Why some ‘Biggest Losers’ can keep off the weight

After competing on the reality show “The Biggest Loser,” some contestants end up regaining the weight they lost.

The truth is, I kind of spiraled.

Ali Vincent

The first woman to win “The Biggest Loser”

Dave Bjerke/NBC/Getty Images

But some contestants have found a way to keep the weight off after the cameras are gone.


Researchers who studied them split the season 8 contestants into two groups: the ones who kept weight off, and those regained it.

The researchers found that initial weight loss was predicted by food intake, not physical activity.

Foxys Forest Manufacture/Shutterstock

But in the long run, that wasn’t true. Exercise was what made the difference.

Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images

You have to be very physically active in order to keep the weight off.

Kevin Hall

Senior investigator with the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

The people who kept off about 25% of their preshow weight on average increase their physical activity by about 160% from before the competition.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America/Getty Images

Those who regained the weight increased their activity by only 34%.


To maintain the weight loss, Hall’s team found that contestants needed at least 80 minutes of moderate activity or 35 minutes of vigorous activity beyond what they had been doing.

Photo Illustration/Thinkstock

Part of the reason some contestants weren’t able to maintain their weight loss was because the show put them on very low-calorie diets, prompting their bodies to slow down their metabolisms. Their bodies burned fewer calories than expected.

Genetics may also play a role.


The take-home point here is that obesity is really a disease. It’s not something that you can treat once and will cure it. It’s something that has to be continually addressed in one’s life.

Dr. Jennifer Kraschnewski

Associate professor of medicine and public health sciences, Penn State College of Medicine