The physical transformation experienced by contestants on The Biggest Loser is nothing short of dramatic.
In a matter of months, their diet and levels of physical exercise are completely overhauled, generally resulting in the loss of a large proportion of their body weight (and many, many tears shed against a heart-wrenching soundtrack).
There’s no doubt this makes for compelling television — The Biggest Loser never fails to be a watercooler talking point — but you have to wonder what it does to the contestants’ bodies in the long-term.
A number of former TBL stars have struggled to maintain the weight they ended the show on, and according to a new research, this is not simply due to a lack of willpower, or the fact that they no longer have access to 24/7 trainers. It largely comes down to how the program impacted their metabolisms.
In a study published in the journal Obesity this week, a team of researchers examined 14 contestants from The Biggest Loser‘s eighth US season to see what had happened to their bodies six years after the show.
Watch: Mia Freedman interviews The Biggest Loser coach Michelle Bridges. (Post continues after video.)
What they found was quite stunning: in the time that had passed, the contestants’ bodies had actually fought to regain the weight they lost. Even the lead researcher was blown away by this finding.
“It is frightening and amazing,” Dr Kevin Hall, a metabolism expert, told the New York Times.
It turns out the weight loss has affected their resting metabolism — i.e. the number of calories the body burns when at rest.
While the contestants were overweight when they started on The Biggest Loser, their resting metabolisms were perfectly normal for persons of their respective sizes. But by the end of the show, they had slowed to such a point that they weren’t burning the number of calories required to maintain their new size.