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James Garrison “Blows Whistle” on Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Treatment of Contestants

Anyone who watches reality television knows that it isn’t all real, after all, whether it’s Loser, Housewives, or Hills, they still have a story to tell and a show to produce. But it’s one of those things that no one talks about.  Until now. James Garrison, a participant in Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition‘s first season earlier this year, is calling himself a whistle blower and exposing what he describes as mistreatment of the shows participants.

“You read it here first… The Biggest Extreme Makeover Loser WhistleBlower,” said Garrison at the end of a nearly 2000-word diatribe against Extreme Makeover’s producers and cast, calling out by name JD Roth (the man also behind Biggest Loser) and the show’s trainer Chris Powell.

In our interview with James after his episode aired he described health problems he was having as, he says, a result of his rapid weight loss, which meant losing 313 pounds in 365 days. This month he had another rush to the hospital which resulted in the removal of his gall bladder. It got him thinking.

“Well it took another near death stay in the hospital, my second in a year, to realize exactly what I was promoting. Yes, I lost 313lbs in one year on ABC’s Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition, but should you? The answer is no. No one should lose that much weight that fast and if anything I am proof positive as to why its not a good idea. Those are unrealistic expectations that in reality are more harmful than good,” is the statement Garrison wrote in the blog post that started it all.

He says that post was also followed up by personal emails to Roth and Powell, explaining his health problems, the $50,000 in hospital bills from the past year, and asking for help with it all, which he says were ignored.

“I guess what is hard to understand is, after emailing JD. Roth and Chris Powell asking for assistance with my medical and over $50,000 in hospital bills I was ignored.”

The only response he got was a cease and desist from show attorneys, which he posts a copy of on his blog.

“I write a blog about my health and why I don’t think its a good idea to lose 313lbs in one year on a Saturday night because to be honest it was weighing on my conscious that America believes that this is okay and by Sunday morning I have a cease and desist letter and phone calls from show producers and attorneys. They were all threatening calls, and none of which was about helping me. The attorney asked me to take the blog down out of good faith and to see if we can get this resolved but Its been 10 days and still no word back from him other than he is looking into it?”

All of this comes from a blog post Garrison published on October 12, 2011, where he’s also posted images of emails between him and show producers. One such email is from Chris Powell to the show’s participants encouraging them and outlining for them how to do a flush to help them lose up to an extra 30 pounds of water weight before their weigh ins.

Garrison says that the flushes Powell encouraged them to do goes against everything that Powell has taught in his fitness career. He also calls out that they never followed the diet described on the show.

“None of us were on that 2,000 calorie diet that CHLI designed [the Extreme Makeover Diet]. We pretty much were told to eat less and less in email and later just verbally as in their words “your body is fighting back, we need these numbers”. Or what was better “there going to cancel the show, we wont be able to inspire anyone”. We even went without carbs 2-3 days a week,  at their suggestion to get better numbers and better results.”

Other things about the show that Garrison “outs” in his blog post include:

  • “We were made to take diet pills 2-3 times per day for an entire year.”
  • “Chris Powell did not live with us for three months each. The fact is I maybe saw him 5 days last year…”
  • “We were made to dehydrate ourselves every single week beginning on Thursday and ending on Saturday morning.”

Garrison is certainly not the first weight loss reality star to reveal his experience. Kai Hibbard, a member of Biggest Loser season 3, famously spoke out against that show citing similar unhealthy weight loss tactics to help the contestants lose weight.

We have reached out to ABC publicity and James Garrison for comment and will update as those are available.

UPDATED 10/14/11 at 10:20pm:

We spoke with James by phone and he told his actions are an attempt to right a wrong. “By participating in that show I was wrong.” He also responded to critics saying “If I was out for fortune I wouldn’t be hanging myself right now.” He says some of his fellow castmates have “turned their backs on me” but others have voiced support.

October 14th, 2011

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(Page 1 of 1, 14 total comments)


I don't agree that the show should have paid anything towards his medical bills. On the show he said he had Pneumonia, that was why he was laid up in the hospital for a week. Not their fault. Him having his gallbladder taken out, you think that is their fault? LOL Please. He was the size of two overly obese people put together, you don't think he had medical problems before the show? Don't be naive, he had a huge bulge on top of all his fat that looked as big as a toddlers head poking out. By the sounds of it James is overly dramatic and seeks attention now that he has lost weight he needs to find it in other ways. “If I was out for fortune I wouldn’t be hanging myself right now.” Right. You're going to hang yourself, but you felt the need to get an email out to a blog and just happen to mention to a total stranger as a P.S. Attention Seeker. People tend to keep that close to the vest and don't like to tell people for the shame they feel.

