10 Signs of an Eating Disorder (And My Thoughts on the BL Finale … )

We’ve been pretty mum about the whole The Biggest Loser finale Rachel Frederickson thing. But that’s not because we haven’t had thoughts. Oh, no. SO MANY THOUGHTS. I chatted with the girls about it, and, well, there’s just been so much to consider. And so much to say. And so much speculation. But as huge fans of the show — and of Rachel (her story was so inspiring) — I wanted to take time out to say something. Actually, a lot of somethings.

In somewhat ironic (good?) timing, this week is also National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, so I feel like it’s a good time to address a couple of different things, including the 10 signs of an eating disorder from the National Eating Disorders Association.


Now, I think these signs are important and powerful to know — both in recognizing warning signs in our loved ones and ourselves. I know that in my pre-FBG past, I’ve been guilty of no. 1, 2, 3 and 5 … so I get it. I really, really get it. And a lot of times when you’re in it, you’re not even that aware of how disordered it actually is. It’s not a happy place, but it’s your life — and it’s your obsession.

Now in the case of Rachel Frederickson, I’ll admit that when I saw her at The Biggest Loser finale I was shocked. Appalled even. She just looked so fragile and thin and bony. But the moment that I had that thought, I stopped myself. Because, really, none of us know what’s really going on in Rachel’s head. From the facts, a 155-pound weight loss does go under “drastic,” yes. And I think anyone on The Biggest Loser could be considered as doing excessive exercise. But the rest of those signs? We just don’t know.


What I immediately became concerned with was backlash and the impact of her image on the show — and all the girls watching. The day after the finale, this Bustle post went live, and it really, really got me thinking (and worried). How many women and girls looked at her and wanted her body, her look and that amount of skinniness, no matter the cost? Speculation of her headspace aside, there’s no doubt that her being crowned as The Biggest Loser and on such a national stage says something to many.

There have been a lot of really good posts written on the whole thing. And the story seems to keep evolving and unraveling as Rachel has now admitted to taking it too far and the show’s producers are now considering tweaking the format. I’ve long been uncomfortable with the show’s focus on the scale — and the lengths some contestants go to win. So I hope this does result in some changes. I’m not sure how to fix it, but I hope it can be changed for the better because, all in all, the show is SO inspiring.

I also hope that Rachel is truly healthy and happy because she deserves it. Living on the extremes — either too thin and restricted and controlled or overweight and completely out of control — are both unhealthy. Neither is a happy place. Neither is a healthy place. Neither is a feel-good place to live. And I’d hate to have Rachel or anyone just go from one extreme to the other. Or, in the media’s insistence that she does have an eating disorder, push her into either really having one or gaining all the weight back. I mean, can you imagine being in her shoes? That pressure … and it’s all on how you look. She used to hide behind her weight and here she is for all of us to see … and, well, the world still isn’t a happy and friendly place.

Only time will tell how this all plays out, but I hope that this whole thing sparks more discussion and a true appreciation for health at all sizes. And I’ll be super curious to see how this affects the next season …

Later today we’ll have another post on what to do if you think your friend has an eating disorder, but for now, tell me: what are your thoughts on this? —Jenn

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  1. I hope she is truly healthy, too — but I think that show is just . . made to cause eating issues or over-exercise issues. The focus on the number and only the number is a huge issue. Thanks for this post!

  2. Veronica says:

    I honestly would be more worried with Anorexia Athleta at this point with her. It was determined that her weight and height produced a disturbingly low BMI of 17.5-18.0 depending on her height. Now granted 18.0 is technically healthy weight…that at the very lowest end. She admitted to working out 4 hours a day. That’s pretty dang extreme. And the drastic weight loss from the also time she was seen is very bothersome. I’m not necessarily saying that she had an eating disorder, I am basing my opinion on what she has said. Exercising to high limits (no one should be exercising 4 hours a day 6 days a week, and I know professional athletes do, but that is to hone their skill, not lose weight), is a big big concern for me. I know that I myself do not have an eating disorder, but man have I walked the line of Anorexia Athleta (obsession with exercise, scale, counting calories, and building muscle, crippling fear that if you stop or scale back you will lose all that you worked for), and it can be scary.

  3. Kerry Lee Haas says:

    I do believe she stated that she was eating a 1,600 calorie a day diet and working out several times a day when she left the ranch. As fit girls, we can do the math and know that 1,600 calories a day isn’t going to cut it with such excessive workouts. http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20784458,00.html

  4. Andi says:

    I LOVE the Biggest Loser and I find the show very helpful with it’s tips, training, and motivational stories. You do however have to remember it is a game, and she did what she needed to do to win. If you also take in to consideration how many pounds the average person will gain once they “settle in to their normal lifestyle” once back home, where they cannot workout 4 hours a day, I think she’ll be fine….. I hope she’ll be fine.

    The important piece of the puzzle that I wish the show would show / tell us is how tall the contestant is. A 5’6″ framed person can carry 125 pounds way differently than a person who is 5’1″, but in our heads 125 is average, but not on someone who is 5’1″, they would /could be considered overweight .

    I think there are too many pieces of a puzzle missing for everyone to have been saying “she did this” or “she did that” or the “show should this or that”, take it as motivational, a reflection of your own habits (or lack there of), and go from there with ourselves first.

    Thanks Jenn for posting the signs of eating disorders, health and healthy is hard no matter where you are in the spectrum.

  5. megan says:

    I did find her drastic weight loss quite a shock however I am the same height, weigh 108 pounds which I have maintained since I was 18 (now 41), so I dont thinks she looks too skinny, just in comparison to her original weight. That is just how im built, I eat, work out but am small. What I have found most disturbing is the “skinny shaming” this young girl has had to endure. Obviously she did not have a healthy relationship with food or her body when she was over weight and the backlash of winning is possibly going to cause that unhealthy relationship to continue. I’ve read the most hurtful, rude and awful comments about her which she certainly does not deserve. If anyone should be shamed it is the producers of the show…. The only way to “win” is to lose the most weight in a short period of time. I’ve never heard that was healthy or successful in the long run. But I guess the show makes the network a lot of money so good tv is more important. ..

  6. Great post. I think it’s important for readers to understand eating disorders and as it relate to weight-loss. I know from my personal 80 pound weight-loss experience that it is a fine line between trying to lose weight & becoming obsessive about it. Sometimes I have to remind myself to not go crazy counting calories or working out for 3 hours everyday. Even now, 4 years post weight-loss, I still go through those worries. I think people don’t realize how easy it is to slip into a negative behavioral pattern. I hope she’s ok too and I am disappointed that the show has received bad publicity as a result of this.

  7. KB says:

    I’d LOVE to see TBL take on overall healthiness and fitness from now, instead of weight loss. What a great time to make that shift – to show reducing cholesterol, body fat, and improved strength and cardiovascular fitness… Focusing on healthy eating, exercise balanced with quality REST. Now THAT would be inspiring!

  8. Great post. At this point there is just no way to know what is going on. Even with all the mathematical equations, BMI, height, weight, body fat etc…the real story is in Rachel’s mind and heart.

    The most disturbing part about all of this for me was the media backlash. People seemed to revel in the idea that she does have an eating disorder. The comments I read were truly disheartening, especially because there are women reading blogs and comments that do have an ED. They may have been right on the brink of asking for help until they saw how a whole nation loved to publicly tear down someone who may suffer from an ED.

    I do love the show though. There is so much hope shown in the contestants’ transformations. So I think this can be a productive “scandal” if it brings serious issues to light and refocuses people on a move holistic view of health beyond the scale.