Biggest Loser Finale: Shame on You, America

**Warning: this post contains spoilers for The Biggest Loser finale.**

The Biggest Loser season 15 finale aired live last night, and the results are controversial.  All three finalists lost incredible amounts of weight both on and off the Biggest Loser Ranch.  The winner, Rachel Frederickson, lost almost 60% of her original body weight, now weighing only 105 pounds.  According to the internet, she is 5’4.

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Immediately after she walked on stage, fans began weighing in with their opinions via social media:

“Rachel looks horrible.  I’m appalled.”

“She should be disqualified.”

“Rachel looks so bad!”

“Rachel went way too far!!  Way too thin…doesn’t look good.”

“She looks wrinkly and old.”

“She cheated!”

I have a few reactions to these comments that I’d like to share:

1. It’s not okay to criticize someone’s physical appearance, period.  Some of the contestants are still technically overweight; it wouldn’t have been acceptable when they walked on stage to say, “Eww, he didn’t lose enough weight.  He looks gross,”  or “I’m appalled by how fat she is.”  So why is it okay to say cruel things about someone for being thin?  There is no scenario in which it’s acceptable to say someone is “gross” because of their weight.  Rachel is a real person who will very likely see all those mean comments, and that makes me very sad.  Mean commenters, stop hiding behind the internet;  would you ever say those things to someone’s face?

2.  You have no idea.  You have no idea if she is at the appropriate weight for her body type.  You have no idea what she did to reach that weight.  You have no idea if she is struggling with an eating disorder.  You have no idea if she is simply trying to win the game and will regain a few pounds in the next month.  You just have no idea, so stop assuming and passing harsh judgments.

3.  What would you do?  At the risk of contradicting what I just said–I am not saying the following is what happened, but let’s speak hypothetically for a moment–if $250,000 were at stake, and you had no idea how much your competitors had lost, wouldn’t you be tempted to lose that extra 5 pounds on a temporary basis?  And yes, according to BMI standards, she is 5 pounds underweight.  I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do–in a perfect world a contestant on the Biggest Loser would reach their goal weight and say, “Oh, I don’t care about a quarter of a million dollars.”–but it is a game, and it’s a lot of money, and Rachel was competing against two big guys who had a lot of weight to lose.  It’s a game that, if you commented about it on any form of social media last night, you’ve probably been watching all season and applauding the weekly 10-lb losses.  It’s that kind of game.  She didn’t cheat; she won.

4.  “Lose weight, but not that much weight.”  Society, you are cruel.  What a horrible, yet perfect glimpse of our culture this situation provides.  We tell women (and men) that they need to look a certain way.  We shame them for carrying a few extra pounds, we cheer them on when they start to lose weight, and then we criticize them for being too thin.  Which way do you want it, America?

Don’t mishear me:  I’m not saying Rachel isn’t too thin, and I’m not saying that she is.  I’m not saying she set a good example, and I’m not saying she didn’t.  I don’t want to comment on Rachel’s weight at all.  Instead, I want all of us to examine our responses and ask ourselves, “Is this kind?  Am I being compassionate?  Am I speaking about her like she is a human?”

She is a real person with real feelings and real struggles.  If you are concerned about Rachel, pray for her.  Write her a letter and ask her how she’s doing.  Don’t call her “gross” on the internet.

I think we could all benefit from practicing a little more compassion.

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13 thoughts on “Biggest Loser Finale: Shame on You, America

  1. Okay, you are a really nice person and maybe a producer, given the format of your post. I was in the same mindset of most of the posters you are scolding, so I won’t add my unkindness to the mix. That said, isn’t this show, with the Doctor’s always present and the constant counseling about extending one’s life, living healthy etc…isn’t it about getting to one’s best health? Is that the new expectation of the finale, that contestants compromise their health to win with clearly no supervision? If so, I may at least skip the finale next season if I watch at all. That was such a dark and disappointing ending with everyone pretending to celebrate.

