The Biggest Loser & The Problem With Weight Loss Porn - A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss

The Biggest Loser & The Problem With Weight Loss Porn

KaiHibbard

Anyone who’s a participant of the Facebook page for BGG2WL knows that during The Biggest Loser’s most recent season, we hosted weekly chats discussing the ongoings of each episode. For me, this was my first season watching the show, and I didn’t even watch it from the start.

I’m not a big TV person. It’s just gotten lazy, to me. Everything is “unscripted reality,” which is really just code for “The network is too cheap to pay writers, so let’s just pay a few cameramen to take shifts following around really problem-prone people.”

Let’s not even talk about the “weight loss porn” that we keep seeing as of late. That’s right.. I said it – weight loss porn. It’s almost as if seeing people struggle with weight is being fetishized. Pornographic in nature, even.  Huge. Ruby (thanks, Felicia!). The Biggest Loser. Losing It. One Big Happy Family. Celebrity Fit Club. Whatever Crap Kirstie Alley Is Doing To Get Her Face On The TV Screen Again. For some reason, Americans love watching the overweight agonize over not being “one of the beautiful people,” and salivate at the thought of watching them sweat the pounds off to get there.

I’ve just never been that person. While I love to root for a good story just like anyone else… I’m just… always reminded that it’s TV – situations (and footage) are manipulated to present us what they want to present us.

Enter Kai Hibbard.

A contestant from the third season of The Biggest Loser (TBL), she recently appeared on practically every major venue speaking about the ills of the show that helped build her name.

(If you were advised to be wary of triggers, I would advise you to not read the following highlighted passages.)

Taken from her original interview with Golda Poretsky:

On the seclusion of the ranch:

“A lot of people don’t know that once we were actually on the ranch, it was 6 weeks before we were allowed to get mail from home and our mail was opened and censored.  And it was 8 weeks before we were allowed to speak to anybody on the phone and it was for 5 minutes at a time with a chaperone.”

On the meaning of a “week” on the Biggest Loser:

“It varied.  It went from 14 days and I believe that near the end we had one week that was 5 days.”

On being treated as “an expendable commodity”:

“We did one challenge in a stadium in California.  It was about 100 degrees that day and the challenge involved running up stairs and then doing the wave all the way around the stadium and then running down the stairs and back across the football field.  When we were done, we were obviously covered in sweat, we were all out of shape, and that was a really hard challenge in that heat. They brought us bottles of water that we had packed ourselves in the truck that had been sitting in the heat all day, and they broke out coolers for the trainers, the cameramen, the audio people, and for Caroline Rhea and they had cool water and we drank 90 degree water after we ran the challenge. . . . And actually one of the contestants, Eric, from New York (won my season) lost it at that point and screamed about how we weren’t animals and to please stop treating us like animals and they handled it the way they handled us always, [they] quieted him down, and reminded him how lucky we were to be there, that it was saving his life.

On the way contestants (and viewers) are brainwashed into believing that fat people are subhuman:

“I believe that  . . . most of the contestants, felt like it was okay to treat us like we were subhuman when we were there, that the ends justify the means.  If they were going to make us thin, then it was totally worth it to humiliate us and treat us poorly all the way along.  I just don’t feel that way.”

Kai on The Biggest Loser’s diet and exercise program:

“Unfortunately, what they’re telling you the contestants are doing and what they actually have the contestants doing are two different things, at least as far as my season goes.  We were working out anywhere between 2 and 5 hours a day, and we were working out severely injured. There’s absolutely no reason to work a 270 pound girl out so hard that she pukes the first time you bring in a gym.  That was entirely for good tv.

There was a registered dietician that was supposed to be helping [the contestants at the ranch] as well . . . but every time she tried to give us advice . . . the crew or production would step in and tell us that we were not to listen to anybody except our trainers. And my trainer’s a nice person, but I have no idea what she had for a nutritional background at all.”

On how the trainers and producers overrode the show’s doctors:

“The doctor had taken our blood and tested us and sent us a solution, I don’t know exactly what it was but it was salty, so I’m assuming that our electrolytes were off.  And when the trainers found out we were taking it, they told us under no certain terms were we to be taking that, because it would make us retain water and gain weight on the scale and we’d have to go home.  The doctors had ordered us to take it and the trainers were like, ‘throw it out, right now.’  There was this interference between the people who were actually probably trying to get us healthy from the people who wanted a good television show.

On the show’s low-calorie diet and her subsequent eating disorder:

“I think when I was on the actual ranch we were eating between 1,000 and 1,200 calories a day, I’m not certain.  The thing is, it got worse when I got home. . . . I would get e-mails constantly from the producers: ‘what have you done today?’ ‘are you working out enough?’  It was just always, always, always.  At that point, [I had] all the pressure on me, and [I was] trying to do right by what I had been told is the best thing to ever happen to me. And they would tell you all the time, ’200,000 other fat girls were in line right behind you. How dare you waste this experience? How dare you let anybody down?’

So I got to a point where I was only eating about 1,000 calories a day and I was working out between 5 and 8 hours a day. . . .  And my hair started to fall out.  I was covered in bruises.  I had dark circles under my eyes.  Not to get too completely graphic, but my period stopped altogether and I was only sleeping 3 hours a night.  I tried to tell the T.V. show about it and I was told, ‘save it for the camera.’

“At that point, my boyfriend at the time, who’s now my husband, and my best friend and my family stepped in and they said, ‘Hey, crazy, you’re going to die if you keep this up.’  At that point was doing really fun things like not eating at all. . . my major food groups were water, black coffee and splenda.  I got to the point that when I was nervous or upset I was literally vomiting my food up. And at one point the scale stalled, I was stuck at 163, and my trainer and the producers all ordered me to take a free day. . . .  They said, ‘oh, you’re body needs to be shaken up.’  And I was so afraid of food at that point I went in [to the store], I bought a bag of snicker doodle cookies, and a quart of milk, and a box of ex lax and I ate them all together.  And I knew that I was in trouble. And it was at this point that I was like, ‘Hey, where are those doctors and that psychologist that are supposed to be following up and keeping an eye on me that I kept hearing about?’”

On how the contestants dehydrated themselves before weigh-ins:

I didn’t learn how to dehydrate until I got on the ranch. It was every week.  Every single week, this is what a weigh-in would look like: the real weigh-ins were at 10 o’clock in the morning and they were on a cattle scale at the ranch and they weren’t filmed. . . . Now, mind you, it was shot in Simi Valley, so it’s a desert, so it’s hot.  And on the morning of the weigh-in you would get up and you’d put on your underwear, your spandex shorts, and you’d put on sweatpants and then you’d put on a sports bra, a tank top, a long sleeve shirt, and your sweatshirt, a ball cap, and then you’d zip up your sweatshirt, you’d put your hood on and you’d go down to the gym.  [The gym] wasn’t a real gym, it was a temporary structure just for shooting and it didn’t have any air conditioning and you’d shut all the doors and all the windows in the gym.  Then you would work out for two, two and half hours (as long as you could stand it) without any water. (The boys would take water, rinse their mouth out, and spit it.  I couldn’t even do that — if I was going to put water in my mouth, I was going to drink it.)  Most, if not everybody, had cut their water about 24 hours beforehand, if not 24 hours then at least by 5 o’clock the afternoon before.  And then, you would drink coffee if you had anything the night before, because (a) it would clean your system out and (b) it would dehydrate you.

“So after you did the 2 hours of working out in full sweat, sweating off as much as you can, you would go back to the house, shower, blow dry your hair, and strip down to the lightest clothing you could find, which was usually spandex shorts and a sports bra.  Then you’d go downstairs and you’d weigh yourself in and the second you got off that scale you would chug water because you were so dehydrated.”

On her most painful weigh-in:

“The worst one I can remember is the very last one, before the final weigh-in, and it was down to five contestants left.  I remember being on the elliptical and being so exhausted and so ready to go home and so dehydrated that I burst into tears and I’m crying . . . and I’m still working out and it set off a chain reaction and every single person in the gym, all of the five contestants that were left, were crying.  And we were so brainwashed at that point that I remember saying out loud, ‘Well, at least we’re losing more water-weight by crying.’

