Years ago when I smoked cigarettes and sat on the couch eating Skippy peanut butter out of a vat with chocolate chip chasers I’d watch the Biggest Loser and feel bad about myself then switch to ice cream or Oreos or perhaps both. The Biggest Loser became sort of running joke for a couple years between my wife and I; we’d laugh at our culinary shortcomings and watch people of all ages transform their bodies from the morbidly obese to the fit and functional, and some even to the athletic and svelte.
Eventually my wife and I ditched some bad habits. Perhaps it was having Bob, Jillian, and Dolvette silently mock us season after season, but we finally joined the YMCA near our home. It was rough and I can still remember my first workout, a 3-2-1 group workout (a glutton for punishment) that was 3 minutes of hell, 2 minutes of devil worship, and 1 minute of having my fingernails pulled out 1 by 1, repeated over and over again for what felt like eternity. Let’s not be confused here, I only did 50% of what everyone else did, and the other 50% of the time I cried or gasped for my last breath of air or both – being the only male in class this only doubled the shame I felt as I watched any ego get stomped out by the 60 year old grandmother, Sophie, who was on her second class of the day.
Time passes and heals all muscles, although very slowly in the beginning. My endurance picked up, I was able to run the mile. I hadn’t run a mile in ever. Even in high school I walked the mile, in protest, because I couldn’t run it mainly. Pounds started falling off, and dietary practices began changing. My wife worked hard to clean up our food choices; we’re now to the point where we eat mostly whole food – I still cheat too often. I ran my first (and second) 5k’s and am shooting for a (sprint) triathlon this summer – all of this while undergoing two shoulder surgeries. It’s been 2 years now, and I’m down 30-40lbs of fat weight and added who knows how much lean muscle, and I feel better than I have in ever. I trashed my body with bad choices for most of my life so I’m grateful it stuck around and decided to still work. I find myself today teaching two Spin classes a week at my Y, and seriously considering going after personal trainer certification. I credit the show Biggest Loser for helping motivate me, for developing and showcasing individuals who change their body, mind and soul. These individuals go from Death’s door to living rich full and active lives, many of whom use their experience to motivate others to create their own success stories.
This past season of the Biggest Loser ended with what can only be described as a monumental fail, an epic fail – the very idea that the Biggest Loser champions against – ill health. The winner, Rachel Frederickson, lost 60% of her total body weight, finishing at 105 pounds. She looked emaciated and in very ill health. Bob and Jillian, the show’s two most veteran trainers looked at her in horror, as well they should.
I by no means consider Rachel to be a bad person for her results; I think she just simply wanted to win too badly. By no standards does she even remotely resemble a healthy person. In the previous episode she looked fit and athletic, there was no way that she could have safely lost the remaining weight she did.
I don’t know if there is fault to be cast, but I believe that the Biggest Loser needs to regroup and evaluate their criteria for a winner. Healthy living and healthy weight should be the standard by which Biggest Loser should brand itself. Rachel Frederickson embodied neither and there is no justification for how she looked. Allowing her to win sets an ugly precedent, and if the show or trainers don’t address what has happened then I fear that a future contestant may pay the ultimate price in trying to win. Losing weight and changing one’s life is something to be championed, we should all seek to live healthy, stay active, and help others do the same when you are able. The Biggest Loser will certainly face criticism and backlash, and I’m sure they’ll weather the storm; I however, will not continue watching the show until this issue has been addressed. I encourage others to put pressure on the show to acknowledge the pitfalls and dangers that Rachel has placed herself in by losing an unhealthy amount of weight. This season the biggest loser was the Biggest Loser.