LOS ANGELES – “The Biggest Loser” Season 15 winner Rachel Frederickson has heard your concerns, America, but she’s not listening. And she’s not answering questions about whether her weight loss went too far.
That’s because she’s absolutely thrilled that she managed to diet and exercise her way down to 105 pounds from a starting weight of 260 pounds on NBC’s weight-loss show. In all, the Los Angeles voiceover artist lost 155 pounds, or 59.6 percent of her body weight, and won the show’s $250,000 grand prize because of it.
Her dramatic transformation, however, has led to criticism and fears that she’s now too skinny, with some wondering whether she has an eating disorder.
Even trainers Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels seemed surprised when she first walked onto the stage at the finale.
At 5 feet 5 and 105 pounds, Frederickson is considered officially underweight, according to the Body Mass Index charts.
During a media conference call, however, the one-time competitive swimmer who says she has reclaimed the athlete within sidestepped pointed questions repeatedly. She declined to specifically address the extent of her weight loss, or the backlash of criticism brewing on social media.
Frederickson said that when she looks in the mirror, “I see a strong, confident woman. I feel great.”
She said she lost all her weight under the direct supervision of the show’s medical experts and training staff. She said she did it with “super healthy” food choices, and by eating five small meals a day and hitting a calorie count of no more than 1,600 calories a day. Meals revolved around a perfectly balanced mix of carbs, fat and protein.
In addition, she said, “I worked out a ton.” That included spending her working hours walking at a treadmill desk and then wedging in extra fitness classes and workouts where she could.
“I’m extremely proud of the way I lost the weight,” she said, later adding: “I followed the advice and supervision of the medical team at ‘The Biggest Loser’ the entire journey.”
Now, with victory in hand, Frederickson said she was looking to find the balance that will allow her to maintain her weight loss and fuel an active new lifestyle. To this point she had been focused on the finale. Now she plans to start hitting the weights to build muscle, as well as try new fitness options, such as dance classes.
She said she was also looking forward to sharing recipes for the foods she enjoyed the most, such as egg white French toast, omelets, sweet potato chips and a homemade ice cream made with protein powder that tastes like a decadent splurge even though it only has 200 calories per pint.
She says she had no plans for the prize money, beyond buying new clothes and saving the rest.
The closest Frederickson came to addressing the weight-loss controversy during the half-hour conference call seemed to come when she said: “It’s OK to have your own path and be different.” In fact, she added, “It’s pretty empowering.”
To be sure, not everyone is criticizing Frederickson’s weight loss. Some say the backlash underscores the “damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t” situation she was in heading into the finale. And really, who wouldn’t pull out all the stops for a $250,000 payday?
Some also lashed out at what they said was hypocrisy, asking why so much controversy was swirling around Frederickson when, for example, Hollywood rains down the accolades (and awards season trophies) on actors who dramatically alter their appearance for a role?
But one teenage viewer who e-mailed the network said there was a big difference: “The Biggest Loser” holds itself out as a show dedicated to helping people win back their health and their lives, and encourages obese Americans to use the show for motivation and inspiration to do the same.
“However, the finale completely contradicts the message,” the e-mail said. “I am deeply upset by what I saw tonight as I’m sure many Americans are too.”