On how the show is edited to make contestants look bad for refusing to work out with injuries:

“You really get brainwashed into thinking everything’s your fault, [that] you’re just not strong enough, you’re just not good enough. . . . For example, Heather, on my season, was told by the medical trainer, not one of the personal trainers, . . . ‘Here’s the deal, both your knees are messed up, and I believe you ripped your calf muscle.’  So he told the trainer that too but when you watch the show, Heather’s arguing with our trainer and saying, ‘Look, I can’t do it.’  And they made it look like it’s because she’s lazy and refuses to work out, when actually she’s been told by the doctors, ‘Do not run, do not do this, you cannot do this.’ And production and her personal trainer wanted her to do it anyway, just for the cameras.  And when she refused to do it for the cameras because it would have damaged her body even more (she ended up needing steroid shots in both knees while we were still there by the way) it was edited to make her look like she was lazy and disobedient, basically.  So then you’ve got the 22 million Americans that watch it thinking that you’re this horrible, lazy, ungrateful person.  And she literally got death threats on the NBC web site.  I just have people that tell me stuff like, I’m ugly when I cry, or I’m lazy.  She got death threats.

On the fantasy of being thin:

“They said that they were very surprised by me as a contestant because, if you watch from the beginning of the season to the end, my personality doesn’t change at all.  And my comment was, ‘Why would it?’  But I guess that 95% of the contestants start off one person and end up a different one at the end.  And it’s because they believe that being thin will make all my dreams come true. [But] your mortgage is the same if you weigh 144 or if you weigh 268.  You’re either happy with your life or you’re not.

I can recall an argument I got into with a friend of mine about shows like TBL.. with his argument going something like, “We need shows like this to show people what it looks like to work hard in the gym. You sweat, you grind, you burn, you get pissed, but you’re happy when you see the results.” Yeah, I hear you talkin’, but um… 17lbs in one “week?” What about ol’ dude that lost ~30lbs his first “week” there?

My complaint has always been that it sets an unrealistic expectation for what one can continue to expect throughout their weight loss journey. The average person – who probably (unfortunately) knows very little about how their body handles weight outside of what the commercials tell them – doesn’t recognize that “hard work cannot produce 11lb weekly weight loss” on a regular basis. What I can see happening (and admittedly, what has happened to me), is someone going to the gym, busting their tails, “only” losing 4lbs and thinking that “This is as hard as I can work, and I only lost 4lbs? Why can they lose 11lbs in a week, and I can’t? I can’t do this anymore!” and giving up. We all know that people will sometimes look for reasons to give up… and while it isn’t NBC’s responsibility to keep us motivated, a little integrity might be nice, here.

And since we’re talking about scales, I can fuss about the weigh-ins, as well. I just spent three months ramping up my weight lifting routine so that when I burn the rest of this fat, my skin will have an actual shape to cling to.. not just dangle and hang there. I know how many inches I’ve lost, and I know how much leaner my body has become. I also know that I actually gained weight during that time, too. If I were a scale freak, I might be bothered by this. TBL encourages weight lifting with the left hand, and breeds scale freaks with the right – your longevity on the show (and your chance at 250k) is wholly determined by what shows up on that scale. Replacing muscle with fat (replacing a pound of muscle with a pound of fat… is still replacing a pound with a pound)… means that you’re not losing. A scale freak’s nightmare.

I love the stories of people overcoming their struggles. I also love the fact that TBL shows people working as hard as they can, and the joy on their faces when they see how that hard work paid off. Despite how manipulated that footage or situation may be, the message that gets across is that “hard work produces results.” I can respect that. TBL has inspired countless “office competitions” where groups of co-workers host their own TBL competitions and support one another. We cannot deny the fact that one of the biggest examples of weight loss porn has done some good.

We also cannot deny the fact that TBL creates an environment where “normal” results are frowned upon, and now it seems like unhealthy methods of weight loss are being glorified on the low. The average American, approximately 20-30lbs overweight, is not going to lose 30lbs in one week without surgery. I’own care what you say. Two pounds in a week makes sense, but someone losing 2lbs on the ranch is ready to cry. The everyday TBL fan won’t always say to themselves, “Well, if I was on a ranch where all I did was workout and sleep, 2lbs would be a disappointment to me, too.” They’ll say, “2lbs? Gosh, he sucks.”

Nine times out of ten, if you lose a gang of weight quickly, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll keep it off. Why? Because you probably lost it by doing something you can’t maintain for the rest of your life. Living on a ranch where your only stress is losing weight – no bills to worry about, no kids to chase around, no boss to brown nose – is not a lifestyle change. It simply isn’t. And with as little as many of us know about our bodies and weight gain… we’re not focusing on that lifestyle part of this. We’re focusing on the “how can I lose 8lbs in a ‘week?'” part of this… as evidenced by the average supermarket magazine cover. Hibbard, herself, was quoted as saying the following:

“I actually put on about 31 pounds in two weeks. After my body had a chance to stabilize I spent all last year hovering between 159 and 175, I fight everyday to find some stability.”

In my mind, shows like this have some positive points… but they simply don’t outweigh the negative (no pun intended, I promise.) In an environment like the BGG2WL FB page, we can talk about the show without assigning those expectations of 8lbs in a “week” to ourselves. (Besides, there’s always someone ready and willing to jump in and announce how unrealistic the show is, anyhow.) Most of America doesn’t get to enjoy that kind of support system, online or not. Fetishizing unrealistic methods producing unrealistic results can only turn us into people who believe weight loss is unattainable… and that’s unfair to all of us.

All of this is to say, if you’re watching these kinds of shows for the occasional tidbit of information they share or the entertainment value (?), then by all means, enjoy yourself! But don’t hold these shows up to be some standard or model of success, because they simply don’t mirror our everyday lives in any capacity… and even if they did, there are anatomical (and, as outlined above, apparently ethical) reasons why the phrase “results may vary” rings true, here.

Look to yourself, your support system and your personal inspiration to guide you on your journey. Not a TV show that can be – and will be – manipulated for the sake of money. Your health deserves so much more than that.

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes health, fitness, nutrition, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She now lives in New York with her family, and is working on her 4th, 5th and 6th certificates.

79 Comments

  1. Curvy Jones

    July 6, 2010 at 11:19 AM

    Great post!!! I’ve never been a BL fan… the losses are just too unbelievable.

    I loved what she had to say about buying into the fairy tale: “Your mortgage is the same if you weigh 144 or if you weigh 268″

    • Erika

      July 6, 2010 at 12:37 PM

      I thought that was relatively poignant, too – we think our body image woes are so real… until the bills start rolling in. LOLOL “Real” is relative, LOL.

  2. BAnjeeB

    July 6, 2010 at 11:59 AM

    Several friends have actually auditioned for TBL and before I read Kai’s interview a little while ago I was supportive. I don’t watch the show, but it was something they wanted so I encouraged them. However after her interview, I fear for those who go on the show. Trading an unhealthy healthy way of living and eating for another unhealthy way of living and eating isn’t really progress in my book. Even if I am the lucky one to win the cash.

    • Erika

      July 6, 2010 at 12:38 PM

      Hey… at least now you have a little more insight on how to advise your friends in the future – send ‘em here or to Golda’s original series (I know I took big chunks, but the interview in itself was very thorough and much longer) and let them decide for themselves. Nothing worse than making a decision with only half the information on hand. :(

    • Egean Ab Doc Collins

      October 9, 2011 at 12:05 PM

      Great article! I seen this on a link on facebook. You are doing a great job. Being in this field I already know this stuff was going on this and other shows. It’s all about TV not the person. Like one of your readers said “Swapping one unhealthy life style for another” Like you said. One of the biggest problems with these shows is making the audience feel this is the right way to do things or you are less human if you don’t. I”m posting this on my facebook page and now I’m a big fan of yours. “It works when you work it”

  3. Evelyn

    July 6, 2010 at 11:59 AM

    I am absolutely floored. I, like the majority of people who watch the show, had no idea these kinds of things were going on. I must admit, I have developed an “addiction” to “weight loss porn” (that’s one of the most hilarious/on the money things I’ve ever read, btw)since embarking on this journey… I get my fix from TBL, YouTube before-after videos, blogs, pictures, etc. However, I think I’m able to place things in appropriate “fantasy” and “reality” bins in my mind. While looking at other people’s success stories does serve as inspiration, I know that a steady focus on the truth is the only thing that’s going to make my fantasies real.

