Biggest Loser contestant: “I participated in a myth that hurts people”


Kai Hibbard, a former contestant on season 3 of The Biggest Loser, is speaking out against what she says are dangerous practices by the show that force contestants to lose weight quickly and make it look to viewers like it’s both possible and healthy. Hibbard says that while she’s grateful to the show she knew she had to speak out to help people know that it’s not normal to lose weight like that. She said she hasn’t been compensated for any interviews, that she’s speaking out at great financial risk to her family, and that she’s heard from at least six other former contestants who “have had experiences at least as bad as mine.” Hibbard went from 262 to 144 pounds on the show, but it wasn’t exactly in just 12 weeks, because as she explained “a week is not a week on TV.” She also said she developed an eating disorder as a result of the show and that her family staged an intervention to help her eat more healthy. She’s since gained back 70 of the pounds she lost.

“The Biggest Loser” has been a big ratings winner since its debut in 2004, and when you add best-selling cookbooks and workout DVD’s, the show brought in an estimated $100 million last year.

But now there are disturbing allegations about the program’s truthfulness, and its treatment of contestants.

Kai Hibbard thought she was a changed woman at the end of season three of “The Biggest Loser,” the reality show that rewards $250,000 to the contestant who sheds the most pounds.

Hibbard said at the show’s conclusion, “I’m not the same person I was when I got here, and that’s a miracle. It’s an amazing amazing thing.”

But Hibbard says reality hit her after the show.

While she lost 118 pounds on the show, she ended up gaining more than 70 of it back.

Molly Carmel, director of Greenlight at Wilkins Center in Greenwich, Conn., said, “It’s in no way normal to lose 118 pounds in a 12 week amount of time. Even with surgery, that would be a lot of weight to lose.”

Hibbard claims that contestants on the show were pressured to exercise even when severely injured, and to diet by dehydration. She says they were also told to ignore the advice of nutritionists and listen to the show’s trainers.

In addition, Hibbard said on “The Early Show” Friday she didn’t lose weight at the rate seen on the show.

She explained, “I have people that come up to me and talk to me and ask me why they can’t lose 12 pound in a week when I did. When I didn’t. It didn’t happen. It’s TV. So, if I’m going to be grateful and be an inspiration, at the same time I need to take blame and responsibility for the fact that I helped perpetuate a myth that’s dangerous.”

When pressed about the rate at which she did lose weight, Hibbard said, “A week is not a week on TV. … I’m saying that it would be most times longer than a week. And I believe once in my season it was less than a week. Not always a week.”

Hibbard continued, “The weight loss for that show is for ratings. People have to remember that ‘The Biggest Loser” isn’t a weight loss camp that happens to be filmed for TV. It’s a TV show that’s made to look like a weight loss camp. So, there was pressure from production and everybody involved in the show to make sure you had as big numbers as possible every week. And I could tell you that before I went on the show I never learned how to dehydrate to manipulate a scale. And I left knowing how to do it better than some fitness competitors that I know.”

Hibbard said she also left the show with severe issues about her weight.

“I left with a very poor mental body image,” she told “Early Show” co-anchor Erica Hill. “I found myself loathing what I looked like the more weight I dropped because of the pressure on me. And I found myself doing things like considering coffee a meal. And because of the mentality that I was surrounded with, and the pressure that was given at that show, it was considered acceptable to behave that way. I take full responsibility for everything that I’ve done. But you can’t understand it unless you understand the pressure that was there.”

Hibbard’s husband, Jake Zwierstra, who met Hibbard during the show’s filming, also saw a change in her that went beyond her weight.

“I saw a transformation in her,” he said. “Every time she flew out, she looked different. She was just always so very busy and going to the gym. Really all she would eat was coffee. Coffee, splenda, no cream, because that wasn’t healthy. So, she never slept. Just always fretted about, you know — special ordered everything, no cheese, no — nothing that a normal person would do.”

Hibbard’s said her condition worsened to the point where her family and friends, some of whom are health professionals, staged an intervention.

