Why Contestants Gain Weight Back After The Biggest Loser

Steph Wagner

May 3, 2016

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I used to be a faithful viewer of “The Biggest Loser.” Just like everyone else, I was obsessed with watching the contestants melt away and watch the scale tick, tick, tick until it landed on a massive number like TWENTY TWO POUNDS IN A WEEK! WOW! I enjoyed this show far more when I was heavier, actually. Once I found my own success with weight control and had been working with weight-loss surgery patients for a while, I grew very frustrated with the show. I learned more about weight-loss and metabolism and to be honest, I haven’t watched “The Biggest Loser” in years. It made me too angry.


You may have seen articles surface in recent years about what contestants actually had to endure to win the show. How unhealthy the measures were and it was a terrible reflection of what weight-loss should look like. You’ve probably also seen “look at them now” articles about contestants gaining the weight back.


So why is it that the weight comes right back? I know what you’re thinking “because you can’t live like that forever” which is true…but even more true than we realize.


The New York Times recently published an article about a new study involving past participants of “The Biggest Loser” and I could not agree with it more. You can read the article in it’s entirety here, although it is pretty long. The article is discussing a recent study that was done on the Season 8 contestants of the show. All but one had gained weight back, with several of them gaining all their weight back. The reason? It’s something I’ve been saying for a while…and truth be told…a great case for the decision to have weight-loss surgery.


You probably already know that when you lose weight, your metabolism slows down. When you eat less, you burn less. Your body knows to adjust. This is why yo-yo dieting can be so harmful to metabolism. When you lose weight, your metabolism slows down and your hunger increases (thanks to a hormone called leptin). Eventually you can’t ignore the hunger and you slide back to old habits, gaining weight and then some. Although the next time you decide to start that diet again, you have less of a metabolism as you did the last time you lost weight. Making it harder and harder each time you “re-start” to lose much at all.


There is a theory in weight-loss called the “set point theory” which essentially says your body wants to gravitate back to a certain weight. You might even know what yours is. You can’t seem to get past a certain number and if you do, you always end up back there again.


The theory with weight-loss surgery is that you get a *new* set point. That is IF you capitalize on the honeymoon year (the first year) after surgery. I made a video about the honeymoon here, but essentially the first year out of surgery you get this amazing opportunity to capitalize on a really awesome metabolism. There is just something about cutting on the stomach that regulates all these metabolic hormones. It’s like a giant re-set button! Researchers are still trying to explain it. If a post-op patient used that first year to it’s full potential, they could redefine their “set point.” However, goof around with that year and let the fast weight loss lie to you that you can eat whatever you want…and down the road you’ll find yourself at your same set point. It’s not impossible to lose the weight after the first year, but it’s much harder for sure.


There is way more to discuss about weight-loss after surgery and the theories behind it, but for this post, I wanted to comment on the New York Times Article about why “Biggest Loser” participants can’t keep the weight off. It doesn’t make them weak. It doesn’t mean they went home and immediately stopped trying. If anything, I bet they tried harder than ever after all the spotlight on their weight. I can’t imagine the pressure! If gaining weight back after having surgery is emotional, imagine what gaining weight back after a Nationally Televised show feels like! And for everyone except one to be gaining weight back? It seems like there is something else going on than just lack of willpower.


But seriously if I could live on a ranch and workout that many hours a day, this baby weight would come off a lot faster ;) Why do we call it “reality” tv again??


All my best,


Steph :)