    For me, the truth is this: as exciting as these shows are, as great as it is to see someone’s entire weight loss journey neatly summed up in an hour or less, that has nothing to do with me and my journey. I might go to a ranch or fat farm or wherever and lose a ton of weight, but it will only come right back, because my battle isn’t “I’m distracted by life and all I need is to get away from it all for 3 months and I won’t have a weight problem anymore”. My battle is behavioral, my battle is with my choices, my battle is learning to cope with my day to day reality and somehow reframing that reality to exclude self-destructive behavior and include choices that are grounded in my long- term health, so no matter where I am, what my life situation is, what my support system looks like, I am healthy.

    I’ve come to a point where I feel like I’ll do literally anything if it will help me get to that frame of mind.

    • Erika

      July 7, 2010 at 12:26 PM

      I like your approach – being able to identify the reality of weight loss and prioritizing the pursuit of health over that which these shows highlight, which is “looking differently.” I’m almost positive I’m not the only person who could identify the number of high-powered girdles being rocked by both women AND men on the TBL finale.

      Don’t get that “anything” feeling, though, because I think that’s the point where so many of us start getting swindled. There’s nothing that can help you get to where you’re going other than moving your own two feet, mama. :)

    • CarlaAnn

      October 13, 2011 at 7:33 PM

      http://WWW.oa.org
      Check it out it’s what you described.
      Good Luck, many blessings!

  4. BrittanyLove

    July 6, 2010 at 12:55 PM

    Omg! This was such a great post. You pointed out so many things that really should be mentioned.Especailly when speaking about expectations. I have been that girl that thinks 2 pounds. Hell 4 pounds wasnt good enough in one week! We are brainwashed with all these weight loss ads and tabloid covers into believing that if you dont drop 14 pounds in 2 weeks then “you aint doing nothing”. Or if the baby weight isnt gone before we see a picture of the kid,then “you have done nothing”.

    Its all kind of sad because we dont start thinking like this as adults most of it starts in childhood.

    What are we pushing on our kids?

    *o and I love how you call it weight loss porn! roflmbo

    • Erika

      July 6, 2010 at 4:37 PM

      LOL I’m serious about that, though! It’s so gross – “Oooh, let’s watch these overweight people struggle to ‘become pretty'” WTF? Gross, dude.

      This is why I’m so anti-marketing ploys. Even reliable sources of assistance in losing weight are shrouded in “Lose 459874 pounds in ten minutes!” WTF? I’m over it. This interview was really just enough for me. Seriously, lol.

  5. Chelle

    July 6, 2010 at 1:06 PM

    I auditioned for this show in New York City a few years ago and I made it through 2 rounds of auditions. During the final call-back, I was told “I did not have enough drama”. I was this bubbly/happy person and the 4 people in the room with me all had sob stories. The stories passed around in that room were attempted suicide, life-threatening illnesses, lots of tears etc. I just thought it was strange that they would take mostly people like that over someone with personality, great looks, and, quick wit. I know it’s about what sells! It definitely was an experience I will never forget. I had “The look” but not enough “Drama” lol. I totally believe what Kai has said, BL is a machine used to sell dreams.

    I have learned that the best way to lose weight is with willpower, patience, life style change, and exercise. Several other things as well, but these help me through. I don’t see myself auditioning for a show like that again.

    • Erika

      July 6, 2010 at 4:38 PM

      I think it is SO telling that in a room full of suicidal and damaged individuals, you were told to go home. Thank you so much for sharing that with everyone – it’s important to hear. :)

  6. Trina

    July 6, 2010 at 1:31 PM

    I can’t watch that show because it’s so unrealistic. Like sure, if you take me out of my apartment to somewhere I can work out and eat right most of the day, sure I’d lose weight too–maybe not 30lbs ‘a week’, but I’m pretty sure it would drop because there would be no other distractions. That seems like it would set someone up for failure simply because in the real world, you work 8 hours a day and working out after that is not easy. I work 7 to 5 and the LAST thing I want to do when I get off is work out–I mean, I do, but it’s not easy. There are food temptations and friends and parties and lazy days.

    Like I want to see the stat of how many people on this show gained some or all of it back once they were back home.

    • Erika

      July 7, 2010 at 12:29 PM

      “That seems like it would set someone up for failure simply because in the real world, you work 8 hours a day and working out after that is not easy.”

      I agree, but if I think about it… that’s where the lifestyle coaching shouuuuuld come into play, here. Strangely enough, not as many people as I’dve expected have put the weight back on. (And really, I expected them all to do it.)

      Kudos to correcting yourself “The last thing I wanna do is workout – I mean, I do, but..” LOL! I hear you, though! After a day of working, dealing with clients, kids and puppies… I barely make it to the bed some nights. Sleepin’ on the floor and thanking heaven for soft carpet! LOL!

  7. Madame

    July 6, 2010 at 1:49 PM

    I’ve donned this genre of programming: thinnertainment. And, it’s proven to be very lucrative, hence a new show premiering every time we turn our heads. In a feat where actual success is a rarity to those who lead lives without public attention, the illusion/vision of such accomplishments, are blaring ones. I certainly hope the majority of viewers aren’t naive to the show’s operations and outcomes. However, as the TBL product line surpasses $100M annually, in revenue – I’m surely just preaching to the choir.

    P.S. My friend was baffled after the Kai story broke, that Jillian and Bob weren’t the contestant’s primary trainers (as it appears on the show). I’m like … girl, they have press to do and books and pills to sell, lol.

    • Erika

      July 7, 2010 at 12:36 PM

      I hear you – I was pretty shocked when I went to the “healthy” section of the store, and found TBL PRODUCTS? Seriously? Y’all are gon’ milk this for all it’s worth, huh? From my dialogue with visitors of the site, I’m led to believe that people really are pretty unaware of how manipulated the footage is. I can only shine a light on the stuff. I can’t make ‘em look. You know?

      And LOL@ Jill and Bob being their trainers… every show needs a pair of figureheads, why not let it be them? *eyeroll*

  8. Michelle

    July 6, 2010 at 2:01 PM

    Excellent post! I agree!

    • Erika

      July 7, 2010 at 2:18 PM

      Thank you! And thanks for stopping by! :)

  9. kim

    July 6, 2010 at 5:56 PM

    This was season 1 so it’s been several years and i would just hope they have learned alot and grown since then, the show that is producers etc.

    • Erika

      July 6, 2010 at 6:52 PM

      Season 3, mama… not season 1.

  10. JoAnna

    July 6, 2010 at 8:38 PM

    Interesting post. I began watcing Biggest Loser when they introduced couples and had the two girlfriends from Detroit. I kept waiting for that one woman who wore a wig to snatch it off, hand it to someone, and lay ito her weightloss partner. After the two of them were dismissed, I lost interest. You just don’t lose weight that fast in the real world.

    I deal with family members who berate my mere 60+lbs weight loss. Funny how they’re mostly 3-4 sizes larger than me, doing that “I’m THICK, but I look GOOD!” It’s also funny how they’re “Fitness Trainers” yet still have tags on all their workout clothes, gear, etc, and just can’t walk the dogs with me (arthritis: athmospheric joint soreness, not enough time, you get too sweaty, etc), or go swimming. But they will deluge my phone and email with the latest gadget, or informercial DVD, or fat burner nonsense that will let me lose 6+lbs per week!

    I did laugh myself silly when one of my aunt and her husband took fat burner and Slim-Fast and had loose bowels and BAD gas for a week!! She had to take off from work because she couldn’t get out of the bathroom!

    My doctor tells me I’m steadily losing weight with each visit, and doing it the right way. I can’t afford anymore physical setbacks from joint injury by jumping into someone else’s exercise routine.

    You posted a pic of 50cents some weeks ago showing his extreme weight loss. Funny how no one wanted to really know how he lost his weight…

    • Erika

      July 7, 2010 at 10:18 AM

      You know, I’m tickled by “fitness trainers” – they go out of their way to sound “knowledgeable” about the latest fit fad… and not to be petty, but my question usually is, “Well, if it works so well, do YOU use it?” Ugh.

