The Biggest Loser

The Biggest Loser (Courtesy Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

The Biggest Loser is an American reality game show that debuted on NBC October 19, 2004. The show features obese people competing to win a cash prize by losing the highest percentage of weight relative to their initial weight.


Each season of The Biggest Loser starts with a weigh-in to determine the contestants' starting weights, which serve as the baseline for determining the overall winner.

The contestants are grouped into teams of two, each wearing separate colored t-shirts. Depending on the season a team may work with a specific trainer or all trainers may work with all contestants. The trainers are responsible (in conjunction with medical personnel retained by the show) for designing comprehensive workout and nutrition plans and teaching them to the contestants. However, the contestants are individually responsible for implementing the principles taught.

During an episode, various challenges and temptations (see below) are featured. Those who win a particular challenge are given special privileges, such as a weight advantage for the next weigh-in or even full immunity from being voted off the show.

Each week culminates in another weigh-in to determine which team has lost the most weight for that week, in percentage of total weight lost. The team that has lost the least percentage during that week (known as "falling below the yellow line", which refers to a line featured on a video screen showing the cutoff between safety and being at-risk) will have one member voted off (unless the team consists of only one remaining member, in which case there is no vote). The vote is usually made by the other teams, though some episodes feature one team making the decision alone. Some episodes feature a second, "red line"; if a contestant falls below the red line the contestant is automatically off the show with no vote. Other episodes allow for the contestants, if successfully meeting a goal at the weigh-in, to all receive immunity for the week.

When the number of contestants has shrunk to a predetermined smaller number (unknown to the contestants), the teams are dissolved and the contestants compete one-on-one against each other.

The season finale features both the contestants remaining on the show and those sent home early; the latter are brought back for the final show. Those sent home early compete for a smaller prize while those on the show compete for a larger prize and the title of "The Biggest Loser".

Episode format

Episodes are typically two hours long. Some episodes have been aired in a shortened one-hour format to accommodate The Voice and the State of the Union address. Each episode features some, but not all, of the following activities (some contestants may not participate in an activity with physical requirements if placed on medical restrictions):

