(originally published on October 1, 2017)
I recently had the pleasure of being able to ask some questions to The Biggest Loser 3 Contestant, Kai Hibbard. I was excited to be able to talk to her because she has been very brave when it comes to speaking out against the show that made her famous. Kai has been vocal about the problems she’s had with the series while using her voice to promote the dangers of dieting and how to go about living a more healthy, stable lifestyle.
The following is the Q&A I did with Kai:
1. How did the selection process go for The Biggest Loser?
For my season there were casting calls all over the country and there was also an application and video submission process for those people who could not attend a casting call. In addition, there was an approximately week long evaluation process in LA that included interviews and some mental and physical health evaluations.
2. Did they greatly exaggerate the changes you would make by doing the show?
I don’t think they greatly exaggerated the changes that contestants made, what they distorted were the time frames and methods used to achieve the changes that the viewing audience witnessed.
3. How qualified was the “doctor” the show had to monitor the contestants?
The doctor is an incredibly qualified Harvard educated doctor. The mental health professional to the best of my knowledge was less qualified- however, the show presents it as though we had regular access to both these individuals when for my season that was not true.
4. Did the trainers push you all way past what was considered safe in regards to your workouts?
Yes, if you look at what is medically safe for physical training for any individual beginning an exercise regimen some of the methods employed by the trainers would be deemed unsafe. Jillian Micheals has been quoted saying that she would not train people in “real life” the way that she trains the contestants on TBL. There is no reason that a personal trainer would or should work a client to the point of vomiting, which occurred on my season.
5. You said you developed an eating disorder after the show? Would you mind talking about how that started and how you recovered since then?
I did not develop an eating disorder as I have never been formally diagnosed with one, what I developed was disordered eating habits. It may seem like a small distinction, but it is an important one. It started by having poor nutritional advice from production on the show and being isolated from professionals connected to the show like the registered dietician who may have provided nutritional advice based in sound medical practice and science. The severe restriction and over training on the show contributed to my developing disordered eating habits. My recovery has been a long process that has involved multiple relapses, and has been affected by my diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis in 2016 and what it has been like living with a chronic illness. I rely heavily on my primary doctor, my rheumatologist, a registered dietician specifically trained in intuitive eating/disordered eating and my therapist.
6. When was the moment where you couldn’t keep silent any longer and made the brave decision to speak out against the show?
The very first interview I was asked to give after my finale when NBC wasn’t writing my quotes for me. The August 2007 issue of Time magazine.
7. For a long time, weight loss shows similar to the Biggest Loser were popping up left and right. How did you feel seeing this rise on popularity with these types of shows?
It made me incredibly sad and frustrated, and I have connected with contestants from these other programs and am equally incensed about their experiences as I am over those people that participated in TBL.
8. What is your life like today? Also, what would you say to others that are struggling with their weight?
My life is happy, and fulfilling while also being filled with what the day to day of living with a chronic illness is like. I learned nothing but extremes from TBL and having RA has FORCED me into moderation and into being kinder to my body.
I would say that I know now that 95% of all diets undertaken to achieve weight loss fail, and I could not in good conscience recommend dieting to anyone- I do however feel comfortable recommending that people find a way to move their bodies because they want to love it and nurture it. Find something you enjoy so that you continue it on a consistent basis. I would also recommend that people remember there are physically healthy foods and there are psychologically healthy foods and both are important to balance. I would also recommend that people pick up Rebecca Scritchfields book “Body Kindness,” Harriet Brown’s book “Body of Truth,” Linda Bacons “Health at Every Size” and “The Intuitive Eating Handbook.”
Thank you very much Kai! You are an inspiration to me and many, many others. I am forever grateful that you chose
to do this interview with me. You can find Kai on Facebook here!