Last night, Feb. 4, was the finale of Biggest Loser Season 15, but the winner presented a more controversial front than the show was hoping, bringing more negative than positive press to the show. Rachel Frederickson, 24, was declared the winner of Season 15, but the reaction to her win was for the judges and the public to be appalled at the drastic amount of weight Rachel had lost and her sickly appearance.
After having lost 60% of her body weight, Rachel appeared to claim her prize and won not only $250,000, but also an outcry of concern from viewers across the country. In some pictures, there is even present the visibly shocked faces of the judges and other contestants. Twitter followers chimed in with their own objections and images of the judges' reactions to Rachel have gone viral.
However, the most disturbing part about this is not that the winner of this season is unhealthily thin. Instead, it is it is that viewers have applauded and watched as the Biggest Loser instilled regimens of drastic weight loss and excessive exercise for participants in 15 seasons, and only now, when there is someone visibly showing the toll of that regimen, is there an outcry. We know that extreme dieting can cause eating disorders, even in individuals without a history or predisposition, but as a society, we also love extreme 'before' and 'afters' without a thought to the damage it does to the body and mind to go through such a drastic transformation.
The Biggest Loser approaches weight loss in the most unhealthy and publicly humiliating way. It encourages an entire country to participate in weight stigma, to consider weight loss as the ultimate achievement, and illustrating that no one can be happy when they are heavy. Yes, it is important to address obesity as a public health issue, but we cannot tackle one problem while creating another.
This time it is obvious that the show pushed a participant too far, caring only about the total percent of body weight lost rather than focusing on her health. However, why is there not concern over the other participants who were also exposed to this dangerous regimen? Will Rachel serve as an example of why shows like this (and this weight loss 'at any cost' mentality) is dangerous to both physical and mental health?
These are questions that society will have to answer and it will remain to be seen whether, once the initial outcry is over, we go back to being spectators of such a dangerous game.