Metabolic Adaptation Lessons from The Biggest Loser

The Biggest Loser is a popular television show that follows the weight loss journeys of a group of obese men and women who want to change their lives for the better. Over the course of several weeks and months, they challenge themselves to start a rigorous exercise routine while drastically changing their eating habits and perspective on life. For many participants, the show has changed their lives. They not only look completely different, but their bodies have changed, especially their metabolism. Unfortunately, not all of the contestants have been able to keep the weight off. For many, the extra weight has crept back on. Why? It has to do with resting metabolism and metabolic adaptation, both of which determine how many calories people burn while they’re at rest.

Metabolic Adaptation, Resting Metabolism, and Weight Gain


When the show started, even though contestants were extremely overweight, their metabolisms were mostly normal, meaning that they were able to burn a normal amount of calories for their size. When the show ended, their metabolisms were slowed and their bodies were not able to burn enough calories to maintain their smaller sizes. Medical researchers were not surprised to see slowed metabolisms in these people, but what surprised them was that as the months and years went on, many people not only gained weight, but their metabolisms couldn’t quite recover. The body will try to put the weight back on, which makes it incredibly hard for many of these contestants, especially when it comes to committing the significant time that comes with exercise and maintaining a good diet. The Biggest Loser’s doctor Robert Huizenga said that he tells the contestants on the show that they need to exercise at least 9 hours a week and be strict about what they eat in order to keep the weight from creeping back on. But unfortunately, many contestants have a hard time with this and they simply don’t have the support required to maintain their weight. (1)

Slower metabolisms weren’t the only cause of regained weight, however. Most contestants continually fight hunger and cravings. One treat can serve almost like a drug and trigger binge eating, which can cause all sorts of issues. Researchers knew this struggle, but they found that at least one reason for this is reduced levels of leptin, which includes a cluster of hormones that control hunger. These reduced leptin levels explain participants’ increased urges to eat.

Slowed metabolisms and reductions in leptin make it even more of a challenge to keep the weight off for individuals that have lost drastic amounts of pounds in a short amount of time. It takes significant amounts of patience, support, and dedication. If you’re looking to lose weight and change your life, contact our team today to see how we can help.  

  1. Kolata, Gina. “After ‘The Biggest Loser’, Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight.” NY Times. May 2, 2016. Accessed online July 16, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/02/health/biggest-loser-weight-loss.html?_r=1
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