I came across this story (and part 2 here) the other day, where Biggest Loser Season 3 finalist Kai Hibbard gives the scoop on her experiences at the Biggest Loser. Some of her interview sheds light on pretty obvious stuff – they worked the contestants out too much, too hard, didn’t care if they barfed. That the show encourages the contestants to eat too little so they lose more weight. That they dehydrate themselves to have a better weigh-in.
I can’t say I’m surprised about those claims – I mean I already knew that the show wasn’t realistic. But she goes on.
In addition to what had happened at the ranch, once she got home she says she was constantly getting emails from producers asking if she was still losing weight, how much she’d worked out that day, etc. There was a lot of pressure on her, and it was all about losing weight, not about being healthy. She was barely eating and was working out a lot. In her words:
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.’
Yeah, that doesn’t sound too healthy to me.
When she was told to relax her diet one day to push past a plateau, she found herself eating a meal consisting of a bag of cookies, a quart of milk, and a box of ex-lax. At that point, she realized she had a big problem. Fortunately her family was there and has helped (and continues to help) her get back on track, although she still struggles with body image issues and her eating disorder.
I didn’t watch the show back in Season 3 so I can’t say if it’s different now, but a lot of her claims certainly sound reasonable. I mean, I’m not a doctor but there’s no way you can lose THAT much weight without burning TONS more calories than you’re taking in. And you either have to eat practically nothing, exercise like a maniac, or both.
As for the pressure, well, yeah, I can believe that too. I mean it’s a game show where you want to win, and the results are entirely based on the scale. I didn’t see any of the pressuring emails and don’t know how much specific pressure the producers gave her, but it is a game show and I could see them sending reminders thinking that they were helping. And it is certainly not beyond believing that complaints about the process would be met with a “there are plenty of other people who want to do this, so don’t you waste it” response.
I can totally see how you’d leave the show messed up. Maybe a little, maybe a lot.
All that said…I know I’ll still give the show another chance. Yes, it’s unrealistic, yes, I know it can’t be too healthy to lose weight that quickly, but there is something exciting about the show (although the only full season I’ve seen was the last one, where it was more “friendly” and less cutthroat gameplay-wise than other seasons). And of course it has my beloved Jillian (and Bob, who’s DVDs are on the way, woo hoo!).
What I DO wish, as I’ve said before, is that they’d follow the contestants home with a therapist and transition them back to real life. Teach them that it isn’t all about the scale. Teach them that major losses aren’t “normal” and that they need to eat normal food. Teach them that 2-5 hours of exercise a day isn’t normal.
Teach them to be regular people again.
What do you think about the Biggest Loser? Would you have a problem if you were on it?