The first US ‘Biggest Loser’ shares the key healthy eating tip he wishes he’d learned earlier


The first thing Ryan Benson did after being crowned the “Biggest Loser” on national television was order a burger and fries.

Benson had spent the previous five months exercising six hours a day and eating a strict regimen of healthy food as a contestant on the first season of the popular TV series “The Biggest Loser.” He lost 122 pounds.

“In my mind I just thought I’ve been training so hard I want to eat something I craved for a few months — a burger, fries, some ribs,” Benson tells Business Insider. “That was one of the things that propelled me to the finish line. I thought, when I’m done I’m going to get this. It was a reward.”

As the show cycled through 17 seasons between 2004 and 2016, Benson regained all of the weight he’d lost — and then some.

Now, Benson is returning to national television as part of a new show from the producer of “The Biggest Loser.” Called “The Big Fat Truth,” the show seeks to highlight “bad” behaviours and mentalities that it suggests were behind the participants’ weight gain — and help them change.

Experts say the show’s fast-paced approach likely won’t work for many people, but Benson says it “set him on the right path” to lose some of the weight he’s regained. Being on the show, he says, has pushed him to think more about incorporating healthy eating into every aspect of his life.

Eating healthy

Benson realised that unexpected situations — such as surprise trips or last-minute plans — can bring out his least-healthy habits and lead him to resort to fast-food. While filming the series, Benson had to take an unexpected plane trip. Worried about going off of his new vegetarian diet, he texted the producer’s wife, Christine Roth, who was taking a nutrition course at a nearby university.

She advised Benson to bring his own healthy snacks, including fresh fruits and veggies, rather than showing up at the airport hungry and exhausted.

“A lot of it is preparing so you have the stuff you need,” Benson says.

Dietitians and nutritionists often suggest that the best way to ensure you’ll eat something healthy is to bring it yourself.

“We live in a society where making healthy choices and being at a healthy weight, it’s not defaulted toward that,” says Andy Bellatti, a registered dietitian and the cofounder of Dietitians for Professional Integrity. “Unhealthy foods are cheaper and they’re everywhere; if you go to any store, you can buy a candy bar at the checkout but not a piece of fruit.”

Benson agrees.

“It’s a life-long struggle. If I don’t prepare for when I’m going somewhere — for example I went to a barbecue recently and we brought the salad. Otherwise it’s eegh, I guess I’ll have a burger or else I’m not eating.”

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