      And LMAO @ the Aunt and Uncle! Overdoing it on the laxatives, I suppose. That’s terrible. Even if you do cleanse your colon, that does nothing for the fat (or lack of muscle) the body is dealing with, though. Double sigh. Now you see why I’m so against misinformation? Jeez.

      As far as 50 goes… I think his results were so undesirable looking that while there were a few people who were “intrigued” by the fact that he WAS able to shrink, his appearance coupled with the sheer impossibility of the diet (purely liquid) made it kind of nutty.

  11. Ren

    July 6, 2010 at 10:59 PM

    It is a business. Kia is now making a name (and profit?) out of being a “victim” of the weight loss TV show industry. She wasn’t held there at gun point. Media is brutal to every when it comes to appearance, expectations and out put. No one is going to watch a show of dull transformations. Would you really watch a show of fit barbie and Ken types trying to get tone or loss a few pounds? No. Fat people losing weight sells.
    If you want cuddling and hand holding for weight loss you should join some other weight management program. Don’t pretend to be surprised by how reality TV treats people. They do right by no one. They love highlighting break downs and drama.
    If the show gives just one person the courage to keep going and not give up then more power to it.

    PS-
    I went from 207lbs to 132lbs. It didn’t happen over night, it wasn’t always pretty or easy. Sometimes I watched weight loss shows just to get the encouragement to not give up. I know now slow and steady wins the race.

    • Erika

      July 7, 2010 at 10:21 AM

      Kai is definitely hawking not only her own fitness business, but she’s doing some crap with supplements right now. I’m almost positive that all of this exposure is a “stolen base” approach to drawing attention to both of those ventures for her – a risky attempt, at that – but I didn’t mention any of that for a reason. I’m simply not willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater on this.

      I don’t think a “Fit Barbie and Ken” type of show would work because it would make an audience like the one TBL has.. feel bad about being themselves. Which means they’d feel some kinda way about the extra 5-50lbs they might be carrying.

      Speaking of which, CONGRATS on that 70lb loss! I LOVE it!

      • Kai Hibbard

        April 22, 2013 at 4:04 PM

        Hi. I know I’m like 3 years late, but I just saw this. I “hawked” a vitamin- I still believe in supplements and vitamins since I damaged my health on the show, when the company changed their marketing I parted ways. I’m about health not weight loss. Also I’ve turned down the money offered me for every single interview I’ve given. If I were making $ off my name maybe my students loans would be paid off, but I value my integrity after I felt like I betrayed it by participating in TBL so instead I’ve joined the Army National Guard to serve my country instead of profiting off being a “victim.” Just thought I’d clear that up. Thanks.

    • Michelle

      June 8, 2013 at 6:23 PM

      Very well said.

  12. Rita

    July 7, 2010 at 5:17 AM

    I’ve never been a fan of these type shows because its clear that they distort reality but its heartbreaking to hear what its doing to peoples lives. I sincerely hope that people finally educate themselves to realize that habituation, hard work and dedication are the true secrets to success. Its about a lifestyle change and not some “shrink quick scheme” or some radical diet, bootcamp or surgery.

  13. Liyah

    July 7, 2010 at 3:28 PM

    Thank you for posting this. I am definitely going to share this w/ one of my dearest friends who feels she always knows the best way to lose weight or has to try every informercial gadget possible. I too am not big on reality shows nor do I feel that I have to put myself on “public display” to lose weight. Besides I know me, and the last thing I would want is to have to knock out or put the smack down one of those trainer’s or someone in that production crew for coming out the mouth wrong at me. LOL. It’s a shame people have to go through such trying times when all they want is help. And the people that are there to “help” them are basing their decision’s on television ratings.

    • Erika

      July 8, 2010 at 9:29 AM

      That’s another thing I dislike – putting yourself up on display as a means of accountability. Mind you, that’s sort of what *I* do here, but I don’t give running tabs of my weight, nor do I offer up the minutia of my life for public scrutiny. It’s a very private journey, one where you shouldn’t have to contend with an echo chamber discussing your hurdles and offering up their [often uninformed] opinions on how you can overcome them. It’s just too much.

  14. jonathan

    July 9, 2010 at 10:06 PM

    Really well written and insightful post. Well done!

  15. Pask

    July 23, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    They’re doing a casting call in Boston tomorrow. I was gun ho about going, but now after reading this…..not so much. I was originally put off by the fact that Jill was hocking pills, but now this is the second story about the support system on BL not being as stellar as we perceive.

  16. Therese

    August 6, 2010 at 2:45 PM

    I always assume reality shows are not really “Real”. I posted about this incident a while back, too:

    http://thereselee.com/2010/06/22/there-is-nothing-real-about-reality-tv/

  17. Marlaina

    September 28, 2010 at 6:13 AM

    Wow!! I think this is a great post. I am in a “Biggest Loser” Challenge at my university’s fitness center but it isn’t quite as crazy. They told us not to try to lose more than 1-2 lbs per week. I can’t imagine someone losing 30lbs in a week!! That just seems excessive, not to mention unhealthy. I have to agree with this post entirely. I would focus on losing weight over time and converting fat to muscle. The program I am in is more concerned with body fat percentage and inches lost than what the scale says. Plus a quick fix doesn’t change the problem, as Kai showed us, it can create another eating problem. As you said in the post TBL isn’t a lifestyle change because no regular person has 5 hours a day to exercise. We all have careers, families, and bills.

    I haven’t really followed the show much but I have seen a few episodes and what I saw was enough. I am about 280lbs right now and I hope to be somewhere under 160lbs but I think I will try to do that over 2-3 years as opposed to a few months. BTW I really love your website!! Thanks for all the great information and advice!

  18. Alison

    October 28, 2010 at 1:23 PM

    I only recently started watching the show. Since then, I have picked up a number of the books and workout DVD’s via the public library and I have to say that they were pretty impressive. No less than 1,200 calories, expect small losses (1-2 lbs a week), eat 5-6 small meals over the day, etc. I love the Weight Loss Yoga DVD- really effective and fun.

    I’m sad to hear that the advice that they give in the published materials don’t match what they are really doing on the show.

  19. Pingback: Links of Great Interest: 12/10/10 | The Hathor Legacy

  20. Tre

    December 19, 2010 at 8:04 PM

    You opened my eyes to a lot of things regarding this show….i always wondered how in the west hell u can lose 30lbs in a week. I just went and read some other articles about some contestants, and the sentiment is the same about the TBLs practices. I currently struggle with my own weight issues, but i dont think i would ever try to be on TBL, if Jillian or Bob said the wrong thing, lol, well, anyway. I’m glad I stumbled upon your site. Very kool.

  21. Morgan B

    January 26, 2011 at 12:39 AM

    OMG!! Please do not throw stones at me as I have DVR’d this week’s episode of TBL to watch tomorrow :/…but I can’t belieeeeeve what is going on behind the scenes at this show! I don’t know what season she is from or if (hopefully) they have changed their tactics, but reading about Kai’s experience made my heart hurt for those people! I remember watching earlier seasons of TBL and being one of those viewers who looked to the show for inspiration and would be frusturated as to why they could lose 20 pounds in one week and I was struggling to lose 2 pounds! This season and last season however, I watch for entertainment purposes only and to grasp what positive information and inspiration I can get from the show..Thanks Erika for the informative posts, keep ‘em comin!

  22. Debbi Estelle

    January 26, 2011 at 9:26 AM

    Good Article! It is unfortunate a lot of people do/will view Ms. Kai as the villian because she spoke up and told the truth! We can’t handle the truth! LOL! … But the reality is we often don’t want too… We like the stories T.V. sells us… (modified or not).

    As for the BLWC at work… I’ve participated in several and have to honestly say they really aren’t that great! In a lot of them they employ the same types of tactics as the actual show… Not in terms of people demanding you loose weight in unhealthy ways but by only focusing on the scale.

    We’ve done similar things: Not eating/drinking before weigh in. Going to the bathroom before weigh in… FIERCELY restricting our calories ect. We lost weight but for a LOT of us we’ve ended up gaining it back time, time and time again! At my place of employment the lure of the BLWC has replaced actual weight watchers meetings. It got to the point were anything went (as far as how you lost the weight) as long as it wasn’t starvation or diet pills. We’ve been so drawn to winning cash and fast loosing that we preferred that over taking time to learn about food, our bodies and how to loose it and KEEP it off. Really sad actually. :(

    I’ve gained and lost so many times now that I am truly moving in the direction of lifelong change.

