JD Roth is a Hollywood producer that once told me, after months of killing myself with starvation dieting, and overtraining, all while desperately trying to win enough money to make the 8 months I was out of work for this show and my student loans worth it, that it “wasn’t about the money,” while he stood there in $1200.00 shoes making millions off my sweat and tears. Now JD is cashing in on, what I hope are, the death rattles of his brain baby – “The Biggest Loser” – by writing a pretend “tell all” about the show. As a former contestant I see this as yet another exploitive money grab from a man that damaged people in the name of greed and entertainment, all while doing everything possible to make sure that, unless it gave his Frankenstein monster of a body shaming show good publicity, former contestants could not themselves profit from their own experiences. To promote his new book, he did an interview with Cosmopolitan magazine this month. I felt like responding to the steaming pile of heaping crap that it was, so here goes:
JD: “1. Most medical experts think you can only lose 1 to 2 pounds a week safely — but people can lose much more than that. After we sold the show based on the concept of helping people lose upward of 100 pounds in 12 weeks, I called every medical expert in weight loss in the United States to find out how to do it. Everyone I spoke to said you can only lose 1 to 2 pounds in a week. I realized they were only focusing on the science: calories in, calories out, and calories left over. But we proved them wrong on set, where there was at least one contestant who lost 10 pounds or more in seven days — every single week.
The body is shockingly responsive to change. Some contestants start out unable to walk up a flight of stairs to get to their bedroom, so they just sleep in a Barcalounger. They take upward of 15 pills a day for various ailments. But in the first 24 hours on the show, the same body can walk on a treadmill for five hours, and after changing their eating habits and fitness routines for 30 days, they’re almost always off every pill.”
1. There was NOT at least one contestant who “lost ten pounds or more in seven days-every single week.” Although it looked like a week on television, it was not always a seven day week in real life. While I know that some contestants were able to lose that in water weight in a short time frame no one contestant lost that rate of weight consistently in a seven day time frame.
As far as his assertion that he “called every medical expert in the United States” to find out how to help people lose “upward of 100 pounds in 12 weeks” and that they told him you can only lose “1 to 2 pounds a week safely” he claims however, that his experience taught him, “people can lose much more than that” notice he didn’t say they could lose much more than that SAFELY. See, he’s not outright lying here just misrepresenting what the show did, The Biggest Loser didn’t prove all those medical experts wrong like he states, it just used unsafe weight loss methods. Voila! Problem solved! You can lose more than 1-2 pounds a week, you can do a myriad of unhealthy things to make that happen, what the medical community maintains is that for weight loss to be achieved in a healthy sustainable way, a less restrictive manner works best so you don’t have other health complications, and you should not be going below 1000 calories a day which is often what is required to maintain the rapid weight loss shown on The Biggest Loser[i]. That’s not even going into the complications of losing lean body mass, slowed metabolisms due to crash dieting and how that affects health and weight loss rates. JD Roth found a work around for his TV show, never mind the actual health of the contestants, he was after ratings. Don’t believe me? Call a doctor, ask them.
Nothing in JD Roths statements address the long-term mental and physical health repercussions the contestants face after forcing a previously a sedentary body (he claims some contestants “start out unable to walk up a flight of stairs”) to physical extremes, “in the first 24 hours on the show, the same body can walk on a treadmill for five hours” the issue isn’t IF the human body can be forced into these things but SHOULD it be and what are the ramifications on the long term health of a human being pushing their body that far that fast? Any reasonable health and medical professional not on TV, would NEVER have a client do that because the medical data shows the long-term effects are terrible for your body and for your adherence to an exercise routine in the long term. It makes for great rating though so I can see why JD Roth is so self congratulatory that he had a hand in convincing people desperate to lose weight to force their bodies to such unhealthy extremes.
He also claims that contestants who arrive on medications “after changing their eating habits and fitness routines for 30 days, they’re almost always off every pill,” I wasn’t on medication for any health issues when I was on The Biggest Loser, but I can tell you by the time I finished it? I was taking Ibuprofen like they were going out of business. I had done so much damage to my body from the overtraining that when I finally went home and saw a doctor I was told my shin splints were so severe she didn’t know how I was walking much less running six miles a day in addition to my other workouts. So, so much for “off every pill” JD.
JD: “2. People who weigh 300 pounds aren’t necessarily at fault. Most people see a 300-pound woman and think she’s lazy — that it’s her fault she lifted the fork to her own mouth. But I’ve learned that people who weigh 500 or 600 pounds and end up on the show have a level of darkness in their lives that most people just can’t understand.”
2. Oh dear goodness, did JD almost get something right here? I don’t know about his amateur psychology here, but I do know that there are a myriad of studies that indicate that weight has nothing to do with willpower, or laziness and that there are biological and external factors that all play into weight. Add to that the failure rate of diets (95% of all diets fail and lead to more weight gain[ii]) and you can see that a persons weight is far more complex than a TV show can communicate.
