Michael Dietrich has braved bitterly cold temperatures in Alberta’s backcountry, but he said nothing could have prepared him for the bugs, snakes and scorpions he faced while being filmed for reality TV.
Dietrich, an Edmonton-based personal fitness trainer, will star in an episode of the Discovery Channel show Naked and Afraid. Its sixth season began earlier this year, and Dietrich will get to see himself in the newest episode for the first time with a watch party at Central Social Hall on Sunday night.
The show sends two survivalists out into the wilderness to fend for themselves, naked with next to no supplies. The survivalists are strangers to one another, and must last 21 days, building shelter and finding food and water.
“Imagine not eating for three weeks, imagine not sleeping well for three weeks,” said Dietrich, who spoke last week with CBC’s Radio Active.
“Starvation is a very real thing and it was incredible to feel the effects of what starvation and sleep deprivation does to your physical body, but also your mind. I like to think I’m a fairly strong individual, but that really can get broken down.”
The new season of Naked and Afraid airs in Canada in April.
Before being cast on the show, Dietrich developed an online following after taking and posting photos of himself hiking and camping in the mountains with his dog BearBear. To celebrate BearBear’s birthday, Dietrich got naked and took a photo of himself and his dog in the Rocky Mountains. When he published the image, someone commented on the post with a hashtag of the show’s name, and soon Dietrich received an email from a casting agency.
At first he thought it was a joke, but after a series of interviews and a flight to California for a psychiatric evaluation and a physical assessment, Dietrich was cast.
Dietrich said he had no idea what he was getting into. Even though he felt physically and mentally fit, Dietrich said his weakest point was knowing how to survive under the elements.
“I was praying that I was going to be that strong-minded person that was able to be positive in all situations, and then ideally I had a partner that brought a very strong survival skill set,” Dietrich said.
But Dietrich’s biggest aid to taking on this challenge was his experience braving extreme temperatures near his own home. The mental toll the 21 days in Colombian jungles took on him was something he was more prepared for having camped in Alberta’s backcountry.
“When you’re surviving in the middle of nowhere, summer, winter, alone with your dog for days or weeks on end, you go through a whole roller-coaster of emotions and mental toughness,” Dietrich said.
“When my dog and I were alone camping in the backcountry, there’s no room for error and there’s some very long, lonely, dark days.”