I’m a fitness professional. There, I’ve said it and hopefully you are still reading. I wonder what has come to your mind?
I know what ‘fitness professional’ would have meant to me a few years ago. It would have conjured up an image of a young boy, all big muscle and tight t-shirt or even a young girl with false lashes and a spray tan. Both would have been charmingly disinterested in what I hoped to gain from my gym session. Either would have overly patiently explained how to use the treadmill, pushed a few buttons with alarming speed and left me to it.
If pushed they would summon up the energy to draw me up a programme which would have been splattered with stick men in what appeared to be both improbable and impossible positions who lost all meaning the moment the ‘fitpro’ left the gym for the cosy confines of the reception desk.
Fed up with spending hours repeating the same few exercises because they were all I could remember I decided that enough was enough and I would train to be a Personal Trainer (PT). That journey was long and arduous – but another story!
I had always sort of managed my weight – I oscillated between an early feminist ‘I am what I am, take it or leave it’ and a Twiggy-inspired desire for a stick-like urchin look. The result was a short person with a BMI of about 27.5.
Now, before we all go off on one about using Body Mass Index as a measure, let’s acknowledge that, just for now, it’s a fairly good tool as long as you don’t play rugby for England.
So, there I was, all qualified and ready to roll. It was now that I considered more the issue of body fat. I was alright wasn’t I? Or was I?
Being overweight (that is with a BMI of over 25) carries many health risks. Your risk of developing type 2 Diabetes increases, especially if that extra weight is located around your waist. Blood pressure is more likely to be high and therefore your risk of stroke is higher.
A poor diet, high in fats, can lead to heart disease as well as to weight gain. There is a growing body of evidence showing that being overweight is associated with an increased risk of developing cancer (see the cancer research website).
So being overweight matters; it’s not just a vanity issue, something we worry about because we think we look best in a size 10. It’s a very real risk to our life.
I got started by going all out in the gym with that aggressive stance of ‘don’t tell me what to do, don’t give me a lighter weight – I’ll manage’. And manage I did – I managed to wear myself out.
Not only did I do a spin class, a circuit class and an abs session, I also thought it might be a really good idea to go for a run before I went to work. OK, no big deal – but 10 miles? Really?
I made that potentially fatal error – I overcompensated. I treated exercise as an excuse and as a reason to eat and eat. I ate because I was bored, busy, stressed, tired, happy. I ate because I had a big report to write. I ate because I had written a big report. I ate because I had been for a run and I ate because I was going for a run.
You might be wondering just what it was that I ate? Pretty much anything really. I know 20 reasons why a big bag of chocolate covered peanuts and raisins are essential to life.
Want to know 50 reasons why a cappuccino is the only thing that is going to make any difference right now? I think I know them all. And as for anything labelled ‘healthy’ – well, it must be OK, let’s have two packets!
Turning a corner
My big moment came when I trained to be a weight management counsellor. Then the pounds fell off, because I began to understand why I ate, what I ate and how much I ate. So, I ate when I was really hungry (not because I fancied something) and I ate a whole lot less. My exercise focus changed and the weight shifted.
I will be writing a regular blog, full of thoughts and advice on how we can all live healthier lives. Keep in touch!