Be a Health Winner, Not a Big Loser
Many of us read the NYT article about The Biggest Loser “six years later” tracking the weight of the contestants and discovering that the majority of them gained at least 85% of lost weight back. America watched them work the pounds off, celebrated their new bodies, and off-camera, those pounds, over the years, went back on.
The obesity epidemic in the United States isn’t a made-up problem. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, more than 2 in 3 adults in the United States (in 2014) were considered overweight or obese.
It’s easy to pass judgements on the “biggest losers” and overweight people. Societal messages perpetuate the idea that weight is under a person’s control. Weight stigma is rampant. It’s not uncommon for overweight people to be labeled lazy, sloppy, less competent, even bad influences. It seems almost silly to have something so easy to cure be considered an epidemic. Obesity’s cure is weight loss, right?
“Obesity is a serious disease that cannot be ‘cured’ with weight loss,” writes Dr. Donna Ryan, spokesperson for The Obesity Society.
Now that doesn’t make sense. Or does it?
As devastating as the weight regain is for the contestants of The Biggest Loser, it’s been great for science to understand metabolism, weight loss, and weight maintenance. “The results, researchers said, were stunning. They showed just how hard the body fights back against weight loss.”
Society, and pop science, does a great job of selling us formulas and gimmicks. A popular one is muscle burns more calories than fat – so to get a better resting metabolic rate, get muscle. But this didn’t work for The Biggest Loser contestants. Researchers have always been aware that during dieting, metabolisms slow – it’s the body’s natural survival reaction. But what researchers never realized is that those slowed metabolisms never rebounded over the years. The Biggest Loser contestants, even though they had more muscle mass, were in a biological battle with their bodies that kept on slowing the metabolism, working double-time to get the weight back on.
As a registered personal trainer and dietitian, I can tell you the best reason NOT to exercise is to lose weight. There. It’s out there on the page. And it seems radical. But, at the end of the day, it’s true. Exercise as a means to lose weight is not the way to go.
Many readers might say, “What’s the point of exercising?”
Next week I’m going to discuss the benefits of exercise – not as a means to an end, instead as a means to live a healthy, vital life. If we can change the chip – stop looking for panaceas to mold our bodies to match magazine covers and societal expectations, we can find ways to accept our bodies and strive for a healthy life and all its wonderful side effects.