The Biggest Loser is an American reality TV show which shows people competing to try and lose the most weight. Hence the winner becoming the biggest loser.
Whether you are a fan or not, did you always want to know what really went on behind the scenes in this TV show? Well this article exposes what some of the contestants went through especially Kai Hibbard, a former runner-up. Most of it is centered on her experience participating in the hit TV show and her trials and tribulations.
She had always struggled with her weight, but in January 2006, Kai Hibbard was in real trouble: At just 26 years old, her 5-foot-6 frame carried 265 pounds.
Her best friend staged a mini-intervention. “She said, ‘Hey, I love you, but you’re super-fat right now,’ ” Hibbard recalls. The pal encouraged Hibbard to try out for the smash NBC reality show “The Biggest Loser.”
Since its premiere in 2004, “The Biggest Loser” — which pits obese contestants against one another in a race to lose the most weight — has been one of the most popular reality shows of all time.
Kai HibbardPhoto: Getty Images
In a country where two-thirds of the population is overweight or obese, “The Biggest Loser” has multifaceted appeal: It’s aspirational and grotesque, punitive and redemptive — skinny or fat, it’s got something for you. It’s not uncommon to see contestants worked out to the point of vomiting or collapsing from exhaustion. Contestants, collegially and poignantly, refer to one another as “losers.”
Contestants are made to sign contracts giving away rights to their own story lines and forbidding them to speak badly about the show.
After an initial winnowing process, 14 of 50 finalists are taken to “the ranch,” where they live, work out and suffer in seclusion. (The remaining 36 are sent home to lose weight on their own, and return later in the season.)
Once at the ranch, contestants are given a medical exam, then start working out immediately, for dangerous lengths of time — from five to eight hours straight.
“There was no easing into it,” Hibbard says. “That doesn’t make for good TV. My feet were bleeding through my shoes for the first three weeks.”
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.”
Hibbard says the bulk of food on her season was provided by sponsors and had little to no nutritional value.
Kai Hibbard during the live finale of “The Biggest Loser” Season 3.Photo: Getty Images
“Your grocery list is approved by your trainer,” she says. “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.”
At one point, Hibbard says, production did bloodwork on all the contestants, and the show’s doctor prescribed electrolyte drinks. “And the trainer said, ‘Don’t drink that — it’ll put weight on you. You’ll lose your last chance to save your life.’ ”
Such extreme, daily workouts and calorie restriction result in steep weight losses — up to 30 pounds lost in one week.
In fact, contestants have been seriously injured, but it’s not often shown. The first-ever “Biggest Loser,” Ryan Benson, went from 330 pounds to 208 — but after the show, he said, he was so malnourished that he was urinating blood. “That’s a sign of kidney damage, if not failure,” Darby says. Benson later gained back all the weight and was disowned by the show.
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.”
This contestant says she and most of her castmates came away with bad knees. “There was one guy whose back was so bad, he could only exercise in the swimming pool. By the end of the show, I was running on 400 calories and eight- to nine-hour workouts per day. Someone asked me where I was born, and I couldn’t remember. My short-term memory still sucks.”
For Hibbard, the low point came when she and her fellow “losers” were brought to a racetrack, where they were housed in individual horse stalls. When a bell went off, they had to run neck-and-neck like animals, picking up sacks filled with their lost weight on the way.
The show’s most famous trainer, Jillian Michaels, quit “The Biggest Loser” for the third time in June 2014, with People magazine reporting she was “deeply concerned” about the show’s “poor care of the contestants.”
In a statement to The Post, NBC said only: “Our contestants are closely monitored and medically supervised. The consistent ‘Biggest Loser’ health transformations of over 300 contestants through 16 seasons of the program speak for themselves.”
Expert Darby doesn’t buy it. “With most weight-loss programs, people gain at least half of the weight back,” she says. “And the people who are most successful in our studies are the ones who make small changes over the long term — so I can’t imagine that anyone on ‘The Biggest Loser’ has weight loss that’s sustainable.”