Coming Clean

One woman’s honest quest to clean up her unhealthy life for herself and her family.

Experience Life Magazine

No Fooling

The physical, biological side of my body is much smarter than the emotional side. I learned that lesson again tonight.

I had a craving for a BLT and root beer — you know, like the good ol’ days when I ate whatever I wanted an ignored any odd after effects like cramping, burping, and bloating. No substitute seemed like it would satisfy this desire (a lettuce wrap for a BLT with a sparkling water?), so I decided to go for it.

And I paid for it.

Withing 30 minutes, I was burping and caught the hiccups. So I drank some water. Then I felt some pain in my stomach and look down to notice it was larger than usual, bloated with gas. I started getting a slight headache, and within the hour I was paying an extended visit to the bathroom.

I had it coming.

It’s not the first time I’ve tried to reintroduce breads. I’ve also tried with cheese and sour cream. But inevitably, I bloat and within a day or two, my skin starts to break out. Every time.

Sometimes I rationale that I can handle the “discomfort,” and that’s all it is — but there’s so much more to food intolerances than just the symptoms. Dr. Mark Hyman talks about food sensitivities, intolerances, and allergies at length in his books, and notes that often these reactions are symptomatic of a larger problem of body-wide inflammation. So, I may just be burping, but it’s worse inside for my body and cells. Which just makes me sad.

So no more tricking my body. The taste of those foods is fleeting, but the repercussions aren’t worth it.

Read more about food allergies and breaking food addictions in Dr. Hyman’s piece, “Beating Food Addiction,” from the March issue.


Experience Life Magazine

Weather Watcher

My father has always been tuned in to the weather. Every morning, he’d be one of the first ones up, checking the weather reports on the news and reading the paper. Now that he’s retired and an active Facebook user, all of his online friends can also benefit from his re-posts of weather updates.

The worst scenario, he aimed to teach us, was to be caught in the elements unprepared. Never too hot or too cold, and keep your hands, face, and feet protected. My mother, a nurse who spent many years in the burn unit and saw the unfortunate consequences of inadequate winter gear on the appendages, reinforced this sensibility.

Yet, up until 2009 or 2010, I’d say, I didn’t fully absorb this message. If it felt too cold outside, instead of purchasing the right gear, I’d just stay inside to read a magazine or watch TV. Too hot? I’d rather enjoy the air conditioning. I remember one sad summer when I was maybe 12 or 13, and my mother pleaded with me to go outside and help with her garden. Being a tween and it being too hot, I felt, it was best to stay inside, talk on the phone with my friends while watching our favorite shows, and eat Doritos.

No wonder it took me so long to truly enjoy the outdoors. Avoidance is one surefire way to create both fear and unnecessary anxiety.

Curiously, I also married a man who shares my father’s keenness for weather watching. Kyle’s morning report includes road conditions, impending snow, and a discussion on whether or not I should let my car “warm up” before getting on the road. He’ll also give me a rundown of the afternoon report, so I can plan for my commute.

I find it charming from both of these men in my life, but I also wonder why I seemed so indifferent to the weather all these years, especially when I live in a state that has all four seasons (sometimes three-and-a-half, depending on how long the winter lasts). Was nature really that uninteresting?

The more I’ve learned to understand my body, the more I care about my environment. These past few years of working on my weight loss, I’ve started enjoying sunny days — instead of dreading how much I’d sweat, which would surely be a lot (I still sweat, but much less since I dropped the extra weight). When the snow falls, I get excited to snowshoe. Even the rain, which suggests a nice break to read a book or nap, means greener grass and rosier flower petals.

Being more in tune with nature has showed me other perks:

