Each season on The Biggest Loser, the contestants lose incredible amounts of weight and seemingly change their lives for the better. What we don’t get to see is what happens when the cameras stop rolling.
As a nutritionist and weight loss expert, I’ve followed what has happened to the contestants from seasons past. Most of them regain at least some of the weight they’ve lost and a few are even heavier than when they were on the show. I always chalked up most of the regain to the fact that they can’t tightly control their diets like they did while on the show, or do intense exercise for 5 or more hours a day. But as the New York Times reported recently, the truth is much more interesting and alarming than that.
A new study by a researcher at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the NIH revealed that Biggest Loser participants have metabolisms that are slower than people the same size. Basically, they burn hundreds of calories less than they did at their original weight, which makes it nearly impossible for them to keep weight off. The surprise to the researchers wasn’t that the participants metabolisms slowed down after the show ended—that’s a normal result of weight loss—what was shocking was that as they started gaining the weight back, their metabolisms continued to slow even more.
Does this mean that people who are obese shouldn’t try to lose weight because they’ll inevitably gain it back? No, it just means that experts in obesity and metabolism need to look at the problem in a different way and find new solutions for people who are struggling to lose weight—and keep it off.
A good friend of mine lost over 100 pounds through diet and exercise when she was in her twenties. Now in her forties, she always says that losing it wasn’t the hard part, it’s keeping it off that’s the challenge. Indeed, for those of us who try to help people lose weight for health reasons, the key is to also give them tools to maintain that weight loss. If you’ve ever lost 50, 10, or even 5 pounds, you know just how hard you have to work to maintain your new weight. Let’s work together to make sure we can celebrate all your efforts today and in years to come.