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The Sad Story of why “The Biggest Losers” Can’t Win Part 2

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In first part of this blog we talked about the research performed on “Biggest Loser” contestants as an example of the body’s reaction to weight loss. We discussed how this was essentially a survival response designed to quickly limit weight loss. As I said, these same responses that limit weight loss are also responsible for weight regain.

If you read my last blog and you came back to read this one I congratulate you. I was worried everyone was going to start sending me hate mail (can’t say I’d blame you either)! Your reward for staying strong will be a real, practical, and effective strategy to lose weight and keep it off forever (if you haven’t read the first part of this blog, jump back and read that first before continuing on).

Despite all the protective mechanisms our bodies have to limit weight loss and cause rapid weight regain, there are some truly effective, evidence-based, steps you can follow to work WITH your body to lose weight and keep it off:

Don’t push your body, gently nudge it. This is a critical first step; the harder you push your body to lose weight, the harder your body will resist. You might trick your body into losing the first 10 pounds quickly, but it will respond by making you hungry, tired, and otherwise miserable, all the while cranking down your metabolism as fast as possible. To prevent this from happening you have to commit to the slow game (this is the part you’re allowed to tell me I stink…but you’re not allowed to stop reading). Start with some of the small changes suggested below, as these changes will not only help you get the first 10lbs off, but that last 10lbs off as well.

Build Nutritional Skills, don’t Rule Follow. Most diets that result in rapid weight loss require you to follow rigid, not so sustainable rules. As soon as you’re sick of following someone else’s rules, you stop, and when you do, weight loss stops and weight regain begins. The best way to build a nutritional skill is to pick one healthy thing to add to your diet, or one unhealthy thing to take out. Do that for a week, if it can be implemented with ease, pick another healthy thing to add (or unhealthy thing to take way) and try that for a week. This process can be repeated indefinitely. Below is an example of the skill building progression we use with our clients:

  1. Drink 64oz of water per day
  2. Take a multivitamin
  3. Take out one unhealthy food item
  4. Add one serving/day of protein
  5. Take out one unhealthy food item
  6. Add one serving/day of fruit or veggies
  7. Repeat steps 3-6 as many times as needed


Add in Resistance Training. Resistance training builds muscle and this helps drive our metabolism. Losing weight through eating less alone results in 1lb of muscle lost for every 4lbs lost on the scale. This means lower metabolism and a more “flabby” appearance after weight loss. Adding resistance training can cut muscle loss in half, preserving metabolism and allowing for a more “toned” look. It’s important to keep in mind the resistance cannot counteract the metabolism lost through extreme dieting. In fact, the “Biggest Loser” contestants still saw significant metabolism drops despite aggressive resistance training and muscle gain.

Reverse Diet. Wait – what? Yeah, I realize you may not have heard that one before. Everyone talks about “dieting down,” how about “dieting up?!” The reality is, no matter how careful you are, reducing calorie intake will slow metabolism. Thankfully there is a way to speed it back up, by slowly taking your calories up to a reasonable level. This is actually simpler than what you think. Most men will need to add 5-6 healthy food items to their diets to restore their metabolism after restricting calories. Most women will need to add 4-5 healthy foods.  To be on the safe side add one healthy food item every 2-3 weeks (ideally a protein source or fruit). In the course of 10 to 15 weeks you should have built your metabolism back up without regaining weight.

You can be a BIG WINNER

Unlike the unfortunate story of the “Biggest Loser” contestants and so many people like them; you’re now armed with the knowledge to win big! It takes hard work and dedication, but we’ll be right there with you every step of the way!

brian and shana

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Thanks for reading!

Michael Stack, CEO and Exercise Physiologist

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