“She came back with her hair falling out, Zwierstra said. “We finally all sat down and was like, ‘This isn’t healthy for you.’ We talked to a trainer. They kind of reeled her in and made her eat healthy.”

[From CBSNews via Momlogic]

At the end of her interview, Hibbard quipped “I’m gonna get lots of hate mail, so when you send it, make sure you spellcheck it – famewhore is spelled with a ‘w’.” She added that “I participated in something that I feel is harmful to so many people, so I own responsibility to make it better.”

Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels has also made some comments about how the show is staged for ratings and could be dangerous to contestants. It’s much more compelling to hear a story from a former contestant who starved herself so thin that her hair was falling out.

This isn’t Kai’s first time talking to the press negatively about the Biggest Loser. Star Magazine ran an interview with her in January in which she said she gained back 30 pounds in 3 weeks from drinking water and that “her immune system was shot. She was covered in bruises and losing her hair.” Fellow contestant Ryan Benson also claims to have gained 32 pounds in five days after he went off the show, primarily from drinking water.

Kai has given positive interviews about Biggest Loser in the past, and told Women’s World in 2007I think my results speak for themselves!

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49 Responses to “Biggest Loser contestant: “I participated in a myth that hurts people””

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  1. Patrice says:

    Wow. This is unreal to me. Good for her for coming out and revealing some truths about what REALLY goes on behind “reality” show cameras! She is taking a big risk by coming forward and I commend her : )

    Now…if only someone from “The Bachelor/Bachelorette” or “The Hills” would do the same. I would definetly pay good money for one of those interviews…those are by far the fakest shows on tv (real OR unscripted).

  2. ligeia says:

    she looks so healthy in the “after” shots too. just goes to show that looks are deceiving and a lot of girls who look thin don’t get there by following a moderate diet and exercise regime.

  3. Call me Sherlock says:

    I’ve only seen one episode of that show at someone’s house, and I figured out that mystery.

    With the time span of it running and the hundreds of pounds shed off, it was kind of obvious that aside from lipo, it was totally unsafe/unrealistic.

    I don’t care if Jilliam Michaels was a fat kid. She’s not the nicest person in the world, but I won’t call her the devil either. I’ve done her work out with my sister and they kick your ass.

  4. Katija says:

    If this girl came into the show with eating disorder-type issues, it was only going to exacerbate the problems she already had. But I don’t think TBL could *make* her eating disordered. That’s not how the disease works.

    Wow, between this and the Crystalf**ker post, it’s like, MENTAL HEALTH EVALUATIONS ARE VERY IMPORTANT BEFORE PUTTING SOMEONE ON TELEVISION! *phew*

  5. Zelda says:

    She gained back 70 lbs?
    I doubt that was necessary.

  6. bros says:

    come on. its obvious this woman has unhealthy body issues whether she is over wight or trying to lose weight. she is likely compulsive either way. and at her height (she doesnt look that tall) 144 is not even that skinny. she didnt need to gain 70 lbs back and I wonder what kind of family members hold interventions encouraging a 144 lbs woman to gain back 70bs. i can see if it was about healthy eating habits, but this woman sounds like she is incapable of balance-either she is overeating and becoming obese, or she is considering coffee a meal-she has always had an unhealthy relationship to food and it didnt go away because she lost weight. this isnt ‘the biggest loser’s’ fault. this is her fault. im sick of these people’s whining about their inability to successfully eat, whether it be from over or under eating, and blame blame blaming everyone else.

  7. lucy2 says:

    Def. some unhealthy practices on that show, and the $$ reward at the end really screws with people’s heads. I think if you go into with winning $ as your main goal, you’re going to do foolish things to get it. If you’re going for the chance to lose weight, get healthier and forget about the $, you won’t be so willing to do dangerous things.
    I agree, Katija, she clearly has some issues that the show made worse.

    144 lbs doesn’t seem that unhealthy for her. Of course everyone is going to gain back some after the competition is done, but if she’s working with a trainer and eating healthier, I don’t see how she could gain back 70 lbs, putting her at over 200 again. Either she’s binging or has stopped working out, I’d guess. Either way, I hope she finds the right balance for herself.

  8. ! says:

    @bros

    That’s all well and good if they were actually doing screenings on people’s mental health and relationship with food, but they don’t. They just make the contestants say they find themselves to be in perfect shape, mentally and physically. Whether or not this particular woman has a difficult relationship with food, the practices on the show are abusive and the impression they give potential contestants (via the misleading show) versus the reality is unsafe and unhealthy and should be exposed. Period.

  9. original kate says:

    “It’s in no way normal to lose 118 pounds in a 12 week amount of time.”

    in other news, water is wet.

  10. mary jane says:

    If one reads between the lines….

    it sounds like she became bulimic during filming. And that THAT’S how she lost the weight.

    I agree with everyone else’s comments. An intervention for someone who’s 144?? That’s just plain funny. Although I know it’s not funny.

  11. vi says:

    wow i’ve never seen the biggest loser but those are crazy before and afters! not surprised it wasn’t healthy!

  12. LisaF says:

    To #4: The people selected for The Biggest Loser are MORBIDLY OBESE. By default, anyone that huge will have some mental issues with food–compulsive eating (and/or binging) etc. You don’t get that big by having a healthy mental relationship about food or a healthy self-image.

    Every single person eligible for that show has issues with body image so Mental Health evaluations are pointless. . .

  13. vi says:

    oh and about the 70lb gain i think she means she gained 70lbs because she was no longer on the extreme diet/dehydration regime and obviously that would make her gain weight quickly back. i don’t think she meant that she gained 70lbs back because she wanted to. but i might be wrong

  14. Kiska says:

    Jillian Michaels has been very vocal about BL and their methods. While she doesn’t agree with them she also doesn’t want to “bite the hand that feeds her.” I’ve watched the show once or twice and I was astounded how they could make weight loss such a game. It seemed physically and psychologically damaging.
    That being said, they have some great workout videos and cookbooks available that can help a person get started to eating and working out properly.

  15. Sara b. says:

    I do believe the show has unhealthy expectations. They would be better off becoming -raw vegans – like Angela Stokes and Phillip Mclusky who lost 100 lbs in 4 months the healthy way. However i never liked Kai. She was way too weak and crybaby. Which she proved by basically admitting that she does whatever the last person who spoke to her says. The show says be thirsty so she dehydrated herself. Her family says eat so she packs on 70 lbs. People tell her to watch what she eats so she stopped eating. I remember her season she was an emotional weakling who clearly doesn’t realize she is grown and responsible for her health, not anyone else. That said the show does promote dangerous unrealistic expectations so it is good she is speaking out even though she is a big loser who likes to blame others rather than improve. What kind of grown a-s woman is that?

  16. bros says:

    lisaF, exactly. mental health evaluations on people who are literally killing themselves slowly with food is pointless. this is a reality TV show, not a doctors office visit. I dont know why anyone is surprised there are ‘show biz’ methods employed on the show. If I wanted to watch someone slowly lose 5 lbs, I wouldnt watch it on TV on primetime for entertainment. this is just dumb. what did this woman expect. enough with the pervasive victim act.

  17. Rosanna says:

    I don’t know if it’s more ludicrous to claim that a show “makes” you develop an eating disorder OR that eating healthy means putting SEVENTY pounds back.

  18. KateNonymous says:

    I doubt that anyone said to her “You should gain back 70 of those pounds.” It’s far more likely that she lost it so quickly she was unwell (it can happen; I spent a winter quite sick when I lost a much lower amount too rapidly), and people encouraged her to stop focusing on losing more weight.

    Then, because she hadn’t developed healthy habits, she wound up regaining much of the weight she had lost.

  19. becky says:

    Why would she speak out now? She just wants attention. “I’m a military wife” – who cares? It’s pathetic. And she says she had an eating disorder after the show? She had an eating disorder before the show, obviously she was overeating to become the fatty that she was. I think it’s pathetic that she touts her dumbass husband on tv to whine and cry about how she was forced to lose weight – um hello you signed up for the show! I agree with the other posters who said if she had won the cash money prize she’d be signing a different tune. She needs to go back to Alaska and be a fatty again.

