There's no doubt that the before-and-after photos of contestants from The Biggest Loser season 12 finale are nothing short of amazing. The Biggest Loser winner ended up losing 220 pounds, which was half of his body weight! And other contestants on the show also had huge weight-loss success by losing hundreds of pounds. Watching the show and following the amazing transformations these contestants make is inspiring and a true testament to how you can really go from morbidly obese and sedentary to totally fit and at a healthy weight through just diet and exercise.
However, there's no doubt that life on the The Biggest Loser ranch — where contestants have a kitchen filled with healthy foods, access to top-notch trainers and hours upon hours to work out each day — is not a whole lot like everyday real life where you have a job, a family and other demands on your time. So just how will these new The Biggest Loser contestants do at home? Will they gain the weight back? According to Jen Wielgus, who has been following the show since season two and blogging about it since season four on the "Biggest Loser" blogger for phillyBurbs.com, says that some weight gain is inevitable for contestants.
"Everyone gains weight after the finale because the finale weights are completely unrealistic," Wielgus says. "Usually they're the result of serious calorie restriction and working out for five or six hours a day."
From her time following the show and its contestants, she estimates that about 30 to 40 percent of them gain some weight back within a year, and about 40 to 45 percent do in two years.
"Unless you work at it every single day, with help from a strong support system and with sufficient financial means, you're susceptible to backsliding," she says. "I think if you're just on the show to win a check, there's a chance you engaged in some quick-fix weight loss methods along the way, which definitely doesn't aid in long-term success."
So what helps contestants keep off the weight for good? It comes down to having a good support system, making good choices and mental fortitude, Wielgus says. But every contestant is different.
"The people who go on The Biggest Loser don't know what they're in for, and when all is said and done, they often don't know what hit them," she says. "So, I think it's unrealistic to have any expectations of contestants on this show. Whether or not he or she keeps off the weight is a function of his/her maturity, focus, commitment, organizational skills, willpower and ability to cope with setbacks."
But having a career in the health and fitness industry certainly doesn't hurt, she says.
"Those who are able to pursue careers in health and wellness and those who involve their loved ones in their journey — such as Olivia, Hannah, Pete Thomas, Sam Poueu, Sione Fa — are definitely at an advantage," she says. "Season 12 contestants Jess and Ramon will be working as trainers at the Biggest Loser resort, so that's going to hold them accountable for their decisions every day."
Only time will tell if these new contestants will keep the weight off in the long term, but Wielgus says that there is a lesson we at home can learn from watching the show.
"You have to change your mind before you can change your body, and small victories should be celebrated and inevitable setbacks brushed off and forgotten," she says. "You've got to keep on going, keep on pushing, no matter what. You'll never reach your goal if you give up."
Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomedGirls.com and FitBottomedMamas.com. A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.