The Biggest Loser winner Rachel Frederickson has recently taken a lot of heat for her dramatic weight loss–an initiative that reduced the 260-pound voice over actor to a feathery 105-pound skeleton. Critics of Frederickson claim she utilized unhealthy practices for an edge in The Biggest Loser weigh-in, but she claims she did it all in a healthy manner.
But let’s think about this; on a show that only rewards you if you lose weight, is there really “a healthy manner?”
Here is my issue with The Biggest Loser. Yes, it does convey lots of helpful weight loss tools and practices to it contestants, but those contestants are only rewarded if they lose the most weight. These people are in need of a lifestyle change, and the only lifestyle change they’re getting is Pavlovian conditioning at its finest: You lose weight, you win.
The lessons we should be learning about lifestyle change are that you master portion control, you win. Or you find a workout you enjoy, you win. Everything is focused on the weight loss, which is a fleeting thing. After all, weight loss is always followed by weight gain. If the focus of the show were truly on changing these people’s unhealthy lifestyles, then their success wouldn’t be measured in pounds.
Do Biggest Loser contestants push too hard?
Because success is quantitative on Loser, contestants push themselves to lose as many pounds as possible as quickly as possible. Their transformation is all about what the scale reads, which is merely a physical transformation. The show’s concept of “winning” doesn’t put any emphasis on how contestants are learning to eat better, control cravings, and battle emotional distress. While these are all things discussed on the show, it isn’t the premise for who wins and who loses. Would Frederickson have dropped to such an extreme low weight if winning hadn’t relied on number of pounds lost?
I believe The Biggest Loser contestants are, for the most part, coming out of the experience better individuals. What I don’t believe is that the “contest” aspect is the healthiest way to go about losing weight. People will do some pretty crazy things to win, and even if Frederickson wasn’t employing dangerous means to shed the most weight, someone else will.
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Anna is a freelance writer/producer based out of San Francisco. Her writing covers several genres, but her passion lies in humor, entertainment, education and culture.