Here’s a confession for this Friday morning: I’ve never watched more than a few minutes of the TV show The Biggest Loser over it’s 15-season run. And I have not watched one moment of the most recent season, of which saw 24-year-old Rachel Frederickson crowned the winner earlier this week.
So I had no idea what a co-worker was talking about the other day when he asked what my thoughts were on the Rachel Frederickson/Biggest Loser controversy. However, I quickly took to Google to fill myself in, and basically this is the shakedown for non-Biggest Loser fans like myself (or anyone who’s been living under a rock this week):
Rachel was one of the contestants on Season 15 of The Biggest Loser, which features the journeys of obese people who are competing to lose the most weight in hopes of winning a $250,000 prize. On the show, the contestants are helped by trainers Jillian Michaels, Bob Harper, and Dolvett Quince, and they are taught to work out, eat healthier, and work through the issues that have led them to being severely overweight. They stay at a place called “The Ranch” where their main focus day in and day out is losing weight. At the end of a certain period of time, the finalists go home, and aren’t seen again until the finale 3 months later. What they do between then and the finale – how much more weight they are able to lose, or how they’ve been able to maintain their weight loss – determines who the winner is.
Rachel was a former athlete – a competitive swimmer – who got dumped by her boyfriend and gained 100 lbs consoling herself with food. When she started on The Biggest Loser, she weighed 260 lbs. (She is 5’4”.) She dreamed of getting her life back and learning to love herself again. When she left The Ranch, she was 150 lbs. and had been named one of the three finalists.
On Finale night (which I believe was Tuesday), Rachel weighed in at 105 lbs. That’s a loss of 155 lbs. total, and a loss of 45 lbs. in the past three months. Apparently when Rachel walked out to reveal her new body, she was greeted with gasps, and the camera caught a look of apparent shock – not pleasant surprise – on the faces of trainers Bob & Jillian. Jillian can even be seen whispering, “Oh my God, oh my God” in those initial moments.
Having just gone through a bit of a drastic weight loss journey myself, I have been quite intrigued by Rachel’s story. It’s been a bit of a firestorm, to say the least. Social media has given a voice to the mass public, and they have been using it. Many have directed their anger and disappointment at NBC and The Biggest Loser for “fat shaming” and allowing a contestant to “go too far”. Some have gone at Rachel herself, calling the measures she’s taken unhealthy and disgusting.
So what do I think?
Honestly, from the pictures and video clips I’ve seen, I think Rachel looks great. She looks fit and toned, she’s got a radiant glow about her, and aside from perhaps her face looking maybe a bit too thin, I don’t think she looks majorly skeletal or unhealthy.
My concern for Rachel right now is not her weight, but how this backlash might affect her psychologically. I didn’t go on a TV show to lose weight, but I did make my journey very public, both here on the blog, and also on my Facebook page. 98% of the comments & feedback I got from family & friends were positive. They’ve been supportive, wonderful cheerleaders, and I am so blessed that I’ve had them along for the ride.
But being public about weight loss does open the door for criticism, unfortunately. I got my first taste of it last summer. I had just officially announced that I had lost 50 lbs, and I was walking on sunshine. Then someone told me I’d better start eating again because I was looking sickly.
I wanted to burst into tears. I went to my mom, because I knew she’d be brutally honest with me, and I said, “Do I look sickly? Do my eyes look like they’re sinking into my skull?” She replied with an emphatic NO. And I know she would tell me the truth.
But for weeks after, every time I walked by a mirror, I was stopping to examine myself. Maybe my eyes ARE sinking into my skull… Do I look gaunt?? Do I look like a Skeletor???
Since then, I’ve had several other similar encounters with people who have asked if I’ve been sick, and it’s hard not to feel insecure about it. Still, I feel very confident that I have gone about my weight loss in the healthiest way possible – through exercise and eating healthy (never starving myself) – and I can’t look that sick, because I saw my doctor for the first time in 14 months this past week, and he didn’t even notice my weight loss.
Rachel’s loss, of course, has been much more dramatic than mine. Truthfully, I don’t even know how she’s managed to get as low as she has on the scales. I shouldn’t even attempt to compare our situations, as everyone’s body type is different, and we are different ages and heights, but here’s some of the numbers: When she started, she was 260 lbs. I was 227 lbs. She lost 155 lbs. I’ve lost 78 lbs. She now weights 105 lbs. I weight 148 lbs. I am a good inch taller than Rachel.
As much as I’d like to tighten and tone and perhaps lose a few more pounds, it appears I’m not budging from my current state (aside from gaining some definition in my shoulders and upper arms, thanks Les Mills Combat punches!!) I may never get that tightening and toning done that I dream of, especially in my abdominals. The fact is, I’ve been very overweight since childhood, and sometimes when skin has been stretched out for that long, there’s just no way it’s going to tighten up again, no matter how hard you try. I’ll carry my stretch marks with me for life. And because of that, “The Bikini Project” might never come to fruition.
But if I could do it? You bet your ass I’d be happy about it.
I say congratulations to Rachel. I sort of know how difficult this road is – both mentally and physically – and I hope she’s able to continue on with her happy glow and radiant smile. I hope she’s able to maintain her current lifestyle, if that’s what she wants to do, and be content in her heart. I hope that her ultimate goal of loving herself and regaining her life has been fulfilled.
Most of all, I hope she’s able to shut out all of the negativity that is currently surrounding her, because she doesn’t need this crap. Nobody deserves this crap. I know she opened the door for it by drastically losing weight on a TV show, but at the end of the day, everyone else’s opinions really don’t matter.
It’s how you feel about yourself that matters most.