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BMI, height, sexism

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Everyone is up in arms about Rachel losing too much weight for the Biggest Loser. Maybe she did. Maybe the rules need to be tuned so that people aren't incentivized to go below a normal BMI. Imagine if we had a "without going under" provision like on Price is right. That would keep the finale exciting! In season 1 they had transformation number that included fat loss. I would love to see that come back.

But on to sexism. Did we freak out like this when Danny Cahill showed up looking like he'd walked home from Andersonville? And Rudy, the runner up that year, had an even lower BMI. I about cried when I saw how emaciated he was, and still didn't win. He was 6'4" and technically still overweight at 208, which exposes the problem with BMI for tall people. In an interview Rudy said:
"In talking with Dr. Huizenga and my own physicians, probably the best weight for me -- especially since I plan on getting back into the gym and putting some muscle back on -- I'll probably settle in somewhere around 225 to 235. I think with my height and where I want to be, that will be the best."

What I see in a lot of this coverage is the message that women's appearance is always up for criticism, whereas men are applauded for being competitive. I didn't think Rachel looked too thin for a Biggest Loser finale. She still had some muscle definition. She still had swimming rotator cuffs. I think she's below a sustainable weight, but that's been true for most of the winners and many of the finalists.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Great post.
    1524 days ago
    Well said!

    While I sometimes use BMI as a reference point in setting reasonable, realistic goals for myself, I really wish we didn't rely on it so heavily, though. I've known a number of doctors who fixated on BMI and told someone they were obese when they weren't fat, they were just big boned and muscular. I have two close friends who are the same height as I am--so theoretically we should all have the same BMI goals. However, we have *very* different bone structures. Fat percentage is a far better measure, but it's harder to obtain accurately.

    BMI was a statistical concept that makes sense when applied to people but doesn't work so well when applied to individuals--especially people who are unusually fit, tall, or short.
    1532 days ago
    Emaciation is a bad thing. Outrage is the proper response to emaciation. If, as you say, people were silent while this show emaciated several men, and they didn't speak up until it emaciated this one woman, that means people were more concerned for the health of that one woman than they were for the health of multiple men. So no, I don't see the outrage as sexism towards women and don't see anything to be gained by labeling it as such. In fact, if the goal is to get the show to stop doing this to people, pointing out the lack of outrage about past contestants would be more effective. Calling the outrage sexist would actually silence the critics and it would support the current status quo of how they do things on that show, which benefits no one of either sex.
    1532 days ago
  • SUGAR0814
    1533 days ago
    I worry about the folks on that show...I don't watch but I have in the past and from what I see, yes, it is medically supervised and all of that, but to lose that much that fast, we know that is not healthy or sustainable. As far as the sexism and the matter of BMI, I totally agree.
    1533 days ago
  • SUCCESSN2018
    Sorry, but in my eyes she didn't look healthy. It was obvious by the way she walked, the trainers expressions, and didn't she almost fall up the stairs trying to get to the scale?

    I get that its a "game" and they are trying to win 250K. I'm sorry but no amount of money is worth making yourself look the way she did. She looked awesome during the triathalon.

    She was 150 pounds at that last weigh in. Several former contestants have said they are at home anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks before finale (it can vary). That means in that short amount of time she dropped 45 pounds?!

    That's a little nuts if you ask me.

    As far as the guys and such, someone said Bobby didn't look healthy. I honestly didn't see it. He looked healthy to me. Tumi looked incredible!
    1533 days ago
    I think the major difference is that all of the guys, and even all the women EXCEPT Rachel when they got their final weight in flexed and almost all of them had some AMAZING guns. You can tell they hit the gym hard lifting, pushing and working at it. Even Tani had great guns and beautiful legs and she is now a runner. But Rachel can't flex to show off these amazing guns, she didn't have the muscle tone to show off. Is she healthy, I don't think so. Did I think anyone else I saw on the show was underweight, of course, but they all had amazing muscle definition. I'm not hating that she won, just that she was more about the weight than the health.
    1533 days ago
  • _BABE_
    All I know is the instant she came out everyone (including Bob and Jillian) looked a bit shocked and not in a good way. Her teeth looked big for her head and her face was drawn and not just from runner's face.

    I hope it was just to secure the win!
    1533 days ago
    I disagree, I also thought the second runner up lost too much weight. Rachel looked unhealthy, it doesn't make sense to go through all the work to gain a healthy body weight only to take it so far that you develop another weight problem- namely anorexia. I would like to see her again in 3 months to see if her weight moderated then everyone can say it was just for the win and not the beginning of another problem. I'm fine with the extreme for a short period to win the competition.

    I think it became a bigger issue when she gave interviews about it and deflected the questions by only saying she got her confident girl back and she's here to stay. Self-confidence shouldn't be tied to weight.
    1533 days ago
    1533 days ago
  • CDCSMITH2013
    We had a biggest loser style challenge at work and the whole BMI system was something I spoke harshly about. It's flawed in a major way which wouldn't be so bad if our culture didn't embrace it so tightly as the only way to go.
    1533 days ago
  • POPSY190
    1533 days ago
  • JMOUSE99
    1533 days ago
    She is below the recommended height/weight ratio, but you're 100 percent right. The backlash is because she's female - if she were a guy, no one would notice.

    But the real problem is the show...
    1533 days ago
    Good assessment. I completely agree! The poor girl - everyone criticizes her for being so overweight and she works her ass off and loses the weight, and now she's too skinny?!?! omg!
    1533 days ago

    Comment edited on: 2/6/2014 12:55:01 PM
    1533 days ago
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