In a recent article published by the NY Times past contestants from the Biggest Loser took part in a survey to see how well they kept the weight off. The update? Most, if not all, of the contestants gained all the weight back. Some even put more weight on! How could this happen? Sure, a little weight gain would be expected. Once the show ends you don’t have a personal training making you workout 5-8hrs a day. You don’t have a medical team and dietician regulating your food intake. Oh, and there’s no more money to be won. So, why did all the weight come back? Researches at the National Institute of Health found 3 reasons for the weight gain: metabolic rate, leptin, and ghrelin.
There are two things to consider when it comes to your body’s ability to burn calories (metabolic rate). First, how much you weigh is a big factor. Your body will naturally burn enough calories to keep you at your current weigh unless you over consume calories. Second, your daily physical activity will determine many more or fewer calories your body will burn on a daily basis. The researchers noticed the metabolic rates of the contestants from The Biggest Loser dropped. That wasn’t a surprise. They lost a lot of weight so their metabolic rate would have to adjust. What they didn’t expect was the metabolic rates to drop even more once the weight was gone. That’s right, even after losing all that weight and continuing their diet and exercise routines their metabolic rates were even lower a few years later AFTER they gained weight back. Some contestants were working out 2-3 hours a day and eating 1000 kcal and still gained weight back.
Another important discovery was what happened to the contestants’ leptin levels; they plummeted! Leptin is the hormone that regulates our hunger. If it’s high then we have better control over our food intake. When it’s low we are constantly hungry even if our bodies are well fueled. In the case of The Biggest Loser contestants their leptin levels fell and never recovered. They were starving all the time. Shocker, they ate more calories than their body could burn off.
The final nail in the coffin was the contestants’ ghrelin levels; they sky rocketed! Ghrelin is the hormone that makes us want to eat. Some of the contestants simply walked as their form of exercise and were still starving by the end of the day.
It’s sad to say that what happened on The Biggest Loser has, and will continue to have, a negative impact on the contestants’ lives. I hope this is a wake up call for many of you looking to lose weight fast and illustrates the importance of being patient and taking time to see results. Your hormones are vitally important in helping you achieve those goals and if you abuse them (and rapid weight loss is considered abuse) then you will reap the consequences for the rest of your life. Small, subtle changes over the long-term will benefit your body and health. Remember, the tortoise won the race…not the hare.
STAY FIT MY FRIENDS!