Body Kindness Podcast Episode 8 – That Biggest Loser Study

Body Kindness with Rebecca Scritchfield, RDNIn today’s episode of Body Kindness we’re talking about That Biggest Loser Study.

Last week the media exploded when the New York Times reported a new study of Biggest Loser Season 8 contestants that found that their bodies had “fought to regain weight”. Six years after the show:

  • all but one contestant had regained a significant portion of their lost weight – an average of 70%
  • their resting metabolisms had permanently slowed, burning an average 500 fewer calories a day than other people their age and size
  • they had significantly lower levels of leptin, the body’s satiety hormone.

You won’t be surprised to discover that Bernie and I have a lot to say about this study. We unpack the findings and talk about what they mean for the rest of us. I’ve also got some great advice for Bernie on how to find a healthy, body kindness way forward.

So if the news of this study made you want to throw your hands in the air with despair ‒ or left you feeling more confused than ever ‒ don’t miss this episode.

Have a question or comment for us? You can get in touch here.

Want to join our Body Kindness challenges, book clubs, and get my Feel Great Guide and health and happiness Journal free to your inbox? Jump on my email list here.

Listen to Episode 8 below…

Subscribe to Body Kindness so you never miss an episode – we’re on iTunesSoundcloud and Stitcher. Catch up on previous episodes here!

Subscribe to Body Kindness on iTunes          Follow Body Kindness on Soundcloud          Subscribe on Stitcher

Here’s what we talked about…

  • I explained why this study is significant. It’s extremely rare for a study to run for six years – most studies only last a matter of months, usually due to funding. The results are meaningful as six years is long enough to show the potential for weight cycling.
  • We talked about our reactions to the article and its uncanny timing so soon after Bernie’s Loser Letter in Episode 7. Bernie says he was floored by the news and still unsure what to think. There is some hurt and anger, yet some relief to hear that there are biological reasons why he’s struggled with his weight post-Loser despite all his efforts. He sensed something was not right with his body, but carried a personal sense of blame and shame for gaining weight.
  • I expressed my annoyance that the researchers don’t seem to learn anything significant from their own study by concluding that The Biggest Loser results are still better than other methods out there. Their call to action is to “fight” and find a way to turn leptin into medication. Do the researchers realize that they’re not just measuring the impact of doing the show on metabolism but also each contestant’s entire dieting history? We know the more and longer someone has dieted, the higher weight can climb.
  • It’s maddening to see the author and researchers use the same kind of thinking that created all these problems to try to solve them. Deep down society doesn’t want to hear about the existence of fat people! They have been around forever. While there are lots of factors at play, size diversity exists.
  • We talked about the two key findings of the study. The first was the metabolic slowdown of the contestants. Their metabolism was low when they left the show – which is expected as the body needs fewer calories to survive as it loses weight. But what confounded the researchers was as participants regained weight, metabolism did not increase proportionately.
  • This means a person who has lost weight is burning fewer calories and has a slower metabolism than a person of the same size who has not experienced weight loss.
  • Of the Season 8 participants Danny Cahill had the biggest discrepancy in metabolic rate, burning 800 fewer calories per day. In real life terms, this would mean he would have to skip lunch every day of his life in order to prevent weight gain. Accepted scientific wisdom has been that your body will need more calories as you gain weight but the study showed this was not the case.
  • The other significant finding was that contestant’s leptin levels were extremely low after the show. Leptin levels were expected to increase in the following years but only reached 50% of predicted levels. Leptin is the satiety hormone that says “hey, I’m full!” (the opposing hormone is ghrelin which tells you when you’re hungry).
  • I explained that if you engage in extreme weight loss methods like Biggest Loser then shift to more moderate measures, even if you try to tune into your body’s fullness signals your hormones will tell you that you don’t have enough. Bernie says this describes his experience of satiety since leaving the show.
  • The conclusion here is that the body fights back. The weight loss methods on The Biggest Loser are about vanity, and health and wellbeing get hijacked for extreme weight loss.
  • I also expressed my frustration that some “weight loss experts” say this study simply demonstrates the dangers of extreme diets, however many studies point to similar metabolic results in more moderate approaches. We can’t accept that dieting is worse for your body than taking care of it!
  • Bernie asked me what we should do with these findings, worrying that this study might make our listeners feel like giving up.
  • I mentioned Dr. Deb Burgard, a California psychologist and eating disorder specialist who disagrees with the conclusions of the study:
    “People are still talking about ‘solutions’ like medications to eliminate hunger or massive therapeutic teams for life — and I think clinicians do not want to disappoint higher weight people who are desperate to change their weight. We have to grapple with the facts here and open our minds to what we can do to support the wellbeing of people at every weight.”
  • I believe this is where the answer lies – we need to support wellbeing and true health first – physical and mental. You can be healthy and unhealthy at a wide variety of sizes.
  • I encouraged Bernie to find peace with the past and his Biggest Loser experience so he can get to a place of wellbeing. While there may be metabolic impact beyond his control, he is in charge his other choices. I encouraged him and our listeners to not check out of self care, but rather to continue on his Body Kindness path. The three pillars of Body Kindness  – love, connection, and caring – are guides for how we make choices. I believe the answer lies in being kind to his body, eating balanced food and nourishing himself. Being rigid and restrictive won’t help, it will only reduce leptin levels.
  • I encourage people to not give up on taking care of yourself but to start thinking about – what is my value, what does self care look like for me, and commit to that.
  • This is hard in a society that isn’t accepting of different sizes and shapes but we can change society by using our voices and by advocating for ourselves and what health means.
  • I gently challenged Bernie to call a truce with his weight-based approach and try focusing on habits. Is he willing to pursue the idea of being in his current body while taking care of himself?
  • Bernie says while he is feeling he chooses to feel empowered by the news and work towards making peace with the past.
  • We finished with some wisdom from my coffee cup:

