Biggest Loser's Stunning Weight Change Brings Up Conversations About Body Image And Disordered Eating

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On Tuesday, Rachel Frederickson was declared the winner of Biggest Loser’s fifteenth season, after shedding roughly 60% of her bodyweight. Unfortunately for Frederickson, the new figure and $250 000 prize check came with a hefty dose of criticism online. The 5-foot-4, 24-year-old Frederickson dropped from 260 pounds to 105 under the show’s rigorous exercise and diet regimen, and time spent on her own before the finale, making a lot of people wonder whether that much weight loss in a short amount of time wouldn’t be harmful to the contestant’s health. According to “experts” quoted by the Washington Post, however, the criticism levied against her and increased media attention on her persona could prove more harmful to Frederickson’s health than the rapid weight change.

Jillian Michaels, Sweat USA Festival
Even the notoriously demanding Jillian Michaels seemed surprised by Friederickson's sudden change.

According to her bio on the show, Frederickson was a three-time state champion swimmer at Stillwater Area High School in Minnesota, then turned to sweets for solace after a failed romance with a foreign exchange student she followed to his native Germany. It’s not a story seen often outside of romantic comedies, but apparently it’s all true.

Fredericksen’s weight loss during her self-imposed regimen seemed to surprise even trainers Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper during the show’s Tuesday night finale. She lost over 150 pounds, bringing her BMI (body mass index) to a number below the normal range, said Jillian Lampert, senior director of the Emily Program, an eating disorder treatment program based in St. Paul, Minn.

Bob Harper, Planet Hollywood
A stunned Bob Harper congratulated Frederickson on her loss.

Nevertheless, leaning too strongly in the other direction and criticizing Frederickson for her newly thin frame, can be just as harmful as pushing her towards extreme weight loss in the first place, says Lampert for the WP. “As a society we often criticize people for being at higher weights — that’s part of why we have the TV show ‘The Biggest Loser’ — and then we feel free to criticize lower weight,” she explains.

During an appearance on “Access Hollywood,” Frederickson didn’t directly respond to the criticism but said she intends to live a healthy lifestyle going forward. “My journey was about finding that confident girl again. Little by little, challenge by challenge, that athlete came out. And it sparked inside me this feeling that I can do anything I can conceive. And I found that girl, and I’m just going to embrace her fully,” she said.

Bob Harper, Jillian Michaels
The trainers coached the contestants through most of the process, but they were on their own for the final stretch.


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