As the XL version of the long-running reality show continues its harrowing season, participant Matt Wright shares his memories with PEOPLE

By Steve Helling
April 28, 2017 02:24 PM

Naked and Afraid XL continues on Sunday night, and the show is down to just seven participants after two of the males left the show. (One broke his knee, and the other one tapped out after an injury.)  The four women and three men left in the adventure may soon be joined by visitors, but the Discovery Channel isn’t telling us who.

For the survivalists, the hard part is just beginning. The adrenaline of the first day has evaporated, and now it’s time to figure out a survival strategy. 

Because we can’t possibly know what this is like (and frankly, we don’t want to find out), we’ve asked veteran Naked and Afraid participant Matt Wright to share his experiences this season. Here are his recollections of the second stage of his adventure.

During my first few days in the jungle, I was still dependent on the things that a civilized, pampered human has. I was missing my clothes, shoes and blankets. I craved food all the time.

Discovery Channel

But after the first week of survival, the magic really started to happen. I transformed from a soft, civilized human into someone a lot more savage. And it felt amazing. I get used to things that used to drive me crazy. After about a week, the onslaught of bugs biting my junk became just a normal part of my day. Boiling water seemed like a natural chore to do. I’m sure I stunk, but I didn’t care.

But that’s not to say it didn’t suck. I realized that I was getting about 2 percent of my normal calorie intake. It’s amazing the things I’ll eat when I’m hungry. One morning, as I was licking termites right from a tree, I realized that I was no longer the civilized guy from Colorado. When a roast tarantula becomes a tasty meal, you know that something has changed.

There are two parts to severe hunger, and they seem to be the opposite of each other. On one hand, I was losing fat and energy, so everyday tasks became a lot harder. It was tougher to keep a positive morale. And then on the other hand, I noticed the aggression in “hangry” moments where I was irritable and annoyed.

With the lack of food, I began to feel the increasing aggravation from hunger coming out. I was with Russell, and we would both joke about which one of the camera crew we’d have to eat first if it got worse. I’d then go hunting even harder because getting food was the only way to curb our hunger.

Oh, and something else happens when you have less body fat. You get cold – and not just a chilly “I-should-put-on-a-windbreaker” cold. No. It’s a “holy-crap-I-can’t-stop-shivering-and-I-want-to-die” cold. It’s spine chilling and miserable. You just can’t get warm.

Discovery Channel

So, let’s address the elephant in the room: do we cuddle with the other survivalists when we’re cold? I told Russell that there was no way I’d cuddle with him unless there were icicles hanging from the palm trees. So because it never snowed in the Amazon, we remained shivering in our respective shelters. We men can be really stubborn sometimes.

Something else happened after a week: my senses became significantly enhanced. Seriously, I felt like Spiderman. I could smell better, see better and hear better. It’s a survival instinct: you need your senses to hunt – and to avoid being hunted. So even though I was starving, cold and exhausted, I could feel strangely powerful. From the minute the sun came up, I’d go out hunting for food. All of us on Naked and Afraid were evolving into jungle warriors.

But yeah, I could have still used a nice steak dinner and a warm bed.

Naked and Afraid XL airs Sundays (10 p.m. ET) on Discovery Channel.

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