"Biggest Loser" winner Rachel Frederickson sees the positive in everything. After revealing her skinny, 105-pound frame on the season 15 finale of NBC's weight loss competition, the 24-year-old voice actress faced extreme backlash from millions of people who thought she had gone too far and was too thin. Frederickson didn't see it as just criticism, though -- she saw it as concern for her well-being, and for that she feels lucky.
"I'll always be grateful for the concern everyone had," she tells Us Weekly exclusively. "I will say, I had so much positive support, even on social media. Honestly, you look at it and you say, 'Wow, if people are talking, they're concerned or they're supportive.' And at the end of the day, that's pretty amazing to have so many people aware of what I went through, what others are going through."
Which is not to say it was easy to deal with the chatter. "It can be challenging," she admits to Us, noting that her family has been a source of strength. "But I'm really proud of the work that I did and how healthy I was. ... I could ignore [the controversy] because I was really proud of the work I did. And something that I really learned was that I can't be judgmental of myself or others. You never know what someone else is dealing with. I know how I lost the weight, and I know that I did it healthfully and naturally."
Frederickson -- who is now a healthy 125 pounds, 20 pounds heavier than she was on the finale -- adds that she was surprised by how much attention she got after winning. "I never stepped on the stage thinking, 'This is going to be talked about!'" she tells Us. "I was so proud of what I did, I didn't really think anything of it, but it made me aware, too, about what a big issue body image and self-awareness is."
"That's what I wanted to go on the Biggest Loser for, to find my confidence and my self worth. And I have found it!" she says. "I found it when I stepped on that stage, and through the backlash and the controversy, I'm helping others find theirs, too."
A former high school competitive swimmer, the L.A. resident says she's been getting lots of messages from fans who've struggled similarly with weight and body-image issues. "I have so many people who will come up to me and say, 'Thank you. I've been criticized for being too thin or too tall or whatever -- and now I can stand up and be proud and not let that affect me. Now I can really love myself,'" she shares. "I think that's pretty powerful."
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