Thursday, February 6, 2014

My Thoughts on the Biggest Loser

Biggest Loser
Courtesy of NBC
This week, the final episode of this season's Biggest Loser aired. This episode has made headlines across the internet because the winner, Rachel Frederickson, went from 260 lbs to 105 lbs and when she appeared at the finale, appeared too thin.  The uproar that ensued has focused on how Ms. Frederickson's weight loss looks unhealthy and the show is promoting unhealthy eating habits.  I agree on all aspects of this argument but I'd like to point one thing out for this post.

Let's put ourselves in Ms. Frederickson's shoes for just a moment. She was put in this situation of her own free will but the show adds some unimaginable stress on the contestants.  To learn a little about some of those pressures, read this great article by Golda Poretsky here. The show sets up very unrealistic situations to help promote dramatic weight loss like excessive exercise and restrictive eating habits.  Being a former athlete, maybe Ms. Frederickson has had previous exposure to this environment. This controlled setting is all in the name of health, but as we can see from this year's finale, health is really not achieved by such drastic measures.

But again, let's go back to Ms. Frederickson.  The uproar is about the show and these horrible tactics they use, so let's not go too far and blame her for participating.  If we say, "She's not healthy, she looks too thin, she's anorexic," is that any different than us pointing to someone who is big and saying, "Look at her, she's huge, she's not healthy?"  We might be quicker to come to the defense of the larger individual than the smaller one but either way we are judging them based on size.

As a proponent of Health at Every Size®, I need to remember that I should never judge anyone's health by just looking at their body.  Is Ms. Frederickson's weight loss shocking? Yes. Is the Biggest Loser promoting an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise? Yes.  Does Ms. Frederickson have an eating disorder? I have no idea.  She's not my client and I've never talked to her.  The public has no idea what is going on with Ms. Frederickson or her past medical history.  Let's just remember, we are judging the show and not her.   Shaming is shaming no matter what size the person is.  

What do you think?  Did you watch the finale and if so, what were your thoughts?


  1. I completely agree, Aaron. I tried to also touch on this issue of weight stigma in my reaction to the show as well. We need to be more careful about how we view and judge shape!

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