“It’s been hard to sit back and listen to an attack and not come out and call afoul, but I have done that for many years,” the show’s co-creator and executive producer Dave Broome tells PEOPLE exclusively. “I’ve held back for many years on this because I didn’t want to give it any credence or credibility. But I think at this point we just feel like there needs to be a balance with this story.”
The “story” Broome is referring to stems from comments made recently by Kai Hibbard, who was a contestant on the third season of the NBC weight-loss reality competition.
“The whole f–ing show is a fat-shaming disaster that I’m embarrassed to have participated in,” Hibbard told the New York Post on Sunday. “You’re brainwashed to believe that you’re super lucky to be there.”
Another competitor, who spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity, claimed she was harassed and bullied by the trainers and members of the production during her time as a contestant.
Broome says these claims are “false” and stresses that the health and well-being of the contestants is production’s utmost concern.
“We put together an incredible medical team of doctors, nutritionists and therapists. You name it we’ve had it and continue to evolve [our supervised care],” he says.
“No one placed shame on me as part of the show,” season 3 contestant Julie Hadden tells PEOPLE. “For me, The Biggest Loser was life-changing. I took with me a world of knowledge on proper nutrition and fitness and healthy lifestyle choices that I still use every day.”
“[Kai’s claims] could not be further from the truth,” adds Scott Mitchell, a current contestant who will compete for the at-home prize at the season 16 finale on Jan. 29. “[The show’s doctor] Dr. Huizenga and others associated with the show reminded all the contestants that our long-term health was the real goal, not winning a game show.”
Broome says there are “millions of people around the world whose lives have been changed” by The Biggest Loser. But controversy erupted last February when season 15 winner Rachel Frederickson weighed in at just 105 lbs. at the finale. And just two months later, trainer Jillian Michaels told PEOPLE she was “deeply concerned by the negative direction the show has taken” and was leaving the reality program.
As for Hibbard’s version of her experience on the show, she told PEOPLE in February that her “family and friends staged an intervention because they were worried about my health before the [season 3] finale.”
“This doctor associated with the show called me, and I told him what happened,” she claimed. “He said, ‘Thank goodness. The people that make this show do not care about your health. They care about profit and entertainment. Take care of yourself.’ ”
Many of Hibbard’s fellow former contestants remain dumfounded as to why she would make such comments about an experience they feel changed their lives for the better. But some feel she’s allowed to have her opinion.
“She may actually believe what she says,” says season 8 winner Danny Cahill. “I just find it hard to believe when almost every other contestant talks publicly about the positive aspects. The show is like life: There are positive and negative aspects. I’m sorry she chooses to see only the few negative aspects.”
The Biggest Loser: Glory Days airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.