The Biggest Loser Breakthrough Study: Why Contestants Regain Weight

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Written by: Janet Early

The Biggest Loser is a popular NBC show where contestants work with trainers and health professionals to gain a slimmer physique.

The television series has showcased miraculous weight loss success stories, with previously obese people dropping hundreds of pounds through diet, exercise and lifestyle changes.

A recent study, however, followed 14 contestants in the 6 years following their time on the show. The results were shocking!

Here’s what happened:

  • Thirteen contestants regained weight
  • Four became heavier than they were before the competition
  • Only one of them weighed less than she did when the competition ended

These results led to a revolutionary realization about the human body’s relationship with weight gain.

Scientist Kevin Hall was the one who followed the contestants for 6 years, fascinated by the question of what happens to people over time after they lose substantial amounts of weight. His findings revealed that the body fights supremely hard against lasting weight loss.

In all cases of those studied (even the one person who kept the weight off), the contestants’ metabolisms had dropped drastically. It was as though the body was desperately fighting to get back to the body weight it was used to.

When the weight loss competition ended, it was considered normal that the contestants’ metabolisms had slowed and that they would have difficulties maintaining their newer sizes. However, it surprised scientists just how much the body resisted its new weight.

Instead of adjusting to the slimmer size, their metabolisms became even slower during the next few years.

For example, one contestant – who had lost more weight than anyone had previously on the show – dropped from 430 lbs to 191 lbs. Six years after the finale, his metabolism burned 800 fewer calories per day than is typical for a man his size. As a result, he has regained more than 100 lbs.

According to Dr. Michael Schwartz, a researcher of obesity and diabetes,

“As long as you are below your initial weight, your body is going to try to get you back.”

What Lessons Can You Take From This?

This study exemplifies the need for everyone to cut themselves some slack on the weight loss front. It proves that people are largely at the mercy of their individualized biology in terms of weight loss and that trouble losing weight is not a personal failure or due to lack of effort.

Our bodies are infinitely unique. Therefore, it’s fruitless to compare your body type to that of another person, because you do not share the same genetic composition, environmental factors, or lifestyle choices of that person. Their body challenges are entirely different from yours.

Are People Just Doomed To Carry Around Extra Weight?

Definitely not.

Making permanent changes to your lifestyle, exercise routine and nutrition behaviors will be powerful in improving your health and body composition. But they should be permanent to ensure lasting change.

There’s a reason diets don’t work and it’s because they are temporary. If the lifestyle changes are temporary, the results will be temporary.

Furthermore, the results of this study will not apply to everyone. While a lot remains unknown about the biological factors behind weight gain and metabolic rate, one truth is clear: No one rule applies to everybody.

Some people experience an easier time losing weight than others and it’s for reasons that are largely unknown and currently being investigated.

In this time of biologic uncertainty, it is helpful to stick to the fundamental truths that we do know:

  • Making permanent lifestyle, nutritional and exercise changes will have positive, lasting effects on your health.
  • An organic, plant-based diet free of processed foods, artificial sweeteners and refined sugars can support a healthy weight and reduce chances of illness.
  • Managing stress levels is essential to maintaining a healthy weight and preventing disease.
  • Treating yourself right makes you feel good. When you feel good, you put your best self into the world and reap the benefits. 

What did this study mean to you? Please share your thoughts on this weight gain concept below. Let’s start a conversation! 

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Janet Early

Janet Early

Janet Early is a health enthusiast living in Los Angeles and working as a researcher for a major television company. An aspiring writer, Janet discovered her passion for wholesome nutrition and natural healing while navigating the struggles of balancing food sensitivities in a modern world. In addition to nutrition, she enjoys traveling, storytelling and embarking on daily adventures.
Janet Early

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