Monday, May 2, 2016

more "Biggest Loser" controversy and how to lose weight

I have a tolerate/hate relationship with weight loss TV shows - especially "Biggest Loser".  I wrote about some of the unrealistic expectations back in 2013 and haven't particularly changed my mind on this.  I detest that the contestants get upset if they "only" lose 5 pounds in a week.  It's insane.

Today, the New York Times published a great article - "After ‘The Biggest Loser,’ Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight" -  in reference to a new study in Obesity Journal which exploded all over my Facebook feed this morning. ;)  I read both the NYT article and the full article in the Obesity Journal and found it all fascinating - and frankly, depressing on some levels.

The Obesity Journal did a lot of research following most of the contestants from Season 8 of the show, measuring them at the finale and also six years later:
"Of the 16 “Biggest Loser” competitors originally investigated, 14 participated in this follow-up study. Weight loss at the end of the competition was (mean ± SD) 58.3 ± 24.9 kg (P < 0.0001), and RMR decreased by 610 ± 483 kcal/day (P = 0.0004). After 6 years, 41.0 ± 31.3 kg of the lost weight was regained (P = 0.0002), while RMR was 704 ± 427 kcal/day below baseline (P < 0.0001) and metabolic adaptation was −499 ± 207 kcal/day (P < 0.0001). "
In plain English, the contestants saw a dramatic drop in their resting metabolic rate at the end of the show - but shockingly, it was even worse six years later. As the NYTimes article mentions regarding the winner of the show:
"Mr. Cahill was one of the worst off. As he regained more than 100 pounds, his metabolism slowed so much that, just to maintain his current weight of 295 pounds, he now has to eat 800 calories a day less than a typical man his size. Anything more turns to fat."

The one person from this group of 14 to weigh less today than 6 years ago wasn't ever on "the ranch" and did her entire experience from home - so she did this in a more balanced fashion and also did not have as dramatic of a weight loss as the rest of the contestants.  Good for her! ;)  Another contestant had regained 80% of his lost weight and then had gastric bypass, so his net weight gain is not as significant as others (but it is still a big gain).

This hits home for me, since I lost around 80 pounds in about 14 or 15 months, 15 pounds the following year, and then slowly regained a lot of it - and then gained more during my pregnancy.  It's been almost ten years since I started this weight loss journey, and thankfully I am down 68 pounds from where I started - but I still have about 25 pounds to go to just get back to that weight in 2009.  I had another 30 pounds to go from there to hit my "goal" weight (which would be "normal" weight according to the BMI).  I'd hate to think that my relatively rapid weight loss in 2007 (average 1-1.5 pounds a week?) has impacted my resting metabolic rate - but there's no way for me to know without spending a LOT of money on metabolic testing.  Not quite in the budget - and I don't have any baseline numbers either - but honestly, knowing that number wouldn't have a massive impact on my life.

It's interesting about the influx of articles I've seen lately about weight loss in general.  One that jumped out at me was Vox's article - Why you shouldn't exercise to lose weight, explained with 60+ studies.  It's a great read - go ahead, read it and come back here. ;)  One of the things I hadn't heard about before was "Energy expenditure might have an upper limit" - there may be a point at which you're over-exercising and not getting the calorie burn benefits you think you are getting.  Joy!  At least I don't feel guilty about getting only one hour in the gym most days. ;)

To wrap this all up, I leave you with the end of that Vox article:
If you embark on a weight-loss journey that involves both adding exercise and cutting calories, Montclair's Diana Thomas warned not to count those calories burned in physical activity toward extra eating. 
"Pretend you didn't exercise at all," she said. "You will most likely compensate anyway so think of exercising just for health improvement but not for weight loss."
This is what I try to do, at least in theory, but I need to get back to religiously journalling everything I eat - and also being very mindful of the inaccurate calorie burn that most tracking apps give you for your exercises. ;)

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