health

This Biggest Loser winner has been called 'sickly' and 'skeletal'.

When the winner of America’s The Biggest Loser stepped out onto the stage this week, the reaction from the audience – and the internet – wasn’t the usual polite applause and surprised excitement.

It was total and utter shock.

The contestant, 24-year-old Rachel Frederickson, who used to weigh 260lbs (117kg) – now weighed just 105lbs (47kg). She had lost 60% of her body weight since first entering the competition.

She didn’t look fit, or healthy, or strong – she looked skeletal.

The majority of Rachel’s weightless occurred in the 14 weeks it took to film the earlier episodes of the show. But when she left the confines of the Biggest Loser compound, Rachel didn’t so much maintain her weight, as keep dropping. Steadily.

If the reaction from the judges was anything to go by, Rachel’s body significantly changed in the time between her leaving the show and coming back for the ‘big reveal’ episode.

When Rachel stepped out on the stage, Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels looked surprised. Jillian halts in her clapping and mouths the words ‘oh my god’, while Bob looks uncomfortable.

Rachel Frederickson says of her win, “I came here to gain back my life, and I did exactly that. I’ve found that proud, confident girl that has so much respect for herself.”

However, viewers of the show did not seem to see a proud, confident girl on that stage. Instead, they saw a girl who looked gaunt after dramatic weight loss. The reaction on Twitter was immediate, with viewers of the show tweeting their shock, anger and concern.

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The Biggest Loser winner is the very picture of anorexia, an affliction whose lifeblood is attention. Nice job, NBC. http://t.co/ZTAEIogh9r

— Jacob Ward (@_jacobward_) February 5, 2014

The Biggest Loser is a huge reality television hit, with local versions that screen all over the world. Many fans say that they find the show motivating and genuinely useful when it comes to tips for maintaining a healthy diet and motivating themselves to exercise.

The contestants do lose a dramatic amount of weight, but it is generally done in a highly controlled environment with expert doctors and nutritionists on hand. Rachel’s dramatic and seemingly dangerous weightless has immediately raised questions of whether or not the support for contestants when they leave the show, is sufficient.

 If this post brings up any issues for you, please contact The Butterfly Foundation on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673).