10 Reasons Biggest Loser Contestants Gain the Weight Back

10 Reasons Biggest Loser Contestants Gain the Weight Back
10 Reasons Biggest Loser Contestants Gain the Weight Back

10 Reasons Biggest Loser Contestants Gain the Weight Back

Successfully losing weight is a huge challenge. Keeping it off for good is often even more challenging. There is no show on TV that better depicts the difficulties associated with losing weight, or the amazing feeling of finally losing it than “The Biggest Loser.” However, many wonder what happens after the cameras turn off.

According to several reports and studies, “The Biggest Loser” cameras aren’t showing how difficult it is for contestants (even successful ones) to actually keep the weight off after they return home.

In fact, a recent study published in Obesity showed that after the eighth season of the show (which aired in 2009) within a period of six years, 13 of the shows 14 contestants regained all the weight they had lost. Also, four were heavier than they were before the show even started. Not only does this put them at a serious risk for more health related issues, but it has also left many of the people feeling ashamed.

However, according to several other studies and findings from research groups, it isn’t necessarily their fault. While the individuals may go back to their old bad habits when it comes to food and exercise, this isn’t all that is to blame for them regaining the weight.

There is no question that “The Biggest Loser” presents some authentic, feel-good moments; however when the camera goes off, it is often an entirely different story. Here you can explore the top 10 reasons that many of TBL contestants regain the weight they lost while on the show. For some this is a real eye-opening article regarding the struggle to maintain a healthy weight.

10Slower Metabolism

Nothing slows a metabolism like some nice summer sausage and pork belly. Mmmm… Pork belly.

During the days, months, and years after contestants are on “The Biggest Loser,” their bodies start to work against them. When they dropped the initial pounds during filming, their metabolisms slowed down drastically. While it is an expected and natural occurrence, it also causes issues in the future. The problem is, it never speeds back up. In fact, the contestant’s metabolism may become even slower, which makes it much harder for them to burn calories while at rest. As a result, when the contestants leave the show, they have to eat less to maintain their new, lower weight, compared to others who were the same size.

For example, TBL season eight winner, Danny Cahill lost an astonishing 239 pounds during his time on the show. However, after filming, he regained 100 lbs. Even six years after the show aired, he has to eat 800 calories less each day than other men who are his same size to maintain his weight of 295 pounds. Another contestant on the show, Amanda Arlauskas, gained 13 pounds after the finale, but now burns almost 600 fewer calories each day than other women who are her same size.

This slower metabolic rate is blamed on the rapid weight loss the contestants experienced on the show. Unfortunately, this results in it being harder to lose weight in the future and keep it off for good, which is why so many regain all of the weight they lost during the show.

9Lower Leptin Levels

Damn you low leptin levels! Making me eat this ginormous sandwich!

Slower metabolisms were not the only reasons that contestants gained the weight back after the show. Many participants also reported that they began to feel hungry all of the time. Scientists discovered that this was due to their lowered levels of leptin. Naturally produced in the body, the hormone works to help control hunger.

When the show ended, the contestants had extremely low leptin levels. As they started to regain the weight, the levels went up but peaked at only half of what they were before the show. This left the contestants feeling much hungrier than they were before and during the show.

Many believe this is one of the main reasons that participants regain weight so dramatically in many situations. Some people think that weight loss and weight gain is about willpower and calories. However, scientists know that leptin is really in control. In fact, it is believed that resistance to leptin is the leading driver of weight gain. The purpose of this hormone, which is produced by fat cells, is to tell the brain that there is enough fat stored and that eating isn’t necessary. However, when this doesn’t happen, people tend to feel hungry constantly, which causes them to overeat and gain weight.

Contestants from TBL have lowered levels of this crucial weight controlling hormone, which is a primary factor in why they regain much (if not all) of the weight they lost during the show.

8The Creation of an Unsustainable Environment

No more trainer = more chicken wings

While on the show, the doctors, dieticians, and personal trainers create unsustainable conditions for the contestants. While it results in them losing weight quickly, it also causes the brain to create a defense mechanism that tries to prevent the person from losing all the weight. Regarding the economics of the body, losing weight is similar to throwing money away. If a person loses weight extremely fast, their brain wants them to go back to the weight they were at before.

This struggle between the brain and body can make it extremely difficult, if not completely impossible, for a person to maintain the weight loss they have experienced. The brain is going to constantly send signals for the person to eat or that they are hungry. As time passes, the individual gives in just to not feel so hungry all the time. This is only complicated by the lack of support provided by the show and the absence of self-motivation.

When trying to lose weight at home, alone, the process is much more challenging. It is much easier to cheat and give into temptation when the entire nation isn’t holding the contestant accountable any longer. This represents another factor that plays a role in “The Biggest Loser” contestants regaining much of the weight they were able to lose while on the show. As mentioned before, once it is regained, losing it again is even more difficult.