    I’m not even gonna lie, I’ve been sucked into (and amazed by) how much weight those folk on TBL have lost too… Not realizing it is IMPOSSIBLE for them to do what they tell us is being done… in a healthy way and in that time frame!

  23. Lorrie

    February 8, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    I agree with you Erika for the most part. However, if a person has begun a lifestyle change already, understands these risks, has already developed a workout routine (is still significantly overweight) and fully accepts the pros and the cons of the show, the show could be a great booster for their weightloss program. The show, however, might not choose that person because they are not emotionally unstable enough or out of shape enough.

  24. TMonie

    April 17, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    I recently discovered your site. I don’t remember how I did but I have to tell you I’m grateful I have. I’ve never commented before but this article has compelled me to do so. You are so right on with this post. The latter part of last year, I started out trying to lose weight, which I have been trying to do the majority of my life. I have 180 pounds to lose. I set up my support system and did well for a few weeks. Then I decided just before Thanksgiving that I was going to do a Biggest Loser week. I did two a days, all cardio, resulting in about four, sometimes six hours of cardio a day. I expected the TV biggest loser results. At the end of the week I had lost only 8.5 pounds and I was devastated! Why? Because of the TBL. I wanted I 20 pound loss. I needed it to boost my morale, because at the time my life was full of FAIL. I should have been over the moon to lose that amount in a week. Needless to say, I haven’t been back to the gym since.

    I’m coming around now. You have helped me more than you know. I’m juicing and eating better than ever. I’m working on getting some discipline, which is where I fail. And I binge on horrible stuff. But looking at you, seeing your 12 month progression pics and the bikini you have up, I know I can do it. Because someone like me, a heavy Black woman, did it. And this statement:
    “Sure, I could’ve “dieted” and lost the weight faster, but I didn’t want to starve myself or unreasonably deprive myself, either. I didn’t want to lose weight in a fashion that would cause me to gain it back. I wanted to incorporate healthy living, healthy and reasonable indulgences, as well as room for mistakes in my life. I wanted to learn a new life… in a way that would prevent me from reverting back to my old one. Basically, I wanted a permanent lifestyle change, and I was willing to make a few mistakes in order to learn how to build it from scratch.”

    has saved me from starting a really unreasonable diet plan I had mapped out and ready to start tomorrow.

    I’m commenting on a very old post but I just had to let you know that I spend hours on your site and you have helped so much! Thank you thank you THANK YOU! And don’t ever stop!

  25. Sandra

    May 26, 2011 at 5:43 PM

    OMG!!!! I had no freaking idea!!!! What an eye opener!!!!

  26. Lisa

    May 26, 2011 at 6:08 PM

    Thank you so much for this. I had been wondering how on earth (even large people) could lose that many pounds in just one week. I knew already that it couldn’t be fat, but even water loss is impressive (not in a good way).

    My favorite point of your post is:
    “Nine times out of ten, if you lose a gang of weight quickly, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll keep it off. Why? Because you probably lost it by doing something you can’t maintain for the rest of your life.”

    Excerpted from The Biggest Loser & The Problem With Weight Loss Porn | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss <– ——-Hey, how'd you do that?

  27. Michelle

    June 7, 2011 at 2:48 PM

    Actually I watch “Ruby” and it’s a realistic show. It’s not about a qucik fix for her to lose weight. She started out over 700 lbs. The last show I saw, she was around 360 lbs. It’s realistic b/c she is losing weight at home with trainers, diet plan, psychologists to lose the weight in a healthy manner. But the show is good because they show all of the ups and downs she is experiencing losing weight the old-fashioned way. It’s the first show I’ve seen go into depth about food addiction and it has helped me put a name to my food issues

  28. BB

    June 7, 2011 at 11:29 PM

    That’s sad to hear about the behind the scene mess. The ranch isn’t prison, they should have left if it was that bad. I watch for inspiration. I dvr each episode and watch while on the treadmill

  29. CBS

    June 13, 2011 at 11:01 PM

    I never watched the show for similar reasons as yours-until this past season when my sis and bro in law were on. I must say that after hearing her similar horror stories and seeing how they were portrayed as the angry black couple, I will never watch again. The one thing I am thankful for is that they got what they needed out of the experience, motivation. They didn’t lose as much weight as others, but they also did not result to the extreme measures like dehydration and are losing slowly through lifestyle and behavior change.

    • kh

      June 14, 2011 at 10:48 PM

      I like watching the biggest loser. I don’t take stuff s serious and deep as most of you. it’s a tv show. they work out hard and have to eat right. what’s the difference, in the real world that’s how you lose weight too. only difference they are not working. what’s the complaint about the ones that do it at home and come on the show? I watched last season and saw the black couple i didn’t think they were portrayed as the “angry couple”. He got angry a few times because they were tryna hold him accountable. his wife was a beast on the show, she worked really hard. it’s all good we can’t all like the same things

      • Erika Nicole Kendall

        June 15, 2011 at 7:26 AM

        You’re kidding, right? Did you read the quotes from Kai? This isn’t about “they work out hard and eat right.” This is “they encourage wildly unhealthy practics that result in the very weight loss they try to front as being the result of “working out hard and eating right.”

        I don’t know about you, but if someone tells me they’re not drinking water because they want to lose weight, I bust out my SUPREME SIDE EYE.

        It’s not about “liking the same things,” either. It’s about knowing the reality behind the things you like… and there are people who are affected by what they now know.

  30. Monica

    June 14, 2011 at 10:16 AM

    I thought everyone knew that they worked out 5+ hours a day. I mean not to be mean but isn’t that expected? By expected I mean they aren’t going to work or school. They have nothing else to do all day. While I hate that they were giving hot water to drink after workouts some of this is NOT surprising…there are some athletes who dehydrate prior to competition. This show IS a competition that these people opted into. While I do not think the contestants should be treated like crap…they can’t be too surprised. I’ll still watch.

    • Jo

      January 3, 2013 at 10:20 PM

      The fact that they work out for insane hours isn’t a secret. I don’t ever recall seeing them waterless, though.
      Why didn’t she leave ? My dignity isn’t worth that type of treatment. Her position would draw more ire, and would hold more water (no pun intended) , if she took a stand ,left the show and put them promptly on blast . Why put yourself through that. However, aside from CBS interviewing her , this has been kept very quiet. I still love seeing their “success stories” and how it affects some of their lives positively.

      • Erika Nicole Kendall

        January 4, 2013 at 12:58 PM

        I’m pretty sure that, with the way the show is set up, if they’re manipulating you to the point where you’re getting e-mails being reminded of how many people would “kill to be in your position,” they can just as easily manipulate you into thinking this isn’t really a “dignity” issue. “It’s a ‘this is hard and I am trying to find an excuse to get out of it’ thing. Fight it!”

        *eyeroll*

  31. Erika

    October 8, 2011 at 6:23 PM

    I was sucked into the TBL lie too for a short while. I even have their exercise video (which is decent). But I finally realize how unrealistic the goals were and most contestants weren’t in for the long term journey of living healthy and happily. All about money, competition and quick gratification from those who feel they are qualified to judge us.

    Thanks for the article. I did get motivated by watching the few episodes I could see (unfortunately, I work for a living, so TV is a luxury when I can watch it). But that will be the only thing I will take from it.

  32. Tremilla

    November 7, 2011 at 12:11 PM

    I have always watched the Biggest Loser, but WOW!!! I knew that the contestants did not lose weight like us regular folk, but damn! Not only the methods outrageous but the fact that they’re on what season 10 is the outrage. This girl did this interview. And she told us about the horrible rituals that they went through. My question is, as an adult, when do you use your common sense. I don’t know what I would do for $250,000.00, but killing myself isn’t one of them. I don’t know what it’s like to be 300, 400, 500 lbs, but I do know right from wrong. How do you allow someone to convince you to put 5 layers of clothes and workout in a hot gym in an even hotter desert, and not drink water?! Seriously??? They leave the show and give us these interviews about how they were treated, but guess what? Y0u stayed there and did the crazy things they asked you to do. So shocked right now. Biggest Loser:Weight Loss Show or Weight Loss Cult???

