More contestants intentionally gain weight on The Biggest Loser

NBC’s The Biggest Loser is supposed to be about weight loss, but the last two weeks, it’s been about intentional weight gain, as at least three contestants have intentionally gained or not lost any weight.

Last week, Neil gained 17 pounds with water to intentionally throw the weigh in and eliminate his competition. And this week, we learned a member of another team did the same thing. Amy, who had no weight loss last week, admitted that she also intentionally gained weight. “Amy confessed to me that she threw the last weigh in,” Jillian said. “They thought that if Neil gaining weight didn’t do the trick, Amy would gain weight to get rid of Bill.” She asked Amy, “Neil pressured you to throw the weigh in. Why?” Amy explained, “because he told me that you guys would get rid of me in a second, and that we needed to have a red and blue alliance in order to get rid of the black team, because if we didn’t then you guys would get rid of us.”

The strategy became possible when the original three teams were shuffled into new three-person teams; Amy and Neil found themselves on teams with their former competition, and with their friends on other teams, knew that if their team lost, their friends would not vote them off. Because he drank water to ensure he didn’t show weight loss last week, Neil lost 33 pounds this week. Standing on the scale, he said, “I realized the whole thing was a mistake, and I’m really not proud of what I did at all.” Host Allison Sweeney said that he is now the show’s “greatest loser in one week and the greatest gainer in one week.”

When his teammate Isabeau, from the original black team, weighed in, the scale revealed that she lost zero pounds. And once again, she told us it was intentional. “He kind of screwed me over last week, so I think it was only fair that he saved me this week,” Isabeau said. “People could look at what I did as manipulation, saying, ‘Oh, she took advantage of that situation.’ And damn right I did. I want to have that advantage next week, and I don’t feel that that’s manipulation, I feel that that’s smart.”

Isabeau is essentially banking her weight loss for next week, which Biggest Loser 2 winner Matt also did during his season, so it’s not exactly a new strategy. But what the hell is up with all of this weight gain?

It’s all about the game element. The show’s title is actually inaccurate, as the real “biggest loser,” the person who loses the most weight, isn’t necessarily the person who wins the game. The person who wins is the one who makes it to the final three, having not been voted out, and is the biggest loser among those three people. Since they are competing against one another for $250,000, Survivor-style, the contestants get rid of their biggest threats. While the person with the greatest percentage of weight loss is immune every week, everyone else is vulnerable to the game element.

The series relies on the game element for its drama and tears, which it has reliably produced this season. But of course, the game also means the series isn’t really about rewarding weight loss, it’s often about punishing it.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.