  • I sleep better. I wake up easier. Although I’m still working on my sleeping schedule (the conclusion of March ends Sleep Awareness Month, but my work continues!), I’ve noticed a shift in better-quality sleep when I spend more time outdoors and when I exercise. And try as I might to sleep in on the weekends, I can’t fight the morning sun shining in through my window. The sunrise wakes me up, and I’ve been spending my quiet mornings reading.
  • I understand my own energy levels and needs better. When it’s really hot, I can feel my body move at a snail’s pace. The heat is draining, and I allow for more lounging. If my body needs rest, I respect that. Those images of neighbors on their front porch, drinking ice tea and fanning themselves on hot nights? Completely sensible and necessary.
  • StPaulWinterMarketI have a greater appreciation for farmers and healthy food. Fresh, organic strawberries in the winter in Minnesota can run upwards of $8 (California friends, I know that’s pretty standard). In the summer, I can buy them for $3 or $4, or I can pick them fresh at a nearby orchard. Eating seasonally makes sense, to both my wallet and my taste buds. The St. Paul Farmers’ Market stays open year-round, but in the winter, the farmers are selling mostly meats, root vegetables, apples, and an assortment of wreaths and mini decorative pine trees. (Pictured at right: Me on our visit, January 2012.) few years back, I went with my friend and chatted with a farmer helper from Farm on Wheels. He had just turned 21, but I was shocked at how mature he seemed. He spoke eloquently about his products and their farm practices, and I couldn’t help but think how opposite my 21-year-old self would have been compared to him. He seemed to have an innate value for the importance of hard labor, and showed pride in the rewards his farm reaped. I really admired that trait, and grew a new reverence for farm life. (Read more from one of my favorite farmers here.)

Can a better me come from loving and respecting the environment surrounding me? Most definitely.



Experience Life Magazine

Signs of Spring

Happy First Day of Spring! I don’t know about you, but this long, cold winter has me ready for the change of seasons like no year before.

When it’s started to get warmer these past few weeks (which is about 40+ in Minnesota), I’ve pulled out the short-sleeve tees. My coworker, Laine, celebrated a recent warm day with a pair of heels that showed a bit of skin. Our rationale: If it’s true that you dress for the job you want, then maybe the rule transfers to dressing for the weather you want. To be sure, I’ve been adding in more pastels, too. I figure it can only help to pull out all the stops when it comes to ushering out the great Polar Vortex of 2013–14. (Our local paper, the Star Tribune, tallied all the numbers for our state and their design team came up with an “I Survived” snowflake badge for social media.)

Combined with more sunlight in the evening thanks to Daylight Savings, the vernal equinox has shifted my outlook. I’ll admit the cold, dark days got to me, and I often felt like I was walking around in a fog, like Pig Pen with his ever-present dirt cloud in Charlie Brown. But now I’m feeling a bounce in my step, and more optimism as I consider all the beauty in the day-to-day and the possibilities for 2014.

Take this morning discovery, for example: As Kyle and I made our way out the door, we noticed that these tiny plants beneath the pine tree in our front yard had survived the beast of this winter. The yard had mountains of snow piled up, but deep below, the green leaves made it. Perhaps the snow preserved them, as if they were frozen in time. The sight of these perennials made me positively giddy.

The snow will melt, the seasons will change, and like these little plants, we are born anew.


Vernal equinox fun fact: Although the name implies that the length of day is exactly equal to the length of night on today’s vernal equinox, that is, in fact, incorrect. The equality of light usually happens before the vernal equinox, according to Geoff Chester, a public affairs specialist with the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. The definition of “vernal equinox” stems from when the center of the sun passes over the Equator. Read more in this piece from National Geographic.

Experience Life Magazine

Inspirational Stories: Stephen Preusz

Stephen Preusz’s story about his sudden diagnosis of kidney failure at the age of 29 hit home. Here’s a healthy guy, one who was an athlete in high school and college, and who participated in several Strongman Challenges in his 20s, and then he starts to feel like he’s getting the flu. As his symptoms get worse, his then-fiancée/now-wife, Ashley, brings him to the emergency room, and subsequent testing reveals he had 6 percent kidney function.

He was in end-stage kidney failure.

Earlier that evening, he was watching the Oklahoma-Texas football game with his brother, who had flown in from Indiana to celebrate his birthday. Later, he noticed that his ankles were swollen, and he woke up at 2 a.m. sweaty and began vomiting profusely. Ashley brings him to the hospital and one of the first checks for blood pressure was wildly high, at 220/120 (normal ranges are below 120/80).

His kidney failure was spurred by a previously undiagnosed autoimmune-related disease, IGA nephropathy. And with autoimmune diseases on the rise (read more here), I found his story frightening and all too real. Our family has been touched by the autoimmune disease lupus, and we sadly lost my lovely aunt, Myla, in 1980, after her body rejected her kidney transplant.

There are so many people waiting for a kidney transplant, as Steve points out in his blog posts, and since his transplant, he started a nonprofit, A Charitable Life, to help other patients with the enormous costs accrued during the process.

