This is the first season that I've ever watched the Biggest Loser. I'll be honest and tell you up front that I didn't watch it religiously. There were several episodes in the middle of the season that I didn't see. As of late, I watched Makeover week and then the finale last night. But let me just tell you--I've seen enough.
All along, I liked Rachel Frederickson as a contestant. She was
someone with whom I could relate, given her young age and her competitive
drive. Her desire to be an athlete. She seemed like a wholesome, all American
twenty-something girl who just happened to get a little off track with her weight. It could
happen to anyone. It could have happened to me.
I didn't see the episode with the Biggest Loser Triathlon, but I saw some
replays of it. I saw that Rachel won, and I saw how she looked after that
event. Again, she looked happy and healthy. She proved herself as an athlete
again. From someone who has completed a triathlon, I understand the athletic endurance that the event requires. Rachel the athlete was back that day. Unfortunately, she didn't stop there, either.
The Rachel that stood on the stage at the finale last night didn't look
happy or healthy. Sure, she was smiling for the camera, sure she was
thrilled to be named the Biggest Loser and who wouldn't be thrilled to take
home that quarter of a million dollars? But when I looked into her eyes,
I didn't see a happy woman. I saw someone who had gone too far. Someone who had
become obsessed with winning and had taken losing weight to an unhealthy level.
Someone who probably had bigger problems going on inside her head than any of
us could truly know.
The Internet has been going crazy today with people criticizing both Rachel herself and NBC for "allowing" this to happen. I'm not sure that you can fault the network for "allowing this to happen" since the ultimate weight loss that caused all this concern occurred after the contestants had left the ranch. Where I personally believe NBC went wrong was by celebrating Rachel's extreme weight loss as a success. I'm not sure how they could have better handled it in the moment, but I do think the appropriate response at this point would be to issue some sort of statement to the effect of "There is such a thing as taking a diet too far. Rachel may have crossed that line. We're going to help her get the help she needs and get back to a healthy weight."
Body image issues are a real thing. And they are a serious problem. I'd say that overall I'm a confident person and I love myself for who I am, but I have certainly had my fair share of body image issues. I imagine most women have at some point in time or another. It's partially due to society--women are given this idea of "perfection" through Hollywood movies and television shows, from exceedingly thin women on the covers of magazines or from their favorite musicians who are much too thin. As a naturally big boned girl (I'm not just saying that--I think my size 11 women's shoes speak for themselves), I don't remember a time in my young adult life when I wasn't caught up with my weight and wishing I was thinner. Even now, in the second trimester of my first pregnancy, I'm battling body image issues every day. Am I gaining too much weight? Why do I look (at least in my own mind) fat and not pregnant yet? These aren't healthy questions--but they are honest ones that have crossed my own mind. I think the reason I have to struggle with them is because body image has been an issue for me for so long--I don't know how to not worry when I see the number increase on the scale or when my clothes start to fit different. Even when it's happening for a totally natural and wonderful reason.
At the end of the day, none of us know what is going on inside Rachel's head. Maybe she feels like she finally "made it" and maybe her doctor has told her she's at a healthy weight. But mostly, regardless of what the scale says or what size dress she has on, I hope the same thing for Rachel and for every other woman out there that I hope for my daughter--I hope she learns to love and accept herself for who she is. I hope she learns to find her healthy weight and a happy place in life--and I hope she maintains that for a very long time to come.