I wrote this originally over 7 years ago, I honestly thought that I wouldn’t be updating it again, but I was wrong. I’m glad I was wrong because at least it means yet again there is some attention being focused on what exactly is wrong with a TV program that turns a human beings health into a competition, and employs shaming tactics like placing overweight people in horse stalls and calling a race as though they were livestock. I respect that every contestant has an individual journey, these things –the weight loss as competition, and shaming of obese individuals- however are universal to each season of the show and regardless of each individuals experience, are harmful as a whole, this isn’t just an opinion but a statement founded in scientific fact. Shaming someone for their appearance is not only unkind and morally reprehensible, it does the opposite of encouraging people to get healthier.
Every time I agree to give an interview detractors immediately try to place intention on my motivation for speaking out, I get accused of needing attention, money or being bitter (I’m not sure what about?) The truth is I speak about my experience because it is the right thing to do- for me. This is the same note I have been reposting for over 7 years now, please take the time to read it, then if you still want to call me names or question my motives, that is your prerogative. I stand by my truth.
Is America really so jaded that no one can believe that I am speaking up because it is the right thing to do?
I received a message (years ago, and believe it or not I still now get them in 2015) from someone, not hate mail and not complimentary either, but it made me think. The most important thing that she asked me was what was the point of my coming forward with all of this was and I realized that even though I am not saying anything that I haven’t been saying for the past 9 years since that experience, that this time someone is actually listening. So, if you might indulge me, this is what I want to say and why I am putting my family at risk of being sued and enduring hate mail:
1. I only speak for me and I respect those contestants that came before and after me and had a different experience.
2. I am more than just “Kai from The Biggest Loser” this is not my whole life. I am a Mommy, a military wife, was a member of the Army National Guard, a student and I have a job, bills and responsibilities. Please forgive me if I do not give every interview or answer every message or if I let you down in some way. I am a human being and I am doing the best I can.
3. I am very grateful to have “inspired” people, if that show and my behavior inspired you, then I am obviously not talking to you. I am talking to the people on the same long hard road I am on that I discouraged and that that show shames. If I accept credit for being an “inspiration,” then I must too accept responsibility for being a detrimental force in the lives of the people that are discouraged and harmed by the false weight loss numbers, the deception and the blatant body shaming of The Biggest Loser. I apologize to all of those people I did a disservice to by participating in this false image of weight loss, talking about it is my small way of trying to make it up to you.
4. My family is at financial risk when I do talk about this. I am not going to lie, I’m not that brave, every interview I give I am scared shitless. I was literally shaking after the clip on CBS in 2010. I signed a ridiculous contract that apparently says I can never talk about what happened to me on that show without the threat of being sued for anywhere from $100,000.00 to $1,000,000.00. If the show is so wonderful why does my contract seem to indicate that I am never allowed to talk about it?
5. I have turned down money for interviews and I do not seek out interviews; I feel it would take away from the legitimacy of what I have to say. (At this point in my life if given the opportunity to publish a book, I will no longer say no. I have felt guilty about my compliance in what I feel is a very harmful product on tv and thus turned down money for previous interviews, there is no shame in making money from telling my truth and I know that now, judge away if you like. I haven’t decided to publish anything; I just know where I stand on this at this point in my life and I am writing.)
6. Fame sucks. Fame with no money and no power are even worse. To say that I speak out about what it was like for fame or because I am a “fame-whore” or “attention hound” is too ridiculous to imagine. My level of “fame” leaves me open for complete strangers who do things like see me in the grocery store 3 weeks after I had my son and tell me, “You look terrible, how could you let yourself go like that?!!?” or “Hi! I hated you on TV, what do you weigh now? You look fatter.” Yes, those events really happened, the latter very recently. (Nine years after this show aired complete strangers continue to do things like this) Granted I also get a lot of inspiring kind words, but people who want to bring you down seem more eager to talk to you for some reason. Even better the “fame” I get after interviews about what it was really like subjects my family to things like hearing what an ungrateful bitch I am, how I am ugly, fat, stupid, whiney, etc. You tell me if this sounds like something you would be willing to endure to be “famous?” I am doing this, telling my truth, because it’s the right thing to do and I should have done it sooner.
7. Just because going on The Biggest Loser made me look better to society on the outside it does NOT mean that I am healthier on the inside. You CANNOT DETERMINE A PERSONS HEALTH JUST ON APPEARANCE.
8. On my season if a contestant tried to protest about how we were being treated, because we were being treated as though we were not human beings, or that we were severely injured, and couldn’t do as production wanted us to (please know a lot of us were, there were broken bones, torn muscles and permanent injuries from that show) we were portrayed as bitchy, uncooperative or just lazy. The best example I can give is Heather Hansen from my season. Heather is one of the most amazing, caring, beautiful individuals on the planet, (In fact Heather donated one of her kidneys to a complete stranger to save a life, the woman is INCREDIBLE) but if you watch my season there is a fight between her and Kim near the end where she looks lazy and uncooperative. What you don’t see is that Heather was told by the medic on our season that she was suffering from bursitis in both knees and a torn calf muscle. Production did not care and wanted her to run anyway, when she protested she was edited poorly. (As a result of this editing and how her “character” looked on National TV Heather received actual death threats online.)
