Most K-Pop fans know that K-Pop companies often have strict weight loss and dieting expectations for trainees, but do you know how far they go to impose them? These five former trainees under various agencies revealed the truth about all the extreme weight loss methods they were subjected to for a chance to debut.
1. Injections and electrocution
In a recent interview with BuzzFeed News, former MIDAS Entertainment trainee and Produce 101 contestant Kathy Lee reveals she was tricked into taking diet pills at the age of 14 after her company sent her to a specialist weight-loss hospital. However, that arguably wasn’t the most extreme weight loss method she was given.
After taking diet pills, Kathy Lee underwent carboxytherapy (also known as carboxy shots)—a procedure that involves injecting carbon dioxide gas into the body to break up and filter fat, making it easier to lose weight. Next, she received an electric shock weight loss treatment which she described as, “An electric thing where there’s needles all around and they electrocute you.”
2. Controlled food deliveries
In an “Ask Me Anything” thread on Reddit, a verified former SM Entertainment trainee states that the company never forced anyone to lose weight. However, she says there was a very strict diet regime in place, and all trainees voluntarily followed it to increase their chances of debuting.
The trainee went on to say that the company sent controlled food portions to all trainees every day, leaving them with no freedom to choose their own meals. There were no desserts or “junk food” snacks provided. According to the trainee, she was recommended to lose weight by company staff to make her appear taller, and there was never an opportunity to consult a nutritionist or dietician.
3. Running laps
Two former trainees appeared on the AYO YouTube channel last year to reveal the truth about the industry. One trainee, Choi Ye Jin, revealed that one day, she couldn’t take the strict diet her company imposed anymore. After losing control and eating food, Choi found herself called to do a “weigh-in”, where the company checks your current weight.
Since her sudden eating session pushed her weight up, Choi says the company made her run a staggering nine laps around the building as punishment. According to the former trainee, she was told that the ideal weight for any trainee is your height in centimeters minus 120. That means the goal weight for a female trainee of average height, 161cm (5 feet 3 inches), would be just 41kg (90lbs)—considered severely underweight according to BMI.
4. Rationed meals
In an interview with BBC, British-born former K-Pop trainee Euodias revealed that trainees would have their food rationed to force weight loss. Euodias explained that her company mandated that trainees couldn’t weigh more than 47kg (104lbs) regardless of age or height; according to BMI, anyone over 160cm in height (5 feet 3 inches) would be considered underweight at 47kg.
In order to force trainees to keep their weights low, Euodias revealed that the company would ration food for anyone over 47kg. Sometimes, she said, they would even take away meals entirely, leaving so-called “overweight” trainees with nothing but water. Unsurprisingly, Euodias shared that trainees often had to help carry others back to the dorms after they passed out from lack of nutrition.
5. Contract termination
Finally, at some agencies, strict penalties are used to keep trainees from gaining weight—including the threat of contract termination. Last year, former FNC Entertainment trainee Cho Ah Young appeared on Mnet‘s audition show CAP-TEEN. Cho explained that she was able to make it into the company’s debut group, likely referencing their most recent girl group, Cherry Bullet. However, she was disqualified at the last minute—all because she gained weight.
Cho Ah Young shared that she began eating out of stress, and after gaining weight, she started to loathe herself. Thankfully, Cho says her mother stuck by her all the way to help her through difficult times and rebuild her self-esteem.