Coffee cup wisdom

Links mentioned in the show

What did you think of Bernie’s letter?

Let’s continue the conversation – we’d love to hear your thoughts. You can get in touch here.

We’d love if you could rate us on iTunes – it only takes a few seconds and helps spread the Body Kindness message.

Get more info to your inbox

If you’ve not joined us already, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter subscribe to my newsletter to get Body Kindness tips and recipes straight to your inbox, along with my free Feel Great Guide and health and happiness journal.

Nothing in this podcast is meant to provide medical diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. Individuals should consult a qualified healthcare provider for medical advice and answers to personal health questions.

Three Flexible Ways to Eat Better Today with Eggs

Disclosure: I was compensated by Egg Nutrition Center for my time to write this post. Recommendations and opinion are my own.

When I tell people what I do for a living and the word “nutrition” comes up, the next thing I hear is… “Please, tell me what to eat!” I think everyone is looking for some guidance on what is good for you and how to get more of it. I wish it were as easy as giving people a “do’s and don’ts” list of foods, but it’s not. Your personal preferences matter because if you don’t love the food and how it tastes, you won’t make it a habit. Nor should you. That’s why I think it’s better to seek out nutrition advice that is flexible and guides you to choices you feel good about.

Three Healthy Eating Patterns to Fit Your Life

As a nutrition expert, I look to the scientific evidence for guidance in making my recommendations. In a report earlier this year, the 2015 Dietary Guideline Advisory Committee (DGAC – a group of food and nutrition researchers and scientists) placed a strong emphasis on the importance of healthy eating patterns as an effort to improve the major diet-related health problems we face as a nation. They recommended three flexible healthy eating patterns: Vegetarian, Mediterranean and Healthy US. In this blog, I will describe what makes up healthy eating patterns and share recipes and ideas that make them easy to follow. In addition to staples like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, one of my favorite versatile lean proteins, nutrient-rich eggs, is present in all three patterns.

