I’ve long been a fan of The Biggest Loser. I love the inspiring stories they share from the contestants, seeing people overcome strongholds in their lives that have kept them at an unhealthy weight, and seeing them get a second chance at living a healthy, fully-alive life.
But after last night’s finale, I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to watch the show again.
If you didn’t watch it, check out the video above for a quick recap of what went down. In a nutshell, we see contestant Rachel Frederickson celebrating victory over weight she couldn’t get rid of, and unfortunately we see her weigh in at a brand new unhealthy weight—one that is way under what her 5’4″ frame should be, medically speaking.
I think it’s worth mentioning that I am not a thin-shamer at all. I think everybody has a different shape and size, and that whatever our God-given size is is a-okay and something to be celebrated. I have several friends who are naturally thin and do not have an eating disorder in any way, shape or form. That being said, it’s sort of a different story altogether when we’re talking about a very public weight-loss show intended to inspire people get healthy, as well as paint a picture of what health looks like.
I speak from personal experience when I say that celebrating thinness that has been achieved in an unhealthy manner is a very dangerous path. In 2005, I lost weight for the first time in my life. I wasn’t overweight to start, but I lost weight nonetheless. Sort of by accident, in fact, but it didn’t stop the compliments from all kinds of people. And the thinner I got, the more positive feedback I got—You look amazing! How do you stay so thin? I wish I had your discipline!
The encouragement came from friends and family and all kinds of strangers, and it kept coming until one day when the thinness went too far. In a rapid turn of events, I went from a picture of wellness to a picture of mental illness. Clinically diagnosed with anorexia, my story became nothing more than a cautionary tale. (For the record, I am the same height as the winner of The Biggest Loser, and weighed just a few pounds less than her at the time of my diagnosis). People didn’t know how to act around me at my ultra-thin size, and yet, they didn’t realize that their comments were the fuel that propelled me to that position. Their praise gave me the motivation to eat less and less and work out more and more.
I’m thankful to say that I’ve experienced victory in my life over my eating disorder (it is possible!!), but I’m frightened for our culture when I see The Biggest Loser (and pretty much all other forms of media, for that matter) doing to women exactly what people did to me—celebrating, complimenting, and encouraging thinness at any cost.
So with that said, I want to have a conversation with you. Do you think The Biggest Loser is sending the wrong message by crowning a medically underweight winner?
NOTE: Please be courteous and appropriate in your comments—it’s totally okay to disagree with me, but anything that includes profanity or inconsiderate language will be deleted immediately.
P.S. For information, help and support regarding eating disorders, visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.