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A Dose Of Reality: My Exclusive Interview With Biggest Loser Finalist, Kai Hibbard (Part 2 of 3)

by Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. on June 16, 2010

kai hibbard biggest loser eating disorderby 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.

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.

TRIGGER WARNINGKai discusses the nitty gritty of her eating disorder in this part of the interview, and it may be disturbing for some of you.

So here goes with Part 2 of My Interview With Kai Hibbard.  Click here to read and listen to Part 1Part 3 is now available too.  

Kai on The Biggest Loser’s diet and exercise program:

“Unfortunately, what they’re telling you the contestants are doing and what they actually have the contestants doing are two different things, at least as far as my season goes.  We were working out anywhere between 2 and 5 hours a day, and we were working out severely injured. There’s absolutely no reason to work a 270 pound girl out so hard that she pukes the first time you bring in a gym.  That was entirely for good tv.

There was a registered dietician 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.”

On how the trainers and producers overrode the show’s doctors:

“The doctor had taken our blood and tested us and sent us a solution, I don’t know exactly what it was but it was salty, so I’m assuming that our electrolytes were off.  And when the trainers found out we were taking it, they told us under no certain terms were we to be taking that, because it would make us retain water and gain weight on the scale and we’d have to go home.  The doctors had ordered us to take it and the trainers were like, ‘throw it out, right now.’  There was this interference between the people who were actually probably trying to get us healthy from the people who wanted a good television show.

On the show’s low-calorie diet and her subsequent eating disorder:

“I think when I was on the actual ranch we were eating between 1,000 and 1,200 calories a day, I’m not certain.  The thing is, it got worse when I got home. . . . I would get e-mails constantly from the producers: ‘what have you done today?’ ‘are you working out enough?’  It was just always, always, always.  At that point, [I had] all the pressure on me, and [I was] trying to do right by what I had been told is the best thing to ever happen to me. And they would tell you all the time, ’200,000 other fat girls were in line right behind you. How dare you waste this experience? How dare you let anybody down?’

So I got to a point where I was only eating about 1,000 calories a day and I was working out between 5 and 8 hours a day. . . .  And my hair started to fall out.  I was covered in bruises.  I had dark circles under my eyes.  Not to get too completely graphic, but my period stopped altogether and I was only sleeping 3 hours a night.  I tried to tell the T.V. show about it and I was told, ‘save it for the camera.’

“At that point, my boyfriend at the time, who’s now my husband, and my best friend and my family stepped in and they said, ‘Hey, crazy, you’re going to die if you keep this up.’  At that point was doing really fun things like not eating at all. . . my major food groups were water, black coffee and splenda.  I got to the point that when I was nervous or upset I was literally vomiting my food up. And at one point the scale stalled, I was stuck at 163, and my trainer and the producers all ordered me to take a free day. . . .  They said, ‘oh, you’re body needs to be shaken up.’  And I was so afraid of food at that point I went in [to the store], I bought a bag of snicker doodle cookies, and a quart of milk, and a box of ex lax and I ate them all together.  And I knew that I was in trouble. And it was at this point that I was like, ‘Hey, where are those doctors and that psychologist that are supposed to be following up and keeping an eye on me that I kept hearing about?’”

On how she started to recover:

“Thank God my family intervened.  They got me semi-back-on-track all the way to the finale.  My very first meal where I actually ate again, my husband sat with me and it was a bowl of oatmeal and an egg-white omelet with salsa, and it took me an hour and a half and I cried through the whole thing.”

On how the show affected her body image:

“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 T.V. show, the more I hated my body.  And I tell you what, at 144 and at 262 and at 280, I had never hated my body before that show.

“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?’”

On why she’s speaking out:

“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.”

On the mass of contracts and waivers that she signed to be on The Biggest Loser:

“I think at the time when you sign it . . . and it says things like, ‘you give yourself over to whatever doctor we have treat you and we don’t attest to the credentials of the doctor’, you think, ‘no one is going to treat another human being this poorly, why should I even worry about that?’ You don’t realize that there are people out there who would treat you that poorly. You also get reminded . . . over and over again that . . . this is a chance of a lifetime and there are 200,000 other fat people behind you and if you don’t sign it they will. . . . I believe I signed away my life story and gave them the right to fictionalize it if they wanted to.  I had an attorney look at it afterward and he was like, ‘you signed away things that really can’t be signed away here, and the problem is they’ve got, like, 100 attorneys and you can’t even afford me.’  I’m terrified sometimes at the idea that I’m putting my family at risk to talk about it, but . . . my family’s taught me that you can’t go wrong with the truth.  I’m just going to do what I’ve got to do.

Click here to listen to this second portion of my interview with Kai.


