My goal was to be able to fit into clothing and not have to ask for the seat belt extension on airplanes. I joined a group and they planned what I should eat for a year to lose over 100 lbs, selling me supplemental products whenever they could, but much of what was on my diet was real food. I learned how to prepare meals without added sugar, salt or the processed foods. After living without carbs for so long and eating about 1100 to 1200 calories a day, I started to miss the foods I was addicted to eating – pizza, burgers, pastry, pie, cake. Instead of maintaining my loss, the weight went back on. Now I’m eating clean and taking just a vitamin and essential oils. This time I have lost 4 lbs. a week for 7 weeks and on my way to being a healthier, happier guy.
      As we know it takes a deficit of 3500 calories to lose a pound, I’m thinking these people were maintaining the obese lifestyle at about 5000 calories and eating about 1000 calories a day. Keeping it off by eating a diet of about 2000 to 2500 calories will be their biggest challenge. Most people gain back, as they succumb to the addiction of sugar and carbs which are so prevalent in our society today.

  2. Eva

    October 31, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    I always knew that show was fake.

    I figured it was because it’s a “show” not a documentary about losing weight. It’s a show that needs ratings to survive and actual, sane, slow weight loss isn’t sexy and probably won’t get high ratings.

    • Curlstar

      October 31, 2011 at 4:55 PM

      My thoughts exactly, Eva. You nailed it.

  3. Donna

    October 31, 2011 at 4:10 PM

    Considering the title of the show includes the word “Extreme”, one should have expected a more intense level of results than what you see on Biggest Loser….neither of these shows are realistic and the viewers should always gain knowledge for themselves instead of just following the advice/practices of those on tv…

    I watched this show because I did want to see the results..I know that losing 100 lbs in a year is possible but losing it in 3 months is dangerous and unrealistic…I wonder if the contestants signed a waiver to prevent them from suing in the case of medical issues that result from such extreme methods….you have to be your own advocate and if they are asking you to do things that go against your moral, common sense, etc. then you should back out…

    I hope they help him with his medical bills but this should serve as a lesson that TV only cares about ratings…bottom line!

    • Marje

      May 28, 2013 at 9:05 PM

      First, I don’t like the way they make them show their stomach hanging out over their pants. It is demeaning. Why not just tight suits. No one should have to do that.
      Now if the things said about the show are true and the people involved don’t leave, it is their own fault. I don’t believe they can “guilt ” you into staying.
      I like seeing the transformation. It is amazing how different they look. Maybe some don’t care how they lose the weight and it works for them. I hope so. It is hard and very sad that people suffer so much.

  4. Cherished131

    October 31, 2011 at 6:43 PM

    I don’t like the idea of competition weight loss shows. The best weight loss shows that I have ever seen ~ The one on OWN which was cancelled for reasons I don’t know of (maybe ratings) and the one on TLC where there wasn’t always a happy ending (meaning death or re-gain of weight).

    The guy above extreme show was inspirational. Not because of the weight loss he had but because of how determined he was to complete very difficult tasks. Also, I felt that the show didn’t show him one dimensionally. We were able to see that he missed some life dreams. I really enjoyed the show. I’m sorry it was so terrible for him. To judge for yourself look up the show and watch on Hulu.

  5. Lovebabz

    November 1, 2011 at 6:42 AM

    There are three sides to every story…. his story, their story and the truth. Nothing about these weight loss entertainment shows surprises me. It is after all entertainment. we have turned being fat into a contest a very lucrative and entertaining part of our tv experience.

    Watching extremely fat people is designed to motivate anyone, it is designed to watch and say “Gosh I thought I was fat but I am not like those people” We are not motivated we watch these shows in the same way we mesmerized by car crashes and other tragedies.

    I feel sorry for this guy, I hope he gets the help he needs. At the end of the day he has to dig deep for his own truths and motivations. These ridiculous reality shows are making celebrities out of folks and I suspect that is the more motivating factor for a lot of folks….a chance at celebrity and luxury and adoration.

    When we walk and diet in truth we accomplish our goals. There are no quick fixes, magic potions, pills or wands. There is only you and your body and your determination.

  6. Tremilla

    November 1, 2011 at 9:39 AM

    Never watched this particular show but I do watch the “Biggest Loser”. I do get inspiration from this show, not because the huge numbers they lose, but simply because if they can do I can to. If these 300, 400, 500 lb individuals can get up and get moving then there’s no reason I can’t do it at 200lbs. I am totally against the diet pills and dehydrating yourself. How can they expect these individuals to keep the weight off if they don’t learn healthy weight-loss tips. I’m happy someone is finally speaking up. Most importantly we as the viewers have to use our common sense. I pick and choose what I take from these shows. We all know the difference between right and wrong. Like the saying goes “If they jump off a bridge, are you going to jump too?”

  7. Caitlin

    November 3, 2011 at 9:48 AM

    Like you, I don’t really get the whole “inspirational” nature of the shows. I’ve seen a couple of these shows and I think that, like most reality TV, the emotion aroused by them usually comes about as the result of manipulative editing – the selection of music, shots of people crying, etc.

    Inspiration is only worthwhile to me if I feel like I can at least strive to do as the inspirational person is doing. I don’t get that from these extreme weight-loss shows. I spend most of my time thinking about how unhealthy and unrealistic their practices are – the extreme caloric restriction, taking sedentary people and training them like professional athletes. It sets up fitness and healthy living as this extreme, crazy thing full of suffering and deprivation, when really, the people I know who embrace healthy living don’t look at it that way.

