Biggest Loser: A Response

I have mixed feelings about the Biggest Loser, as I’m sure many individuals who have gone on their own weight loss journey, are involved in the fitness profession or have a love of anything athletic do.

I love the trainers; I think the way they help contestants find what’s really going on while pushing them past their perceived limits to achieve greatness is wonderful. I enjoy watching the transformations and watching the contestants fight for the lives they deserve. I like the emphasis on strong, healthy bodies that can achieve anything that’s put in front of them. I like watching the freedom that accompanies these transformations.

But, I also see the downside. These contestants work out 8+ hours a day on a ranch where their food, portions and activities are moderated from start to finish. Their job becomes to work out; to lose weight quickly. 25 pounds in one week? That’s not reality. For viewers watching at home it sets up an unrealistic vision of what weight loss and finding health should look like. Doctors consider 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week normal, folks. Anything beyond that is probably not considered “healthy” outside of TV land.

There’s a bigger problem that I think was brought to light last night on the show. When your sole focus in life becomes weight loss, you lose track of other things. You forget about strength, about power and you center everything you have around the number on the scale. It becomes an obsession; quickly.

I get it, I’ve been there. Having lost 95 pounds and reaching a “healthy” goal weight, the fear set in. My goal wasn’t about losing more weight, it was about the fear of going back to what I once was. These contestants spend up to 12 weeks on a ranch under supervised, medical care and extreme conditions, and are then released into the world to fend for themselves. Is this what a training program should be? The answer is a loud and resounding no.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, it’s hard to put into words. But, finalist (and winner) Rachel Frederickson started the season at 260 pounds. She left the show as a healthy, strong, athlete, weighing in at 145 pounds. A few months passed, and last night’s big reveal took place. The result is below:

Rachel

She weighed in at 105 pounds with a BMI of 18 (considered “underweight” for her height and of probable medical concern). A sense of shock was apparent between the looks on the trainers’ faces, a less than super enthusiastic audience and a quick cut to commercials as the confetti started to fall.

So here’s the thing. A media frenzy has started. Questions like “Does Biggest Loser Rachel Have Eating Disorder” and accusations against NBC have been flying rampant.

Let’s all hold back for a second and consider the reality.

The fact is, under supervision, Rachel excelled. She finished a triathlon on the show and left as the picture of health. Whether there were symptoms of an issue prior to her leaving is something that the public will probably never know. When she reappeared, circumstances had clearly changed.

Were the trainers responsible for this? Probably not. Is Rachel to be blamed if an underlying eating disorder is present? Absolutely not, the environment that fostered the likely behavior was not healthy from the get go. Should there be limits to what is considered acceptable weight loss? Yes. Should contestants receive appropriate care after leaving the show? Absolutely.

But, let’s really think this through. It’s about expectations, people.

As a society, we have become so focused on the “obesity epidemic,” “BMI’s” and calorie counts that we forget that there are real people behind these numbers and statistics. Real people who want to live better lives but might not have the tools or the power to do it on their own; people that need help. But, that help can’t come in the form of putting them in a situation that obsesses and rewards over extreme weight loss without equipping them for reality.

People must learn that health is not a number. Health is strength – physical, emotional and mental strength. Health is finding value in yourself before making changes that society demands. Health is knowing that you’re important and that as long as you’re working toward a healthy goal in a healthy way, you’re doing just fine. Health is digging deep and pushing without unrealistic demands.

As a society, let’s make a commitment, a commitment to partner with those who want to make changes but, most importantly, a commitment to concentrating on health, strength and value, not a number on the scale. Until that changes, expectations will continue to climb and real people will suffer as a direct result.

It can change today, starting with you…where’s your focus? What are your goals? Do they align with a long, healthy life and a lifestyle to match? Think about what drives you and consider the reasons. Make it count!

NOTE: I am entered into ZOOMA’s Run to Napa contest, which depends on your vote! The winning blogger AND a reader (could be you!) will win a trip to Napa for the ZOOMA Women’s Half Marathon in June. Right now, I’m in third place, and would appreciate daily votes through February 24! LINK!

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One thought on “Biggest Loser: A Response

  1. I’m glad that you commented on my post so that I could read this! I love your points about seeing the people behind the numbers, that there are much more important things than the numbers on the scale, BMI, etc. Also, interestingly I read a blog post from a former contestant who said that the weigh ins on the show were never actually a week apart… They were anywhere from16-25 days apart, which is why some of them could lose so much. But the producers want the public to think that they are losing that much weight in a 7 day period, which I really don’t understand. Just goes to show, reality TV just isn’t reality at all!

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