When Rachel Frederickson revealed her transformed body on this season’s finale of The Biggest Loser, the 5’4”, 24-year-old woman stunned the audience and viewers.
Frederickson, weighing in on the scale at 105 lbs., had lost a total of 155 lbs. since beginning her weight loss journey with the popular reality TV show. Her starting weight was 260 and, if you’re doing the math at home, that’s a 59.62% loss of her body weight. This weight loss achievement won her the $250,000 grand prize from The Biggest Loser competition, now in its 15th season.
When it came to the reaction over Frederickson’s reveal of total progress made to-date, the media and Biggest Loser watchers (and even former contestants) were buzzing with tweets, blog comments, and articles asking questions and making accusations:
- Is that a healthy amount to lose?
- It looks like she has an eating disorder
- Did she go too far?
- Is she too skinny?
- She doesn’t look healthy.
These are valid concerns, because rapid weight loss over a short period of time can be a sign of compromised health. She had dropped a significant amount of weight and, when juxtaposed with a hologram of her former body, the visual difference was startling to many, from the show’s celebrity trainers and audience to viewers and spectators.
The real reason why we’re shocked
The conversations in which Frederickson’s own health and wellbeing was of concern seemed to be solely focused on what we know to be a factor in determining good health: weight. A majority of popular and widely resourced news outlets seemingly called little, if any, emphasis or attention on what we know to be the true teller of overall health: biomarkers. Where was the conversation about, say, her heart health, cholesterol levels, or vitamin and mineral deficiencies? We know these data points to be critical markers of what determines overall health, yet it didn’t seem to come front and center in the debate of Unhealthy vs. Healthy. Healthy goes so far beyond the mirror, scale, and crowd-sourced opinion.
Something we noticed about the Biggest Loser, when viewing their official partners list, was the heavy focus on devices like activity, calorie and sleep trackers and scales – these devices monitor external health/activity, rather than internal health. One indicator brought to media attention that did dig beyond the cursory “too skinny” was her BMI, which was said to be below the healthy Body Mass Index, according to the National Institute of Health.
Look beyond the surface
The key to her health is in the data. In a recent interview, former contestant Kai Hibbard recalled that her hair had begun falling out from a vitamin deficiency when she was a finalist. Hibbard was a finalist in Season 3 and lost 118 lbs. during her competition.
NBC has since commented in the news that they are considering “small but significant tweaks” to the show regarding post-filming and the road to the live finale episode. These were reported to include more staff support and check-ins for the contestants once filming concludes, in addition to contestants leaving the ranch to continue their weight-loss journeys on their own at home prior to the live finale.
We can’t absolve Frederickson of the public criticism; we haven’t seen the blood work which could provide significant insight into her true state of health. What we can discuss with you – and many others – is the practice of evaluating changes in health beyond the external marker of weight via regular biomarker testing.
The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.