    • sandy

      June 5, 2013 at 12:33 PM

      I agree i started my weight loss journey in sept list 34 pounds have 25u more. I hired a professional dietican and worked with a personal trainer 2contacted days a week and 5 hours of various classes. I went slow built up my strength and indurrance. I was appalled at these people who weight 300and plus pounds literally killing themselves. It seems dangerous and people get discouraged when they feel sore and exhausted. Does not promote long time health.

      • Dana

        July 2, 2014 at 1:09 AM

        And then there’s the sagging skin, caused by rapid weight loss. I”m 63; it took me four years to lose 70 pounds. I kept up the protein, cadio, and toning exercises, and I can now wear a bikini. Getting rid of the sagging skins requires a 30K surgery and skin that heals quickly (reason show’s doctor won’t do surgery on smokers). Its also major surgery that leaves scars and takes a long time to heal. I know the show pays for the surgery, but it would be far healthier to lose the pounds more slowly to avoid this major, sometimes dangerous, procedure.

  8. Milaxx

    November 5, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    I have never liked these shows or found them particularity inspiring. To me they always had a sort of circus freak aspect to them. I also always had a sneaking feeling that the weight lost on these shows was not done in the healthiest of ways. I’m sticking with counting calories, eating as clean as possible and exercise. My weight may be coming off slowly but at least I know I’m not harming myself.

    • ladydi

      February 19, 2013 at 12:01 PM

      I only liked Biggest loser for first couple of seasons; after that it got out of control all the yelling at contestants; and people obese and having work outs like the did; I never understood how somone so obese could work out like that; a local contestant from my area let some some thoughts a few years ago; she said they exericised sometimes upto 6 hours a day; once you get away from the show no way you can continue like that; hope things work out for this man

  9. jenita

    November 9, 2011 at 12:47 AM

    My fav is actually “Heavy” because it’s not a competition. As much as I love the Hilton Head Health facility, I prefer the Texas method.

    I only watch previous seasons of BL. They focus too much on the weight and not the whole picture.

  10. Gail

    February 24, 2012 at 3:10 PM

    I stopped watching these shows long ago. I used to work on one but the ratings weren’t that great. Why, because they didn’t cheat, they did it the old fashioned way and they were left at home alone with only a visit from the health staff. So, in the short period of taping, people actually lost what any of us would lose in real life, which is not that dramatic. I always knew there was something fishy behind BL’s high weight loss numbers.

  11. Kimmie

    March 3, 2012 at 8:29 PM

    I’m not surprised, but then again the way America treats fat people and what this show puts on display is insane! At the end of the day, what’s good about the show is that it inspires people to work out and to move! This is one of the only shows that has big ratings that highlights healthy eating (even if it’s fake) and truth is many Americans are too accustomed to seeing everything happen so quickly to have the patience to stick out a year or two in the gym! I hope that the show continues to inspire people, but people need to make decisions to be healthy not just to “win”. Clearly, the show was about staying on and getting the money, because if these people were that concerned about their health they would have voluntarily left or allowed themselves to be dismissed.

  12. Vee

    March 3, 2012 at 10:41 PM

    Nothing surprises me any more with these so called reality shows.

  13. Heidi C.

    August 13, 2012 at 6:36 AM

    The obese person would have medical bills anyway because you cannot survive healthy with that much fat on your body. The good thing about these shows is continually emphasizing exercise and the illuminating the amount of sugar one consumes, for example in sodas. We need to keep educating America and hope some child chooses to eat less or some parent realizes what they are feeding their child affects them in the long term. This is the first generation where the life expectancy is less than their parents because of the rising obesity.

  14. Jim

    August 13, 2012 at 5:12 PM

    Of course this isn’t real. They have 8 contestants a year. If he lived 3 months with each, that is 24 months in 1 year. Not possible.

    • Helpmesong

      August 12, 2013 at 10:49 PM

      I am glad to read these comments, I’ve always thought that 100 lbs in 90 days has to be unhealthy, and the quicker you lose the quicker you gain, it’s science. Shame on these shows for once again exploiting the participants and its viewers.

  15. S

    August 29, 2012 at 8:32 AM

    i think things took a turn for the worse on the show when they started giving out the $50,000 Walmart gift cards to the participants. It was commercial before, but now it’s seriously commercial. I even saw an episode recently where the trainer, Chris, moves a participant into his house for a few months because he feels she needs extra motivation. Chris’s trainer wife weighs in and offers coaching and motivation to the participant as well. I thought that was a really weird move. My guess is they’re trying to boost her fame so she can sell books and exercise videos.

    i also think it’s funny how they bring out all these people the participant doesn’t know don’t know to watch their final reveal.

    That said, I still watch the show and find it motivating. These participants are doing something the majority of obese people don’t have the frame of mind to do–modify their lifestyle and lose weight.

    • Christina

      July 11, 2014 at 2:47 PM

      You called it! It’s 2014 now and Heidi Powell is starting to take on her “own” clients. I saw that coming last season as well. Nevertheless…I still like the show, although this article has certainly demystified it for me.

      • Lisa

        July 13, 2014 at 4:02 AM

        I am shocked with what has happened to the former contestant and I pray he gets his medical bills paid. I am a mother of 2 small children and I have lost weight thru the years but now I am walking more now and eating healthier and I do like the show as well. The stories those men and women have experienced is everyday life and how they loose the weight and keep it off is motivating to me.

