The Biggest Loser makes for fascinating television. It's about salvation! Health! You can do it!
|Cahill, on left, gained it all back.|
Except the results have not quite panned out in real life. Barring one exception, 13 out of 14 of the 2008 season's contestants have regained the weight, some with further additions, as Gina Kolata reports.
Researchers tracked their metabolisms, which had originally been normal for those of their size, and found that they had slowed considerably following the weight loss. On top of that, even after regaining the weight, the metabolism remained sluggish.
Further kinks: leptin is the hormone that controls hunger. When losing weight, leptin levels fall and appetites are increased. The one exception among the contestants' weight gain is Erinn Egbert, who initially lost 87 pounds by finale and shed another 20 on her own steam. "Two treats can turn into a binge over a three-day period. That is what I struggle with," she says.
With low leptin, cravings can be ever-present. According to another study, the hormone that drives the urge to eat rises as the leptin falls. In essence, the body fights any weight loss, uncomprehending that it is for it's own good.
[Danny Cahill's] slow metabolism is part of the problem, and so are his food cravings. He opens a bag of chips, thinking he will have just a few. “I’d eat five bites. Then I’d black out and eat the whole bag of chips and say, ‘What did I do?’”
I think I'm seeing a connecting thread . . .
But Dr. Ludwig said that simply cutting calories was not the answer. “There are no doubt exceptional individuals who can ignore primal biological signals and maintain weight loss for the long term by restricting calories,” he said, but he added that “for most people, the combination of incessant hunger and slowing metabolism is a recipe for weight regain — explaining why so few individuals can maintain weight loss for more than a few months.”
Dr. Ludwig was not involved in the study, but was featured a few months ago on CBS in regards to his new book, Always Hungry? His premise is to forget about calories; focus on food quality.
So here's my take. I'm not a doctor or scientist. But I can speak from my own experience.
Over the past 13 years, I have slowly lost weight, usually in five pound increments. The first and forever step was to eat only good foods. I have learned and still learn that yummies that I thought were okay aren't (like non-dairy whip). As my diet became more and more veggie-based, low-carb, low-sugar, my body stopped, for the most part, yearning for those bad foods.
But I also know I can't start.
Magazines, TV, and the internet display calorie-bloated recipes peddled by waif-thin cooks, and I couldn't understand the contradiction. I then realized that these individuals can take a small piece and walk away. My one dragon that is still unslayed is that of unscheduled portion-control; faced with a buffet, once I have tasted, forcing myself not to go back for seconds is an out-and-out war. There is no "everything in moderation" for me with many things.
I don't hanker for potato chips, like Mr. Cahill does. But when faced with a no-no that I do, I know there is no "I'll just take five." So I surround myself with vegetables, which can be consumed in infinite amounts with no ill-effects; if I overeat, it's sugar-snap peas. I'm working now on a brownie recipe that won't slaughter me if I need a real pick-me-up.
|Don't believe the cat!|
I do watch what other people eat and wonder why they aren't heavier; perhaps, I, too, have a slower metabolism and low leptin levels. Yet maybe by abiding by the same premise as Dr. Ludwig's, the rebound did not come. Erinn not only maintained her triumph, but shed even more. There is still hope, people, despite the study's results.