The Biggest Loser Finale and the Human Response

After The Biggest Loser finale tonight, the Twitterverse blew up with accusations of a certain contestant becoming anorexic in an attempt to win. When Rachel (spoilers, sorry/not sorry) came out, you could feel the air suck out of the finale. I immediately thought “WOW” then thought “hmmmmm…” and then felt a little uneasy. I mean, people can look completely different and weigh the same. Heck, Jameis Winston and I weigh the same. I’m not Heisman material. So I thought “she used to be a swimmer and swimmers can be smaller.” Then she got on the scale and weighed 105. Whoa.

After that…Twitter got relentless, and since it was social media, it was pretty harsh. Criticism came from all directions from your average troll to previous Biggest Loser contestants who said that “women should be curvy” (which is a controversial comment in of itself). I’m a little ashamed of the way some people in the weight loss/fitness online community responded. It’s always interesting when people go from inspirational to ravenous. No grace. I thought this was a safe community? A place where we can struggle together and be supportive of one another. Why can’t it be a different struggle? I feel like we need to really reevaluate how we respond to something like this.

I have also read a lot of insane comments on the Biggest Loser’s Facebook page, however it is interesting that #boycottBiggestLoser isn’t a trending hashtag…
Anyway, this is when a lot of people are going to come out and say that Biggest Loser is a horrible show and does horrible things for weight loss in America (and I whole-heartedly respect that opinion. I know plenty of people who have that opinion.) But the fact of the matter is, for me at least, that the Biggest Loser has done some amazing things in the way we view obesity in America. It has created an awareness that obesity is a pandemic in America, but it is also treatable. Sure, their product placements are dumb and drive me nuts, but they are an evil that goes beyond the show itself. Think of the literal tons of weight the contestants have lost and the millions of people this show inspires. I know it inspired me when I first started my weight loss journey.

While it might look like Rachel lost too much weight to us, we don’t know her whole story. Just because we have a Twitter account doesn’t mean we get to play morale judge, jury and executioner. I ask that you don’t let this alleged controversy overshadow one of the best seasons of this show. Think of Tumi’s amazing success and how she has become a passionate runner from being an obese contestant scared of life. Think about Craig who has changed his family tree by losing weight to avoid having fatal heart disease like his father. Think about Reuben and how we have seen him transform over the past decade. Do not take this away from them by focusing on a single contestant.


15 thoughts on “The Biggest Loser Finale and the Human Response

  1. I haven’t watched the finale yet, but saw the explosion on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and saw the photos people were posting of her. My biggest concern would be for her health. She’s 5’4″ tall which is the same height that I am. At that height, 105 pounds would be considered “underweight” because it would put her BMI at 18. Since I’m that same height, I know the weight range for 5’4″ at Weight Watchers is 117-146 pounds which puts her current weight 12 pounds below the lowest end of the healthy weight range. With her weight and BMI that low, it could easily cause health issues for her (and I’m not talking about anorexia). She could experience anemia, hair loss, cessation of her menstral cycle, etc. While I commend her competitive drive in wanting to win, I hope she consults with a physician, RD, or someone to come up with a weight that will be healthy for her body in the long-term now that she’s claimed her prize.

  2. Reality doesn’t matter in TV, perception does. Whether or not Rachel is actually unhealthy, she looked the part. NBC should not let itself be perceived as literally dropping confetti in celebration of eating disorders, whether or not Rachel actually has one.

    If you look at a side-by-side of Rachel’s prior weigh-in and her on the finale, it’s obvious the continued weight loss involved massive loss of muscle mass. Even the pictures from the finale without a comparison showed very observable issues that impact people that are underweight. The reactions of the trainers, Ally, other contestants, reinforced that our TVs were not broken. And when you check weights for Rachel’s height, 105 is clearly underweight. That makes it where we have not only a really bad perception, but also a lot of supporting evidence.

    The show was a rare treat, where a positive message was being sent to viewers, and NBC threw that away. I’m proud that people are upset about it. That means people want to protect the positive message. The lack of #boycottBiggestLoser reinforces that people want to protect what the show stood for, and not just express anger or whatever.

