We have all seen the weight loss reality TV show that promises contestants will lose 100’s of pounds in just a short time. The Biggest loser is iconic for transforming the way it’s contestants look. It’s also known for making personal trainers in to TV personalities over night with a famous cast helping the contestants to achieve amazing results.

A recent study has caught the attention of the New York Times and their writer Gina Kolata has covered an in depth article here. This article caught the attention of one of our clients who forwarded it on to me.

The article reveals a study that showed how almost all contestants of The Biggest Loser season 8 had regained their weight after leaving the show.

As a personal trainer I regularly meet people at the beginning of their weight loss journey asking for unrealistic results thanks to TV shows like the Biggest Loser. Show’s like these make it seem like you can lose 10-12lbs per week consistently with the help of “TV style personal trainers”.

In this article I’m not going to take away from the incredible weight loss that the contestant’s achieve but rather look at the recent study reviewing the amount of weight these contestants put back on and how to avoid falling in to the same trap yourself.

It Started With Amazing Results

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As you can see above, Sean Algaier lose a total of 155lbs in just 13 weeks, an average of 11lbs per week. That’s crazy!

We recommend people lose on average 2lbs per week, anything more than this is likely to be muscle tissue and dramatically reduce your metabolism.

It’s an amazing achievement to have lose 155lbs of weight and I would take my hat off to anyone who managed this, but for a long time I have criticized the show for encouraging entertainment at the cost of the participants long term weight loss.



As you can see above, Sean gained all of his weight back and some after the show ended. What’s even more concerning is that his body now burns 458 fewer calories than a man his size usually would; making it even hard for him to lose weight with a stunted metabolism.

You could attribute this huge set back to the way in which he lost all of that weight.

He was not the only one to have lost this much weight. Danny Cahill was the Biggest Loser’s “Biggest Loser”. Danny lose a whopping 239lbs in 7 months.

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Danny Cahill stood, slightly dazed, in a blizzard of confetti as the audience screamed and his family ran on stage. He had won Season 8 of NBC’s reality television show “The Biggest Loser,” shedding more weight than anyone ever had on the program — an astonishing 239 pounds in seven months.

When he got on the scale for all to see that evening, Dec. 8, 2009, he weighed just 191 pounds, down from 430. Dressed in a T-shirt and knee-length shorts, he was lean, athletic and as handsome as a model.

“I’ve got my life back,” he declared. “I mean, I feel like a million bucks.”

Quoted from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/02/health/biggest-loser-weight-loss.html

The Study

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 16.52.50What we can see from the charts above is that almost none of the contestants had managed to keep the weight off just a few years later.

Assuming that they didn’t gain 100 lbs over night then it is likely they started to gain weight the first week after the show finished.

The chart on the right shows how their metabolism is stunted and with out the help of an expert it’s unlikely they will be able to re-build their metabolism up.

I regular tell people how excessive exercise (especially cardio) can cause metabolic damage. What this means in reality is that it is slowly going to become harder to lose weight due to a stunted metabolism.

The only way to raise your metabolism long term is to increase your muscle mass with resistance training and increased protein consumption. If you would like more help on building your metabolism and avoiding metabolic damage then book a free consultation here.



What To Watch Out For

Slower metabolisms were not the only reason the contestants regained weight, though. They constantly battled hunger, cravings and binges. The investigators found at least one reason: plummeting levels of leptin. The contestants started out with normal levels of leptin. By the season’s finale, they had almost no leptin at all, which would have made them ravenous all the time. As their weight returned, their leptin levels drifted up again, but only to about half of what they had been when the season began, the researchers found, thus helping to explain their urges to eat.

Leptin is just one of a cluster of hormones that control hunger, and although Dr. Hall and his colleagues did not measure the rest of them, another group of researchers, in a different project, did. In a one-year studyfunded by Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council, Dr. Joseph Proietto of the University of Melbourne and his colleagues recruited 50 overweight people who agreed to consume just 550 calories a day for eight or nine weeks. They lost an average of nearly 30 pounds, but over the next year, the pounds started coming back.

Quoted from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/02/health/biggest-loser-weight-loss.html


Leptin is a hormone found in the body that serves several purposes: it regulates your hunger levels, your food intake and the way your energy is expended. Essentially, leptin is what tells the body what to do with its fat- store it or burn it. Needless to say, it’s a pretty big deal when it comes to the weight loss game. When the leptin levels in your body drop, you find yourself craving junk more and more the lower your levels get. When you diet for a prolonged period of time, your leptin levels drop and stay low as a way of protecting your body, which is being fed a minimal number of calories. As a result of this, your metabolism slows down and weight loss becomes near impossible.

The problem with drastic weight loss is that in dramatically reduces your leptin hormone. The long term trick is to lose weight with a specific resistance training plan and balanced diet.It has to do with resting metabolism, which determines how many calories a person burns when at rest. When the show began, the contestants, though hugely overweight, had normal metabolisms for their size, meaning they were burning a normal number of calories for people of their weight. When it ended, their metabolisms had slowed radically and their bodies were not burning enough calories to maintain their thinner sizes.


Quoted from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/02/health/biggest-loser-weight-loss.html

My Conclusion

One of the biggest concerns I have with shows like the Biggest Loser is that it negatively effects the emotional state of other people wanting to lose weight.

By setting the expectations too high people tend to fall at the first hurdle when they lose just 1lb a week; or they hear stories about the Season 8 Biggest Loser contestants that put the weight back on and feel even more confused about how to approach weight loss.

Either way the Biggest Lose is just entertainment and nothing more, please don’t use it as inspiration or a blueprint for your own weight loss.

Try working with a professional personal trainer who is well informed on metabolic damage and knows exactly how to increase your metabolism for long term success.



Quotes & images from : http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/02/health/biggest-loser-weight-loss.html