The Biggest Loser of season 15 was crowned last night and Rachel Frederickson walked away with the title. Rachel may have been the biggest loser, but I'd say the biggest winners of the night were eating disorders. Not that eating disorders needed the boost in popularity, but I would be surprised if last night's promotion of extreme and unhealthy weight loss didn't get them a few more fans.
Let me be clear, my issue is not with Rachel. I am in no way writing this to call her out on the extreme diet and exercise tactics she underwent to lose the dramatic amount of weight that she did in the time that she did it. My fury isn't directed at Rachel, but is absolutely directed at the people responsible for this despicable television program and the "trainers" who will do everything they can to earn their contestants trust and manipulate them into doing whatever it takes to lose the most weight they possibly can, in an effort to increase their own popularity.
A screenshot from the "Biggest Loser" finale, which compared Frederickson on the right to a hologram of how she looked at the beginning of the show.
Weight loss for the entertainment of a viewing audience is ridiculous. Weight loss for the entertainment of a viewing audience under the guise of helping people lead healthier lifestyles is sinister. My biggest gripe with this show is that it pretends to be about health. Last night's finale proved that they weren't interested in the contestant who had become the healthiest, just the one who had gotten the skinniest.
Even the show's biggest stars and trainers Bob and Jillian couldn't hide their shock when Rachel walked out on the stage to pose with her nemesis (her previous overweight self) and get on the scale for the last time in front of an audience (although I think it's safe to say that she will continue to weigh herself privately and probably somewhat obsessively for many years to come).
I cannot properly express how dangerous and irresponsible this television program is and why I believe it needs to be taken off the air, but I'll give it a shot:
Our society has an irrational fear of fat. Yup,I said it and I'll say it again. An irrational fear of fat. It's irrational, because this fear makes so many of us desperate to do absolutely anything we can to avoid it, even if doing so will put our health at risk. It's this desperation that leads people to participate in the show and our own obsession with weight loss that makes it so popular to watch. Is obesity a growing problem? Yes it is. Are shows like this one a good way to remedy it. Hell no.
I have no doubt, that there are people reading this thinking, "But even if she's too thin, she was too fat before and that's worse!" Which just points out another part of the problem. Our society is quick to call someone overweight, but it takes a lot to call them underweight and that's because it is far more acceptable to be too thin than too heavy. However, the reality is that neither extreme is OK. Someone once asked me if I'd rather be obese or anorexic, with the assumption being that everyone would prefer to be the latter. To me, that's like asking if I'd rather be punched in the face or kicked in the stomach. Um..neither! If The Biggest Loser was really about supporting people in getting healthier, they would focus more on substance over image. I'm sorry Jillian, Bob and Dolvett fans, but while these gurus of fitness may know how to train people in normal settings, by agreeing to go along with the extremely dangerous training practices of this TV show, they prove that they cares less about the people they're working with and more about their own popularity. Putting people's lives at risk is never OK, even if it'll make you famous.
Eating disorders are on the rise, in fact in Canada, there are TWICE as many kids battling eating disorders than obesity. Part of the problem is that we have completely lost sight of what it means to be fit. Believe it or not, a person can be fit and healthy and still not look the way society tells them they should look in a bathing suit, and that's society's problem! Can having a flat stomach and tiny waist be a sign of a healthy body? Sure, but not if you had to starve yourself to get there.
Having experienced life with an eating disorder myself, I fear what lies ahead for Rachel. Right now her entire self-worth is being based on how she looks and how much weight she lost. What's going to happen if her body fights back and puts on a few pounds? How will she feel about herself then? She's had millions of people watch her success, how will they act if she's not able to keep all the weight off? Will they think she's a failure? Will she think she's a failure? How long will it be before she's able to eat something without thinking about how many calories it contains or if she's worked out enough to have earned the right to eat it?
This morning, Kai Hibbard posted this on Facebook: "Welcome to your different eating disorder. It's much like your old one only people think you look better." #TheBiggestLoser
If anyone knows what they're talking about it's Kai, since she was a contestant on the show's 3rd season and experienced firsthand the lies and deceit that when on behind the scenes. She was also brave enough to speak out about these experiences only to be criticized and threatened for telling the truth.
Oh, and let's not forget about that little slap on the wrist given to Ms. Michaels earlier in the season when she was caught giving caffeine pills to her team to aide in their weight loss. What was she thinking? I'm guessing it was, "I want to win!"
The one good thing about last night's finale is that it's creating a bit of a backlash. It seems that people were disturbed enough by Rachel's transformation to share their feelings on social media; some went as far as to say that she looked so skinny it was "disgusting". While I think name calling in any form is unkind, I'd bet that her brain stopped reading at "She looked so skinny", anyway, since her body isn't the only thing to have been transformed. Sadly, the psychological damage that's been done goes much deeper. I'm hoping that her friends and family will step up and get her the help she needs to set a new goal, one that bring a type of physical, psychological and emotional health that will last long after the cameras have forgotten about her.
Self-worth shouldn't be measured in pounds.
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