The Controversy over The Biggest Loser’s Season 15 Finale

by Danica on February 6, 2014

**this post contains content that may be a trigger for anyone recovering from an eating disorder…if you yourself can relate, or know that numbers and images are extremely difficult for you to handle, please pass over this post and stop back tomorrow**

Whether or not you watch NBC’s The Biggest Loser, I’m guessing that by now you’ve heard of the controversy surround Tuesday night’s season finale episode.

The grand prize ($250,000) winner was 23-year-old Rachel Frederickson.
(from Minnesota, whoo!)

Rachel had an awesome journey, and it was really great to watch her build confidence and strength (both physically and mentally) throughout season 15.

There was nothing controversial about her until the live finale show.

The Biggest Loser - Season 15

Rachel started the show at 260 pounds, and at the finale show weigh-in, she had dropped down to 105 pounds, resulting in a nearly 60% drop.

If you’re interested in watching the episode (skip to the end for Rachel’s part), you can watch it HERE for free.

really aim to be non-judgmental about how someone looks and how that relates to their health, so I want to say that this post is not out of judgment, but rather stems from pure concern.

As I watched the episode on Hulu last night (we don’t have cable anymore so I saw it a day late), I couldn’t help but feel a queasiness in the pit of my stomach.  And the reactions from Bob and Jillian when Rachel walked out?

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If you ask me, their faces express concern as well – unlike the usual giddy excitement when contestants are revealed at the finale.

The awkward silences that ensued once Rachel was out on the stage were enough to make me want to cry, too.

I know that the ultimate goal of The Biggest Loser is to change people’s lives and to make them healthier and happier.  I don’t love that they focus on numbers – that’s an effective tool for people who are very overweight or obese, but they don’t tell all – and I’m not a fan of the cheesy, less-than-ideal food sponsors the show so openly promotes (I mean, the news about Subway wasn’t exactly a surprise).  But yes, I do believe in the ultimate goal of getting healthy and staying healthy.

I don’t like numbers, as many of you know, but since The Biggest Loser stresses them, I’m going to discuss them for minute….

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okay, so here goes…

I’m 5’5″, and last summer, I weighed in at 115 pounds.
At this point in my life, I felt fine, I was loving running and covering a lot of mileage each week, no one ever said a thing about my appearance except for very rare compliments, BUT I wasn’t getting a period, and I was dealing with other hormonal imbalance issues on a daily basis.

I’m currently going through recovery, and am now weighing in at about 125 pounds, but still have yet to obtain a ‘regular cycle.’   I’m also continuing to struggle with hormonal imbalance (caused by more than just my weight though, of course).

Rachel Frederickson is 5’4″ and now weighs 105 pounds.

And more than the amount of weight she lost, it’s the short amount of time that she lost it in that’s a factor in this as well.

I know that every. single. body. is different.  So I really don’t know!  Maybe this is the weight that her body is going to thrive at!  I honestly hope that she’s found that “set weight”/sweet spot.

rachel frederickson - biggest loser winner

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But my concern is that, what if it isn’t her thriving weight?

Did she take the weightloss too far?

And if so, who let her do that?

I know that she was “on her own” for the past 2 months, but all of her weightloss, according to Rachel and the network show, is closely monitored by a professional team.  So if she is now below a healthy weight, did the show fail her?  Is she now going to have to overcome disordered eating from the other end of the spectrum??

I really hope not.  I really hope she’s okay – her confidence shines through so brightly, which is so beautiful – so I hope that her body is being truly taken care of.  I can’t help but wonder, is there someone there for her now that will help her find and maintain a truly healthy balance??

I feel bad for Rachel, that her body is under so much scrutiny (and yes, I understand that I’m now part of that attentive group).

But do you know what else I’m upset about?  Why the show really let this happen in the first place.

If Rachel is now underweight, why was that okay to air on a show that’s supposed to show America how to become healthy?

Less is not always better, and if health is the priority here, then something needs to be fixed in their program.  All of those contestants deserve direction to find their own, personal, healthy balance – and I’m not just talking about their weight anymore either.

