A Reality Show Helps Obese People, and also Science

 

Why extremely obese people regain the weight they have lost after grueling efforts? A fascinating story in The New York Times tells the drama behind the stars of The Biggest Loser, a reality show in which overweight people shed pounds by working out for hours on end, while also adopting a leaner diet and a new lifestyle. Yet, as a researcher with a weakness for reality shows has demonstrated, most have now reverted to their former weight. The reason? Their metabolism has slowed. This means they are burning fewer calories than before their weight loss. In other words, their own body is fighting to get back the lost pounds. Why certain people settle at a certain weight remains still unclear. If the science behind this is correct, however, it has little to do with willpower. It is almost a Shakespeare drama, in which the body and the soul find themselves on opposite camps. A lesser morale, at least for this writer who dislikes TV and smartphones as devices that impair our capacity for expression and conversation, is that even a show that elicits little admiration from the pickier among us, not only can help people attain impressive challenges but can also help science understand a little more about our own condition.

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