After dropping from 165 lbs. to 129 lbs. on Survivor: All-Stars, O’Brien hit the shops. “I’d be squealing, ‘I can fit in a size 6!’ I was buying little camisoles—at 50!” says O’Brien, now 52. Two years earlier on Survivor: Marquesas, O’Brien had dropped 34 lbs. The downside? “When I got back [from Marquesas],” says the Burlington, Vt., real estate agent, “I had a really bad stomach. Anything with fat made me sick.” Consultations with a doctor and nutritionist set her system right, but 20 lbs. have crept back on. O’Brien now works out with a trainer to reverse the trend: “I am determined to get back in those jeans.”
LOST 18% BODY FAT
Holding the record as Survivor‘s all-time biggest loser, the Virginia farmer went from 279 lbs. to 202 lbs. in 37 days during the Africa edition. (One of his game strategies: giving up rations to two members of his alliance.) Another factor: “We lived on a [wildlife] reserve, and there was no hunting. We had to eat just what we carried—and what we carried was a little bit of mush. It was terrible.” Actually, it was mashed corn. After returning from Kenya, Buchanan, 50, was famished and “so weak,” he says, that he binged on chocolate and strawberry ice cream for days. (After gaining 66 lbs. back, he dropped 42 of them again on All-Stars.) When he was thinner, “everybody said, ‘Boy, you look nice!’ But I never felt good,” says Buchanan, 6′3″. He maintained his final Survivor loss for a year but now weighs 290 lbs: “Listen to me, how happy I am fat.”
GAINED 88 lbs. BACK
Tanner, who started at 151 lbs., lost 16 lbs. during the show, “mostly in the first three weeks,” she says. Still, “I never got hungry.” The Missouri Department of Transportation employee, 43, has stayed trim by riding her bike and steering clear of sugar and fried foods. “ when you have a chance to not eat mashed potatoes and gravy for supper,” she says, “you realize you can do without.”
KEPT OFF 10 lbs.
“Seeing my belly hang over that dress in Pearl Islands is a good motivator not to get that belly back,” says Boneham, 41, who is now an Indianapolis real estate investor. During that 2003 series, he went from 270 lbs. to 225 lbs. Two months later he started All-Stars at 240 lbs. and finished after 31 days at just 190, due, he says, to the Coconut Diet: “Coconut is a great laxative but not a great food.” Though he sometimes felt light-headed, Boneham was thrilled to get under 200 lbs., which he hadn’t been since he was a teen. After the show, “spicy or heavy foods didn’t feel good anymore,” he says. He stays at 220 lbs. by laying off the fast food, replacing some meals with Slim-Fast and playing racquetball.
KEPT OFF 50 lbs.
IS IT SAFE?
The Survivor diet is not one I’d recommend,” says the show’s physician, Dr. Adrian Cohen. “It’s extreme, the food groups are poorly represented, and it doesn’t provide enough fiber.” Players receive about a cup of rice or corn a day and as much fish and local produce as they can gather—which usually isn’t much. (In Africa they also had canned beans.) “ It’s about 1,000 calories a day,” Cohen estimates. Because it’s TV, players “have a feeling of ‘they’re not going to let us starve, are they?’” Well, no, but losing more than 15 percent body weight “would be cause for concern,” he says. Guatemala winner Danni Boatwright (right) lost 19 percent, though Cohen said she remained relatively healthy. With fast-track weight loss, he warns, “your metabolism takes a beating—it’s not a healthy way. If it were, I’d publish a book.”