Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Week 38 Weigh-in (and thoughts on The Biggest Loser NY Times article)

This week was much better than last! I pushed myself out of the funk I was in last week, and felt much more motivated. I felt really good about my eating this week, too--I tried to stick with my 8:00-12:00-4:00-8:00 schedule (I do best when I eat at particular times of the day--otherwise, I convince myself that I'm hungry all day when I'm really not).

I said last week that my goal for the week was going to be feeling at peace with food--not try to cut back or anything to get to my pre-vacation weight, but just focus on getting back into my pre-vacation routine. I didn't realize how much a vacation would mess with my normal patterns! I thought that once I got back home, I'd have no problem getting back to normal. But it took a couple of weeks to make it happen.

For my Wednesday Weigh-in, the scale is exactly the same as last week, which I am happy with:



Speaking of maintenance, I've gotten several emails from people asking my thoughts about the article that was in the NY Times about The Biggest Loser contestants.
The gist of the article is that researchers followed up with the Season 8 contestants over the last six years to see what happened after dropping a large amount of weight with a vigorous diet and exercise program (i.e. The Biggest Loser contest). The research showed that the vast majority of the contestants gained back most, if not all or more, of the weight they lost. It also showed that the reason for this may not be due to willpower or lack of motivation, but due to a biological response by the body to lower metabolism. Basically--it's not their fault.

There is a lot more to it, which you can read at the link above, but that's the gist. After reading the article, I thought it was actually kind of depressing and pessimistic. It was almost like they were saying it was hopeless to lose the weight, because your body is going to force you to gain it back by lowering your metabolism to much lower than it should be for someone of your age and size.

For someone with a large amount of weight to lose, the article makes it sound like they might as well not even bother to lose the weight. The biggest flaw in the article, in my opinion, is that the study focused on The Biggest Loser participants only--there was no comparison to people who lost the weight in a much more sustainable way (losing a recommended 1-2 pounds per week with a sensible diet and exercise plan).

The article described one man's regimen in which he created a 3,500 calorie PER DAY deficit! Here is a short quote from the article about that:


To me, that sounds absolutely miserable. If that's what it would take to be thin, I wouldn't want to be thin. (I hope that obese people reading the NY Times article don't read that and think that's what it takes to lose the weight! I'm proof that it doesn't.)

I would really like to see a study done with people who have lost the weight in a more gradual and sustainable way, because I am willing to bet that the results would be much different. I agree that maintenance is very difficult, but I think that's because of habits that are ingrained in my brain from YEARS of abusing my body with binge eating.

My metabolism is just fine--this week, I averaged 2,016 calories per day), and maintained my weight  (of course, I haven't been on maintenance very long, so this could change eventually). I exercise a reasonable amount (I run about 15-20 miles per week, and get in roughly 7,000-10,000 steps per day on average). My diet is certainly not drastic--I eat whatever I want, and I just keep my portions under control.

Maintenance is different for everybody, of course, just like losing weight is--but I don't think that it's hopeless! I know that I'll always have to be careful with my choices, and probably have to count calories for the rest of my life, and I'm totally okay with that. I will probably always have to deal with emotional eating, but I feel like I am in control over whether I choose to eat for reasons other than hunger. I don't think that my body is forcing me to gain weight back.

My best advice for weight loss has always been this: Only make changes that you're willing to live with FOREVER. This idea came to me before I lost the weight, when a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to audition for The Biggest Loser with her. I said no--and the reason I said no was because I knew that going on the show would mean eating tiny amounts of bland food and exercising all day long like it's my job. I honestly would rather have stayed overweight than live like that.

My friend said that it wouldn't be forever, it would just be for the duration of the show. And that's when it hit me--what would happen after the show? I would gain back all the weight, because I wasn't willing to keep that routine forever. So, I thought, "Why don't I just lose the weight the way that I'm willing to live with forever?"

And for me, that meant not exercising (at the time, I despised exercise, so I decided not to do it). I also decided not to cut out my favorite things (particularly, desserts); and instead, I would work them into my food plan. I ate what I wanted, and cut back on portions. I didn't force myself to eat things I didn't like. It was very simple! (Not to be confused with "easy"). Eventually, those changes became habits for me. And I found several months later that I actually wanted to try exercising. I got hooked on running, and you know the rest of the story.

I completely understand the appeal of just gutting it out for a few months to drop all the weight quickly, and THEN worry about maintenance--but I knew that wasn't the answer for me. And now, reading through that article, I am so glad that I made the choice that I did. I lost an average of 1.8 pounds per week, so it took me 16 months to lose 125 pounds--much longer than the contestants on The Biggest Loser--but I have now kept the majority of the weight off for six years. That's the same amount of time that the researchers have been following up with the contestants.

