Over the past week I have seen a media frenzy of a study of the season 8 contestants of the Biggest Loser. While sharing this study, it has portrayed long term weight loss as a nearly impossible feat and people seeking to do so as doomed from the start.
The study found that in the six years since the show, 13 of the 14 contestants had regained some weight since the show; 4 of whom weighed more than they did on the show. Nearly all of the contestants also had slower metabolisms than they did at their starting weight, even slower than would be expected for their size. Their metabolisms were normal relative to their size at the start of the show.
This has added to the idea that all dieters are doomed to fail and those that do succeed will gain it all back anyways or will only be able to maintain on a miserably low amount of calories. As someone who has gone from being obese to maintaining a healthy weight for 3 years, while eating as much as I want (of healthy foods), I obviously don’t buy that this is an inevitability.
In fact, the National Weight Control Registry has studied over 10,000 individuals who have lost weight and kept it off in a variety of ways. They have people that lost it eating low-fat, others eating low-carb. Some followed diet books, others followed their own path. Almost all modified their diet and increased their physical activity… and continue to do so. Most follow a low-calorie diet and exercise regularly (on average 1 hr. per day).
Personally, I share some factors in common with successful maintainers. I do eat a very healthy diet and I exercise for around an hour about 5 times per week. However, the amount of calories that I eat is a lot more than the average person studied by the NWCR. I eat about 2,300 calories/day. This is the amount the would be predicted for my height, age and activity level by medical organizations. The average woman reported eating about 1,300 calories a day and the average male reported eating about 1,700 calories a day. While this is self-reported and not measured, for people who are so active, this is surprisingly low. Although there are so many factors in play that it is hard to know how much metabolic adaptation comes into play for maintainers, and what exactly leads to people like me managing to lose weight and walk away with a normal metabolism.
When it comes down to it, successful maintainers don’t have some radical secret to weight loss. They just follow the advice health organizations have been saying for years. Long term weight loss is possible. You can lose the weight, keep it off and enjoy life!