posted Dec 29th, 2014 7:28 am


I knew there was something off on that show, I just knew it. Everytime I watch it on t.v. I fee that something is wrong about it but I don't know what. I myself admit that I was once a fan of that show even though I feel something is off about it. But now that I have read this article my suspicions have been confirmed. And I'm just 14 years old, I'm not obese nor overweight at all. But I do a belly and it's quite big.

posted May 26th, 2013 5:53 am


I actually wanted to be on this show, I thought maybe it was different than biggest loser and they didn't try to hurt the contestants health but now I see this is exactly the same. How awful that they do this to people and then lie to the public. Inspire people? how are they inspiring people by having them crash diet? and lying to everyone. This is ridiculous. They need to change the entire show and let the contestans lose weight in a healthy way. This is atrocious and I'm so happy that someone is speaking out, more people need to come out. These shows are lucky they haven't killed anyone yet. How inspiring would that be?

posted Jun 7th, 2012 1:57 am


I have spoken via chat with James several times in the last few months. He certainly is not doing this for "fame & fortune" as others have voiced. If so, he would not have removed the merchandise section on the Truth in Change website and also asked them to remove the donation link as well. Although he is requesting Chis P and JD Roth to help with his medical bills, he is not asking his fans. He simply wants them to know just what he went through and what "not to do" to lose weight. He wants them to realize realistic goals for themselves.

posted Oct 16th, 2011 1:42 pm


I always knew that shows didn't magically get the numbers they show by doing it the normal way, but this definitely was an eye opener when I saw it on James' fb page. Do I want to believe these shows do this just to make more money? No. Do I actually believe they do it? Yes.

posted Oct 16th, 2011 1:27 pm


Lots of weight loss reality show contestants seem to be very grateful for their experiences, and I wouldn't begrudge them any of their happiness or success. In James' situation, I think it is unfortunate that those responsible for his show seemed to have encouraged him to engage in risky and unhealthy habits like taking diet pills and dehydrating himself. I suppose the important lesson from his experience is to NEVER turn over your power to anyone else, no matter how much they seem to want to help you. If it feels wrong to you, then you should find another way. Although the TV show was about weight loss, its makers are still in the TV business, not the weight loss business. I'm sure James signed some sort of contract with lots of legal-ese. So I hope he is able to regain his health and move forward with his plan to help and inspire others in a healthy way. It is such a shame he was treated in this manner. I will certainly pay more attention to my instincts when I work with doctors, trainers, nutritionists, etc. I want to work with people who have my best interests at heart, and not simply TV ratings.

posted Oct 16th, 2011 1:16 pm


Even though, I think that he deserve to be helped with the bills, I think that he was in the path to die before the show, he was seriously obese, now he is in a better shape and that is thanks to the show.

posted Oct 15th, 2011 6:53 pm


Even though, I think that he deserve to be helped with the bills, I think that he was in the path to die before the show, he was seriously obese, now he is in a better shape and that is thanks to the show.

posted Oct 15th, 2011 6:53 pm

Claudia Gutierrez

I have follow James way before his reality show and I can honestly say that he is not out for the fame. James likes to inspire people, he was doing even before he got casted for EXTRE MAKE OVER. I am glad & relieved that he is spreading the truth about these shows and I was one of the biggest fan. Its just cruel that they make over weight people (the ones trying to loose the weight) think that they are not doing enough because they aren't loosing 10+ lbs...

posted Oct 15th, 2011 12:40 am

Bonnie Pettit

I have been following James on facebook and I think he is and inspiration for standing up and letting everyone know what the truth is! Very courageous!

posted Oct 15th, 2011 12:37 am


I believe what James is saying is the truth. TV shows are made to entertain by means of make believe. We really shouldn't be shocked at the fact that the show isn't based on what they say it is. Admit it, would you watch it if they told you they had the contestants dehydrating themselves, doing flushes, and taking diet pills? Hey, the average joe trying to lose weight out here has done all of that an more! We don't want to see ourselves when we watch tv! We want to be entertained! So the show producers just gave us what we want to see. Thanks James for putting the truth out there - losing weight is hard, and to keep your health in line, weight must be taken off in a manner that the body can handle. Extreme weight loss will only send you to the hospital

posted Oct 15th, 2011 12:17 am


Over the past few months I have spent a lot of time interacting with James and he doesn't strike me as a liar. I am very proud to call him a friend and I applaud him for standing up for the truth.

posted Oct 14th, 2011 11:30 pm


I have been following and supporting this since I first saw James' post. I think he is 100% correct in not only trying to hold the show responsible but trying to get the word out about this. He is an inspiration and one of the only people honest in his intentions.

posted Oct 14th, 2011 11:28 pm


Wow! I recently auditioned for a weight loss show and I was SO sad when i didn't make it on. After hearing about James and his story I feel blessed. I hope more people learn from his story that rapid weight loss is unhealthy and should be avoided. Thank you for sharing his story.

posted Oct 14th, 2011 11:27 pm


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