Read more about Steve’s story here, and hear more from him in our video interview below.

Experience Life Magazine

Lifting Weights and My Confidence

Shortly after the moving last summer and stopping my regular boot-camp-style workouts, I noticed the return of some resistance to exercise. Specifically weightlifting, which I had grown to love. Burpees, jumping jacks, pushups I could do, anything body weight, really, but picking up the weights made me nervous.

The kettlebell press was a breeze in June 2013. (Photo by Stephanie Glaros.)

The kettlebell press was a breeze in June 2013. (Photo by Stephanie Glaros.)

For about three years, I had been weightlifting with a personal trainer and then with a small group under the watchful eye of said personal trainer. I would occasionally work out and lift weights on my own, but since my group met three times — and we’d lift heavy, which was empowering (and led to faster results) — I usually relied on that time alone for my weekly exercise.

Then after the shift in my program, I’d swing a kettlebell but ventured less into the weight room. I started to doubt my ability to lift, and lift heavy, and fear kept me thinking I’d hurt myself without proper supervision. If I were just starting out, it’s a valid concern, but I had been doing this for a while.

Thoughtful rationale wasn’t in charge. It was my own fear, my own slowly lowering self-esteem that told me I couldn’t. It’s been hanging on throughout the winter, and I’ve been trying to trace its roots so I can exterminate.

My conclusion? The simple fact that I stopped lifting weights. When I was regularly lifting weights, I felt strong not just in the gym but in life. Since I’ve stopped lifting or only been sporadic, I’ve started to feel less confident overall, old body-image issues have cropped up, and I hesitated in going to the gym at all because I felt unsure of what to do while I was there.

So I asked for help. I started meeting with a personal trainer again, and recently, I nearly accomplished one of my goals I shared with him when I started. Even though I used to lift heavy, I don’t recall being able to go big for deadlifts. I told trainer Mike that I wanted to get to 100 pounds, then eventually the same amount as my body weight.

We started with the 45-pound bar so he could watch my form. So far so good, just a few issues in loosening my lower back at the bottom of the squat, so we remedied. Then he added weight so I could lift 65 pounds. All good.

Then — THEN! — Mike suggested I just lift a bar at 95 pounds, just hold it up off the rack to get a feel for the weight. When I did and said it wasn’t too heavy, we decided to have me give it a try.

And then, my friends, not only did I complete one rep at 95 pounds, I completed two. Two! Huzzah!

That weekend, I felt happier, lighter, prouder, and a bit invincible. What’s that? Problem at the mill, old boy? I’ll be the hero! I did deadlift 95 pounds, after all.

My confidence was improved, my muscles, however, were sore. My quads were so sore, in fact, that I hobbled around for nearly a week. (That’s one way to deflate this newly rebuilt confidence.) Alas, more dynamic stretching, foam rolling, and no doubt, more squats and deadlifts will be needed in the future to make my body more comfortable. But, man, it sure feels good to regain that power.

Experience Life Magazine

Inspiration: Great Oscar Speeches

Updated March 4, 5:57 p.m. CST. I was told to watch Lupita Nyong’o's speech for Best Supporting Actress and had to include her on this list. See video below.

In seventh grade, I gave a speech on diversity to my classmates. It focused on my multiracial family, and I brought pictures to help explain my family tree and discuss how we’ve handled negative reactions from strangers. It was a modest lecture given my age, but my classmates were gracious and seemingly intrigued.

I couldn’t imagine giving a speech to a large audience, let alone on live television to a worldwide network (oh, and it’ll be recorded and shared online for all to see always). So of course I was in awe of the acceptance speeches at tonight’s Oscars.

My two favorites were Matthew McConaughey for Best Actor in Dallas Buyers Club, who thanked God, his late father, his mother, his wife and children, and talked about the person he’s always chasing: “Me in 10 years!” We’re all striving to be our best selves, and McConaughey’s evolution from Dazed and Confused and the star of many a rom-com to today’s impressive roles in DBC and True Detective (HBO) have earned him the Twitter hashtag #McConaissance.

And I couldn’t help but love the sweet speech from Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, who won Best Original Song for “Let It Go” for Frozen. They rhymed and sang, but then ended with the song’s dedication to their daughters: “Katie and Annie: This song is inspired by our love for you and the hope that you never let fear or shame keep you from celebrating the unique people that you are.” Lovely, and such a great message.