  33. Alexandra

    December 14, 2011 at 2:07 AM

    Wow! I was in the middle of writing a blog entry about how inspiring weight loss shows are. I remembered reading this article about a month ago and thought I’d link back to it. Little did I realize I hadn’t thoroughly read what you wrote. This is an amazing insight, thank you so much.

  34. Catherine

    January 2, 2012 at 2:18 AM

    That’s it, I can’t watch the show ever again. I loved The Biggest Loser. I was recently watching the latest season on Hulu and was on Week 11 (makeover week).

    Now I’m too disgusted to even look at it now. I feel betrayed. Everything I loved and thought was wonderful is a lie. Sure great weight loses like that are weird, but it’s on the shiny box. It’s too pretty to notice flaws. It’s like throwing glitter on a turd, smells bad but looks pretty.

    I mean, now it makes so much sense!
    I’ve always been angry at certain things, like the fact that the young ones think they can’t be loved unless they are thin. That is not true AT ALL! There are married people on the show and people even find love there WHILE THEY ARE STILL LARGE!

    They come in with problems and then have more problems when they leave. They’re supposed to bring all they learned at home? What could they learn in such an environment?! I remember a reunion episode with the alumni and one of them gained it all back. I was sitting there like, “What? Why man?! How could you do that to yourself?!” However, doing all that they did to him to himself? Nope. That is not happening.

    I once thought, “If I was on that show, I would be so different from them. I would be no one’s favorite at all.” Now, I would be even worse of a contender because I would never let myself be so mistreated. I would have to straight up fight someone.

    I mean, I’m almost not surprised at the death threats. It’s that mentality that leads people to hate themselves. It’s because society pushes it that way. We may have some unhealthy people, but there are way more unhealthy souls spreading the hatred.

    I’m just revolted.

    This reminds me of learning about Gwyneth Paltrow forcing diet and exercise plans on her “friends”. I’m sorry but I have to hate her now. There’s no other way. I can’t stand such mistreatment.

    I swear, I may not even watch anything but Glee now. It’s send the message I believe in my heart to be true. So that’s what I’ll support with my love.

    Thank you for posting this. Your site is so full of intelligence and reason. I give it my love as well. I’m so glad I get to know about these things while I’m young.

  35. Angela

    January 3, 2012 at 11:08 PM

    This is my thing….T.V. will always be what it is….entertainment. If you don’t like it then don’t join the show. Let’s not forget that these people VOLUNTARILY signed up for this. No one FORCED them to do this.No one held a gun up to their heads. If they thought they could lose the weight on their own (which they can b/c many, many, many people have) them they shouldn’t have joined the show. And I love BGGTWL but just stick to not watching T.V. b/c I’ve watched it since season 2 and I LOVE it!!!!…….

  36. Sha

    January 10, 2012 at 1:07 AM

    I watched BL at the beginning of my weight loss journey then I noticed its effect on my views of my own weight loss. I had to stop, I felt inadequete and lazy. Since I stopped, I view my weight loss personally and taking it slow.

    Great Article!! I always tell people this when they mention the show to me.

  37. Pas

    January 10, 2012 at 7:39 PM

    So apparently Bob Harper’s hopped on the bandwagon of hocking diet pills now….. Really, Bob? REALLY??

  38. Yvonne

    January 29, 2012 at 7:51 PM

    Great article!!! What an eye opener. I started my own weight loss journey by entering a Biggest Loser contest at work. I averaged a 1-2lb loss each week and I was disappointed in that. However, after educating myself, I realized that I was on the right track. I am down 46lbs now and have 14 to go to reach my goal and fit nicely in a size 8.

  39. LBrooke

    January 30, 2012 at 3:35 AM

    Great post! & I LOVE that you call it “Weight Loss Porn”, because it totally is: over-glorified, and envy inducing. I am definitely one of those people who’s been subliminally screwed in the head when it comes to these shows. I’ve sat & salivated over watching these people drop what I can barely drop in a month in a ‘week’. I’m so glad you posted something like this; sometimes you need someone to be like, “Hey- that shits stupid!”

    Lovin’ this blog!! =)

  40. Crystal

    January 30, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    I came across this just as I was watching a past season of TBL on Netflix. I am almost through the whole series up until when I started watching and reading this made me want to turn it off! It isn’t even that I wasn’t aware that it was not as they make it seem but to hear it more detail kind of made me disenchanted with the show. My husband kept telling me to stop watching it lol. I have never watched it believing that this was the correct way to lose weight but I will admit it has sometimes motivated me to go to the gym. As fan I am always looking to see what has happened with past contestants and a large amount of this put at least if not all of them gain some back. So now I must decide: watch it as a guilty pleasure or never watch it again!

  41. Vicki

    August 15, 2012 at 6:36 AM

    This article was very eye opening. I’ve said to myself several times “if they can workout 6 hours a day, why can’t I? If they can run at 350 lbs. why can’t I?” I’ve pushed myself to workout EVERY day and told myself that my JOB has to be losing weight because that’s what they do to succeed on The Biggest Loser and Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition. I live and breathe weight loss and exercise right now. It’s interesting to read the unhealthy things that went along with those tv show results.

  42. Jan L

    August 19, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    I’ve always know TBL was unrealistic, but I didn’t know just how bad it was until now. I stopped watching it when Bob and Jillian left. Lately I’ve been watching Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition. It shows a transformation over the course of a year and shows the clients slowly incorporate working out and changing their diet into their normal everyday life. I think it’s a lot more realistic and a healthier model for watchers.

  43. Court

    August 19, 2012 at 1:49 PM

    I haven’t been on TBL nor auditioned for it. Reading this doesn’t surprise me about reality shows anymore. I filmed a pilot episode for a weight loss show a while back. The producers were actually the same; the fabricated soo many things and basically beat you down. They played on your weakness. I cried the whole time they were down here filming me. When we filmed the workout scenes, they told the trainer (luckily was a guy I picked and knew from the gym) to be all tough and say all these things. When we went into the room, just me and him, he said he was sorry and blah blah blah; he knew I was a hard worker and what not so it hurt him to do all that stuff. They wanted my doctor…the doctor I have been going to for years, to fabricate my blood test. She gave me the actual results and then they told her to twist them…in real life, my results were perfect but in tv world, I was on the brink of death! dun dun dun….smh

    A lot of the stuff was fabricated. They filmed at my house, telling my fam to say all these things. They wanted to film us eating a “fattening meal” so my moms boyfriend at the time came over a made fried pork chops. Now…I don’t eat fried pork chops but I had to eat them! They filmed me at school…eating a piece of cake…at school. I don’t eat cake outside at school! Ugh! It was frustrating! They played on the fact I had never had a bf or anything….pfft….

    I wanted it to be real, not fabricated. I have no idea what happened with the filming or anything (it was for BET). How old was I then…20 I think. Sure…I was (still am) a fat piece of shyt (I was 315 when we shot all the stuff…not anymore woot woot but won’t say).

    so when I watch “reality” shows now, 90% of the time it’s not real.

  44. Lori

    August 20, 2012 at 4:08 AM

    This is obviously an old post that I’m replying to and I must admit that I have thought very hard about whether or not to comment.

    I have actually been on TBL, on a version outside of the US. I made it to the final four. I should mention that I am neither suicidal nor damaged or in any other way emotionally unstable. I went into the contest with ‘eyes wide open’ understanding that it was a game first with the weight loss as a bonus. I was in it to win the game (which I didn’t, but made it through the entire 3 months) because quite frankly I needed the money (which was not even as much as the prize given in the US version).

    I can say that a lot of what Kai says is true. Contestants do dehydrate themselves pre weigh in and do a pre-weigh in ‘sweat session’. Our show had a much lower budget than the US version, so we didn’t get a lot of the big perks or fancy prizes you see with the US Biggest Loser show. Most of the people who were on the show with me genuinely wanted to lose weight, didn’t expect to win and some considered it their last hope. Some people (including myself) did continue to exercise with injuries, but this was not something that was encouraged.