*****

I’m starting to ramble…I just have so many thoughts on this!!

what’s your opinion of this whole situation?

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Heidi @ Idlehide February 6, 2014 at 5:13 am

Great post! Her transformation was really shocking and I also hope that she is at a healthy and safe weight for her body. I find sometimes when money gets involved, people take things more seriously. She must feel so much better now than she did a few months ago and at least now she has had some nutritional counseling from bring on the Ranch.
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2 Heather @fitncookies February 6, 2014 at 6:49 am

My main concern is just if she is healthy. My face did drop when she walked out. I think it could be a very slippery road she is on and may not have lost all of this in the healthy way. I think she looked great at the makeover, which is why my face dropped I think so much. I believe both of the men looked fabulous too, and they lost a lot of body weight as well. As long as people are checking up on her and making sure she is doing well, that’s all that matters to me.
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3 Diane @ Life of Di. February 6, 2014 at 7:35 am

I have mixed thoughts about Rachel’s transformation. In my opinion, she does look a bit emaciated and underweight; however, in keeping in mind that The Biggest Loser is a ‘game show’, she just set out to win. At the same time, if a person is underweight (according to her BMI) should they ‘win’? Being under your BMI isn’t considered healthy in reality so why is considered healthy on the show? I have a lot of thoughts on this topic too but my thoughts are a bit scattered. :)

I will end with saying that I think you approached this topic in a great way and I really enjoyed reading what you had to say! Your blog has quickly become one of my favorites to read! :)
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4 Kristy @ Kristy's Health Revolution February 6, 2014 at 8:45 am

Here’s what I say about this. I have issues with The Biggest Loser in general. They push people to lose weight so very quickly — I worry it’s not sustainable, and I worry it promotes disordered behaviors. The main issue I have is that the whole world tells people to lose weight when they are overweight — until they get “too thin” then it’s all “she’s skeletal!” “That cannot be healthy!” so people just cannot win at all. I feel so bad for Rachel because she just did what she was supposed to do — she lost weight. The fact that she did it SO quickly and she lost SO much of her body weight (60%! WHOA!) is very concerning.
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5 Kristy @ Kristy's Health Revolution February 6, 2014 at 8:45 am

(continued) However, that was the game. She did it. It’s so hard for me to even express concern because I feel like it’s unfair? If that makes sense? I do hope she’s healthy, but common sense tells me that it’s not healthy to lose that much of your body weight in such a short amount of time. I really hope that she plans to gain some weight back and going that far was for the money.
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6 Brittany @ proteinandpumps February 6, 2014 at 9:25 am

Just looking at her without seeing the numbers or knowing the background, I think she looks great and doesn’t look under weight or sick. After learning how much she lost so fast, it does make you wonder if the professionals failed her. I think if her doctors believe she’s healthy and she feels good, then that’s all that matters. I’m sure more will come out about this.
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7 Rachel @ Undercover Diva: A Sitcom February 6, 2014 at 4:07 pm

I agree. I think she looks beautiful
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8 Holly @ EatGreatBEGreat February 6, 2014 at 9:45 am

I didn’t watch the season finale of the Biggest Loser (in fact, I typically don’t watch the show at all), but I did read about the controversy. I think the look on (specifically) Jillian’s face says it all. This person went through a huge transformation, but there really comes a point when you question, how much is too much? I’m not saying she doesn’t look good, but it’s the short amount of time that it took to get to that point. That’s the part that seems unhealthy, and I think people think that that’s okay because that’s what the Biggest Loser did, but it really isn’t. People get a false sense of reality through things like this.
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9 Katie @ running4cupcakes February 6, 2014 at 9:51 am

I totally agree. I am just really concerned about her health and the fact that she might have another problem to deal with now that she has lost all of her weight. And I think that Bob and Jill’s reaction to her coming out on the live reveal, tells the whole story! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it. I just hope that she figures out what works for her to be her best, healthy self – like we all are trying to do!
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10 Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy February 6, 2014 at 10:35 am