  16. S

    August 29, 2012 at 8:34 AM

    oh yeah, i also like how they conveniently omit all of the coverage of the participants healing from skin removal surgery as well.

    that’s a serious surgery that can have complications and takes a lot of recovery time. we never see the participants go through any of that.

    • Diana

      August 6, 2013 at 9:02 PM

      I think the pain of surgery would be worth it. just feeling better in your own skin. if I was offerd the opportunity to have skin removal surgery done I would be thanking the wonderful God above for the opportunity. I also doubt that I would want the whole entire world watching me going through something very painful as that surgery. I have lost and gained weight I am very determined to take this weight down for the last time. It is hard but worth it. I think the shows are great inspirations.

  17. A different view

    September 1, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    I can’t imagine anyone would think that 2000 calories would be reasonable for weight loss anyway. Many medically supervised weight loss programs put people that big on 500 calorie diets. And I laughed at the “horror” of diet pills 2-3 times a day for a whole year. I know many normal weight people who maintain by taking diet pills for the caffeine energy kick to workout, and they take them all the time. I’m not a huge fan of the extreme makeover show because it is kind of boring and doesn’t really spend much time with the contestant, but the Biggest Loser is brilliant. I think that there are a lot of takeaways for those who aren’t already that big. I’m not, and I can tell you that after watching that series, I am desperate to stay that way. To take SIX MONTHS to lose all of that weight and in many cases still be grotesquely overweight at the end is not something I’m willing to do. I can also tell you that watching a 200 pound girl run a marathon in 7 and a half hours has really upped my intensity in my workouts. She was massive at the season end, and she was the weakest and slowest contestant, and yet she could do that. If people like that can, then I sure as heck had better be able to do it too.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      September 1, 2012 at 7:55 PM

      “Many medically supervised weight loss programs put people that big on 500 calorie diets.”

      Flat out ridiculous, too… but I’m not even going to get into that.

      Words like “grotesque” make me really sad, though. Wow.

    • S

      September 4, 2012 at 11:32 PM

      500 calories? That is doubtful. Your body would go into starvation mode.

      Not even going to address the rest of the post, but the ignorance astounds me. And this is coming from someone who has always been slim.

  18. Shaun

    September 9, 2012 at 9:56 AM

    Honestly, I have never been a fan of shows like this I have always felt as though it was what I like to call “fatploitation”, the exploitation of the morbidly obese for dollars and fame.

  19. TEA

    September 30, 2012 at 6:22 PM

    I knew it wasn’t normal to lose 16 lbs in one week. No way. It’s healthy to lose that in 1-2 months. But I guess if the contestants were losing the weight the right way, it wouldn’t be an interesting show. Losing 313 lbs is possible and you can do it in a healthy way but not in a year. I hate the blatant product placement as well.

  20. Lily

    January 2, 2013 at 12:17 AM

    No argument with anything you wrote here with one exception: that recommended caloric intake of 2,000 a day is an average for both men and women of all body builds. your calorie intake should be based on your own size, gender, and level of activity. I, for instance, would GAIN weight on 2,000 calories a day since even at 160 lbs (with a healthy BMI, just tall) my body only needs about 1700 calories to break even, before hitting the gym. Smaller women need less, and people who are completely sedentary even further less. Professional athletes of course need to take in a lot more… so it really does vary. Also- I was previously inspired by this show so I am sad to hear these are their practices. Like finding out a star athlete who overcame cancer was using performance enhancing drugs. Sad.

  21. imani

    January 9, 2013 at 5:40 AM

    I watched EM with chris & I liked it. I’m disappointed 2 hear there’s a lot of smoke n mirrors used 2 achieve the great results. I don’t think that makes me niave.I believed that IF a trainer is living with you, tailoring ur meals& training with u for a year…a double digit weight loss is POSSIBLE. To hear pills and flushes r being used and NOT BEING DISCLOSED on the show is my issue. Don’t sell me the brooklyn bridge & then tell me its my fault for not knowing it. They’re blowing smoke up viewers as*es and some r saying we should’ve KNOWN? Well I know most reality shows r rigged but now I have 2 add weightloss shows 2
    thelist? There r ppl watching EM thinking they need this entorage 2 make it happen and I hate that. Tell viewers they need diet pills & flushesto make those numbers! happen

  22. Sherry

    January 18, 2013 at 3:20 PM

    I cannot even watch BL anymore. The way they talk to those people, like if you are overweight you are subhuman and deserve to be humiliated. It does not matter what you have accomplished in life or the good you do for others if you are fat then you deserve to be kicked like a dog, and talked down to, and by the way what is the point of kicking someone out of a gym because they are 400 pounds and can’t run 5 miles without falling down??? I did not see any of this on EM so I liked it.

  23. Jo

    February 25, 2013 at 8:17 AM

    Most importantly – what are your thoughts Larhonda? This is your page and you posted about James article. You lived and succeeded on the plan of extreme makeover – is there any substance to what James is saying?

  24. Becky sue

    May 1, 2013 at 10:05 PM

    Let me tell you I have been overweight >30 yrs and if someone helped me loose weight know matter how they did it and I didn’t die in the process I would be Grateful. the didnt force him to be on te show.
    Maybe your weight before masked health issues and when you lost te weight the issues became apparent.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      May 1, 2013 at 11:19 PM

      Sigh.

