Kai Hibbard, a former contestant on “The Biggest Loser,” blasted the show in The New York Post (of course) this weekend and spilled some secrets that producers probably would rather have kept under wraps.
Hibbard, who lost over 120 lbs on the show, said she and other contestants originally felt “so lucky to be there.” But over time, she and others chafed from controlling aspects of the production.
Before she began filming “Loser,” Hibbard described being checked into a Los Angeles hotel and having a production assistant for “Loser” take her key card away from her so that she had to stay in her room. Another contestant who remained anonymous claimed to the Post that her laptop and mobile phone were taken for 24 hours. During filming, contestants were not allowed to call friends or family, save for one five-minute phone call that was monitored.
The two women seemed to be suggesting that the trainers were abusive — at least in a “no crying allowed” boot camp type of way. Hibbard claimed trainers harshly told them, “You’re going to die before your children grow up,” and, “We’ve picked out your fat-person coffin,” as so-called motivation. Hibbard claimed that her feet bled for three weeks straight due to constantly working out and said that another contestant was pressured to exercise, despite having injuries to her knee.
Hibbard had strong words for the reality TV show, telling the Post: “The whole fucking show is a fat-shaming disaster that I’m embarrassed to have participated in.”
To be honest, most of what Hibbard is describing about the reality TV production aspect does not suprise me. Contestants on plenty of other shows are also kept in seclusion before, after and during and have their phone calls monitored. The production staff and networks are worried about leaks on shows and they do what they can to restrict information getting out. Unfortunately, I think that may be the cost of entry for wannabe reality TV stars these days.
And while I don’t personally condone all of the behaviors of the productions staff or trainers on “The Biggest Loser,” I’m not entirely surprised about the rumors surrounding them either. I don’t even watch the program reguarly, but from what little I know, it’s about boot camp-style “tough love” and competition. I have to wonder what contestants were suspecting when they auditioned for and agreed to be cast. (Hibbard, to be fair, appeared on one of the earlier seasons when this information may not have beeen as well known.)
The intensity of the weight loss and the extreme caloric restrictions have long been criticism of the show: Back in 2009, The New York Times was reporting that well-being is not exactly the focus of the show and that several contestants have collapsed while filming:
The series also highlights the difference between the pursuit of engaging television and the sometimes frenzied effors of contestants to win, perhaps at the risk of their own health. Doctors, nutritionists, and physiologists not affiliated with “The Biggest Loser” express doubt about the program’s regimen of severe caloric restriction and up to six hours a day of strenuous exercise, which case contestants to sometimes lose more than 15 pounds a week.
In the Post, Hibbard said that now she understands she was hurting her body while on the show, but that at the time she was “brianwashed.”It’s unclear why Kai Hibbard talked to the Post, since the article readily admitted contestants have signed contracts agreeing not to speak badly about the show. She may well be at a point, though, where she feels that facing down a potential lawsuit is worth it.