Twenty-seven-year-old personal fitness trainer Scott Braybrook is not ashamed to admit that just five years ago he was a self-proclaimed junk-food junkie. Today, clad in workout clothes at Nubody's in Mount Pearl - the gym where he's worked for nearly two years - he chuckles and shakes his head as he recalls how different his lifestyle was back then.
"I would sit at a desk all day and work in front of the computer with an open bag of chips and a couple of bottles of pop. Then I would go home, sit down, play video games, watch TV and eat more junk food," says Scott. "Yeah, those days are gone!"
Scott's challenge to get fit and lose weight began when he was desperate to shed the extra pounds he'd gained during high school. He says more than once he spent a month or two religiously working out at a gym until, like so many people, he would get discouraged and quit when he didn't see results quickly enough. Each time he gave up, Scott became depressed.
"The worst thing I see (in my work) is someone giving up, because that's something I've done myself," he says. "Every time you give up at the gym it gets worse and worse; it gets harder and harder to come back. You start to feel bad about who you are."
Eventually, Scott realized that if he didn't get serious about changing his unhealthy ways, he would suffer the consequences.
"I saw a downward spiral of health in my family," he explains, noting that his father has had two heart attacks, and both his dad and older brother have diabetes. "I just knew I didn't want to be like that."
Scott says this realization motivated him more than anything had before. Finally he was able to stick with a healthy diet and a fitness schedule (which included regular visits to a personal fitness trainer). Not only did he watch 40 pounds melt away, but he also became a happier person and more confident in his social life. He began to love the way exercise made him feel both inside and out - so much, in fact, that he left his career as a Web programmer to study personal fitness training and learn to guide others along the often difficult road to physical fitness.
Serious motivation was the foundation of Scott's success in finally adopting a healthier lifestyle. Now, as a personal fitness trainer, his first task is to find out why a client wants to lose weight.
"In the end it comes down to how badly you really want it - not how badly your boyfriend or girlfriend wants it - because if you don't want it bad enough, then I have to establish a way to help motivate you beyond your own drive. We have to start setting more specific goals, like once-a-week goals as opposed to the once-a-month goals that I usually set for most clients," Scott says.
Howard Hynes has been a client of Scott's since January 2008 and has benefited from working out with a personal fitness trainer. "It keeps you on task - I feel myself accountable to Scott," Howard says. "It's great just having someone who understands physical fitness and what it requires to get yourself in shape."
Scott adds, "(My clients are) getting someone to help motivate them...someone they can entrust their fears in, someone to help guide them, show them what exercises are best for them, and praise them when they see their success."
Lose Fat, Not Muscle
Someone to guide you through the weight-loss process is almost a must in our postmodern world, when the range of fad diets is as diverse as the foods we load upon our dinner plates. A registered dietitian can help you wade through the misconceptions about weight loss and create a plan for reaching your ideal weight. With their help, you can define just how many calories you should consume when trying to shed the pounds in a healthy way.
Despite what many people think, it's important not to get too caught up in the number on the scales, says Lisa Dooley, a registered dietitian with Eastern Health in St. John's. Although losing muscle mass makes the number on the scales drop, this form of weight loss is incredibly counterproductive.
"What we know from research (is that) the more muscle mass someone has, the more calories they burn when they sit than someone who doesn't have as much muscle mass," says Lisa. "Muscle is what I call a high-maintenance tissue; it requires a lot of energy so it burns up a lot of calories, whereas the same amount of fat is what I call low maintenance; you don't have to feed it a lot, you donít have to give it a lot, but it is able to hang on no problem."
Normally, an excess pound of fat translates to an extra 3,500 calories consumed, says Lisa. By subtracting 500 calories a day from an individual's calorie requirements, within a week that individual should lose about a pound of fat. "And that's considered to be safe, (losing) one to two pounds a week," she says. "Because what a person is losing then is the fat and not muscle mass."
But much more than a mathematical formula is used when determining the proper weight-loss course for an individual, which is why it's important to team with a professional. Lisa says she considers many factors, which alone have little meaning but together create a bigger picture of an individual's overall health. Such factors include blood work, family history and body-mass index (a range of weights that are healthy for an individual's height). In addition, Lisa says that where a person carries their fat (either around their middle or on their hips and legs) is also important information.
"We don't know exactly the reason, but when you accumulate the fat across the waistline, that fat is processed differently by the liver and it also puts you at greater risk for all the co-morbidities like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke," she explains. Men with a waist measurement of more than 101 cm - or for women, more than 87 cm - are considered a greater risk for such illnesses.
The Yo-Yo No-No
In addition to losing muscle mass instead of fat, a phenomenon termed "yo-yo dieting" is an extremely counterproductive practice, advises Lisa. A yo-yo dieter is someone who gains back the pounds he or she worked so hard to shed, only to repeat the process over and over again.
This vicious cycle is not only frustrating, but damaging to health over time. A 200-lb individual who wants to lose 40 lbs might lose the weight equivalent of a whole person over the course of a decade of gaining and losing, says Lisa.
Yo-yo dieting changes the way your body stores energy. "If you basically starve yourself, your body has no choice but to shut down how many calories it needs to keep itself going," she explains. "When you start to eat again, you don't need to eat as much to store it as fat...so you're actually promoting that you're going to gain more fat in the end."
But the good news, says Lisa, is that - like Scott - you can get yourself off that roller coaster and lose the weight once and for all. If you've been a yo-yo dieter, though, it might mean a rough start.
"When (yo-yo dieters) start to eat well - and consistently - and they start to increase their activity and do it consistently, they may actually end up gaining more weight initially...it's almost like (the body) knows, 'oh, here they go again.'" But consistency will pay off in the long run, says Lisa, because the body will eventually "give up the fat" again.
As for Scott, he's found ways to prevent slipping back into his old, unhealthy habits. For instance, he limits the amount of unhealthy food that comes into his home. His favourite junk foods are no longer purchased, so they're no longer a temptation. A more difficult problem to overcome, he says, is avoiding the unhealthy foods that his family members still enjoy.
"It was a matter of getting into the habit of not having people say at the end of every meal, 'Want some?' You need to make your family, or whomever you're living with, understand that you need their support; you need their support because they're part of your motivation."
Having overcome his health hurdles, Scott is content in a way he could not have been without his radical lifestyle makeover. "I'm very proud of myself. There's no reason why I shouldn't be. If you achieve a goal that you set out to achieve, that's where happiness really comes from."