The Biggest Loser: Bodies Fight to Regain the Weight

The body fights to regain weight after large changes in body mass, according to health professionals at the New Balance Foundation.


After battling for months against cravings and temptations, The Biggest Loser contestants walk away with more than experience, money and national exposure. They walk away with a healthier outlook on life. Or do they?

A new study shows why so many people battle to keep weight off even after they worked so hard to lose it.

On the eighth season of The Biggest Loser, Danny Cahill won the battle against his competitors when he dropped a record-breaking 239 pounds in just seven months. At that moment, he declared, “I’ve got my life back. I mean, I feel like a million bucks.”

But now, a few years later, he has gained more than 100 pounds back regardless of his best efforts. He is not alone. Most of the sixteen contestants on season eight have gained back all of their weight and some have even gained back more.

Researchers decided to look into the physiology and psychology of obesity to help unlock the reasons people struggle to keep weight off.

Dr. Hall, an expert on metabolism at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney disease, described his amazement at the bodies tenacity to fight back to regain the weight.

“It is frightening and amazing," Dr. Hall said. "I am just blown away.”

The reason for the body's need to regain the weight all comes down to the resting metabolism. This determines how many calories a person burns at rest. When the show started the contestants had an average metabolism when compared to their size. By the end of the show, after extreme dieting, difficult exercise programs and constant coach supervision their metabolisms had slowed drastically. The body could not burn enough calories to keep up with their new thinner size.

The interesting and shocking reality is, as the contestants’ weights began to increase again, their metabolisms did not recover.

Our bodies can maintain a specific weight with ease. This is the weight the body will fight to keep. If you stray from this weight your body will do anything that it can to get back to that weight.

At this time science is striving for the answers to this puzzle. The first step for science is to learn about weight maintenance. Once health professionals know more about how our bodies maintain a certain weight they can learn more about the reasons our bodies strive to stay at that weight.

David Ludwig, MD, PhD, the director of the New Balance Foundation for Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, 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,” Dr. Ludwig said. "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.”