Focus on Nutrient-Dense Foods

In a perfect world, everything we eat would taste delicious, be super-convenient, and offer plenty of nutritional benefits. But do such foods exist? Sure do! One egg contains 14 essential vitamins and minerals, 6 grams of high-quality protein, all 9 essential amino acids, and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, all for 70 calories, making it one of the best nutrient-dense foods to eat.

Plant Powered Eating

The key to healthy vegetarian eating is to enjoy a variety of foods. One common concern with plant-based eating is getting in enough protein. Eggs provide one of the highest quality proteins of any food available. One egg provides six grams of protein, but don’t toss the yolk! Nearly half of the protein is found in the yolk. Eggs are also one of the few foods that are a naturally good source of vitamin D, nothing artificial.

pepper egg

Bring some color to the table with these easy to make Broccoli Quiche in Colorful Peppers.

A Plant-Based Diet Doesn’t Mean Only Plants

There’s no strict criteria that defines plant-based eating. The focus is on the foundation, which is mostly grains, nuts and seeds, fruits, veggies and legumes. At each meal, pairing plants with 20-30 grams of high-quality protein like eggs, fish, chicken, lean meat, and low-fat dairy can help support healthy muscles and strong bones and keep you feeling satisfied. Check out this neat infographic for more protein and plant pairings to help inspire you.

Looking for way to jazz up traditional egg salad? Try adding flavorful image003ingredients like tomato, red onion, avocado and cilantro for more zing. This Tomato Avocado Egg Salad can be enjoyed as a meal or a hearty sandwich filling or serve in hollowed-out tomatoes.

Long Live the Mediterranean Way

This stands as one of the world’s healthiest and tastiest ways of lifestyles. So what is it about this lifestyle that is so protective? Lots of physical activity for one, but also this style of eating thrives on an abundance of fruits and veggies, olive oil, more fish, less red meat and processed foods, and they enjoy their wine in moderation.

Looking for a high lox eggprotein breakfast option? Heart-healthy fish has a strong presence in the Mediterranean diet, so why not add some to your morning meal? Scrambled Eggs & Lox Breakfast Bagels puts a sunny twist on the bagel and lox combo with the simple addition of a scrambled egg to help you power through your day.

The Pattern on Your Plate

Composing a healthy meal means getting the right balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. When planning out your Balanced Plate fill your plate at each meal with one-half fruits and vegetables, one-quarter protein and one-quarter grains or starches. But don’t forget the fat. Studies now show enhanced absorption of nutrients in veggies when consumed with a source of fat, such as eggs or olive oil. Here’s another neat infographic that highlights the latest research.

Nature’s Form of Portion Control

Eggs are naturally portioned (one egg is one serving) which makes them easy to prepare, whether you are cooking for one or many. Compared to other proteins, they are relatively inexpensive (average cost 25 cents/egg) and can remain in your fridge for several weeks without spoiling.

Boiled to Perfection

Boiling an egg is a simple way to create a healthy snack that can be taken on the go. Boiled eggs are also easy to pack in kid’s lunch boxes, or can be stored away in the refrigerator for later snacking. To get that perfect boil, cover eggs with 1 inch of cold water, and start heating. Take the pan off the heat as soon as the water boils. Cover and let eggs stand in hot water for 12 minutes (for a large egg), then drain immediately and serve.

Which Eating Pattern is Best for You?

A healthy eating pattern is not a rigid prescription for eating or a diet. It’s a style of eating that gives us flexibility in making choices to help meet our nutritional needs and also account for our personal preferences, food budget, and availability. If you’re looking to adopt healthier ways of eating the best eating pattern is the one that fits your lifestyle and you can stick with!

Visit Recipe Resources for more creative ways to use eggs in cooking.



Disclosure: I was compensated by Egg Nutrition Center for my time to write this post. Recommendations and opinion are my own.


