The Biggest Loser is an inspiring hour of television in which severely overweight people shed their extra pounds in a very short amount of time. The idea is that we think: “Hey, if they can lose that much weight, maybe I can too!”
But the New York Times dug into what happens to many contestants from the show after filming ends.
“Out of 14 contestants he studied, 13 have regained weight. Four contestants are heavier today than they were before the competition began.”
When we combine this with another recent study that showed, “The chance of returning to a normal weight after becoming obese is only one in 210 for men and one in 124 for women over a year” – things look a bit gloomy.
Why are these people struggling to maintain their lost weight, or even gaining back more weight than they lost in the first place?
Is there a solution that works? Or are we… essentially screwed?
Here’s why the Biggest Loser is churning out losers, and how we can win instead.
Temporary Fixes Don’t Last. Duh.
Why is The Biggest Loser so unsuccessful for most contestants on the show in the long term?
Think of it like a giant diet or detox, lasting 5-7 months. These are contestants, clearly battling biology, genetics, potentially depression and other issues, but then also have every resource and financial incentive to lose as much weight as quickly as possible. Before they got on to the show, the dark forces fighting for “Team Unhealthy” were far stronger. Then the show adds a ton of power, a ridiculous amount, to Team Health. Listen to this story about one contestant:
“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.”
And this is why as soon as the show stops and you remove one side of this equation (all the temporary incentives to be healthy), these people are tossed right back into their old environment and ways of life. Think of it like taking a heroin addict, washing them out in an extreme detox facility for 6 months with every resource available and a major financial bonus if they stay clean, and then sticking them back in their old environment, with old drug-addicted friends, and a ready supply of heroin in their house.
What do we REALLY think is going to happen?
The answer should be obvious. Contestants fall back into old patterns and gain much of the weight back because they’re set up to fail! They are put through an unsustainable life at a breakneck pace, and then dropped right back in the life-scenario that got them unhealthy to begin with.
On a smaller scale, millions and millions of people do this to themselves every single day:
“I’m trying this new 10-day cleanse. Only lemon juice for me! Oh look I lost 10 pounds (all of which was water weight, by the way).”
“I’m just trying to lose 20 pounds before my wedding/vacation. To the treadmill and only chicken and broccoli!”
“I’m on a detox to flush out my toxins for this 30-day challenge.”
Admit it, you’ve probably said one of the sentences above (or something like it) at some point in your life. Hell, you might be on a diet or a cleanse as you read this right now!
Even if you lose 100+ pounds due to a series of extreme changes in your life (congrats!), you will always go back to “normal” after if the changes aren’t permanent, just like in the show (shit!)… which means you’ll then have to begin the rollercoaster boom-and-bust cycle again.
Most health and fitness companies know this, and expect you to consistently buy into their service, product, or their latest and greatest solution: they need you to need them, forever, so they can get paid and create the next get-fit-quick product.
Ultimately, if you’re somebody who has struggled to lose weight over a long period of time, or has lost weight and seen it all creep back, you need to change your mindset right now. Imagine you are on the show The Biggest Loser.
If you want to change, you have to accept that “you can’t go home again.” The old you is dead. You cannot go back to the way you used to live, ever. The old you got you where you are now. If you want to go somewhere new, you need a new you – a new way of living.
Your “normal” HAS to change or you are doomed. And that is an AMAZING thing that you will come to love.
Tomorrow I’m going to explain EXACTLY how to make healthy your new normal. No more rubber-banding. No more regaining weight. No more dreading the day it all falls apart.
Just a new, healthy, you. See you tomorrow.
photo: Judit Klein: hourglass