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A ‘Biggest Loser’ controversy: Did Rachel go too far?
Lots of buzz on social media the minute top-three contestant Rachel Frederickson of Los Angeles stepped onto the stage of the “Biggest Loser” finale Tuesday night. Where did the athletic and healthy-looking young woman we saw just last week go?
In her place was a dramatically thinner Rachel. Spindly arms, super-thin legs, actually kinda sickly looking. At first I thought, maybe it’s that silver dress. Nope, it was Rachel and it seemed as if she went a little too far. When she put her hands to her face at one point, her fingers looked gaunt, like those of a very old woman, not a healthy 24-year-old.
From the beginning of the season, Rachel’s abilities as an athlete were evident. She won just about every competition. And viewers were cheering for her because they liked seeing the young woman who seemed broken by her past – a swimmer who gave up her dreams to compete athletically in order to follow a boyfriend who ended up breaking her heart — find her confidence again.
What many viewers thought would emerge at the “Biggest Loser” finale would be a lean and fit-looking Rachel. In the last few weeks she has looked healthy, muscular, happy. So many were shocked at the Rachel they saw last night and took to social media to share that surprise.
Traci Schreibman asked on The Biggest Loser page on Facebook, “Is it just me or does anyone else think that Rachel looks like a walking skeleton?”
Over on Twitter, Amy Cleveland (@BrunetteWife) tweeted:
— Amy Cleveland (@BrunetteWife) February 5, 2014
The mention of the trainers is because when the cameras panned away from Rachel and to longtime “Biggest Loser” trainers Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels, their faces seemed to show concern over Rachel’s latest transformation. That initial reaction was even before Rachel (who we think is 5’4”) stepped on the scale, which showed that the contestant who started at 260 pounds weighed in at 105 last night, resulting in a 155-pound loss, or a 59.62 percent body weight loss in just under eight months.
Not everyone on social media thought the loss was too dramatic, though. Justin Baisden (@The_Jmoney) observed on Twitter: “A lot of backlash over the
#BL15 finale. The fat girl is now “too thin.” I wonder what society’s magic weight number is for women?” (He’s got a point; we as a society do obsess way too much over other people’s weight.)
A story on Today.com addressed fans’ concern for Rachel’s well-being. Rachel’s response to them after the finale was: “I’m at the maintenance point now so I need to find some balance and make sure I work out and I eat healthy and make good choices 90 percent of the time. I’m not sure (I’ll maintain this weight), but I plan to try new exercises and just continue on this path and see where that takes me.”
When she appeared via satellite on the “Today” this morning (her flight from the West Coast was cancelled due to the inclement weather), there was no mention of the social media backlash and Rachel told the “Today anchors, “It’s gonna be a great new life,” and that she was pleased she was above to reconnect with the confident athlete insider her who she had lost while competing on “The Biggest Loser.”
We all have to remember that while we are watching and the contestants are talking all season about the life changes they so want, how they want to be healthy, they also all have to have their eye on the cash prizes. The at-home winner garners $100,000. The overall winner, which Rachel was, gets $250,000. That’s serious cash, and even though they don’t talk much about the money if at all on the show (or that part is edited out), it has to be on contestants’ minds.
So maybe Rachel will regain weight as a number of other top former contestants have in the past. In this story also on Today.com, several of them seem candid that that final weight wasn’t something they could or wanted to maintain once they returned to their regular lives.
Holly Herrington, a registered dietitian at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Center for Lifestyle Medicine, agreed that Rachel’s numbers showed “very dramatic loss” and are “completely unrealistic.” She advises patients that with the right diet they can expect to lose one to two pounds a week; a loss of 10 percent body weight in six months is more realistic and medically safer.
The fears that a person can go from being morbidly obese to anorexic are not without examples of that happening in real life. “It is completely possible,” she said. It’s two sides of the same coin, a problem with eating.
Many times people take away the wrong message when they see the dramatic weight loss people on “The BIggest Loser” and other weight-loss shows have. “How come she lost [that much]? What’s wrong with me,” they’ll ask themselves, Herrington said, and then they start thinking, “I might as well not even try.”
That’s the wrong approach, according to Herrington, who herself likes the show. Instead, be inspired by the “Biggest Loser” contenders and their transformation into “personal best” athletes, people now leading healthier, more active, lives. Let that motivate you to try to eat better and get more exercise.
“But also know, the weight loss is not realistic,” said Herrington.