Want More Like This?

Sign up for my e-mail list and get my FREE Feel Great Guide and get a handy health and happiness journal and more.

What Should We Do About #DearFatPeople?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this past week, by now you’ve have heard of, read about, or watched the offensive and shaming #DearFatPeople video Nicole Arbour created in the name of “comedy”. You may have even seen one of the responses, which at least this awful video gets people talking and saying “this sh*t ain’t right.”

There is a lot of chatter going on about the idea of fat shaming, summed up to “it’s bullying” and “it’s never OK.” I agree. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been supporting Association for Size Diversity and Health (I’m a member) Health at Every Size and their collaboration with Women’s Health Magazine in their #StopTheShame campaign on Twitter.

The Gasoline for Weight Stigma

In thinking about what I could possibly contribute that would add to the “this is not OK” conversation, I was immediately drawn to exploring what fuels weight stigma in the first place. The first thing that comes to mind, is the idea of dieting. In our desperation to conform to societal thin ideals, we diet. Instead of exercising and eating well because we love our bodies, it’s because we hate them. We compare. We despair.

It’s Not Just Adults Who Diet. It starts Early.

I have been working on a blog and infographic on teens and dieting. The fact that I’m even having to do this is sad. It sucks. As a mom of two, I dread my girls feeling the pull of dieting like I did by 12 years old.
What I want to know is, what should we do about it? Let me know in the comments below.

A 10-year study looked at dieting, unhealthy and extreme weight control behaviors, and binge eating to determine if engaging in these behaviors during adolescence increased the risk for continuing them into young adulthood.  The study involved 2,287 adolescents and young adults that were about half female and half non-white and divided participants into a younger group (average age ~13) and an older group (average age ~16).

At the beginning of the study approximately 50% females and 25% of males reported dieting in the past year. For females and younger males, this number stayed consistent through young adulthood.  The number of dieters in the older male group actually increased as the study progressed.

Over 50% of females and 33% of males engaged in unhealthy weight control behaviors at the start of the study.  Particularly alarming was that extreme weight control behaviors including diet pill use in all groups, and laxative use in young females increased significantly over the 10 year period.

Overall, those who reported dieting at the beginning of the study were more likely to continue this behavior.  The same result was seen in regards to unhealthy and extreme weight control behaviors and binge eating.

Other studies have linked dieting to weight gain, binge eating, disordered eating, and eating disorders.  One study of 17,000 kids found that those who dieted were 8-12 times more likely to engage in binge eating than those who never dieted.  Researchers from this study actually suggested that dieting may be at the root of the current obesity epidemic!  These results were echoed in a twin study which showed that the weight gain associated with dieting is independent of genetic predisposition to weight gain.

This video provides more details on these studies.



These findings, suggest that we need to prevent these behaviors before they start.


Young people with weight concerns need to be guided towards healthy behaviors, including intuitive eating and physical activity and away from destructive dieting.

Healthy behaviors can start at home.  Practice intuitive and mindful eating as a family.  Focus on eating for physical hunger as opposed to emotional hunger. Also make fitness a family activity.  Everyone can benefit from healthful eating and exercise, get the whole family involved in the healthy lifestyle and DITCH the DIET!

For more information from Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD and her work with Intuitive Eating click here

Source: Neumark-Sztainer, D; Wall, M; Larson, NI; Eisenberg, ME; Loth, K. Dieting and disordered eating behaviors from adolescence to young adulthood: findings from a 10-year longitudinal study. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011 Jul;111(7):1004-11.

So… what should we do about #DearFatPeople?

I think one thing we need to do is loudly say that no amount of fat shaming is OK (and we need to listen to people who have been shamed!) They will tell you that family, friends, and medical professionals make them feel shame when they push and push and push for weight loss over healthy lifestyle as the goal. (At least that is what I hear time and again.) It’s as if their love is conditional. That’s just sad. What if someone makes the changes they want and don’t weigh what you think they should. Are you OK with that? I think we need to realize it’s not up for judgement. If we care about weight shaming, we need to also care about healthism, the idea that you can’t push health on people. Read what I have to say about it.