  1. Temptation:
    Contestants prepare for the first day of the week only to find a situation that involves temptation. The temptation usually requires contestants to gamble by eating or drinking delicious but high-calorie foods in exchange for what may seem to be a beneficial trade-off. The benefits may or may not be known to the contestants in advance. Examples include eating sweet foods for a chance to call their loved ones, eating a big slice of cake to win an unknown prize (which, in one episode, turned out to be an exercise bike) or giving up time with trainer for a chance to win thousands of dollars. Contestants are given a set amount of time before the offer passes.
  2. Reward Challenge:
    Contestants compete to win a prize, first as teams and then as individuals after the teams are dissolved. After the challenge, viewers are shown the winning team savoring their reward while the losing team accepts their loss. Prizes range from immunity- which is exemption from elimination"?to exercise equipment, phone calls home or weight prizes, which allow winners of a challenge to have a greater weight loss at the Weigh-In, or losers of a challenge to have a lower weight loss at the Weigh-In (e.g. a 6 lb weight loss would result in a 7 lb weight loss if a contestant were to win a "1 pound advantage" whereas it would result in a 5 lb weight loss if a contestant were to win a "1 pound disadvantage"). If the teams are uneven at the start of the Weigh-in, then the team that has more players may be asked to choose a certain number of players from that team to sit out. This would result in their results not being counted towards their team's total weight loss.
  3. Initial Workout:
    Contestants work out with the trainers. During this segment, the trainers will often speak with certain contestants, especially those doing poorly. Usually certain underlying emotional issues are revealed at this time (such as a loss of a family member or a physical calamity), which often are the triggering events that led to the weight gain in the first place.
  4. Last Chance Workout:
    Last chance workouts are often shown as grueling, final preparations for the weigh in. This is a real test of strength and trainers push contestants to their limits.
  5. Weigh-In:
    Although, the show depicts the weigh-in an evening setting, the actual weight measurement occurs off-camera in a morning session and the contestants are not told of the results during this time. All contestants are weighed to determine the amount they have lost relative to their total body weight. During team-based competition, the team that loses the highest percentage wins and the losing team must send one person home. When the teams are dissolved and the show becomes an individual competition, the two contestants who lose the lowest percentage of weight are below the yellow line and are eligible for elimination. A similar setup to individual-based weigh-ins happens when the two initial teams are broken up into four teams of two or three, as happened in the second and fourth seasons. In season ten, the rules changed. The contestants are now expected to weigh in before challenges. The yellow line now increases up to half of the slots depending on how many contestants there are at the ranch. The contestants that are below the yellow line face an elimination challenge before the vote. In addition, the Biggest Loser of the week is allowed to save a person below the yellow line from elimination. Some episodes have featured both a yellow line and a red line; a contestant who falls below the red line is eliminated outright from the competition without a vote of the other contestants.
  6. Elimination Challenge:
    Introduced in season nine, the elimination challenge was for the two people who were below the yellow line. In the only elimination challenge of that season, the longest one standing stayed while the other one went home. In season ten, the elimination challenge was re-introduced. The amount of people who were below the yellow line participate in a challenge to escape from the vote. The two contestants that are the least successful in the competition faces the vote.
  7. The Vote:
    The final segment of the show takes place in a dining room that has refrigerators labeled with each contestant's name (active contestants have their name illuminated) and filled with that contestant's favorite tempting foods. Prior to the vote, the contestants facing elimination plead their case as to why they should remain on the Ranch (several episodes feature contestants making a "sacrificial" request to be sent home, generally a team agreeing as to which member should stay and which one should go, or one contestant feeling that they can make progress at home while another needs the Ranch setting to continue his/her progress). The other contestants are not required to honor any requests to be sent home, though generally such requests are honored. The contestants facing elimination arrive at the dining room first; the other contestants each carry a covered plate containing the name of the person they wish to vote out. In the event of a tie, the contestant or team who lost the least percentage of weight is eliminated, except if both of the contestants or teams lost the least percentage of weight. As people are voted out, the light for their name is extinguished. After the vote, the eliminated contestant is shown at home and mentions the progress they have made in their weight loss.

Weight loss regimen: risks and criticism


According to, "physicians and nutritionists worry the show's focus on competitive weight loss is, at best, counterproductive and, at worst, dangerous". Contestants on the show lose upwards of 10 pounds per week (in the very first week, some contestants have lost 20"30+ pounds in that one week alone), whereas the established medical guidelines for safe weight loss are between 1 and 2 pounds per week.

Other health writers take it even further, suggesting that everything from the shows dietary guidelines to workout routines are completely flawed.

At the end of every telecast, the following disclaimer is shown:

Despite this claim of supervision, however, all contestants are required to sign a waiver that states: "no warranty, representation or guarantee has been made as to the qualifications or credentials of the medical professionals who examine me or perform any procedures on me in connection with my participation in the series, or their ability to diagnose medical conditions that may affect my fitness to participate in the series".

The weight-loss regimen used in the show"?severe caloric restriction combined with up to six hours a day of strenuous exercise"?involves risks including a weakening of the heart muscle, irregular heartbeat and dangerous reductions in potassium and electrolytes. Contestants, regardless of their weight, are required to certify that they believe they are "in excellent physical, emotional, psychological and mental health".

The Biggest Loser: Second Chances included a one-mile foot race in its first week, an event that led to the hospitalization of two of its contestants; Rob Huizenga, the show's medical consultant, when asked about the foot race said that "If we had it to do over, we wouldn't [have done] it" and noted that in response, the show's producers have "changed a lot of the way [they] do things" (including the close monitoring of contestants' body temperatures during exercise).

