5 Details They Cut from My Season of 'The Biggest Loser'
In 2006, The Biggest Loser was in its third season. This hit reality show focused on a group of 14 people sent off to live in a complex together, with the goal of losing weight via the fastest possible methods that weren't amputation or amphetamines. However, behind the hasty weight loss, trumped-up drama, and dramatic music, there lurked a dark side. Cracked talked to The Biggest Loser Season 3 runner-up Kai Hibbard, who told us ...
They Hid Real Relationships if the Fat People Were Deemed "Too Fat"
Have you ever seen a reality show like The Real World or Big Brother? They all have romantic relationships carefully crafted to draw the audience in. And besides being possibly faked, can you guess what else those relationships all have in common? Skinny people. TV just can't seem to bring itself to show fat people falling in love unless it's the two comic relief characters having their arcs wrapped up in such a way that we don't have to see them bone.
Over in sitcom-land they'll do fat guy/hot wife, but don't you dare think about reversing those roles.
The Biggest Loser had romantic subplots that would build throughout the season, too, but the producers and editors made sure to Jim & Pam that shit as slowly as possible. Those "relationships" weren't allowed to bloom until both partners were skinny enough that their kisses were safe for a presumably very shallow audience that knows love only as something bedazzled on the butts of pretty girls' pink sweatpants.
"Sorry, 'Attraction Can Be Based on Non-Physical Qualities' just isn't cost effective from a glue and rhinestone standpoint."
And no, that wasn't because those couples were only down to clown once they were both skinny. Obese people like genitals and emotions as much as anybody else. It was just the cameramen's sacred duty to make sure as little of that got caught on film as possible. They'd straight up refuse to follow actual couples to catch a glimmer of real romance because, and this was their actual reasoning, "Who wants to see two obese people making out?" If we can stomach watching the oompa-loompas from Jersey Shore drunkenly chewing on each other's faces, we could probably manage a couple of hefty folk gettin' tastefully busy in the bushes.
The Results Were Skewed and Took Way More Exercise Than They Showed
Every week on the show, you watched us exercising and working out. That's part of the process, of course -- making people healthier. But they don't show the additional mandatory six hours or so of us furiously flailing the pounds away. They much preferred filming us right at the end of a workout, when we looked like lazy quitters for stopping so early. Even the giant scale they had us all weigh in on was fake.
And sometimes the "healthy habits" you saw on the show were no such thing: My season made a big deal of showing us all drinking our milk to prove how nutritious it was. But as soon as "cut" was yelled, the trainers made us spit it out. Calories do not trump calcium, apparently. They claim the weigh-ins you see are weekly, but that's a straight-up lie. When people exclaimed "I lost 12 pounds in a week!" that wasn't always the case. It's all based on filming schedules. Sometimes the real period between weigh-ins was over three weeks, and you got liked like a rock star for losing so much weight so quickly. Other times it was only five days, and the audience thought you were phoning it in that week -- after which you probably hung up and dialed for a pizza, you lazy cheese-beast.
Losing five pounds in five days was actually pretty dangerous on its own, but the audience didn't care. The show trained them to expect more results than were reasonable, safe, or sometimes even possible, and failure to deliver in the fat arena got you a thumbs-down.
"This pleases us ... for now."
The Show Has Absolute Power Over You
During Season 3, the gimmick was having contestants from all 50 states. To get to the core cast of 14, they flew us to LA, put us in church vans, and drove us off to somewhere in California. The entire time, we were not allowed to talk to the other contestants. Then we were essentially locked in our hotel rooms, being let out only to do shoots or doctor visits. They confiscated all of our stuff -- no TVs, books, magazines, nothing. We weren't even allowed to call our families. My parents didn't know where I was until three weeks later.
"We were a day away from sending Liam Neeson to come find you."
They make the fat women walk out in sports bras and spandex shorts. That's only for the ladies, of course -- guys don't have to stroll out in nothing but the classic jock-'n'-socks combo; they get normal exercise clothes. On the "plus" side, once you dumped a bunch of weight, you got to wear a tank top again. Once we're skinny, we've "earned" the right to wear a tank top and dress like a human being who might like to have sex someday.
The obese are already seen as something less than normal humans, so the show-runners thought it would be perfectly acceptable to put us in horse stalls and make us run on a horse track, because hey, maybe that small percentage of personal trainers that believe yelling in your face while you're on a treadmill are right and shame does burn calories. To protest, I simply walked the course, refusing to run until they asked me to at the end, hopefully ruining the competitive spirit of the challenge (and, of course, they called it like a horse race all the while). I felt like maybe I'd be able to preserve a little dignity by not running. But in retaliation, they acted like I was just too fat and exhausted to finish. Later, fans on the Internet threatened me because HOW DARE I NOT RUN FOR THEIR AMUSEMENT? CAESAR OF THE FATTIES IS DISPLEASED.
