Reflections On My Interview With Kai Hibbard Of The Biggest Loser

by Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. on June 14, 2010

by Golda Poretsky, H.H.C.

Last week, I posted the first part of a 3 part series of my interview with Kai Hibbard,  a Biggest Loser finalist who, despite lawsuit threats from NBC and other threats from Biggest Loser fans, had the courage to talk to me about her experiences on the show.

The Biggest Loser is a huge juggernaut of a show.  It’s had 8 seasons already, and I read tweets every day about people auditioning for season 9.  Trainer Jillian Michaels now has her own show.  There are tons of Biggest Loser themed merchandise, from mugs to scales to Nintendo Wii games.  And the premise of the show is that it makes fat people, which it assumes are all unhealthy, into allegedly healthy thin people.

And that’s what I loved about interviewing Kai.  She was willing to share what it’s like to dehydrate your body for weigh-ins.  She was willing to share how the pressure she felt pushed her into a severe eating disorder.  In other words, she was willing to smash the image of health that the Biggest Loser tries so hard to create.

I wanted to share Kai’s voice because, truthfully, I hope that her words will ebb the flow of fat people who line up to be treated like crap on The Biggest Loser.

For the most part, the blog commenters who reflected on the post were coming from a place similar to mine.  They expressed gratitude to Kai for being brave enough to share her story and were glad to see that their assumptions about what really goes on at the Biggest Loser ranch were being confirmed by Kai’s interview.  They also shared their stories and impressions of The Biggest Loser.

But I want to address two sets of comments that really gave me pause.  One, were those commenters who felt that because she still promotes intentional weight loss (and a diet supplement) that her words are somehow less trustworthy.  The others were those commenters who displayed a “she knew what she was getting into so she has no right to complain” attitude.

Regarding Intentional Weight Loss & Selling Diet Pills

After Kai contacted me to do the interview, I googled her and saw that, indeed, she promotes a weight loss supplement.   And I was worried about what that might do to her credibility when I posted this on my blog.

As Lesley noted over at one of my favorite blogs, Fatshionista:

“In the interest of full disclosure, though she may be anti-Biggest Loser, Kai is still very pro-weight-loss, and may be shilling diet pills. So, grain of salt.”

When I interviewed Kai, I decided not to ask her about it, because I was more interested in her story of her experience on The Biggest Loser.

But here’s the thing, when you think about it, I think the fact that she still believes in intentional weight loss doesn’t actually affect her credibility at all.  It might even enhance it.   She’s not someone who, like me, believes strongly in health at every size, fat acceptance, fat pride, and would be very happy if every diet program went out of business for good.  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.

Additionally, I think that nearly all of us in the fat acceptance and health at every size communities believed, at some point in our lives, that dieting and intentional weight loss were good, even healthy.  So it’s important that we welcome people, particularly open-minded people, into our discourse.  So I ask that you, no matter where you are in your journey, be open to what she has to say.

Regarding Those Commenters With A “She Knew What She Was Getting Into & Has No Right To Complain” Attitude

I was rather appalled at this line of comments.  I’m not sure why anyone would think that they have the right to excuse harmful behavior because someone “knew what they were getting into.”  Many of you expressed an incredibly blase attitude about the way reality show contestants are treated in general, and yet, just because something is a common practice, it doesn’t make it right.  In fact, because the contestants are sequestered and kept away from family, friends, and the outside world, the producers should have a higher duty to treat them well.  Intentional mental and physical abuse is criminal, whether that person signed a piece of paper or not.  If you can’t have a little compassion for the situation, please don’t bother to comment further.

So I ask you to check the blog on Wednesday and read the second part of my interview with Kai Hibbard with an open mind and a compassionate heart.

This Week’s Tip

Because my Monday blog usually contains a tip or two, here’s my tip for this week.  Work with the practice of having compassion for yourself.  Think about those parts of you that you tend to not have compassion for.  For example, if you’re particularly hard on yourself for always being late to work, instead of berating yourself this week, have compassion for yourself.  Being kind to yourself about a recurring “bad habit” actually allows yourself to connect with possible solutions. Try operating from a place of compassion, rather than judgment, and see how it affects your week.

P.S. For those of you that mentioned that you’re concerned that NBC will make me take these posts down, thanks for your concern, but these posts aren’t going anywhere.  Luckily, I never auditioned for the Biggest Loser so I have no contractual obligation to remove anything.

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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.

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