After 13 seasons of NBC’s Biggest Loser, Dr. Huizenga, the lead doctor for the show, has accumulated several hundred individuals whom he has been tracking, studying, and doing significant obesity and weight loss research on. When it comes to studying individuals who have lost weight at an aggressive, rapid pace based on counting calories and heavy exercise, he is one of only a few doing anything on the subject.
His latest article on the topic, based on his research, did not give good news. One of his hopes with the program he designed for Biggest Loser was that through intense exercise the muscle mass under the fat would be retained (the reality is, someone who is several hundred pounds has a solid core of muscle existing to just transport the weight) and the weight loss would be mostly fat loss (in a typical diet plan, it is not unusual to lose muscle weight as well as fat weight). Ultimately the hope was the muscle mass and exercise would bring the metabolism to a healthier norm. Unfortunately, his research indicates otherwise:
Despite relative preservation of FFM [fat free mass, e.g., muscle], exercise did not prevent dramatic slowing of resting metabolism out of proportion to weight loss. This metabolic adaptation may persist during weight maintenance and predispose to weight regain unless high levels of physical activity or caloric restriction are maintained.
In other words, all these years where I was swearing I put weight on easier than others around me? It wasn’t my imagination. The reality is, after a lifetime of abusing my metabolism, my body gravitates towards a heavier norm. His phrase ‘high levels of physical activity or caloric restriction are maintained’ literally means dieting for life.
The weird thing is, I was actually relieved to read his findings. It made a lot of my frustrations make sense. It doesn’t give me an excuse, but it does help me to understand that there is no easy health road for individuals like me. I will always need to count calories. I will always need to exercise three to five hours a week. Otherwise I will eventually outweigh my pre-Biggest Loser self.