Friday, February 7, 2014

Biggest Loser Controversy – Running the Numbers

I have been a fan of The Biggest Loser for years. While most reality television bores me, this show (no matter how scripted) actually sparks my interest due to the fact that these people really are changing their lives for the better. After this week, though, my opinions of the show have been completely de-railed…

On Tuesday night, the season 15 finale of ‘The Biggest Loser’ was broadcasted live on NBC with millions of people tuned in to watch. Most of the contestants looked happy and healthy, and had their lives on a much better track after their months-long journey towards health and fitness. Finally, the last contestant to reveal their weight loss, Rachel, walked on stage and well, my heart sank. I think the shocked looks of trainers Bob and Jillian say it all…

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Rachel ended up winning $250,000 as well as the title of ‘Biggest Loser,’ and by now I am sure most people have read numerous accounts of the controversy surrounding this young woman. She started out at 260 pounds when she arrived at the ranch, and weighed in at 105 pounds at the finale. That is a weight loss of 155 pounds (60% of her body weight)! Honestly, I thought she looked incredible (and very healthy) during her last week at the ranch, and I figured she wouldn’t lose much more after that.

What is disconcerting, though, is that she has stated how proud she is of her weight and has reached her maintenance point. She claims that she got there in a healthy way – by doing a lot of cardio, eating 1,600 calories per day, and following the advice and support of The Biggest Loser’s medical team. While I am so happy for her (and every contestant’s) accomplishment, I honestly do not believe that her version of ‘in a healthy way’ is as healthy as she thinks it is.

Rachel (left to right): Starting weight, Makeover Week, Finale

Why do I think that? Well, let’s take a quick look at the science of weight maintenance. According to this ‘daily calories calculator’ from Runner’s World online, Rachel’s current weight of 105 pounds and height of 5’4” is maintained by eating 1,559 calories per day. That’s if she is SEDENTARY, which we know she is not because she has clearly stated that she gets plenty of exercise. With moderate exercise, she needs 2,014 calories per day. Let’s assume that she burns an average of 300 calories per day through exercise. That gives her a net calorie intake of 1,259 – 755 calories UNDER where she should be for moderate exercise, and 300 calories under what she needs if she were completely sedentary!

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I realize that, publically, the show, trainers, and pretty much anyone under contract with ‘The Biggest Loser’ have probably been instructed to handle this situation with extreme political correctness. They are either declining to comment (see below for Bob and Jillian’s tweet) or showing their support for Rachel. I hope that behind the cameras, though, Rachel is getting the help she clearly needs. There are impressionable young women (and men) out there who WILL think that being under weight is what makes you successful and/or beautiful. I truly hope that the future of this show does not head down the path of continuing the already media-tainted view of how a person should look.

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I know there are many opinions regarding this situation, and I in no way am trying to take away the hard work done by Rachel or the other contestants. I wrote this post out of genuine concern. I honestly just think that she crossed a line, and I encourage anyone out there who has a desire to lose weight to do so with a goal towards being fit and healthy, NOT just seeing a low number on the scale.

QOTD: What are you thoughts on Rachel’s weight loss?

10 comments

  1. I think it's great that she was able to transform her life. I personally think she does look too thin, but that just gives some "wiggle" room in case she wants to eat some cupcakes or a few cheeseburgers. As a public, we don't know Rachael, maybe she is someone who gains weight very quickly. Obviously she does have a problem with weight gain or she wouldn't have been on the show. This may (hopefully) be the skinniest she will ever be. People need to let her enjoy it. Next month she may gain more weight back and look different.

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    1. I hope she doesn't lose anymore weight as well...she'll definitely need to up to calorie intake though if she wants to at least maintain. I'm with you, I would like to see her in a couple months looking healthier :)

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  2. I don't watch the show but certainly have heard a lot about this young woman. I think the perspective is what she looked like before, and her body may not have had time to adjust to the new weight since her weight loss was so drastic. She lost more than what I weigh. If she does needs help, then she needs to get it.

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    1. Most definitely - I just hope she isn't in denial about whether or not she needs help. I know she said she is healthy but 105 lbs just seems quite the opposite to me.

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  3. I stopped watching the BL awhile ago, but after seeing everyone tweet about Rachel I had to check it out. My jaw literally dropped when I saw her. She made a huge change, and good for her for winning but I really hope she is healthy. It seems like she went from one extreme to the other and is just as unhealthy now as she was when she was overweight. I hope now that the show is over she'll gain a little weight back!

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    1. Yes, my jaw dropped to the floor when she walked on stage. Absolutely shocking! I'm so excited for her new health and fitness lifestyle, but I definitely agree that she went from one extreme to the other.

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  4. I think Bob & Jillian's reaction says it all. The other 2 guys just kept staring at her too... I don't know how Allison kept it together interviewing her.
    I think there are some DEEEEEEP issues happening with that girl.

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    1. Their faces were priceless! Even some of the other contestants looked shocked. Guess they didn't see her backstage? Seemed like Allison was rushing through the end-of-show celebration too, or maybe I was over-analyzing things.

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  5. It was certainly a shock to see her transformation. I hope she is healthy and doesn't fixate on the scale so much. Yes, she may have found her ideal weight, but it should really be about her ideal health/fitness.

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    1. I agree - ideal weight and ideal health/fitness are two very different things. Well put, Kim!

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