NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” wrapped up its 15th season with their most controversial winner to date. No, it’s not because she was the most disliked of the show or because another contestant was robbed of the $250,000 prize. It’s because the viewers, and even her own mentors, believe she lost too much weight.
5-foot-5 winner Rachel Fredrickson went from 260 pounds to an astonishing 105 pounds in a matter of months. Why? Well, that’s how she won. Frederickson wasn’t doing this painstakingly and tedious workout regimen only for her health. A life changing cash prize was at stake.
But isn’t her health more important than money? I would hope so. I’m not going to speak for her. I don’t know her circumstances. What is more important to examine is what “The Biggest Loser” is saying about health and fitness and its cultural impact.
Let’s get one thing straight. The show isn’t the “Battle to be Most Fit.” If it were, they would look at more than just weight loss. The before and after comparison shots is how NBC gets its ratings. It’s supposed to cause jaws to drop. It’s entertainment, but it also, unfortunately, acts as inspiration.
The issue of valuing weight as a measure of health is the larger issue at play and “The Biggest Loser” isn’t helping out with it.
The common misconception of “skinniness equals healthy” and “skinniness equals happiness” runs rampant through most of our culture. Sure, losing weight isn’t a bad thing in itself, but there is a lot more to it than becoming a twig.
Happiness should be the deciding factor in losing weight. If you’re not happy with the way you feel about yourself then by all means work your heart out to gain that figure. Yet that’s not the only factor that makes people decide to go through hell to gain their “perfect” body. Sadly, social and media pressures push others toward their idea of what makes one beautiful. These can take priority over happiness.
An unhealthy lifestyle can contribute to one’s happiness and quality of life. For instance, when I am winded by walking up stairs I am reminded that my lifestyle should be changed. It’s not about becoming big and buff, handsome or attractive. It’s about being happy with myself. It’s about knowing how I may have a prolonged life because of my lifestyle changes.
Our problem in society is focusing too much on the body and not so much on the other aspects, which make up peoples character. How do they treat others? How much are other people happy when they are around them?
This obsession over the body is what sells thousands of People magazine subscriptions and the millions of dollars of weight loss programs such as Weight Watchers and hundreds of supplement businesses. Don’t get me wrong, weight loss is an important component of fitness, but once it becomes the center of the topic it then loses focus on what is important.
Fat shaming and, in Frederickson’s case, skinny shaming is becoming less about being concerned about the other person and more about the accuser’s own self-image. When we begin to say, “She’s too fat” or, “She needs to lose weight” or asking,“Is she anorexic?” this only accentuates the conversation of image over self-worth.
Beauty doesn’t mean face-symmetry or a BMI number. Nor does it mean what other people think of you. True beauty is the way one feels about oneself. Once our society shifts focus from the superficial nature of body image as a standard for beauty, that is when we can truly assess what makes up a person.
Rachel Fredrickson said about her transformation, “I am extremely proud of the way I lost the weight on the show. I followed the advice and the support of the medical team on ‘The Biggest Loser’.”
If she is genuinely happy with herself and what she has achieved then who are we to decide how she achieves her happiness?