'Biggest Loser' Winner May Have Overdone It

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'Biggest Loser' Winner May Have Overdone It

By Dustin Rowles | Trade News | February 5, 2014 | Comments ()

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First of all, no one should be “slamming” the winner of this cycle of The Biggest Loser for being too thin, as this EW headline suggests. Whether you’re on television or not, and whether there’s an overriding incentive besides one’s health to lose 155 pounds, contestant Rachel should be applauded for managing a feat this difficult, even with assistance most overweight people aren’t afforded.

The 105 pounds that she dropped, to, however, that’s not on Rachel. That’s on NBC. That’s on The Biggest Loser. That’s on the fact that she’s involved in a competition to see who can lose the most weight. That’s on the pressure that a nationally televised audience can exert on someone trying to win, trying to meet expectations, and trying not to let anyone down, and maybe overdoing it, and maybe not knowing where to stop.

Addiction is addiction, and an addiction to losing weight, or an addiction to exercise — both usually positive things — can work against someone if its taken to unhealthy extremes. Is 105 pounds for a 5’4 woman unhealthy? I dunno. It does fall under the healthy range of BMIs for someone her height. Yet, what I do know is that for some people, a reality-show culture that rewards extreme weight loss can certainly be unhealthy.

What I know most of all, however, after writing for Pajiba for nearly a decade, and reading enough comments on the subject, is that — underweight or overweight — no one should be “slammed” for their body size.

Here is the before hologram standing next to the present Rachel.


Source: EW

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • wsapnin

    For 500K or whatever she wins, I would totally get superskinny for a short time. I know I could never maintain it, which is cool, with my new $$ I could hire someone to help me find a healthy weight. I say good on her.. I am 5'4' and feel super healthy when I am in the mid to upper 130's (which I currently am not). This girl got a big' ol' booty and was in the 7th grade the last time she weighed 105.

  • logan

    Whenever I see this show I think of "3rd rock from the suns" John Lithgow who kept calling them "Fat Losers".

    Anyone else think that?


    Just me?

    This is embarrassing.

  • Coolg82

    She looks great, but context is everything. What happened is that sometime in the past few weeks, she reached a healthy weight/BMI range and, for the sake of the show and for winning the show, she kept going. I don't think this would be skinny shaming, as the debate is "is this a healthy reason to do this?"

    Double jeopardy as well due to the large number of weight and health specialists that are supposed to be there and helping these people. Did a health expert tell a woman who had reached healthy levels then say, "ok, now lose more weight so you can win the competition, cause thats why you are here!"

  • Bodhi

    I'm happy for the woman & I certainly hope that she is healthier than she was, but it sure seems like she swapped one addiction/eating disorder for another

  • Captain_Tuttle

    I read somewhere that the finalists deliberately dehydrate themselves and suck as much weight as they can for the finale - going for the win. My guess is that she probably is going to put on a quick 10 or so just from living normally. I've seen other finales where the winner looked awfully gaunt.

  • Pasqualie

    She is within the healthy BMI for her size determined by years of meticulous research, and is probably pretty motivated to keep the weight off. I find it hilarious that people are finding the negatives in this. This is a healthy person.

  • Jiffylush

    If you want to talk about her BMI maybe we should look at her BMI.

    NIH shows the following for BMI:

    Underweight = <18.5
    Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
    Overweight = 25–29.9
    Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater

    At 255 the BMI calculator says she is 42.4, that would be more than twelve points over the overweight range.

    At 105 the BMI calculator says she is 17.5, that is a full point under normal weight. the thing that might not be clear there is that if she were to gain six pounds she would be right back up in the normal range.

    My take on it. People's perception of weight is skewed or flat out broken.

    Percent of adults age 20 years and over who are overweight, including obesity: 69.2% (2009-2010)

    So everywhere you or I go every day more than two thirds of the people we see are overweight. Some of them are very overweight and some of them are still overweight but not by that much. The thing is that when the average person is overweight we begin to see this as normal. So fat becomes the new normal. Now someone comes along and they aren't fat, guess what, they weigh less than most everyone else so they must be skinny. They don't look like the average person so some people say they look sick. You know what, someone whose weight is normal or a whopping six pounds under it isn't sick. Maybe just maybe the ones you should be worried about are the ones that are above normal, the one with increased risk for pretty much everything. The ones whose quality of life will suffer as they become less and less mobile. Have you spent much time in a retirement home? Don't really see a lot of 300lb 80 year olds do you?

