"The Biggest Loser" winner Rachel Frederickson said the anorexia controversy her 155-pound weight loss stirred was challenging, but it ultimately made her stronger.
"I could ignore [the controversy] because I was really proud of the work I did," Frederickson told Us. "And something I really learned was that I can't be judgmental of myself or others. You never know what someone else is dealing with. I know how I lost the weight, and I know that I did it healthfully and naturally."
The 5-foot-4 Rachel, who previously weighed 260 pounds, slimmed down to 105 pounds and was named the winner of season 15 of "The Biggest Loser."
Frederickson's emaciated body on finale night (Feb. 5) stirred rumors that she was suffering from the eating disorder anorexia or bulimia, but she insisted her weight loss was healthy, and she did not starve herself.
Rachel, 24, has since gained 20 pounds and now weighs a healthy 125 pounds. Frederickson was stunned by the onslaught of criticism surrounding her extreme weight loss, but said the backlash has made her more self-confident.
That's what I wanted to go on the 'Biggest Loser' for, to find my confidence and my self-worth. And I have found it! I found it when I stepped on that stage. And through the backlash and the controversy, I'm helping others find theirs, too."
Frederickson's skeletal appearance on finale night drew stunned gasps from longtime "Biggest Loser" trainers Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper. Michaels recently blamed Frederickson's trainer, Dolvett Quince, for letting Rachel to go too far with her weight loss.
"I look to Dolvett to really answer to this," said Jillian, author of Slim for Life. "We, as trainers, are allowed to talk to our contestants when they go home. Rachel [was] Dolvett's contestant."
Jillian said she stays in touch with her contestants after they leave the Biggest Loser ranch to monitor their progress, so Quince should have kept tabs to make sure that Frederickson's weight loss wasn't extreme or unhealthy.
Quince, the author of the bestselling The 3-1-2-1 Diet, insisted Rachel lost weight the healthy way and asked fans not to jump to conclusions.
Frederickson's super-skinny appearance caused outrage among "Biggest Loser" fans, who said selecting someone who looks unhealthy as the winner sends the wrong message. Show executives said they will tweak the weight-loss competition to provide more support and check-ins for the contestants after they leave the Biggest Loser ranch.
Despite the avalanche of criticism she faced, Rachel is glad to have opened up a debate on body image and healthy weight loss. "It started a discussion about body image," she said.
"I have so many people who will come up to me and say, 'Thank you. I've been criticized for being too thin or too tall or whatever — and now I can stand up and be proud and not let that affect me. Now I can really love myself. I think that's pretty powerful."