Because the show is a contest that involves eliminations from it, some contestants are encouraged to take risks that endanger their health. Ryan C. Benson, the winner of the program's first season, publicly admitted that "he dropped some of the weight by fasting and dehydrating himself to the point that he was urinating blood". Also since the show Benson has regained all of his weight, but 10"12 lbs. In 2009, Kai Hibbard (runner-up from the third season) told The New York Times that "she and other contestants would drink as little water as possible in the 24 hours before a weigh-in" and would "work out in as much clothing as possible" when the cameras were off. She further stated that two weeks after the show ended, she had regained about 31 pounds, mostly from staying hydrated. In a June 2010 interview, Hibbard said, "I do still struggle [with an eating disorder]. I do. My husband says I'm still afraid of food... I'm still pretty messed up from the show."

In a July 2011 press conference with the Television Critics Association, comedian and actor Jerry Lewis was critical of the competitive nature of The Biggest Loser, claiming that the show is about contestants "knocking their brains out trying to see how we beat the fat lady at 375 pounds, and in four months she's going to be 240. Who cares? It's ridiculous."


Seasons two and three of The Biggest Loser have been filmed at the Hummingbird Nest Ranch. The ranch is an equestrian estate in Simi Valley, California, northwest of Los Angeles. Recent seasons have been filmed near Malibu Creek State Park.


Season Airdates Ep# Contestants Synopsis The Biggest Loser At-Home Winner
1 October 19 " December 14, 2004 11 12 Featured 12 contestants divided into two teams, the Red team and the Blue team. The Red Team was coached by trainer Jillian Michaels, while The Blue Team was coached by trainer Bob Harper. The eventual winner of the $250,000 grand prize was Ryan, with a total weight loss of 122 pounds (37%). Ryan Benson Dave Fioravanti
2 September 13 " November 29, 2005 12 14 Featured fourteen contestants divided into two teams based on gender. Season two introduced the change that weigh-ins would be won or lost based on the percentage of total weight lost, rather than on the number of pounds lost. This change was made to create a more even playing field among contestants of varying weights. Matt was the eventual winner. Contestants Suzy Preston and Matt Hoover (third place finisher and winner, respectively) began dating after the show and later married (revealed in an interview on Larry King Live). In 2007, they had their first child together, and just over one year later, they had another child.

Matt Hoover Pete Thomas
3 September 20 " November 29, 2006 12 50 Involved the largest cast ever with 50 contestants initially beginning the show, each representing one US state. Kim Lyons joined the show, replacing Jillian Michaels as the Red Team trainer for only one season. After the initial group weigh-in and exercise, 14 contestants were selected to stay on the ranch and the other 36 contestants participated by losing weight at home. Later in the season, at-home players who lost the most weight were brought back to rejoin the cast on the ranch. Erik Chopin Brian Starkey
4 September 11 " December 18, 2007 15 18 In February 2007, it was announced that Caroline Rhea was leaving the show, to be replaced by Days of our Lives actress Alison Sweeney. It was also announced that there would be three teams (named for the color each team member would wear: blue, red, or black), with Bob Harper, Jillian Michaels and Kim Lyons returning as personal trainers. One of the contestants for this season was Amber Walker, a paramedic from Pasadena, Texas, who won a viewer vote among potential candidates on the April 23, 2007, edition of NBC's Today, even though the other three choices (Jez Luckett, Lezlye Donahue, and David Griffin) were eventually chosen as contestants as well. The winners were each twins: Jim, a contestant who had been voted off won the prize for the eliminated contestants. Bill won the grand prize of $250,000 and was pronounced The Biggest Loser by Sweeney.

Bill Germanakos Jim Germanakos
January 1 " April 15, 2008 16 20 20 contestants competed on 10 teams, each paired with a loved one, co-worker or friend with the exception of one team of strangers. Alison Sweeney returned as host for her second season. Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels returned to train the contestants. Bernie won the eliminated edition, losing 130 pounds and winning $100,000. Ali Vincent lost the biggest percentage of weight and became the first female biggest loser of the US series, beating Roger and Kelly. However, internationally, she is not the first female biggest loser; the first female biggest loser is Jodie Prenger from the UK's second season.

