HomeHealth On The Small ScreenFormer Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition Cast Member Blows Whistle On Show’s Practices

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

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 [Erika’s note, August 19 2015: Links to his blog were removed due to expiration of site and introduction of malware. Sorry!] 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?


By | 2017-06-10T11:20:58+00:00 January 27th, 2015|Health On The Small Screen|113 Comments

About the Author:

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, and crtified in sports nutrition by Precision Nutrition. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and is working on her 6th and 7th certifications because lol why not.


  1. Gloria October 31, 2011 at 1:30 PM - Reply

    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 - Reply

      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 - Reply

    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 - Reply

      My thoughts exactly, Eva. You nailed it.

  3. Donna October 31, 2011 at 4:10 PM - Reply

    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 - Reply

      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 - Reply

    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 - Reply

    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 - Reply

    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 - Reply

    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 - Reply

      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 - Reply

        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 - Reply

    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 - Reply

      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

      • joan July 16, 2015 at 4:03 PM - Reply

        Yes, I think It was entertaining, and started out motivating, but then I thought there was to much, pushing, you have people all over 200 lbs I think, being pushed to do extreme exercise, I think the first thing to happen should have been baby steps, life style change with eating and cooking, walking slow walking, and easy exercise and later build up,,,,,,,,,,,,, I did not like the part where the one person would jump on their backs, I think it was sad that people who want to loose weigh and or desperate were subjected to this

  9. jenita November 9, 2011 at 12:47 AM - Reply

    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 - Reply

    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.

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