The Biggest Loser is probably one of the most popular competition reality TV shows around. Chances are you’ve watched a few (or all) of the episodes.
It makes for great TV. Tears, joy, success, failure, tough-love coaches, motivational speeches, competition, and in the end, the person who sheds the most pounds becomes the biggest loser.
It’s seriously incredible to watch.
You might even find yourself thinking, “I wish Bob Harper was my trainer!” Or maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “If only I could be a contestant, then I would finally be able to lose this weight.”
But what’s the reality behind this “reality” TV show? A recent study in the Journal of Obesity takes a peek at the long-term results of biggest loser contestants and it ain’t pretty.
Let’s take a look.
Biggest Loser or Biggest Regainer?
The study takes a look at season eight contestants six years after the competition ended. Researchers compared the following key indicators from before their weight loss, at the end of the show, and six years later.
- Body Composition — Ratio of fat to lean body mass.
- Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) — How many calories your body naturally burns just by existing.
- Leptin Levels — A hunger and satiety hormone. (High leptin levels means better satiety and less hunger.)
The results are shocking!
On average contestants regained 70% of their lost weight. That’s just an average, some contestants regained all their weight and then some!
Most of the time it’s easy to assume that others (or our own) weight regain is a personal fault. Maybe it’s a lack of self-discipline, stress eating due to social pressure to maintain the weight, or just plain laziness.
But what if this massive weight regain isn’t just about the ability (or inability) to say no to high-calorie, fattening foods and hit the treadmill like you’re supposed to?
Some of the most surprising findings involve the contestants metabolism and their RMR. Generally speaking a larger person has a higher RMR than a smaller person. That’s because it requires more energy to “run” a larger body whereas a smaller body is able to conserve more energy.
So it’s no surprise that contestants’ metabolisms before their weight loss, was much higher than at the end of the show. At their before weight, contestants were burning an average of 2,607 calories a day. After the show ended, it had dropped to an average of 1,996 calories a day,
This drop in metabolism is totally normal. Some people call this metabolic damage, it’s also known as metabolic adaptation. When you restrict your calories in order to lose weight, your body tries to compensate by using up fewer calories. It might not seem fair, but it’s your body’s way of preventing starvation.
After the show ended and as the contestants began putting pounds back on, experts expected their RMR to once again increase.
But that’s not what happened.
Instead, even though many have regained much of their weight, contestants are burning an average of 500 fewer calories than they should for their size and weight.
What makes this even stranger is that their leptin levels rose even though their metabolism stayed the same. Typically your leptin levels and your RMR are linked, high leptin = high RMR.
Remember that your leptin helps to control your hunger levels. If you have high levels of leptin then you have a higher level of satiety. Low leptin levels probably mean you’re not only hungry but your cravings are probably through the roof.
Your leptin levels will help you eat the right amount of food when you listen to your body’s natural hunger signals.
Unfortunately for these Biggest Loser contestants, their hunger levels and their metabolism aren’t communicating, which means they’re eating more calories than they actually need even if they’re listening to their natural hunger signals.
A study followed up on 16 season eight Biggest Losers, six years after the show ended to find out what their long-term results were.
Researchers found that these reality show contestants had regained an average of 70% of their original weight, they also found that even six years after the competition was over, contestants were still experiencing metabolic damage.
Not only that but their level of hunger doesn’t match up with their metabolism. Which means that they wind up eating more calories than their body actually needs even when they’re paying attention to their natural hunger signals.
What Does This Mean for My Weight Loss?
With all of these shocking discoveries it’s easy to become discouraged and wonder if the same thing will happen to you on your weight loss journey.
Do all weight loss stories end this way? The answer is NO!
The Biggest Loser promotes EXTREME weight loss. There are a lot of other factors that affected their results. We’ll never know exactly how they lost all the weight because a lot of it happened behind the scenes!
What we do know is that their weight loss wasn’t necessarily healthy.
- They cut their calories drastically,
- dramatically increased their exercise,
- lost large amounts of weight in a short time period, and
- didn’t incorporate their weight loss strategies into their normal day-to-day lives.
In an article with New York Post former contestant Suzanne Mendonca said, “I was eating baby food. I’d wrap myself in garbage bags to sweat. We’d use the sauna for six hours a day. We stopped eating and drinking and would work out for four hours a day. People were passing out in the doctor’s office.”
Not to mention the fact that when they returned to their normal lives they didn’t have any of the tools or support that they had while they were on the show.
Long-Term Weight Loss Success is Possible
If you want to see what long-term weight loss success looks like, look no further then Jenna Leach. Jenna lost almost 70 pounds and has kept it off for more than 4 years even after pregnancy.
Jenna’s goal was to transform her body while her husband was away on military duty. But her weight loss wasn’t just for her husband it was also for herself, her health, and her children.
For Jenna, incorporating IdealShake into her daily life was easy. Her nutrition and exercise helped her shape a healthier lifestyle and change her entire outlook on what it means to be a wife and mother.
With the support of IdealShape, Jenna had a team behind her to cheer her on and keep her going. The day-to-day support that she needed was only a phone call away.
Real results don’t have to be “EXTREME” results.
Jenna’s long-term success stems from the fact that she lost weight the right way.
- With IdealShake she was able to cut calories in a healthy way.
- She was doing it for the right reasons.
- She had a support team to back her up.
- She made weight loss and healthy living part of her life.
Jenna is just one example of a long-term IdealShape success story. For more examples just take a look at our Success Stories page, here’s a link: http://www.idealshape.com/success-stories/
Avoiding Biggest Loser Pitfalls to Become a Weight Loss Winner
Avoiding the fate of these Biggest Loser contestants is completely possible. Weight loss doesn’t have to be damaging to your body and it shouldn’t be impossible to maintain in your daily life.
When you lose weight in a healthy way incorporating it into your real life, and surround yourself with support, weight maintenance is an achievable goal.
With IdealShape you can have all of these things.
IdealPlan gives you all the tools you need to lose weight. It teaches you how to maximize your weight loss by using meal replacement shakes as part of a healthy meal plan. You’ll feel full and energized. With IdealPlan you don’t need to cut your calories to the bone in order to see results.
IdealPlan shows you how you can make weight loss and a healthy lifestyle part of your life to create long-term change.
And with IdealShape you’ll never be alone on your journey! Access to private, online communities allows you to get support from experts as well as fellow IdealShapers just like you.