I was out of town on business from early Monday to very late Wednesday this week; my first business trip in 2+ years.
While I was excited to get back in the saddle again, I was a bit bummed that the timing of this trip meant missing the live finale of The Biggest Loser season 15 on Tuesday night.
As you may recall, I had the opportunity to spend a week at a Biggest Loser Resort back in November 2012. It was a truly transformative experience, and one which left me with a soft spot in my heart for this program, so I get pretty wrapped up in the show and its contestants each season.
With the DVR set, I looked forward to watching the recorded show as soon as I arrived back home. My biggest challenge was trying to avoid spoilers on Facebook or Twitter. I wanted a total blackout until I could watch it for myself, and magically I managed to remain blissfully unaware of anything finale-related.
I settled in to watch the show during my lunch break.
I’ve had mixed feelings about this season.
- Rant on –
The move to a 60-minute show format meant that viewers saw a whole lot of overt product placement, one challenge, a bit of the workouts, and – of course – the weigh-in. Personally, I enjoy watching the gruelling workouts, and seeing the amazing victories and emotional breakthroughs that such extreme exercise can deliver. It’s those things that prompted me to write about how my week of tears became my year of sweat.
The new shorter format cut out most of the elements I loved, which was disappointing, especially when they still prioritized on screen time for the latest subway sandwich or dessert-flavoured gum. Oh and let’s not forget the Brita water filters.
It seems the show’s producers got the memo via the social media rants of disenfranchised fans, and they went back to the 2-hour format in the second half of the season. So there’s that.
Still, as a loyal viewer, I continue to bristle over the very obvious tweaking of the rulebook to allow former American Idol, Ruben Studdard, to make 3 appearances on the ranch, despite being eliminated. Twice. It’s clear to me that Ruben’s main goal in participating on the show was to sell more records. In fact, he released a new single the day his ‘return to the ranch’ episode aired.
What a co-inky-dink.
What is not so clear to me is why the show felt so compelled to have him on? Do American’s care that much about him because he was on another reality TV show? Bottom line: this guy arrived at the finale still morbidly obese, but the happy recipient of a shit-ton of screen-time, including a live performance during finale night. Well played, Ruben, well played.
**Note to producers: Okay, I get it; it’s a TV show. A reality TV show. Heck, it’s even a game-show. But, come on – can you please just award those coveted few spots to people who actually want to lose weight and get healthy?
Show format and fame-whoring aside, let’s get down to the brass tacks about what really derailed Season 15 for me.
The winner of season 15 of the Biggest Loser, 5’5 Rachel Frederickson, weighed in at 105 lbs, making her the first contestant in the history of the show to finish the season officially underweight.
Finale Rachel emerged onto that stage a sliver of not only her former self, but even of the Rachel we admired as recently as last week’s episode (filmed approximately 3 months ago). Where was the Rachel who dominated challenges? The Rachel who pre-packed her meals before trips off the ranch to ensure she could eat healthy? The Rachel who smoked the competition during a mini triathlon in the previous episode?
Where did that Rachel go?
That Rachel was replaced by Finale Rachel.
Finale Rachel, gaunt-faced, skeletal-armed and sunken-eyed, had no relation to strong, healthy, athletic Rachel.
I looked at her and saw Karen Carpenter.
Finale Rachel looked sick.
Finale Rachel looked hungry.
Finale Rachel invoked these reactions when she took to the stage.
Look at Bob’s eyes… his mouth. He looks like he’s about to cry.
Look at contestant, Tanya, behind Jillian. She looks like she just saw Voldemort.
Jillian, who barely hides her disdain at the best of times, is surprisingly poker-faced, compared to the others.
To their credit, neither Bob Harper nor Jillian Michaels has defended their shocked reactions. True, they have not spoken out against the anorexic-like appearance of this ‘winner’ either, but at least they aren’t pretending that this was healthy. Or appropriate.
Their silence speaks volumes. As does the shocked reaction in the screen capture above.
Jillian eventually posted this statement to her Facebook page, “So here it is, Bob and I want to take a moment to congratulate all of the BL contestants on their hard work. We’re not comfortable commenting on Rachel’s journey because we weren’t her trainers and weren’t given an opportunity to work with her at any point. Any questions about the contestants on the Biggest Loser should be directed to the show’s producers.”
For me the show may have jumped the shark last night.
Critics have long been vocal about the extreme practices promoted by this show, and I can understand their valid concerns. Still, I remained an avid supporter of the show because, at the end of the day, all contestants were better off by the end of the show than they were at the start.
Few reach their ideal goal weight during the course of the season; but even for the many who do not, the fact that they drop 20, 30, 40% (or more) of their body weight means they finish far healthier than when they began. All benefited from their participation in the program. All inspired me and made me an enthusiastic cheerleader of the show.
That changed when they crowned a winner who finished underweight.
Being overweight is clearly not healthy, but being underweight isn’t either.
I’m disturbed by the message that crowning an underweight ‘winner’ sends to the most vulnerable out there, like the teen with low self-esteem who just skipped a meal, or shoved her fingers down her throat; that is: to be a winner you must be the thinnest of them all.
Biggest Loser Season 15, you ARE a big, fat loser. Fail.
- Rant off -