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Functional Medicine

New Science Finally Explains Why Healthy People Can’t Lose Weight

By August 10, 2021August 30th, 2021No Comments

Do you avoid sugar and processed foods, exercise, take supplements, pay attention to portions, and drink water, yet you still struggle to lose or maintain your ideal weight?

This can be downright maddening, especially when you are doing everything right with little to show for it.

A couple years ago I wrote an article called, “Why We’re Fat—It’s Not What You Think”, where I explained the little-known factors that can affect weight-loss, beyond just diet and exercise.

So many of us has been misinformed about what really causes us to gain and hold onto unwanted weight. First we were told we needed to avoid fat and eat less meat, then we heard carbs were bad and meat was good, but then not all meat…and not all carbs.

Now most of us are left scratching our heads as we try to wade through the latest-and-greatest nutrition advice and battle the bulge as best we can.

But, science is finally starting to prove there are other powerful biological factors at work when it comes to weight loss.

Today, we’ll look at a new study reported in the New York Times that explains why you can’t lose or maintain your ideal weight, even if you’re healthy and doing “all the right things”.

Hold onto your hats (and breathe a sigh of relief), this is game-changing information weight-loss.

And we have “The Biggest Loser” reality TV series to thank for it

The headline in the NY Times read: “After ‘The Biggest Loser’ Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight”.

As it turns out, scientists followed the show’s participants to track what happened to their bodies 6 years after their initial weight-loss.

The results: nearly all contestants ended up regaining either some, all, or more of the weight lost during the show.

The reason? First off, after completing the program their metabolisms slowed down significantly. This is not “news” as experts know dieters end up with a temporary slowing of metabolism post-diet …or so we thought.

What we didn’t know about metabolism was this:

The Biggest Loser participants’ metabolisms never fully recovered. And over the years they actually FOUGHT, through hormonal shifts, cravings, and hunger, to help the body regain its lost weight.

I thought this quote from the article summed it up nicely:

“While many of the contestants kept enough weight off to improve their health and became more physically active, the low weights they strived to keep eluded all but one of them: Erinn Egbert, a full-time caregiver for her mother in Versailles, Ky. And she struggles mightily to keep the pounds off because her metabolism burns 552 fewer calories a day than would be expected for someone her size.”

So, if you gain weight, lose weight through diet and exercise, then try and keep it off, your body’s metabolism will fight back by burning significantly fewer calories than before.

Even if you have a healthier more active lifestyle it may not matter because your metabolism has been damaged.

So what’s the good news for the healthy and overweight?!

First off, now you know beyond a shadow of a doubt this is NOT your fault. You are fighting your biology and that’s a tough battle to win.

Plus, skinny does not always equal healthy! You can still create AMAZING health even if you’re not a size 4. Here’s how to do it:

  • First: Keep optimizing your nutrition and avoiding fake foods

Choose foods with your whole health in mind…not just your weight.

This means avoiding sugars, refined carbohydrates, eating tons of veggies, ditching refined fats, and giving your body the best fuel to run on.

If a certain food gives you unwanted symptoms, stop eating it!

  • Second: Continue exercising (3-5 times a week) and destressing (everyday)

Improved bone density, stress reduction, cardiovascular benefits, cancer prevention, and hormone balancing are just a few of the reasons to exercise, beyond just weight loss.

De-stressing helps regulate every system in your body, including your craving control center. Find simple ways to destress every day, be it listening to music, reading, spending time with loved ones, or exercising.

  • Third: Keep up with your lipid/thyroid/other blood panels

For healthy adults with no symptoms we suggest having an in-depth blood test every year.

If your blood values, including your lipids, are within healthy levels you know your body is healthy. If they’re not, schedule a consult with us or another integrative practitioner on how to rebalance your levels (hint, hint it’s NOT a low-fat diet).

  • Fourth: Get enough sleep

Ideally 7.5 to 9 hours a night.


A lack of sleep, along with binge dieting, cause an imbalance of leptin, the hormone that regulates hunger and satiety.

One of the best ways to help control your appetite and reduce cravings (plus protect your heart, hormones, and mental well-being) is to hit the sack with 7.5-9 hours devoted to sleep.

  • Fifth: Avoid toxins

This is not something the study mentioned, but toxins that cannot be eliminated, such as food or environmental toxins, are pushed into the body’s fat tissue for storage.

Over time, this can cause inflammation and unwanted weight gain (among other things).

Eating clean food, avoiding chemical-based personal care and cleaning products, drinking plenty of pure water, and annual cleanses like the MW Detox Cleanse are the best ways to do this.

Though the results of “The Biggest Loser” study are a bittersweet, they do offer key answers as to why healthy people struggle with weight. It also proves, in my opinion that extreme diet and exercise programs aren’t worth it in the long run.

Remember, skinny does not always equal healthy. So stay the course of health secure in the knowledge you are probably doing “everything right”.


Author Dr. Marlene Merritt, DOM, MS, CNS

• Doctor of Oriental Medicine • Certified Nutrition Specialist • Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner • Bredesen Certified in Cognitive Decline • Shoemaker Proficient in Treating Mold Illness

More posts by Dr. Marlene Merritt, DOM, MS, CNS