“You did it! You won!” exclaims Alison Sweeny, the host of NBC’s The Biggest Loser on the season finale last night.
And the crowd goes wild for this feat that won Rachel, a contestant on the finale of NBC’s The Biggest Loser the Season 15 title.
“Rachel Frederickson, 24, of Los Angeles won the Season 15 title of “The Biggest Loser” and the $250,000 grand prize, but promptly sparked criticism from viewers who say the show went too far by allowing the former competitive swimmer to diet her way down to 105 pounds.” – L.A. Times
She won $250,000 dollars for being thin? I wonder, what the message will be now for young girls who watch?
And if you see the trainers in the video, they act shocked that a contestant took things too far. As a trainer do they not know the eating disorder risks involved here? Come on. No, to them, Thinning is winning.
Does NBC know that according to the National Eating Disorders Association,
“Girls as young as 6 years old report a desire to be skinny, with 42% of first through third grade females wanting to be thinner than they are.” – NEDA
NEDA also reports, “81 % of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat, and hospitalizations for eating disorder related complications are up 119% for children under 12 in the past 10 years.”
We idealize such unhealthy standards.
And we are struggling with a paradox as the Harvard Political Review so poignantly states,
“We are struggling with a fundamental problem within American culture that has injured the way Americans think about food, exercise, and their own bodies. American society is not suffering from two distinct health problems. It is experiencing two symptoms of one serious cultural disorder.”
Although The Biggest Loser wasn’t around when I was young, I knew thinning was winning. And I fell into the rabbit hole of an eating disorder by simply wanting to lose a few pounds. But losing a few pounds was to make me ok. Was to make me better. Was to fix something inside that was wrong. That was bad. Because the truth is, most eating disorders start with a diet.
But don’t we all also know, it isn’t about food? Food is just the tool used to cover up what is really going on. It is the same when someone is binge eating or starving themselves. They need more than just dietary help. They need the full range of care that is offered in a treatment setting.
The biggest loser actually did a fantastic job last night of showing an all true reality. Most eating disorders begin with a diet. Not all eating disorders begin that way, but
Our society does a fantastic job of shaming us. Because you are wrong if you are fat. You are wrong if you are too thin. As seen in last night’s show.
One twitter writer wrote, “This is unhealthy and creepy.” Another wrote, “LOL. So gross.”
She was bad for being fat. Now she is bad for being too thin. Will she ever really win?
I see. It is ok to watch until it goes too far? Well I am glad it went too far, not for her but for the show. Because I hope it begins to open up the dialogue about this epidemic in our culture.
“As many as 11 million people struggle with an eating disorder. Anorexia has the highest premature death rate of any mental illness.” – NEDA
I was not shocked in the least bit to see that it finally happened on this show. That someone took the weight loss too far. My guess is, many contestants are living similar to Rachel in the swing of the continuum. Exactly how my eating disorder began as I wrote in my memoir, Table In The Darkness – A Healing Journey Through An Eating Disorder.
Why then are we surprised that Rachel couldn’t stop? The praise, the reward, the money! Of course she took it too far. And we, the culture that fat shames and promotes the thin ideal only feed into this increasingly difficult problem.
NBC Offers Society What it Wants.
NBC is only offering us, this culture what we want: Fat is bad. Too thin is bad. These are true statements in that you can die from both.
An eating disorder is a life threatening illness. If she does in fact have an eating disorder, she needs help. She won’t be able to stop. When I was on my deathbed people would say to me, “just eat!” People believe “just eating” is as simple as that, because everyone can do it. Right? But you can’t use rational thought with something that is irrational. We asked that same question on Sunday when Philip Seymour Hoffman died. Why, when his life was so amazing and wonderful and when he reportedly was going to spend time with his beautiful three kids, did he not think, “this last hit might kill me?” He didn’t, and he died with a needle in his arm. And I have been with many people who have died from that one last binge, that one last purge, or trying to lose those last few pounds.
We have an epidemic on our hands. The more we talk about obesity and fat shame, and then swing the pendulum the other way with unhealthy models and a much too thin contestant winning money, the more we promote the thin ideal.
Of course, not everyone who goes on a diet develops and eating disorder. Just as not everyone who drinks becomes an alcoholic. But when there are genetics at play combined with an overwhelming set of emotional circumstances, the person begins to play with fire. And that fire just might kill them.
She gets on the scale and it reads a number below what is considered healthy for a BMI. She had a 60% weight loss and the audience cheers. And they clap. She says, “I learned I can take control. I can do anything I want.”
The body is not meant to be controlled. That is where we have it so wrong. The body is meant to tell us what it needs and when. Somehow we have it backwards and we shame ourselves into molding and shaping and being what we want it to be. And for millions that turns into a life threatening eating disorder. Destroying families and lives. It almost destroyed mine, but I got a second chance. My hope is that we would stop shaming, and judging, but offer help.
I am sad for Rachel. NBC has sold her a lie. A lie that when you are thin enough everything will be ok. A lie that society feeds all of us.
And until we start to value that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, understand that eating disorders often start with a diet, stop the fat shaming, and then begin to help those struggling with any type of eating disorder, only then will we win.
** Images from Google Images