Weighing In on the “Biggest Loser” Controversy (and Bad Puns)

Biggest Loser_Rachel

A few years back, I watched the “Biggest Loser” regularly. I liked the feel-good stories and the fact that the cast of participants wanted to pursue a healthier lifestyle. But, as often happens, I got sidetracked with other shows.

The “Biggest Loser” recently came back to my attention because of the recent winner, Rachel Frederickson. There is a controversy centered around the question: “Did she lose too much weight?” I was going to write this off, but then I realized that the previous question is linked to “How thin is too thin?”—an inquiry that hits home for me.

As someone who has hovered between 110 and 115 pounds her entire adult life, this is an issue I face regularly. Because I’m on the taller side (or tall enough not to be counted as “short”), my slight frame seems unhealthy to some. I know what you may be thinking: “What do you have to complain about? You’re thin!” Yes, I know. And I’m grateful.  What I’m not grateful for are the remarks:

“There’s nothing to you!”

“Do you eat?”

“Oh, you’re thin…too thin.”

“I’ll have to feed you more so you can put a little weight on!”

While these remarks are generally well-intentioned or meant as a joke, they hurt. Am I less of a person because I’m slender? Do I look sick? Why can’t we focus on something else other than what I (or you or her or anyone else) looks like? I, and everyone else, are more than the sum of our body parts. But back to my main point…

Did Rachel lose too much weight? I feel I don’t have the proper information to say yes or no, largely because one must take into account two components (the physical and the emotional/mental).

First, the physical: If she is tall, weighing 105 pounds may not be healthy for her from a purely biological standpoint.  Additionally, when you are in the low 100 weight range, 5 or 10 pounds looks like a big difference and, depending on how tall you are, can impact you significantly. Lastly, losing a lot of weight is OK as long as it is spaced out. How long did it take her to lose the 155 pounds?

Now, the emotional: Perhaps my biggest concern is how does Rachel view her weight loss? Does she see herself as too thin or, perhaps, not thin enough?

While I have, thankfully, never had an issue with food, since Rachel began this journey overweight, I wonder if she now has a healthy body image. Losing weight (or trying to maintain it) is very much a psychological journey.

Though my weight isn’t too far off from Rachel’s current weight, I’m aware that there should be a balance. What I mean by this is because Rachel began at a heavy weight, my concern would be that she won’t find balance between a healthy weight and, perhaps, her desire to stay thin and not revert back to habits that could make her overweight again (which could cause her to overcompensate by continuing to lose weight even though she is healthy).

My personal conclusion: If Rachel’s weight is healthy for her height, if she lost the weight in a reasonable amount of time, and if she views herself in a good way and maintains a healthy lifestyle, let’s just be happy for her. (Well, we should be happy for her regardless, but I’m a huge proponent of taking action if a problem/misperception exists).

Time for you to weigh in: What are your thoughts on weight loss and/or this particular controversy? Do you have a particular weight that you deem “too thin” or “unhealthy”?

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6 thoughts on “Weighing In on the “Biggest Loser” Controversy (and Bad Puns)

  1. For a very long time, I’ve dealt with a lot of the same sort of comments. At 5’5″ I came in (pre-pregnancy) at 110-115 lbs. I would always get comments like “Do you eat?” and “You’re so skinny”, which never struck me as complements because, quite frankly, “skinny” implies a malnutrition (and considering I could pack away quite a bit of food, the insinuation was annoying). Even my father, when I was a teenager, would go on and on about how boys don’t find skinny girls attractive, and I should stop losing weight (which I wasn’t — I always maintained my weight). I know they come from a well-intentioned place, but it gets old after a while. Those weren’t even the worst of them, though. When I was working in food service, people would get downright mean, or actually call comments out like, “Why don’t you eat something!” or “You’re so damn cold because you don’t eat” (I had made a comment to a coworker that I was chilly, and it was overheard by a customer). Complete strangers felt the need to weigh in on my health because of my body type. I have even had someone tell me that nothing I said mattered when discussing body-image issues in society and how they are portrayed because everything I said would just be “thin-splaining”.

    In the end, I will always go back to what my pediatrician told my mother when I was little. If you are happy and healthy at the weight you’re at, then there’s nothing wrong with it. Period. I’ll be honest when I say, looking at the photo of Rachel, that I think she looks more slender than might be healthy, but if she is, indeed, happy and healthy then there really isn’t much more we can ask :)

    • I know what you mean, Addy. My pediatrician told my mom the same thing, but comments abound. I’ve always thought it was interesting that people feel they can freely comment on the weight of a slender person, but feel it’s wrong to comment on the weight of someone who is overweight because it might hurt their feelings. How about we stick to the kindergarten adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? I will also admit she looks a bit thinner than looks healthy, but hey, apparently a few people feel the same way about us. And true, if she is happy and healthy, then she’s got a lead on a lot of people.

      • I think it is probably because “thin” is seen as such an ideal that us “thin” people love to be called skinny and malnourished LOL Unfortunately, the minute we indicate that, perhaps, we don’t, we’re being contrary because, hey, they were paying us a complement. It’s ingrained that being “overweight” is a bad thing, while being skinny is a “good” thing. Most people don’t see “healthy” and “unhealthy”, which is sad.

      • The whole “healthy”/”unhealthy” thing is a really good point since those words mean different things based on someone’s physical makeup. Ha, and so true that the thin “insults” can be quickly covered up. My hope is that one day society can move past looks.

    • Brenda, I will agree that it seems she is more slender than is healthy. I do worry that perhaps since she began her journey overweight, she may overcompensate or feel she doesn’t have a problem because she’s simply trying to keep the weight off. Hopefully that is not the case. Thanks for your input!

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