Every day we read more and more about why The Biggest Loser, the competition which starves and humiliates useless fatties into the people they DESERVE to be is an awful and unhealthy mess. The finale airs on the 29th and one former contestant has chosen to speak up to tell the truth about what's really going on behind the scenes.
Speaking to the New York Post, Kai Hibbard, who signed up for the show after an intervention from friends, is sad and angry that she bought into the hype. She hadn't watched the show, but since she wanted to do something about her weight, she chose to make a videotape and was soon being auditioned for the show. The audition process was grueling, she says, no one was allowed to even leave their hotel rooms. But what happened on the ranch is much, much worse. The show won't even let you leave to take care of emergency because a contestant might give away show secrets.
"I know that one of the contestants' children became very ill and was in the ICU," Hibbard says. "He was allowed to talk to his family — but he didn't want to leave, because the show would have been done with him."
Show secrets, according to Hibbard, include eating almost nothing — and those things that are eaten only being foods sponsoring the show, working out 6-8 hours a day and being pushed through the program by trainers who Hibbard describes as having a sadistic streak. They took a sick pleasure, she believe, in watching contestants fail, even though the show is supposed to be all about support and results. And even though there are doctors on staff, Hibbard says that she was once told by a trainer not to drin electroylyte-balancing liquids prescribed by the show's doctor because it would "ruin her one last chance to save her life.
Some more things the trainers said:
The trainers, she says, took satisfaction in bringing their charges to physical and mental collapse. "They'd get a sick pleasure out of it," she says. "They'd say, 'It's because you're fat. Look at all the fat you have on you.' And that was our fault, so this was our punishment."
Hibbard had the same experience. "They would say things to contestants like, 'You're going die before your children grow up.' 'You're going to die, just like your mother.' 'We've picked out your fat-person coffin' — that was in a text message. One production assistant told a contestant to take up smoking because it would cut her appetite in half."
And all of this is just the beginning, according to Hibbard, whose experience warrants a lengthy write-up in The Post. Contestants put on calorie-restricted diets should be monitored closely and have their exercise programs tailored to them, but at the ranch the idea seems to be "GET AS THIN AS POSSIBLE OR YOU ARE COMPLETELY WORTHLESS." The Post points out that the first winner of the show was so malnourished at the end of the season that he was urinating blood. (Which is good, I guess, because blood has calories and you don't want any of those.)
So why do people stay? The same reason any of us might stay in such a position. Contestants are constantly told how lucky they are to be there and, Hibbard says, one doctor told another contestant that she might be suffering from Stockhlom Syndrome based on how badly she wanted to please the judges. Makes a lot of sense considering the following harrowing passage.
Hibbard's own health declined dramatically. "My hair was falling out," she says. "My period stopped. I was only sleeping three hours a night." Hibbard says that to this day, her period is irregular, her hair still falls out, and her knees "sound like Saran Wrap" every time she goes up and down stairs. "My thyroid, which I never had problems with, is now crap," she says.
"One of the other 'losers' and I started taking showers together, because we couldn't lift our arms over our heads," says the other contestant. "We'd duck down so we could shampoo each other."
Hibbard worked out so hard, she says, that she couldn't even remember where she came from at one point.
The Biggest Loser is still a hugely popular show with product tie-ins, video games and even CDs that are supposed to help the schlubs at home lose as much weight as possible. Their methods may produce results (I did try the Wii game for a while and wanted to die almost immediately), but as Hibbard's story makes clear, it's probably not worth it. Starvation and losing more weight than is healthy? The show might be pushing contestants to death much more quickly than their weight ever could.