Rachel, Rachel

Now that some of the “hoop” and “la” has diminished over the “Biggest Loser Controversy” regarding winner Rachel Frederickson I thought I’d chime in.

But my emphasis won’t be totally focused on “did she lose too much weight?” – my focus also includes how screwed up we are when it comes to what Americans consider to be an “attractive” weight.

At best we’re conflicted, at worst total hypocrites.

In seven months Rachel lost 155 pounds.  When we do the math that translates into an average of about 22 pounds per month.  When I first did the math I jumped right on the “that’s totally not healthy” bandwagon. 

But then I realized something.  I lost my weight when I was about the same age as Rachel.  And while I don’t know exactly how long it took me – I know I lost about 115 pounds in no more than a year – probably less.  I hadn’t weighed myself in a LONG time when I started, but the highest recorded weight was a couple years before that and I weighed 217 pounds (I’m five foot two.)  I got down to 102 pounds (at my lowest, through the years I’ve varied, but maintained within the “healthy BMI” range.)

So, let’s split the difference and say I did it in 10 months – that’s an average of 11.5 pounds per month.  Not as much as Rachel – but a pretty good clip.  And I did not dehydrate myself and I did not starve and I did not exercise for hours.  Here’s what I did:

  • I ate less – not even sure how many calories less, but less and more nutritious food.
  • I went to the gym a few times a week where I lifted light weights.
  • I jogged 2-3 miles a day most days of the week.

Now, at 57 years old I wouldn’t have a prayer of losing that much weight in the same amount of time following the same plan I did all those years ago.  My metabolism has s.l.o.w.e.d. down – way down.  However, I imagine that if back then I’d exercised for the 4-8 hours a day past Biggest Loser contestants have reported instead of averaging about an hour a day that it wouldn’t have been all that difficult for me to lose quite a bit more per month.

I realized that, while Rachel may have significantly upped the ante as far as how many calories she cut out or how much she exercised – I’d lost quite a bit of weight pretty damn quick myself when I was her age.

OK – so I know I most likely haven’t convinced everybody out there that perhaps Rachel isn’t the worst example of how to lose weight ever known to man comparing her experience to mine.

The point I’m trying to make is that perhaps, just perhaps, Rachel isn’t as “bad” as she’s being portrayed.   Maybe she’s just young, put a ton of effort into it, and lost 155 pounds in 7 months.   Sure, she didn’t follow what any reasonable person would consider to be an equally reasonably healthy approach to doing so – but I think the show’s creators and trainers are a bit hypocritical to get all up in arms about it – I mean, all you’ve got to do is watch the show to see they’re maybe just 2 degrees north of going about using any “healthier” approach than poor Rachel.  There are tons of posts and articles about past contestants confessing to the show’s “less than healthy” methods.

But, as I said, this isn’t the total focus of this post – stay with me here while we take a look at judging her to be so “horribly thin” by comparing her to Gwyneth Paltrow who was named by People magazine as 2013’s “World’s Most Beautiful Woman.”

SkinnyHere are Gwyneth’s stats:

5’9 – 126 pounds – BMI 18.6

Here are Rachel’s stats:

5’4” – 105 pounds – BMI 18

If you want a younger example, here are 25-year-old actress Krysten Ritter’s stats:

5’9” – 123 pounds – BMI 18.2

The average height and weight of a model is 5’8” between 108 and 125 pounds – so even at the “high” end of this scale most models just barely make it into the “healthy BMI range” (not under 18.5.)

So, on the one hand, we (meaning society in general) venerate and want to look like (or at) underweight actresses and models – but we’re going to jump all over a young lady who meets that criteria????

Conflicted?  Yes.  Hypocritical? Yes.  But most of all:  CONFUSED?  Yes.

As a nation we are so screwed up about weight that we’ve created role models that are so “not normal” that make many of us think we can “never look normal.”

Rather than jumping all over Rachel’s case how about we quit our love affair with human hangers and move on to identifying “beautiful people” not by their weight, or how many wrinkles they do or don’t have, but by the content of their character?

But I want to be clear here:  Do I recommend trying to lose 22 pounds a month?

NOT ON YOUR LIFE.  It IS a risk to your health – and a risk that simply doesn’t make any sense.  When making any kind of decision one needs to assess risk versus opportunity – and certainly the risk of having your body start to “eat itself” by losing weight too quickly simply isn’t worth the opportunity of getting to “goal” a few  weeks or months earlier than you would following a sensible, healthy, reasonable diet and exercise plan.

I am glad I lost that weight – sustaining a healthy weight makes it possible for me to do things I love, like hiking and biking and gardening.  And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like looking “better” (to me) in my clothes than I did at 217 pounds.  But, can’t we get real here?  After all these years I can tell you that I’m most happy I lost that weight and have been able to sustain a healthy weight because I value FEELING better – physically and psychologically better.  And caring about how I feel is ever so much more real than getting stuck on how I look.