Does Weight Loss Impact your Metabolism?

Bad news travels fast. Like a game of telephone, inaccurate, bad news seems to travel even faster.

Recently, I was sitting in a session with two parents hoping to arrest and reverse the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes that their 13-year old daughter had just received; they looked more down than usual. “We read the article in the New York Times, Molly. Should we just forget about treatment all together?”

And that was the general consensus of people coming to my office the week after the New York Times released an article concluding that 14 Biggest Loser contestants experienced a significant drop in their metabolisms long after the show had ended.

Cue America’s favorite game: “Catastrophizing!”

Listen, long-term weight loss isn’t easy. We know that to be true. Five percent of people who make attempts at weight loss will succeed. But impossible? I think not. You have every right to be in that five percent.

A few other points for good measure:
1. This study did not look at macronutrients of food — what the subjects were consuming. And as Dr. David Ludwig so beautifully talked about in this radio interview, there is a significant difference in how your body metabolizes 100 calories of Coca-Cola and 100 calories of almonds.
2. One study does not tell the whole story. In response to this study, Susan Roberts at Tufts highlights many studies, with far more subjects, that show minimal impact to metabolism and calorie requirements after weight loss.
3. Can we discuss how these people are losing this weight? Excessive and bulimic exercise, minimal intake of food, and speculation of weight-loss drugs — of course there is going to be a long-term physical impact of some sort.
4. And yes, the study talked about metabolism and calorie requirements, but it also highlighted the great frustration and belief system of the contestants that they were hopeless, untreatable, and destined to live a morbidly obese life.

No way, Jose. This study did not take into account the probability of binge eating disorder, food addiction, and other psychological issues that likely interfered with the contestants ability to keep the weight off. You can’t treat these diseases at the gym or with a fad diet. We’ve tried that and the epidemic continues to worsen.

The Biggest Loser always makes me so sad. I want to put my hand into the TV and hug those contestants, find out what went wrong, find them a good plan that works (and that they can follow day in and day out), and give them skills for a life worth living. It’s possible to be in the five percent and even more possible to make that five percent, with the right treatment and support, into ten percent.

Who’s coming with me?

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