'Biggest Loser' winner Rachel Frederickson's weight loss doesn't deserve criticism, expert says

This Feb. 4, 2014 photo released by NBC This Feb. 4, 2014 photo released by NBC shows Rachel Frederickson on the finale of "The Biggest Loser," in Los Angeles. Fredrickson lost nearly 60 percent of her body weight to win the latest season of “The Biggest Loser” and pocket $250,000. A day after her grand unveiling on NBC, she faced a firestorm of criticism in social media from people who said she went too far. Photo Credit: AP

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It wasn’t long after Rachel Frederickson won Season 15 of “The Biggest Loser” (and its $250,000 prize), that a firestorm began throughout the media (and in social media).

Competing for and winning top honors on the weight-loss show, Frederickson dropped an incredible 155 pounds during the show’s 7-1/2 month taping period. With a beginning weight of 260 pounds, Frederickson’s final weigh-in brought her to a trim 105 pounds; that’s roughly 60 percent of her total starting body weight.

The change was so dramatic that Frederickson was heavily scrutinized on Twitter and in the press -- some even going so far as to call her anorexic. But Christine Santori, a registered dietician and a program manager for weight management with the North Shore-LIJ Health System, said that backlash is unfair.

Frederickson, at 5’4” and 105 lbs., has a body-mass index of 18. A BMI of 18.5 or below is considered underweight, Santori said, but there are many indicators to consider when assessing health. And while she said Frederickson’s 60 percent body weight loss is “drastic,” it’s not unrealistic.

“I’ve had patients lose dramatic amounts of weight,” she said. “Sometimes patients just decide, ‘I’m going to change things radically.’”

But Santori said that people shouldn’t concern themselves with the specifics of Frederickson’s weight loss as much as with the program as a whole.

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“I think shows like ‘The Biggest Loser’ tend to feed that ‘quick-fix’ mentality,” she said.

Contestants on “The Biggest Loser” spend months secluded on a ranch with a team of chefs and personal trainers at their disposal, removed from real-life obstacles and stressors that often impede a person’s fitness and weight loss goals.

The key, Santori said, is sustainability after the show finishes taping.

“I tend to tell my patients, ‘Anything you do to lose the weight, you have to be prepared to do forever to keep that weight off,’” she said. “Sometimes, with shows like ‘The Biggest Loser’ that’s my question -- with the amount of exercise that they’re doing on a daily basis, and they go back to their real lives -- is that something that’s sustainable for any one of their contestants?”

Another factor in dramatic weight loss is starting weight, Santori said. “The heavier you are, the quicker you tend to lose weight.”

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And while Frederickson’s fast-tracked weight loss may not be ideal, or even possible for everyone, Santori said stories and comments claiming the “The Biggest Loser” winner is anorexic are unfair.

“We as a society tend to criticize people’s weight too much one way or the other,” she said. “That’s really a medical diagnosis to be made, I don’t think it’s fair for people to just look at someone and decide that they have eating pathology.”

What do you think about Frederickson’s dramatic weight loss? Let us know in the comments field below.

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