      Desperation makes lots of people do crazy things. I was one of them once. I know.

      I just wish more people learned that they don’t have to risk themselves and barely “die in the process” in order to lose weight. Seriously.

  25. sandy

    June 5, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    Slow and steady be mindful of what u eat. Always makes u successful. Exercise at a moderate pace. Thats my advice to healthy weightloss. Its not magic or extreme.

  26. sara

    June 5, 2013 at 2:56 PM

    Ugh. I did have my suspicion about the “living with people for 3 months” simply because there are more than 4 episodes per year, and mathematically…even if he ONLY lived with these people, there would only be room for 4 people per year! And, on top of the show he is likely doing other things with his life. So it made no sense. But, it is pretty disappointing that they’re also encouraging massively unhealthy weight loss strategies. GROSS. :( :( :(

  27. Zee Chen

    June 13, 2013 at 2:05 PM

    I do not understand why Chris Powell keeps lying that he is living with them for 3 months. He has a wife with 3 kids, one more on the way, and there are 7 people a season, so that is almost 2 years of never being home. Which is impossible to do. I find that shameful that he plays that lie out.

  28. Tamara

    June 30, 2013 at 11:14 AM

    WOW! This is really upsetting. I was always so inspired by Chris Powell, and commended him for the way he has changed peoples lives, and now I come to find out it was all a scam! But it does make sense, this is a show and they need good ratings to keep the show going. All of the inspiration I received from this show to eat healthy and exercise just kind of goes down the drain when you find out they took diet pills and did detoxes, but regardless I do think that the show has potentially saved some peoples lives, because the contestants were extremely overweight and they did lose the weight, which in the long run can help them avoid future health problems.

  29. Mssmilzalot

    July 4, 2013 at 6:40 PM

    I watched six episodes of Extreme Weight Loss. It made me think. Why, according to the National Institute of Health, are 60% of American adults obese? Is it the cost of healthy foods? Is it that people are so stressed out from work and home life? Is it from the changes in the way our food is grown, raised, produced? What is going on out there? People are so desperate to lose weight and are turning to surgical procedures at the drop of a hat. I don’t know that many people, but in the last year I have seen five surgical disasters related to surgical weight loss. One person even died from complications. One has a feeding tube coming out of her abdomen from complications. All of the rest have terrible skin and hair texture or hair loss and just don’t look healthy. Heaven forbid if something happens to their surgeon because what doctor would want to take on their case? It’s a serious problem and people just keep making the decision to have the surgery. It seems to me that these surgeries help people lose weight but they become so fragile and brittle. Their bodies are not getting the proper nutrients. The nutrients are not being absorbed. Some people are taking the required 15 supplements or more per day that they have to take but some are not and you can tell by their general appearance. I guess there is a surgery that can be reversed but you still have the scar tissue from surgery and the expense and long term risk from the surgery. Everyone gains weight for a reason. If you gain fifteen pounds that’s when you need to say hey what’s going on here and figure out what is going on go to your doctor. Don’t let it get to where you are a hundred pounds overweight. The best way to lose weight is right and keep moving. If you can’t keep moving then don’t over eat. It’s your choice. There are so many resources at your fingertips if you have access to the internet. It’s free information. Anyway, back yo the show. I was amazed by Chris Powell. His powerful positive attitude. His sensitivity to the contestants personal stories and behavioral issues. I cried. Then to find out it’s all about the show and not as much about the people just broke my heart and I can’t believe deceptive it was. I still don’t want to believe that he didn’t really care about them. He seemed so dedicated to their cause. I don’t normally watch reality shows my intuition tells me that it’s staged but I was really inspired by Chris Powell. I think he should separate from the show and do some kind of program on his own because I do think he can help people. Losing all that weight in one year not realistic which is what that show requires. Maybe they should choose people that don’t have as much weight to take off. It would be just as inspirational and they wouldn’t have to risk being sued for indangering the contestants lives with drastic measures. It takes a long time to put on weight and it should take equally as long to take it off.

    • Helpmesong

      August 12, 2013 at 11:09 PM

      Most insightful comment, however, find it strange that you are “surprised” by Chris Powell’s portrayal, its very simple habitual lying plus greed equals “some” people will do “anything” to anyone to obtain money, Powell is probably a great human being minus the cameras.

  30. Lee

    July 10, 2013 at 4:46 PM

    I just finished watching an episode of Extreme Weight Loss and was SO inspired, but after reading about the show’s trickery and practices, I’m merely disgusted. I’ve always been upset that these shows make it seem a person has no value if they’re very large. There are 2 people like that in my family and they live very productive, happy lives. They are certainly not worthless or grotesque. They’re beautiful people, inside and out, and if some people can’t see that, then its their loss. They eat lots of healthy food so are probably healthier than I am as a chronic yo-yo dieter. They would love to be smaller and are working on it, as am I, but the emphasis has to be on healthy weight loss, not exercising yourself into multiple injuries or endangering your health with such fast weight loss. I have another episode on the DVR but I’ll be deleting that one. I also agree that there is NO reason to show the contestants so scantily dressed. I was also upset with The Biggest Loser when they played loud, booming music as the contestants worked out, fell, or whatever they considered amusing. I’m done with that show too.

