We Britons are constantly assaulted with an aesthetic physical ideal: flat stomach, sexy thighs, well-rounded shoulders... we see them everywhere!

In the tube, on the bus, from billboards and magazine adverts: doe-eyed models stare out wistfully.

Or are they staring out hungrily?

All of that - even the speculation that models might live with hunger to look so skinny, causes us to think about food, nutrition and how what we eat impacts our appearance.

An analysis of Google searches reveals that the UK's premier weight management company receives nearly a quarter-million hits per month!

It is obvious that, nationally, we have an interest in losing weight.

Equally clearly, we are not going to get thin and attractive by diet alone. We need a fitness regimen, be it yoga, Zumba, crossfit or circuit training – or one on one personal fitness training, to effectively manage our caloric intake.

We might need an education about calories and how the body uses them, too.

This sanny has enough calories for two meals!
How many calories in this yummy-looking sanny? Source: Pixabay Credit: Pashminu

Are Overweight People Guilty of Over-Eating?

NHS statistics reveal that, after tobacco and alcohol, obesity is the UK's biggest health challenge.

With two-thirds of the population either overweight or obese, we can see why.

To put this information into proper light, we should know a bit about body mass index, or BMI. Calculated by dividing your weight in kilos by your height squared, you should attain a number that ranges between:

  • 18.5 to 25 – normal weight
  • 25 to 30 – overweight
  • 35 and above – obese

In the UK, a study of average Britons' BMI reveals:

  • 24% of men are obese
  • 26% of women are obese
  • 3 in 10 school-aged children were classified as either overweight or obese
  • Nationally, weight related health care costs exceed £48 billion per year

These numbers are alarming, even when compared with the U.S. and Mexico, two countries perpetually on the top-ten list of fattest countries in the world.

Looking further at these numbers, we see that more of the obese tend to be:

  • disabled, unemployed or retired.
  • Between the ages of 50 to 64 – either in the grip of a degenerative disease, or simply suffering the normal cellular breakdown that comes with age.
  • The poor and disenfranchised
    • proving conclusively that there is a link between obesity and social inequity

Perhaps the most shocking statistics are for childhood obesity:

  • 1.76 million  - 13.4% of UK children are overweight
  • 2.5 million - 19% of all British children are obese
  • 140,000 children - 1%  are severely obese

Apart from cultural and social factors, this unequal distribution of obesity across society, and between males and females is virgin territory for researchers.

If public schools are mandated by law to have physical education classes, and if our nutritional awareness is growing, why are our children getting so fat?

And why are there more women than men who are obese?

The answer couldn't be simply that women and children eat more than men!

Let's take a look at how to measure out a meal and count its caloric value.

How Many Calories are in Your Meal?

A calorie: the amount of heat it takes to raise one gram of water 1 degree Celsius

If you are like me – draw a blank when it comes to anything requiring calculation, you might need a different way to go about determining the caloric content of your meal.

Fortunately, the Internet has plenty of calorie charts that you can refer to when planning your menu.

You can also refer to the food's packaging label, with some caveats:

  1. food labels generally give information per one serving; not for the whole package
    1. Many who read such labels often mistake the given values for the entire package, rather than for just one serving... and end up eating many more calories than they thought they were.
  2. While regulations about food labeling have gotten more stringent, manufacturers are still not required to list every single ingredient that the food contains
    1. most commonly, sugar is given fancy, scientific names such as maltose or dextrose – dead giveaways that those foods are far too rich in sugar and carbohydrates
  3. Fresh fruit and veg do not come with any labels at all
    1. because these selections are often thought of as healthy snack alternatives, they are often over-indulged in.

How much sugar does an apple contain?

When thinking of healthy, natural alternatives to a bag of crisps, people will often overindulge: eating two or three plums... about the equivalent of eating three spoonfuls of sugar!

Or an apple: depending on variety and size, you could be snacking on 3 to 6 spoons of sugar!

Thankfully, modern technology offers several applications that can help you keep track of what you are eating, and its effect on you.

The better apps will indicate the calorie value of what you are eating as well as maintain a record of what you eat.

Discover the importance of a metabolic test before resuming physical training

Eating lean does not mean eating skimpy
You don't have to skimp and starve to eat adequately for your level of activity Source: Pixabay Credit: Conger Design

How to Calculate the Number of Calories Burned Each Day

To cultivate a metabolic rate that will permit weight loss – or, conversely, weight gain, all we need is basic math.

