Friday, February 7, 2014

'Weighing in' on the Biggest Loser controversy

There has been a lot of hype going around the last couple days about Rachel Frederickson, the winner season 15 of The Biggest Loser who dropped from 260 pounds to 105 -- a 60% loss. I thought I'd "weigh in" on the subject (pardon the pun).

I've been a fairly religious watcher ... it even became a Saturday morning roommate tradition for a few years. For some reason though, this is probably the first season in the last few years that I haven't followed the show. So it came as quite a surprise when my Facebook feed was flooded with so much hate and disgust over the winner's unusually large percentage of weight loss.

I've seen the pictures. I've watched clips. I've noticed the extreme transformation. And yes, it was quite startling. Rachel looks very, very thin. And different pictures and angles make her look thinner than others. Many people are taking a stance against The Biggest Loser, saying that the money is causing contestants to go to extreme -- even unhealthy -- measures as they vie for the ultimate title and $250,000 cash prize. This may be and possibly is quite true.

However, the negative reaction that thousands have expressed via twitter, blogs, Facebook, etc. needs to be reconsidered.

Rachel is a 24-year-old woman who has struggled with her weight and has no doubt been ridiculed for it. Now here she is, in the spotlight, having spent weeks showing more of her body on one of the most-watched tv shows in the nation than she probably has ever shown to even her best friends, only to end up in a very different, but almost exact same situation she was in before: the subject of criticism, hate and bullying.

Now I know that I'm no saint and many of you are probably thinking, "Where does Cameron get off writing a post against being judgmental." But it breaks my heart to see someone who has worked so hard for something they want so badly receive so much hate. I am sad to see so many of my own friends (especially so many who constantly post things against bullying) express not just concern, but hate and disgust at another human being who has done nothing to anyone! She's a real person, not just a fictional character than is tailored to hate or love. She will most likely have body image issues for the rest of her life, and the sudden flood of tweets and posts criticizing her body is the last thing she needs. People have taken to saying she needs professional help. I'd venture to say that her need for help more likely stems from the public's perception of her than from an eating disorder.

I can only imagine the thoughts running through her mind: "Will the taunting ever end?" "Will I ever be good enough?" "Just when I thought I was pretty..." "Can I ever be happy?" "I thought I was doing so well." "And they said that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." "I thought this would solve so many problems, not create more." "Why do I have to be me?"

 If Rachel did indeed lose the last chunk of weight in an unhealthy manner, then that is for her to deal with. She doesn't need a nation harping on her for it.

Now to finally get off my imaginary soap box, I'll end with this: As someone who is not now, never has been, and probably never will be stick thin -- someone who has much skinny envy and who is an easy candidate for the call-the-skinny-kid-anorexic train -- I think we should stop the skinny shaming and show support to someone who has just done something miraculous through a lot of hard work. Be skeptical and utilize your freedom of speech, but do so in a respectful manner. I hope that she will be able to develop a tough skin and make it through this time that should have been full of joy, self gratification and pride. I applaud you Rachel. Congratulations.