"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves." --Rainer Maria Rilke Photo (Photo ©julenisse/Fotolia)

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

If Biggest Loser is Unhealthy, Social Media Body-Shaming Will Only Make it Worse

Ugly. Scary. Emaciated. Just a few of the uncharitable adjectives tossed around via social media since the Biggest Loser finale.
I admit, when Rachel Frederickson stepped onto the stage in her shining silver dress, my jaw dropped.
“Oh, no,” I said to my husband. “She’s way too thin.”
I’d been pulling for Rachel, a former competitive swimmer since she arrived at the Biggest Loser Ranch weighing 260 pounds. One of three finalists, she stepped on the scale and we viewers collectively held our breaths as the scale beeped and flashed various numbers, building suspense before settling on Rachel’s winning weight. At 105 pounds she’d lost nearly 60 percent of her body weight.
Credit: Biggest Loser via YouTube

The firestorm began. On Twitter and Facebook the insults flew. There was also concern for Rachel’s health and wellbeing, which is appropriate. But vicious speculation (one tweet suggested she’d been on the Hitler diet), name-calling (gross and skeletal) and armchair diagnoses are not.
Is Rachel anorexic? I don’t know, because I don’t know anything about her relationship with food. Obviously she had disordered eating prior to appearing on the show, otherwise she wouldn’t have weighed 260 pounds. The same addictive mechanism that causes some of us to compulsively overeat can also cause some of us to severely restrict what we eat and also to purge what we’ve eaten through vomiting, laxatives and excessive exercise. Is Rachel participating in any of these activities? I don’t know and neither to the thousands of cyber speculators. 
Is Rachel in trouble? Again, I don’t know. I think the show is in trouble. It’s been crickets chirping for 24 hours now, not even an update or a picture celebrating the new champ on Facebook and Twitter. That’s an extremely uncharacteristic silence following the much-ballyhooed finale of a tremendously popular show.  NBC needs to come out of hiding on this one.
In the meantime, the cruel and negative body-shaming directed at Rachel needs to stop. If she does have anorexia (an illness, not a character defect, by the way) then what she needs is kindness, support and love.


4 comments:

  1. Scary is an honest feeling to have, seeing someone familiar slip away. Emaciated is a true description of a gaunt face that has developed in three short months not just one pair of nasolabial folds but an additional pair of "smile lines" through the cheeks. Skeletal is just a comment on protruding joints and narrow appendages with little of the muscle she had just months prior.

    Most people don't want shame. She is not ugly by any measure. She is a beautiful woman who is wasting away. She has real, clinical indications of anorexia, and people comment because they are concerned. This is an affliction you cannot stay silent about. Even those who may know nothing of medical pathology can see something here that scares them.

    I think many hope that she is surrounded by people who insulate her from the worst in us, guide her to be the best of her, and through her determination and the help of her surroundings, she gets better. The comments in public are more for those around her to get moving.

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    1. I hope those around her do "get moving" and that she has a bright and healthy future ahead.

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  2. Some people are too disgusting for words!!

    Rachel can "throw back" all that hate by doing just one thing...

    Live her live well. She's been given a second chance... not everyone gets those. I wish her all the best.

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    1. Thank you beautiful and wise Veronica! I, too, wish her only the best--health, happiness and love. <3

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