I wanted to cry when I saw her walk out on that stage. My biggest concern was that she looks so frail, and since I have people close to me who’ve struggled with eating disorders, that’s the first thing I thought of. I don’t blame her at all. I can see how addicting it would be to lose weight that quickly. I just think that there’s a big, underlying issue here. She had eating issues before, and chances are that she went from one extreme to another. I wish the show would give her (and every contestant) a counselor to work with, because I know it’s more than just a physical thing. I’m worried about her health and her ability to someday have children.
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11 Hope February 6, 2014 at 10:55 am

This is a very thought-provoking post, Danica! The Biggest Loser is a big pet-peeve to me because even though I understand the idea behind it, I don’t think it’s a healthy way to lose weight. The weight loss is way too fast (and often uses extreme measures) and because of that I think it can almost do your body more harm than good. I’ve read some pretty interesting interviews with past contestants/winners about what really goes on behind the scenes and I’m not at all impressed with the show as a whole.

As to whether or not Rachel herself is underweight, I don’t think we can necessarily judge that for her, but she definitely looks somewhat emaciated and frail to me. I really hope that she hasn’t begun the awful downward spiral of an eating disorder or obsession with her weight.

Sorry to ramble…just my thoughts! :) Thanks for writing on this topic!
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12 Sam @ Better With Sprinkles February 6, 2014 at 12:13 pm

I wrote about this today too Danica – it’s a bit of an awkward situation, to be sure. I honestly don’t blame Rachel at all for where she is…she was placed in a game where the winner gets a quarter mil and second place gets nothing, so of course, contestants are going to go to extremes to win. There’s reports of past contestants withholding water for a day or two or going on the Master Cleanse in preparation for their final weigh in, and some have claimed that they developed an eating disorder after undergoing the extreme measures used on the show. Those reports, combined with the fact that Rachel lost that much weight in 6 months or less puts forward a really scary image of health and weight loss.
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13 Kelly @ Leafy Not Beefy February 6, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Yep, I have so much thoughts about this too…. it never comes out just the way I want it to, but I echo what you posted.
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14 Meredith February 6, 2014 at 12:36 pm

I’ve been a reader for a while but haven’t commented much! I just wanted to say I enjoyed your honesty in this post! As someone who struggled with disordered eating and over exercising in the past and having irregular menstrual cycles during that time, I can relate. The scrutiny when we look to thin to others is just as bad/if not worse than the alternative. And it does major harm to our bodies, even if we don’t think so at the time. As hard as it was for me to gain weight to become my “healthy” weight, my skin, attitude, mind, and energy all improved, which matters most to me. I do think her weight loss seems a bit too drastic, but I also think she was after that deserved prize money. It’s the shows responsibility to help her get to a healthier weight for her, if need be. Thanks for the great post, Danica!
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15 Alyssa @ See This Girl Run February 6, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Hmmm. This is a tricky thing because like you said, every body is different, everyone has their own “healthy” and you never know if this is her healthy. But I do agree that she looks frail and bordering unhealthy. When it comes to obsessive behaviors like over eating or anorexia, I think it can be easy to replace one for the other. I hope that’s not what’s happened to her. Especially since they do focus on the weight number a lot (%BF would be a better way to go), it does worry me that she weighs so little when she had been gaining muscle, which should technically make her overall mass weigh more. I just hope she’s healthy and happy and if that means staying at this weight or gaining a couple of pounds, I hope she does what’s best for her despite everything going on in the media about her.
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16 Kim February 6, 2014 at 2:40 pm

I posted an article I read online on my Facebook page about this, and it was interesting to read what family and friends thought. I’m really not a fan of the show to begin with simply because these people are placed outside of their normal life and their only focus is to lose weight and get healthy. Sure, it’s a great concept, but I always wonder about afterward. I can’t really say if she’s unhealthy or not now, but it is concerning. A touchy subject, but I’m glad you addressed it. Always fun to read others thoughts :)
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17 Casey @ Purely Thriving Health & Wellness February 6, 2014 at 3:41 pm

