In The News: Biggest Loser Finale Controversy
Los Angeles—Many viewers think the latest winner of “The Biggest Loser” took her weight loss too far. Rachel Frederickson won season 15 of the reality-TV competition Tuesday after losing 60 percent of her body weight. The 24-year-old, who’s 5 feet, 5 inches tall, went from 260 pounds to 105 pounds in seven months.
“I just see a strong, confident woman,” said Frederickson, a former athlete. “I’ve never felt this great.”
But viewer reaction ranged from shock to anger. “Rachel looks anorexic!” one person wrote. “She has gone from one extreme to the other!” Another wrote: “I’m saddened that my 13-year-old daughter watched as you were rewarded for doing that to your body.” For winning, Frederickson received $250,000.
Dolvett Quince, Frederickson’s trainer, responded: “Please try not to look at one slice of Rachel’s journey and come to broad conclusions. Rachel’s health is and always has been my main concern, and her journey to good health has not yet ended!”
Being underweight can be just as unhealthy as being overweight, doctors say. But they add that finding a maintenance level can be tricky after an extreme weight loss.
One consensus is that “The Biggest Loser” focuses too much on the scale. Dr. Kelly Brownell said the show “stigmatizes overweight individuals by making a spectacle of them and…encourages extreme weight-loss methods that could lead to problems with disordered eating.”
Dr. Tim Church noted, “I find it interesting that we are very judgmental of people who don’t lose weight and then we are very judgmental of people who do lose weight.”
Youth minister Mark Cornelison, a former finalist on the show, discussed the messages this week’s finale sent. “Contestants lose sight of the real goal of regaining their health, they don’t receive follow-up support, and viewers get the idea that “size equals health,” he said. Read Cornelison’s full response here.
Sources: cnn.com, usatoday.com, ontheredcarpet.com, morethandodgeball.com
* * *
Discussion Questions To Use With Students
If you saw or heard about the finale, what was your reaction, and why? Are you happy for Frederickson? concerned for her? Explain. Should people focus more on congratulating her accomplishment than on criticizing her appearance?
Would you ever go on a show like “The Biggest Loser”? Why or why not? In general, what messages do you think it sends to viewers—especially young people? What ideals, whether healthy or unhealthy, does the show promote?
Is it okay to make a “game” out of something as serious as people’s health? Why or why not? Is money an appropriate motivator, especially if nothing else has worked in the past?
In what ways do you think you’re made in God’s image? What constitutes “healthy” to you, and why? How healthy do you consider your current lifestyle to be? In a culture obsessed with thinness, how can you keep a proper perspective about matters of health and body image?
What motivates you to eat well and exercise? What might you need to change about your relationship with food and exercise? What realistic, healthy goals can you set for yourself, and how might you achieve them? What support will you need along the way, and who might offer it most reliably and consistently?
Why do you think people are so judgmental about other people’s physical appearance? What do you tend to criticize about other people? What do you think our society would be like without any mirrors or scales?
What are some big life changes you’ve undergone—either good or bad—that have thrown you off balance? Where did you find support, and how did you regain your equilibrium?
What changes do people undergo when they devote their lives to Jesus? When you take that step of faith and go “all-in” for Jesus, what transformations occur, and what adjustments are necessary?
Scripture links: Genesis 1:27; 1 Samuel 16:7; Matthew 7:1-5; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; and 1 Corinthians 10:13.