The Biggest Loser: Every Contestant Loses in the Long Run

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Finally, after all these years, the reality show “The Biggest Loser” has offered the American public something of actual value; this comes in the form of a surprising new medical discovery made by studying the 14 contestants who participated in the 2009 show. Surprising and new to everyone except those of us who work in the eating disorder field!

If you are not familiar with the show, it focuses on people who are very overweight to start with, then helps them shed many pounds. The winner is, naturally, the one who loses the most weight during the season.

Of course, what they fail to disclose to the viewing audience is how these people fare after the show wraps. Turns out, not so well. All but one out of the 14 contestants studied regained weight in the six years after the competition. In fact, four of them are heavier now than before the competition.

A casual onlooker would immediately conclude that these people were simply weak-willed and could not resist “bad” foods, and that would be incorrect.

In part, their weight gain is the result of their resting metabolism, which determines how many calories a person burns when at rest. Originally, the contestants had normal metabolisms for their size, but by season’s end, their metabolisms had slowed radically and their bodies were not burning enough calories to maintain their thinner sizes. This is a normal occurrence when vast amounts of weight are lost in short amounts of time; in other words, this transpires after the body experiences prolonged periods of starvation. But the problem is, their metabolisms never recovered. They became even slower over time, as if the body was fighting back against this weight loss.

As far as I am concerned, this study merely added to the evidence that DIETS, specifically extreme diets, are far more the problem than people being overweight.

So instead of focusing on a population of people, such as those who participate in “The Biggest Loser,” we should look at people who have lost weight in a sustainable, healthy, slow method and look at their metabolic rates over time. These would be people who have lost weight WITHOUT starving their bodies to do so. My bet is we would not see the metabolism rate differences or certainly not to the same degree as those engaging in extreme dieting.

I’m continually blown away that expert researchers can’t see this. It is just so ingrained into our medical and lay culture that if it isn’t fast it isn’t American. If you can’t lose 40 pounds in 2 months, why bother?

Sadly, the biggest offenders in this regard are medical professionals who encourage their overweight patients to go on these extreme diets, unfortunately because it is so “shameful” to be fat in our society.  It is so regrettable that it gets beaten into every doctor’s head that fat is always bad and unhealthy, which is just plain wrong.

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