    Anyway, since weight is the only information we have to go on I would say she is probably as healthy as the majority of people posting here right now saying she looks sick or unhealthy or whatever.

    For the record, I'm 6'4 200lbs and look nothing like Shaggy, but thanks for insulting me for being within the normal weight range.. Everyone I have heard complain about BMI will also say "sure I could lose some weight, but I'm not fat".

    My .02, she she was 255 she was gross because she is too fat, now at 105 she is gross because she's too skinny. Maybe the problem isn't her, maybe it's you.

  • Nat

    I'm not a fan of the show for that reason. Healthy weight is reached by improving muscle mass and reducing to reasonable levels the amount of body fat. Weight as a catch all is very deceiving. Also, WATER is a thing that adds weight. So there's that.

    As for this person, I have no idea who she is or whether she's healthy, but I did notice that her hologram is seriously like a half a foot taller than her. Wtf?

  • chanohack

    But see…. improving muscle mass and reducing fat IS how this show gets people to a healthy weight. Exactly so. The last time anyone saw this lady, she had lots of muscle. That's why the trainers looked so shocked-- because in the month or so that Rachel was on her own, she lost a LOT of weight, and from the looks of her, probably a lot of it was muscle mass.

    Also, if anybody cares, the woman who won last year was no waif, she had tons of muscle and looked fucking amazing and still does. We didn't have this conversation last year because we didn't need to. We usually don't.

  • DeaconG

    What makes it worse is that adding muscle helps you burn more calories, so the muscle mass loss wasn't doing her any favors.

  • Guest


  • chanohack

    Where'd you go? I typed out a lengthy response to this whole thread and then my computer eated it, so I was coming here to talk to you instead.

  • DrSarCaustic

    BMI is a blunt instrument darlings, it isn't supposed to the the best arbiter of health and obesity. Broadly speaking, it is quite good at detecting when people are over and underweight, but it's not perfect. I use it in my medical practice to good effect with the obvious caveat of clinical correlation. If a bodybuilder comes in with a health problem and I calculate his BMI, I'm clearly not going to tell him he's obese and that he needs to lose weight.

    It's a quick and simple calculation that is useful a lot of the time. If people want more accurate measures they can try measuring skin fold thickness, or hydrostatic immersion, but these things take longer to do and the latter is quite expensive and requires specialised equipment.

  • DeaconG

    Yes, right here. The BMI doesn't work for certain people.

    If you're a football player and you're 6 foot and 250, 275 pounds the BMI says you're obese, even when the player(s) in question look like greek gods.

    If you're a crackhead and you're 5 foot 8 and you weigh 135 pounds the BMI says you're good...except you ain't.

  • Idle Primate

    isn't the rule of thumb no more than two pounds a week for healthy weight loss? has this show been running for 77 weeks?

    It maybe isn't sending the best message to people

  • I agree with that to a point. When you weigh more, you loose at a faster rate. I barely started trying this past spring by monitoring what I ate and running/walking for 20-40 minutes 2 or three times a week and I would often loose 4 or 5 pounds a week for the first couple of months. Now I weigh 45 pounds less and have to put forth pretty much the same effort to maintain that. The show is definitely way too extreme but loosing more than 2 pounds in a week to start with isn't necessarily unhealthy.

  • DeaconG

    Generally, 1.5-2 pounds a week is healthy, anything more and you risk the possibility of gaining it all back. I've lost up to 5 pounds a week in my quest to get (and keep) the weight off, the problem is that I end up gaining back at least 2-3 of it later on. My snail metabolism doesn't help.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    The rules of thumb are different when you are morbidly obese.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    frankly, considering all the recent hubbub out there about Bale putting on weight, and Leto and McConaughey losing weight in their hurry-up time frames for movies...who can criticize average Joes for doing the same damn things?

