Does 'The Biggest Loser' Promote Anorexia and Bulimia?

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The season finale for The Biggest Loser prompted strong viewer reaction to Rachel Frederickson who won $250,000  by losing 58.62 percent of her 260 pound starting weight. That's a record weight loss in the show's 15 seasons, and at-home viewers assessed it to be too much to be healthy. 

Viewers responded on social media with opinions that Rachel looked dangerously thin and gaunt, and with concerns that celebrating her rapid weight loss is akin to celebrating bulimia and anorexia. 

Emily Sanford, who blogs about her own weight loss at Authentically Emmie, said:

Biggest Loser talks about the obesity epidemic and how we have to fix it. (I call it the “save the fatties!” mission.) But then they roll out the winner of this season who appears to have gone to extremes to lose the weight needed to win. It’s the complete opposite of promoting health and wellness – it’s strictly rewarding whomever has the lowest weight – no matter if it’s dangerously low or not. She got the $250K prize, so mission accomplished, I suppose. Funny – I thought the mission was to get healthy.


This isn't the first time 'The Biggest Loser' has raised concerns about yo-yoing,  bulimia, or questions about show's commitment to healthy practices. Earlier in this season, Jillian Michaels garnered attention after breaking the rules to let her contestants pop caffeine pills. Last year former contestant Suzy Hoover used Facebook to defend why more former contestants gain weight than maintain weight losses.  In 2010, former contestant Kai Hibbard said that her weight loss left her seriously unhealthy and led to an eating disorder.

While it's up to Rachel and her medical care providers to make decisions about her own health, fans reactions are important to note because the show positions itself to be an inspiration to those who seek healthy lifestyles, and because the show's brand and trainers are major players in the $61 billion diet and weight loss industry.  The show also exposes viewers to a certain level of fat shaming.  At the finale, for example, Rachel talked to a photo of herself pre-weight loss and proclaimed it "gross." 

Rachel wins The Biggest Loser
Image: NBC/Universal

Are you a fan of the show? Do you think it promotes healthy lifestyles? Is the concern about Rachel a needed intervention in the show's practices or further body shaming that is harmful in its own way? 

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