In a new essay season 15 winner Rachel Frederickson penned for Today, she addresses her much talked-about win in February, when some accused the 24-year-old voiceover artist of taking her weight loss too far.
Rachel shed a staggering 155 pounds during the course of the show, weighing 105 pounds at her big reveal. Needless to say, the drastic weight loss not only visibly stunned the show's coaches, but got plenty of criticism.
Rachel now admits that the intense backlash got to her -- taking her back to the days that caused her to become overweight in the first place.
"When I fell in love during high school with a foreign exchange student, I made decisions from my heart," she explains about her past. "It didn't take long before the voice of a boy I loved started diminishing my self-esteem. His voice told me I wasn't enough and I believed it. ... Fast forward to a lonely, overweight girl."
"Comments during the controversial storm following my weight loss were hurtful," she shares. "My self-esteem once again was affected by other people's voices -- this time, the kind that live forever in Facebook posts or written in the pages of magazines. People tried to bring me down and (privately) succeeded."
She also says that the backlash completely took away from her sense of accomplishment at her weight loss.
"When I stood on stage at the live finale, I had never felt stronger," she reveals. "I had accomplished everything I wanted to do. I was extremely proud of myself. That moment didn't last long."
But now Rachel, who in April revealed that she's gained 20 pounds since the finale, counts the experience as a learning one.
"2014 has been a year full of learning, changing and growing for me," she reflects. "There will always be other voices in life. The trouble comes when you stop listening to your own. I am committed to trusting my decisions and standing strong behind them. I found strength in this struggle and I am listening to my own voice again!"
Such an amazing first hike at Letchworth State Park @BLResortNiagara! We saw three different water falls! So pretty!! pic.twitter.com/KHcm8dkNNH