New Study Shows ‘Biggest Loser’ Contestants More Likely to Regain Weight Due to Slowed Metabolism

Season 8 winner Danny Cahill before (left) and after the show. He has since gained back 100 pounds.
Season 8 winner Danny Cahill before (left) and after the show. He has since gained back 100 pounds.

Former Biggest Loser winner Ali Vincent recently came forward on social media to reveal that she has gained back all of the weight she lost on the hit reality show back in 2008, but a new study has revealed that Ali may not be completely to blame for regaining the weight. In fact, in an extensive piece done by The New York Times this week, researchers claim that the contestants’ participation on the show, which promotes rapid weight loss, may have caused medical issues that make it very hard to keep the weight off.

“It has to do with resting metabolism, which determines how many calories a person burns when at rest,” the article states.

“When the show began, the contestants, though hugely overweight, had normal metabolisms for their size, meaning they were burning a normal number of calories for people of their weight. When it ended, their metabolisms had slowed radically and their bodies were not burning enough calories to maintain their thinner sizes.”

The study followed 14 of the 16 people who had competed on Season 8. The contestants, who submitted to three days of testing last fall, had nearly all gained some or all of the weight they lost back. According to the article, the contestants’ metabolism never fully normalized, leading them to burn less calories than someone of their size, weight and age should. The investigation also found that the former contestants lacked leptin.

“The contestants started out with normal levels of leptin,” the article stated. “By the season’s finale, they had almost no leptin at all, which would have made them ravenous all the time. As their weight returned, their leptin levels drifted up again, but only to about half of what they had been when the season began, the researchers found, thus helping to explain their urges to eat.”

Since the New York Times article was released yesterday, many former ‘Biggest Loser’ contestants have weighed in on the findings.

Former contestant Sarah Nitta says she's struggled with weight gain since appearing on the show.
Former contestant Sarah Nitta says she’s struggled with weight gain since appearing on the show.

Season 11’s Sarah Nitta posted her thoughts on the study, as well as her experience with weight gain, to her social media accounts.

“I love my fellow ‘Biggest Losers’ and their courage and honesty to talk about the struggles after the show,” Sarah, who competed on the pink team with her mother Deni. “I am inspired by them. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me and have felt embarrassed and ashamed for so long. This study has truly helped me understand what has happened to my body since the show.”

Like Ali, Sarah explained that she has suffered embarrassment over the show’s fans finding out that she has regained the weight.

“My worst nightmare came true about a month ago when I FINALLY mustered up enough courage to step foot into a new gym and a stranger/fan of ‘The Biggest Loser’ recognized me,” Sarah wrote. “She bolted right up to me and before even saying hello she said ‘What are you doing with all this weight back on!?’ I was honestly stunned and I didn’t know how to respond. She’s the first stranger to actually ever say something to me, though I’m sure many have thought it. Did she really think that I choose to struggle with my weight and all I needed was to be publicly shamed into changing? Come on.”

The New York Times article is surely worth a read. You can check it out here.

(Photos: NBC)


3 Responses

  1. To me it seems obvious they gain the weight back. When they are on the show, that is literally all they had to do, it didn’t teach them how to cope with a full time job, events, chores, and all other real life issues while maintaining it with healthy activities and exercise.

    They didn’t learn how to balance anything. What the show should have done is pay for a personal trainer to help ease the person back into a regular life and provide that motivation for developing a new healthy life skill.

  2. It’s an interesting article, definitely a dilemma… on one hand they go on the show and do all the things that we all know will change your life for the better–like diet & exercise while acknowledging you have a problem–but on the other hand the changes are coming so quickly and drastically that it must cause some wreckage to your body. I still feel for the most part, that the show.. and especially considering that it is a reality TV show after all, that it has been more positive than negative; how much is the negative due to the show’s policies, the trainers & the personal responsibility of the contestants?.. I am guessing it’s a mix of all of those things.

  3. Very interesting! The Biggest Loser seems to be receiving more and more negative press : (
    (btw, especially when writing, it’s worth noting the difference between fewer and less…)

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