Mark Borigini M.D.

Overcoming Pain

I Am a Thin Person in an Obese Body. Not.

Climbing out of the quicksand of slow metabolism.

Posted May 07, 2016

By now many may have heard about the study publicized in the lay media and just published in the journal “Obesity.” I see it as a death knell dedicated to me: Metabolic self-determination felled by lousy genes and a large order of fries.

In this study, researchers followed contestants from the reality television show “Biggest Loser” for six years after their victorious finale nights, nights showcasing their amazingly changed bodies—slim and athletic.  The project was the first to measure what happened over a period of as long as six years after the apparent goal weight had been reached.

Now, what is not new is that the basic problem here has to do with resting metabolism, which determines how many calories a person burns when at rest. When the show began, the contestants, despite their marked obesity, had normal metabolisms for their size, meaning they were burning a normal number of calories for people of their weight.  When it ended, their metabolisms had slowed significantly and their bodies were not burning enough calories to maintain their reduced sizes.  It is not surprising that the contestants from the series experienced a slower metabolism by the time they reached their weight goals.

What was surprising in the course of the observation of these erstwhile conquerors of corpulence was the realization that as the years went by and the numbers on the scale climbed, the contestants’ metabolisms did not recover.  In fact, metabolic rates became even slower, and weights kept increasing.

In conclusion, researchers found that “Biggest Loser” participants regained a substantial amount of their lost weight in the six years since the competition, but overall were quite successful at long-term weight loss compared with other lifestyle interventions. Despite substantial weight regain, a large persistent metabolic adaptation was detected. Those with greater long-term weight loss also had greater ongoing metabolic slowing.

So, long-term weight loss requires vigilant combat against persistent metabolic adaptation that acts to proportionally counter ongoing efforts to reduce body weight.

You have your assignment: Stamp out metabolic adaptation.