Look, as a Dietitian, and someone who is all-too familiar with a sport that involves dropping dangerous amounts of weight to “win” a trophy or grand prize, it’s hard for me to comment on the concern regarding the final weigh-in of this season’s Biggest Loser champ Rachel Frederickson. Upon first look, I agree, she appears to exhibit signs of malnutrition and/or disordered eating. Whether or not these issues are permanent [for Rachel] is another story.
Over the last 15 years the Biggest Loser brand has capitalized on the drastic weight loss of naive Americans. And without fail, after every episode, there’s not a personal trainer or Dietitian who doesn’t scoff at the poor display of reality that is providing false hope for overweight and obese individuals around the country. This show is just not reality - period. The contestants on this show stay in a controlled environment where their usual daily responsibilities no longer exist. This frees up time to exercise countless hours a day and eliminates access to outside unhealthy foods. It’s just not going to happen like that for average America. If you want to lose weight, you’ve got to be able to make it happen with ALL of your other daily responsibilities and temptations front and center. Everything about this is all wrong and reads unhealthy.
The Biggest Loser is not teaching healthy habits to it’s contestants, nor its viewers. And THIS is what is wrong with this show. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the BL for taking strides in trying to help curb the obesity epidemic, however, they are doing it for the wrong reasons.
Before I can make any statements regarding Rachel’s current state of health - mentally and physically, I have just one question to ask. Was the drastic weight loss for the sole purpose of taking home the grand prize? And if so, do you plan on going back to a healthy routine post win? If the answer is yes, then I can understand why she did it. If you know anything about my past, I spent about 8 years of my life competing and working in the fitness industry. Yes, I too competed in Figure competitions. Competitors from all over the world spend months training hard and following a strict diet in an attempt to transform their bodies into a chiseled package with rippling muscles and not an ounce of fat on them. Essentially, this case is the same, is it not? The only person who could answer that is Rachel.
Do I think taking drastic measures with your body to win something is healthy? Definitely not, and I’ve got loads of reasons why I will never compete in a physique competition again, nor will I go on a strict diet (the psychosocial and metabolic damage alone is cringe-worthy). But it is somewhat justified in this situation. And Rachel could still develop unhealthy habits including damaging her body and mind, and possibly an eating disorder to boot (which she likely already has - how do you think she got to 260 pounds in the first place).
Now let’s say that Rachel has no desire to gain any weight back and she has indeed developed unhealthy habits and thought processes. Is the Biggest Loser to blame? Sure they could have provided her with better support throughout her time away from the resort. Then again, I really have no idea what they did or did not do for the contestants leading up to the finale.
Poor Rachel just won $250,000 and has received nothing but Internet bashing following the finale. If her drastic measures to win didn’t give her an eating disorder, all of this negative press will. How do we judge based on an image we saw on TV? What I do know is that with or without Rachel’s drastic weight loss, NBC is responsible for the poor representation of healthy weight loss, fitness and body image they are portraying to America. Maybe it’s time The Biggest Loser puts more emphasis on overall health, rather than on total weight lost.
What do you think of Rachel’s weight loss? Do you think she went too far? Is the BL to blame?
Note: all original posts from April 2013 through March 2014 were accidentally deleted. This is a repost.