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A Biggest Loser Contestant Speaks Out

afraid of food

Credit: Perfecto Insecto (And no, this is not Kai.)

In previous posts, we’ve very publicly declared our love for The Biggest Loser, despite its unrealistic outcomes (we’ve also declared our love for this man). And, from that poll, it seems that on the whole, most of our readers agree that the show is inspiring. However, one former contestant has come out against the show in a way that goes beyond just unrealistic expectations.

Kai Hibbard, who lost 118 pounds on season three of The Biggest Loser, says some pretty damning things about the show. In a live interview with the blog Body Love Wellness, Kai questions the safety and respect of the contestants on the show, and she claims that the show gave her an eating disorder and severe body image issues.

Whoa. As someone who watches the show religiously, this has given me pause as to what I’m really supporting. While I love watching people train and change their lives, I am definitely not OK with going from obesity to being obsessed and tortured by food and exercise. Neither is a good nor healthy place to be.

Listen to Kai and judge for yourself.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments! —Jenn

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  1. Chrissy says:

    I haven’t watched TBL from the beginning–I think I started at Season 7–but even since then it seems to me that every Season they are improving on addressing contestants’ emotional issues (however un-qualified the trainers are to do that) instead of being total hard-asses the whole time. The newer seasons have also added extra elements of what-to-do-at-home in the challenges and activities that they’re doing, which is at least an attempt to educate the contestants on how to maintain when they return to real life.

    I definitely agree that the show is extremely dramatized and there are some really despicable mind-games played on the contestants for entertainment value, but really what reality TV show doesn’t take advantage of people in that way? I am, however, disappointed to see that each season they seem to be trying to top the shock value by admitting larger and larger contestants. I’d like to think that they are targeting larger people to make more of a difference but I doubt that is the case.

  2. Metroknow says:

    I know it’s inspiring for a lot of people (including some people close to me), but I can’t stomach the show (and this coming from a fan of top chef/project runway etc.). I’m glad to hear somebody speaking out about it. After watching a few episodes the problems I had with it were it a)”solves” the weight problem with absolute extremes that are detrimental to most over the long haul, reinforcing that belief (and the devastating “succeed-for-a-while then fail miserably” emotional turmoil it causes), b)the constant stream of ads and product placements for products that only make the obesity problem worse, c) it is excessively degrading, reinforcing negative stereotypes that all overweight people drank soda and ate donuts while sitting on their butt until Jillian swept in and told them to put down the Dr. Pepper.

    The most degrading episode (and my last) was when contestants had to squish their “chubby fingers” through thousands of donuts looking for a prize, or eat the donuts. That scene elicited just about every negative stereotype from those who are excessively critical of people who are overweight to suggesting that fat people really do just want the donut – even when a fat prize is on the line. Although I got the “cuteness” of it all, I can only imagine the humiliation and shame of being locked in the room of donuts, with millions of people waiting for the “stupid fat people” to forage through the donuts like pigs, because lord knows they can’t help themselves. Well, unless there’s enough money involved, right?

    I appreciate the focus on weight loss, and can understand some of the inspiration, but the messages from start to finish are only making things worse.

  3. Amateras says:

    I have never liked TBL.
    I agree completely with the 2 previous posts.

  4. Angela says:

    i have to agree with the others…not a fan of the show (sorry!) and the allegations don’t surprise me in the least because seriously, with extreme weight loss, there’s usually an extreme reason for it. plus in the real world, i can’t imagine any doctor recommending their patients to drop 10lbs a week. it’s unrealistic and unhealthy.

  5. Krista says:

    I have never watched an episode of the Biggest Loser. I have just heard next-days reports from people who do watch it. As a certified personal trainer, I question the methods that are used on the show. I have read about numerous complaints made against the types of exercises that are performed on the show. I once worked with another trainer that tried to act like Jillian. She consistently overtrained her clients and the ultimate result was that her clients stopped showing up. It is NOT okay to train clients until they vomit. It is highly irresponsible and unethical in my opinion.

  6. Unlike some of the other comment posters, I am a fan of Biggest Loser and of Losing It with Jillian.

    I have a few thoughts.

    First, I am surprised by some of the allegations made by Kai and although I don’t know if they are 100% accurate now (I didn’t start watching BL until after that season), I am sure they are based in reality. I am also sure that some people from that season and other seasons have different perspectives – are they being forced to tell different stories? Could be for all I know. I definitely was NOT there and cannot comment as such.

    Second, I truly hope that Kai is able to beat her eating disorder (seems to be a constant battle) and find some peace in her life. I can also only pray that someday people realize that these contestants (and all celebrities) are people too. How rude some of the comments people have made to her. Ugh! (That just makes me sick.)

    Third, perhaps it’s just me, but I understood that what you saw on BL was not a normal way to lose weight. I was watching the show during my own weight loss journey. Although sometimes it was disheartening to watch someone drop 10+ pounds in a “week,” while I struggled to lose 1/2 a pound or a pound, I knew that losing weight and working out was NOT my full time job and that I was doing it the right way. I still looked to BL for inspiration. When I wanted to give up at the gym, I would think of the contestants and figure I could go another 10 minutes.

    Fourth, I think the bigger issue is our collective mentality. There needs to be more education on weight loss. I know it’s out there because I found it, but some people only want to find the quick fix. There is NO magic pill. I lost 40 pounds and it was work. It’s still work! I have maintained my weight for over 2 years because I knew I needed to change my lifestyle. I also learned how to make smarter choices (working out and eating) without feeling deprived. It’s possible, but people really have to want it!

    Fifth, I am glad that BL has started to focus some on emotional issues. People need to address the issues that are adding to their weight issues in order to make a long-term change. I agree wholeheartedly with Kai when she discussed the need for therapists on the show. To make this a real life change, you need to dismantle yourself and put yourself back together. Not easy, but so worth it!

    Finally, I recently met Ali Vincent (one of my main inspirations) and her attitude towards being healthy was amazing. She also had great advice about maintaining a healthy weight. If the show ruined her life, she is doing a great job faking it!

    I will continue to watch BL because I enjoy the show and think that people still need a reminder that reaching a healthy weight (the right way) can save their lives.

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