Why So Many Biggest Loser Contestants Gain Back The Weight

Reality shows generally have a very limited amount of reality to them, but NBC’s hit The Biggest Loser is one that actually features quantitative measurements. Each season sees contestants’ weights monitored to see who is losing the most relative poundage. The big Biggest Loser news now happens to involve the contestants from way back in 2009 for Season 8, as a study for the National Institute of Health found that almost all of the contestants were unable to keep the lost weight off for good, and that they gained back their weight because their bodies were trying to default to their previous sizes.

The National Institute of Health discovered that the problem with keeping the weight off has everything to do with the resting metabolism, according to The New York Times, which determines how many calories a given person burns while at rest. The Season 8 Biggest Loser contestants had normal metabolisms for their sizes when they started the show, but after the massive overhaul that led to them losing hundreds of pounds in a manner of months, their metabolisms had slowed quite significantly. Their bodies from that point could not physically burn the amount of calories necessary to maintain their slimmer selves.

It was never a surprise that contestants would gain back weight after leaving the show. Going from the Ranch, with its intensive workout regimens and strict diets, back to regular life and regular schedules would naturally mean that bodies would have to adapt once more. The catch with the Biggest Loser contestants was that their metabolisms never entirely recovered from the massive slowdown brought about by their time on the show. Their bodies worked against them keeping off their lost weight, and their slowed metabolisms meant that they would have to drastically reduce their caloric intake just to stay the same weight.

The central subject of the Times' story was Danny Cahill, the Season 8 winner who went from 430 lbs. to 191 lbs., dropping 239 pounds in seven months. He's gained back over 100 of those pounds, and some of his fellow contestants that year have regained even more.

All in all, it sounds like competing on a season of The Biggest Loser is the drag that keeps on dragging. Past contestants have come forward with horror stories of what they endured behind-the-scenes to shed the pounds in the first place. Knowing now that the contestants’ metabolisms were sabotaged in the long term makes the entire ordeal seem even more awful.

Honestly, I’m always surprised when Biggest Loser comes back for another season on NBC. The immersive regimen of diet and exercise for people who probably should ease their bodies into more strenuous activity seemed unhealthy just to watch. The fact that the health of the contestants is so drastically affected just makes me much less inclined to want to tune in. The workouts from trainer Jillian Michaels are all well and good for the living room with a yoga mat and playlist, but the process of the show is something else entirely.

The Biggest Loser has not yet been cancelled or received an order for a Season 18, so we don’t know just yet if there will be another batch of contestants in for a rough ride. If so, I hope more changes will be in store. To see when other shows will be returning to the airwaves, check out our summer TV premiere schedule.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).