A Q&A with a Biggest Loser Contestant on Weight Loss for Women

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Kai Hibbard Speaks About Life After The Biggest Loser, Extreme Dieting And Permanent Weight Loss for Women

Biggest Loser contestant Kai Hibbard with husband and son

Biggest Loser Contestant Kai Hibbard

When weight loss is the goal, the tendency is to want to take it off fast and at any cost. But that’s an outdated and unrealistic approach to weight loss, says Kai Hibbard, a contestant on season 3 of The Biggest Loser.

In our interview with her, Kai explains what she’s learned about extreme dieting and exercise since appearing on the show seven years ago and why it’s not the way to go for long-term results.

You said that you were never unhappy with your body before the show. What prompted you to audition?

I auditioned because my BFF had seen the show and told me that they needed a female winner, and she thought I could do it. I was killing time until I started law school in the fall, I was 26 years old and it sounded like an adventure. Reality TV? What a cool story to tell my kids someday. Honestly, my weight wasn’t a concern for me because I had just put on that weight, and I knew how I did it. I went from going to school full time and working two jobs (including teaching aerobics) to nothing.

My average day in school was going all day long, teaching one maybe two aerobics classes, stuffing my face with whatever I could pick up when I got home at like 8pm then passing out. My weight maintained even as I was eating that way because I was so active. But as soon as I graduated college and got my full scholarship to law school, I quit working, but I kept eating like I was working.

It sounds like you’re saying that eating and weight wasn’t a big issue for you before the show. But you’ve said elsewhere that you now think you have an eating disorder. Can you share a bit about what changed?

Well, I have done tons of research since my family staged an intervention during my at home time after the ranch and the relationship I have with food now is very disordered. I never obsessed over what or how much I ate before the show. I never knew how to manipulate a scale before the show and I never considered coffee with Splenda a “meal” before the show.

“The relationship I have with food now is very disordered. I never obsessed over what or how much I ate before the show.”

I became so obsessive that my husband had to hide the scale. The more weight I lost, the more I felt it wasn’t good enough, not enough, never enough. I was punishing my body, not nurturing it. Luckily my BF at the time (now my husband) and family intervened when they did, I truly believe it saved my life. That said, seven years later? Sometimes my husband still has to hide the scale.

After such a restricted diet, did you gain weight after you left the ranch?

Talking about my weight is a bit of a trigger, but I will do my best. I of course gained weight after the finale – I had a glass of water and gained weight. I had dehydrated off 19 pounds in the two weeks before my finale. Less than two weeks after the finale I had gained 26 pounds. I eventually stabilized but it is nothing for my weight to swing 15 pounds since the show, it’s as though my system lost some ability to regulate itself. I now try to focus on how I feel, not what I look like, but unfortunately in the Army I still have to maintain a specific number. I credit the fact that I did not gain 118 pounds back to my family, the professionals they brought into my life, and my attempt at adopting a mentality that involves loving my body, not beating it into submission to meet some arbitrary number standard.

What do you think happens when weight loss is the focus – not health?

I think that when weight loss is the focus it does exactly the opposite of making you healthier.

Despite beginning to understand that dieting does not lead to permanent weight loss for women, why do you think people are so enticed by “quick fix” solutions and diet trends?

“Once we stop treating people who are heavy like they should be hiding in a cave somewhere…then I believe people will stop being so desperate for quick fixes.”

People are enticed by it because there is so much stigma attached to being heavy in our society, so they believe all their problems will be solved once they meet some magic number – clothing size, weight etc. People put off living their lives because of what they weigh, and so they believe the sooner they meet some arbitrary number standard the sooner they can start their lives. Society needs to change this as a whole, we need to take away the “shame” we place on people for what they look like, and embrace the idea that if I WANT to be a 200 pound aerobics instructor (as I was) then you CAN be, once we stop treating people who are heavy like they should be hiding in a cave somewhere as opposed to being active, and living life then I believe people will stop being so desperate for quick fixes.

What do you consider true measures of health if not the scale?

How you feel. Can you do the things you want to do? Are you as active as you want to be? Are you happy? These are the things of health (obviously also your labs being okay and no markers of serious illness are indicative of good health, that said, do not get me started on what constitutes “healthy” based on standards set by pharmaceutical companies).

A typical boot camp approach to exercise seems to involve yelling. But one of the things we emphasize at Green Mountain is that criticism doesn’t motivate. What is your take on this?

“All criticism is going to do is make me continue to focus on where I am not ‘enough.’ What motivates is support, and a comfortable place to be vulnerable so you can heal.”

I agree. There is nothing motivating about having how you are “failing” pointed out to you. I have a little voice in my head that criticizes me enough, thank you, I do not need anyone else’s. All criticism is going to do is make me continue to focus on where I am not “enough,” and forgive me if I am wrong, but I feel a lot of the people I know with food or weight issues are plagued by this false sense of what it means to measure up or be enough. What motivates is support, and a comfortable place to be vulnerable so you can heal – whatever that looks like.

How has your personal approach and attitude to exercise changed since the show?

I no longer believe the rhetoric that exercise is meant to punish your body. I don’t go work out because I’m “bad” and had a donut.

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6 Responses (Add Yours)

  • Lizabeth says:

    Kai is an AMAZING advocate and brave ex-participant. I’m so honored to have been able to advocate with her regarding the appearance of the First Lady on TBL. Her willingness to share her struggle and her ability to articulate WHY shows like TBL are harmful are invaluable to a community that is combating weight bias and weight stigma in conjunction with trying to teach better models of health. Great post Lisa and great interview Kai! So proud of both of you!

  • Thank you someone for saying that maybe this show didn’t change their life for the better in the way that it promotes! As a former intern at Green Mountain and a fitness professional, I abhor these reality shows and the trainers on them that use innocent people who need real help to promote themselves and gain fame. People in this industry need to be in it to help others and not to make money off of those who need us the most.

    • Lisa Christie says:

      Thank you, AmberLynn! As someone who has worked at Green Mountain, you understand how frustrating it is that the diet industry (reality TV shows included) continues to offer false promises and make women’s weight problems worse. So many people are still convinced dieting helps and the weight loss should be the goal. With the help of others like Kai, we hope to see awareness grow.

  • becca says:

    Great article Lisa. Thank you for doing this. Bold, informative and inspirational.

    • Lisa Christie says:

      Thank you, Becca! We were fortunate to have Kai’s insights and experience to draw upon for this article to help women understand that extreme dieting and exercise are temporary… but a different path is needed for long term weight and health management.

  • Beverly says:

    It’s hard to express how emotional and mentally a person feels when they are faced with being overweight. I love the way Kai put in writing for other people to understand ….. when a person is overweight, you already have a sense of “not enough”. It consumes every part of my thinking from relationships to personal accomplishments. I am made to feel that if/when I lose weight, then I will find a man, get a raise, be a better person. That is such a burden to know it all depends on the number on the scale …. it makes you want to forget it all and just stay overweight. I have learned over the last couple of years that portion control is a key as well as the choices of foods. I am once again, trying to lose the weight for my health …. and I have lost 39 lbs. It’s going to be a long road as my doctor has advised lose 100 more! It was encouraging to read this article and nice not being yelled at!

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