Former Biggest Loser contestant Suzanne Mendonca says the reality weight loss competition ruined her life.
“After the Biggest Loser was done I gained back bout 150 pounds,” said Mendonca, who had appeared on season two.
She told TMZ that the show’s producers “dehydrated us. They told us not to drink for 48 hours before weigh-in. We would only eat 800 calories a day, and we’d actually work out eight hours a day. And — if you were me — I vomited every day, and they didn’t seem to think that there was a problem that.”
The allegations against the NBC show, now in its 17th season, extend beyond Mendonca.
“You don’t know how messed up you are until it becomes incredibly obvious,” said season 2 contestant Jen Watts about her experience on Biggest Loser, according to USMagizine “[After the show] I thought, ‘I can’t work eight hours a day because I have to train eight hours a day.’ I started taking Zoloft and Xanax for the anxiety and depression. My marriage — that only took a couple of years to disintegrate.”
Joelle Gwynn, a disgruntled constant from 2008’s “Couples” season, told the New York Post that he was drugged by the show’s longtime trainer Bob Harper.
“He goes away and his assistant comes in,” Gwynn said of Harper. “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?'”
According to the Post, Harper allegedly had his assistant give contestants “yellow jacket” weight loss pills containing ephedra extract, which was banned by the FDA in 2004.
“People would take amphetamines, water pills, diuretics, and throw up in the bathroom,” Mendonca said. “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 show’s producers denied the allegations in a statement to The Wrap, saying: “The safety and well-being of our contestants is, and has always been, paramount. Contestants are told at the start of the show that there is zero tolerance for any weight loss drugs. 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.”
Still, Mendonca says she and her lawyers are “in the process of filing a civil class action lawsuit against” Biggest Loser.
The controversy around the show mushroomed Monday when Dr. Kevin Hall, an expert on metabolism with the National Institutes of Health published findings from his research of former contestants of the weight loss show.
“As the years went by and the numbers on the scale climbed, the contestants’ metabolisms did not recover,” the Times wrote. “They became even slower, and the pounds kept piling on. It was as if their bodies were intensifying their effort to pull the contestants back to their original weight.”
The show’s doctor, Robert Huizenga, told the paper that he and the producers need to provide more assistance to contestants after their competition ends.
“Unfortunately, many contestants are unable to find or afford adequate ongoing support with exercise doctors, psychologists, sleep specialists, and trainers — and that’s something we all need to work hard to change,” he said.
“They took no responsibility for what they’ve done to us,” Mendonca said.
“What I can take away from the Biggest Loser is that it was the biggest mistake of my life.”
Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter: @jeromeehudson.