What We Can Learn from The Biggest Loser

January 13, 2022 by
Photo Credit: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

In 2014, Rachel Frederickson won the 15th season of The Biggest Loser, the infamous weight loss show that ran from 2004-2017. When she stepped on stage during the finale, she weighed in at 105lbs. She had lost an astounding 155lbs, 60% of her initial weight of 260lbs. The cameras panned to the faces of the celebrity trainers that reflected the complex feelings shared by many viewers at home. It was as if, in that moment, collectively we understood that this was not ok. The show was not celebrating health, it was celebrating thinness. Frederickson was awarded with $250k in prize money. At a scant 105lbs, she fell into the underweight category for her height. People who are underweight (BMI <18.5) are at a greater risk of poor health outcomes than people who are of normal weight or overweight (BMI 18.5-34). 

Unsurprisingly, the show cancelled soon after following a damning NIH study on former contestants that showed that they gained most of the weight back, sometimes gained back even more, and were left with resting metabolic rates that were considerably lower than they should have been.

The studies themselves are quite interesting and provide some insight into how human metabolism works in the context of extreme weight loss. But I believe there is more to be learned in the aftermath of the original The Biggest Loser

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