Adonis Hill, a trainer on the upcoming show “Fit to Fat to Fit,” went from weighing 217 pounds to 286 pounds by consuming 8,000 calories a day, according to The New York Post. (Photo: A&E)
In the new A&E show Fit to Fat to Fit (premiering Jan. 19), trainers don’t just preach the powers of diet and exercise, they live it with their clients — by throwing their healthy lifestyles out the window, upping their body weight by 40 percent, and then working side-by-side with overweight people to shed pounds together.
But is gaining excessive weight over the course of four months only to lose it again (in four months) healthy? Experts warn against it: “It’s certainly not healthy to put weight on at all, but it’s also not healthy to put weight on really fast,” Charlie Seltzer, MD, a weight-loss expert and Yahoo Health Advisory Board member, tells Yahoo Health.
He also says, though, to take the show with a grain of salt: After all, this kind of setup is for entertainment value — and it’s hard to apply the situation to real life. (Beyond being an actor and needing to drop pounds for a role, when would you purposely gain weight just to lose it in a confined time period?)
That said, the health issues that come from the process are real. For one, according to news reports, the trainers didn’t appear to focus on “quality calories” — which is unhealthy, Rebecca Blake, RD, CDN, the senior director of Clinical Nutrition at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York, tells Yahoo Health. The New York Post reports that Katie Mack, a 29-year-old trainer on the show, ate “high-calorie snacks such as bread with butter; bacon, egg and cheese on a bagel; Ho Hos; and oatmeal creme cookies. She drank lots of high-calorie beer, light-and-sweet coffee and even melted ice cream.”
When you eat this way, you gain fat, not muscle mass, says Blake. This can put you at risk for obesity, which ups your likelihood of suffering from a health condition like hypertension or diabetes.
Katie Mack, a trainer on the upcoming show “Fit to Fat to Fit,” went from weighing 123 pounds to 157 pounds by consuming 4,000 to 5,000 calories a day, according to The New York Post. (Photo: A&E)
Seltzer adds that a bigger waist circumference — which comes hand-in-hand with weight gain — is linked to cardiovascular disease, a decrease in insulin sensitivity (associated with diabetes), more triglycerides in your blood (a type of fat that can increase your risk of heart disease), and an increase in the “bad” LDL cholesterol. The worst part: “These issues don’t necessarily easily reverse themselves when you get back to normal weight,” says Blake.
The other problem? If you’ve been eating clean, you can face a ton of ugly side effects like GI upset and water retention once you start eating unhealthy, says Blake. “You feel like what you’re feeding yourself — not great.”
Check out the trainers’ own reports: Of the diet, Mack told The New York Post: “It was perpetually uncomfortable,” and “I felt like I had some version of a terminal or chronic illness.” Adonis Hill, another trainer on the show who went from weighing 217 pounds to 286 pounds, told The Post: “When I was overweight, there were a lot of things I was fighting, like depression.”
Beyond the physical side effects, though, if you gain weight in such a manner, you start to train your body to want more food, says Blake. Part of that comes down to the way your stomach stretches; part of it is your body learning new (unhealthy) ways of operating. And these habits, she says, take time to nix, too.
Of course, when it comes to shedding the weight, for the most part, losing weight is good for your body, says Seltzer. But he adds: “I would encourage people to have fun watching the show — not to think they would be able to lose weight that quickly.”
While Blake notes that if you’ve been in excellent shape your whole life (like the trainers), you’re much more likely to be able to bounce back to a healthy weight fairly quickly, actually doing so is not always so easy.
Seltzer says that without an extensive fitness and physiology background, it’d be hard for the average person to see similar weight-loss results. “It’s so hard to do it right anyway,” he says. If you’re trying to drop pounds within a certain amount of time — like on the show — it’s even harder, he says, as specific factors like meal timing become especially important.
There are also dangers to trying to do so. Physically, when you lose weight quickly, you lose more muscle mass and miss out on crucial nutrients because of the giant calorie deficit, says Seltzer.
Your body can also go into starvation mode, says Blake. In this kind of state, your metabolism can be compromised. “Your body starts to ‘hang on’ to calories,” she says. If this happens, it could mean that to maintain a 150-pound weight that you once had, you might need to eat less than you once did.
In fact, trying to move the scale quickly is usually never a good idea. Seltzer says that the faster you lose weight, the more likely you are to gain it back. In part that’s because — in the real world — when people drop pounds too fast, they tend to ignore the underlying issues that made them overweight to begin with.
And for those of us who aren’t in front of the camera, addressing those issues in due time with the appropriate support is the best and healthiest way to attack weight loss.
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