The fallacy of ‘The Biggest Loser’ and how to effectively train obese clients

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Now airing worldwide for its 17th season, The Biggest Loser opened the door for a plethora of discussions amongst trainers, researchers, and individuals seeking long-term solutions for weight loss.

The first several years, Americans were filled with excitement at the prospect of being able to shed more than 100 pounds through change in diet and strenuous workouts.  But as time rolls on and previous contestants are speaking out about health issues and rapidly gaining back the weight they lost, studies revealed that The Biggest Loser approach to losing weight is just that – a big loser.

The goal for overweight clients is to develop sustainable exercise habits that they can continue through life.

The goal for overweight clients is to develop sustainable exercise habits that they can continue through life.

The Reality Show that is Far From Reality

Despite the show being coined “reality TV,” the show is anything but real.  While we see many of the contestants, especially the ones who make it to the end, drop an astonishing amount of weight, the harsh reality begins after the show has ended.

Anyone who has tried to lose weight (and keep it off) knows that success is defined by the choices made and the everyday behaviors changed. Most can make better food choices and work out for hours at a time if theyre cut off from the rest of the world, with someone screaming down their neck.

But what about when the cameras are off and they have to fit in a workout in between getting the kids from school, working an 8-hour day, and getting dinner on the table?  The workout regimen and applying the dietary lessons learned take a backseat to the stresses of “normal” life.

Most participants of the show gain back all of their weight, and sometimes surpass their original weight.

Most participants of the show gain back all of their weight, and sometimes surpass their original weight.

The “Real” Facts Behind The Biggest Loser

Consider the study conducted the by Intramural Research Program of the NIH and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in which 14 Biggest Loser contestants were studied 6 years after their appearance on the show.  The studys leader, Dr. Kevin Hall, found that 13 of the 14 contestants had regained a substantial amount of weight, 4 being heavier than they were before the show.  The most drastic change was Danny Cahill, who gained over 100 lbs, currently weighing in at 295 lbs.

The reason stems from a significant slow down in each of their resting metabolic rate (RMR).  Your body has whats called a “set point.”  What this means, basically, is that your body has a particular weight that is easiest to maintain, with little to no effort.  If you try to make your body smaller than it wants to be, it will decrease your metabolism and increase your appetite until you get back to that set point.

At the time of the study, Danny Cahill needed to consume 800 fewer calories per day than the average man of his weight to avoid gaining anything more.  Thats the equivalent of an 8 oz steak and potato dinner!  After the study, Cahill went on to quit his job, dedicating all his efforts to his weight loss journey.  He eventually gained it back completely once he returned to his job and realities of normal life.

 

The key to effective weightloss

So how can an extremely overweight person lose weight and keep it off? It must start with a consistent exercise program (ideally three times a week) with moderate exercise. The key is lifelong health, instead of short term gain. Is it realistic to keep up with a HIIT for life? Or eat a minute amount of calories each day? Absolutely not, balance for food and exercise is the key.

The real goal for overweight clients is to develop healthy and sustainable lifelong habits.

The real goal for overweight clients is to develop healthy and sustainable lifelong habits.

True Story: 400 pounds to 185 pounds, and staying there

One of my most successful clients, a 400 pound man got down to 185 pounds and ran a 5k.

How? Consistency. For a year, he worked out three times a week, for 30-45 minute sessions and ate a balanced diet.

The key to getting started is with 30 minutes of total body workout. Constantly reflecting on how you feel during the workout, and keeping it low impact.

Ideally each workout starts with mobility work, which improves range of motion and movement of joints. It is best to keep off machines, and implement the TRX, use sandbags, and maces. By utilizing these,  you can string compound movements together and burn fat as you build muscle.

Some great variations with the sandbag include:

  • carries
  • various pulling exercises to improve posture and strengthen the upper back
  • modified squat and lunge variations

These are great since they are easy on the joints.

For the steel mace, total body exercises such as squat to press lunge to curl are great ways to incorporate total body work while maximizing caloric expenditure.

These work great since the mace is offset working both sides, and time under tension can be longer.

 

Contact Shawn@TampaStrength.com to set realistic goals and begin living a healthier lifestyle you can maintain for life.


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