We didn’t catch all of 3-hour-some broadcast. What were your favorite moments?

Updated March 3, 5:57 p.m. CST, Lupita Nyong’o: “When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”

Also, a must-see from Lupita’s acceptance speech for Best Breakthrough Performance at the Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon hosted by Essence magazine, in which she shares part of a letter from a little girl about learning to see herself as beautiful no matter her skin color. Lupita’s wisdom: “What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you.”

Experience Life Magazine

Revising Resolutions: March Is My New January

This was the year I finally let go of the pressure to make my resolutions happen in January. I’ve held onto this vision of waking up on January 1 with all new habits that make a good life even better. I imagine myself on schedule and on point every day through the spring and then suddenly, one day, those resolutions are simply integrated into my reality.

It sounds dreamy, but January and February are cold here in Minnesota. This year we had more snowfall than usual, which would have been wonderful to play in for the most part, but we’ve also had single-digit and below-zero temperatures and wind-chill advisories that make it hard to enjoy time outside. And it seemed to take more energy this season to shovel, then warm up, then drive on icy roads, and repeat once the work day is done.

With my energy drained, it’s no wonder I caught a bad cold bug that was making its way around. Then this happened on February 20–21:

ChloeTree022014Snow everywhere, more than the weatherpersons predicted. The plow companies worked all day and all night for two days to clear it. I didn’t see a single car drive down my road until 4:30 on Friday. I sat in my home coughing and holding my aching head feeling trapped and annoyed and frustrated that I couldn’t go outside and enjoy it.

But both the snow and cold bug did give me the chance to reflect. In fact, as busy as the new year has been thus far, I think getting sick was my body’s way of forcing me to slow down, sleep more, and be quiet.

So I thought about those resolutions I’ve been pondering: get better sleep, reinstate a regular fitness program, be early for my appointments, eat more fermented foods, etc. I remembered our fitness almanac story, and how the experts advised using the beginning of the year to experiment with new routines and foods and more, and wait to start a new program until the spring. Biologically it makes more sense: There’s more sunlight in the spring, the weather warms up, and soon, we’ll be able to open our windows and let the fresh air inside. (Soon, right?)

If I allow January and February to always be my time for reflection and experimentation, then it’s decided: March will be my month to ramp it up. Onward, readers!


Experience Life Magazine

My Body, My Mind, Myself

After wrapping up another great call with this month’s How I’m Doing It writer, Kathe Yamagata — we recorded this chat so look for the podcast on Monday — I’m reflecting on a darker time of my weight gain.

During our call, Kathe and I talked about how it felt to lose the weight, what motivated us to keep going, and a topic that we’re both challenged by, this crucial maintenance period. At some point, we said, it’ll just feel like life as we know it, but this transition feels odd at times for several reasons, mainly because our mindset is different — and sometimes the same.

Kathe mentioned how when she walks by a mirror, she’s still taken aback. “Is that me? Oh yeah, that is!” Or how she felt looking through old photos for her story: The image of herself is so different and yet the memories are still fresh.

Seeing old pictures, I don’t recognize myself: I see a smart woman who felt it was safer to be mediocre in her work, a woman who didn’t think she had to try to be a good wife, a woman who didn’t dare dream of anything bigger because, well, that would require more energy and more attention than I thought I desired. I’ve been pulling together photos for my brother’s upcoming wedding, and the editor in me is too strong to not be critical: Oh, I couldn’t possibly include this one! Maybe if I crop it so it’s just our faces? How about we scrap the past three to four years altogether?

Recently, the Institute for the Psychology of Eating (IPE) held a free online conference (our friends at En*theos do this, too — the audio or video interviews are free at streaming time and for 24 hours afterward; fascinating topics and terrific experts, so if you see one coming up, listen in; you can often also purchase the digital files). One of the conversations was with Jon Gabriel and IPE founder Marc David. Gabriel has lost more than 220 pounds (wow!) without crazy diets or surgery (read his weight-loss story here), and talked about the concept of weight as a shield.

Biologically, it would make sense, he said, since we added and held onto weight in case of famine or location changes or seasonal changes. It was for protection from the elements. Our bodies could tap into our fat storage when food was scarce but energy was needed to outrun wild animals. Today, even though our times have changed, it can still act like a psychological barrier or blanket — we can add the weight to hide from others or our own greatness.

