Are the “Biggest Loser” contestants have success with weight maintenance? According to the New York Times, a scientist, Dr. Kevin Hall, from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), became an avid “Biggest Loser” watcher and asked what happened to the contestants over the years. Did they gain weight? Were they able to maintain new bodies? During the show, he was in awe of the contestant’s huge weight losses of sometimes over 13 lbs. per week. On the show, “Biggest Loser” contestants did the following each day:
- Fitness: Exercised 3 hours per day at an intense level and often encouraged to do more
- Food: Ate a minimum amount – calories were not tracked
Oh No! Metabolisms Permanently Slower?
While “Biggest Loser” was not interested in working with Dr. Hall, one of the previous “Losers,” Dr. Jennifer Kerns was willing to assist and contacted previous “Biggest Loser” contestants. They underwent at the NIH. Researchers there the Losers’ metabolic rates and they were shocked – the contestants’ calorie burn rates were lower than would be expected for people their size. Furthermore, six years later, undergoing rigorous testing, the researchers discovered that the contestants “metabolisms really were slower than when the contest ended.” According to Dr. Hall, “It is very disturbing. I almost don’t believe it.” But, after more tests, the contestants’ metabolisms really were slower than they had been when the contest ended.
Lots of Exercise for Weight Maintenance
A follow-up article by Gina Kolata, in the New York Times on October 31, 2017, the study of 14 ““Biggest Loser”” television show recruited from a “secret” Facebook Group to learn how they are maintaining their weight.
Physical Activity and LOTs of it was the key factor in those contestants ability to keep off and maintain their new lower weight. On average, those who “maintained a significant weight loss”
- 80 minutes of moderate activity like walking or elliptical training
- 35 minutes of vigorous exercise like indoor cycling, running or stair climbing
150 Minutes of Exercise per Week Is Too Few
The Biggest Loser study is small but so is the number of people that successfully maintain a weight loss. Guidelines for the Centers for Disease Control only suggest at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise (75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise for healthy adults). That amount of exercise, just 150 minutes (about 21 minutes per day), is really too little to maintain weight.
Dr. Hall used the latest, most advanced technology to determined the exact number of calories and the amount of exercise accomplished. Over a period of time the following conclusions were drawn:
To lose weight: Calories (food intake) matter
To maintain weight: Exercise and lots of it
Dr. Hall’s study didn’t differentiate between types of exercise or passive (more steps in your day) vs. more rigorous exercise (logging miles a day). The study concluded that food is the key to weight loss and exercise to weight maintenance.
A Contestant’s Success
A previous contestant from Season 3 of “Biggest Loser,” Dr. Kern, has managed to maintain her 100-pound weight loss by still tracking her food intake and exercising on an elliptical cross-trainer for 30-40 minutes per day. This seems reasonable; it’s not three hours a day. But, for a lot of people, it’s hard given the demands of work and family to squeeze in the time. To maintain my weight, I exercise about 60 minutes, 5-6 days a week and track every meal with the Weight Watchers app. I’ve done this for so long, that it’s ingrained in me.
Final Thoughts on Weight Maintenance
For myself, almost daily, vigorous exercise has played a key role in my maintaining my weight loss and staying within a few pounds. Exercise is not a punishment to keep weight off. When I finally had success with weight loss, I found exercise a huge stress reliever relief. Vigorous exercise is not necessarily helpful in losing weight; it’s hard for any full-time working person to squeeze in more than an hour a day. It’s much easier to skip that 400-calorie brownie, then to burn it off! But, exercise is helpful in lowering your appetite, getting your body toned and provides a sense of daily accomplishment.”