Jacki Takwa had been through some of the main stages of life—dating, getting married and having kids. She grew a little bigger at each stage. By the time she was 39 years old, she was 166 pounds at 5 feet 4 inches, and she wanted to lose 20 pounds. So she one day walked through our door and asked to speak to a personal weight loss trainer.

Energy flows through the body

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“Here’s the problem,” getting right to the point, “I ate too much.”

We saw it somewhat differently.

Consider the body as an open system. Assume that two things happen to that system, energy is added to it or energy flows out of it, and that the body’s total energy rises or falls accordingly.

When energy flows into your body, which happens when you eat food, the body’s total energy increases. When energy flows out of the body, which is constantly occurring because a living body is always active, the body’s total energy decreases.

How a personal weight loss trainer manipulates flows of energy

weight loss trainer

Given that we are personal weight loss trainers at the The Training Station Gym, a place for physical activity, Jacki was basically seeking out expert help to increase the flow of energy out of her body.

To lose weight by increasing the flow of energy from her body—meaning, exercise—she must freeze (if not reduce) the energy flowing in. We also told her that she must freeze (if not increase) the amount of non-exercise, physical activity that she’s currently doing. All of the work that she does throughout the day—all of the steps, flights of stairs, current visits to the gym—must remain the same.

You can lose weight by changing one flow of energy while holding the other flow of energy more or less constant. In Jacki’s case, that meant freezing the total calories eaten and the total physical activity that she was already doing, and then adding in workouts with us.

The flow of energy through food into her body is no doubt important and deserves careful consideration. The people best suited to do that are registered dieticians and sports nutritionists.

The most important thing to know about exercise selection

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We asked her to tell us about the exercises that she had done throughout life. She told us about playing soccer and gymnastics in grade school, field hockey and track in high school, and doing nothing in college. Then she remembered taking up and stopping running. Then trying swimming. There were occasional times when she visited the gym on her own, took classes, and once or twice worked with a trainer.

Then we asked her to list the exercises that she liked the most, and the ones that she hated. “I guess I don’t really hate anything.” “You sure about that?,” her personal weight loss trainer replied. “I guess I hate squats. All squats.” We discussed her history of injuries to identify those exercises that would be best to avoid.

There are so many ways to exercise, there simply is no good reason to spend time on any of them that you just don’t want to do.

Then we asked her how much time she could set aside for exercise, to which she said 3 days per week. We entered her height, weight, age, gender, and the number of exercise-days-per-week into our Weight Loss Calculator, and the result was that she needed to burn 655 calories per workout to lose weight. We spelled out what that could look like: 30 minutes of moderate-effort strength training plus 60 minutes of walking or light running on the treadmill. We gave her additional combinations of exercises that would achieve the same caloric burn.

The results

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Then she got to work.

She showed up and did what the personal weight loss trainer asked her to do. It was never overly difficult, dangerously strenuous, nor beyond her capacity. There was no talk of special diets—just the reminder not to eat any more. (That was hard enough!)

She focused on her energy expenditure. She learned, “Do the work, the weight comes off.” She became so thoughtful about burning the calories that she started finding opportunities to do more even outside of the workouts. She walked more everywhere: at home, at work, at her kid’s sporting events, etc. Every calorie burned mattered and she made them all count.

She stuck to it.

She has steadily lost weight, so much so that that we had to recalculate the number of calories that she needed to burn per workout.