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A Dose Of Reality: My Exclusive Interview With Biggest Loser Finalist, Kai Hibbard (Part 1 of 3)

by Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. on June 9, 2010

kai hibbard biggest loser

Kai Hibbard, Biggest Loser Finalist

by Golda Poretsky, H.H.C.
www.bodylovewellness.com

A few months ago, I wrote yet another post on why The Biggest Loser is so bad for its contestants, the millions who watch the show, and the culture in general.  I expected to see the usual comments from my usual readership.

What I didn’t expect to see was a comment from Season 3 Biggest Loser finalist, Kai Hibbard, saying how much she enjoyed my post and asking if we might speak.

Shortly thereafter, Kai and I spoke on the phone about her experiences on the Biggest Loser.  From seeing her fellow contestants forced to workout with injuries against doctor’s orders, to the extreme dehydration prior to weigh-ins, to the resultant eating disorder that Kai still is working to heal, the story she told was nothing like the fantasy that the Biggest Loser seeks to promote.

I’ve held off on sharing this interview for the last few months, mainly because I have no journalism background and wasn’t quite sure how to present the material.  But given that the Biggest Loser continues to be popular I felt that it was time to share our talk with all of you.

Because Kai’s story is so powerful in her own words, and because she has so much to share on the reality of this reality TV series, I’ve decided to break the interview into 3 parts, and give you the actual audio to listen to if you so desire.

So here goes with Part 1 of my interview with Kai Hibbard. By the way, part 2 is now available herePart 3 is now available here.

Kai on the audition process:

“So I haven’t really talked about this because I’m not really supposed to. . . . So they put us in hotel rooms and they take your key away so you can’t leave. And you spend a week locked in a hotel room and if you want to go anywhere you have to call a production assistant to take you to get groceries or get dinner or whatever you might need.  You also get loaded up in these vans with other possible contestants and you’re not allowed to speak when you’re in the van, with anybody, and then we had to go through these like doctor’s tests . . . . You get poked and prodded by complete strangers and nobody will tell you a single thing about what’s going onAnd that point was where I really believe that the dehumanization process started, where they start teaching you that because you are overweight you are sub-human and you just start to believe it. Through the whole process, they just keep telling you, over and over, how lucky you are to be there.  You’re being yelled at by people [whose] job is basically to keep the ‘fat people’ in line and you start to believe it.”

“They reminded you almost daily that you were supposedly lucky to be there and you got that for, gosh, I was on that ranch for 3 months so I heard for 3 months how lucky I was to be there and, let me tell you, my feet were bleeding, I was covered in bruises, I was beat up, but boy, I kept hearing about how lucky I was to be there.”

On the seclusion of the ranch:

“A lot of people don’t know that once we were actually on the ranch, it was 6 weeks before we were allowed to get mail from home and our mail was opened and censored.  And it was 8 weeks before we were allowed to speak to anybody on the phone and it was for 5 minutes at a time with a chaperone.”

On the meaning of a “week” on the Biggest Loser:

“It varied.  It went from 14 days and I believe that near the end we had one week that was 5 days.”

On then-host Caroline Rhea’s reaction to the blown up “before” pictures located throughout the ranch:

 

“She walked and she saw the photos of us that were shot deliberately to make us look as poorly as possible hanging up around the house and she lost it.  She lost it on the crew and she demanded that they take them down and that it was humiliating.  [She said that] we were people and should be treated as people.”

On being treated as “an expendable commodity”:

“We did one challenge in a stadium in California.  It was about 100 degrees that day and the challenge involved running up stairs and then doing the wave all the way around the stadium and then running down the stairs and back across the football field.  When we were done, we were obviously covered in sweat, we were all out of shape, and that was a really hard challenge in that heat. They brought us bottles of water that we had packed ourselves in the truck that had been sitting in the heat all day, and they broke out coolers for the trainers, the cameramen, the audio people, and for Caroline Rhea and they had cool water and we drank 90 degree water after we ran the challenge. . . . And actually one of the contestants, Eric, from New York (won my season) lost it at that point and screamed about how we weren’t animals and to please stop treating us like animals and they handled it the way they handled us always, [they] quieted him down, and reminded him how lucky we were to be there, that it was saving his life.

 
On the way contestants (and viewers) are brainwashed into believing that fat people are subhuman:

“I believe that  . . . most of the contestants, felt like it was okay to treat us like we were subhuman when we were there, that the ends justify the means.  If they were going to make us thin, then it was totally worth it to humiliate us and treat us poorly all the way along.  I just don’t feel that way.”

Click here to listen to the first portion of my interview with Kai.


