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.