  31. Rebekah

    July 13, 2013 at 8:26 PM

    Oh my gosh this all makes me so sad! I seriously love that show (well up until now….). I definitely knew that it was super commercial, but of course it is as is every show…I don’t know how much is true or not true about unhealthy practices going on to get the weight off. If that’s the case then that’s sad…but at the same time, they are EXTREMELY unhealthy as is especially those who top 400 pounds. In many cases the contestants have family members who have died young because of their weight and it seems to me that many of them are following right down their path.

    I do think that so much emphasis shouldn’t be put on losing weight so fast and they should explain to the viewers and to the participants that they will absolutely not be able to maintain the workout regiment no, but in real life—-you work harder when you’re trying to get weight OFF and then it becomes maintenance which quite frankly is not as time consuming. I will probably still watch just because it motivates me personally. I have maybe 50 pounds Id like to lose and the show doesn’t make think well gee, thank God I don’t look like them. I think instead if they can get in the gym and put in some work and make an effort to change their lives, then darn it so can I. :)

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      July 14, 2013 at 8:32 AM

      “you work harder when you’re trying to get weight OFF and then it becomes maintenance which quite frankly is not as time consuming.”

      I’ve got to tell you… if this is accurate for you, something might be wrong somewhere. I’m at the point now where I’m side-eyeing the idea that maintenance is not or should not look and feel the same way that weight loss does. If anything, you should be eating more… but you should still be continuing your activity.

      So, all I’m saying is that I think we might need to give this concept a second thought.

  32. Derp

    July 16, 2013 at 1:37 AM

    Meh. I don’t care if it’s fake or not. In all honesty, I just watch the show because Chris Powell is delicious.

  33. Susan

    July 16, 2013 at 1:06 PM

    I haven’t watched this show before, but have seen BL. It’s sad how people feel they have to yell at the contestants when they are in obvious pain. I wouldn’t blame anyone for wanting to quit the show. It’s not healthy to lose a large amount of weight in a short period of time. My husband and Iused to eat alot of processed foods and sweets, etc. My husband was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about 4 months ago. He had to change his eating habits and I decided to change as well. We weren’t obese by no means. In any event, he has lost around 20 lbs just by drinking lots of water/avoiding processed foods and sugars/cut the carbs, etc. We don’t eat anything with a large % of carbs and sugars. I haven’t lost as much, maybe 10 lbs, but I’m not as strict as far as sugars go. Sure, I have been drinking diet drinks for years, but I’m more likely to have a sweet treat than Thom is. I’m 5`2″, 139 lbs, and Thom is 6`1″, 190 lbs. I also drive a paratransit bus and am pretty active 5 days a week while Thom has a desk job but is pretty busy at his job and loves to play golf. If you just watch what you eat, and at least do some exercise, then that’s better than doing nothing. It also involves being comfortable in your own skin. If you’re eating healthy/active, and are still heavy, then it’s probably genetic. Be happy that you are at least doing the right things…..

  34. Ashley

    July 19, 2013 at 11:27 AM

    The practices of this show are horrible, but not totally shocking. Seeing people lose hundreds of pounds in one year just goes to show lot’s of unhealthy methods are being used. I feel like that is common knowledge…I am overweight but know enough never to go on a show like that in order to lose weight.

    I am very sorry for James and that he has all these health problems from losing all that weight, but I think he needs to take some responsibility in what happened to him as well. Knowledge is power and it’s everyone’s responsibility to understand the risks they take when agreeing to be on a show like this. I am sure he signed a waiver about all the health risks…when shows like this are doing things that could harm people, they are prepared legally and make sure everything is in the contract. When it comes to your life you should not allow anyone to “guilt” you into putting yourself at risk, you really need to think before you sign up for something like this. These shows only exist becasue people are willing to be on them and do all this crazy stuff.

  35. Neeb

    July 20, 2013 at 9:48 PM

    Geez. The way that Chris Powell lies so easily and naturally. And every episode. It’s depressing. I had a feeling something weird was going on, but man, this is a lot to take in.

    I do feel badly for the whistleblower man. I do. These TV producers have no morals. At all. It’s all about ratings and money. So I feel like what we’re seeing with these weight loss shows is extremely harmful.

    Yeah. I kinda hate Chris Powell now.

    • Linda

      July 23, 2014 at 3:24 AM

      For Chris and Heidi, it’s all about the numbers – how much weight is lost. If a person loses less than what their goal is, Chris is very disappointed. It could only be a matter of a couple of pounds, but he still berates the person and makes them feel like crap. As far as The Goal is concerned, it is Chris’s goal, not the person losing the weight. My personal goal would be to feel better, physically and mentally; nt to lose X number of pounds in a certain amount of time. I am disabled and cannot walk, yet I lost 100 pounds in 4 months without really trying.

  36. Rasberryrum

    July 25, 2013 at 12:22 AM

    Has anyone noticed who the sponsor of this show obviously is? I believe that this show is just another effort to change the “People of Walmart” image.. or maybe they just know who their audience (No offense, I watched and I shop at Walmart). However, it is essentially Walmart that is espousing and sponsoring this extremely unhealthy and nearly impossible form of weight loss. I knew from the 2nd episode I watched where they said the woman weighed in at 150 at one weigh in and 145 at the end, after gaining 30 lbs in a month. If she weighed 145, then she must be about 4 ft tall!

