‘The Biggest Loser’ Finale

What can we learn from tonight’s dramatic weight-loss reveals?

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 ThinkProgress.org 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:

BL2014_Jillian

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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