Biggest Loser Article Editorial Comment…Renewed Hope For The Hopeless

May 9, 2016

Biggest Loser Article Editorial Comment…Renewed Hope For The Hopeless

Well if that wasn’t just about the most disempowering article ever!!  My internal cookie monster would have had a field day with that if I weren’t better informed, better nourished and better habit-ed now.  “Ah well,” it would have said.  “What’s a girl to do?” it would have said.  “Why bother?” it would have said.  And worse, clients who have worked long and hard and are currently successful at sustaining their losses took this article as a death knoll to their continued long term success.

What I found so frustrating about the article, aside from its totally defeatist attitude, was that it didn’t present the other side of the picture at all.

• No specific attention was drawn to the fact that the weight loss method was exceptionally extreme
• No suggestion that start weights of the contestants implied already compromised metabolisms and nutritional status
• No indication that this nutritional status was evaluated or corrected after months of metabolic torture
• No indication that any attention had been paid to what this kind of stress had done to their cortisol levels and its impact on fat storage
• No information on what you can do to increase metabolism nutritionally or with exercise
• Not a word about the myriad of biochemical strategies to combat and defeat that endless hunger
• Not a mention of what folks are doing who do keep it off
• No hope for the hopeless

What if this metabolic response was a result of the extreme stress of the plan and not the weight loss itself?  Has anybody looked at the fact that the continued food plan is so incredibly low in fat?  This matters for both appetite and fat storage.  Has anyone examined how they are exercising?  This too has a big impact on fat burning capacity and maintenance of muscle mass.

I have several clients who lost large amounts of weight eating as if they were already at their goal weight for the entire weight loss period, and they do not appear to have taken a metabolic hit.  Most are consistent record keepers (which is a clue to long term success in and of itself) so we can see how many calories they are taking in over time to maintain the loss.  This very logical approach providing the added benefit of months of practice actually living within their new means and learning to navigate the challenges in advance.

The article also didn’t say it couldn’t be done though.  It said it can be harder because of intensified appetite and decreased metabolism.  In Mr. Cahill’s case, if he began with a normal metabolism for his age as the article stated, that would give him about 12 calories/lb./day.  Perhaps I am misunderstanding what the article said, but if he is now left with 450 calories less a day to maintain his weight of 450 lbs., doesn’t that imply he is taking in upwards of 4000 calories daily?

Being hard apparently isn’t a reason not to do it for Erin Egbert and she is working with the lowest calorie budget of any of the contestants.  But it certainly is a reason to seek solutions for those two challenges.  Plus, for Mr. Cahill, regaining to 450 lbs. has its own high price tag and isn’t likely to be such a walk in the park either.  It seems so unfair that we take these folks to that glorious point of personal victory and then can’t provide better metabolism and nutrition information for them to sustain what they worked so hard for.  I for one, refuse to accept either of those sentences for myself or any of my clients!

In hindsight, I realize that I experienced first hand the prolonged increased appetite response after an extreme and  rapid weight loss in my 20’s.  With the same impatience I caution my clients about, I chose to all but starve for about four months and dropped from around 155 lbs. to 92 lbs.  I was able to manage a vanity driven 120 lbs. for the next thirty years initially (and not surprisingly) through the insanity of bulemia.  After that because of skills I learned in a weight loss clinic, I still managed to sustain this loss eating tons of veggies (still do), reducing fat (big mistake), environmental management (still critical for all), over exercising (modified into sanity with the updated exercise science), calorie balancing (accountability will out), and consistent self-examination.  Up until I learned the new appetite science, I spent most of those years slender but on and off anti depressants – a condition that was no doubt exacerbated by the misguided nutritional advice to eat no fat and fill in instead with artificial foods and carbohydrates leaving virtually no raw materials on hand for making neurotransmitters.  No wonder I felt on the verge of a binge 24/7.

Thanks goodness that neither the decrease metabolism nor enhanced appetite following extreme weight loss is new news to the medical community and there has beens tons of research and new techniques are being written about every day to manage hunger and rebuild metabolism.  Today I eat a lot of healthy food including lots of healthy fats and exercise reasonably with lots of strength work replacing much of the cardio.  I am able to maintain that same 120 lbs. with much less struggle or exhaustion.  I no longer struggle with the desire to binge which I find nothing short of miraculous.

