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Why the “Biggest Loser” Study Shouldn’t Deter You From Your Weight Loss Plan
Health & Wellness

Why the “Biggest Loser” Study Shouldn’t Deter You From Your Weight Loss Plan

May 31, 2016

You may have heard about the recent “Biggest Loser” study that showed participants had regained much of their weight back six years after the show. If you’re concerned about what you’ve read, keep in mind the following:

The fine print

The sample size of the study is extremely small (14 people) and very different from the average population. The contestants lost weight extremely rapidly (for some, more than one pound per day or more for 30 weeks) and then returned to their old environment, which likely includes triggers for unhealthy habits, busy work, and family schedules, and a lot of adjusting to do from “the ranch.” And for most, they did not have continued professional support to maintain their new lifestyle at home.

Leptin levels

Leptin (one of the hormones responsible for controlling appetite) was measured in the subjects. Leptin values decreased after the contestants lost weight, which popular media has interpreted as a sign that they became deficient in leptin. However, the leptin levels measured did not indicate a deficiency, but rather are consistent with leptin levels in studies of normal-weight individuals. Leptin then increased over 6 years in the contestants, which correlates as expected to their weight regain.

The metabolism factor

The contestants’ metabolisms were slower than expected at the six-year mark by about 500 calories. Again, consider the small and extremely different-than-average sample size. If anything, this calorie discrepancy highlights the benefit of tracking calories to help maintain weight loss.

Obesity is a disease

This study raises a lot of questions: What is the best way to manage obesity? Does the rate of weight loss affect long-term success? Does leptin or some other chemical change in the body impact weight regain? We don’t have solid answers to these questions yet, but we do know that managing obesity is a lifelong commitment. It’s important to continually seek the help of weight management professionals to safely and properly manage obesity.

Success Stories

We also know that there are over 10,000 individuals tracked by the National Weight Control Registry who have lost a substantial amount of weight and kept it off. There are likely many more “big losers” out there who aren’t in the registry, so rest assured that weight maintenance is by no means impossible! To achieve success, meticulously maintain your healthy lifestyle, and surround yourself with positive and motivating people who accept the new you and your new priorities.

Maintaining weight loss isn’t easy

Though weight loss and management are attainable, it’s also tough. Know that if you start to slip, your best bet is to reach out to your healthcare team for support and guidance. If you feel like your results don’t reflect the choices you are making, talk with a dietitian, exercise specialist, or your physician about tracking your food and exercise, and testing your metabolism and body composition.

The team at Altru’s Weight Management Program is dedicated to the successful weight loss and weight management of our patients. We use proven, science-based methods to guide you on your journey to your healthiest tomorrow. And, we are always here for you. If you’ve taken part in our program and feel that you need further support – never hesitate to reach out to us.


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