By STEVE KARNOWSKI and JEFF BAENEN | Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – A day after Rachel Fredrickson won the latest season of “The Biggest
Loser,” after shedding nearly 60 percent of her body weight, attention
wasn't focused on her $250,000 win — but rather the criticism
surrounding her loss.
Experts cautioned that regardless of her current weight, the criticism
being levied on social media about her losing too much isn't helpful. A
more constructive message is needed, they say, centering on body image
and healthy living.
The 5-foot-4, 24-year-old Frederickson dropped from 260 pounds to 105
under the show's rigorous exercise and diet regimen — but also time
spent on her own before the finale. She was a three-time state champion
swimmer at Stillwater Area High School in Minnesota, and said she turned
to sweets for solace after a failed romance and gained the weight over
Frederickson's newly thin frame lit up Twitter on Wednesday, with many
viewers pointing to the surprised expressions on the faces of trainers
Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper during the show's Tuesday night finale.
Many tweeted that Fredrickson looked anorexic and unhealthy, while
others congratulated her for dropping 155 pounds.
Frederickson's body mass index, a measure of height and weight, is below
the normal range, said Jillian Lampert, senior director of the Emily
Program, an eating disorder treatment program based in St. Paul, Minn.
But she said the criticism directed against Frederickson isn't helpful.
“As a society we often criticize people for being at higher weights —
that's part of why we have the TV show 'The Biggest Loser' — and then we
feel free to criticize lower weight,” Lampert said.
A more constructive message to send young people would center on
well-rounded health and the importance of eating well, moving well and
sleeping well, she said.
“We certainly see a lot of people who struggle with eating disorders who
use the same behaviors on that show to an extreme,” she said. “That
can't be helpful.”
Joanne Ikeda, a dietitian and retired faculty member at the University
of California at Berkeley's Department of Nutritional Sciences, added
that focus needs to be on embracing body-size diversity.
“We are just obsessed with body size, women particularly. There's just
tremendous body dissatisfaction,” Ikeda said. “I'm sure even if she was
the exact right size, someone wouldn't like the look of her fingers or
the length of her hair.”
“We should be happy we don't all look like Barbie and Ken,” she said.
A listed phone number for Frederickson couldn't be found by The
Associated Press late Wednesday. During an appearance on “Access
Hollywood,” Frederickson didn't directly respond to the criticism but
said she intends to live a healthy lifestyle going forward.
“My journey was about finding that confident girl again. Little by
little, challenge by challenge, that athlete came out. And it sparked
inside me this feeling that I can do anything I can conceive. And I
found that girl, and I'm just going to embrace her fully,” she said.
In a statement released late Wednesday, NBC said it was committed to
helping all of the show's past contestants live healthier lives.
Among the social media commentators was 36-year-old Shannon Hurd, who
tweeted that Frederickson looked weak and unhealthy. In an interview
Wednesday with AP, Hurd said she became anorexic at age 16 and has been
recovering since she was 19.
“Looking at her 'after' photo, I guess I saw … a piece of myself way
back when, and it really just struck something deep down,” Hurd said
from her home in suburban Denver. “I don't know if she's anorexic, but I
do think her weight loss is so extreme there is no way her loss can be
maintained through normal habits, and unfortunately that leads to
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