Rachel Frederickson before and after

What a crap-storm. By now, you’ve repeatedly heard about The Biggest Loser finale show and the extraordinary amount of weight Rachel Frederickson lost – nearly 60% of her total weight she started the show with.

Going from 260 to 105 pounds sounds extreme, no matter how you say it – but why the hate?

I won’t link to any articles or tweets because there are thousands to be found if you just look around a little. Almost overnight, Frederickson went from a life of being chastised for being overweight (her words) to a world of being ridiculed for losing too much weight.

There was a 45 pound drop in the three months between the last two episodes of the show – the time when Frederickson went home and worked with personal trainer, Dolvett Quince. That’s 15 pounds a month when we do the math – or just under four pounds a week.

But looking at the equation further, I am willing to bet that since she was competing for the ultimate first place prize of $250,000, she spent the last week depleting herself of carbs, as well. Her trainer is obviously skilled in understanding that glycogen can easily add another ten pounds and she was wanting to hit the stage with the most weight dropped. Of course they used glycogen depletion as part of the final stage of her prep – in the same way that every body builder in the world uses glycogen depletion before hitting the stage in a contest.

That’s not fat loss – that’s just associated water weight from glycogen in the body.

Now body builders will usually hit a final meal of carbs before hitting the stage to induce “super compensation”, meaning they don’t care as much about the number (so long as they remain in their desired division) as they care about looking big and full. Frederickson obviously didn’t do this, since she was only concerned with the final weight number, so we can assume that there’s about seven pounds of glycogen depletion occurring (it’s ten for me at 160 so shaving off a few) at her weigh-in, after depleting her body of all carbohydrates in the last week. This brings our total three month weight loss down to 38 pounds – which is 12.6 pounds a month or 3.16 pounds of fat lost every week.

The shame! I once lost 17 pounds in a week of fasting, so I must really be unhealthy, right? Not so much. I don’t have bulimia or an eating disorder as a result of it either. I just went back to eating maintenance and my health markers all look great (I get tested once a year).

It’s worth mentioning that “healthy” fat loss (whatever that technically is) is considered to be 1-2 pounds a week.

Okay.. Let’s focus on the most critical backlash that Frederickson is receiving – that no matter how she did it, she’s too thin and just simply looks unhealthy.

The interesting thing here is that had she came in at about ten or fifteen pounds heavier, this probably wouldn’t even be a story. It’s kind of a testament to what America now finds “acceptable” in terms of weight – that many are far more accepting of being 100 pounds overweight as opposed to 10 pounds underweight.

Maybe we need to reevaluate what it means to be “healthy”?

This whole debate comes at an interesting time for me. My very last post was exactly one month ago and in it, I addressed the issue of “fast” fat loss and questioned if it was really as bad as people made it out to be.

In January, I lost 9 pounds in the week following that last post, gained four back when going back to eating what I wanted and not counting, the week after (slightly over maintenance obviously), and then lost another 10 pounds in the week after that. That’s where I’m at right now – 15 pounds lighter than exactly one month ago.

In those two weeks that I lost a lot of fat (and it was mostly fat), I ate very little. I wasn’t advocating anyone else do that but just experimenting to see how I felt and what kind of effects it had on my body. I can honestly say that losing fat slowly is a far more more practical approach to losing fat – and sustainable. I ate 600-800 calories a day during those two weeks in an attempt to really bolster fat loss. It worked – but I learned that I actually do better when eating no calories for a day than a few hundred. Having a few hundred calories increases my appetite for more calories.

The point being… I have found that “fast fat loss” works just as well for me, should I choose to go that route anytime in the future. It doesn’t make me bulimic or somehow unhealthy. If I exercise a little willpower after a short spurt of very low calories, I can jump right back into eating a normal amount of calories and achieve all my goals while still being very healthy.

Sustained periods of weeks and months eating low calories is what messes up hormones. I’m convinced that short bursts have no ill health effects – and are actually quite good for you, in regards to cleaning out your system.

Now’s a good time to mention that when I weighed 225, I was diagnosed with hypo-thyroid. I never took the suggested medication and since having lost over 50 pounds, my thyroid levels always show perfect – even when being at my absolute leanest last year (a mark I intend to top this summer).

