Rapid Weight Loss Pitfalls and Problems
Should you lose weight the Biggest Loser way?
The Biggest Loser is a reality television show where contestants compete to drop the most weight. Winners routinely lose 100 pounds, 200 pounds or more in just a few short months. In 2010 I wrote an article about how dangerous the extreme weight loss programs depicted on that show were. Here's what I said.
"The rules of weight loss are simple. Most people should strive for a loss of 1-2 pounds per week. If a doctor is monitoring you, you can set a goal of up to 1% of your body weight weekly. Lose weight faster than that and your body goes into starvation mode. You hang onto fat while muscle and water are sacrificed. As muscle drops, so does your metabolism, making further weight loss even more difficult."
Notice that part about your metabolism? Lose weight too quickly and your body will fight back by lowering your metabolism. Over time most people give up on the struggle against weight loss. Then they put on most or all of the weight they originally lost. What's worse, now those people have even less muscle and a lower metabolism than when they first started their weight loss journey.
Now a study confirms exactly what I said so many years ago. Contestants like Danny Cahill, the winner of Biggest Loser season 8, went from 430 to 191 pounds. He dropped an incredible 239 pounds in just seven months. That may seem like an achievement, but such rapid weight loss ended up lowering his metabolism so much, he's now put more than 100 pounds back on.
Here's what happened.
Kevin Hall, a scientist at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (part of the National Institutes of Health) decided to follow Biggest Loser contestants for six years. He took measurements of the contestants metabolism when the show started and found they had normal metabolisms, for their size.
The problems began with their dramatic weight loss. Their metabolisms slowed to a crawl. The winner, Danny Cahill had to eat 800 calories a day LESS than someone of comparable size with a normal metabolism. Think about that for a minute. Two people weigh the same, but the person who got there through rapid weight loss has to eat 800 calories a day less, just to maintain that weight.
Six years after the show aired, Danny Cahill's body is still fighting to put the weight back on. Robert Huizenga, one of the doctors used by Biggest Loser, actually told contestants they should exercise NINE HOURS A WEEK, plus monitor their diets to keep the weight off.
It's unrealistic. I own a personal training company and I don't have time to exercise nine hours a week, nor do I want to. What normal person could possibly fit that in their schedule?
There is a solution and it's the same thing I said several years ago.
First, you cannot, in fact you MUST NOT, engage in a program that drops more than 1 or 2 pounds a week. (Or up to 1% of your bodyweight weekly if you're being monitored by a doctor.) Lose weight too quickly, and your body goes into starvation mode. It will fight to keep the weight on.
Second, while you're losing weight, you MUST engage in strength training exercises. Muscle increases your metabolism, so you have to add muscle to your body. At an absolute minimum, you must make sure you don't lose any muscle.
Third, when you're doing cardio exercises, engage in high-intensity interval type training. It burns more calories in much less time than traditional steady-state cardio. That reduces the time you spend exercising and lowers your risk of injury.
Significant weight loss can change your life. You'll get extra time with a body that's physically able to do the things you enjoy. Quality of life is improved along with the quantity. The key to taking it off, and keeping it off, is slow and steady.
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