Last week, Scientist Kevin Hall released a study that looked at the long term effects of the show The Biggest Loser. For those of you not familiar with the show, it features overweight contestants on a journey to lose weight. They are put on strict low fat, 1500 calorie per day diet mixed with intense 3-4 hour workouts.
After the show ended 6 years ago, Hall began following 14 contestants to see if they were able to keep the weight they had lost off. The results that he uncovered after the 6 years were frightening and have thrown dieters into a frenzy. The study concluded that 13 of the 14 contestants had all gained back significant weight if not more than when they had started on The Biggest Loser.
What Hall also found out was that the contestants were burning 500 less calories per day than other people their size and age. So, the contestants had gained weight and their metabolisms had slowed way down following the show. After seeing these results, Hall essentially concluded that diets do not work. Nearly everyone gains the weight that they lost back, and then some.
Naturally, I had clients calling to ask whether these statements were true. Is everyone that's trying to lose weight doomed to then gain it all back at some point?
An Overview on Why The Biggest Loser Strategy Doesn't Work
The root of the problem here is not willpower. These contestants probably have more of that than all of us combined. The fundamental issue is the way that these contestants lost weight and what it did to their bodies and metabolisms. Everyone on the show was put on an extremely low calorie, low fat, exercise heavy regimen which yes, helped them lose weight. In the short term. In the long term, when you restrict calories and deprive your body of healthy fats, it thinks that it's in a dangerous situation or in famine and begins doing whatever it can to hold onto weight. Your metabolism slows down, you have less energy and then need to eat less and less food to continue to lose weight. It's a vicious cycle that makes it nearly impossible to lose weight. Have you ever heard an overweight person say that they eat like a bird and gain weight really easily? It's probably because they aren't eating enough food!
"Starving yourself on a low-fat diet and exercising until your body falls apart is a stupid approach to weight loss. Your body, thinking you’re in a dangerous, foodless environment because you’re barely eating and training far more than is healthy, will start desperately storing fat so you can survive your hostile surroundings. Don’t pit yourself against your body", says Dave Asprey, Founder of Bulletproof. This guy speaks the truth!
Calorie Restriction Leads to Weight Gain Not Weight Loss
I see this happen ALL of the time with my clients. For example, I'll go see a woman that is looking to lose 15-20 lbs. She drinks black coffee in the morning and then heads straight to spin class. Following class she skips breakfast, because she's trying to lose weight. Around 11AM she's starving so she grabs a small handful of pretzels or drinks half of a fruit smoothie. For lunch, she munches on a light salad with chicken breast but adds no dressing or avocado because they are too caloric. By 530PM she's starving, stressed and having a hard time sticking to her calorie restricting diet. So, she pours herself a glass of wine while she cooks dinner and enjoys a small cookie. Dinner is brown rice pasta with some ground turkey and another glass of wine. Dessert is two bites of her daughters ice cream.
Although this woman is not eating an excess of calories and is exercising regularly, she can't seem to lose those 15-20 lbs. The fundamental issue that caused the biggest loser contestants to gain weight can be seen here. This woman's metabolism is totally screwed up from years of restricting her calories. She's feeding her body with high sugar, high carb foods, little to no healthy fats and is also not getting enough nutrition to support her metabolism. Her body thinks it's starving to death and is doing whatever it can to hold onto fat. So, although she feels like she's depriving herself every day and counting calories, she is not losing weight eating like this.
Count Chemicals Not Calories
Okay so that's all great information but how do you actually lose weight and keep it off? Focus on what you eat, not how much you eat. Eat plenty of high quality, low toxin foods that support your body so that it can perform the way that it's supposed to. This includes whole foods like avocado, whole eggs, organic grass fed beef, kale, bell peppers, nuts and seeds. Be sure to get enough food to support your daily activities and count chemicals people, NOT calories.
It is possible to lose weight and keep it off. Focus on the beautiful foods that our earth provides for you and nourish yourself with them. Our bodies are so smart and will know exactly what to do. Your metabolism will speed up, your body will burn fat, feed your body and brain and you will look and feel amazing...without starving yourself!
For results from The Biggest Loser study click HERE.