A few months ago, a study was released about 14 of the “Biggest Loser” reality TV show contestants, stating that on average, each of the participants gained back more than two-thirds of the pounds they had lost. The report stated that the contestants experienced a drop in their metabolic rate that had slowed so much that their bodies were not using enough calories to maintain their slimmer size, causing the weight to quickly come back. This study had many thinking that losing a large amount of weight, and keeping it off, would be impossible to obtain, as long as our metabolism was slowing as well. This is not the conclusion to be drawn from this study.
It must be noted that the way the “Biggest Loser” contestants lost the weight was unhealthy and unrealistic. They ate few calories and would exercise up to seven hours a day. This alone makes this story’s outcome ineffective, as it does not study how metabolism responds to reasonable weight loss that is achieved by reasonable means. Tufts conducted a much larger study including 145 participants over a two year duration. The study showed a healthy parallel decrease in weight, metabolism and calorie requirements. It shows that healthy weight loss can lead to healthy prevention of weight regain so long as the habits that led to the weight loss in the first place are continuously implemented. Once the weight is lost, caloric needs do not drop below that of an average weight person, so the good habits of fewer calories, but not deprivation, will lead to prevention of weight regain.
Do not be discouraged by small studies with unstable variables. Weight loss, when achieved by healthy measures, is completely possible to maintain long term. Susan B. Roberts, Director of Tufts’ HNRCA Energy Metabolism Laboratory, sums it up best. “The Biggest Loser is certainly entertaining, but the most important lesson we can draw from this study is: Don’t try to lose weight ‘The Biggest Loser’ way!”
Information provided by Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter 8/2016