    I run my own business and made a conscious decision to leave my family not knowing how long I would be away. We were told in advance that we would have no contact with the outside world while on ‘campus’ and understood what we were getting into. At the time my daughter was 8 and I sent her to the US to spend time with my parents for the summer once I knew I’d been selected. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. For the record I didn’t speak with my husband or anyone else in my family for the entire 3 months I was there. (The other team won a challenge and got a Skype call home around week 6 I think).

    The ‘weeks’ were subjective, the shortest one was 4 days I think and the longest was 10 days, but this was due to production schedules around holidays, not some sinister plan.

    We ate between 1200 and 1600 calories a day, but I must say that the reason I didn’t make it into the final 3 was because I refused to starve myself in the last week to hit crazy numbers on the scale (no one encouraged me to do this, I just know the other 3 people did). For I think 5 or 6 of the 12 weeks I was there, I lost 1 kg (2lbs). I worked hard, did my own thing and understood that TBL was and is, first and foremost a competition.

    I can’t speak to the water incident or any of the production claims she makes. While the owners of our TBL franchise were pretty much miserly penny pinchers, the crew and producers were fabulous people who always encouraged us and always stressed that they didn’t want us to do anything that would hurt us. Don’t get me wrong, we had challenges in the searing heat and training sessions could be as much as 8 hours or more total per day, but it was what we signed up for. We always had access to cold water (except for once when a delivery was late at the house). We had some challenges getting the food we wanted as well for awhile, but all in all having been there through the entirety of the filming process and all the sacrifices with leaving my family and the regret at not having won, knowing what I know now, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

    I lost 80 lbs and managed to keep most of it off for 2 years until I had and accident and gained back 30 lbs. I have since lost 10 of that and run 7 miles, 5 days a week (very slowly, it’s more like a l’il shuffle jog!). I mix in a bit of strength training and am currently training for a 10k uphill race in October.

    Here’s what TBL did for me: it took a stressed out business owner who always put everyone else ahead of herself and gave me time away to think and re-prioritize my health. Yes, there were days when the training was so tough and so long that I wanted to cry (never did), but I always knew why I was there and that TBL was just the beginning, not the end of my weight loss journey. While I was there, my job was basically to eat, sleep and train, and that’s what I did.

    Oh, and our trainers were our primary trainers. We did have back up trainers, but not until a few weeks in.

    I have one last thing I want to say about what Kai mentioned about training with injuries. There was one contestant, one of the heaviest (and youngest) guys there. He could never remember NOT being fat. He had horrible blisters (they were so bad, you couldn’t even look at them) on his feet from running with all his weight. For him, every week he was able to stay in the house meant an extra week for him to learn tools to keep his weight off and how to eat healthy (by the way, we cooked for ourselves – we didn’t have any Curtis Stone’s coming in to help us out). It was HIS choice, no one forced him to stay there or train that way. He actually hid it from the producers because he was afraid of being sent home. This all had nothing to do with winning or getting big numbers on the scale. It was about getting a chance to kick start a healthier lifestyle, something he felt that he just didn’t have the support and knowledge to do at home. Fast forward 2 years and he’s lost well over 200lbs and is a personal trainer at a well known gym. Whenever I feel like I can’t get up at 5am for my run, I think about him running with those blisters so he could stay on the show.

    That’s it, my 1st person account of what it was like. I still watch the show when it airs here (I’m still overseas). I know how hard the contestants work and what they are going through and still find it inspiring at the challenges some of them have to overcome.

    Sorry that this post has been so long. I recognize that everyone is entitled to their opinion and I am not trying to defend some of the more ‘dubious’ practices Kai mentioned, but if you haven’t lived it, you really don’t know enough to judge all the people that go on the show and their reasons for doing so.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      August 20, 2012 at 2:40 PM

      1 – The fact that you were on an Asian version of the show and not the US franchise is EXTREMELY important. Asian culture is nothing like US culture, especially when it comes to standards of beauty, attention spans, and what draws viewers. Television shows are money-making ventures for networks. If a show doesn’t make money, it is cancelled. If your producers – and the network executives – would’ve thought your audience would’ve responded better to the kind of TBL showcase that goes on in the US, then they would’ve asked you to perform accordingly. The fact that you’re NOT in the US is actually INCREDIBLY important, and shouldn’t be brushed off.

      2 – Furthermore, the fact that you weren’t or aren’t in the US means that YOU, in fact, aren’t really in the position to speak to anything Kai said in her interview. You just… you aren’t. I mean, nitpicking right down to whether “a week” on the show lasted 4 days or 10 days? Some of the stuff in your comment is just a little excessive.

      3 – I’m really not interested in listening to people justify, in any way shape or form, foolishness or being PUT through foolishness all to lose weight. If you think that your experience on the Asian version of the show was fine and fair, then hey… do you. But to tell me that, after hearing what Kai (and other contestants on these shows) has had to say, that THAT isn’t enough for me to determine whether or not I should look to these shows as a guideline for how MY weight loss should go? That’s absolutely absurd.

      I’m…I don’t want to begrudge you your experiences, and it seems like you pulled a lot of positive things from your time on your show, and I’m happy for you. None of that changes the fact that lots of unhealthy, suspect things take place when weight loss and money are involved together and they need to be called out. Always.

  45. Lori

    August 20, 2012 at 9:34 AM

    Oh, one other thing. I like the word someone mentioned for this genre – ‘Thinnertainment’. That’s exactly what this is. While the producers do try to show some inspiring story lines, there is a tendency to play up drama and conflict for ratings. The shows can be edited to make someone look the the good guy or the villain very easily.

  46. Lori

    August 20, 2012 at 10:04 PM

    Thanks for your reply, Erika. The reason I decided to post here is because you encourage people to do their own research and make informed decisions about their health (I don’t even post on my own Facebook page!) and seem to offer a balanced view on most matters.

    Let me just say that I don’t think there’s anywhere in my post that I tell you or anyone else, for that matter whether or not they should use these shows as any sort of guideline or otherwise for their weight loss. Your pulling that from my account is a bit of a stretch. If any one was able to get that from what I posted, then I apologize, because that was definitely not the intent.

    I do find it funny though, that of the 30 or so odd posts on the subject, I am the only one that you feel is NOT qualified to have an opinion or comment on the article. (we did have some of the same US based producers involved).

    One thing you are correct about is that the standards of beauty and cultural difference are not the same in Asia as in the US. When it comes to heavier people, they are much, much worse than in the US. Asia is just not set up for fat people. It is not uncommon for someone to walk up to a heavier person in a restaurant and say ‘You shouldn’t eat that, you’re too fat already’. And guess what, television is all about making money here too.

    The point of my post was not to glorify or otherwise praise or defend the genre. There were a lot of things that could have been done differently/better. My purpose was simply to give you an account of my experiences and to let you know that there are always more than one side to every story. I am not discounting Kai’s account or saying any of the things she or anyone else mentioned did/did not happen. And I am certainly not trying to tell anyone whether they should watch TBL or any other show to help them reach their goals.

    There are contestants that I know personally from the US, Asia and Australia. I can tell you from speaking with them that our experiences were all very, very similar. Not all of them were good. On balance, though, many of them came away with something positive out of it. I am NOT saying that everyone did. But just as Kai had a negative experience there are people (in the US and elsewhere) who had a different experience.

    If you only want to read about the bad stuff and dismiss any commentaries to the contrary, then it’s your blog, so be it. But to belittle the hard work that many good people went through to kickstart their weight loss journey by calling it ‘foolishness’, well just doesn’t seem like your style. As you know, everyone’s journey is different. What works for some people won’t for for others.

    The fact that many contestants have kept weight off is not due to any magic pill, but plain old exercise and healthy eating.

    This post was merely to give people a different account and to make you aware that not everyone (even in the US) had a negative experience.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      August 21, 2012 at 12:15 AM

      Lori,

      All due respect, I think this entire conversation is coming off in ways it isn’t intended on either part, and for that, I apologize.

      My point is that your experiences don’t “run in contrast” to Kai’s experiences. Kai’s experiences are not unique to her cast, her season, her franchise or even her network. This happens all over the place, people who intermingle weight loss with entertainment and money and risky habits are then formed.

