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Freaked Out By Rachel Fredrickson’s Biggest Loser Win? Read This.

by Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. on February 5, 2014

Rachel Fredrickson at The Biggest Loser finale

Rachel Fredrickson at The Biggest Loser finale

When my Biggest Loser exposé got over 5,000 views before 10AM this morning, I knew something was up in BiggestLoserLand.

Turns out that last night, The Biggest Loser crowned a new winner, Rachel Fredrickson, who lost nearly 60% of her body weight. She went from 260 pounds to a gaunt 105 pounds to win the show.

As is typical of the rhetoric around fat, weight, and women’s bodies, Rachel was deemed “too thin” and “not healthy” by viewers and the media.

There’s a fine line in the media between too fat, just right, and too thin. If Jennifer Lawrence is too fat and Rachel Frederickson is too thin, then I’m assuming the swing is a mere 15 pounds or so.

But to those who are decrying Rachel’s weight loss as too much, I ask you, what did you think this show is about? Do you think The Biggest Loser is about health? Well-being? It’s a show that promotes weight loss at any cost.

The winner is not the person who eats reasonably, exercises moderately, and makes time for family, friends, and fun.

The winner is the person who loses the largest percentage of body weight. It’s that simple.

Lest you think that I am supporting the producers of The Biggest Loser, I am not. I am asking you, dear reader, to open your eyes to the reality of this show.

Here is what The Biggest Loser is NOT about:

  • Health.

Here is what The Biggest Loser IS about:

  • Shaming fat people.
  • Promoting diet products.
  • Promoting other merchandise tie-ins.
  • Manipulating viewers into thinking that their show is “saving lives.”
  • Ruining the physical and mental health of contestants season after season.

Why The Biggest Loser Should Be Stopped
I could probably write a treatise on why The Biggest Loser should be taken off the air. But I’ll share my top 3 reasons why right here.

  1. The Biggest Loser Is Physically And Emotionally Dangerous For the Contestants. Just from watching The Biggest Loser you can glean some things about the way the contestants are treated. (In this one clip alone from Australia’s Biggest Loser, you can see the emotional and physical duress the contestants are under, and the fact that cannot even open a door to get fresh air.) About two and half years ago, I interviewed Season 3 finalist Kai Hibbard about her experiences on the “ranch.” She talked about how contestants were encouraged and, I would say, brainwashed, into intense dehydration, overexercising (sometimes while injured), and eating disordered behavior.
  2. The Biggest Loser Reinforces The Idea That Thinness, At Any Cost, Is Healthy. Diets don’t work, and that includes extreme diets. You won’t hear about it in the media, because facts don’t sell diets and weight loss drugs. And you also won’t hear about Biggest Loser contestants who gain the weight back, not because it doesn’t happen, but because they sign a huge contract without the benefit of counsel when they sign up for the show, and that contract includes a gag order with million dollar penalties. Even so, a few contestants have admitted to gaining all of the weight back, including Erik Chopin and Ryan C. Benson.
  3. The Biggest Loser Bolsters Fat Hatred And Stigma. More and more evidence is suggesting that the real danger of obesity has nothing to do with fat, and everything to do with the stigma of being fat. For 14 seasons in the US (and multiple seasons in over 20 countries around the world) The Biggest Loser has been reinforcing the stereotype that fat people are lazy and unhealthy and deserve to be berated, forced to exercise in pain and with injuries, and malnourished all for the sake of weight loss and entertainment. Millions of people watch this show every week and internalize this message. The show, in essence, makes “bullying for health” a viable and particularly dangerous concept, especially given the fact that fat kids are the most likely to get bullied.

What You Can Do To Stop Biggest Loser

To make things really easy, you can just click on your favorite tweet below, and it will open in twitter and post to twitter once you approve it. You’re also welcome, of course, to tweet whatever you want. Just be sure to use the #stopbiggestloser hashtag, and it doesn’t hurt to direct your tweets to @NBC and/or @biggestlosernbc.

Feel free to comment below and let me know what you tweeted!

Click here to read my other articles on The Biggest Loser.

Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. To learn more about Golda and her work, click here.

{ 93 comments… read them below or add one }

@RespectChico February 5, 2014 at 5:03 pm

@NBC @biggestlosernbc Abuse is not‰ entertainment. #stopbiggestloser http://t.co/otK2BAjEEY

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Dana February 5, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Excellent article. So articulate and concise.

Unfortunately, I have a feeling that NBC is actually rolling with glee over their “PR nightmare.” What other finale can they say generated this much buzz? I bet they were secretly thinking “how sad for the contestant, but how great for us!”

I feel truly sorry for the contestants who seem like pawns and collateral damage in their ratings game. I feel even more sorry for the millions of people who watch the show and buy into the message that weight loss definitively equates health.

What bugs me more than anything, from the few twittter comments I read, is how people seem to be placing blame on the girl that lost all the weight and not the media/weight loss obsessed machine she was thrown into. Whether she is fat or thin, it’s her body and no one has a right to police it. Now policing NBC and the show itself, that’s a whole other story.

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Kelly Quigley February 6, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Hi Golda,

While I find your article intriguing, I have to ask you this: Is your program benefiting or damaging to the persons participating?

I’m a very huge supporter of “Loving Yourself” and all, but living a healthy lifestyle is the biggest part of that. As I sit there and watch “My 600 lb. Life”, I wonder how these people “love themselves”. If you love something, you’re not going to treat it like garbage.

I do agree with you with the Biggest Loser, though. I am ignorant of your program, so I don’t want you to think I’m bashing. Thanks for the new perspective. :)

Kelly

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@Miss_Maple28 February 5, 2014 at 4:04 pm

@NBC @biggestlosernbc Abuse is not‰ entertainment. #stopbiggestloser http://t.co/vsMfFJGOQV

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@DaveyPinstripes February 5, 2014 at 3:04 pm

.@NBC @biggestlosernbc Starvation and shaming is not health. #stopbiggestloser http://t.co/TKmIYFXycR

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@teammate729 February 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm

@NBC @biggestlosernbc Starvation and shaming is not health. #stopbiggestloser http://t.co/Azi7K2f6XI

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@tsmith1005 February 5, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Can this show PLEASE GO AWAY?!!!!! http://t.co/9OMSX6vFhP

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The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt February 5, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Our biggest issue with last’s night’s reveal is that the contestants over the years who do not appear emaciated at the finale may be JUST AS compromised, malnourished or unhealthy as those who do. Just because dangerous weight loss behaviors don’t result in dangerously low weights does not mean they are not inherently dangerous.

We tweeted:

@CEDSheppPratt: @biggestlosernbc has always encouraged & rewarded dangerous weight loss behaviors. This is not new, perhaps just more obvious 2 viewers now

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Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. February 5, 2014 at 1:05 pm

I heartily agree. Very good point.

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Alyssa Schumitz February 5, 2014 at 4:07 pm

I am curious if your opinion differs when discussing Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition, or do you feel they are equally dangerous/destructive?

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Lauren Solicito- McMillen February 5, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Totally agree! Shame and manipulation and NOT overall good healthy living…There HAS to be a balance!

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Laura Wald February 5, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Hi Golda! Brilliant piece. I have spoken out about the insidious nature of the abuse that is persistent on this show since its inception. I wholeheartedly agree with all your points and thank you for sharing them in one, well-written article. I am sharing on my page, The Green Life, Holistic Health Counseling, as well as my personal page and all other social media. I hope your article goes viral. Let’s spread the word and stop this demoralizing behavior that never empowers but only destroys.

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