The Biggest Loser

This article was just published in the New York Times, and the findings are being published today in the journal Obesity.

It’s a bit long, but it’s a very interesting read.  It focuses on how difficult it is for contestants to keep the weight off.  Ultimately it seems to conclude by saying that the contestants had lower ending metabolisms than when they started, which means that just to maintain they’d need to eat fewer calories than other people at the same weight.

I’m curious to understand more about why this is and if it has anything to do with the drastic measures the show takes, or if it’s just a bad side effect of significant weight loss.

While I no longer watch the show, I was a loyal watcher for quite a few years.  The year that Erik from Long Island won, I was captivated.  I lived on LI at the time so he was a local hero.


I also remember seeing him on TV a few years later and noticing that he had gained quite a bit of weight back.  According to, he lost 204 pounds on the show, gained back most of it, and then settled in around 245 lbs.

I did always wonder how sustainable the weight loss would be when a lot of it occurs during a time when your one and only responsibility is to work out and eat well.  Plus you have trainers and chefs at your disposal.

Check out this excerpt from the NY Times article:

Sequestered on the “Biggest Loser” ranch with the other contestants, Mr. Cahill exercised seven hours a day, burning 8,000 to 9,000 calories according to a calorie tracker the show gave him. He took electrolyte tablets to help replace the salts he lost through sweating, consuming many fewer calories than before.

Eventually, he and the others were sent home for four months to try to keep losing weight on their own.

Mr. Cahill set a goal of a 3,500-caloric deficit per day. The idea was to lose a pound a day. He quit his job as a land surveyor to do it.

His routine went like this: Wake up at 5 a.m. and run on a treadmill for 45 minutes. Have breakfast — typically one egg and two egg whites, half a grapefruit and a piece of sprouted grain toast. Run on the treadmill for another 45 minutes. Rest for 40 minutes; bike ride nine miles to a gym. Work out for two and a half hours. Shower, ride home, eat lunch — typically a grilled skinless chicken breast, a cup of broccoli and 10 spears of asparagus. Rest for an hour. Drive to the gym for another round of exercise.

If he had not burned enough calories to hit his goal, he went back to the gym after dinner to work out some more. At times, he found himself running around his neighborhood in the dark until his calorie-burn indicator reset to zero at midnight.

That to me is CRAZY!  Who can afford to leave their job to focus solely on health and fitness?  Not many!

Since I found this article quite interesting, I figured it was worth a share.  I’m not sure what will come out of future research, but hopefully some information that will be helpful to those dealing with obesity.

Enjoy the read!


One thought on “The Biggest Loser

  1. I found this article very interesting too. I think it is a combo of many things. So many studies on obesity are showing that it is a very complex issue and there are many layers. Beyond what we eat, when we drastically lose weight quickly, it likely does have a negative effect on out BMR. And when that lowers, it does cause our bodies to burn more slowly and require far fewer calories. It is a vicious cycle for anyone who has struggled with their weight for most of their lives.

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