Hopefully you missed this...

By Brian Cole, Personal Training Associates

I say “hopefully” because watching what is called “Reality TV” when it’s obviously staged, directed and filmed by a crew (i.e. not reality) seems an odd way to waste an evening. But I do odd things too I guess, so I’d better get to my point.

In case you did miss this: it turns out that those great examples of fast and significant weight loss, driven by drill sergeant-type trainers, on a show called The Biggest Loser, aren’t very successful at what should be their primary goal—keeping their “lost” weight off. While this is not a surprise to those of us who study, learn and help others successfully achieve their goals, it may serve as a cold slap in the face for those who have lived vicariously through these contestants.

Evidently (I admit I’ve never watched this popular show that I’m now arrogantly mocking), the contestants compete for drastic weight loss in a specific time period. More pounds lost, faster wins—or something like that. The main problem with that is our body’s built-in defense called metabolism. It senses a problem when dramatic change occurs and adapts by slowing down as it tries to maintain stability. While that is a protective response, it’s a problem when trying to lose weight fast and a persistent problem when the dramatic push subsides. The slowed metabolism makes it just about impossible to keep the weight off. When the changes/improvements are gradual, the metabolism doesn’t feel threatened and therefore doesn’t protectively slow down. It just gradually accepts and adapts to the new you. Also, for reasons I don’t fully understand, there are hormonal adaptations that prevent fast weight-loss folks from feeling full after eating. This means they’re hungry all the time. And that’s not the best scenario when trying to keep weight off.

The results: almost all the contestants have regained their weight. In the latest tracking study, 13 out of 14 regained. And remember they lost their “weight” fast, which means they probably lost some muscle, bone density and water. They probably regained it mostly as body fat, resulting in worse muscle/fat balance percentage.

The message is that keeping weight off is not only about calories in vs. calories burned. It’s also essentially about adding the only known thing that can help keep body fat off: Calorie Burnin’ Lean Muscle Tissue. When that is added, and it takes time to build, combined with better more controlled nutrition, the best chance to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight is in place. Why? Because lean muscle tissue burns calories even when at rest.

While I’ve been using the common term—weight loss—the real goal is fat loss. And lean muscle gain. The scale won’t coincide with the waistline/dress size reductions.

I’ve been asked if either my trainers or I have ever been overweight and had to lose significant pounds—the implication being if we haven’t experienced how difficult it is, how can we be qualified to lead someone through the challenges? Fair question. Here’s my fair answer: If the obese/overweight person had been as active and as disciplined in his or her nutrition habits as we’ve been, that person wouldn’t be where he or she is. And, by following our lead right now, in time (that’s long, slow steady time) that person will have a healthier body that functions with less discomfort and more energy. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

So considering the results (less discomfort, more energy, lower blood pressure, reduced risk of diabetes, lower cholesterol...the list goes on and now includes even less risk of some cancers), why don’t more folks do it? The only answer I can offer is it requires a change (lots of people don’t like change) and self discipline (lots of people don’t like that either). I guess it’s just too much to ask.

I’m not writing this hoping it’ll inspire you because my experience says most of you, even when inspired, won’t stick with it. But my experience also knows, if you’re the exception, we can help. And helping that rare individual succeed feels so good, we’re just being self-indulgent.

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