Isn’t it funny how when you offer people a ton of money and prizes and recognition for losing a dramatic amount of weight, they decide to lose a dramatic amount of weight?
Last night, 24-year-old Rachel Frederickson of Los Angeles was awarded NBC hit The Biggest Loser: Second Chances 2‘ namesake title. The season 15 star, a voiceover artist, arrived at the finale weighing in at 105 pounds. She started the season at 260 pounds, so if I am to understand this little Wikipedia chart, Frederickson lost nearly 60% of her body weight in, what, 15 weeks? Possibly more, depending on how much time is in between the 14th episode and finale?
On her win, Frederickson says:
“I came here to gain back my life, and I did exactly that. I’ve found that proud, confident girl that has so much respect for herself.”
Not so fast, Rachel! The world has got to make sure they have a say in your body still, as they have since this season premiere in October.
Apparently, Twitter blew up with speculations and accusations that the contestant developed an eating disorder and thus lost “too much” weight.
one girl on the biggest loser lost so much weight that she looks anorexic and this was the reaction of the trainers pic.twitter.com/Un8J6rvesl
— Gunner (@JenrichG) February 5, 2014
Is ‘Biggest Loser’ winner Rachel Frederickson too thin? http://t.co/sBNqiV5cIM
— Palm Beach Post (@pbpost) February 5, 2014
— DietsInReview (@DietsInReview) February 5, 2014
The Biggest Loser winner is the very picture of anorexia, an affliction whose lifeblood is attention. Nice job, NBC. http://t.co/ZTAEIogh9r
— Jacob Ward (@_jacobward_) February 5, 2014
— Kimberly Hilmerson (@HILMY2) February 5, 2014
The fascinating thing about those viewers is that they were cheering this woman on in exhibiting behavior that leads to eating disorders for months. Did nobody think that pushing people to lose massive amounts of weight in short periods of time while screaming at them, giving non-doctor-advised tips and offering large sums of money wouldn’t result in eating disorders? It’s also depressing that so many of the tweets I saw while writing this didn’t resonate out of anger toward the show itself; they were the product of body shaming.
Plus, this isn’t even the first time The Biggest Loser has been accused of causing an eating disorder; in 2010, finalist Kai Hibbard said the same thing:
“Unfortunately, what they’re telling you the contestants are doing and what they actually have the contestants doing are two different things, at least as far as my season goes. We were working out anywhere between 2 and 5 hours a day, and we were working out severely injured. There’s absolutely no reason to work a 270 pound girl out so hard that she pukes the first time you bring in a gym. That was entirely for good tv.
“There was a registered dietician that was supposed to be helping [the contestants at the ranch] as well… But every time she tried to give us advice . . . the crew or production would step in and tell us that we were not to listen to anybody except our trainers. And my trainer’s a nice person, but I have no idea what she had for a nutritional background at all.”
In between every “inspirational” story we hear of weight loss and how it made that person’s life turn into sunshine, rainbows and $50,000, we miss all the realities of how many human beings wind up getting there. “Healthy eating and exercise,” they say, but haven’t we heard models say the same thing hundreds of times, then years later inform everyone that they had essentially–if not literally–been eating tissues? Even a former weight loss consultant admitted to unintentionally encouraging eating disordered behavior, leaving clients with more issues than they had come in with because they weren’t looking to get healthy–they were simply looking to drop pounds.
Additionally, we have no idea if Frederickson has an eating disorder simply because she’s 105 pounds now. Just because the other contestants who didn’t lose such a dramatic amount of weight are not 105 pounds doesn’t mean they don’t have eating disorders.
Look, it’s great that lots of people are inspired to be healthy–something that thin people can and should aspire to be, too, though their health is often overlooked because society presumes that average or underweight = healthy. Does that mean we need to make dozens (literally, dozens over the past decade) of reality shows based on rewarding giant prizes for weight loss and food monitoring, which is actually just the network exchanging pounds for ad time? No, and shame on anybody who watched last night’s episode who got all upset–you’re part of the problem, you’re part of why this happened.