In high school and early college I suffered from an eating disorder. Food and exercise had become my god. At one point, I would dream about food that I had categorized as “forbidden”, only to wake up feeling anxious and afraid– did I really eat that? Oh good, it was just a dream. Sometimes my body reflected this disordered eating. Sometimes it didn’t. I hit a low weight that was scary, but sometimes I was within my “normal range”, but the food continued to be what I thought about all day.
I was subject to a lot of comments from family, friends and strangers: “Just eat something.” “You look gross you are so skinny.” At the time, I prized those comments because it meant I was accomplishing what I wanted to. But, looking back on it, it is strange that so many felt like they had the right and responsibility to comment on my outer appearance. After a while, I got a bit smarter– gaining just enough weight for people to stop talking to me about it, but still struggling with awful and all-consuming thoughts, emotions, and actions surrounding food.
This being my history, I do feel empathy for Rachel Frederickson. This is a woman who worked very hard to lose a lot of weight. Before coming on the biggest loser, I’m sure she was gawked at and made fun of. And now she is again, after losing all of that weight. Why do we as a culture think that it is not kind to talk about how BIG someone else, but yet we’re fine saying how SMALL they are.
Interestingly enough, my current BMI is very similar to Rachel’s current BMI. While I have left my anorexic ways far behind, I happen to be a nursing momma, meaning I burn 500 extra calories a day. And hence, I have gotten some comments from both family and strangers- You’re getting too skinny. Eat something. Wow, it must be hard to be a size __. While some of them were not intending to be rude or mean, it began to make me nervous to be in certain situations because I didn’t want people to comment on my body. It made me feel self-conscious– like my body is doing something wrong. In some ways I’m eager to stop nursing so that I will gain a bit of weight back and feel less nervous in those situations. I can only imagine how Rachel feels now- thousands of people who don’t even know her, commenting about her body.
If Rachel has developed a pattern of disordered eating or thinking about food, then let those who know her and care with her deal with it. Biggest Loser is not stupid; they will take appropriate action if necessary. Her family and friends who see her day in and day out know her eating habits, her exercise habits, etc. They will say something to her.
Let us not be a culture that holds up a woman’s body and shames her– no matter how fat or thin she is.