Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

'The Biggest Loser': A warning from someone who's been there

By S.E. Cupp
updated 3:00 PM EST, Mon February 10, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Biggest Loser" winner set off discussion of what weight level is too thin
  • S.E. Cupp says she experienced many kinds of eating disorders, including obsession with weight
  • She says people can become addicted to the positive rewards of losing weight
  • Cupp: Losing weight doesn't mean losing the pressures caused by body issues

Editor's note: S.E. Cupp is co-host of the new "Crossfire," which airs at 6:30 p.m. ET weekdays on CNN. She is also the author of "Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media's Attack on Christianity," co-author of "Why You're Wrong About the Right," a columnist at the New York Daily News and a political commentator for Glenn Beck's "The Blaze."

(CNN) -- This year, on the 15th season of NBC's weight-loss show "The Biggest Loser," Rachel Frederickson did exactly what the show producers, the celebrity trainers and the audience asked her to: She lost the most weight.

She lost so much weight, in fact, that many have decided she is now unhealthily thin. Jaws dropped at her final weigh-in. Social media exploded. At 5-foot-5 and 105 pounds, her body mass index is below what the National Institutes of Health considers healthy.

I won't speculate on her health. That's for a doctor to determine, and hopefully she's regularly seeing one. She says she's "never felt this great."

S.E. Cupp
S.E. Cupp

I think I know exactly how Rachel is feeling right now. In a word: intoxicated. And as I also know from experience, that intoxication can be deadly dangerous.

'Biggest Loser' winner: Too Thin?

Growing up as a student of classical ballet, I floated in and out of all kinds of unhealthy eating disorders. I experimented with bulimia, starvation, laxatives and diet pills. Dancers knew plenty of terrible tricks. We'd eat carrots and use the bright orange to mark when to stop throwing up before all the nutrients and energy we needed to dance were expended. We ate tissue paper to feel full. We were caffeine addicts --some even snorted it. Many smoked cigarettes and a few did drugs.

Did 'Biggest Loser' winner go too far?

Our unhealthy habits at Boston Ballet even led to a "Dateline" investigation in 1997, when a friend and fellow dancer died suddenly at 22. She weighed 93 pounds.

Not only did all of this make for very bad habits, but as an impressionable, insecure and developmentally immature adolescent girl, body issues were ingrained at the worst possible time, and when I was least equipped to deal with them.

When "The Biggest Loser" contestant Rachel Frederickson showed just how much weight she lost on the NBC competition in season 15 -- 155 pounds, to be exact -- not everyone was impressed. A number of viewers expressed concern that she had become "too skinny," although Frederickson said that she feels fine. As we welcome in a new season of competitors, let's catch up with the rest of the "Biggest Loser" winners: When "The Biggest Loser" contestant Rachel Frederickson showed just how much weight she lost on the NBC competition in season 15 -- 155 pounds, to be exact -- not everyone was impressed. A number of viewers expressed concern that she had become "too skinny," although Frederickson said that she feels fine. As we welcome in a new season of competitors, let's catch up with the rest of the "Biggest Loser" winners:
'The Biggest Losers': Before and after
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
>
>>
\'The Biggest Losers\': Before and after 'The Biggest Losers': Before and after

My teen years were spent, irrationally, consumed with being too fat. There was depression. There were suicidal thoughts. There was therapy.

When I finally left ballet, I found relief in the normalcy of college. That relief turned to excitement when I found friends -- and boyfriends -- who thought I was pretty great, even without starving myself. And that excitement turned to empowerment when I found a career in writing that turned me on and didn't care what I looked like. I left body issues behind. I knew who I was.

Ironically, all that self-esteem spurred unexpected weight loss. I suddenly dropped 10, 15, 20 pounds without trying. I was eating healthily, working out occasionally, and enjoying my 20s. I'd never been happier. And then it happened.

The compliments, the attention, the looks on friends' faces who hadn't seen me in a few months -- it was all euphoric.
S.E. Cupp

The compliments, the attention, the looks on friends' faces who hadn't seen me in a few months -- it was all euphoric. Watching the numbers on the scale tick backward, clothing sizes drop -- I'd chased that feeling for so long as a teenager, and it was finally happening. And as the compliments turned to concern I grew even more determined to hold on to that euphoria, to keep the weight off and maybe drop a few more pounds.

If someone didn't mention my weight loss, I was despondent. What was once occasional exercise became compulsive working out. Eating healthy turned into not eating. Instead of going out with friends I preferred to stay in, so I could not eat in private.

I hadn't been trying to lose weight, didn't even think I needed to. But when it happened inadvertently the euphoria was so addicting, I didn't want it to stop.

The good news is, older, wiser and having beat body issues before, I knew I didn't want to get sucked back in to a dark and compulsive life controlled completely by my weight.

I made a decision to never return to those addictions, no matter how good they felt. I stopped the feverish workouts. I returned to normal eating. I saw my friends again.

Years later, I make daily decisions to strike a balance between being healthy and being obsessive. And if the choice is between being 10 pounds overweight and 10 pounds underweight, I choose over.

It hasn't been easy. I have a job on television now and the pressure to look good and stay thin is immense. I simply don't pay attention to it.

I was recently a bride, and unlike many women preparing to walk down the aisle, I refused to embark on some crazy crash diet to look my thinnest in a corset, though the temptation was there.

And I am sure that when I have children, I'll worry about losing baby weight like every other new mother does. But I will do all I can to obsess over my baby and not those stubborn remaining pounds.

I'll bet that Rachel Frederickson can relate to much of my story. I bet that when she was at her heaviest she was unhappy, and maybe even depressed. I bet she never thought she could look the way she wanted. I bet she fantasized about what it would be like to be thin.

And now I bet she is intoxicated by the attention she's gotten for losing so much weight, intoxicated by the rush of losing another pound, by the boost in energy she has from working out. And I bet she has vowed to herself never to gain the weight back, never to return to the previous her.

I just hope that in addition to weight loss and workout techniques, the trainers and doctors on the show have equipped her to deal with the addictive behaviors that can result from successfully getting in shape. I hope they've warned her about a mental anguish that can be just as dark as the one she felt as a heavier woman, and maybe even more dangerous. And I hope they've told her that despite the thrill of losing the most weight, she will not become a "loser" if she gains some back.

I'm proud of Rachel for getting healthy. And I hope she loves who she is. But the next year will be an important and potentially dangerous one for her, with addictive behaviors lurking around every corner. I just hope she's strong enough to avoid them.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of S. E. Cupp.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 9:02 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT