This week The Biggest Loser (UK reality TV show) showed quite conclusively that dieting is vital to weight loss. Several of the contestants on both teams failed to lose any significant weight over the last 7 days even though they were exercising as hard as they could, according to their fitness instructors.
Two of the contestants lost no weight at all this week, even though their personal trainers were working them really hard. A couple of people only lost 1 or 2 pounds.
What was shown really well is that in the very short term exercise does not help you lose weight if you do not reduce calories as well. Very fit people do indeed burn a lot more calories than the average overweight person, however for most unfit and overweight people it is not possible to exercise enough to burn a significant amount of extra calories. Also, some people tend to eat too even more when they start exercising. In the last week contestants were in control of their own diets, and many simply ate too many calories.
Even if you burn off 500 calories in a long and intensive workout, you can easily gain those calories back in 5 minutes if you eat half a pizza or a couple of rounds of sandwiches. Athletes have to be careful of how much they eat to avoid gaining fat, and they exercise for longer periods, more intensively and more often than overweight and unfit individuals. If Usain Bolt is careful with what he eats, then that is a pretty good indication that fitness does not equal fat loss.
To lose weight you absolutely have to cut calories in the first weeks, maybe months, of exercising. There are no exceptions and although fitness is also vital to successful weight loss, it does not work in isolation early on because you are simply not capable of burning enough energy to allow you to eat what you like.
So, what was wrong with the Biggest Loser this week? The fitness instructors seemed a bit confused about the poor weight loss – although this may have just been a ruse to really hammer home the point that diet is everything. The fact is that to lose weight you have to reduce calories in a major way – and that does not mean to just cut calories a little, but to massively reduce calories.
If you have managed to get up to over 280 pounds (20 stone) you have routinely been eating well over 3000 calories a day for a long time. To lose that weight you need to drop down to around 1500 calories a day, every day.
The Biggest Loser (UK) seems to have failed the contestants this week. If the lack ofweight loss is to make a point, then this should have been highlighted on the show. They really should get much better advice in exchange for making their weight loss attempts public in the way they do. This is not your normal reality TV show that gives people a bit of publicity and the chance to win a money prize. The Biggest Loser is a show that can turn someone’s life around, it can literally help to save a persons life.
Today Claire, who lost 33 pounds in total, was voted off the show. She actually lost the most weight this week, but others did some tactical voting to get the strongest competition out of the way. At least her words on leaving the show are positive, saying that she is very grateful to have worked with Angie Dowds who really helped her lose most of the weight.
It is worth pointing out that if you exercise intensively for a long period, generally for a minimum of 3 months, but maybe up to 6 months to a year if you have been extremely overweight, then in time you will start to burn off a lot more energy through a combination of exercise and increased metabolism, which will mean that you will require more food.
A classic example of this is swimmers again. Geoff Huegill, the Australian commonwealth games gold medallist, put on a lot of weight when he gave up swimming a few years ago. He ballooned from around 90kg (200 pounds) to 138kg (over 300 pounds). It took him 15 months to lose the weight again and he had a major advantage of already knowing how to exercise to his limits and how to follow a healthy diet.
The Biggest Loser continues to punish the people that fail to lose most weight by having them voted off the show (or sometimes, people that lose the most weight!). This seems a really good way to tell someone that their case is hopeless. To give people so much hope and then to tell them that they have failed can easily destroy all the good work already done. Failure can lead to low of self esteem and even depression which can cause major problems with weight management, or lack of.