Ali Vincent Bernie Salazar
September 16 " December 16, 2008 13 16 16 contestants competed in pairs, fewer than in the previous season. Four teams consisted of married couples, training with Bob, while the other four were parent/child teams training with Jillian. Alison Sweeney returned as host for her third season. On December 16, 2008, Michelle Aguilar was declared the Biggest Loser after beating Ed Brantley and Vicky Vilcan at the finale. She lost a total of 110 pounds, or 45.45 percent of her body weight, winning the $250,000 grand prize. Heba Salama was awarded the $100,000 prize for the eliminated contestant with the largest percentage of weight loss after losing 138 pounds, or 46.94 percent of her body weight.

Michelle Aguilar Heba Salama
Couples 2
January 6 " May 12, 2009 19 22 Included the heaviest man ever on The Biggest Loser, Daniel Wright, weighing 454 lb. It also included the oldest participants ever, at age 63 years. It had also been declared by the group doctor to be the sickest group of contestants ever, with 45 different medications being taken by them. With 22 people initially on the ranch, it also featured the largest number of on-ranch contestants ever on the show. It was won by 48 year old Helen Phillips who lost 140 pounds or 54.47 percent of her body weight. Helen Phillips Jerry Hayes
Second Chances
September 15 " December 8, 2009 13 16 16 contestants competed. The season once again started off with different colored teams, but is the first since season 4 to have a non-couples start-off. It includes the heaviest woman and person ever on The Biggest Loser, Shay Sorrells, weighing 476 lb as well as returning contestant Daniel Wright. Danny Cahill Rebecca Meyer
Couples 3
January 5 - May 25, 2010 19 22 The ninth season of The Biggest Loser premiered January 5, 2010, with a format similar to the last couples season. A promo for the new season was shown during the Season 8 finale. This season had the heaviest contestant ever: 526 pound Michael Ventrella, as well as the heaviest couple: Twins James (485 lbs) and John (484 lbs), at 969 lbs./ The $250,000 grand prize was awarded to Michael Ventrella who lost a biggest loser record 264 pounds. His total percentage of weight loss was 50.19%. "At home" winner Koli Palu went on to win the $100,000 prize. Palu, who spent the full season on the show, was eliminated in the finale, but he lost a larger percentage than Michael Ventrella and would have won the overall prize had he been selected by the viewers to move on instead of Daris George. Michael Ventrella Koli Palu
Pay It Forward
September 21 - December 14, 2010 13 21 This season has adopted a theme, called Paying It Forward, which means that the trainers won't only motivate contestants, but whole communities. 14 are initially selected to compete on the ranch, from seven trios of players from each of the seven cities visited, while others will be brought back during the season, which will lead to a contestant total of 21. The trainers traveled to seven cities. Patrick House Mark Pinkhasovich
Couples 4
January 4 - May 24, 2011 21 24 A fourth couples edition also marked the fourth year of a winter-spring season. The new team color to be added this season is aqua, replacing the white team. Season eleven will also feature major set changes including the scale, and changes to the trainers of the show. Two mystery trainers will be added as an alternative to the existing Bob/Jillian duo in the season's twist. In Week 3 their identities were revealed as Brett Hoebel and Cara Castronuova. The cast includes a man who is 507 pounds, second to only season 9's Michael. In the thirteenth episode, a two person white team will be added, making this the biggest season cast in show history. Former Olympic gold medalist Rulon Gardner was also a contestant that season. However, he quit the show after losing a competition in which the prize was to appear on the cover of a Wheatie's cereal box (one of his dreams). He is the 2nd contestant to not have a follow up story. Olivia Ward Denise "Deni" Hill
Battle of the Ages
September 20 - December 13, 2011 13 15 For the first time the contestants will be divided by age in the Battle of the Ages. There will be three teams: under 30, 30-49 and 50 and over. The heaviest contestant weighs in at 447 pounds. This season includes two new trainers: Anna Kournikova and Dolvett Quince. They join Bob this season. Jillian, Cara, and Brett are not trainers this season. It will be the first season since Season 5 not to have different-colored teams of two. John Rhode Jennifer Rumple
No Excuses
January 3 - May 1, 2012 18 20 For the first time teams will be competing against their partner in challenges, workouts and elimination. Dolvett Quince returns for his second season. The cast includes a man who weighed at 403 pounds. Social media called this season the most hated and spoiled cast in the history of the show. Perhaps the most notable moment of the season is the cast revolt and walkout that took place over the possibility of old contestants coming back at top 5. Jeremy Britt Mike Messina
Challenge America
January 6, 2013 - present 12 18 Jillian Michaels will return again to the show for the third time after another two year absence. She will train alongside Bob Harper and Dolvett Quince. For the first time, three teenagers, one for each team, aged 13 to 17 will compete outside the ranch. TBD TBD


