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Obesity and Weight Management

How do the people on TV lose so much so fast?

05/30/2008

Question:

How do those people on "The Biggest Loser" lose so much weight so fast? Sometimes they lose 20 or more pounds in a week. Even the smaller females lose 8 or 9 pounds a week, week after week.

I went to one of those residential diet and exercise places once, very similar to "The Biggest Loser" except it wasn`t a contest, where they make you exercise 8 hours/day and they control what you eat. They served all food in the dining room and they gave out the portions so I couldn`t have been eating the wrong things or the wrong amount, and there was no other food anywhere near the place so I wasn`t "cheating" and couldn`t have even if I wanted to. Everybody had to hike in the mountains 3 hours per day with a leader and you had to keep up with the group, so there is no way I could have been "cheating" or "not trying hard enough." I also went to 3 hours/day of aerobics classes and 1 hour/day of swimming plus 1 hour/day of weight training with a personal trainer who always made me do as much as I possibly could, so I couldn`t possibly have been "cheating" or "not trying hard enough" at that either. I worked as hard as I could and followed all the rules perfectly and I only lost 17 lbs in 8 weeks and it cost almost $10,000 which of course my insurance didn`t pay.

I went on a medical VLCD once too, only 400 calories per day, plus 35 minutes of exercise 5x per week, plus 2x/week behavior modification groups and 1x/wk dr checkups and meetings with a dietitian. I followed it perfectly, you didn`t eat any real food, just the packaged powder they gave you. I never cheated, I drank every single ounce of water they said to and consumed exactly the right packages of powder on exactly the right schedule and I always did more than the minimum exercise they said you had to. Other people in my group lost 70 or 80 lbs in 26 weeks and I only lost 35. Then when I started the refeeding part, which was 800 calories/day, I started gaining it back (on 800 calories/day!) and eventually gained 100 lbs on the diet they told me to follow, ending up 65 lbs more than when I started. The dr and the dietitian and the behavior modification person all accused me of "cheating" and of "lying" when I said I wasn`t cheating, but I wasn`t! HONEST! And I`m not deluded or mentally ill or anything that would make me not even know whether I was lying or cheating or not. And I`m not a pathalogical liar who is still lying about it even now. Im a NORMAL PERSON except I`m fat.

How do these people do that and what is wrong with me? I dont eat like a pig, I never ever ever eat sweets or soft drinks, never have, wasn`t allowed to as a child either because I was already fat, I don`t cook with butter or fats, I don`t drink alcohol, I don`t even buy the stuff. I was a strict health food vegetarian for 17 years and everybody said vegetarians don`t get fat but I was fat then too. And of course everybody said I was lying about what I ate, but I WASN`T!

What is wrong with me? They keep testing my thyroid and telling me it is normal so I just need to eat less and exercise more (a nice way of saying I`m lazy and gluttonous, which I`m NOT).

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? I feel like I must have come from another planet or something because my body doesn`t follow the same rules as normal human bodies do, and I just keep getting accused of lying, which I`m NOT!!!

Answer:

I can certainly understand your frustration with all of your weight loss efforts, but it would be hard for me to determine why you do not lose weight based on the information you have provided.  How tall are you and how much do you weigh?  Have you had your resting metabolic rate (RMR) determined?  What is your age and gender?  Generally the shorter a person is the lower his/her RMR which is the number of calories needed to maintain his/her current weight if one does no activity.  Men typically have more muscle mass than women and so need more calories to maintain the muscles.  Height and weight are used to determine body mass index (BMI) which is a mathematical formula that is used to predict percent body fat, an indicator of potential health problems related to excess weight.

You have certainly tried a number of different diets, but none of them were plans you could maintain for the rest of your life.  If your doctor cannot identify a medical reason for your lack of long-term weight loss success, don't give up. The key to losing weight and keeping it off is to change the habits that have led to your excess weight.  I would encourage you to meet with a registered dietitian (RD) to evaluate your current eating plan.  If your doctor is unable to recommend a dietitian in your area, you can find one by calling your local hospital or go online to the American Dietetic Association (ADA) web site (www.eatright.org).  ADA will be able to direct you to an RD in private practice close by.  Before your visit, keep a food journal including everything you eat and drink for at least 3 days (2 week days and 1 week-end day).  Be sure to note the time of each meal and snack as well as the amount of each food.  Working on small changes to the diet you normally eat will be easier and should allow you to enjoy weight loss that you can maintain.  If possible, have your RMR determined.  Many RDs provide this service.  From your previous attempts, I would expect that your RMR is low meaning you do not need many calories to maintain your weight.  Knowing your RMR will also allow you to set a realistic weight loss goal - both short-term and long-term.  Of course, do not forget to include exercise.  You have done some rigorous exercising in the past, but it does not sound like this is realistic for the long haul.  If your doctor agrees, begin walking.  Pedometers are helpful in monitoring how much you walk.  Try a pedometer for a week and average the steps you take on a daily basis.  Then multiply your steps by 1.2 (a 20% increase) and try to increase to that number of steps.  When you are comfortable with the changes you are making with your diet and you are exercising regularly, you might consider working with a trainer who can help you balance your exercising to include aerobic exercise, stretching and resistance training.

Ignore the weight losses you see on television.  The contestants are hand-picked for these shows.  You need to work with your body in a way that helps you improve your health.

To Your Health,

 

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Response by:

Shirley A Kindrick, PhD Shirley A Kindrick, PhD
Former Team Leader of Comprehensive Weight Management
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University