By Alan Lyndon
NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” a weight loss reality TV show, this week crowned its latest winner and, in the process, stirred a controversy regarding how much is too much.
Rachel Frederickson, 24, began the show at 260 pounds. Over the course of the five months of taping, she lost 60 percent of her body weight to end the show at 105 pounds. With that remarkable transformation, Rachel walked away with a new body and a $250,000 grand prize. But did she lose too much weight?
“In the final episode, she looks emaciated,” said Krista Casazza, Ph.D., R.D. and an expert on body tissue partitioning at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “Up until the final episode when she was losing weight with the trainers, not at home, she looked a lot healthier and looked like she was preserving the bone and lean mass,” Casazza told the Huffington Post.
Frederickson is a former competitive swimmer and three-time state champion from Minnesota. She turned down swimming scholarships to move to Germany for a relationship. When that didn’t work out, Frederickson gained over 100 pounds.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines an overweight adult as having a BMI (body mass index) between 25 and 29.9. Obese is above 30. Listed at 5’5″, Rachel would have tipped the scales with a BMI of 43.
On the other end of the scale, a BMI of less than 18.5 is considered underweight. Rachel is now at 17.5.
Even the hosts of “The Biggest Loser” were visibly shocked when Frederickson walked on stage at the finale. The producers issued a statement after the final episode to address the controversy without condoning anything: “We support Rachel and all of the ‘Biggest Loser’ contestants who have shared their journeys over the past 15 seasons. We remain committed to helping contestants achieve healthy weight loss and live healthier lifestyles, and to inspiring viewers to do the same.”
Frederickson stuck to a strict exercise regimen and a 1,600 calorie per day diet during production of the show. Her course of action led to a total loss of 155 pounds, which is about one pound per day of the production. By comparison, a healthy weight loss is about 1 to 2 pounds per week.
“Anything that severe or that quick is risky,” said Kelly Hogan, a clinical dietician at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, told CBS News.. “There can also be electrolyte disturbances, cardiovascular problems and issues cognitively in the brain.” Hogan believes that Frederickson is now “pretty significantly underweight.”
What do you think?