Losing weight is challenging and keeping it off takes work. This became more evident after a recent study published in the medical journal, Obesity Biology and Integrated Physiology. Scientists followed 14 contestants from “The Biggest Loser” for six years after their time on the show and found that when the cameras went off, the weight often came back. Out of the 14 contestants, 13 regained the weight in 6 years and 4 were even heavier than they were before their time on The Biggest Loser. All except one of the 14 contestants had slower basal metabolic rates after losing weight. The study is not without its flaws, but it does highlight how difficult it can be to achieve long-term weight loss. “Long-term weight loss requires vigilant combat against persistent metabolic adaptation that acts to proportionally counter ongoing efforts to reduce body weight,” the authors concluded.
So, what is the Basal Metabolic Rate?
The basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the total number of calories that your body needs to perform basic bodily functions such as breathing, blood circulation and digestion. Many factors affect a person’s BMR. Some of the factors include: age, gender, muscle mass, amount of sleep, illness, weight and height. Intuitively, a low BMR leads to weight gain.
What happens to The Biggest Loser contestants?
Contestants on The Biggest Loser are placed on a 1,000 calorie diet per day and exercise 9 hours per day. First off, exercising 9 hours a day is not realistic for most folks to maintain in real life. Also, it may not be safe to exercise 9 hours per day without medical supervision. Secondly, the calorie restriction put the contestants in a starvation mode. When you go on a diet that is less than what your body needs, that is less than your BMR, you will slow your metabolism. In effect, your body thinks that it is starving and thus your body will slow everything down, including your metabolism. Consequently, once the contestants were in their natural setting, they had difficulty maintaining the strict regimen they had when they were being supervised. Thus, it is no wonder that The Biggest Loser contestants regained their weight.
As the saying goes, ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ It matters how you lose weight. It’s important to have a realistic plan. Making lifestyle changes that are sustainable for the longterm is key. Why would anyone do anything to lower their BMR, essentially sabotaging their efforts? There are many diets to choose from. Some diets work for some and not for others. Its critical that the plan be safe and realistic. In the long run, not much else replaces healthy eating choices and regular exercise that includes strength training. Find what works best for you, but the goal should always be to adapt to a lifestyle that promotes a higher BMR.