On Tuesday evening, the finale for the most recent season of “The Biggest Loser” aired. This is the season that had the contestants that I saw at my birthday spin class. I’ve already written about how the show is a guilty pleasure of mine and that I have issues with how weight loss is shown on the show. But now I feel like I need to write about the reactions to the finale.
In case you aren’t too familiar with the show, the finale is a live event (or at least live for the east coast). Everyone who was eliminated prior to the finale weighs in for the at-home prize. The contestant with the highest percentage of weight loss wins. Then the finalists come out and the finalist with the highest percentage of weight loss wins $250,000.
When the finalists came out, the two men who were finalists looked a little thin, but that’s to be expected when they try to be at their lowest weight to win. Then the girl finalist, Rachel, came out. And you could hear gasps coming from the audience.
(photo courtesy of US Magazine)
I thought she looked pretty thin. Her legs were muscular, but her arms and face seemed very very skinny. When she weighed in, her weight was 105 pounds (she’s 5’4″). She lost about 60% of her body weight in about 8 months.
Immediately people were posting various sites online that Rachel must be anorexic now. People seemed shocked by her appearance. And two of the trainers on the show looked pretty surprised in the live show and later released a statement that they would not comment on her weight since they weren’t her trainers during the show.
It seems like people are finally seeing some of the problems that I’ve noticed with “The Biggest Loser” years ago. When you reward people for the highest percentage of weight loss, people do drastic things to make sure they win in the finale. Historically, the contestants gain weight back after the finale because they are extremely dehydrated (to make sure there is no water weight causing them to lose the weigh in). Many contestants gain back a lot of the weight they lost because the show is not realistic. And when you lose weight with a finish line in mind, you aren’t looking at it as a lifestyle but a temporary situation.
I know that last one for sure. When I did the RFO diet the first time, it was in preparation for my hip surgery. I knew that the less I weighed, the easier my recovery would be from surgery. And since I was about 90 pounds lighter going into surgery, I did have a very easy recovery. But after surgery, I didn’t have the same motivation any more to lose weight. And I gained a lot of it back. I did the RFO diet again, but again looked at it as a temporary situation (you have to when you aren’t eating any real food). And I gained it back again.
The other thing that makes me pretty mad at “The Biggest Loser” is the fact that many, if not all, of the contestants are at high risk for starting anorexic or bulimic behaviors. It’s a pretty safe guess that most of the contestants are going in to the show with an eating disorder. Probably the same eating disorder that I have, a binge eating disorder. When I was in therapy for my eating disorder, the biggest thing that I remembered is that I will always be at a high risk for another eating disorder because I have a history of having one. I’m also at high risk for another addiction of any type.
When you take away the food from a food addict (which is similar to a binge eater), they have to find their addiction somewhere else. You can see this a lot in people who have had weight loss surgery. When you can’t turn to your comfort item, you find something else that gives you comfort. And if it isn’t comfort that you are seeking, it’s order or control. And anorexia or bulimia gives you a sense of control (even if it’s a false sense).
I’m sorry for the rant, but I’ve been holding this in for a while when watching “The Biggest Loser”. And it seems like many people are now seeing things the same way that I do. I don’t know if they will change “The Biggest Loser” now due to all this backlash, but personally I would love to see them focus on body fat percentage instead of weight. Or maybe on inches lost. But sadly, seeing someone drop 155 pounds still makes good tv.
But at least now, some people will think about it a bit differently.