Rachel Fredrickson lost 160 pounds to become this season’s “Biggest Loser” and she’s become quite the topic of conversation, but not for the reason you might think.. people are talking.. not just about how much weight she lost but about how thin she appeared on the season finale. Yes, there were raised eyebrows, and plenty of conversation about her startling change. People are actually wondering if she went too far.
We can never allow our value to be determined by how much we weigh, nor can the level of our success ever be defined by a number on a scale. (I said this, and own it.)
I want to seize this opportunity to start another conversation, not about how much weight is enough but what is a healthy vs. unhealthy weight? First of all, what weight would Rachel actually need to be in order to be considered “healthy” looking? Where did she become “too thin”? Five pounds, ten pounds, twenty pounds ago?? Is there a perfect weight cut-off and if so, who defines it?
Is it her “appearance” that defines healthy vs. unhealthy? When she was 260 pounds, she was an “unhealthy” body weight. And now at 105 she is an “unhealthy” body weight? Fascinating, is it not??
And what did it take for her to accomplish such a feat as losing nearly 60% of her body weight? And why is it, that up until now, very few have questioned the methods by which other “Biggest Losers” achieved their weight loss? Because her “appearance” demonstrates such a dramatic change, people are questioning whether or not she might have developed an eating disorder.
The fact is, the “Biggest Loser” promotes eating disordered behaviors in all of its contestants. It’s not recognized as such because the contestants are not what we visually expect of an eating disorder. Until it is visually evident that something “severe” must be happening, no one really seems to notice.
As long as the overweight still look overweight, we judge them and their behaviors as unhealthy. There must be something wrong with them that they eat so much and that they are so big. They need to do something about their weight because it’s not healthy. And when we see someone who is “too thin”, we automatically make an assumption that there is something “wrong” with them as well. And the more we judge someone’s character by their body weight, the more likely it is we are helping to perpetuate eating disordered behaviors.
First of all, body weight is not the best indicator of health status. One’s behaviors are what contribute to health. One cannot really assume very much about one’s behavior based upon body weight. But behaviors can reveal much about someone’s health status. Someone who is physically active, regardless of their body weight, is most likely “healthier”(fewer risk factors) than someone who remains sedentary. We know already that too much sitting can take years off of our lives. So can we really tell just by looking at someone or would examining their routine behaviors be a more likely place to determine whether someone is “healthy” or not?
If someone spends most of their waking hours obsessing over food and body weight, it could be a sign of an eating disorder. Over exercising, avoidance of certain foods or intense fear of weight gain might also signal the presence of an eating disorder. Does any of this sound like observed behaviors on the “Biggest Loser”? And would you consider this kind of eating disordered behavior to be “healthy”?
Yet up until now, the “Biggest Loser” has extolled the value of weight loss and the means by which one becomes the “Biggest Loser” has not been open for close examination. The message is lose weight, lose weight, lose weight. And if you are overweight, it’s your own fault so do something about it. So you deprive yourself of food and you exercise beyond your limits and everyone thinks that you’re awesome. Are you getting my message here?
Until we stop obsessing over appearances and start focusing on behaviors, we are completely missing the point of what it means to be healthy. The method of weight loss that is employed by the “Biggest Loser” is severe and extreme. Healthy behaviors are those that could possibly be maintained over a lifetime, not for several months at “the Ranch”. In addition, the definition of health is not just isolated to what is happening with the physical body, but the beliefs, thoughts and behaviors that are also present. Our health is a direct result of our thoughts and our behaviors, and body weight is a symptom of imbalance, but not necessarily the balance between calories in and calories out.
If good health were merely the result of “eating less and moving more” don’t you think we would have solved the obesity “problem” by now? Why someone is overweight is the result of multiple factors, the greatest of which seems to stem from how they are perceived. Now there’s something to ponder…
As long as the “Biggest Loser” continues to make money for NBC, the more episodes will be broadcast. As long as the public continues to support the fat shaming and weight bias they promote, it will thrive.
So let’s take the spotlight off of the “Biggest Loser’s” most recent victim (oops, I meant victor) and turn it where it belongs, on the viewers. That means you and me. If you are not deeply troubled by what the “Biggest Loser” represents, I suggest you examine closely your own weight biases and your own beliefs about body size and appearance. Trust me, we all have them but it’s time to be aware of the damage that results from them. Please think twice before you judge someone’s health or personal character simply by their appearance.
It’s time for change! If you have not already, please stop supporting the “Biggest Loser” by turning off this hideous “reality” show.