JD: “3. A shocking number of people can’t even walk a mile. Once we did a challenge on The Biggest Loser where we asked 15 people to walk or run 1 mile and guaranteed the first 12 finishers a spot on the show. During the challenge, one woman actually needed to be airlifted off the beach.”
3. I have no idea what the statistics are on how many people are capable of walking a mile, I DO know that there is a bevy of medical knowledge that taking a person who has a history of very little physical activity and having them run a mile right off is dangerous and stupid, aerobic training should start gradually[iii]. That woman that needed to be airlifted off the beach that he nonchalantly mentions as though it were a fun quirky little fact? It almost killed her. Why are we still listening to this guy with zero medical background give health and diet advice, his show almost killed a woman and left her with long term health issues.
JD: “4. There’s nothing more important than what you do when no one’s looking. The show forces you to say, “I’m going to do this,” then makes you accountable to millions of people. But after you’re done with the show, you have to continue to eat the right food, work out, and commit to changing your life on your own to be successful.
When you can hold yourself accountable — and try even when your trainer isn’t looking — the outcome is bigger than weight loss: You become a better worker, a better family member, and a better friend.”
4. While I don’t disagree that what is most important for your health is what you do when you’re no longer on that show, implying that a continuation of the habits learned on that show is either healthy or possible is a lie. “You have to continue to eat the right food, work out, and commit to changing your life,” all awesome things when someone FINALLY teaches you to do those things. Newsflash excessive exercise, severe restriction plus dehydration- all things I learned on The Biggest Loser- are not things you should continue and are difficult habits to break without the help of real professionals. A TV producer, even if he believes he is, is not a medical or health professional.
JD: “5. Emotional baggage can weigh you down even more than pounds. I’ve been surprised by how many contestants have left boot camp in the middle of the night in search of fast food, but I’ve learned there is a lot of emotional pain that fuels the decision to walk down a dark road in the middle of the night in search of your next happy meal. People who suffer from food addiction think they just love the taste of bread or the way ice cream tastes and feels in their mouth. But it usually stems from a difficult time in your life when you ate that food and it made you feel good, which tricks your brain into thinking that eating that food is the only way to feel good. In my 14 years of experience on the show, there’ve been many people who haven’t lost weight for a few weeks, and it’s always because they refuse to get to the bottom of their emotional issues. When people delve into the reasons why they’re overweight — and everyone who resorts to a reality TV show for weight loss has emotional baggage — the pounds fall off. Emotional breakdowns are almost always followed by weight-loss breakthroughs. “
5. I can’t even with this whole part of his interview. I know that he believes it does, but his “14 years of experience on the show” do not qualify him to make any assertions about the mental health of contestants. Please for the love of everything holy, if you believe that psychological issues are affecting your weight or health, consultant a mental health professional and not the guy who used to host “Fun House”. He has no idea what he is talking about.
JD: “6. Weight loss begins in your bedroom. Most of the overweight people I’ve worked with sleep in bedrooms that are piled high with unopened mail, months worth of laundry, unopened boxes, candy wrappers, and dirty dishes. They wake up to so much chaos that they automatically feel defeated — they’re just trying to survive, and when you’re in survival mode, you can’t really be in bettering-your-life mode.”
6. This here: “Most of the overweight people I have worked with sleep in bedrooms that are piled high with unopened mail, months worth of laundry, unopened boxes, candy wrappers, and dirty dishes.” WHAT THE HELL IS HE TALKING ABOUT? In addition to perpetuating false stereotypes attributing negative qualities to people who are not of average size which adds to the oppression of fat people[iv], who exactly is he talking about? My house was immaculate before the show and sure as hell doesn’t resemble what he describes even with a rambunctious seven-year-old now, nor did the houses of my fellow contestants. I want to hear from all the contestants whose houses he has been in, I barely saw this dude on set much less ever had him visit my home.
JD: “7. It’s incredibly difficult to turn your back on people who are too sick for the show. A couple of years ago, a contestant who’d auditioned four years in a row failed the medical examination that would have qualified him for the show. He went home, and three months later, he died of a heart attack. It really upset me because we could have helped. I like to think that a lot of these people can help themselves, but the truth is that many of them just won’t. Extreme Weight Loss on ABC actually came out of the fact that we were sending people away from castings on The Biggest Loser because they were too big, and I said, “We’ve got to help these people. I can’t send them home to a most certain death.”
7. It’s funny to me that he claims to feel guilt about turning people away from the show but seems to show zero remorse for telling people to dehydrate right before the finale, perpetuating negative stereotypes about bigger bodies, endangering the lives of contestants while on the show, and for cutting contestants off with zero aftercare, precisely when he himself stated above in the interview that they would need the most help – when the accountability of the show was conveniently gone. I genuinely believe that JD Roth comes from a place of concern trolling greed where he rationalizes the harm this show does and counts his money to sleep at night.
JD: “8. Everyone would start asking me how to lose weight. Prior to doing the show, I was a television producer who was very into fitness and very into diet, but I couldn’t say that I was a weight loss expert at that point. I didn’t know my job would be so much more than turning on the cameras and telling the story — I set out simply trying to create emotional moments. But ultimately, it fell on me, even off-camera, to help these people work through their emotional issues. And 14 years later, I can say there are very few people that have the amount of experience that I have doing this. Now everywhere I go, people want to know how to lose weight.”
