Most ‘Biggest Loser’ winners regain the weight they lost – and it reveals a disturbing truth. A central problem of most weight loss plans is that they’re designed simply to help you lose weight quickly, not to keep it off for longer.
The Biggest Loser, a reality TV show in which contestants compete to shed the most weight, has been a huge win for NBC — now airing all over the world.
It’s also been a boon for obesity researchers, offering them an extremely rare opportunity to study the effects of intensive diet and exercise on a group of people trying to lose over 100 pounds on average.
The newest scientific study to use the contestants as subjects, published in the journal Obesity, sheds light on why it can be so hard for people who’ve gained a lot of weight to keep it off once they’ve lost it. It also suggests the Biggest Loser approach, which involves extreme calorie restriction and several hours of exercise each day, may be particularly damaging to health.
For the paper, researchers at the National Institutes of Health followed up with Biggest Loser contestants from season eight. They took a number of measurements — body weight, fat, metabolism, hormones — at both the end of the 30-week competition in 2009, and again, six years later, in 2015.
To find out why, Kevin Hall, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health, began following contestants on the TV show “The Biggest Loser,” a reality show in which overweight people compete to win cash by losing the most relative to their initial weight. A study he wrote in 2013 showed that after returning home, contestants were highly likely to begin slowly gaining back the weight they’d worked so hard to lose.
A recent story in the New York Times looks into a more recent study by Hall, which appears to confirm his preliminary findings: Out of 14 contestants he studied, 13 have regained weight. Four contestants are heavier today than they were before the competition began.
The reason? The body fights really hard against weight loss, especially in the months and years after you finish a grueling diet and exercise plan. And this happens, at least partially, because of a series of complex biological changes that occur when you diet.
These findings aren’t brand new. In fact, other researchers have been emphasizing some of Hall’s main findings for years.
Source: National Institutes of Health, USA.