Judges Seasons
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
Bob Harper ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Jillian Michaels ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Kim Lyons ? ?
Cara Castronuova ?
Brett Hoebel ?
Anna Kournikova ?
Dolvett Quince ? ? ?


Grand Prize


At-Home Prize

Normal (18.5 - 24.9 BMI)
{{colorbox}} Overweight (25 - 29.9 BMI)
{{colorbox}} Obese Class I (30 - 34.9 BMI)
{{colorbox}} Obese Class II (35 - 39.9 BMI)
{{colorbox}} Obese Class III (greater than 40 BMI)

Television ratings

Season Episodes Season Premiere Season Finale Season Rank Viewers
(in millions)
Season 1 10 October 19, 2004 December 14, 2004 2004"05 #37 10.3
Season 2 12 September 13, 2005 November 29, 2005 2005"06 #48 10.1
Season 3 12 September 20, 2006 November 29, 2006 2006"07 #68 8.3
Season 4 15 September 11, 2007 December 18, 2007 2007"08 #72 8.16
Season 5 - Couples 16 January 1, 2008 April 15, 2008 #57 8.96
Season 6 - Families 13 September 16, 2008 December 16, 2008 2008"09 #57 8.66
Season 7 - Couples 2 19 January 6, 2009 May 12, 2009 #39 10.25
Season 8 - Second Chances 13 September 15, 2009 December 8, 2009 2009"10 #30 10.41
Season 9 - Couples 3 19 January 5, 2010 May 25, 2010 #37 9.41
Season 10 - Pay It Forward 13 September 21, 2010 December 14, 2010 2010"11 #49 8.28
Season 11 - Couples 4 21 January 4, 2011 May 24, 2011 #47 8.46
Season 12 - Battle of the Ages 13 September 20, 2011 December 13, 2011 2011"12 #71 6.93
Season 13 - No Excuses 18 January 3, 2012 May 1, 2012 #65 7.18
Season 14 - Challenge America 12 January 6, 2013 March 18, 2013 2012"13 TBA TBA


A spin-off of The Biggest Loser, The Biggest Loser: Special Edition features a team of people competing against another team, with each competition airing in two one-hour episodes. They spend 11 days on the ranch working with Bob and Jillian and then return home to continue to lose weight. The announced groups included "family vs. family", where two families with restaurants of different cultures competed to lose weight, "engaged couple vs. engaged couple", and "Marines vs. Navy". Each episode featured one of the mini-competitions from start to finish.

Losing It With Jillian

Losing It With Jillian is a reality program that debuted on NBC on June 1, 2010. Jillian Michaels helps selected families lose weight within one week. Subsequently, the series was short-lived and cancelled after 7 episodes.

Episode Rating Share Rating/share
1 3.9 7 2.6/8 2 5
2 3.6 6 2.1/6 1 5
3 2.9 5 1.4/4 4.37 3 6
4 2.6 5 1.2/4 4 7
5 2.7 5 1.2/4 4 7
6 2.6 5 1.2/4 4 5
7 2.5 4 1.4/5 5 5


The following table contains records for the American version of The Biggest Loser. Only records which were officially announced on the show are included.

