Let me begin by saying that I hate the words “fat” and “skinny”.
[fat] adjective, fat·ter, fat·test.
[skin-ee] adjective, skin·ni·er, skin·ni·est.
Neither of these definitions seem as hateful or as harmful as that word has potential to be. And while I realize that a lot of words have the potential to be incredibly harsh when used with the intent to harm, I think the overuse and abuse of these words in our culture have made everyone a little hypersensitive to them.
And it does go both ways, I recognize. I am a woman who has struggled with her weight. Oh wait– I said I am a woman, you could have probably inferred the rest. But seriously… I think most humans struggle with this, not just women that are large/curvy/fat/chunky/obese/plump/more-to-love/voluptuous/big/thick and whatever other adjectives you prefer to substitute. There are many women who have trouble gaining weight. There are many men that have many body image issues, whether it is too big, too little, too this, too that, and then narrow it down to all the various parts that have the potential to make any human feel bad about themselves. Which, by the way, I think is all of them. I have met people who are really sensitive about their knuckles, their second toes, the back of their neck, you name it.
Being human means being flawed and struggling.
And while people struggle with many different things, body image is something that typically translates across the board.
All of this segues into what really started my thoughts on this topic in the past 24 hour hours. I really enjoy watching the Biggest Loser. I love hearing people’s story, learning their struggles and then watching them, in a phenomenally short amount of time, transform into a more confident person who is able to love and accept themselves. I think that is the best part of it. The weight loss is really cool, obviously, but seeing people be challenged and then start doing things they never deemed possible is the best. I love the show for that, and I cry with them, and I cheer for them, and I am inspired by them.
There has been a lot of controversy following the Biggest Loser (season 15) finale last night. Long story short, there was a contestant named Rachel. Rachel worked really hard, every episode, every day, of every week on the ranch. She had a great attitude, and flourished before the viewer’s eyes into a very confident woman. Having a background in competitive swimming, she tapped into that athlete mindset and put in the work that led her to win a lot of the challenges and to truly excel on the show.
Rachel arrived on the show weighing 260 pounds. During her 14 weeks on the Biggest Loser campus, she lost 110 pounds. Which, is completely amazing. Below is a picture of Rachel weighing in at 260, next to her in her last week on the campus at 150 pounds.
Rachel was going up against two male contestants who both started at over 350 pounds. The show’s winner is based on percentage lost, so while it does its best to even out the male-to-female ratios, the episode before the finale left me wondering if Rachel even had enough left on her to lose to be in the running up against both of the male contestants.
In the finale, which is anywhere from 4-7 weeks after the last regular season episode (I can’t find a specific timeline for this season) Rachel lost an additional 45 pounds, dropping down to 105 pounds total, having lost 60% of her body weight on the show.
The trainers reactions were of complete shock, and many of the other contestants looked surprised as well. People began freaking out all over social media, calling her too skinny, unhealthy, gaunt, anorexic, etc.
And while I do think that if you agree to be on a TV show, specifically a reality show, that you are then subjecting yourself and your life and your opinions to other people’s scrutiny. People can be mean. People love to tear others apart. They love to judge. But again, it is reality TV, so it is somewhat expected.
But I can’t help but really hurt for Rachel. I don’t know what happened. No one has released any public statements talking about if Rachel was monitored at home, if she did lose weight in unhealthy ways, etc. NBC and the Biggest Loser have not released statements, Dolvett (her team trainer) has not said anything, and the other trainers released a statement saying they are uncomfortable speaking about it because they aren’t her trainers.
But again, I say, I hurt for Rachel. Because something is happening here.
Maybe Rachel went home and worked hard and ate right and managed to healthily lose 45 pounds. She proved that she is competitive and is a hard worker, so I don’t think this is entirely out of the question.
Maybe Rachel went home and developed an eating disorder again. She went from eating her feelings to being scared of eating her feelings, and wanting to succeed in the contest. And while no one at this time can shed any light on the scenario, this does seem somewhat plausible in order to lose that extreme of an amount of weight after having already lost 110 pounds in a short amount of time. And on top of that, having had an eating disorder before in over-eating, it would be natural for her to have a fear of getting into those habits again, and may have responded in the opposite direction.
Or maybe, she wanted to win the money, so she did whatever it took to do so.
But again, this all makes me sad.
First everyone says she’s too big, and now everyone says she’s too small.
Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t.
Damned if you’re fat, Damned if you’re skinny.
It would be one thing if all of these comments have been coming solely out of concern for Rachel. It would be different if people were skeptical and asking questions (which is the responsibility of the show to clear up, I believe.) But now people are “skinny-shaming” her and saying that so many young people were looking up to her and she is a poor example.
And it just made me think about how this is true of most people, but it doesn’t happen for most of us in the public eye. We are used to it with celebrities. “Britney is fat!” “Britney’s too skinny…” “Britney on drugs for weight loss!” “Britney is too fat to be singing and dancing and wearing these tiny outifits!”
And all of it just makes me sad. Because at what point could “the critics” be pleased?
And by the critics I mean the media writing slasher pieces. The “fans” of reality tearing apart this young girl. And ultimately, us. Yes, you and me, and “we, the people”.
At what point is enough enough? Who is it that defines what is healthy and acceptable and okay? Who is the ultimate judge on what is good when it comes to how a body looks?
I wish in some magical land we could all just be happy. And it could end on happiness. And that would be our goal, and that would be our end. I wish we could respect the fact that it takes some people longer to get to the same place. That we could recognize and also respect the changes and differences in ourselves and others.