7A Lack of Self-Motivation and Willpower

I only have the motivation for one more, ok two more, slices of cheesecake

For some contestants, a huge factor that leads to them regaining the weight they lost during the show is a lack of self-motivation. When a person is on the show, they are motived to lose as much weight as possible, quickly, to win the prize. However, when the motivation is no longer present, it can be difficult and in some cases impossible for them to find the motivation to continue fighting to keep the weight away. Also, when the weight begins to creep back on because of slowed metabolism, lower levels of leptin, and other factors, it is even more of a struggle to lose it.

Most people understand the impact of having no motivation. After all, it is much easier to stay in bed, avoid the gym, and eat all the foods that taste great than to continue making efforts to keep the weight off. When working toward a goal on the show, they have a reason to get up in the morning and give it their all. There is a prize to be acquired. Unfortunately, once the cameras are gone, there is no real motivation that can encourage contestants to keep going and remain healthy. This is a huge factor related to the contestants from past seasons regaining all of the weight they lost. When this occurs, it is often even more difficult for them to lose it again if they ever decide to in the future.

6Their Body has No Time to Adjust to the Change in Weight

When weight yo-yos down, it usually yo-yos back up

When a person experiences fast weight loss, like what is seen on “The Biggest Loser,” the body compensates by slowing down their metabolism. This sounds quite disheartening for the millions of people who are struggling to lose weight; however, experts state that it should not be. Instead of trying to follow the impossible model shown on TBL, weight loss experts recommend a person try to lose one to two pounds weekly. This is the absolute fastest a person should lose weight to avoid creating the unsustainable caloric deficit.

When a person loses weight by making small changes, it gives them more time to make behavioral choices that are more sustainable. Losing weight needs to be accomplished by using an approach that a person can continue doing long-term. This means increasing their physical activity, eating health foods, and sleeping better.

When weight is lost too swiftly, it doesn’t allow the person time to adjust to the changes that are being made. Moving more slowly and losing weight at the suggested rate allows the body to adapt to the changes. This gives a person’s metabolism the time to adjust to fewer calories and more exercise. This helps prevent a messed up metabolism in the future. The goal is work diligently to make small changes that will help the individual secure long-term results. Unfortunately, this isn’t how it works on TBL, which is just another reason why so many of the contestants are regaining the weight.

5Lack of Support and Accountability

Without accountability they eat everything not nailed down

Becoming a contestant on “The Biggest Loser” puts massively overweight people in the hands of professionals and experts. During their time on the show, they have unlimited access to nutritionists, cooks, personal trainers, and other people who are going through the same thing. This unlimited support makes it much easier to lose weight and stick to the diet and exercise plan suggested.

Also, while on the show, they are held accountable for the food, exercise, and lifestyle choices they make. If they overeat, it shows at the weekly weigh-ins. Not only do they let themselves down when they don’t lose weight, but also their team, family, experts, and in some cases, the entire nation who is watching the show on television. This type of accountability is not offered when a person is trying to lose weight at home.

After the show, even if the contestant has successfully lost a large amount of weight, not having this support system can take a huge toll. No longer do they have experts to ask questions to or the support of other contestants who are in the same boat. In fact, many feel completely alone in their weight loss journey when they return home. This makes it extremely easy to slip back into old habits and forget the successes they had while the camera was on.

A lack of support and accountability plays a huge role in “The Biggest Loser” contestants regaining the weight when they return home.  

4Mindless Eating

This isn’t even good. Now I’ll have to eat something else to get this taste out of my mouth!

During the filming of “The Biggest Loser,” contestants are provided with the tools and guidance necessary to eat healthy, low-calorie diets. Snacking is not an option, and no unhealthy food is on the ranch. The possibility of “mindless eating,” while the camera is on, is virtually non-existent. Not to mention virtually every free moment of the contestants day is filled with some type of physical activity.

However, by the time the show ends, the cameras are turned off, and the contestant goes home, they are back in their world. It is easy for these individuals to find themselves on the couch having consumed an entire bag of chips before they even know what is happening. At home, their day isn’t structured around eating healthy and exercise. They are back in their own domain, where (in many situations) mindless snacking throughout the day is a part of life. The situation is made even worse when other members of their family participate in this type of behavior.

When mindless eating occurs, the contestant (regardless of how much weight they lost) are going to start regaining the pounds – probably pretty quickly. The key to avoiding mindless eating is to have other things that occupy the person’s time. However, after the show, it is more difficult to avoid mindless eating, and in most cases, when it occurs, it is unhealthy food options. This all contributes to the regaining of weight for TBL contestants.