  20. vi says:

    wow so much hate just because she said the show uses unhealthy methods to get the contestants to lose weight, i don’t know why people would be annoyed by that

  21. Riley says:

    i am a really really really busy person. Really. I really shouldn’t be reading blogs like Celebitchy because really i don’t have the time. Really. And i really really shouldn’t be looking at things like Kai Hibbards blog. Really. But i did take a few minutes out of my busy schedule to look at her blog and she is hawkin’ some new diet trend— Livea or something like that. I feel sorry for these biggest loser contestants a lot of times because they get so much attention during the show and they do look fantastic when they have lost the weight and let’s face we all love a good before and after moment. It seems that some get carried away and think that Biggest Loser will lead to a career in the diet industry/hollywood and usually it doesn’t. The next round of contestants come on and the former cast is forgotten. I do believe what she says about Biggest Loser but it is hard to take seriously when she is obviously a spokes person for another diet fad. Ok, now that I wasted that 5 minutes of my very busy life, I must get back to work. oh and if she talked about the livea stuff in the piece above i am sorry, but you know, i am just too busy to listen.

  22. Keirelle says:

    Sorry but just being on a show will not ‘make’ you get an eating disorder (and ‘get’ isn’t even the right word, because it isn’t something you just catch like a cold either). She had issues with self image well before that, otherwise it wouldn’t have happened. Obviously, given her size before…

    And as for gaining back 70lbs.. that’s called binge eating and that is what got her on TBL in the first place I am sure. Famewhore is right.

    Not to say that I believe all of the things done on the show are appropriate- but you can’t deny the show has helped a lot of averages joes out there to properly lose weight and keep it off by getting out there and moving.

  23. tooey says:

    I am acquainted with someone who was on this show who went pretty far. And just from what I see in her and the little that we’ve talked about it is rather unrealistic for most people. This woman spends HOURS in a gym; EVERY day. Not an hour a day or two hours a day, we’re talking 3-5 hours a day in a gym. What kind of life is that? How does that affect her family life and more importantly, her kids? How can anyone keep that pace for a lifetime?

  24. Jen says:

    Ugh. She was such a hateful, spiteful C-U-Next-Tuesday on her BL season. This is just more typical Kai behavior…couldn’t stand her then, can’t stand her now.

  25. Cinderella says:

    She came off extremely bitchy in that interview, but I guess I’d be pissed if I put back on 70 more. Yikes.

    I have my doubts as to what her goal is here, but I do wonder how BL is going to respond to all of this.

  26. Liana says:

    Do some of you think you could actually reply coherently to something without using terms like “fatty”? It honestly makes your point get lost in the judgement of a person you don’t even know.

  27. TeeTee says:

    she was honest and she’ll get stomped more than the show that depicts folks losing 13 14 lbs WEEKLY!!! like you’re a lazy oaf if you’re not getting their kind of results.

    its all a farce lose it the good old fashion way, diet and exercise–dehydrating yourself?? wow!! just think you go to lose a large amount of weight on the show and the first thing they do is limit your water consumption..

    surprised, no one has died.

  28. brenda says:

    For all the people commenting on how funny it is that this lady needed an intervention at 144 lbs. It’s not the number that matters. You can weigh 250 lbs and still be anorexic and need an intervention. True, people are less likely to discover your disease, but the definition of an eating disorder has absolutely nothing to do with the number on the scale. For instance, if you start out at 300 lbs and eat nothing but coffee and an apple a day for 2 months, you are still malnurished and anorexic, even if you don’t look like it.

  29. Feebee says:

    @ brenda, I’d love to see a 250lb anorexic. But I understand what you’re saying about malnutrition.

    I think the intervention was to break whatever obsessive behaviour she had going on, not about her weight. Though I wonder what the hell happened if the intervention caused her to gain 70lbs. This puts her back at 214lbs so not a success. A gentle prod towards a maintenance mentality, ie yes you can have cheese but maybe not everyday on top of a burger and yes you have to continue moderate exercise might have been more helpful.