It completely rang true to me: After losing 35 pounds during my last year of college, my world started to open up. I started dreaming big again, thinking about travel and adventure and lofty goals. My boyfriend at the time had become my best friend, but I feared we didn’t share the same plan for our future, and so our three-year relationship came to an end. It was a very difficult time because I was sad for us and him, but I was also excited to embrace my new vision for a great big life. I entered the dating world again, which frankly terrified me (as much as I want to believe my friend Jeff who recently reminded me that I was “always such a romantic,” the entire act of courtship in your 20s felt weird to me — “out on the prowl, Cork” as Grandpa would say). Luckily I met Kyle through friends, so I wasn’t at ‘da clubs for long.

But I had regained the weight and then some after Kyle and I got married, so the idea of losing it again reminded me of that fragile time in my life. The attention from men back then was flattering, and welcome when I was newly single, but I didn’t want it now that I was married. Kyle is a confident man and we share a mutual trust, but still, that attention seemed like a threat — what if he did get jealous as I had experienced in former relationships? My only reference point for losing weight in the past included the end to an important relationship — an unexpected outcome as my mindset shifted. Where would I be at if I lost the weight again? (Or was this all just my ego getting in the way, assuming that said attention would even occur? And we wed because we shared the same vision for our lives. Did I think it would truly change if I lost weight?)

It felt safer to hide under my blanket of weight and keep the status quo. Do my work, come home, eat, watch TV, keep my head down.

Yet, it wasn’t safer. My weight was a barrier to my interactions with the world, but also to my marriage. I was hiding from everyone, including myself.

Now that I’ve dropped the weight, there are times when I think that nothing has changed. I’m doing laundry and all I have are some old sweats that I’m swimming in, and I look down and think I see the same body. Or I get sucked into my TV and see examples of women parading around in bikinis and think, I should lose more weight. I need to lose more weight.

It’s what Kathe and I talked about: So much of this is in our heads. Our minds lead our bodies, our bodies lead our minds.

This is what psychologist Michael Hall, PhD, had to say in our article, “Your Body, Reframed”:

“One part of you may be committed to the idea of losing weight, and be motivated by the idea of looking more attractive and feeling more fit,” Hall explains. “But there may be another part of you that’s not at all convinced this unfamiliar state of being is safe or desirable. It experiences the change as a threat — a danger or challenge to another important value — and so it acts to reverse it.”

So even if we think change is good, it may still feel like a threat. Have you held yourself back from positive change because it felt unsafe or scary? Let me know in the comments below, or send me an email or Tweet @clewisopdahl.

Experience Life Magazine

How My TV Bummed Me Out

Last week’s news and media cycle left me sour. Even a bit depressed.

It started on Sunday with the news of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death by way of heroin. He was a tremendous talent, yes, but why should the death of someone I don’t know upset me so? It was because Hoffman had been sober for two decades, and in the end, his addiction returned. Maybe it never really left, and that’s frightening for anyone who has struggled with addiction or who has family or friends battling addiction. And his death illuminated a growing heroin problem in America, as reported on yesterday’s This Week. I couldn’t help but find it worrisome that this cheap drug is so accessible, and with so many challenged by chronic pain, it’s a larger public health concern. It’s even turning up in the suburbs here in Minnesota.

Me and my brother watching some wholesome television programming, long before the surge of reality TV.

Me and my brother watching some wholesome television programming, long before the surge of reality TV.

I thought the Super Bowl would cheer me up with its pomp and athleticism, but we all know how that game turned out. Maybe those $4 million commercial spots would do it? Meh. The best parts of the evening were our company, Chloe’s puppy play date, and (as it usually is for me) the food, although this year we put out healthier options.

Then came Tuesday’s Biggest Loser finale, where the winner, 24-year-old Rachel Frederickson, at 5-feet-4-inches tall weighed in at 105 pounds. The Twittersphere was aghast, bloggers went wild, and some even demanded that the producers force Rachel to return the $250,000 prize money (there was even a petition started on The comments were frequently out of line and often downright cruel, many calling her anorexic and chiding her for losing too much weight.