What Do You Think?

What do you think we should do about weight shame, stigma, dieting etc.? What were some of the best response articles and videos you found? Do you have a fat shame story? Share in the comments below.

Diet Fraud: Sensa/HCG Fined $34 Million for Fraudulent Health Claims

Oh happy day! Finally the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is hammering down on companies with misleading claims about their products body-slimming capabilities. Four companies, L’Occitane, Sensa, LeanSpa LLC and HCG Diet Direct, will all receive hefty fines for using deceptive language and fraudulent claims marketed towards diet-driven consumers. I was thrilled to appear on FOX News Your World with Neil Cavuto yesterday to discuss this issue.

Will an additive found in candy really make you less hungry? 

Not only are these companies claiming unrealistic weight loss results but they are also making false claims about their product ingredients.  Products like Sensa which claim to reduce hunger and melt away the pounds when sprinkled on foods primarily contain maltodextrin, a starch-based food additive commonly used for the production of soda and candy. HCG (made from human placenta) is supposed to be taken with a very-low calorie diet of less than 800 calories per day. Maybe that should be front and center on the label, instead of just in the fine print.

Will a slap on the wrist make them change their tune?

While these companies have agreed to refund many of these mislead consumers, $34 million in fines is a drop in the bucket for the $60 billion plus diet industry. Sensa and L’Occitane will continue to stand by their products and bogus health claims, selling desperate consumers hopeless creams and powders that will result in nothing more than a slimmer pocket book.

Click below to see my appearance on FOX News defending consumers’ rights in the need for government involvement in this matter.

Here are a few highlights from my segment :

  • People argue that consumers’ own common sense should be the judge versus the Federal Government in this dieting matter.
  • As a Registered Dietitian I believe that every consumer deserves to have accurate information about the products they purchase.
  • Consumers are desperate for quick weight loss fixes, but the truth is diets don’t work.  95% of all diets fail and most dieters will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years.
  • FAT CHANCE: There is no magic powder, cream, or pill that is going to make you skinny, yet consumers continue to buy into the multi billion dollar diet industry each year.
  • It’s about lifestyle choices. Less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day.

The Hard Facts About Dieting:

  • 35% of “occasional dieters” progress into disordered eating and as many as 25% advance to full-blown eating disorders.
  • Dieters typically make four to five attempts per year.
  • Only 5% of women naturally have the body type advertisements portray as real.
  • 90% of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet
  • 75% of American women surveyed endorsed unhealthy thoughts, feelings or behaviors related to food or their bodies.

#MushroomHealth Summit Day 2 Recap: Blendability, Research Tidbits, and “Green” Mushrooms

Missing the Mushroom Health Summit? Be sure to read my Day 1 RecapDisclosure: I’m working with the Mushroom Council to share information from the summit.

Mushroom Health Summit logo

Before we kicked off day 2, I visited the mushROOM to learn more about the growing process for specialty mushroom. I’ve heard of oyster and shiitake mushrooms, but this was the first time I saw pom pom, maitake, and King oyster. Take a look. They are so interesting!

Video Growing Specialty Mushrooms

Mouth Watering Already?

Be sure to check out these fabulous mushroom recipes on Pinterest and Mushroom Council’s website. You can also “like” Mushroom Council on Facebook.

Interesting Tidbits from Morning Sessions

There was so much information, I can’t summarize the entire day in one blog. I picked my favorite a-ha’s I thought you would like.

