There’s been a lot of buzz around the recent New York Times article on a research project that found most of the contestants on “The Biggest Loser” had regained a significant amount of weight in the six years following the competition.

What was most surprising to the researchers was the reason why this weight gain occurred. The show’s rapid weight-loss regimen caused the contestants’ metabolisms to slow down dramatically…and never recover. As a result, their bodies now burn hundreds of calories less per day than other people their size, years after they appeared on the show.

What can we learn from “The Biggest Loser” story?

First, if you’re already struggling with being overweight or obese, you likely have a slower-than-average metabolism. This might be the result of thyroid/hormone imbalance, high cortisol (stress hormone) levels, or insulin resistance (pre-diabetes). Rapid weight loss programs (including ‘The Biggest Loser’ regimen and the popular HCG diet) cause your body to think it’s starving. Your metabolism will automatically slow down even further as a defense mechanism.

We do not recommend rapid weight loss programs for all of our patients. Sometimes a more measured approach is best. In fact, before embarking on a weight loss journey, we suggest the following:

1. Test your metabolism. Desert Wellness Center now offers metabolic tests using ReeVue, an incredible device that measures the concentration of oxygen you exhale as you breathe through a simple mouthpiece, revealing your unique resting metabolic rate. In just 15 minutes, it will pinpoint the precise caloric intake your body requires for weight loss, maintenance, or weight gain. Even better, it costs just $89 for the test — and no doctor’s appointment is needed!

2. Check your hormone levels. If you find your metabolism is sluggish or slow, the next step is to find out why. The doctors at Desert Wellness Center are trained to look for hormone imbalances including thyroid, adrenal/cortisol, estrogen, testosterone and insulin, which may be causing problems. If an imbalance is identified, it can often be corrected with supplements and possibly bio-Identical Hormone Therapy.

3. Reduce your toxins. Environmental toxins and chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, cleaning agents, artificial fragrances, and more) can interfere with your metabolism and hormones, resulting in weight gain and obesity. Toxins are stored in fat cells, so it’s important to reduce your toxin load with a customized detoxification program.

Once you’ve followed these steps, we recommend that you consult a physician on a safe and effective weight loss strategy that suits your body, your goals and your lifestyle.