I'm very curious about what my tests would say if the researchers would do them on me--it would be an interesting comparison! I also would have liked to see the researchers look at some of the former contestants that DID manage to keep the weight off, and see what happened with their metabolism. Pete Thomas would be a great example. He lost 185 pounds in nine months when he was on the show back in season two. When I had the pleasure of meeting him a few years ago, he told me all about the changes he made in his habits, that he still holds today. He eats something like 2,500 calories a day and has maintained his weight loss for 11 years now. (Pete even wrote in his book, "My number one principle of nutrition is: Never, ever, EVER start a diet that you can't maintain for the rest of your life.")

All of this is really just to say that I thought the article was interesting, but the research was lacking a lot of info that could have been very helpful. I hope that the article doesn't discourage people from trying to lose weight with diet and exercise--maybe just the extreme way that it was done on the show. But my life is a million times better now than it was 7-8 years ago, and much of that has to do with my weight loss. I can do so many things that I never would have been able to if I hadn't lost the weight. Maintenance is a bitch, I'm not going to lie--but I'll keep working on it, and it's worth the effort!

26 comments:

  1. I'm wondering how your kids like eating dinner at 4? I would love to push our dinner earlier but they (and my husband) don't like that idea.
    I had the same thoughts about that article!

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    1. My kids are actually the reason we started eating dinner at 4:00 :) They're always starving when they get home from school, so I started making dinner earlier--and eventually, we just settled on 4:00. It works out well with Jerry's schedule, too!

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  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I had been wondering if you would write a post in regards to this. I love your approach to making sustainable changes.

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  3. Funny, I thought about you when I read that. Obviously (look at you!) it doesn't apply to everyone. It does reinforce my opinion of the show's extreme methods for weight loss. Your method of slow, permanent changes gave your body and mind to adjust to the whole process. It's interesting that the drastic and fast weight loss seems to cause hormonal changes to keep that weight on, which is exactly the opposite of what the contestants were looking for.

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  4. I think you're right. There should have been a comparison study, but I think the article helps explain why there's only a 5% success rate in keeping it off. It's not only the fact that a lot of people think of it as a "diet", hit goal and start eating a lot of the crummy things they gave up to the lose the weight but also our bodies fighting to retain the fat. It also should have pointed out that Danny did what he did to win Biggest Loser, not *just* to lose weight. Tara Costa seems to be a BL success story.

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  5. Hi Katie, you wrote: "I would really like to see a study done with people who have lost the weight in a more gradual and sustainable way, because I am willing to bet that the results would be much different."

    There IS a study that track this! The National Weight Control Registry gathers info from people who have lost 30lbs or more, and kept the weight off for a year or more. That's definitely you, so you should check it out, register, and report back so we can read it, since I love your work!

    I was surprised that the article didn't mention this national study of 10,000 people at all. Poor form!

    Signed Elisabeth, long-time reader, first-time commenter, public health data nerd :)

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    1. Oops -- here's the link: http://nwcr.ws/default.htm

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    2. I actually signed up for that several years ago, and I periodically fill out surveys for them. I was actually surprised that the NY Times article didn't mention it, either. Unfortunately, the data from the NWCR is based on what people report to them, rather than testing for metabolism and things like that. (Maybe they've done that testing, but I haven't heard anything about it). I've only read a few of their studies' findings, but you just inspired me to go read some more! :)

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  6. Great response to a discouraging study Katie. I've always liked your advice to "only make changes that you're willing to live with forever." I don't feel too sorry for those BL contestants, they are all adults and knew what they were getting into. Danny Cahill (the example you cited) wanted to win and he did what he had to do to get that monetary prize. For me, my prize was even better than money, it included better health, looking normal and the freedom to do whatever I wanted. My obesity had made me a prisoner of my own body, there were so many things I could no longer do and losing weight has opened my world back up, and as my doctor says, "I have added years to my life." So not only do I have freedom to go anywhere and do anything, but I get to do it LONGER! Maintenance IS a bitch, but as you said, because of what weight loss has given us, it is worth it. At least it is most days!!!

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  7. Great thoughts! Thanks for sharing. I read the article, and I have to say it seems somewhat depressing and biased. I know it's not uncommon for people to gain some (or all) of the weight back, but I also know there are quite a few who have made long-term changes and are now living a healthier lifestyle. I'd like to see a more comprehensive study on both people on that and other weight-loss competition shows and one with people who have lost substantial amounts of weight.

