NBC’s “Biggest Loser” is “a fat-shaming disaster” that abuses its overweight competitors, according to former contestant Kai Hibbard.
‘The whole f- -king show s a fat-shaming disaster that I’m embarrassed to have participated in,” Hibbard told the New York Post in a lengthy article revealing what it called the “brutal secrets” behind the hit reality TV show.
Hibbard, a Season 3 contestant who lost 121 pounds during her time on the show, said she and fellow competitors were placed on unhealthy diets and forced to work out for extreme amounts of time, often pushed by trainers to the point of collapse.
“They’d get a sick pleasure out of it,” she said. “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.”
Celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels was among them, but quit the series for the third time in June without giving much of a reason. People reported months before her departure that Michaels was “turned off by the mean-spirited story lines and poor care of the contestants.”
During a Huffington Post Live interview last February, Michaels said she thought Season 15 winner Rachel Frederickson “had lost too much weight” after dropping to just 105 pounds from 260. Michaels, however, said she believed Frederickson skipped past “checks and balances” trainers provide contestants after production wraps.
NBC told the Post that “contestants are closely monitored and medically supervised” in its short statement defending a ratings hit that has spawned a host of merchandise, including cookbooks and fitness DVDs.
But Hibbard’s experience suggest contestants are monitored too closely.
First she was sequestered in a Los Angeles hotel room for five days while producers decided on 14 out of 50 people that would make the final cast. Once selected to compete and live at “the ranch,” Hibbard and fellow contestants were not allowed to call home for six weeks. When they eventually do get a chance to speak to friends or family, the five-minute call is monitored by production.
Hibbard claims she also witnessed trainers ignore medical advice. When the show’s doctor prescribed electrolyte drinks, a trainer said, “Don’t drink that — it’ll put weight on you. You’ll lose your last chance to save your life.”
In another instance, Hibbard recounted a female contestant tearing a calf muscle and bursitis in her knees, yet trainers were not sympathetic.
“The doctor told her, ‘You need to rest.’ She said, ‘Production told me I can’t rest,'” Hibbard said. “At one point after that, production ordered her to run, and she said, ‘I can’t.’ She was seriously injured. But they edited her to make her look lazy and bitchy and combative.”
According to Hibbard, she was expected to exercise for between five and eight hours a day on a diet consisting of less than 1,000 calories a day from food provided by sponsors of the program, currently in it’s 16th season.
“Your grocery list is approved by your trainer,” she said. “My season had a lot of Franken-foods: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray, Kraft fat-free cheese, Rockstar Energy Drinks, Jell-O.”
Hibbard said she has suffered long-term health problems she believes arose as a result of the extreme approach to weight loss, in which contestants are pushed to lose about 30 pounds a week. Healthy weight loss is largely considered to be 2 pounds per week.
“My hair was falling out. My period stopped. I was only sleeping three hours a night,” Hibbard said. “My thyroid, which I never had problems with, is now crap.”
Hibbard also reported bad knees and short term memory loss.
“You’re brainwashed to believe that you’re super-lucky to be there,” Hibbard said. “I was thinking, ‘Dear God, don’t let anybody down. You will appear ungrateful if you don’t lose more weight before the season finale.’”