  37. kesha5000

    July 26, 2013 at 4:17 PM

    I am writing this post several years later (2013) and I must say that the show was motivating to me and I was proud of the people for having loss so much weight in a year. I was so impressed and motivated that I encouraged my friends to watch the show. After many years of dealing with weight issues myself I decided to Google “how does the Extreme makeover contestants lose weight” and came across this article. I am very glad I did because this confirms that short of consistent exercising, change of diet and rest it’s not possible to lose weight and be healthy. Also, when it happens it happens. When God gives you the desire to change, He equips us with tools, wisdom and self control to see the vision come to past. Thank you for posting this article and thank you contestant for having the courage to go public and speak out. Even years later the conversation generated is helping others and keeping us from being extreme and harming ourselves. I pray that all has worked out for him and will no longer watch the show.

  38. Kit

    July 27, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    What I have found so strange about this show is the race to hit goal for excess skin removal surgery! That seems to be what everyone is striving for. Of course you would have all that extra skin with such rapid weight loss, would seem more prudent to give the body time to adjust before you start lopping off organs! Skin is an organ

    One thing this show does expose, beyond being brought to you by Walmart is that weight gain isn’t just about over eating and inactivity its about emotional issues and addiction. You can have all the right weight loss intentions and know all the rules but until you deal with what’s eating you it will continue to be a struggle. People need to show a little love and understanding to themselves and get on with their day

    • Neil G

      August 11, 2013 at 1:23 PM

      hey kit nice comment.
      unfortunately skin doesn’t shrink down as well as it expands. even after years and years. :(

      • Erika Nicole Kendall

        August 12, 2013 at 4:04 PM

        Yeah, sure…if your diet is trash.

        • Jennifer

          August 27, 2013 at 11:38 PM

          Hey Erika-love your site & just wondering with regards to the skin issues, with regular weight loss (not EM speed) would one expect to have their skin look like the contestants or should it not be so extreme with sagging if you follow a healthy diet and don’t lose all the weight so fast?

          • Erika Nicole Kendall

            August 28, 2013 at 6:19 PM

            The latter, with respect to things like age and consistency of treatment (nutrition, moisturizing, etc.)

  39. Bobbi Simon

    August 13, 2013 at 8:46 PM

    Thank you for all of ur input. I was actually considering applying, now I realize how harmful it wld all be. we hv to fix ourselves on the inside, then living a healthy lifestyle wld be exciting.

  40. Elle Morena

    August 14, 2013 at 2:52 PM

    I know I’m commenting LATE but I just saw my first episode of this show EVER last night, 8/13/13. The individual was Mike. His story was inspiring but I knew there was more to the situation that what they can show you in 60 minutes. His wife made a comment on how he doesn’t have time for the family b/c of his 4-5 hours of working out. Weight-loss can be a very emotional thing, not just physical. The smokes are whistles are expected but I can truly say I didn’t think it was that bad. Thanks for the insight!
    Peace & Blessings,
    Elle

  41. ERNESTO

    September 1, 2013 at 6:45 PM

    I watched the entire season 3 online yesterday. Inspirational even if it was obvious that parts of the show were scripted and ‘unreal’. Then last night I thought, something is weird here.

    How could Chris Powell have a family in Phoenix and spend 45-90 days with the participant. For a 12 show season, even if it was only 8 or 9 of those shows, there aren’t enough days in a year! LOL

    Does it seem strange to anyone else that the electronic scales, including the freight scale, never show the weight without going up and down first? I’ve never seen an electronic scale of any type that did that. Those being weighed never moved a muscle, which might have affected the reading. My guess? The producers are controlling the electronic scale readings to create drama…and that they know or set the final weight before anyone steps on the scales. Good TV but disconcerting.

    The moment I saw Chris’ wife, I said out loud, “Eating Disorder.” I was glad she came clean about her past and what is obviously still an issue for her, even if she didn’t acknowledge it.

    I’m happy for the transformation in the participant’s lives. I only wish the show was truly reality TV. Don’t use that as excuse to not work on your own health. Take inspiration from the fact that the show’s ‘stars’ didn’t give up.

    Keep on Keepin’ On

    • Rebekah

      September 18, 2013 at 5:06 PM

      The numbers up and down thing is nothing new in reality tv. It’s for drama.

      And I’m a little offended that you pegged Chris’ wife with a (current) eating disorder just because she’s very thin. I know many, many stick thin people who do eat and don’t TRY to be that thin, they just are. Same to the person earlier who said the person who weighed 145 must be 4 feet tall. 145 is not stick thin for any female under 5’9″ or so.

      • Erika Nicole Kendall

        September 18, 2013 at 5:35 PM

        “145 is not stick thin for any female under 5’9″ or so.”

        Y’all have got to stop believing that a number means anything other than “this is how much mass is on a body.” Someone who is 145 with a low body fat percentage can absolutely, without a doubt be “stick thin.”

        Please.

        • Rebekah

          September 18, 2013 at 5:45 PM

          So what are you trying to say? I am not saying that 145 isn’t an unhealthy low weight for some women. It would be too little on a woman with large bones and a large build, but then she wouldn’t be stick thin either, would she? It would also probably be too little on a very muscular woman depending on her height and frame. But the previous person implied that 145 was an unreasonably low weight for a woman over 4’0″ (and I understand that was an exaggeration), which is laughable. I am 5’7″ and have been down to 138 (before getting pregnant with baby #3) and was STILL carrying a lot of excess weight on my thighs. And I was a size 6-8, which considering they go down to 0 these days should say something. I am not a scale worshiper and I am not uneducated on what the numbers mean and don’t mean. :-/

          An aside, I’m super impressed you look so awesome without SR surgery. :-D I wish my baby belly would cooperate!