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  8. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I thought this article was interesting (and you're right, a little depressing too) and I understand that they were doing it to the extremes but it can't help but make me wonder if my weight gain over the past year and a half is because of slowing metabolism? I don't know. I started gaining weight after my wedding in September 2014. This past year I've been putting in a TON more effort to lose it and I actually feel like I'm in great cardiovascular shape but my weight is NOT budging. It's so frustrating. I realize I could be gaining a little muscle too but that should make me lose inches as well and I'm not losing inches either. I eat at a realistic goal too but I know some of my eating habits could be better.

    James Wilson posted an interesting video on his Facebook page that I'll link below. I mostly run as my form of exercise but I do yoga too and once a week I do a strength training class. The video makes me wonder if I up my strength training, maybe I can boost my metabolism? I'm not sure, I really need to do some more research on it first. Sorry this is long! Just organizing my thoughts out loud, no one else really cares to listen to me ramble about this at home ;)

    Link to the video:
    https://www.facebook.com/JamesWilsonFaithFamFit/videos/1026645857371540/?hc_location=ufi

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    1. Yes, there are some people who seem to have SO much trouble losing weight and/or keeping it off, even when they're doing all the "right" things--so that very well could be the case for you. That would be extremely disheartening, to feel like you're doing all you can but your weight just isn't cooperating. I hope you get it figured out! :)

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    2. Amanda, just wanted to chime in with support because that is incredibly frustrating. Have you had your thyroid levels checked? I ask because it seems that especially for women, a small fluctuation can have huge effects. Regardless, best of luck on your journey!

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    3. Sandhya, I've thought about it but I'm always so nervous to go to the doctor (a stupid fear, I know) but I'm starting to think I really should have this checked out. It could definitely be playing a part in my weight not moving. Thank you for the kind thoughts though! Hopefully I'll get this figured out one day.

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  9. Well, sadly, I believe the evidence is out there for all who lose large amounts of weight. My friend is involved in a long term study at Pitt, and although she lost weight the right way - slowly and with moderate exercise - she burns about 400 calories less per day than she should. Your body never loses fat cells, they just shrink and continue to want to be "fed". In her study, they are finding that the longer you are fat, the truer this is. If you say were normal weight all your life, and then gained a large amount with pregnancy, you might not have those effects after loss. It is discouraging BUT I think drives home how important it is to change our relationshiop with food - what we are eating and how much much. And how important it is to instill good, healthy eating habits in our children so they don't have to deal with this in the future.

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    1. That's interesting about your friend! I also wonder if the amount of time spent yo-yo dieting has anything to do with it as well. I would imagine that someone who has gained and lost several times over would have a slower metabolism than someone who gained steadily and then lost it steadily (no science to back that up--just based on what I've read about metabolism, it seems to make sense). I'm glad that this article got so much attention, because hopefully there will be some more extensive studies done about it!

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  10. Thanks for your commentary on the article! What I took from it (from reading between the lines, I suppose) is that it was the fast & furious approach to the weight loss that really messed with metabolism, hormones, etc. I hope that future study will prove that to be the case, and not just that large weight loss in general (done in a moderate way) leads to the same results!

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  11. Thank you for your take on the article from the NYT. I know several people who have lost a lot of weight who are maintaining that - myself included and agree the article didn't really show all sides. and it might discourage people from attempting to lose weight.

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  12. I haven't read the article, but maybe now I will! I dislike the idea that it makes losing a large amount of weight seem fruitless. :/ There are SO many factors involved in keeping the weight off long term. And I definitely think that group is not the ideal one to use as the basis of a study. People like you are definitely a better type of subject!