    BMI is a bogus stat anyway. Maybe, like the Bechdel test, it has use across a wide swath, but as an individual metric? No. When I was ballet dancing, I was 5'3.5" and 108 lbs. I was fine, and I was certainly healthy.

    Of course the reality show is stupid. Of course it's exploitive. Of course the people participating in it are given reams of documents to sign demonstrating those facts and sign anyway.

  • Idle Primate

    my BMI zone is 144-194lbs. which is crazy. when i was a drug addict i was down in that low zone and i looked like i crawled out of a concentration camp. no hyperbole. a few years ago when i was in shape, lean with good muscle, I was 205lbs.

    I think people should be wary of what BMI suggests as healthy

  • lillie

    I thought of Bale and McConaughey too. They both lost a ton of weight in a short amount of time for movie roles. Maybe she just really wanted to win and did not know where she was in relation to her competition?

  • bonnie

    I stopped watching The Biggest Loser years ago, because I felt it promoted an unhealthy and unsustainable weight-loss program. I remember hearing about finalists spending several days in a sweat-lodge to sweat water-weight off for the final weigh-in. When the show is about "winning" instead of changing your life over a reasonable period of time with changes that will last, there is something very wrong.

  • BWeaves

    I remember going to a team building party at work, and one of the larger gentlemen said, "You can't trust those insurance height / weight charts. According to them, I should be 9 feet tall." I actually snorted brownie out my nose.

  • I couldn't agree more, it is really about people getting to watch a bunch of fattys exercise rather than learn healthy habits and I'm sorry but weight loss should be slow and steady to stay off for good. I see people all upset for only losing 4lbs in a week, hello 1-2lbs is healthy you should be happy with that loss, not just looking for some magic number for a game show. It is your health people, not something to gamble with.

  • bonnie

    Exactly. I lost 10 lb over a summer, and it took ALL SUMMER to do it. I would change a few habits (regular exercise routine that was sustainable for my work hours, not eating seconds at dinnertime, eating a healthy breakfast, cutting my cheese intake) over periods of time and weighed myself once a week to see the variations. Granted, I was not "obese" or "fat" or what have you. I just knew that I weighed more than I was used to, and I didn't FEEL healthy.

  • lillie

    The stunned expressions on the trainers kinda confuses me. I don't watch the show, but do they not see the contestants daily (or at least weekly)? I guess I was under the impression they were with them through the whole process, guiding and training them...but those two trainers look like they hadn't seen her in a month.

  • bonnie

    There is a period of several weeks between tapings and the finale taping, so there is a "big reveal" aspect. They likely hadn't seen her in a month.

  • chanohack

    … and she looked different a month ago. It looks like she's lost a lot of muscle mass.

  • lillie

    Ah. Well that makes sense then.

  • Al Borland's Beard

    I know when I lose weight, I hope I'm able to have a hologram of my heavier self staring menacingly back at me.

  • bastich

    If the hologram came with a recording of a spooky voice, even better.


  • Better yet, have it voiced by Pam from Archer in her Hulk rage voice

  • Guest

    Her hologram looks like it wants to eat her.

  • Bert_McGurt

    I'm not really familiar with the details of the show - what's the typical timeframe for the contestant's weight loss? 100 pounds over the span of a year is very different than 100 pounds over just a couple of months.

  • lurker_erin

    I read another article (I don't watch the show) that says it was just under 8 months.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Ok, so that's a little under 20 lbs a month - which is still very quick, but not nearly as drastic as I originally thought.

  • My first thought when I saw her was, she must be wearing compression clothing, because she is going to have *a lot* of loose skin. She lost almost half of her body weight!

  • They all wear compression clothing after a certain point. The men also stop taking their shirts off about halfway through the competition. The contestants are not allowed to have any medical procedures to remove loose skin until after the live finale. It's in the contract.

  • Does the show help pay for the procedure?

  • Nope. They use their prize money/per diems or save up when they leave the show.

  • Kate the Greatest

    She lost MORE than half of her body weight. 60%, give or take.

  • Thank you for doing the math, I was too lazy.