    The original idea for the Biggest Loser was to take people about 60lbs overweight and get them to a safe ideal. Unfortunately, as is the American way, a whiff of success had the producers going further and further to make ratings bigger and bigger, see a pattern in the mentality?

    I do remember one contestant with immunity ‘bulking’ up on water, knowing he’d lose it and more the following week and he was admonished by the trainers for being close to the line on “cheating”. Now it makes perfect sense, he was using what he was taught.

  30. Zoe says:

    No one needs to watch a show to learn how to lose weight. As a self-described thin girl who turned fat and then skinny again (and decided to stay thin), people ask me all the time how I did it. I think it’s so ridiculous to even ask. Everyone thinks there is some pill you can take or “quick fix”. The way you lose weight is the same way anyone ever has, that is to make different eating choices and to exercise. There’s no rocket science to it. People should put down the remote and instead of watching this show, hit the gym or walk the dog for an hour and keep their hands off the potato chips. Do they really need a show to tell them that? And for the last time, ALL REALITY TV IS FAKE. Period.

  31. qb says:

    I had an eating disorder myself and I can sort of understand what she says about the show giving her a eating disorder , you are in a show whose goal is to loose huge amount of weight in a week , the producers are pushing you , everyone is pushing you to do it and acting like is all normal. Thats mess up with your mind.

    When I had my eating disorder everything I was told I felt like it was encouraging me to continue with it but you can’t blame it all on other people because I knew what I was doing it and I lie to everyone around me because I was afraid of being judge.

  32. Caprice says:

    A lot of these comments on this story are disturbing and down right rude.

    1st of all it doesn’t matter how much you weigh in order to have an eating disorder. You don’t have to be 90 pounds to have disordered eating… those ideas are damaging and shows you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Also, in order to be on this show I do think its necessary for the contestants to have their mental health reviewed because it will help them come to terms with how they got how they are. I find it disgusting that you people think that just because someone is overweight or obese they don’t need medical attention they just need to lose weight and magically their lives are better.

    Finally, who cares if she gained 70 lbs and its not like she probably wanted that to happen. She’s seeing professionals now so that she can get healthy even if its at 144 pounds. I hate how most of you think the only way to be healthy is to be thin. Its crazy and the reason why so many women here have body image issues and eating disorders to begin with.

  33. ummmmno says:

    she is the only one who feels the show is misleading, probably because she did everything they told her to and she still lost the game = BITTER.

    when you watch the show, you see that the contestants exercise, all day every day.

    if a contestant burns 500 cal per hour, 5 hours a day, 7 days a week, thats 5 lbs a week weight loss, not including water loss, not including muscle gained (which constantly burns calories).

    with all that extra weight, its easy to shed it WITH THE PROPER TRAINERS AND DIET. and maintaining the weight loss is possible, as long as you can keep food out of your mouth.

  34. ses says:

    Nowhere does it say she weighed 144 when her family staged an intervention. It states her weight was listed at 144 when she went home, then she gained 70 lbs. As she admittedly went home with eating issues, I imagine she lost a ton more weight if she was only drinking coffee and eating a super-restrictive diet. That kind of behavior would definitely warrant concern among family, whether or not she dropped weight.

    Even so, an intervention doesn’t happen when someone hits a magic weight number. Disordered eating comes in many different forms.

  35. Kali says:

    I agree with the people who commented that Kai had food issues before the show. The show put her through an extreme experience to lose a lot of weight. She was 2nd or 3rd place and won a nice chunk of money – $25,000 or $50,000. It would have been great if she had taken some of that money to buy professional help so she can figure out why she’s going from one extreme to another.

  36. Nicole says:

    One point I’m curious about (that I haven’t noticed anybody else address) was this comment:
    “I have people that come up to me and talk to me and ask me why they can’t lose 12 pounds in a week when I did. When I didn’t. It didn’t happen. It’s TV.”

    So…what did she say to these people? Did she set the record straight and tell them that they shouldn’t believe everything they see on TV? Or did she lie to their faces about her weight loss? I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the latter.

  37. Alexis says:

    Sad stuff…but I’m in no way surprised.