9. I am exactly as I appear on that show, I cannot complain about editing. I can however be embarrassed that I agreed to things I never should have, like filming a scene where I am supposed to be “hung over,” where in actuality it was about 5 in the afternoon and I wasn’t hung over. You agree to crazy things out of fear of letting anyone down. I take responsibility, I wish I had been stronger and I apologize to those I deceived. (I understand some poor contestant after me succumbed to the pressures of production and faked a marathon finish, I can understand the pressure that contestant was under, you don’t want to let these people who surround you day in day out down.)
10. In spite of reports to the contrary, I did NOT gain 70 pounds after the show. I gained back the 19 I dehydrated off and then some right after the show because I got very sick, by March my health and weight stabilized. I stayed at my happy weight- 163 pounds and anywhere from 17%-20% body fat (it varied based on who measured it). I stayed this way until I got pregnant with my son. I gained 70 pounds with him, lost it all by the time he was 10 months old. I have gained back 13 of that (a stress fracture in my foot and my lack of training because I was discouraged helped with this). (As of, January 16 2013, when I last updated this note I was 178 pounds, I was 161 pounds and in decent shape when I shipped off for boot camp for the Army at the end of 2011, unfortunately I broke my pelvis in OCS in the beginning of 2012 and re-injured it in October of 2012, rehabbing was a slow stubborn process for me.) I will no longer answer the question “What do you weigh now?” the only people that had any right to ask me that were the Army and my doctor. I am not ashamed of how I look, I am not ashamed of what I weigh, I just refuse to be reduced to a number. I AM MORE THAN A NUMBER. WE ARE ALL MORE THAN A NUMBER.
11. I regret to this day that I did not have the courage or guts to tell the world at that finale just how sick I was from the weight loss methods on that show and fully admit that part of it was I had been out of work for 7 months to tape the show and needed the money I knew I had won. I was a coward. I replay that moment in my head over and over and this time in my head I tell Caroline Rhea when she asks how I am that I am “sick, hungry, sleep deprived and dehydrated” then I tell them all to go to hell, go to my family and I go the fuck home. I wish I had been brave enough. I am only human and I do what I can now and have been since the first interview I gave after that show.
12. I could have conceivably left at anytime, however I (like all the contestants) was isolated from people who genuinely had my best interest and health at heart (including the doctor and dietician) and surrounded by people who told me that I better not be ungrateful and that I was lucky every single day. No matter how someone is treating you if you are being told you are lucky to be treated this way on a daily basis you begin to believe it. You may be stronger or smarter or better than me and maybe it wouldn’t have affected you, it did me. When you are surrounded by people who dehydrate and starve themselves every single day, and production who encourages you to do it, it becomes the normal accepted behavior whether you know intellectually it is wrong or not. I pushed myself to do all that was asked of me for fear that I would be ungrateful for what everyone keeps telling you is a fabulous gift if I didn’t. Being treated sub-human in the name of good TV and weight loss is not a gift. I realized that too late.
13. When things got really bad (hard to believe they got worse than on the Ranch, but they did) during the “at home portion” of the show I was not checked on by an MD or psychologist as the show claims on TV. I did ask for help from production when I realized because my hair was falling out, my period had stopped, I was covered in bruises and only sleeping 3 hours a night, that I might be in trouble. I was told both to “suck it up and get back on the treadmill” and to “save it for the camera.”
14. My family, husband and best friend staged an intervention October of 2006 before the finale and started me on the right road again; I say started because I was still so messed up in the head that I still dehydrated off 19 pounds in the last two weeks before the finale. After this point I did finally hear from the doctor, I told him what had happened and he told me that I was on the right track, to remember that I was just a money making tool for production and to forget about the show, to focus on my health now. I just wish he had contacted me sooner, maybe while I was on the Ranch.
15. Doctors all over this country say that weight loss at the rate we were doing it and in the manner we were doing it on that show isn’t safe, I am not sure why people think I am such a bitch for saying the same thing.
16. JD Roth and David Broome claim that The Biggest Loser is a “public service,” I don’t believe that a 100 million dollar business that exploits the health of its participants, treats people as though they are subhuman because of what they weigh, and deceives its viewers is a public service.
19. People claim that I speak out because I am bitter I didn’t win, I knew from the point where my family staged that intervention and I started on a road to recovery that I wasn’t going to win. For that I am grateful. Every. Single. Day.
In an ideal world this show would go away entirely, I believe that it perpetuates false stereotypes that overweight people are just lazy or lack willpower. I also believe that it is not only detrimental to the health of the participants, but that it is detrimental to the mental health of the viewer. Please feel free to hate on me all you like, but I’m not making any statements that countless other professionals and doctors have made about body image and healthy weight loss. There are peer reviewed studies that demonstrate how harmful this show was and even damaging to the metabolism of the contestants.