Most Americans still following the out-dated low fat/healthy whole grains recommendations (from the national nutrition organizations that they should be able to count on for keeping up with the science) are struggling with that same insatiable hunger.  They are losing the battle.  Look around you.

About 20 years ago the functional medicine community started promoting a different nutritional message that has yet to fully penetrate the mainstream.  They suggested we eat real, clean foods from sustainably raised sources complete with the now healthy fat, and that we get away from this over-reliance on grains, especially the processed ones.  They suggested that if we keep eating a diet that contains this much carbohydrate, we are bound to suffer from issues with insulin and therefor body fat storage not to mention illnesses related to inflammation.  If you are unconvinced or are wondering how we could have gotten so far afield with our nutritional direction for 40+ years, read The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz.

Although I once would have termed myself “The Butter Buds Queen” I now truly believe this message even if I don’t always follow it to the letter:  you can’t fool mother nature with artificial, processed foods.  The brain knows its not really getting fed.  I joke, but maybe not, that God knew not to make any naturally occurring food with the consistency/mouth feel (salt, sugar, fat, crunch) of a chip, cereal, bar or bread. He could apparently see the headlights of the oncoming train!

Don’t think the food industry isn’t all over this appetite science, successfully promoting foods designed to override the body’s natural off buttons and hit what the industry affectionately calls the “bliss point”…and parents have unknowingly become its unwitting accomplices.  Dr. David Kessler’s eye opening book, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite and Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss follow the path of the big food companies as they have discovered and made profitable use of this information since the mid 1990’s.  There is even an appetite suppressing drug awaiting approval for long term use called Contrave that combines an anti depressant with Naltrexone ( a drug that blocks the opiate receptor site where wheat binds).  How about just not eating the wheat?  I wonder if the same folks who make the drug sell the wheat?  Just sayin’.

You can examine this message of hope that just a small sampling of the unfolding research provides here:

Metabolism Rescue

Appetite Rescue

Behavior Rescue

Perhaps we can use this potentially discouraging but valuable information in a helpful way. Clearly the best solution would be not to gain the weight in the first place. No shit, right?!  In the meantime, don’t give up on yourself, but work to not gain any more.  Every pound you don’t gain is a step back from throwing in the towel.

This becomes especially poignant when we consider our children who are the real innocent victims of the food industry and our over booked lifestyles. The obesity rate in children has skyrocketed and even the CDC has acknowledged that this generation of children’s life span is now compromised as a result.

To save your children from a lifetime battle with their appetites and their bodies and their metabolisms, take the lead with them now.

  • tell them about this article – they are smarter than you are giving them credit for and probably know about the show anyway
  • get rid of the junk in your home and fill it up with healthy alternatives. Make it hard to derail. They have plenty of other places to eat crap.
  • feed them real food (including the healthy fats) when they are their hungriest, especially right after school. Bars are not real food – they are candy substitutes (see For Kids>At Home)
  • when you must eat out, get rid of all the extra accessory foods and additional courses and order like you would if you were eating at home. Split meals – there is usually plenty and if not, order veggie sides to expand a single dinner without driving up the calories (see For Kids>At Restaurants)
  • avoid buffets which invite abandon
  • engage in family exercise events – hike, bike, ski
  • embrace the lifestyle yourself – kids seem to default the the eating habits of the least healthy parent
  • for more strategies and menu suggestions, see For Kids>Honey,We’re Saving Our Kids on my site,

OK, so you may have already made it harder by gaining a bunch of weight.  It may be that your metabolism will restore itself in time and with a little help from you.  The jury is still out.  But maybe being hard isn’t a good enough a reason to abandon the goal altogether.  Every action you take can either take you towards or away from your goal of a healthy life.

I love this message from The Wild Diet by Abel James that says it all – both how we forced our body in to this position of extreme and inconvenient self-preservation and how we can work to reverse this: “Our body is not an adversary that we must diet and exercise into submission but a remarkable biological system that adapts to the way we eat, train and live”.

In all fairness, our body only did what we asked it to do. We have plenty of tools to manage our appetites and tools to maximize our fat burning capacity. Ask your body through your lifestyle to become something better than your past choices have dictated. Watch it respond.  Be the 5%!

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