          • Erika Nicole Kendall

            September 18, 2013 at 6:17 PM

            “So what are you trying to say?”

            Very simply, that it’s not the mere weight that determines what most women will look like, whether they’ll be “rail thin” or not; it’s the body fat percentage.

            “I am 5’7″ and have been down to 138 (before getting pregnant with baby #3) and was STILL carrying a lot of excess weight on my thighs. ”

            Yeah, probably because you had a pretty high body fat percentage.

            “I am not uneducated on what the numbers mean and don’t mean. ”

            Right, of course, except you still put far too much weight – no pun intended – on the scale at all, and wind up wondering why you were at a ‘low weight’ with big thighs. Body. Fat. Percentage.

          • Erika Nicole Kendall

            September 18, 2013 at 6:19 PM

            And, pardon me for being rude – but thank you for the kind words! Mine is a baby belly, as well! :)

  42. Brenda

    September 3, 2013 at 10:53 PM

    I worked in a medical/sports facility for years and even changed my major to Exercise/Movement Science. My friend (male) thinks I should try to lose weight that fast, despite the fact that I know better. I’ve list 38 lbs from most pumping iron, have just started adding cardio. Am I crazy by not trying to lose weight that fast?Or just stubborn?

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      September 8, 2013 at 5:02 PM

      No one knows what’s better for your body than you, specifically when you are being honest with yourself. Don’t let someone talk you into something you’re uncomfortable with. You know better, so stick to that.

      Not every “person who works out” knows what they’re talking about, anyway.

  43. IrishTerry

    September 22, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    Just an FYI.
    Long before Chris Powel got famous and he was a starving personal trainer trying to support a growing family his maximum recommendation for weekly weight loss was, “your body weight divided by 100″. This was even considered his personal high end of the scale, no matter what your starting weight was. Now he is a multimillion dollar franchise with all the endorsements, books etc. Like Paula Dean raking in 25 million a year selling the worst high cholesterol artery clogging fried food known to man, to America. She was secretly on an almost vegetarian calorie reduced diet do to a health scare brought on from her own diet. Its just how do you walk away from the money? Of all the shows out there I think EWL is the best off them anyway, and as said before there is three sides to every story and at the end of the day killing a contestant isn’t that great for your ratings either not to mention the liabilities civilian and legal. My understanding these people are under constant medical supervision? Whether his claim is true, or they are pre-existing medical issues that he simply cannot pay for and in desperation assumed the show would take of him for the rest of his life, I ask why there is not one more single contestant complaint to date?

  44. IrishTerry

    September 22, 2013 at 12:55 PM

    PS. I stumbled across your web site to day and I find it very informative. Good dialogue, and encouragement.

  45. Shere

    October 13, 2013 at 5:47 PM

    Honestly, common sense says extreme measures have to be done in order to lose that kind of weight. I am a little appalled that someone would expect for future medical bills to be paid though…especially in leiu of the fact that it was poor health status that brought you to the show in the first place. I know that sound horrible! ….but also a sad reality.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      October 13, 2013 at 7:37 PM

      “Honestly, common sense says extreme measures have to be done in order to lose that kind of weight.”

      No, really, they don’t.

  46. Freddy Thompson

    November 6, 2013 at 11:59 PM

    I thought this was interesting. I’ve wanted to see more interviews with former contestants done by independent media sources. I remember the winner from Biggest Loser season one had gained back all his weight and when he was interviewed he kind of cast as this spoiled contestant that couldn’t cut and gave up. It was just very weird. I stopped watching Biggest Loser because it stopped being inspirational and started being just about drama. They were always trying to tempt the contestants by putting them in a room full of food so they can get immunity. Not supportive!

    Also, I use to love Jillian’s intensity (that’s just what motivates me) then I read her book. Then I saw her advertising for the exact types of foods she warns not to eat. All credibility went out the window for me.

    I thought I would watch Extreme Makeover, but I couldn’t get into it. The show just seemed unkind. Dangling this prize then snatching it away if they don’t make weight. How does that not create unhealthy eating habits???

  47. carlisa edwards

    December 5, 2013 at 12:20 AM

    I should’ve known it was too good to be true. I watched an episode where a Lady lost 92 pounds in 90 days. At first she was my inspiration, then I was thinking if she ever ate or exercised for hours a day.

  48. Lily

    January 12, 2014 at 5:26 PM

    I watched an episode of this show available online out of curiosity, and one thing really upsets me. They make contestants wear only ill fitting underwear to weigh in the first time, but for their final reveal are nicely and fully dressed! What, weight loss earns you dignity? That just rubs me the wrong way. I’m perfectly willing to admit my whole reason for watching was a vaguely vauyeristic interest in a changing body, and not being able to see that body at the end was disappointing. If you’re going to reduce people to objects to be looked at, whatever, just treat people of all sizes the same way!

  49. Nellie

    January 15, 2014 at 10:54 PM

    Not to assume…but maybe James has a bone of contention? Is he the only one who has decided to say these things?

    It is extreme. But is it better to be 450 lbs? Ive been big, I’ve been small, and I’ve been in the middle. Although it may not be an issue for everyone, my weight was a symbol of unhappiness, emotional suffering, low self esteem, and hiding. There was nothing healthy about being overweight for me. Again, that is my personal path.

