Food for thought. A shocking new study released earlier this week explained why many Biggest Loser contestants end up gaining back all the weight they lost over the course of the show: Their metabolisms slowed down significantly after the weight loss and never recovered years later. Biggest Loser season 8 stars Danny Cahill and Tracey Yukich, who both took part in the study, opened up to Us Weekly about their struggles to maintain their thinner frames after the big finale.
“People look at overweight people and think they’re lazy or they’re eating too much. This study proves that’s not the case,” season 8 winner Cahill, 46, tells Us. "I could be diligent and eating normal, but still gaining weight. I think it really puts a new perspective on things.”
In case you missed the surprising findings, Kevin Hall, an expert on metabolism at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, monitored most of the season 8 contestants for six years. Thirteen of the 14 people regained weight, and four contestants are heavier now than before the show. Besides slow metabolisms, they also had permanently low levels of the hormone leptin, which keeps hunger in control.
Cahill tells Us that keeping the weight off was much more challenging than losing it in the first place. He went from 430 to 191 on show, but he has since gained back more than 100 pounds. “The battle was just beginning because it’s been harder now,” he explains. "Losing it was six months of my life. That was a period, but now I have to live with this day after day, for the rest of my life, and that is really hard.”
“I kept the weight off for two to three years completely, and then as I got busy and started working more, the weight started creeping up on me,” he says of balancing his work responsibilities as a land surveyor and finding time for a daily 90-minute workout. His metabolism has slowed down so much that he burns 800 fewer calories per day than a typical man of his size. “I’m on the negative before I even start in the morning, and that’s disheartening,” he tells Us. “If I eat what a normal human would eat, I gain a pound a week.”
Similarly, Yukich, 44, who now weighs 178 after going from 250 to 132 on the show, says she absolutely gains weight more quickly now, but she plans out all her meals to avoid leptin levels causing a binge. “It’s like you’re a lion and ravaging for something to eat,” she tells Us. “That’s where the planning comes in. If that feeling kicks in and you’re not prepared, you will eat everything in the house.”
To maintain her weight, she works out once in a fasted state and fills her diet with healthier foods like eggs, turkey bacon, avocado and lots of veggies. “I give myself a full 12 hours of empty belly for fasted cardio in the morning,” she says. “I have to work out twice a day; otherwise I bloom up to over 200 pounds.”
“I appreciate the tools that were given to me on the show. I came from a place of dying on the first day,” Yukich recalls of her collapse during a beach run in the first episode of the season. "I had … a doctor tell me I was going to die if I didn’t change my life. That really stuck with me and that’s how I motivated myself to change. My mindset was different from the first day because if I want to be a good mother for my children, I have to change my life.”