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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