I have a great suggestion for what to do with those thumbs.
That happened to other contestants, too. If you didn't act grateful enough, or you had the audacity to demand to be treated like a human being, they made you look like a huge jerk on TV. That is the mighty power of the television editor: With enough time and a copy of Adobe Premiere, you can make Mr. Rogers look like a blood-drinking psychopath. One woman in my season was one of the kindest individuals I have ever met in my life. Five years after the season ended, she even donated a kidney to save a complete stranger's life. That's the kind of nice we're talking about here -- the full Ned Flanders treatment.
But she injured her leg during filming and couldn't run much, so she refused. The people on the show told her, "We don't care -- run," and she said no. Because she didn't comply, they edited the footage to make her look like the biggest bitch in the world. Without the whole "threat of injury" thing, she seemed like a big ol' entitled wussbasket. And guess what? She got death threats. She got so many death threats that NBC had to disable the messaging function on her part of the show's site. All because she had been injured the previous week and physically could not do what they were asking.
"You misunderstand; those were death threats of encouragement."
You Are Physically Ruined Afterward
Losing that much weight in such a short amount of time is not healthy, especially for morbidly obese people. The healthy way to do it is to lose weight slowly by eating well and exercising. But turning down the second slice of pizza and going for a walk doesn't exactly make for dramatic TV, does it? So we did things the other way: They frequently filmed us vomiting because they wanted the viewers to think that working out until you threw up was somehow admirable. It makes good TV, but it can also seriously harm you.
"No pain, no gain!" isn't so great when the gain is more pain.
Everyone got injured at some point. It's a virtual guarantee that when you take a bunch of out-of-shape people and suddenly throw them into a Christian Bale-esque workout routine, somebody's back is not going to be up to Batman caliber. For example: My knees are fucked at 35. They should not sound like cellophane whenever I walk up and down the stairs. Can I prove the show did it? No. All I know is that I had no knee problems, and then I got on the show and started running up mountains at 260 pounds.
"Hey, losing meniscus still counts as weight loss."
At the end of the series, my immune system shut down due to the effects of losing too much weight too fast. My hair fell out. I can't say I was in better health at 260 pounds than I am now, but doctors told me that everything I did to my body on the show was a physician's nightmare. Before the final big weigh in, I lost 19 pounds in two weeks. That's pretty good progress for half a year of eating well and working out. Doing it in a fortnight is madness. It's only a matter of time before some contestant's over-stressed heart gives out during ... I don't know, a faux-dog sled race with fat people instead of huskies. And when someone finally does die, I'm sure they'll edit him to look like another lazy fat bastard stealing a nap.
You Are Mentally Ruined Afterward
When you're young, you don't always realize what the ramifications of your actions will be. The Biggest Loser had a huge impact on millions of viewers. All of the horrible things I did to try to "win" my health had consequences, and not only for my own body.
Once, during a speaking engagement in Colorado, an overweight teenage girl came up to me after my presentation. She was a fan and desperate to emulate the weight loss results she saw on the show. She did everything she'd seen on the show, even the stuff we didn't actually do (like *gasp* drink the milk). Obviously her results weren't as drastic as ours had seemed to be. She didn't have careful editing and outright lies on her side. She was so crestfallen that she resorted to anorexia and bulimia. At one point she felt like such a failure that she tried to kill herself and wound up in the hospital. That's at least one life horribly impacted in the name of more compelling reality TV. But I've heard from lots of other people who tried the same unhealthy techniques to replicate the weight loss results shown on TV -- more than you can imagine.
"What if I change my name to Jillian? That's got to be worth a couple of pounds, right?"
What I have come to realize is that I am, at least in part, personally responsible for this damage, because I participated in the show while not even considering the impact it would have. Looking back, I'm disgusted at the whole thing. There's no other show based on the concept of "competing for your health!" The public wouldn't stand for it if we, say, pitted cancer patients against one another to see who The Biggest Cancer Survivor was, but since we associate obesity with comedy, it's perfectly fine to turn overcoming it into prime-time television.
Related Reading: Cracked has a habit of getting real experiences from real people. We've talked to a Mormon missionary and one of the models from a weight loss infomercial. Our writers have talked to a woman raised in a Christian fundamentalist cult and even an escaped Scientologist. If you've got a story for Cracked, message us here.