Trainers aren’t paid for Biggest Loser product placement; Jillian rejected Nabisco

The Biggest Loser 5 concludes tonight with a two-hour finale, which will begin at 8 p.m. ET with the results of the first-ever viewer vote, a twist that the trainers don’t like. The live finale is always the most astounding part, as people who barely look like their former selves show up to see who will win the $250,000 prize.

While the show may have its first-ever female winner, since two of the three finalists are women, one woman may have actually stopped losing weight. Trainer Jillian Michaels told reporters during a recent conference call that Ali will limit her weight loss. “As much as she wants to win this, we’ve decided that she will not come in below 120 pounds, under any circumstance. … [S]he cannot go below that weight. She can, but it would be unhealthy for her and she’s about sending the right message.”

Also during that conference call, I asked the show’s executive producer and Jillian for details about the series’ shameless product placement, such as how products are selected, whether or not the contestants and trainers were forced to participate, or if they are paid for those segments.

Executive producer Mark Koops said, “I don’t think anyone ever sat down and told a contestant absolutely they have to do anything.” He also said decisions are “driven by the network in collaboration with us in terms of who the sponsors are,” and acknowledged that some products aren’t exactly ideal. Referring to Nabisco’s 100 calorie snack packs, Koops said, “Would Bob and Jillian in Utopia have people use them? Probably not. But in terms of is it a better choice than many of the other choices people face on a daily basis? 100% it is.”

Jillian Michaels said, “Bob and I do not get paid for the integrations. So I don’t want people to think that we are taking money for them. The reason we participate in them is because it’s been explained to us that they finance the show. And without the integrations, there probably would be no Biggest Loser. And again, it comes back to the greater good.”

She said that she’s rejected some products, such as the Nabisco 100 Calorie Packs, and that’s fine with the producers. “If there is something that we don’t like, I don’t have to do it. I wouldn’t do Nabisco because they are owned by Phillip Morris. And so I said, ‘Mark, I won’t do it.’ And he said, ‘That’s absolutely fine,’ and Bob did it.”

Jillian also said that she’s raised questions about other product integration, like for Ziploc bags. “I was like, I don’t microwave my food in plastic. I’m not doing it. And I had an executive come down and talk to me about the special polymers in the bag and how it’s been formulated so it doesn’t leach into the food. So they constantly are taking into account our concerns,” she said.

“At the end of the day, you know, we give them the information. If it’s something that’s totally egregious, we won’t do it. They won’t be sponsors of the show. And again, we do it to keep the show on the air and the show is offering so much positive that it’s kind of like, you know, nothing is 100% perfect in this world,” Jillian added. “You’ve got to have trade-offs and ultimately, this is a business and NBC needs to make money.”

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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.