We lose weight when we take in fewer calories than we burn. We gain weight by ingesting more calories than we burn.

Thus, a hidden benefit of calorie counting helps:

  • maintain your current weight
  • closely monitor your progress toward your target weight
    • target weight factors in your height, age and genetic predisposition to gaining weight
  • plan for weight loss or gain, using your base metabolic rate as starting point
    • base metabolic rate represents how many calories your body burns at rest, even when you are asleep

Before going into how to dispose of all of those calories, we stress that there are many factors to consider before talking with a fitness professional about workouts and program design:

  1. You should know your base metabolic rate to know how many calories your body burns at rest
  2. You should know roughly how many calories your current lifestyle and activity profile burns
  3. You should keep a food diary
    1. a food diary, either electronic (through an app) or in a notebook, involves you recording everything you eat and drink, and everything you do – including sleep.

Learn to Count Calories with Your Fitness and Nutrition Specialist

It might sound a bit strange, but more and more these days, sports coaches often double as dietitians and nutritionists.

This professional blending is totally logical as far as athletes are concerned. After all: eating the wrong foods could be counterproductive to your workout.

Why clinical dietitians and certified nutritionists frown upon any personal fitness trainer wearing multiple hats is unclear, because health and wellness are intrinsically tied in with personal fitness - at least, the way we see it.

Nevertheless, those with proper credentials – who may conduct fitness training outdoors or in a gym; who do in-home fitness training or would offer online personal training: they are all in the fitness business to help people get motivated and achieve their fitness goals.

Superprof has a certified personal trainer for you; one who has the educational credits to steer your fitness education – including proper nutrition.

Hourly fees start as low as £10: not a bad rate for the knowledge, instruction and motivation a fitness specialist provides.

At your initial meeting, your fitness instructor should either conduct or recommend a health assessment.

If you are in such a physical shape that any of these stressors could harm your health, s/he may require they be done in hospital or at your physician's surgery.

This exam could include measuring your flexibility, endurance and strength, and will most certainly measure your cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular health.

Once a baseline of your physical condition has been established, your personal training program will begin in earnest.

  • Your trainer may first assign you corrective exercises, to build muscle and protect your joints
    • attaining a fundamental level of fitness is essential to preventing musculoskeletal injuries
  • Once you have attained a certain level of aerobic and muscular conditioning, you would start functional training
    • this exercise program helps you gain strength and conditioning for everyday movement
  • As soon as your coach is satisfied with your level of physical development, you can start more intense personal training sessions
    • Core training, crossfit, resistance training, circuit training or gaining muscle mass are now all within your grasp!

The next step is up to you!

Here are some other instructions your fitness mentor might pass on:

  • always warm up prior to working out
    • bike riding, treadmill running, swimming or a vigorous aerobics routine would fit the bill
  • never work out hungry
    • insufficient nutrition is just as dangerous as over-eating,
  • always cool down after the workout
    • stretching your muscles after working them is vital to preventing injury
  • Drink plenty of water
    • dehydration is always a real danger for athletes

Throughout your fitness program, your training specialist will monitor your workbook – your food diary and exercise journal, to see what you've eaten and how much, and to see if you are doing prescribed exercises on your own.

This is where your accountability comes into play: your coach is there to motivate you and instruct you, but s/he cannot get fit for you!

Never discount the disabled as unable!
Clearly, people who are disabled can benefit from personal fitness training! Source: Pixabay Credit: Pexels

Are You Leery About Personal Training?

You surely have your grounds and we won't say you're wrong, but let us present more reasons to think about personal training programs.

Physical Training for Special Populations

Youth fitness, senior fitness and fitness for the disabled: there are personal trainers to work with any of these demographics, either in small groups or one on one.

Remember those obesity statistics at the start of this article?

Considering these segments of society are most at risk for weight-related illness, wouldn't it make sense to enroll your child, your Mum... or both your child and mum in a fitness class, if only to lose weight?

Besides, engaging in fitness activities in a gym, health club or fitness center can improve morale as well as muscular strength.

With such a feeling of well-being, one would not be compelled to make poor food choices, or overeat.

Less overeating and better food choices means fewer calories to count, resulting in a fitter, stronger you (or them).

How could anyone resist that?

A home or online personal trainer doesn't just help with your physical strength. Search for a 'personal trainer near me' and see how they can help you with your diet too.

Need a Personal Trainer teacher?

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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.