I love the fact that you wrote this post with so much respect and concern. I’ve never really been a fan of the show because what they’re doing isn’t sustainable once most people leave. My hope for her is that she doesn’t feel like she has to maintain her weight at 105. I would hope that she adapts a routine- food, exercise, self care, etc. that is more sustainable in the long term and let’s her weight settle where it may, which is likely a bit higher. I hope that she puts function over form and finds the place that is healthy for her.
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18 Rachel @ Undercover Diva: A Sitcom February 6, 2014 at 4:11 pm

At least from these photos, I think the weight loss is flattering. I think she looks beautiful. Is she thin, yes? The winner from a few seasons ago, Ali, posted a rebuttal saying that she, too, lost “too much” weight to win and then gained weight back to get to her sweet spot. The only thing on Rachel that looks SUPER tiny and frail to me, really, are her arms and upper body. I think she looks like she has some muscle on her. However, I did not watch the show, so I can’t really weigh in on much. Body shaming exists on so many levels that it is not my place to cast judgment or really discuss anyone else’s figures. I just hope she is happy and healthy :)
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19 Amanda @ .running with spoons. February 6, 2014 at 4:26 pm

I don’t watch The Biggest Loser so I only heard about the whole controversy surrounding Rachel while I was reading blogs this morning, but the whole thing definitely shook me up. I don’t want to say much about Rachel herself because there’s too much going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about so it wouldn’t be fair to speculate, but I will say shame on NBC for promoting this kind of thing. Competition to be the thinnest one in the room is a HUGE part of the mindset for eating disorders, and I feel like the show is just mirroring that by awarding the person who loses the most amount of weight…
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20 Sarah @ Sarah Sincerely February 6, 2014 at 4:27 pm

I’m so glad you addressed this Danica. I’ve been thinking the same over the past couple of days – wondering if she really is healthy. Like you said, I don’t really know, and I’m not going to judge. But, what I do know is my own experience with losing too much weight and losing quickly, as well as over exercising and restriction. I must say, to me she does look quite frail…extremly happy and confident, yes, but so I was I when I lost weight. You get compliments that fuel the weight-loss fire.
Anyway, I sincerely hope that she is NOT unhealthy, and if so, she can quickly get to a healthy place. I hope her mind doesn’t succumb to the disordered thinking that is so hard to reverse.
I think it’s important to shed some light on the issue, after all, lots of us are wondering and concerned about the same things. Thanks, Danica!
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21 Kat February 6, 2014 at 6:59 pm

I am not sure why isn’t it controversial how much the guys have lost, 51% of weight loss is also pretty significant! Depending on what chart you look at, she is not even underweight.. Looking at her body, I don’t think she looks underweight. In my opinion looks great, in a great shape. 100+ lbs weight loss will change one’s face… I believe time will tell. The show is over now – she lost a lot of weight she needed to lose, she won the money she clearly wanted to win – where does it go from there?
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22 Kat February 6, 2014 at 7:00 pm

will she stay 105 lbs for the rest of her life? will she gain 5-15 lbs? will she gain it all back and be obese again? will she go the other direction and end up being 70 lbs by next year? you don’t know. looking at her we have NO information about her health. weight means nothing…everyone is different. i feel terrible for her that she is being judged… (ps. my mom is 5’5″ and she has been between 100 & 110 lbs her whole life, she had regular periods, 2 children…everyBODY is different) [the word limit on your blog doesn't work for me...ever...]
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23 Alex @ Alex Runs For Food February 13, 2014 at 11:35 pm

You put it so nicely! I totally agree with everything you said!!! I really love watching biggest loser and it really is to bad they let someone who clearly is not healthy win. I was rooting for her from the beginning. I also was a swimmer, her and I are close in age, my high school team swam against her team. I didn’t know of her then but I was never one of the super fast swimmers. Anyways…. ramble…. I was rooting for her. I truly hope she gets to a healthy weight and I hope she has lots of support at home.
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