The finale of the extreme weight loss reality show The Biggest Loser was Tuesday night, and it seems one of the contestants (the winner) finally went too far for viewers. Rachel Frederickson, who went home from the competition with a $250,000 check, lost 160 pounds over the course of about 5 months. At 5'4", she is now 105 pounds. (The photo at left shows Rachel with a hologram of her "before" self.)
As soon as she came out for the big reveal, fans started tweeting about how thin she'd gotten. Even the show's trainers, Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper, seemed alarmed:
Reaction of the trainers on the biggest loser to Rachel.. Clearly something isn't right pic.twitter.com/QmXuCXi6v0— Nikki-Taylor Dow (@nikktayyy) February 5, 2014
Update, 5:15 pm: Jillian tweeted this message about the reaction to Rachel's weight loss:
Some viewers think Rachel looks "ill":
Rachel lost so much weight on the biggest loser, she almost looks ill .-.— Sarah (@Sarahelsunni) February 5, 2014
rachel frederickson looked really unhealthy on #BLFinale :( She lost too much weight. Congrats to her, but that's unhealthy.— TDP Official (@the_dna_project) February 5, 2014
RACHEL FREDERICKSON on biggest loser looks like she is suffering from an eating disorder.— Adrienne Hayes (@wwwadriennecom) February 5, 2014
But for her part, Rachel seemed happy with her win and her weight loss. She has not commented on the complaints that she looks too thin.
Plenty of viewers, young women especially, use The Biggest Loser as inspiration. They post about the show on Tumblr and track each contestant's weight loss, measuring it against their own. Some teens are now worried that they're too thin themselves, in light of the Rachel criticisms. One user posts:
Others are now worried about Rachel, even though they once found her inspirational:
To be clear, you absolutely cannot diagnose someone with an eating disorder by looking at them. You can't tell whether someone is healthy or unhealthy by looking at them. Which is pretty much the problem with The Biggest Loser in the first place — it's a "health" competition based entirely on the way you look and the number on the scale. While obesity is a certainly a problem in the U.S., a high-stakes reality competition show is the last thing that's going to solve it.
The Biggest Loser has long been criticized for glamorizing weight-loss-at-all-costs and pushing contestants too far. Kai Hibbard, who competed on the show in 2006, says the intense training regimen gave her "PTSD." She claims that the show's producers encouraged contestants to diet by dehydration and avoid liquids leading up to weigh-ins. Kai dropped 144 pounds during her time on the show, but has since gained some weight back. Another former contestant, posted this message to Facebook after watching last night's finale:
NBC has not commented on the backlash.