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Why the Biggest Loser Will Never Win the Weight Battle

Rather than exercise for 4 hours a day, my patients spend 20 minutes several times a week. They start the day with a high protein breakfast. The rest of the day they eat high volume, low calorie.
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By Dr. Louis Aronne with Alisa Bowman

You've seen folks like Ryan Benson shed 254 pounds on The Biggest Loser. You've seen the magazine covers that encourage you to "lose 10 pounds in 10 days." You've heard the amazing stories of celebrities who've quickly dropped 10, 20, 30, 40 or more pounds just in time for filming season.

It makes fast weight loss sound easy, doesn't it?

Here's what you haven't seen. Ryan who won the first season of The Biggest Loser? He's regained all but 30 pounds of his initial 254-pound loss, and 30 pounds of that regain happened during his first week off the show. Kai Hibbard, another Loser, says she keeps off the weight she lost on the show through a daily regimen that includes sitting in a sauna for 6 hours and eating only sugar free Jell-O and asparagus. Another participant says she stays thin by exercising 4 hours a day.

Those lose "10 pounds in 10 day" promises? You might lose that much that fast, but most of that weight loss won't come from fat. It will come from the stored carbohydrate that your body starts burning for energy as well as the water that your body sheds as it does so. As soon as you start drinking more water and eating starch again, the weight comes right back.

And those celebrities who drop weight fast? Take a look at just how many times you've seen the pictures of certain celebrities on the covers of these magazines. Kirstie Alley, Janet Jackson, and even Oprah have spent their careers seemingly losing and regaining those same 30 pounds.

I wish I could tell you about a magical diet that will help you shed 100 pounds in 100 days and keep it off for life. I can't. I'm here to give you the truth, and the truth is that anyone can lose (and most likely regain) a lot of weight by spending most of their time exercising, sitting in a sauna, eating only Jell-O and vegetables, and thinking, "God, I'm hungry."

Who really wants to live that way, though? I certainly don't.

The weight loss plan I've been researching for the past 23 years and which is described in my new book The Skinny, isn't sensational. Most of my patients don't lose 10 pounds in 10 days, and none of them have ever appeared on The Biggest Loser (although some are celebrities). They lose a smaller number of pounds, and they do it in ways that don't sound all that dramatic. Rather than exercise for 4 hours a day, they spend 20 minutes several times a week. Rather than battling extreme hunger by trying to stick to an 800-calorie asparagus diet, they've learned how to fill up on fewer calories. They start the day with a high protein breakfast. The rest of the day they eat high volume, low calorie, high satisfaction foods such as soups, salads, vegetables, lean protein, beans, and high fiber grains. They learn how to minimize the damage of hunger promoting foods such as bread, alcohol and dessert (yes, dessert really does make you hungrier!).

Rather than sweat in a sauna for hours, they practice other habits that help them dial down their appetites. They sleep more. They relax more. They get their doctors to examine which medicines they're taking could be making them gain weight.

And they lose weight. They do it slowly, without extreme hunger or fatigue. It's not the type of dramatic weight loss that would allow them to win a reality show like The Biggest Loser, but they keep the weight off and I don't hear any of them complaining about their results.

They are the biggest winners I know.

If you like, buy my book