How Dieting Destroys Your Metabolism

Credit Left: Biggest Loser contestant Chris Haston/NBC Universal via Getty; Right: Trae Patton/NBC Universal, via Getty

With Summer just around the corner, the season for dieting has officially begun. But new research shows that dieting can actually destroy your metabolism!

The study in the New York Times followed contestants from The Biggest Loser (Season 8), and shockingly showed that out off all the participants, only one had kept their weight off.

In fact, the winner of the season ended up regaining more than 100 lbs.

“It has to do with resting metabolism, which determines how many calories a person burns when at rest. When the show began, the contestants, though hugely overweight, had normal metabolisms for their size, meaning they were burning a normal number of calories for people of their weight. When it ended, their metabolisms had slowed radically and their bodies were not burning enough calories to maintain their thinner sizes.

“What shocked the researchers was what happened next: As the years went by and the numbers on the scale climbed, the contestants’ metabolisms did not recover. They became even slower, and the pounds kept piling on. It was as if their bodies were intensifying their effort to pull the contestants back to their original weight.”

But with your body being a genetic warehouse, is dieting destroying more than just the metabolism? Yes. In fact, it can damage one of the body’s key hormones…leptin.

“Slower metabolisms were not the only reason the contestants regained weight, though. They constantly battled hunger, cravings and binges. The investigators found at least one reason: plummeting levels of leptin. The contestants started out with normal levels of leptin. By the season’s finale, they had almost no leptin at all, which would have made them ravenous all the time. As their weight returned, their leptin levels drifted up again, but only to about half of what they had been when the season began, the researchers found, thus helping to explain their urges to eat.

But, simply gradually cutting calories isn’t the final answer for weight loss success.

“There are no doubt exceptional individuals who can ignore primal biological signals and maintain weight loss for the long term by restricting calories,” [Dr. Ludwig] said, but he added that “for most people, the combination of incessant hunger and slowing metabolism is a recipe for weight regain — explaining why so few individuals can maintain weight loss for more than a few months.”

“The difficulty in keeping weight off reflects biology, not a pathological lack of willpower affecting two-thirds of the U.S.A.”

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