NEW YORK (FOX5NY) - A former contestant on 'The Biggest Loser' says the reality weight loss TV competition needs to be canceled.
Season two's Suzanne Mendonca is accusing the show of pushing contestants to extreme lengths for the sake of television ratings.
The Franklin Square, Long Island resident spoke with Good Day New York on Monday about her experience.
"I trained eight hours a day eating only 800 calories. There were no healthy practices that were going on on this reality show," said Mendonca.
She also claims that she heard first-hand that some men took diuretics and others would take stationary bikes into saunas for hours to drop weight fast.
"I never took anything first hand," said Mendonca.
She was, however, told to gain weight to be on the show.
"If you want to be on our TV show you need to gain another 30 or 40 pounds. They are not promoting healthy weight loss. It's awful," said Mendonca.
She got down to a size four and lost 100 lbs.
"I felt still exhausted and right away the weight came back with a vengeance. It was not sustainable in real life at all," said Mendonca.
On top of the physical changes, Mendonca says the show has ruined contestants financially.
"You are paid so minimal to say there for 24 hours a day seven days a week. You come home with huge credit card debt. You can't speak with your loved ones. You have no idea what's going on at home," said Mendonca.
'The Biggest Loser' on NBC responded to the accusations:
"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."
"Contestants often come to the show with serious pre-existing medical problems and then participate in a major lifestyle transformation, which includes a comprehensive and individually tailored diet and exercise plan. While the recent National Institutes of Health study is interesting for everyone who struggles to lose weight and maintain weight loss, it's important to note that we have many former contestants who have successfully maintained weight loss years after participating in the show, just as there are people in the general public who have successfully maintained weight loss on their own."
"To that point, the NIH study specifically found that 'The Biggest Loser' overall was 'quite successful at long-term weight loss maintenance compared to other lifestyle interventions.' Our goal is to give contestants the tools, knowledge and the environment in which to get healthy and continue their journey successfully at home."