They laugh, they cry, they shed half their body weight!
Okay, admittedly I have never seen a full episode of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” but apparently, I’m in the minority. Since 2004, viewers in more than 90 countries have watched overweight contestants swap unhealthy habits for wholesome lifestyles, often emerging as toned and taut finalists vying for the ultimate clean-living reward: cold, hard cash.
While the contestants clearly and very, very literally work their butts off for the glory of being crowned “The Biggest Loser,” the breakneck speed at which some shed pounds can often seems too good to be true.
And apparently, it is.
Body Love Wellness founder Golda Poretsky recently spoke with Season 3 finalist Kai Hibbard about her experiences on the hit show, and Hibbard’s side of the story isn’t pretty. Nor is it anything like the warm and fuzzy accounts I’ve heard from “The Biggest Loser” fans who tune in every week.
Hibbard exposes a long list of behind-the-scenes transgressions, but the most startling is that participating in “The Biggest Loser” led her to develop an eating disorder.
You can read the full three-part interview at Poretsky’s site (warning: it’s full of potential triggers for anyone struggling with an eating disorder), but below are a few choice quotes:
“There was a registered dietician[sic] that was supposed to be helping [the contestants at the ranch] as well…but every time she tried to give us advice…the crew or production would step in and tell us that we were not to listen to anybody except our trainers. And my trainer’s a nice person, but I have no idea what she had for a nutritional background at all.”
“It gave me a really fun eating disorder that I battle every day, and it also messed up my mental body image because the lighter I got during that TV show, the more I hated my body… I do still struggle [with an eating disorder]. I do. My husband says I’m still afraid of food…I’m still pretty messed up from the show. It doesn’t help that when I go in public…the first thing they usually ask me is ‘what do you weigh now?’”
“I feel…that I have a responsibility to counteract some of the harm that that show does. Because I took a piece of being that problem, I now own a piece of being the solution…When I have people come to me crying, telling me how hard they work and how they log their food and how they’ve done everything they could and [they ask] ‘Why can’t I lose 12 pounds in a week like you?’ I feel a responsibility to get out there and go, ‘You know what? Sue me if you want to, NBC, but I’m telling these people, I didn’t lose 12 pounds in a week. It didn’t happen. It wasn’t a week. And even when it looks like I lost 12 pounds in a week…I was so severely dehydrated that I was completely unhealthy.”
Those are some serious allegations, and whether or not you believe them is up to you. But to complicate the sticky situation further, Kai promotes a line of diet pills and gushes about them on her web site.
She claims she lost weight “without exercising or changing my diet!” Ugh. Isn’t this contradicting every reason she might have had to expose the harsh extremes on the set of “The Biggest Loser”? If you’re speaking out against the show because you “feel a responsibility” to divulge the dangers of overboard weight-loss tactics, what are you doing promoting an appetite suppressant?
But as Poretsky points out on her site, “She may think that weight loss is an appropriate goal, and still be offended and harmed by her treatment and the treatment of her fellow contestants.” Good point. And something to think about next time you tune in to watch a too-good-to-be-true TV moment.
— Michelle Konstantinovsky is a student at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and an avid admirer of shiny objects and preteen entertainment. It would be nice if you visited her website: www.michellekmedia.com. Also, she may learn to use Twitter more effectively if you follow her @michelley415.