Next week, hear about the real Biggest Loser diet and exercise plan, what happens when the finalists leave the ranch to lose more weight, and how what she learned on the ranch led Kai into a full-on eating disorder.  Also, find out why other contestants never seem to speak out like Kai has.

You can now read and listen to part 2 here and  part 3 here.

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Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. To learn more about Golda and her work, click here.

{ 366 comments… read them below or add one }

Ann June 9, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Good post and very brave of Kai to speak out. I know that the contestants sign confidentiality agreements with high financial penalties, but no one else has spoken out (except a bit from Jillian). Kai, however is now shilling for a weight loss drug. That doesn’t seem like a good trade to me. Perhaps some of the shame BL taught her hasn’t shaken off.

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PJ June 9, 2010 at 12:06 pm

This is an incredible interview. I’ve heard that most reality shows treat their contestants (or “stars”) pretty badly, keeping them isolated and/or drunk so that they’ll keep having tantrums or whatever it is that people tune in to see. But “The Biggest Loser” sounds like the worst of the crop for all of the reasons Kai spoke about. She was treated no differently than a woman in an abusive relationship! How any of this is legal is beyond me.

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Cathy June 9, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Kai signed up for biggest looser she wasnt drafted and if a contestant has a medical issue or psychical prob and cant do certain work outs the trainers have to go by what the dr says , thats why they have medical staff on site, and as from no letters from home pretty much its to focus on them w ith no outer influences , they know this before they go on the show, so stop blaming a show for your probs

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ashley February 25, 2011 at 4:11 am

@Cathy, agreed plus i have seen people decide to go home if it was that bad they would not bage to stay, also there would be tons more said by now then just her. there r like how many contastents and how many seasons. i want more proof. how can we tell this is even really this girl talking??

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Red July 1, 2011 at 2:41 am

@ashley, it’s not that they were ‘made to stay’. it’s that they were scared.

Also, I would more reach. You think you sign up for a show like this and not be expected to sign a contract as thick as a brick? What do you think would happen if someone actually died while at th4e ranch for several weeks?

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Red July 1, 2011 at 2:39 am

@Cathy, the people who sign up for this show are DESPERATE to lose weight and viewed it as their last chance. I’d like to see how YOU would handle real desperation and what you would do if you were in her shoes. THey go on the show to loose weight, NOT to be insulted or mistreated. Unless you think that’s okay.

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Em June 9, 2010 at 11:56 am

This is a great share. Thank you. x.

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Peggy Elam, Ph.D. June 9, 2010 at 11:53 am

Great interview, Golda — and thanks for sending out the press release. I’ve posted the press release at http://www.healthateverysize.info and will share the post on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Very good that the truth gets out there! I’m looking forward to listening to the recording & reading the next 2 parts of the interview.

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Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. June 9, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Thanks, Peggy! And thanks for posting the press release!

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Justin Hunter June 9, 2010 at 11:39 am

Thank you for posting this. I have a question that I keep on having about the whole biggest loser transformation. I am wondering about what drugs they have been giving the contestants. The amount of weight people on the show lose is faster than gastric bypass surgery. Are they giving the contestants hormones and steroids?

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Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. June 9, 2010 at 11:51 am

@Justin. Not to my knowledge. I think the dehydration before the weigh ins, the fact that weeks aren’t really weeks, and that they’re on really low calorie diets for all the working out they do contribute to the weight loss. But like the vast majority of dieters, you can’t sustain that kind of thing.

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Marisa June 9, 2010 at 11:09 am

Excellent. Thank you for sharing this.

Marisa

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Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. June 9, 2010 at 11:22 am

@ Marisa Thanks, my pleasure.

@Margarita Well said, as usual! Wouldn’t it be awesome if Kai started a trend and other contestants started speaking out?!

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Margarita Tartakovsky June 9, 2010 at 10:25 am

I never liked The Biggest Loser (for many reasons!), but I know plenty of people who love it. Thank you Golda and Kai so much for revealing the terrible things that go on. I wish that others would speak out, too. People need to know the reality of this show. Kai, I’m so sorry that you and other contestants had to go through that. Thank you for your honesty and courage! I wish you all the best.

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Jeani June 9, 2010 at 9:46 am

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have way too many friends/acquaintances who love this show. Thank you for helping to expose the reality of The Biggest Loser: people are treated terribly, and the show sets hugely unrealistic expectations for weight loss through encouraging incredibly damaging dieting and over exercising behaviors.

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Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. June 9, 2010 at 10:12 am

@Jeani, exactly! I’m just glad that Kai contacted me and was brave enough to speak out. And it’s true, so many people love that show and it is really so damaging.

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Sydney Bell June 9, 2010 at 9:45 am

Good work! I am looking forward to the rest of the piece.

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Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. June 9, 2010 at 10:10 am

@Sidney, thanks!

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