  • Legally Insignificant

    Is her hologram taller than her? If so, does that mean that they deliberately project the hologram slightly larger to make the weight loss seem bigger?

  • chanohack

    I don't think the size difference was intentional. A few other contestants had "holograms" too, and all of them took a little bit of adjusting. One started out way shorter than his counterpart, so the cameras had to zoom out to get them the same size. It seems like it was just a hazard of the effect they were trying to do.

  • A. Nonny Mouse

    I was just looking at that. She's wearing heels and her hologram isn't. She should be TALLER than her hologram, but she's like 6" shorter. Just to make the "before" look more beastly, I suppose.

  • oilybohunk7

    The trainers' reactions:

  • AvaLehra

    That's an "Oh shit!" face if ever I saw one...

    Also, as an aside, I think I kind of want to smooch that guy with the glasses but I don't know why. Is that normally what he looks like?

  • oilybohunk7

    Sometimes he also looks like this, but he mostly appreciates smooches from the fellas.

  • AvaLehra

    Wait! I got it. Mystery solved. He reminded me of the guy from The National. http://25.media.tumblr.com/156...

  • AvaLehra

    So he's normally less beardy and sans glasses? Oooo...there goes that feeling. He's more my type with the doofy glasses. That, plus I don't have a wiener.

  • A. Nonny Mouse

    The look on the girl in red behind them is kind of telling.

  • oilybohunk7

    I just hope that she can be healthy, not just skinny, that is really the most important thing.

  • bonnie

    Agreed, 100%.

  • AvaLehra


  • I've always had issues with BMI as a metric for determining healthy body weight. According to it, a 6'3" guy should weight 190 lbs. But if he does, he's going to look like Shaggy.

    Her weight loss is dramatic, but I don't necessarily think she looks unhealthy now. Obviously, as long as her health wasn't negatively impacted by such a dramatic shift, it's all to the good.

  • Count me as one of the BMI critics. The medical community preaches it because it's an easy calculation for a practitioner to make, however it doesn't take body composition into consideration to arrive at its numbers (i.e., fat, muscle, bone, and organs are all just "mass").

    Ideally, we would use body fat percentage as a metric for health (or more accurately as one of many metrics), but accurate measurement of body fat requires extra training/retraining for existing practitioners and, for highly reliable numbers, access to equipment that is not routinely found in a doctor's office.

    If you'd like a visual example of various body fat percentages, you can check out this article. Rachel appears to be below 14% which is nearing dangerous levels for women.

  • competitivenonfiction

    There are some serious issues with BMI. It's particularly useless for those who are very tall or very short and for most people who do weight training.

  • TK

    Yeah, I'm almost 6'3 and 220. I eat well - and a lot - and exercise often, and I'm reasonably comfortable with myself, though I wouldn't mind losing 10 pounds. Getting to 190? That would be absolutely brutal, and I'm fairly confident it wouldn't actually be a healthy process. BMI is far too restrictive a metric and there are way too many outlying factors for it to be the sole measuring tool when it comes to healthy weight.

  • phase10

    Wow, we must have very different body types. I'm 6'3", and I'd love to be around 220. Currently, I'm hovering at 265. I'd wager that being an ex football player helps me "carry" the weight better. Though my knees would beg to differ.

  • TK

    I suspect that a lot of it's about frame. When I was a kid I was a beanpole, in part because I grew very fast. When I graduated high school, I weighed about 145 pounds. I was see-your-ribs skinny, mainly because of a ridiculous metabolism. Now as I approach 40, that metabolism is gone and I have to be more careful, and that adjustment has been difficult (obviously, since I've gained 80 pounds in the last 20 years). I'm broad shouldered, but not particularly big in build, and my type of exercise doesn't lend itself to bulkiness (cycling, hiking), so 220 doesn't carry itself particularly gracefully on my frame.

  • Guest

    According to BMI, this man is officially obese...


  • I'm 6'3" and overweight. But even if I was at a healthy weight, it would not be what BMI would consider healthy.