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  13. I found this blog a week ago and was interested so I started reading the posts. I thought I was the only one that lost weight on portion control only and eating what I want. In 6 months I lost 50 pounds, that was 5 years ago and since it has stayed off. I eat fruits and vegies but mainly I eat like I did when I was a kid. You know, Capt. Crunch, McDonalds, Pizza and other fun food. I figure I live once and I want to eat what I like, just keep my portions controlled. When I was losing weight I would eat between 1500 to 2000 calories a day and was not working out because of knee surgery. Now I also run 2 to 3 times a week, and I try to keep moving, not just sitting all day. Another kicker, I did this with Hypothyroidism. I take Synthroid every day but my levels are still borderline Hypo. My thyroid was removed 3 years ago because of nodules. As far as calories go and the body resetting to a lower amount, I think we just eat too much plain and simple. The average person needs between 1500-2500 calories a day depending how active they are and age. So yes when someone is overweight eating 2500-4000 calories a day they gain weight, so you have to cut back until you start losing weight. Some weeks I swear the scale would not move, then another week the weight would fall off. I don't think our body resets, I think it becomes normal instead of being shocked with massive calorie infusions. I am able to maintain my weight with 2000-2500 calories a day, I am a 45 year old male. I run to keep my heart in shape, but any activity is better than none. Before the mid-80s we did not have the weight problems we have now. I find myself looking through old family pictures and most people were normal size when compared to pictures of today. Now day’s people are eating more food and not moving as much. With technology and lack of everyday activities I added running to stay mobile. Our portion sizes are much larger now, just look around. When I eat at McDonalds I order 1 cheeseburger, small fry, small drink and a fried apple pie. When I eat breakfast it is one cup of Kid cereal and ½ cup whole milk. When we order pizza, it is 2 slices compared to 4 to 6 slices. Katie is right, this is a lifestyle and sure it can be tough to count calories but it is tougher being overweight with medical problems and feeling ashamed. Sorry about the long winded post but Katie is doing it right just follow her lead.

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  14. My thought on the article and the extreme weightloss of Biggest Loser contestants and how it affects their metabolism was muscle mass loss. Because they have such a high deficit of calories and work out so much I wonder about how they are building their muscle mass. Generally when you are obese you have been gaining that weight your entire life and building the muscle mass it takes to carry it along the way. After the biggest loser if you gain back 100 pounds in a year there is no way you are building muscle mass with that. I hazard to guess that they are losing muscle mass to fat. Working out as much as they did you would expect them to be throwing back protein to help their muscles repair. The whole show makes no sense to me!

    I do know that in recent years they have changed the formula a bit. The "weekly" weighins are not truly weekly and are as much as two or three weeks apart. I have also noticed that a lot of the more successful people post BL are the those that start around 250 or less at the beginning.

    It was a fascinating read, but a little depressing because I loved the contestants that season. I really hope they can get the help they need to fix their metabolism.

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  15. It was interesting reading your thoughts on that article. When I read it myself earlier this week, my first thought was "How will the network and people working on the show respond?" So far I haven't heard anything on that front. I really wish this show would just get cancelled. It's been running long enough and I've always thought it does more harm than good, not only to the contestants but just people in general. Weight loss is achieved through unrealistic, unhealthy, and unsustainable methods. A lot of negativity surrounds the whole thing, what with the elimination process, the trainers yelling at the contestants, etc. The producers are capitalizing on America's twisted obsession with weight and taste for "reality TV", without actually caring about anyone's health and emotional well-being, as long as they're making the big bucks. *sigh* Alright, rant over! As you can tell, I just don't like that show :p

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  16. I totally agree with "don't lose weight doing something you are not willing to do for the rest of your life". I went from a size 16 to a size 7 exercising 2-3 hours per day and counting every calories. When my body basically gave up on me, overtired, guess what happened? Yep, I gained it all back, with benefits! Because I was NOT willing to exercise that much daily and count calories (not a good method for MY mental health). So now I'm doing something that works for me, and that I feel fine about when I think about doing it forever. This way, the weight * should * stay off. Biggest Loser is a bad show and should not exist, it messes with peoples lifes and health.

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  17. I totally agree with "don't lose weight doing something you are not willing to do for the rest of your life". I went from a size 16 to a size 7 exercising 2-3 hours per day and counting every calories. When my body basically gave up on me, overtired, guess what happened? Yep, I gained it all back, with benefits! Because I was NOT willing to exercise that much daily and count calories (not a good method for MY mental health). So now I'm doing something that works for me, and that I feel fine about when I think about doing it forever. This way, the weight * should * stay off. Biggest Loser is a bad show and should not exist, it messes with peoples lifes and health.

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  18. I was wondering what you thought about that article, Katie. I agree, it was written in a pretty discouraging way; I also hope that people don't let it stop them from living healthier lives and losing weight. I also found it odd that the one woman who was still relatively close to her weight after the show, in comparison to the others they profiled (I think they said she gained back about 20 lb or something), was painted as having "failed". I thought she looked great, and from her comments in the article she seemed happy with where she was at.

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  19. only make changes you are willing to live with for ever........ wowwwwwwwwww
    this is what most of us are missing in our weight loss journey,
    it happened to me so many times, once I get near to my set scale I get relaxed and again start getting weight. I know if I cross that U turn I am gonna achieve what I am struggling for, but sorry to say I am not succeeded yet, even I got closer to it but due to that single bad habit,

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