I stayed mostly quiet while I collected the news for the blog, searching for some smart commentary, which I found in posts by both Amber Lee and Charlotte Hilton Andersen, among others. It really was our reactions that I found most jarring, people body shaming her and calling her “gross.” As Lee and Andersen point out, Rachel did exactly as she was asked: She lost the most weight. Numbers are the driving force of this competition, the scale part nemesis and part redeemer. All she had to do was put up the most percentage of body weight lost, which she did with 59.62 percent.

Last season I cheered as winner Danni Allen came out looking strong, dominating the scale with her win of 55 percent of her body weight lost. And this season, I cheered for Rachel throughout as she championed the idea of getting her life back: “I just kept thinking, ‘Run for your life, Rachel. Run to get your life back,’” she told the host after winning a triathlon in about 1 hour 32 minutes in the second to last episode, where she weighed in at 150 pounds. To me, I saw an athlete who had regained her confidence.

But something changed at the finale. Or maybe it changed on the Biggest Loser ranch and we didn’t see it. Or maybe when they spent some time at home before the reveal. Even Bobby, another finalist, said he was disappointed that he weighed in at 170 pounds and wasn’t in the 160s.

All I could think was: It was us. We all asked too much. Bigger losses = bigger ratings. Provocative headlines, on TV or in magazines or newspapers, equals bigger sales. As Lee pointed out in her blog, we’re feeding the machine. The producers could have made a different decision if they felt it was needed, but they didn’t. I could’ve turned off the TV and stopped following the story, but I didn’t. Instead, I got sucked in deeper and deeper, and my cycle of thoughts kept revolving around, “Why are we never good enough?!?”

I thought about the damage this finale would have done to my 15-year-old self, who fainted in her boyfriend’s kitchen after not eating much because 115 pounds wasn’t skinny enough if I couldn’t fit into a size-0 jeans like my friends could. Or my 5-foot-4-inch, 11-year-old self whose 120-pound weigh-in during gym class was too heavy, according to our instructor, who announced it loud enough for the other girls to hear. Or me at 163 pounds during college, or 208, or my highest at 221 just three years ago. This chasing a number on the scale, this Goldilocks hunt to find the number that is just right. Is it ever going to be right, and are we ever going to be satisfied?

Psychologist Naomi Leib told the New York Times on Friday that, “These kids see these types of TV shows and movies celebrating being skinny and they think, ‘I will be loved more if I am thin like that,’ but they are killing themselves. It’s all about the competition out there to be perfect and look thinner, and The Biggest Loser is a show that literally feeds into that.”

The NYT article also pointed to a new study about the effects of reality TV on mental health (brilliant study title: “Is Keeping Up With the Kardashians Keeping You Down?”). It’s a larger conversation that I’ve had with coworkers and I’ll continue to explore here on the blog, but it’s this feed of television, whether it’s Kardashians or Housewives or Bachelorettes, or gossip magazines shouting at us from the grocery aisle about how such-and-such celebrity lost the baby weight — it’s invasive. I can’t hide from it and yet I’m somewhat drawn to it, which also disturbs me.

Now that I shook the unsettling feeling of last week — capped by a thwarted plane hijacking aimed at the Olympics (why?!?) — I’m a bit calmer and ready to get on with life as usual. My perspective has changed, though, and I know the lessons from last week’s media reel will remain.

Check out my piece on breaking my TV obsession during one of our Take Action Challenges.

Highlights from the summer conference of the American Psychiatric Association. The reality-TV researcher is the first to comment, until about 2:31 on the video. My yikes moment happened when I corrected Dr. Longson: There hasn’t been a Real Housewives of San Francisco, I thought, just Orange County and Beverly Hills. Although MTV’s Real World has filmed there twice . . . just stop, Court, stop.

Experience Life Magazine

‘The Biggest Loser’ Finale

Updated Feb. 28, 1:26 p.m. CST: Rachel Frederickson appears on the Today show on Feb. 26 for its “Love Your Selfie” week and tells the host, ““It was absolutely healthy weight loss. [Today] I’m the healthiest, most alive I’ve ever felt.” Video embedded below.

Updated Feb. 12, 10:14 p.m. CST: Rachel Frederickson interviewed for this week’s cover story of People magazine: “Maybe I was a little too enthusiastic in my training to get to the finale,” she said of her three-month pre-finale schedule, which included working out for six hours a day.

