|Does the Biggest Loser want strong or do they want thin?|
My favorite episodes always used to be the ones where Dr. H would give people devastating news about what they had done to their bodies -- their body fat percentages, pre-diabetes, diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea -- but the simple hope that just by exercising and eating reasonably, that they could reverse the harm done to their bodies. That episode began in tears and ended in determination and hope. Later in the season, they'd meet with Dr. H again and learn that they had indeed done what he had promised: they were no longer diabetic, they no longer had sleep apnea. They were no longer killing themselves; they had learned how to live.
Over the years, Dr. H's presence and influence on the show has decreased. As his presence has decreased, the focus on weight over health has increased. Ever notice how one third of the show is dedicated to the weigh-in and the results? Ever notice how they talk less and less about the diseases of obesity? America just wants to bottom line -- how much weight did they lose?
So...doot da doo... last night's finale has definitely caused a stir, to put it mildly.
I want to really separate a few issues here:
1. People on Facebook are trying to finger wag at me b/c I'm discussing another person's body. I'm not trying to fat shame or thin shame. Like I said on FB, I think that concern is driving the whole debate. People in the weight loss/health gain community are worried for Rachel as well as concerned for how viewers might perceive Rachel winning. I believe that the same psychological issues that contribute to people being obese can also swing the other way. People lose weight and become addicted to the weight loss. I've seen it with my own eyes more than I'd care to admit.
2. The CDC says that the slower one loses the weight, the greater the chances are that the person will keep it off (i.e., not yo-yo). I haven't been able to find an official start date for the filming of Season 15, but I know that she lost 155lbs in less than a year (She's 5'4" and weighs 105lbs now (a BMI of under 18.5). That's fast. I'll leave it up to the experts to determine whether it is too fast. However, I just want to remind people that there are health risks associated with losing weight that fast -- the main concern being how the heart (a very important muscle) will react.
3. I've made it very clear on most social media networks (especially when I ask weight loss celebrities why they're hosting DietBet competitions where the focus is on weight loss, not body fat percentage or positive behaviors) that I'm a firm believer that the best way to determine health is by a blood test, fitness tests, and an honest look at a person's behaviors and life. The Biggest Loser relies on the scale as a measure of health. If you lose more, you must be healthy. In the case of last night's finale, people (including myself) that Rachel had gone beyond healthy and into unhealthy once again. We don't know that for sure, we'd need to see her blood test results. But our guts are telling us that she went too far.
4. So why did she go too far? If you've watched BL15, you know that Rachel is a competitive person and that she likes to win. This is a great motivator, but also needs to be kept in check. Any look at humanity and you know people will go to great lengths to win--even if it's illegal (ahem, Tonya Harding), unhealthy, or unsafe. I remember the end of last week's episode how great Rachel looked after winning the triathlon. I wondered what more she had to lose in terms of weight. She was fast, strong, happy, healthy. At the finale, she looked like she wouldn't be able to win a triathlon, let alone finish it.
5. So that makes me wonder -- should The Biggest Loser change the "winning" criteria -- that you have to pass a physical examination (metabolic fitness, blood work, not be malnourished, healthy bone density, electrolytes in balance), or that the triathlon should be run or repeated a few days before the finale to ensure that the focus is on fitness, not thinness? Should a contestant be disqualified for calorie restricting beyond the recommended daily intake? Should the Biggest Loser enact fail safe measures to ensure the safety of the contestants?
6. My dietitian weighed in on all of this:
7. This just raises every concern that I have about how people love to talk about the obesity epidemic, but not the eating disorder epidemic. Kids younger and younger are admitting to eating disorders. More and more adults are admitting to eating disorders or disordered eating. IF Rachel won by calorie restricting (again, this is speculation based on what I know of weight loss), what does it say that The Biggest Loser crowned her the winner of season 15? What does it say about us as an audience if we don't at least raise concern for this young woman's long-term health? She's not a prop or a character on a TV show. She's an actual person. We should put her health over the show's ratings.
8. People are saying that she probably wanted to lose a little extra to add to her lead going in to the finale, and that she'll probably gain some weight back once the season is now over. Is it just me or is this type of justification disturbing? It's the same type of justification for the people who do ridiculous things all to lose just a few more pounds. They've lost the ability to know when enough is enough. There wasn't someone looking out for her saying "you're doing this the wrong way."
But who are we to judge what one woman did to win $250,000 and the title of The Biggest Loser.
**raises an eyebrow**
I don't know what the answers are. I just know in my gut that something isn't right (and I'm not talking about Rachel's body... I'm talking about the environment in which health is no longer the focus).
As a weight loss/health gain community, I think we need to talk more about what a healthy life looks like versus what healthy bodies are supposed to look like (because our eyes don't really know... unless someone has x-ray vision that they're not owning up to).
Should we speak up if we think a friend or an acquaintance is engaging in unhealthy practices?