Armchair judges are on the warpath again weight shaming The Biggest Loser participants for gaining their weight back. But why did the weight come back?
Weight Loss and Gain
Past participants are feeling guilty for not keeping the weight off two or more years later, and a new study shows results from the 14 contestants they studied who gained the weight back. However, the study only included participants from one season who gained the weight back, so the numbers would have been different if it had included those who had kept the weight off.
In 2008, Ali Vincent became the first female winner of The Biggest Loser. She went from 234 pounds to 125 at the end of the show. In an interview with Oprah this April, Cosmo reported, Vincent shared she had gained most of the weight back, and due to comments from many of her Facebook followers, she felt humiliated. “I was ashamed … I was embarrassed. It was probably my lowest point.”
Surprisingly, the trolls pushed her to begin again and focus on being healthy. She joined Weight Watchers and has been documenting her progress and receiving support from all angles.
Danny Cahill who was a contestant on Season 8 of The Biggest Loser, lost over 200 pounds, weighing in at 191 at the end of his season. He lost that weight fairly quickly, over a 30-week period. But after he returned to “normal life” and work, he has gained back 100 pounds. Appearing on Good Morning America, he told them how things started changing. “I was working out two hours a day and riding my bike all over town to go where I was going,” Cahill said. “Once that stopped, the weight started creeping back on.”
According to the study published in the medical journal Obesity Biology and Integrated Physiology, which followed 14 of 16 of The Biggest Loser contestants from season eight for six years, they found that those who lost a significant amount of weight also had a significant and continuous slowing of their metabolism, and they had a harder time keeping weight off as time went on. It is a mechanism the body exhibits to return to its previous weight. They also were found to have less Leptin, a hormone that regulates how hungry a person feels.
Slow and Steady
The concept is similar to feral cat communities when someone tries culling or eradication to get cat numbers down. When they trap and move (or kill) cats to reduce their numbers, the problem is that cats automatically fill in blank spots so whether one or 10 cats are removed, anywhere between one and 20 will fill those spots. However, TNR, or Trap-Neuter-Return, is when the cats are removed, fixed, and returned to their same location. They are unable to reproduce, but will die off naturally, and the group will accept that loss and not try to replace it.
Thus, the weight loss study which was released yesterday gives a similar thought to the body trying to replace the large amount of weight it lost at such a quick rate. “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.
— Jenn Leong (@JennLeongABC) May 3, 2016
Dr. Bartolome Burguera, an endocrinologist and director of Obesity Programs at Cleveland Clinic, explained it a bit further to ABC News. “When you try to lose weight with a very significant effort in general you cannot keep that level of change in your lifestyle,” he said. “Your brain wants you get back to what you did before.” The cats want to replenish and so do the pounds.
Weight loss has to be a slow and steady change that involves your nutrition and physical activity. Your body has to get used to the new “lifestyle” so it doesn’t fight it and want to go back to what it used to be. Eventually, cravings for unhealthy fast food will be replaced with cravings for the taste of fresh, healthy food, but it doesn’t take one month or even seven months to change a lifetime of habits and tastes. In more challenging cases, there are also FDA-approved weight loss medications and bariatric surgery that can be used as helpful tools.
The lead medical doctor on The Biggest Loser has been given the information from the study and is currently evaluating it. One positive of the findings is what Dr. Holly Lofton, assistant professor of medicine and the director of medical weight management program at NYU Langone Medical Center, told ABC News about the shame and guilt associated with regaining the weight. “Hunger is not a sign of poor willpower and it’s not a sign of cheating.”
This takes the “weight” of shame and defeat off the shoulders of some of these contestants, as well as others who are trying to lose weight and keep it off, knowing biology may be playing a part in their weight loss journey, as well as their actions and willpower.
J.D. Roth, co-creator and producer of The Biggest Loser, reiterates the need to do a study that involves both those who gained the weight back and those who kept it off. “We need to use both to come up with the best way to be healthy because we all know we’re still trying to figure it out.”
[Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]