8. Please JD enlighten us, what exactly is your education in nutrition, exercise physiology and medicine? Because stating that you are a fitness expert because you were the producer of a television show and “everyone would start asking me how to lose weight” is like claiming you’re a surgeon because you produced “Grey’s Anatomy.” No. Nope. No. That is not how it works.
JD: “9. The show’s success would make my mom into a pseudo Weight Watchers celeb. After Biggest Loser became such a hit, my mom — who’d always struggled with her weight despite going to Weight Watchers for 25 years — turned into this celebrity at Weight Watchers, where everyone would ask her about the contestants and what went on behind the scenes. It turned into a social thing for her, so she kept going.”
9. Awesome for your mom I guess? Though as a former contestant on your show I have to say pseudo-fame is more trouble than it was worth. I wonder if years later strangers ask her what she weighs still too? Nice that you could provide her with that experience.
JD: “10. Show ratings matter — but not as much as the mission. Ratings let me do another season to help more people. But I’d rather read an email from someone who couldn’t get pregnant until I helped her lose the weight than check my ratings the second they come out.”
10. I’m laughing so hard I can barely breathe reading this one JD. I’m curious do you also read the emails from the former contestants that have fertility issues resulting from the disordered eating habits taught them on the show? Oh wait, I know that answer to that; you don’t read emails or take calls from the majority of former contestants at all.
JD: “11. Contestants would become my real friends. I go to former contestants’ weddings, I’m there when they have their babies, I make them dinner when they’re in town. One of them wanted to run the Las Vegas Marathon and couldn’t afford the entry fees, so I paid. I get attached to these people. It’s more than TV. “
11. I’m dying to know which former contestant had JD Roth attend the birth of their child. I know a few former contestants and unless “greedy manipulative asshole” is the hip new way kids refer to their friends, I’m genuinely surprised to hear this, but hey it takes all kinds to make the world go round maybe he really did get attached to “these people.”
JD: “12. Weight loss can ruin so many marriages. There are many marriages among people who met on The Biggest Loser, but the show also has led to quite a few divorces. Contestants come to us so broken, settling in every area of their life, and after they lose hundreds of pounds and deal with their mental issues, they go home with this newfound strength and demand a better life. They realize they’ve changed, but no one else has, and end up getting divorced.”
12. “Weight Loss can ruin so many marriages” which he then goes on to exploit as though it were a love story when it benefits ratings while accepting zero culpability for isolating contestants from their spouses during a very psychologically and physically grueling process while offering zero family and marriage counseling to deal with it all. During my season two contestants had an affair. No judgment, it happens. However the show went on to basically erase the wife as though she never existed, provide the man with a ring and stage the proposal on the reunion special. Way to exploit the hell out of that situation for your own purposes JD.
JD: “13. Many contestants would work so hard only to gain all the weight back. So many former contestants reach out to me after the show with good news and bad — but it’s when they stop touching base that they really need help. I’ve seen so many people lose 200 pounds, have surgery to remove all of the excess skin from their body — which is a very painful and long recovery — and then gain all the weight back within a year. They do all of the physical work to get their lives back, but none of the mental work — and that’s where the real gain comes from.”
13. This one infuriates me the most. “So many former contestants reach out to me after the show with good news and bad — but it’s when they stop touching base that they really need help.” Every contestant I know that reached out for help when the starving and over training was no longer possible or their health started to deteriorate NEVER got a response. There is NO after care for contestants. NONE. To act like contestants who gain weight back have failed somehow is the biggest evil this show perpetrates on the public and participants. I am fortunate enough that my family intervened and took me to a therapist, a registered dietician, an MD and a trainer with education in exercise physiology. Others did not have that opportunity and when their bodies or minds could no longer take the abuse of severe restriction and over trainings, their bodies quit responding. There is only so much abuse your body will take before it revolts.
Here is the deal; this man is no more qualified to tell you how to care for your health than I am to be an astronaut. JD Roth is the producer of a TV show that exploits a vulnerable population and is looking to milk one more dollar out of you before his fat shaming atrocities fade into oblivion as they should in the face of a body love revolution that is supported by empirical data. Loving your body as it is, nourishing it with foods filled with vitamins and minerals, and moving your body daily is the way to health. Ignore the exploitative propaganda of a man who built his success on you hating your body and find health through self-care.
[i] Guth E. Healthy Weight Loss. JAMA: Journal Of The American Medical Association [serial online]. September 3, 2014;312(9):974. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 10, 2016.
[ii] Kassirer, J. P., & Angell, M. (1998). Losing weight-and ill fated New Year’s Resolution. New England Journal of Medicine, 1998; 338:52-54 January 1, 1998.DOI:10.1056/NEJM199801013380109
[iv] Puhl, R. and Brownell, K. D. (2001), Bias, Discrimination, and Obesity. Obesity Research, 9: 788–805. doi: 10.1038/oby.2001.108