Since I’m thought of as “That Weight Loss Guy” (or so I’ve been referred to when people realize I’m the person who writes this column), it would seem appropriate that I follow the TV series most appurtenant to dieting: The Biggest Loser.
It might seem that way; but that’s not the case.
I’ve seen one half of one episode and that was enough for me.
First of all, it focuses too much on how fast one can lose weight rather than how long one can sustain a healthy lifestyle; the antithesis of my philosophy. Secondly, one of the trainers was browbeating a contestant to get her to make the necessary changes. I believe firmly that if guilt and shame were motivational, no one would be overweight. It doesn’t work. It never will. And, it’s just ugly to watch. Finally, me watching a show on weight loss is unnecessary. I live it 24/7. I can see my own program right in the mirror.
Having placed all that on the table, I’ve been approached several times by folks curious of my opinion about the study in the journal Obesity (and then reported by media) showcasing what has happened to contestants on that show. In case you haven’t heard, let me briefly recap.
The media’s main takeaways were that weight loss leads to permanent metabolic damage; and also that no one can maintain it long term.
These conclusions are based in large part on the fact that that the contestants’ resting metabolic rate (RMR) – which is how many calories your body needs per day to function – dropped while losing weight and never came back up when they put the weight back on. As for weight loss being futile, that hypothesis came to be because the average contestant lost about 125 pounds, and has so far regained about 90.
At first blush, it does seem alarming. But before you sell your treadmill and throw yourself into a box of donuts, consider these:
Item one; the Biggest Loser study was an extremely small group of 14 people, who lost a boatload of weight at a tremendously rapid pace (about four pounds a week average) in an exceptionally uncommon way. Those conditions alone my have caused the metabolic changes in the study.
Moreover, the correlation between RMR and weight loss, when achieved at a healthier “lifestyle-adjustment” pace (about 1-2 pounds per week), has been studied for decades. A 1995 report published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the RMR adjusted to weight changes in both directions. In other words, a ten percent weight loss corresponded to pretty near a ten percent reduction in the RMR and vice versa.
As for the fact that one cannot maintain one’s weight after losing it; well, that’s a truism that’s just poppycock.
The National Weight Control Registry tracks the progress of thousands and thousands of people who have lost at least 10 percent of their body weight and kept it off for at least a year. They document that continuing the habits we established when we were losing weight, including healthy eating, maintaining a regimen of regular daily fitness, and regular weight monitoring; are what keep us in check. In effect, as we’ve been told so often, “it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle.”
I’m not saying weight maintenance is a no-brainer; quite frankly there are times when I long for “the good old days” of eating anything and everything I wanted when I wanted it and how I wanted it prepared. Keeping in check old habits is indeed definitely a challenge.
However, ya wanna know what else is a “challenge”?
I used to be continually out of breath; had constant back pain; a complete lack of self-esteem, and avoided life because of the embarrassment of what other people thought. None of those are true any longer – and I’m almost 25 years older.
When I compare challenges, I’ll take the one I’ve got (and I think many others would too).
About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a nationally known weight loss expert for baby boomers and the CRP (Chief Recovering Perfectionist) of www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com. He is available for coaching and speaking. His new book (co-written with his sister), “The Busy Baby Boomers Motivational Guide to Weight Loss” is now at www.BabyBoomersGuides.com