Thoughts on the Biggest Loser Season 15 Finale

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For anyone unfamiliar with the show, NBC’s Biggest Loser takes a group of contestants to a secluded location, where their diet, exercise, and lifestyle are monitored 24/7 for approximately 16 weeks.

Physicians, dietitians, personal trainers, counselors, and a team of experts are supposedly monitoring their health & well-being throughout the season.


The show’s finale crowns “The Biggest Loser,” the person who has lost the highest percentage of body weight. Before this point, they have successfully completed a dozen different challenges in both team and individual formats, but the “winning” criteria is the same – lose more weight than everyone else.

Last night, that “winner” was Rachel Frederickson.

Rachel Frederickson's 2nd weigh-in
Rachel Frederickson’s weigh-in on her 2nd week of the contest. She lost 30 pounds in the first 2 weeks.

Rachel is 5′5” and 24 years old. (Edit: There are no definitive height measurements on The Biggest Loser’s web site. CNN and CBS News report Rachel’s height as 5’5″.) At the beginning of the season, Rachel weighed 260 pounds. She had been a swimmer in the past but a series of life events and self-esteem issues impacted her health and lifestyle.

Last night, she weighed in at 105 pounds.

That’s a total loss of 155 pounds, taking her from 260 to 105 pounds (118 kg to 47.7 kg) in 16 weeks.

Again, Rachel is 5′5“. The CDC defines anything under 18.5 BMI as “underweight.” Rachel has a BMI of 18.

Contrast Rachel to last season’s winner, Danni Allen. Danni was 26 years old, 5’6″, and went from 258 to 137 to win the show. At the finale, Danni was lean, had visible muscle, and looked healthy. (Danni had BMI of 22.)

Last night, Rachel Frederickson looked weak, frail even, and tripped climbing the stairs to be weighed.

Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels react
Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels react

The trainer’s reactions said it all. It’s a notable statement that none of the trainers congratulated Rachel upon her victory announcement. This is a first.

I’ve had a personal issue with The Biggest Loser’s format since Day One. The whole concept of a contest for losing weight is flawed for numerous reasons. #1: Lasting weight loss comes from a powerful reason for the change. The motivation to change will last only as long as the contest in most cases.

The experiences of past Biggest Loser contestants bear this out. A number of former contestants have regained weight, and/or gone on record to talk about questionable practices happening off-camera, about eating disorders they developed during/after the show, and more. Here is one example. Here is another.

#2: Shows like this set very wrong expectations of what it takes to lose weight, and how quickly it happens. We’ve discussed this topic on Tips Of The Scale several times. Long-term weight loss does not happen overnight.

#3: Many people already have body issues and unhealthy ideas of what the “perfect” body is. For someone to be celebrated, rewarded, crowned on television for emaciating themselves and clearly having an eating disorder – is a horrible message.

I sincerely hope that NBC rethinks its contest format, or does away with it altogether. At the very least, there needs to be a public discussion on mental health and eating disorders. Body Dysmorphia is a serious issue.

Edit: There are people on Twitter saying that Rachel did what it took to win. I get that. I understand that. However, it’s still very wrong of a show – that supposedly is aimed at inspiring better health – to celebrate unhealthy habits and reward someone for doing the exact opposite of that. The format must change.

Others are defending Rachel by saying she’s being bullied, and that no matter what a woman does she will always be judged and criticized. While I understand it may seem she’s being attacked, that’s not the case. The big pictures is, this is a really unhealthy thing to celebrate, and a really harmful image/message to send impressionable people around the world.

I am proud that Tips Of The Scale spends as much time as we do covering the mental aspect of health & weight loss, and it’s no accident. It’s such an important part of the journey, and neglecting it puts people’s health in danger.

More Discussion in The Blogosphere


What do you think, Scale Warriors? Is this a big deal, or am I over-reacting? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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