    But I do absolutely agree that it is wrong to attack Rachel personally. Either she did nothing wrong and doesn’t deserve to be attacked, or she’s a victim of an eating disorder or some other health issue and shouldn’t be attacked. Some of the people attacking her clearly felt betrayed though, so it’s understandable that they might not be thinking clearly.

  3. I saw her as a great contestant and good athlete but at the Weigh In.. I thought to myself, how is this weight she no longer has, going to effect her live now ? She is not healthy any longer! Will the money help her if she has life-long health problems?

  4. A lot the comments have mentioned whether or not this is sustainable weight loss and that is a very valid point. Obviously if she was my family member, I would be on high alert (and as we saw this season, she has very supportive parents). With that being said, I’ve known plenty of people who have lost too much because they had too low of a goal weight. When they reached that number, they knew it wasn’t sustainable so they moved it up about 10-15 pounds. That could be the case here. She could have lost too much in order to win the money because, let’s face it, she was up against some stiff competition this year, and she just went overboard.

    Appreciate all the comments. Keep them coming!

  5. I too was shocked when I saw the loss of Rachel’s muscle mass. As someone who has struggled with eating disorders in the past, I know that can be a fine line between “overdoing” exercise just to look good in a dress and slipping into an eating disorder. Her current BMI=18 is classified as underweight… that is not a case of me being a “hater” or weight judging; underweight is a clinical definition that can lead to health impacts. I understand that she may have made some decisions because Biggest Loser is ultimately a game show. I just don’t want that that gameplay to lead to permanent health problems.

    I was thinking about applying for “Extreme Weight Loss” with Chris Powell, but after seeing what has happened with this show, I realize that I need to rethink that reality TV is NOT reality.

  6. I agree that Biggest Loser has done much to inspire many and I do not want to discount that. The problem with this winner is the message it just reinforced to hundreds of thousands, you cannot be too thin. Having a family member who suffers from this awful disease, it concerns me that no one stepped in and looked at what was happening from the show team, producer, someone. I have compassion for this young woman, but will her weight loss be sustaned, probably because people with disorders do maintain their weight at an unhealthy level. Even the large fashion houses have seen the danger in promoting this look. Quite honestly, the look on Jillian and Bob’s face said it all. I was actually surprised it was not edited for the West Coast feed. It may be an indication the producers were uncertain what to do also.

  7. First of all, Nathan, this is a great post and I’m glad that you are speaking out about the reactions.

    Let me just address one issue I’ve noticed: just because there is are certain classifications for weight (overweight, underweight, etc.) does NOT mean that a person is unhealthy. I am 5’4″. I weight 105 lbs. I have been thin my entire life. Technically, my doctor says that I am underweight. But that is not the only factor she takes into consideration when determining my overall health. I eat relatively well and I work out a couple of times a week. My only health issue is mild cough-variant asthma, which I have had since childhood and have largely grown out of it. I am, overall, considered a healthy person on paper by my doctor.

    I don’t know what this woman’s lifestyle and body type are like. But please remember that persons and bodies are different. Health is not as simple as a weight classification.

    • Incredibly valid point, Catherine. We don’t know the history of others so we shouldn’t try to analyze it. Thanks for sharing!

      • Fortunately we do know some of her history. Rachel was competitive athlete, almost Olympic caliber. Her muscle mass would be higher with an expectation of higher weight given her 5″-4″ height. Having said that…
        This weight loss, although dramatic, was part of the “game”. She won because of it. When I competed in competitive athletics I had to lose dramatic amounts of weight in order to participate in the athletic arena I was competing in. Once competition or weigh in was over, I gained weight back to my standard weight. Rachel was the best competitor of the group. She went the extra mile in order to lose the massive amount of weight she lost. The problem will come in if she erroneously decides that this is her optimum healthy weight. Although some will say it is, the majority of health care professionals that would evaluate her would say otherwise. If she insist it is then I would surmise that she has accepted one addiction (overeating) for another (under eating). The goal of TBL is to change unhealthy eating habits and lifestyles. Going from over to under isn’t the change they are looking for.
        I celebrate Rachel’s competitive spirit and her will to win. Let’s hope she finds a friendly balance in her lifestyle going forward.

    • That’s true, but she didn’t look good. she looked too thin and a even sick. some people may look healthy at 105 lbs, but she is not one of them

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