Category Record Holder Record
Most Weight Loss in a Season (Male) Michael Ventrella (Couples 3) 264 lbs
Most Weight Loss in a Season (Female) Ashley Johnston (Couples 3) 183 lbs
Heaviest starting weight (Male) Michael Ventrella (Couples 3) 526 lbs
Heaviest starting weight (Female) Shay Sorrells (Second Chances) 476 lbs
Heaviest starting weight (Team) John & James Crutchfield (Couples 3) 969 lbs
Male Contestant with highest BMI Arthur Wornum (Couples 4) 77.1
Female Contestant with highest BMI Shay Sorrells (Second Chances) 72.4
Heaviest Peak weight (not on campus) Arthur Wornum (Couples 4) 646 lbs
Biggest Percentage Weight Loss in a Season (Male) Danny Cahill (Second Chances) 55.58%
Biggest Percentage Weight Loss in a Season (Female) Helen Phillips (Couples 2) 54.47%
Most Weight Lost in a Week (Male) Moses Kinikini (Couples 4) & Mark Pinkhasovich (Pay It Forward) (41 Ibs)
Most Weight Lost in a Week (Female) Patti Anderson (Couples 3 Week 1) 23 lbs
Biggest Percentage Weight Loss in a Week (Male) Jerry Lisenby (Season 4 Week 1) 10.44%
Biggest Percentage Weight Loss in a Week (Female) Patti Anderson (Couples 3 Week 1) 9.47%
Biggest Percentage Weight Loss in a Week (not week 1) [Male] Matt Hoover (Season 2 Week 10) 9.77%
Biggest Percentage Weight Loss in a Week (not week 1) [Female] Kim Neilson (No Excuses Week 15) 9.26%
Fastest to Lose 100 Pounds (Male) Moses Kinikini (Couples 4) (100 Ibs) & John Rhode (Battle of the Ages) (101 Ibs) 6 Weeks
Fastest to Lose 100 Pounds (Female) Shay Sorrells (Second Chances) 9 Weeks
Most Weight Lost on Campus (Male) Michael Ventrella (Couples 3) 204 lbs
Most Weight Lost on Campus (Female) Ashley Johnston (Couples 3) 143 lbs
Most Challenges Won Tara Costa (Couples 2) 13
Highest percentage of weight loss on Campus (Male) Daris George (Couples 3) 43.64%
Highest percentage of weight loss on Campus (Female) Irene Alvarado (Couples 4) 43.53%
Fastest Biggest Loser Marathon Time (Male) Daris George (Couples 3) 4:02:12
Fastest Biggest Loser Marathon Time (Female) Ada Wong (Pay It Forward) 4:38:48
Longest Time Gone Without Falling Below the Yellow Line Tara Costa (Couples 2) & Ashley Johnston (Couples 3) & Austin Andrews (Couples 4) 18 weeks
Most Time Losing Double Digits in a row in the Weigh-Ins Danny Cahill (Second Chances) 7 weeks
Lightest Finishing Weight (Male) Brian Starkey (Season 3) 152 lbs
Lightest Finishing Weight (Female) Poppi Kramer (Season 3) 115 lbs
Highest Finishing Weight (Male) Maurice Walker (Season 1) 365 lbs
Highest Finishing Weight (Female) Shay Sorells (Second Chances) 304 lbs
Most Times Below the Yellow Line Elizabeth Ruiz (Pay It Forward) 8 weeks
Longest Running Couple (Male Team) (To make it to the finale) Mike Morelli and Ron Morelli (Couples 2) 18 Weeks
Longest Running Couple (Female Team) (To make it to the finale) Olivia Ward and Hannah Curlee (Couples 4) 20 Weeks
Longest Running Couple (Male & Female Team) (To make it to the finale) Conda Britt and Jeremy Britt (No Excuses) 15 Weeks
Longest Time Gone Without Facing Elimination Tara Costa (Couples 2) 18 Weeks
^ This record is for an extended 18 week season.
^ The record is for a 12 week season.
^ Tara won 12 challenges in her season and the car challenge in Season 11.
^ This record is for an extended 20 week season.

See also

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