Next week, find out how Kai and the other contestants learned how to dehydrate herself to win weigh-ins, how contestants were forced to do challenges with severe injuries, and what she’s up to now.

You can now read and listen to part 1 here and  part 3 here.

Get great body love tips and more when you subscribe:

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.

{ 84 comments… read them below or add one }

L June 17, 2010 at 2:22 pm

This is horrible, but honestly, not less than I expected. My real problem with this goes even beyond the TV show though. Why would anyone allow people to treat them like this? Why would you go to try out for a show and give them your keys? Why would you read all of those harassing emails? I realize that there is conditioning and brainwashing and things can really affect someone when in the situation but it also sounds like she needs to get some help to deal with the issues that she had previous to the show that made her think the situation was OK from the beginning. In reality she allowed them to treat her that way by staying in the first place. I’m not saying they were right at all, I don’t watch this show because I hate how they treat people on it, I’m just saying I hope she’s getting the help she needs now that she’s home. She’s lucky to have a supporting family and I hope she never allows someone to treat her like that again. Thank you for sharing her story, I hope more people read it and do not watch or participate in it.

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Red July 1, 2011 at 3:02 am

@L, for the same reason otherwise smart people get stuck in abusive relationships. Because they feel they somehow ‘deserve it’.

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Lisa June 17, 2010 at 1:04 pm

I agree with Tim.We have only heard one side of this story.

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bananacat June 17, 2010 at 10:25 am

Wow, I’m so glad to hear her story. About a year ago I (intentionally) lost a lot of weight, and it made me feel worse. I didn’t lose nearly as much as Kai did, but still significant (about 40-50 pounds over 7 months). I actually started to feel bad about my body image where I hadn’t really felt that bad before. And health-wise, I was so much worse off even though my diet was a “reasonable” 1300-1400 calories per day. I was just shocked because I had heard over and over again that losing weight would make me feel energetic, healthy, and confident and it made me feel much worse. And I am so glad to find out that I’m not the only one! I was hugely lucky though because I didn’t develop and eating disorder, most of the health problems reversed as soon as I started eating more, and I’m on my way to feeling good about my body again.

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Jim June 16, 2010 at 10:19 pm

I always wondered why Caroline Rhea was so lifeless as the host of The Biggest Loser. Where was that funny, quick, boisterous personality? Now I understand. She likely was ashamed and outraged — and they probably edited the hell out of her. I’d like to hear her point of view on the show. How can we get the message to her?

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Tyler June 16, 2010 at 6:01 pm

This is insane. I knew the kind of weight loss depicted on the show was extremely unhealthy and they had to be doing some serious dieting and such, but I had no idea it was that bad. Last time I ever watch that show.

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Dominique June 16, 2010 at 5:45 pm

wow, in a bad way. That’s an eye-opener. I’ve never watched The Biggest Loser and now I definitely won’t. Thank you for bringing this out in the open – good job!!!

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Deborah G June 16, 2010 at 3:35 pm

While I definitely believe this show is really unhealthy, and I believe that it’s really problematic, and I believe that they probably mistreat contestants, I can also imagine that it alone did not cause an eating disorder. It seems more complicated than that – that it is possible for a person to have these experiences and feelings and that they be triggered by the show, but not necessarily fair or accurate to say “The Biggest Loser” gave someone an eating disorder.

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Tim June 16, 2010 at 1:44 pm

In the interest of fairness, you should really contact the Biggest Loser and ask for their opinion. Likely we already know what the answers will be but you really only present one side of the argument here and (lets be fair) do you honestly believe she would have this opinion had she won the $250,000?

In some ways it shouldnt matter, obviously she feels the conditions were wrong, but you are talking to someone who undertook a multi-month challenge and failed to win. Might not be the most objective.

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Annie June 16, 2010 at 1:17 pm

I worked in television, and even briefly in Reality TV, so this shouldn’t shock me, but it still does. Again I applaud you Golda for bringing us this and to Kia for her bravery and integrity in sharing her story. I don’t think the general public understands the legal knots these people are tied in and the extreme financial penalties they may face. This is maybe the closest you can get to ‘forcing’ an adult to do something while still staying within legal boundaries. The industry (and labor laws) have taken steps to protect children from being exploited, but adults are fair game. The way Kia describes the situation does very much sound like an abusive relationship.

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PJ June 16, 2010 at 8:57 am

So let me get this straight: even after the show is over they’re threatening and harassing her via email? How is any of this legal, even with the contracts?

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Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. June 16, 2010 at 9:10 am

@PJ, You’re lucky b/c you never watched the show! After they get down to a few finalists, they send them home to lose more weight before they show up for the big finale/weigh in. They’re all competing for a lot of money, and don’t know how much the other finalists are losing. Yeah, the legal question is definitely a good one!

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