  38. Bopa says:

    I don’t think she’s saying it was healthy for her to regain 70 lbs. I think she’s saying the way they made her lose weight couldn’t be maintained unless she continued to do the unhealthy tactics. Like dehydration can’t be maintained for a long period of time. She wasn’t taught how to stay at 144 in a healthy way.

  39. moi says:

    sucks that she gained back 70lbs. I could understand 20 or so from the shock of eating real foods again and not working out a zillion hours a week. I gained back 10lbs of 60 I lost and that’s super depressing to me, can’t imagine how depressed I’d be if I gained back even more!!! :( ((

  40. lucy2 says:

    I just looked at her blog too – she’s selling some sort of appetite suppressant – yeah, that’s healthy. And going to become a licensed dietician! Why would anyone listen to her for advice? Her weight has gone up and down drastically and now she’s selling some magic pill.
    I have no problem with people calling out TBL on their bad practices, but the rest of it is all a bit much.

  41. L says:

    I’ve watched that show every season (and love it), but I’ve always said that 90% of those contestants needed therapy. Like, serious therapy. There’s family issues, there’s body issues, there’s food issues, etc etc. The Biggest Loser is a reality weight loss show-not a free therapy show. If they wanted real long term success, get into therapy and then maybe go on the show.

    That all being said, Kai was a PITA her entire season. She was mean to everyone, she complained about everything, she undermined everyone and was just a nasty person (and still smoked all the time on the show-way to be healthy) She had issues going in, and now issues going out. Plus, why is this a big deal 5 seasons later? Wasn’t she on season 3? Season 2?

  42. anon says:

    coffee IS a meal!! I can go for hours on coffee and a muffin compared to real food! theres something not right about that, which is why I quit coffee

  43. GatsbyGal says:

    It’s called an “eating disorder” because it’s just that, a disorder. It’s not a disease. It’s a mental imbalance that can be created under certain conditions. Just like a perfectly normal person can be driven to insanity, they can be driven into eating disorders as well.

  44. MissyA says:

    At the risk of publishing a novel. . .

    I don’t think it should come as a surprise to anyone that losing half your body weight in “12 weeks” isn’t healthy. And yet so many Americans are searching for that magic bullet, they’re willing to (literally) buy into the Biggest Loser Myth.

    And that’s what the executives count on.

    They take a very real and relatable subject (obesity), and they manipulate viewers into believing that weightloss/”healthy living” is an all-or-nothing approach. (Americans in particular are susceptible to this “all-or-nothing” mindset – it harkens to our puritanical roots.)

    When you add the element of competition (and cash money), suddenly you have a hit series that directly targets people’s hopes and insecurities. All the tears, all the triumphs and tribulations – all marketed to sell an image to a vulnerable population. An image which translates directly to an estimated $100 million in profit this year alone.

    And that’s the bottom line – $100 Million.

    The contestants on the show are just a means to an end. They’re just there to further the story line and help hock Extra Sugar Free Gum and Cheerios in Ziploc Plastic Bags to the rest of our fat asses.

    Everything else – the yo-yo dieting, the disordered eating/cognitions, the inevitable depression. . . all of it a small price to pay for insane executive profits.

  45. tooey says:

    @MissyA, best post on the subject!

  46. Wiley says:

    She said she put 30 lbs back on in 3 weeks from water because she was completely dehydrated after the show so she actually only gained 40 lbs after the fact, and there may have been other medical reasons for that. Get it? Those 30 lbs of weight loss were fake and unhealthy. Why are you people so hateful when a woman tries to warn you that fast weight loss is unhealthy? Any doctor will tell you that. Some of you apparently have your own mental issues about weight. Low weight has its own problems. People with real low body fat slip into shock very easily and that’s why they immediately slap an IV on everyone coming into the hospital ER. Low body fat people are half again as likely to die on their first heart attack. So, keep your cell phone handy if you are one of those people.

  47. Me says:

    Did anyone even bother to read or listen to the interview? She gained the 70 lbs when she had her son. She lost the 70 lbs within 10 months of him being born.

  48. i think it’s brave of her for admitting this. i must be a gigantic fool because i watch the biggest loser every season and had no idea.