  • Mushrooms are the leading source of selenium, a powerful antioxidant being studied for its anticancer and immunity properties.
  • Mushrooms are high in “Ergo” (ergothioneine), a naturally occurring antioxidant found in red blood cells that may help protect the body’s cells. A lack of “ergo” may be related to development of chronic inflammatory disease. See: Grigat et al., 2007, Biochem Pharm. 74:309-316 (2007)
  • Digestive health is all the rage when it comes to “hot nutrition topics”. We are just now beginning to understand the “microbiotic community” living deep in our gut. Mushrooms are high in betaglucan, which is considered a prebiotic “food” we can’t digest, but the microbes in our gut much on in order to keep a healthy GI environment. This is crucial for our helathy immune system.

Find more research studies on mushrooms, antioxidants, inflammation, and immunity.

Lunch Demo – The Trend to Blend

Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RD, Senior Director of Programs and Culinary Nutrition for Culinary Institute of America did an awesome job showing us how mushrooms can improve nutrition and consumer appeal of popular meat-based dishes.

Take a look at this story in pictures!

Three samples of mushroom blendability study.

Three samples of mushroom blendability study.

Sample 2 was my favorite 50/50 blend of mushrooms and meat

Sample 2 was my favorite 50/50 blend of mushrooms and meat

We were given 3 samples and asked to taste and rate each. Then the identity of each sample was revealed. We gave characteristics of sensory and flavors, both positive and negative. I liked all three.

The first one I could tell was 100% meat based on color and lack of mushroom taste. Between the second and third sample, it’s clear to see I liked the second sample best. This was a 50/50 mixture of mushrooms to meat with seasoning that amounted to about 320 mg sodium per 2 oz portion.

The third sample had about 100 mg less sodium, but I noticed a taste difference. I also felt the second sample was the most moist of the three. I think my favorite would work as long as the portion of meat/mushroom stuck to 1-3 oz per serving and the rest of the dish, more veggies etc. was minimal in sodium.

Another potential bonus for blendability is cost savings. Who doesn’t want to stretch their dollar? Basically 50/50 is less expensive than 100% meat and the more mushroom % in your blendability ratio, the greater the savings. That’s food for thought.

Be on the lookout for more studies and press about “blendability” of mushrooms in the near future. One of the study journal submissions was recently accepted.

Lunch Demo – Release the Umami, a Chemistry & Culinary Experiment

We also learned that it’s a culinary strategy to maximize the umami (savory) flavor from mushrooms. This is one of the key factorsphoto-18 that allow mushrooms to be blendable with traditional meat based dishes. Umami provides a satisfying sense of deep, complete flavor, balancing savory flavors and full-bodied taste with distinctive qualities of aroma and mouthfeel.

I haven’t discussed the “Maillard reaction” since my dietetic internship (and I won’t tell you how long that has been!) If you have heard of “caramelization”, “browning”, or “searing” then you know what I’m talking about. Caramelizing the mushroom releases more umami flavor than sautéing.

What’s the difference between browning/caramelizing and sautéing? You need high temperature DRY heat for caramelization. You need to use a little oil and give mushrooms space. Use too many in the pan and they will steam (wet cooking method). If you give them room, they will cook to brown color with crispy bits and deliver more of a nutty flavor.

Find more research on umami and sodium.

Mushrooms, Known as “White” are Really “Green”!

I thoroughly enjoyed the talk from the mushroom farmer at Gourmet Mushrooms, Inc.

He drove home the sustainability opportunities of mushrooms. Boiling it down in simple terms, growing mushrooms uses agricultural waste (yay recycling), grows in a matter of days on small plots of soil (yay), and uses minimal water and chemical additives.

When you eat mushrooms, you are eating a sustainable, nutritious food. Mushrooms are good for you and good for the planet. With the blendability concept, you don’t have to become a vegetarian to eat less meat, but you can easily add mushrooms to your traditional meat based recipes without sacrificing taste and flavor.

I had a fabulous time at the conference and I hope you enjoyed my summaries. To catch up on the chatter, you can visit the Twitter #MushroomHealth stream.