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'Biggest Loser' winner Rachel Frederickson spotlights dark side of weight loss

When does a healthy diet become dangerous?
When does a healthy diet become dangerous?
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

When Rachel Frederickson stepped on "The Biggest Loser" scale and weighed a shockingly low 105 pounds, she won the cash prize. But she also earned unwanted attention as critics contended that she had an eating disorder. And the spotlight on the dark side of weight loss became stronger. Now experts are sharing their views on the dangers of seeking to be thin at any cost, reported Shape magazine on April 3.

In particular, health professionals are concerned about the premise of "The Biggest Loser," which is to "lose weight at any cost."

And the show is particularly risky for those who might be predisposed to eating disorders, said Connie Quinn, director of the Renfrew Center of New York.

"Creating a contest around this huge public health issue really is a very dangerous proposition," she said. "It really puts people who are extremely vulnerable emotionally and physically at high risk. You've got cardiac issues, physical injury, extreme weight loss."

Season three finalist Kai Hibbard reported that as a result of her time on "The Biggest Loser,"she developed an eating disorder. Many of the show's contestants have experienced related problems, from sleep issues to anxiety.

The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) reports that only one in 10 people with eating disorders receive treatment. An estimated 24 million people suffer from eating disorders in the United States.

And those who do receive treatment at eating disorder centers must be willing to take the risk of revealing how they feel about their bodies, overcoming their fear of gaining weight to get well. For an inside look at the lives of some of these women, director Lauren Greenfield documented the daily rituals, therapies and personal stories of recovery and relapse at Renfrew Center in her award-winning documentary "Thin" (click for details).

In addition, Lauren authored a book "Thin" that combines her photographs with in-depth interviews and journal entries from twenty girls and women who are suffering from various types of eating disorders. Among the heart-breaking quotes from the book about achieving the "ideal" weight: "If it takes dying to get there, so be it."

The book also includes essays on the sociology and science of eating disorders by renowned researchers Joan Jacobs Brumberg, Dr. David Herzog, and Dr. Michael Strober.

Other recommended books about anorexia include "Wintergirls" and the novel (different from the documentary book) "Thin."

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