    What the show inspires in me is that fitness can be for everyone. Most of these contestants had never worked out or that it had been years. They wanted to relearn how to be athletic and eat better and break a cycle of giving up and not feeling worthy. I love seeing them run these marathons and such and see them break through that wall and feel so empowered!

    No one really knows the full story, but I can see that Chris does care deeply about saving people…but it’s more than weight, it’s about having people reclaim their lives and live it to the fullest, and chose to eat foods that will enhance, not hinder, their lives.

    I’m sure James is feeling bitter, but I also wonder if he had made it clear that he was doing it on his own…then why be on the show?

    Much love everyone, I’m not wanting to insult anyone, I know the show may not have worked for everyone, but I know watching it makes me feel that the intentions of the show is to save and inspire people, and I know it does for me :)

  50. John

    January 27, 2014 at 9:31 AM

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    Hope that helps

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      January 27, 2014 at 3:22 PM

      Wow, thank you so much for advertising my services even before I’ve even prepared to offer them publicly! You’re so generous! :)

      (Don’t spam my blog anymore, bro. I’m serious.)

  51. Michelle

    May 28, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    Thank you for this information. I watched the show last night…and was mystified by the weight loss..and asked my trainer why I wasn’t achieving those numbers.
    I read the 2011show article and realize why….and grateful for the info. Honest info.

  52. Wayne

    June 2, 2014 at 3:00 AM

    First, shared with my thoughts of disappointment already. I’m glad I’ve been passed over after all of this time for “The Biggest Loser” after reading all of these things about how all of these shows are nothing but “shows.” (I guess we’ll have to wait until someone does something on PBS – or will that be a scam as well?)

    Second, The reason why I don’t think it’s so ridiculous to lose such high amounts is because of the way they’re “training:” as athletes. It also doesn’t surprise me why there are so many complications afterwards (You go from training like an athlete to training like a normal human being while trying to eat as the athlete, you’re going to put it back on.) I was blinded by a lust of money and the same desire as everyone else, which is yet another reason why I’m glad they never called now. (When I lose the weight, I may not have free food, prizes or money, but I will be able to truly say I did it on my own, and will be able to do much better at maintaining it.)

    Third, you ask if they did him a favor or made things worse, and in this instance I have to defend them. It’s easy to cry and bellyache about the pains and problems you’re dealing with now, but the best question to ask is this: how much has he regained? If he regained 213 of the 313 back, that’s still 100 lbs healthier. That may not seem like much, but when it comes to fighting health problems and getting your body back as close to working order as you had it, 100 lbs can make a huge difference. If he needs an operation, that’s 100 less the doctors have to deal with; if he has to lose weight to solve a problem, he’s 100 lbs closer than he started. We don’t know if all of the problems were legitimately caused by the way they did things or if they were just sped up by how he lost the weight.

    I don’t like hearing about how the show hasn’t helped him since, and I have no doubt they caused enough of the problems that they SHOULD help him, but in the better/worse category of problems, it’s easier to deal with a problem at 300 – 400 lbs than it is at 600lbs.

    That’s why I’m going to handle the weight loss as I am planning, and why I am focusing my efforts as I am: Because a doctor can help to fix a 275lb version of me better than he can a 475 lb version.

  53. erick

    June 21, 2014 at 5:04 PM

    I just finished watching the show and Ty said it himself, he was just after financial gain and loosing the weight was not the most important goal for him, money was the only motivation he had going for him and once that was taken away he threw in the towel and called it quits…..
    Charita in the other hand kept focused and even though she had slip us she managed to get back on track.

  54. Duane

    August 12, 2014 at 8:39 AM

    I think Chris’ heart is in the right place and shows that he does care(I think and hope). However there seems to be a lack of true understanding about what it’s like to be overweight and obese. From what I’ve read, he’s never had a problem with being overweight, nor had an issues with food, or chronic diseases that come with obesity and being overweight.
    I just wished there was a trainer on television who’s actually been there and can relate to the clients… or in the case of television, contestants.

  55. Katharina

    August 20, 2014 at 1:00 PM

    Sorry but I’m just not buying his story. I think it is easy to blame tv and others. His story has a lot of holes and wreaks of a victim mentality trying to be a hero. Also, Chris Powell has a book written about carb cycling which has one plan that eliminates carbs from all but one meal a day for two days.

    He lost a lot of weight and is acting like he had no trouble prior. He weighed over 700 pounds. What happened that would be caused from losing that much weight that would not have happened if the weight had been on? I get that too much exercise etc can be dangerous but it usually happens quickly not a long time after. I may be wrong, I’d just like more information before jumping on the bandwagon of believing either side.

  56. M.A.

    August 25, 2014 at 9:26 AM

    I always do wonder why these shows are so skimpy on the information about training and diet, this is certainly one question answered. I’ve not seen The Biggest Loser, but they have a similar program here in the Netherlands, and I’ve heard rumours about crash dieting. The British handle weight loss shows differently, I love the quote, “It’s not the food you eat, but what’s eating you!” they use a little bit of shock treatment to change the mindset. They do give people responsible diets to eat and make them personalized (never under 2,000 kcal daily), and keep to at home. They don’t tell them to exercise, but most often people start doing this or just be more active because they feel better. Slow and steady wins the race is the motto. Diet makes up 70% and exercise 30%. There is such an increase in gastric bypass surgery it’s just scary, people think it’s the easy way to lose weight, take it much too lightly. Thank you for posting this!

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