Perception is Reality

Over the past two weeks, you may have read negative stories about NBC’s The Biggest Loser in the press, as well as many of my replies defending the reality show. I replied in a few comments on Facebook, as well as on where I stated my beliefs about the show.  I wanted to address them here at as well.

Some contestants have come out lately sharing their negative experiences about being contestants on The Biggest Loser. Are they true? According to their perception, I believe they are. YouScale see, in life you are dealt many situations and it is up to you how you see them in a positive or negative light.

It reminds me of a story I heard that goes something like this:

For an experiment, behavior specialists took two rooms and filled them with horse manure. They placed a 7 year old child in each of the rooms and left them for a time. One room sat idly still while in the other room something was happening.  They heard screaming and laughing and a lot of noise!  When they opened the door of the quiet room to see what was going on, the boy had a tear in his eye and was sitting depressed. When they opened the door to the room with all the noise, they couldn’t find the boy as he had dug tunnels through the manure!  After a short time he emerged from the manure and screamed, “With all this horse poop, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”

Life is how you perceive it.  I have met people who work for the same company, and one sees the opportunity while the other sees the dead-end job. That same choice of perspective goes for The Biggest Loser. Here are some things I learned from the show:

How to cook and prepare meals for myself

No. We didn’t have chef’s preparing our food. We didn’t have maid service like in a hotel. And we didn’t have people wash our clothes, clean our rooms, tidy up the house and do the dishes. In fact, some of the contestants on my season hardly ever cleaned anything! That’s part of the process.  If you want to make it real, you’ve got to let things happen.

I am capable of doing most anything I choose to do

When I and the others walked onto the Biggest Loser Ranch, we were broken. Whether we knew it or not, there were underlying reasons why we were morbidly obese – and those reason weren’t simply a fast food drive through or a buffet. There were other things at work such as low self esteem, food addiction, underlying childhood pain we had never dealt with, fear, and most of all the loss of belief that we could or would ever lose the weight. The Biggest Loser gave us a chance to see that we could all lose the weight – if we made it a priority. Is losing 239 pounds in 210 days healthy? I’ll say I was healthier at the end of the show than I was when I walked on. I was on four medications and pre-diabetic, could only walk a short distance without losing my breath, had a 69.5” stomach, and had such bad sleep apnea that my oxygen level would drop below 50% which can cause organ failure. I was definitely healthier after losing that record-breaking weight!

Life is full of opportunities, and what you do with them is completely up to you

The Biggest Loser was an opportunity. I took it – the good with the bad – and I ran with it! Yes, there were bad things about the show – just like in any area of life! There were times when I felt unfairly treated by other contestants. Most of the public doesn’t know that my team threw weigh-ins, leaving me to fight for my life to stay on the show!  If I didn’t get immunity, I would go home.  I was so angry when I found that out by walking in on a phone conversation with them and our trainer. They purposefully rigged their weight so as to lose one week and send someone (me) home. The next week they would lose the water weight they gained by urinating it out, handily winning the next week. It was strategy for them, but to me it was betrayal and mutiny – by both my teammates and my trainer. I responded by kicking it into high gear, losing double digits for 7-weeks in a row (still a record on The Biggest Loser), and in turn learning that if I apply a little pressure in my life, I can do anything! I guess I could have talked to the press and called them cheaters – but what good would that do? I chose to learn from the bad situation, and I am better for it today.

We do what we choose to do and it is entirely our choice. We should take responsibility for our choices

No one forced us to work out, made is eat nothing or little to nothing, or gave us an eating disorder. We had eating disorders before we got on the show! The kitchen was always open and you could eat as much as you want! If you chose to eat nothing, that was your choice.  Blaming a reality show for your own choices is choosing to be a victim – or giving away your power. Taking responsibility for what you chose is the right thing to do. If you drank coffee for a meal, that was your choice, which will have repercussions that you will eventually have to deal with. If someone on the show called you a fat and lazy person, trust me – in your life before The Biggest Loser, if people weren’t saying it they were surely thinking it – and you probably did too you when you looked in the mirror.

We have a choice

Every choice in life has a price and a benefit. When cost gets high enough, we change our choice – but only if we choose to take responsibility for our own actions. Just as every contestant had a choice to be there, a choice to work out or not work out, a choice of what food to eat, a choice to say no when asked to do something, and a choice to walk out of that gym any time you wanted, every contestant also has a choice to live in the negative of the reality they perceived or to make it a positive.

By speaking out against The Biggest Loser, some contestants believe they are making a difference. I think there are much more effective ways to make a difference – by getting active in your community for the cause you speak of. It’s time to quit blaming a show for what they never forced anyone to participate in and take what you learned and turn it into a positive force.

After travelling to 7 different countries and over 40 U.S. states and speaking to millions worldwide, and also facilitating The Journey Training here in Tulsa, Oklahoma, my perception is that The Biggest Loser is an inspiring show that gives people hope; hope that they too can change their lives. I saw the hope, I took the hope, and I ran with the hope – and I changed my life for the better! My reality is how I perceive it – and I choose to perceive the good and pay it forward to those I meet and speak to. The question isn’t will there be negative aspects to anything you pursue in life – the question is will you be a victim to it or will you take responsibility and choose how you respond. I choose responsible.

Danny Cahill was the winner of Season 8 of NBC’s The Biggest Loser. He lost 239 pounds in 210 days to win that season, and has since become a sought after motivational speaker for corporations, churches, communities and businesses. To contact Danny about speaking to your group, email him at

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  1. […] Lastly weight loss is the persons responsibility. Taking what you learn and practicing it. You have to find a nutrition plan that works for you and stick to it. It is about calories in vs calories out. You have to continue to move and most importantly work on yourself emotionally. If you are doing everything right and weight is still not coming off talk to your doctor there may be a medical explaination. But if you are not logging and counting calories you can’t say a plan is not working either. You need to be measuring out your portions for an accurate account of calories consumed. Its your responsibility no one else’s and its about your choices. To see a more balanced look at the biggest loser experience check out Danny Cahill’s account […]