      You aren’t “lucky,” so to speak, to have escaped that… but in a lot of ways, you are. Lots of people – in ANY culture – succumb to the pressures of thinness every day and develop disordered habits just to try to get “there” or stay “there.” You and many of your fellow peers, apparently, have not, and I am happy about that. But those people who do develop unhealthy habits trying to compete, and wind up taking those unhealthy habits home with them… suffering with them in silence? I wouldn’t expect anyone to know about any of that. That’s a key component of eating disorders and disordered habits – hiding them and keeping them secret.

      Unfortunately, after all the debating is done, stories like Kai’s still exist. The positivity in the experiences of you and your peers doesn’t change the fact that these kinds of set ups are breeding grounds for trouble. The positivity in how your experience changed you for the better still doesn’t change the fact that, for the every day person, looking to the ranch for “motivation” is still a questionable practice, and that perhaps they should consider filing these kinds of shows elsewhere and let them serve the purpose of being solely entertainment… because if they watch an episode and see someone losing 11lbs in “a week” and then want to give up? Well, that may be unfortunate for them, but it’s dishonest on the part of any show that encourages unhealthy means of achieving that 11lbs for the cast. THAT is what I referred to as foolishness – nothing more, nothing less. Starvation… is foolishness. Intentional dehydration… is foolishness.

      I didn’t mention Asian culture being different because I felt that we needed to engage in some kind of oppression olympics, nor did I tell you that you weren’t qualified to have an opinion. I said you aren’t in a position to negate Kai’s experiences, and that’s because you aren’t. Your experiences are different and, because of those differences, aren’t a complete 1-to-1 comparison. I couldn’t possibly understand what’s unfair about that.

      I’m not sure why challenging your comment means that I ‘only want to read about the bad stuff and dismiss any commentary to the contrary,’ but I’m sorry that you feel that way. I can see “the contrary” any and every time I turn on the TV and see an episode of TBL. No, not everyone has had a negative experience. I understand that. I even understand your sharing of what you actually took away from TBL, despite the questionable stuff that took place (which you could clearly identify on your own, as evidenced by your original comment.) But you were out of line reading the same interview we read, and then telling us “if you haven’t lived it, you really don’t know enough to judge all the people that go on the show and their reasons for doing so.” I don’t have to live starvation and dehydration to know it’s ridiculous, and I certainly don’t need to live it to know that any show that allows that kind of foolishness should be given a side eye.

      • Lori

        August 21, 2012 at 12:33 AM

        Again, I think the spirit of what I wrote is being taken out of context. I think I went out of my way to say that I was not trying to negate Kai’s experience. In no way am I trying to say that one needs to dehydrate or starve themselves to be able to judge people on the show. What I am saying is that there are people who go on these shows for many different reasons and that not all of them have had horrible experiences. To judge them with a broad stroke based on this interview, (thereby negating their experiences) and having no other viewpoints just seems, wrong to me in some way.

        At any rate, there are many things we do agree on and I will continue to read your other posts for the fantastic info you share here.

        • Erika Nicole Kendall

          August 21, 2012 at 1:29 PM

          “I was not trying to negate Kai’s experience”…”there are people who go on these shows for many different reasons”…”not all of them have had horrible experiences. To judge them with a broad stroke based on this interview, (thereby negating their experiences) and having no other viewpoints just seems, wrong to me in some way.”

          Right. Sure. Okay.

  47. Briana Myricks

    November 24, 2012 at 11:31 PM

    I used to like TBL but I stopped watching it because it just seemed too unrealistic. Most of us who are overweight don’t have that luxury to go on some secluded ranch and just work out and go to sleep. But after reading that interview, I’m disgusted. I’m just gonna do it the right way. Slow & steady wins the race.

  48. Sophia

    December 24, 2012 at 8:18 PM

    Erika, thank you for your fantastic post. As always, your writings hit on the topics that they need to continue to be further brought to light.

    When I had cable, I was never interested in watching The Biggest Loser. I was very turned off in how everyone continued to yell at the contestants on the show…and how trainers and others believe that some of them were not giving everything to give when they are obviously suffering from a physical injury that prevents that to further exercise. I do not know if it is appropriate to call it bullying, but that words keep coming to mind. Bullying…goading someone into competition to where it further erodes their self-esteem.

    As I am in the revision process of my MA thesis, one chapter I’ve finished revising talks about Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye…merging it with Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth…and other African-American feminist theory that talks about how the destruction of images that bombard our televisions, print, digital reading, etc. have a profound impact on how one self-esteem can be eroded by believing in the dominant image of whatever that is being promoted (In this case, Pecola Breedlove believes that having blue eyes and doing everything in her power to get them will turn her entire life around).

    I find it compelling on the same level as what you have expressed. Watching The Biggest Loser does that to some people…whether it is people that have low self-esteem or strong self-esteem, if you are locked in somewhere and being told over and over again what you have to do to achieve a certain (goal (that goal can have negative connotations), it can lead you to self-destruct…because you are trying to achieve that goal by going the route of “by an means necessary”.

    I think what I am most disgusted about is that the folks who are complicit in this…some of the producers and such…are telling the contestants that they have to choose destructive behaviors for compelling drama. Of course, as it has been expressed so well and so profound by the comments that have already been made, this type of behavior is appalling and dangerous because one thing it does is villainizes and victimizes the contestants who come on the show. It shows other people, as some have already shared, trying to achieve this method of extreme exercise and limit calorie intake.

    It is a very harmful message, indeed. Everyone of us who gets up everyday to maintain a healthy lifestyle…it is so hard. It is hard as hell. You can be someone who had a healthy lifestyle (like I did when I was a teenager and my twenties) have many stressful events happen to you (as some have already shared) and gain a tremendous amount of weight. If I went on a liquid diet or some fad diet…well, what would happen? I tell you what would happen to me. I would gain all the weight back because that’s not the answer. The common sense answer is to change your lifestyle habits…and if there is something preventing from doing that, you need to go on a spiritual journey, find out what makes you the way you are, and try every minute you have to improve on yourself…nurture yourself with a great support system of friends and family…

    Shows like The Biggest Loser…is a disgrace to me. It perpetuates fat hating and further feeds into stereotypes about people who are overweight or obese.

  49. Chasing Joy

    January 4, 2013 at 10:17 PM

    I do watch TBL. I watch for entertainment but I admit that while watching I have felt like “why am I not willing to work that hard to lose weight. Do I not want it enough?” My ex-boyfriend once asked me why don’t I go on the show. I said never. While entertaining to watch it just seemed like torture for the contestants and while I want to lose weight I never want to go through what they go through.

    I wish the show was more honest about how the contestants get such great numbers on the scale. I did know about the extended hours and lack of contact with their families. I am really disappointing to hear that the contestants were instructed to ignore medical advice.

  50. Mimi

    February 8, 2013 at 6:56 PM

    A bit of interesting information… I work for a finance company, and one of my customers was a contestant from Biggest Loser. The poor guy (who shall not be named) has been unemployed and struggling for a year since his time on th show because all the intense exercises – clearly something he wasn’t use to or property prepared for – left him with a horribly injured back and unable to work. So apparently, guerilla weightloss tactics aren’t good for you! Not surprised.

  51. Alex

    February 16, 2013 at 9:44 PM

    Great post I have learnt a lot, losing weight could be sometimes difficult when you don’t know how, specially if a person has a health condition that is delaying the process of losing weight. Get Inform and lose weight safely.

  52. Saaj

    June 3, 2013 at 4:44 AM

    I have waited months for a post like this. Will be sharing and retweeting right about now. The journey towards finding a fit self is a marathon and aesthetics are only a bonus. This is my thinking. Faked weigh-ins, severe calorie restriction, overriding medical advice and constant abuse are not ways to empower people. Thanks again for this post x

  53. Mishala

    August 4, 2013 at 2:48 PM

    I’ve never liked that show. It’s so unrealistic to me, and set’s people up for failure. I mean, most people that watch that show and want to lose weight are average people. They have jobs, kids, families, hobbies. Nobody really has time to spend five to eight hours in the gym every day. And a 1,200 hundred calorie diet just seems way extreme, especially for an extended period of time.

  54. Ava

    June 11, 2014 at 6:44 PM

    Oh man, it totally is weight loss porn isn’t it. I’m addicted. Gulp. At least I watch it from my treadmill.

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