3Getting Off the Exercise Routine

I’ll run 5 miles right after this cheesy burger! I swear. You’ll help me, won’t you Mr. Couch!

Virtually everyone understands that exercise is a crucial part of maintaining a healthy weight. While on the show, contestants have state-of-the-art gyms to use, outside exercise activities, and access to personal trainers. This makes it easy to get hours of exercise each day. However, after the show, many contestants return home to a location where there is no exercise equipment, no personal trainers, and no motivation even to get up and move. If a person goes from exercising several days a week to minimal exercise or none at all, it is only natural that they will regain the weight they previously lost.  

While it may not be necessary for a person to exercise as much or as often as they did while on the show, any reduction in their physical activity is going to result in the individual finding it more and more difficult to keep the weight away.

Unfortunately, what many researchers have found is that the show sets unrealistic exercise and workout standards. Most people are well aware that once they return home, they won’t be able to commit to the same level of physical activity. At the time of the show, they may not think much about it, but if they did, they would realize that the weight loss they achieve is only going to be temporary. There is no way to maintain massive amounts of weight loss if a person reduces the physical activity they participate in on a day to day basis.  Tracking fitness activities and watching caloric intake were the primary drivers of success on TBL; without these two crucial elements many former participants gain the weight back.   

2Increased Stress Leads to Weight Gain

Stress and weight gain go hand in hand in mouth

Losing a massive amount of weight while on “The Biggest Loser” can be extremely satisfying and rewarding. However, when the contestant returns home, they face the stress of having to keep the weight off. After all, now that they have been on TV, everyone is watching to see what happens next. Unfortunately, this new source of stress is a serious impacting factor when it comes to the regaining the weight they had lost.

This increased stress causes the body to produce Cortisol. This is a stress hormone that is released in the body when a person is under pressure. It results in the body not being able to metabolize food as quickly. Also, when a person is under a significant amount of stress, it changes the types of foods that are craved. For example, the individual is going to want to eat foods that are more fatty and sugary than if they were not under stress.

This is a diet-derailing combination. In many cases, it plays a huge role in TBL contestants regaining the large amounts of weight they lost while on the show. According to researchers, the combination of new, high-calorie cravings, along with a snail-paced, stress-induced metabolic rate, results in often significant weight gain.

Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to combat this stress. Contestants feel like they are letting people down by regaining the weight, and this feeling continues to become more intense with every pound regained. It is a vicious circle that often leads to the person regaining all the weight they lost.

1Inability to Sleep Properly

Fitful sleeping leads to weight gain

During “The Biggest Loser” contestants are exhausted at the end of each day. They have usually put in countless hours at the gym or engaging in some other physical activity, and the minimal calorie intake doesn’t give them much regarding extra energy. As a result, sleeping while on the show is a given. Not only do they sleep, but they sleep well.

However, after the contestants return home, their physical activity level drops and their calorie intake goes up. They now have more energy than ever before, along with stress, which can result in them having a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep.

Most people understand that when they are exhausted, because of no sleep, their metabolism slows down. In fact, just losing 30 minutes of sleep can impact their metabolic rate. In a recent study, 500 people kept sleep diaries. It was discovered that when a person lost just 30 minutes of sleep, it increased their risk of becoming obese by 17 percent. Sleep deprivation, due to more energy, more stress or any other cause, results in ghrelin. This is the hunger-stimulating hormone. It will go into overdrive in these situations, making the individual feel hungrier than ever before – even when they were working out and eating less.

If contestants could stick to a regular sleep schedule when they return home, they may be able to combat some of the weight regain.


The fact is, many factors can impact a contestant from “The Biggest Loser” and their ability to keep the weight off. Unfortunately, they simply don’t have the ability to continue the weight loss friendly lifestyle they experienced while on the show when they return home. Also, due to how quickly the weight was dropped, regaining it is almost something that should be expected.

A key factor that was discovered by many researchers who studied TBL contestants was that after the show was completed, the people returned to their normal, day to day lives. They no longer had the support of physicians, exercise specialists, trainers, psychologists or nutritionists. All of these individuals played a huge role in their initial weight loss, and they are just gone.

A shocking reality for some who have lost weight and kept it off is that making an ongoing lifestyle change is difficult and it is something that is never over. It is imperative that contestants focus on their lifestyle, the support they have, and several other factors to help and offset various biological issues.

Losing weight on “The Biggest Loser” is the entire point of the show. However, if contestants are unable to maintain this weight loss when the cameras are turned off, many wonder, what’s the point? It seems like the individuals are being set up for failure from the beginning. The top reasons for contestants regaining weight after “The Biggest Loser” are found here; however, this does not represent a comprehensive list of the factors that may impact a person’s likelihood to regain weight.