  • TK

    The healthiest I've ever been in my life was at 200 pounds. I've weighed less, but I wasn't as healthy. I was eating right, exercising like a lunatic - I'm talking riding my bike more than 200 miles a week, and I briefly got down to 195, before settling in at 200. That's as good as it's going to get for me, at my age. Now I have a kid and much less time for exercise (although he provides a different form of exercise, I suppose), and that's why I'm not killing myself over being where I am now, weight-wise.

    Regardless, yeah, BMI is kind of a crock sometimes.

  • Kate the Greatest

    I am 5'5, and used to weigh 105 when I was anorexic. I was dangerously thin, though not skeletal, and considering how muscular she looks, she must have nearly no body fat at all (I wasn't nearly that muscular.) To support how buff she looks, she should probably weigh about 120 at least.

  • DominaNefret

    Yeah, I'm 5'5.5" and 140. I wear a size 4 and have a pretty low body fat percentage. I've been told by my doctor that my weight is ideal. I got down to 120 for awhile after my brother died and was too thin for my frame. At 110 I'd be quite unhealthy.

  • Has anyone done research to see if any of the people on the Biggest Loser actually keep the weight off? This is what I'd love to know.

  • junierizzle

    I know of one contestant that did gain all the weight back. You can't really blame them. They go from doing nothing but workout to regular life. WHen they are on the show they don't have to worry about work, family, bills, etc. Once they get home reality sets in.

  • Jiffylush

    Haven't watched in a long time but they used to do follow ups, and there were some dramatic/emotional ones with people who had put it back on.

    The show got too dramatic and half of the show was showing people that were angry or crying or both.

    As far as the show not teaching people to keep the weight off... They show them how to eat right and keep the way off but they don't control their caloric intake or activity level when they go home. Maybe, just maybe, a person that has eaten so much that they weigh more than twice what they should has problems that aren't related to workout plans and dietary information.

    Unhealthy etc, every contestant is morbidly obese and they have all the health benefits that come along with that. They (well, most of them) work their asses off while on pretty severe calorie restrictions while their health is being monitored. Is it unhealthy to drop 300 pounds in three months, maybe. Is being someone who is so fat that they can lose 300 pounds unhealthy? You're damn right it is.

  • bonnie

    The show has done specials on past winners, and quite a few gain it back. It's very sad.

  • simplysarah

    I remember reading an article a couple years ago about the previous Biggest Loser contestants. I think it said most of them gain some if not all of the weight back.

  • Gaining back some weight wouldn't be surprising, since even people not on a reality show crash diet and exercise program will gain some back.

    Since they aren't exactly putting forth effort into teaching people how to eat healthfully, and lead normal lives (instead of constantly exercising), I wouldn't be surprised if all of them end up back where they started.

  • As an obese man, I fully expect that most contestants on the show return to or near their starting weight. This is only surprising if you don't understand (and it seems the vast majority of the American public don't) the factors that contribute to their original condition.

    Most obese people, myself included, have deep-seated emotional issues that drive us to eat uncontrollably. We have learned to self-medicate our emotional troubles with food. Over time this becomes an addiction.

    Correcting it has no more to do with will power than any other addiction. (Refer to the other addiction article from today's Pajiba.) Shows like Biggest Loser, the diet industry, and sadly much of the medical community continue to fail to realize this.

    Without treating the emotional root issues and breaking the addiction cycle, there is very little hope for long-term lifestyle change.

  • dilwazr

    I also believe a lot of contestants regress back to where they started. Their routine on the show simply isn't sustainable! When they go home they don't have Jillian Michaels screaming in their face and monitoring their diet. This show's kinda sick and irresponsible, in my opinion.

  • Al Borland's Beard

    Yeah, it's not healthy to lose the weight so fast. There's no real lifestyle change if your lifestyle while losing weight is this unrealistic. What happens when you don't have a trainer or chef and you've got the stresses of work and family.

  • Seriously. This chick is going to gain back weight, so we shouldn't be all that concerned about how she looks now!

  • The person that voted this down is jealous of how the woman looks, obvs. And a huge fan of Biggest Loser.

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    ◈◈◈ ◈◈◈ ၥ◈◈◈ ◈ၩ◈◈◈◈ ◈◈◈Is being someone who is so fat that they can lose 300 pounds unhealthy? You're damn right it is.

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