Metabolic damage, Biggest Loser and Chasing Freedom

Never before has an article had such an impact on validating my father’s and my personal struggle with weight loss since Biggest Loser. My Dad walks miles each day in addition to weight training and spinning, trying to maintain his weight in what has been a true struggle. Since the NYPost article came out I began to see posts from others stating things like, “If this is true, why even try;” or trainers coming out and stating that they have “always said that Biggest Loser was a mistake,” or “worst show on television,” etc.

Passing Judgement

It has been easy for viewers of The Biggest Loser to pass judgment on “unsuccessful” contestants after the show (defined as people who gained back their weight).  I have had people who looked down at me, or blasted me online, because of the battle. It was demeaning and hurtful, and worse than anyone could realize because I was already ashamed of the struggle I had. I felt like I failed my trainers, my Dad, and my fans because I was fighting, but losing, the weight battle.

The New York Times and many other news media covered a recent study published in the Obesity Journal. The study tracked contestants from Season 8 of Biggest Loser for 6 years after their finale. The focus was on their weight loss successes, weight maintenance, weight gains, metabolisms, and the resulting reasons for their continued struggle with obesity.

What does the new research mean, really?

Here is the lowdown on the articles you saw all over social media the last few days. Think about it this way: the medical community figured that if a 400 pound man lost weight and got to 220 lbs, he would need less calories to run his new, more fit, body. Researchers and doctors expected to see a smaller metabolism at finale than on Day 1 of the Biggest Loser Ranch. What very few people expected was that 6 years after the finale, even after significant weight gain, that metabolism would still be so greatly impaired.

That’s right, I said greatly impaired. Other words that would fit the description are damaged, arrested, stunted, or even collapsed.  

What is Success?

It is unfortunate, and frustrating, but I can also tell you that hearing this is a relief to many of my fellow contestants and I. See, we all thought we were crazy! Many of us have been fighting like mad to become healthier, but so few of us have been “successful” with keeping off the weight, and even that idea of success had been hard because we fight with this picture of what “health” looks like. Is success what I looked like on stage with Alison Sweeney or is success what it looked like at the makeover episode? Is success running a half marathon? A 10k? A 5k?

Basically, this published research article confirmed a very simple truth. “Losing weight is hard. Keeping the weight off is harder…” But don’t forget how the statement ends, “being overweight was the hardest.”

Chasing Freedom

I believe in freedom. I believe in freedom from obesity. I believe than many of us can achieve that freedom without surgeries or extremes but I believe that we have to take the journey slow, and we have to work on our resistance training in the process. Build muscles (the resistance training I just mentioned), don’t rush the process, focus on more than just the weight but also focus on spiritual and emotional health as well.

When we take this journey one step at a time I believe we make clear, focused progress towards our goals, and I believe there is hope for us to become healthy.

Never Giving up

As for me, I will never give up. I can’t stop encouraging others, not because of a television show but because I have learned that living beats existing. My dad says, “Real life beats virtual life every single time.” I know that to be true and I can’t give up even with a damaged metabolism.

For anyone who wants help in this journey, my dad and I run a support community called the Fit.Church Pilot Program.  It is a faith-based program where we focus on our emotional and spiritual journey, as well as our health. We do focus on numbers, but there are more important numbers than just the number on a scale. We are concerned with blood pressure, blood sugar levels, body measurements and much more. On the scale our members have shed over 230 pounds in the last 12 weeks, and they are full of hope for a healthy future. Join us now and the first 30 days in the program will be free.  Learn more about the Fit.Church Pilot Program.