Posted by Kathy Lyford
"The Biggest Loser" co-creator Mark Koops has answered your weighty questions.
Mark (pictured with trainer Bob Harper) is also managing director of television production company Reveille, which produces "The Office," "The Tudors," "Ugly Betty" and many other series.
He's rightfully very proud of "The Biggest Loser," a series that has changed many lives over its six seasons.
Season seven, "Biggest Loser: Couples," began last Tuesday. Jerry, the oldest contestant ever, collapsed and was taken to the hospital. He returned to the ranch and is still in the game. And the season features the biggest contestant ever (Daniel) and the biggest female contestant ever (Carla). Producers also unveiled a rather ingenious twist. Of the 22 folks we were introduced to, nine were sent home to continue the program there. Those whose partners are still in the game in a month, will be invited back to the ranch.
Here are you questions and the answers. We'll have a couple of prize winners this time. I'll notify them via email. (I apologize if your question was left off; we had some technical issues with our software affecting comments during the week we were compiling questions.)
Q. Why is it that your show has less of the gamesmanship and nastiness than other reality shows? (With the obvious exception of last season’s Vicky, of course.) — Betty
A. I think it is genuinely because they all want to change their lives. that may sound trite but it is true. the contestants become their own self-help group and one person’s success becomes the group’s success. They recognize that only one person can win the game, but they can all change their lives, change the lives of the ones they love and inspire you, the viewer.
Q. Who is your favorite contestant ever and why? — KJ
A. I think "The Biggest Loser" family will always have a soft spot in our heart for season 2 winner Matt Hoover, especially because he married a fellow contestant who we loved too. And then of course Ali Vincent our first female winner quickly followed by Michelle, our winner from last season.
Q. While Jerry’s (pictured with wife Estella) collapse this week on The Biggest Loser 7 season opener served as a lesson in why people need to take control of their weight and health, does it ever concern you about how hard the contestants are pushed? Do you ever tell the trainers, hey, back off a bit? — Dan
A.I can genuinely say I think the trainers are the best in the world. they know when to push and when to ease off. They always have the health of the contestants as their first priority. In addition, we have a medical staff both on site and consulting on the show, who are continuously monitoring the contestants to ensure every precaution is taken. that’s why you’ll occasionally see contestants being held out of challenges, etc.
Q. How difficult is the casting process? Are you looking for personalities or people who need the most help? And do you feel bad when you have to turn people down? — Jean
A. It is the hardest thing in the world to say no to potential contestants. It is heartbreaking. When casting, our first priority is to find contestants who really want it, who really want to change. And yes, obviously they need to have enough weight to lose!
Q. Are the people who work on the show all physically fit? Is there a lot of peer pressure on everyone to stay in shape? — Mark
A. I wish we were all as fit as the contestants become. I think we are all inspired by working on the show to follow the same path. We have also had several examples of production personnel who have successfully lost weight.
Q."The Biggest Loser" has had a better track record at bringing couples together (Matt & Suzy, Marty & Amy) than "The Bachelor" or "The Bachelorette." Would the show ever consider a singles-and-looking edition with the intent of matchingmaking as well as weight loss? — Lindsey
A. This is definitely something we have discussed and we love our "Biggest Loser" weddings, but there is no current plan to have that be the whole focus of a (cycle).
Q. How cut off from the world are the contestants while they're at the ranch? I know their contact with family and friends is limited, but what about newspapers and TV? Do they know what's going on in the world while they’re away? — Dave
A.They are initially cut off completely from the world — no contact with anyone but each other and production. However, after the immersion period they do indeed get to call home off-camera as well as on-camera, and they obviously can keep up to date with what is going on in the world. For example, this season they did know Barack Obama (was elected) president.
Q.Last season, Vicky, Heba and Brady had such animosity toward teammates Phil and Amy, but Phil and Amy seemed like nice people and I never saw anything that indicated they deserved such treatment. Was there something that got edited out about that? What’s the scoop? — Sheila
A.The reality is when you put strong, contrasting personalities in a house for a long period of time, and they are sore, tired and going through what is a difficult and challenging process, there is definitely the potential for conflict. I think Vicky, Heba and Brady certainly didn’t always agree, but, as I think we witnessed at the finale, they had tremendous respect for each other’s incredible personal achievements.
Q.Occasionally, past "Biggest Loser" contestants have visited the campus during the current season. Is there any plan for a reunion of Biggest Loser contestants to see how they've fared in the time since they were on campus? — Terry
A. Tell NBC you want to see it! We love seeing our past seasons’ contestants appear on the show from time to time or come to the finale. they are inspirations to all of us and remind us that it’s never too late to make a positive change.
Q. How many contestants have gained back a significant amount of weight since being on the show? — Katy
A. We have definitely had failure as well as success, and I think that just goes to show that weight loss can’t be achieved with a magic pill. Instead it’s something you have to continue to work on. but I definitely think we have had more success than failure.
Q.How come you have never had a gay or lesbian couple paired on the show? — nws224
A. This hasn’t been a conscious decision, and we have definitely had a number of gay or lesbian individuals on the show. We are looking for great characters and great stories, so I’m sure we will.
Q. When the season starts on TV, how long have the contestants been at the ranch? A couple of weeks? A month? When they go home near the end of the season, do they need to lay low until the finale? — Renee
A. This varies from cycle to cycle but the rule of thumb is that they are on the ranch for approximately four months and then home for approximately four months, if they go all the way.
Q. Are the contestants given a specific diet that they have to follow while they are at the ranch or are they given a daily calorie allowance that they're supposed to meet each day? Do they do all their own cooking? — Coleen
A.the trainers, our doctors and nutritionist provide a daily caloric minimum — after all it is calories in versus calories out — but then they tweak the diet for each individual within those parameters as they want to set the contestants up for success. telling them they can never have their favorite foods is just unrealistic. Also, one lesson the contestants quickly learn is that eating enough calories is absolutely essential for weight loss given the level of exercise and cardio they are put through. The contestants do indeed do their own cooking with the help of the trainers.
Q. How many hours a day to the contestants exercise? And how often do they see the trainers? Every day? — TC
A. They exercise anywhere from three to four hours a day on average, but then as they become stronger they may work out up to six hours a day. The trainers’ commitment is incredible, and they are generally there six days a week.
Q. How will you be dealing with the arrest of current home contestant Shannon? Will you address it on the show? How will it affect her mother, who's at the ranch? — Lois
A. We do not plan to address this as a significant part of the show.
(Pictured above: Daniel, right, and his best friend David)