New updates Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 11:36 a.m. CST: articles from on body shaming (Feb. 6) and “A Big Reveal Touches a Nerve” from the New York Times (Feb. 7).

Updated Friday, Feb. 7 at 3:45 p.m. CST: Since Tuesday’s finale, several news stories have been released, bloggers have been publishing their commentary, and the trainers and show have released statements. Scroll down for more.

I usually watch The Biggest Loser for the inspirational stories and the moments when contestants realize their demons and overcome them. I’m less interested in some of the tactics the trainers use to get their team members to lose weight. (I got a chance to interview runner-up Hannah Curlee from season 11 when she was in town, and last year I was inspired by winner Danni’s success story.)

But tonight’s reveal has me in a bit of shock. All of the contestants reveals were dramatic, but the winner, Rachel Frederickson, a Minnesota native living and working in Los Angeles as a voice artist, has me in a bit of disbelief. The 24-year-old dropped 155 pounds, weighing in at 105 pounds to win the $250,000.

My first mistake was to look to Twitter, which was in an uproar over her thin frame. So I pulled out our article on TV weight-loss shows to give me some perspective (take a read if you watch these shows regularly).

Did you watch tonight’s finale? What did you think? I’ll post a video when it’s available.

News updates: The L.A. Times posted a commentary here.

Dolvett Quince, who trained Rachel during her time on the show, posted this comment Wednesday evening: BL2014_Dolvett

Trainer Jillian Michaels also took to social media (Feb. 5) and shared her Facebook post on Twitter to speak on behalf of trainer Bob Harper and herself:


Trainer Bob Harper spoke about Rachel’s reveal in a Feb. 6 taping of The Rachael Ray Show (scheduled to air Feb. 13):

“What people don’t understand is, when the contestants leave to go home…they’re in charge of themselves. So I had not seen her until that night, and so when she walked out, I was just kind of like, whoa. And I’ve been on the show since the beginning.” According to Women’s Health, he also noted: “I was stunned. That would be the word. I mean, we’ve never had a contestant come in at 105 pounds.”

NBC and the show’s production company Shine America issued a joint statement Thursday morning: “We support Rachel and all of The Biggest Loser contestants who have shared their journeys over the past 15 seasons. We remain committed to helping contestants achieve healthy weight loss and live healthier lifestyles, and to inspiring viewers to do the same.”

“Insider sources” from the show’s crew in today’s The Daily Banter post (Feb. 7) say it’s about ratings for the producers.

Former season three contestant Kai Hibbard Tweeted on Feb. 6: “If you watch TBL and think Rachel is the problem as though she weren’t doing exactly as asked of her, you’re clueless. Stop body shaming.”

Several bloggers have chimed in, but a few of the more interesting commentaries:

“Rachel Fredericksen did one thing really well it’s that she unmasked how deep, conflicted and hypocritical our feelings as a society are about weight loss. Sure we talk a good game about body acceptance and health movements and strong is the new skinny or whatever but the truth is we care deeply and personally about weight. Our weight. Friends’ weights. And even strangers on TV’s weights. Whether they were horrified or impressed by her weight loss, everyone cared about Rachel. Because she’d taken us at our word and then took it to it’s most logical – and extreme – conclusion. It was almost as if she looked the camera in the eye and yelled You want me to lose weight? You hate fat people so much?? Well I WILL LOSE ALLLL THE WEIGHT AND YOU WILL LOVE ME.”

“This is what happens when people are put in a place where their worth is judged only on pounds lost and they are punished for gaining weight, even if it might be muscle mass. This is what happens when you tell people to lose weight and all they’ve ever seen is the ‘ideal’ of what women are supposed to be that is pushed on us by media and magazines. This happens every day.”

Lastly, Rachel has been speaking about her experience to the media and stated that her weight loss was natural: In interviews, she said she had been going to “three, maybe four [exercise] classes a day,” and was eating 1,600 calories spread out in five meals each day. Below is the video from her Wednesday interview with the Today show, which avoided the controversy altogether. In her interview with Us Weekly, she said:

“I followed the advice and support of the medical team at The Biggest Loser the entire journey. So it’s been natural, and I’ve enjoyed every part of it. I’m going to continue on that path, maintaining this healthy lifestyle and really just enjoy this new life.”

Tuesday’s finale drew 7.4 million viewers, according to preliminary numbers from Nielsen.

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