Was ‘The Biggest Loser' Winner Rachel Frederickson "Too Enthusiastic" About Losing Weight?

Whether you’re a fan of The Biggest Loser or not, by now you’ll have heard of the controversy surrounding this season’s winner, Rachel Frederickson. The 24-year-old began the competition at 260 lbs and emerged victorious during the show’s finale earlier this month after weighing in at a shocking 105 lbs, for a total loss of 155 pounds in just under seven months.

It’s difficult to discuss Frederickson’s situation without also looking at the culture of The Biggest Loser as a whole. It’s also bordering on inappropriate to speculate about her mental state, the methods used to reach her final weight or on whether or not she is suffering from an eating disorder. What we do know is this: Frederickson admitted to spending literally all day, from morning until night, on her treadmill, even working while on the exercise machine. In between those sessions, she also participated in high intensity aerobic and spin classes to burn extra calories. While no one would disagree that physical activity and exercise is an incredibly healthy habit, there is such a thing as too much, and many believe it’s a line that Frederickson crossed throughout the process.

The line for us, as viewers and human beings, is also a thin one: we vilify those who are overweight to the point where they feel joining a televised weight loss competition with notoriously unhealthy practices is a good option. Then, when the contestants buy into the hype – the 6+ hour daily workouts, the excessive calorie restriction, the unhealthy mindset – and lose what we deem to be “too much” weight, we criticize them for developing the exact same unhealthy relationship with food that we as a society encouraged them to pursue in the sake of becoming more physically “healthy” in terms of outward appearances.

Frederickson sat down with People magazine for a new interview this week to answer some of the feedback she’s been receiving. She was asked directly whether or not she is suffering from an eating disorder, to which she answered: “I am very, very healthy.” Not exactly an outright denial, but then, why should she have to answer such a private question publicly? What she did admit is that she was perhaps “too enthusiastic” about losing weight before the finale. Can we infer that her enthusiasm led her to develop unhealthy habits? Maybe. Should we? Definitely not.

Before we pin Frederickson as the poster girl for taking things one step too far, perhaps we ought to look at the society that finds watching shows like The Biggest Loser to be a good night of entertainment. To watch the contestants struggle, cry, be pushed to work harder even when ill or injured, to watch them struggle through being starving… this is one of our most popular television programs. Perhaps we should put less value on the ideal of “physical beauty = thinness” and more on our own prejudices on health and bodies. Until then, let’s leave Frederickson out of it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=14102782 Caroline Jeffery

    yeah, i think there’s definitely something to be said about the format of The Biggest Loser. it’s a contest based purely on numbers and as anyone who spends any time studying the subject of weight loss will tell you, while numbers are important, they are not the only factor in what makes a person healthy. and the trainers of TBL would tell you the same thing, but the methodology of the show is one that places final value on the numbers, which can be problematic. i certainly don’t fault frederickson, a former competitive swimmer, for competing. she had a mark to hit and she hit it. but she wasn’t wholly the one setting it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690960292 Lisa Marie Garver

    Yes!! Totally agree with this article! Check out Healthy At Every Size!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=644920048 Angie Ledbetter

    There is a HUGE difference between the ability to lose weight at 24 vs. 34 vs. 44…. and keeping it off is another story. I think the whole thing is ridiculous.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=519087451 Carole Wai Hai

    Maybe it is just someone who fix herself a goal and aggressively did everything to reach it. No wrong with that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001733071973 Anna Hatchetstone

    I’ve never seen somebody “starve” on BL. I think that wasn’t quite correct. What Rachel did at home was her own decision.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=652210697 Alyssa Clapson

    I think these photos are deceiving since she seems to be getting shorter, even though she’s wearing heels in the last two shots. Yes, she is on the slim side, but good for her as long as she did it the healthy way and maintains a good balance of diet and exercise!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=139300097 Buffy Cutler

    Change is hard! She’s young and wanted to be fit…and she looks good! Good for her.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000082351751 Bethany Larson

    According to her bmi, she’s underweight by less than 5 pounds. I think people are making this a big deal because they enjoy the hype. If it becomes dangerous for her then raise concern, as of right now there’s really no reason to make a fuss unless it’s over how hard she worked to reach her goals

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000022675389 Aaron Stewart

    Great article

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=790640373 Josh Schaeffer

    Biggest Loser is a game. She did what she had to do to win. I think she looks great in the middle picture, but she may not think that. I feel like as long as she is happy that is all that matters, just as long as she truly is healthy. If she doesn’t have any adverse side effects to being under her BMI, then I don’t see an issue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=654909472 Melissa Gaggiano

    Comes down to personal preferences doesn’t it? She has made a choice. I can’t say she looks like she has an eating disorder. Of course how can I tell? But looking at her most recent image I’m not a fan of the forced large head and tiny body look. But that’s just an opinion. If she’s happy and if she is healthy inside then that’s what counts the most.
    It is true that society comes down hard on a woman for being fat and then for losing too much weight. Years ago I realised I needed to lose some fat for health reasons [not a good sign when walking up a hill makes you huff and puff]. I cut back a little bit on the crap I was eating and using my lunch hour to go for a jog. I lost just a couple of kilograms which was great and I was so proud of myself for doing the jog. An interesting point, I was encouraged to keep up the fitness by some of the guys at work. But a woman at that same office did her version of an intervention and actually ordered me to not lose anymore weight. The weird thing was I was no where near being underweight – toning and body fat wise I still had a long way to go. So I can’t help wondering why a woman’s worst critic is not the patriarchal society in which we live in, but in fact the women we are sometimes surrounded by.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=545206320 Graham S. McCann

    I HATE reality shows.

    But, as for this woman, good for her for losing all that weight. I just hope she keeps it off with a healthy diet and lifestyle.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1218686476 Tendai Jeanette Mabingani

    Hey Everyone! I’m trying to promote my blog for a class project at university! The more people stop by and check it out, the better :)

    It’s hipstersavant.wordpress.com

    Please stop by and leave any recommendations for future posts!

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