Back to Frederickson.

She was on a game show where the winner gets $250,000 and she was willing to take it to an extreme of being 10-15 pounds under the “socially accepted” weight of what everyone else believed was “normal”. Who wouldn’t have pushed it a little harder for a $250,000? I certainly would have. How about you?

Frederickson said she feels healthier than she ever has and she is brimming with confidence every time I see her being interviewed. I say good for her! There is no reason she can’t add back a few pounds and look more “socially acceptable”, if that is her desire, now that the contest is over. I’d be willing to bet she gained back five or six pounds by the next day from a single meal – after the competition was won.

“Oh gosh, I just see a strong, confident woman, and I feel great,” she said about herself. “I’ve never felt this great, and it’s very exciting!”

On the other hand, if she’s comfortable at 105 pounds and she prefers to maintain that weight, who are we to judge? To assume she is somehow unhealthy by merely making an assessment of her looks is to make an assessment based in ignorance. We know nothing of her health.

I can’t count the number of times someone has accused her of having an eating disorder on trainer, Dolvett Quince’s Facebook page. You’ll also find anorexia and bulimia tossed around all over the comments. Is that fair in any way?

Both Dolvett and Frederickson have defended the methods that Frederickson used. Dolvett’s Facebook post on the topic sums up his feelings nicely:

“‘Biggest Loser’ is a journey which has its ups and downs. Please try not to look at one slice of Rachel’s journey and come to broad conclusions. Rachel’s health is and always has been my main concern and her journey to good health has not yet ended!”

Frederick has publicly stated that she has maintained 1600 calories a day throughout her journey.

“I have had support systems in place the entire time I was on The Biggest Loser. We are given a calorie budget and I stuck to that. I’ve done lots of working out and the finale was very enthusiastic.” She currently eats 1,600 calories a day. “That’s what my budget was from the support system that I had at The Biggest Loser,” she explained.

Assuming we don’t have two people blatantly lying for the sake of one winning a game show, I am at a loss to understand the criticism. If they are lying and that became public knowledge, then this blog entry would be about a completely different topic. I’m just working with the information I have and I can’t just assume that “there’s no way she’s not lying” like the Twitter firestorm about her.

Frederick is 24 years old – an age where her metabolism is likely at it’s highest, a former star athlete, had a round the clock personal trainer and had extra incentive to push herself for a $250,000 reward. Is just over three pounds of fat loss a week really such an unbelievable achievement for these conditions?

Sorry – but I could do that now at 44 years of age on 2,000 calories a day if I didn’t have to put eight hours a day in behind a desk.  Guaranteed.

Furthermore, this isn’t a health show – it’s a reality show TV contest. Ever seen Naked & Afraid? Those folks go 20 days on less than 1,000 calories sometimes – to win.. not to be healthy. I’ve never heard of any of those contestants forming an eating disorder as a result either.

I’ve seen a lot of comments from people who claim they were watching The Biggest Loser with their young children and this was a terrible example to set. I’d have to advise that watching a game show where people try to lose weight for money, with your children, is the terrible example. Don’t do that, if this is a concern, and this is a non-issue.

My final problem with the criticism is in so many people believing that Dolvett, a man who preaches the value of good health and who has helped thousands of people achieve their goals, is somehow “at fault” for this transformation.

I’m not a huge fan of The Biggest Loser – but only because reality TV bores me. I don’t watch the show much and from what I have seen, it’s obviously not presenting a practical approach for people to lose weight. Regardless, it seems clear to me that all the trainers care – and they care a lot. I have a real hard time believing that Dolvett would somehow cheat the system this one time just to ensure victory.

I still find the video of Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels, looking particularly shocked, a bit strange. Both reactions look almost rehearsed to me. Anyone else feel this way? It’s almost as if the show planned the reaction to get people talking. No such thing as bad publicity, right? The slow clapping is so deliberate. I dunno.. maybe I’m wrong on that one, but it sure felt like something was off there.

In the end, we all have a desire to look great and everyone’s journey to get there is different. This is Rachel Frederickson’s journey – not ours. I applaud her success and congratulate her on winning.

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