    • Thanks for your comment! I am not a producer, just a fan of the show. I absolutely agree with you that the show should be promoting health and wellness and discouraging unhealthy food and exercise habits–in either direction. If contestants are using dangerous measures to win, then the show is on a slippery slope and may need to reevaluate a few things before next season. The purpose of my post is simply to remind folks to be kind and not judge on appearance, especially when we don’t have all the facts.

  2. Very well said hun. I don’t watch the biggest loser nor did I see/hear these comments, but I think it’s crazy that people are complaining/judging her for her weight…again. No one knows the battles other people face and by criticizing her for her weight again it sets the precedent (or suggests it) that nothing you or I or anyone else does is enough, which isn’t true in the least.

  3. Honestly the whole premise of the show gives ppl unrealistic expectations about weight loss in my opinion. Everyday ppl see these contestants losing copious amount of weight each week and expect that to be the norm, completely forgetting that they are in a controlled environment and have nothing else to do all day. It’s not a show about changing lives it’s a show geared for the “wow” to get viewers and to make money, let’s not forget that. Good points about judging others though for sure.

    • Agreed. While the contestants most often report positive life changes, and there are many accounts of people being inspired by the show and getting healthy as a result, we do need to remember that it IS a TV show. They are out to make money, so yes, they are going for the “wow” factor, and the crazy amounts of weight the contestants lose are unrealistic in any other setting. Like you said, they are in a controlled environment and have nothing else to do all day. That could potentially be discouraging to people watching at home who lose one pound a week, even though in reality that’s perfect and sustainable!

  4. I couldn’t have said it better – but I do think she’s too thin. I get that it’s a game, but a few seasons ago the person who won the at home prize later admitted that he went so far the other way, he didn’t eat hardly anything and worked out 8 hours a day until the finale.

  5. I wholeheartedly agree with point #4. As someone who has been on a journey to a healthy lifestyle for almost 4 years, I have had many comments similar to that one. My initial goal was to lose 50 pounds – it was just an easy number right off the top. After I had lost several pounds, I visited my doctor for a routine physical. She gushed over how I had lost it (healthier eating, portion control, and exercise), then she looked at her handy, dandy little chart and told me what my weight goal should be. As it turned out, it was 4 pounds more than the goal I had in mind. So I changed my goal weight to match her chart. I’m still working on my weight goal (only 7 pounds away), but I am healthier and in better physical condition than I was in high school. And I know that I will have a better chance at keeping it off because it has been very slow progress. I give all the background information to say this. When people (who know and love me) say things like “if you lose any more weight, you’re going to blow away” or “you don’t need to lose any more – you look great,” it’s no wonder that young women are so confused as to how they should look or how much they should weigh. One minute they’re getting the message, from media and even loved ones, “lose weight” and then they hear “you’ve lost enough.” And some even hear, “you need to gain weight, you’re too thin.” Fortunately, I’m mature enough (and old enough) to crack a joke in response, ignore it, and continue doing what I know is good for me.

    • Congratulations on all the progress you’ve made in your journey! It sounds like you’ve lost the weight in a very healthy, sustainable way, which is awesome. I can imagine that’s tough to get all the unsolicited input on your body, even if it’s well-intentioned… I’m glad you are able to brush it off! I absolutely agree that the messages sent to young women by just about everyone are confusing and often contradicting. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

  6. catherine, you’re completely right in this. We don’t know what she’s dealing with. We cant and shouldn’t judge her. I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum myself and I got criticism when I was overweight and underweight. it’s a sick thing that society believes they are entitled to rip someone apart based on their appearance, and unfortunately the criticisms came from my own family members. I just wish people would realize how detrimental words can really be. This is very well said.

    • Thanks, Caitlyn! It really is amazing–in a bad way–that people feel entitled to do that. I do think that in some ways as a society we are moving in the direction of body-acceptance, but we have a long way to go. Whether a person is underweight, overweight, or normal weight, words can hurt. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  7. Great take on the finale show!! I didn’t watch this season but I honestly felt bad for the winner when all of the bad press started airing. Shaming someone for how they look (regardless of body type) is never ok. I think that the point you made in #4 is important. We don’t know her personally and we shouldn’t judge her for that. I really enjoyed this post, thanks for sharing 🙂

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