Minnesota native lost 60 percent of her body weight to take home $250,000 on 'Biggest Loser'
By Amy Carlson Gustafson
ST. PAUL - “The Biggest Loser” finales are always eye-opening. Tuesday’s was jaw-dropping.
Stillwater native Rachel Frederickson won the popular NBC weight loss TV show and took home $250,000 by shedding 60 percent of her body weight. It was a record-setting weigh-in with the 24-year-old former high school swimming champ dropping a higher percentage of body weight than anyone in the show’s 15-season history.
From the moment she walked onstage, Frederickson’s thin 5-foot-4 frame had folks taking to social media wondering if she had lost too much weight. After her weigh-in, Twitter exploded with people expressing opinions ranging from congratulations to disappointment.
Some commenters said she was in the game to win it and predicted she would put on some weight after her last weigh-in. Some people thought she looked great. And some blamed the show and network for letting her get down to such a low weight.
In total, Frederickson lost 155 pounds, going from her 260-pound starting weight to 105 pounds in a little more than seven months. During her 14 weeks on the “Biggest Loser” ranch, she lost 110 pounds, while the additional 45 pounds were dropped while at home before Tuesday’s finale.
In a reaction shot shared on social media, “Loser” show trainers Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper appear to be surprised by Frederickson’s appearance when she walked onstage.
Jillian Lampert of the Emily Program, a nationally recognized eating disorder treatment program based in St. Paul, said according to Frederickson’s stats she is below the normal BMI range — indicating she’s underweight. But the criticism Frederickson is receiving on social media isn’t constructive, Lampert said.
“I think it’s a very interesting reflection of our society that we’re obsessed with weight loss and then we get mad when someone does it too much,” said Lampert, a senior director at the Emily Program. “It does feel like just another thing to attack somebody for in the semi-anonymous world of social media.”
Lampert is also concerned with what kind of message the show is sending to viewers.
“I think about all the kids watching those shows and all the parents watching shows like that and talking about their weight,” she said. “What do kids think when they see us as adults make shows about people who live in larger bodies and then give them money when they achieve living in a smaller body? What does that teach kids about the value of their body? That worries me.”
On a “Today” show appearance via satellite from California on Wednesday morning, Frederickson said she couldn’t believe what has happened to her since joining “The Biggest Loser” and is excited for the “brand-new life” ahead of her. Not one of the four morning show personalities who talked to her brought up the controversy.
However, in a story featured on the “Today” show website, Frederickson said she was healthy and didn’t plan to lose any additional weight.
“I’m at the maintenance point now, so I need to find some balance and make sure I work out and I eat healthy and make good choices 90 percent of the time,” she told “Today” after the finale. “I’m not sure (I’ll maintain this weight), but I plan to try new exercises and just continue on this path and see where that takes me.”
Frederickson’s story was a touching one. A three-time state swimming champion in the 100-yard butterfly during high school, she walked away from a college scholarship to move to Europe for love. When the relationship didn’t work out, she came back to the United States, eventually landing in Los Angeles where she works as a voiceover artist. She had gained more than 100 pounds in six years.
When Frederickson got to the “Biggest Loser” ranch, she found her inner athlete and became one of the strongest competitors of the season, winning challenges including a triathlon and bobsled and curling competitions. She earned a spot in the finale along with David Brown of Edmond, Okla., who lost 54.28 percent of his body weight, going from 409 lbs to 187 pounds; and Chicago’s Bobby Saleem, who lost 52.51 percent of his body weight, going from 358 pounds to 170 pounds.