Tag: health trainers

Gaining weight to be body confident

vegetablesWe often talk about weight loss, but what about those who are underweight?

Our Health Trainers occasionally have clients who want to gain weight. Often, these clients have active lifestyles and their diet doesn’t reflect the amount of exercise they’re doing. As with any weight issue, it’s about balancing the number of calories going in with the number of calories you’re burning off.

Health Trainer Susan says: “One of my clients walks everywhere – often three or four miles a day – but he wasn’t eating regularly, so his weight remained very low. People often don’t make the time to eat – so they’re exercising, but they’re not giving themselves enough fuel.”

So how do the Health Trainers advise clients who want to gain weight?

The advice Health Trainers give to those who want to gain weight is actually very similar to the advice for those who want to lose weight: balance your exercise with a healthy eating routine. For most, this will mean getting into new habits; for example eating a regular three meals a day.

Health Trainer Keiran said, “the idea is to increase weight in a healthy way. It depends on the individual – and we work with people to make sure that whatever we plan is right for them – but generally this means finding creative ways to build extra calories and protein into their diet.”

Eleanor McGee, Public Health Nutrition Lead, says, “people who have got into the habits of a poor diet need help to make and maintain changes – and Health Trainers are ideally placed to provide this help.”

As with weight loss clients, Health Trainers help weight gain clients to set short-, mid- and long-term goals which include some accountability (for example, monthly weight review checks). And, as with all their clients, they work holistically, looking at what the existing barriers might be and working with the client to make changes that will stick.

Ben’s story

Being underweight can have a negative effect on someone’s confidence and psychological wellbeing, just as being overweight can.

Wayne’s client Ben is in his early 20s and joined the service in July last year. He felt that people hadn’t really taken his weight issues seriously in the past, and described himself as depressed about his body.

In his initial statement he said:

I want some help to gain weight and also to eat healthier. Today has been brilliant for me – I have someone who is listening to me. For the month ahead goals set are three fruits each day (I have not eaten fruit for a long time). Cut out all snacks and sugar intake. Eat potatoes and vegetables 3-5 days each week. Do more exercise. Join the gym with BeActive. Swim 2-3 times a week. I look forward to my life style changes.

By October, his routines had changed completely and it’s clear the changes have had a positive effect on his mental health as well as his physical health. He said:

Over the past 12 weeks I have changed loads. I now eat three meals each day and eat fruit and vegetables. I was very underweight. My start weight was 8st 7lb and now I weigh 9st 10lb. My goal is to get to 10 stone. I also feel I have more energy and more confidence. I now work part time.

Last week, Wayne asked Ben – who’s now gained 19 pounds – to record his progress and talk about how he’s feeling now. Have a listen to what he said.

If you feel that you might need to gain weight, visit your GP first, to check you are actually underweight. If you are, they’ll look at the potential causes and advise you of the best way to tackle it. Weight loss might be caused by a medical condition that needs treatment, so you must get a professional opinion before trying to gain weight by yourself.

Lifestyle services working together

Birmingham City Council are seeking views on current lifestyle services from the people who use them or link in with them – and you’ve got until this Sunday, 2nd March Monday 31st March* to have your say.

Lifestyle services include our very own Health Trainers and Lighten Up, but also services like Be Active, Health Checks and Stop Smoking Services. The council wants to hear what works well and how they could improve services in the future. As the Be Heard website explains, they think a more integrated approach may be the way forward:

The traditional approach to improving lifestyles in the City has been to focus on individual service areas that do not necessarily complement each other. This has led to specific programmes for stopping smoking, healthy weight and others. In the more deprived areas of Birmingham many of these programmes and services target the same groups(s) of people (e.g. a person that is quitting smoking may also benefit from physical activity or weight management services). Moving towards an integrated approach that helps people tackle different issues may help ensure services are more easily accessible.

We agree that it makes sense for services to work together in a more joined-up way. It would be good for clients to have a single point of contact to arrange access for all the health and lifestyle services.

Treating the whole person

Health Trainers build up relationships with their clients over time; they have a holistic approach, which is why they signpost people to other services. As we’ve said before on this blog, we often find that a Health Trainer’s encouragement, in a one to one session, can help people to kick-start a “chain” of lifestyle changes. But it would be even better if they didn’t then have to send clients back to their GP to get the referrals they need.


What our clients say

Health Trainer clients Craig, Annette and Maureen all received encouragement from their Health Trainers, together with signposting to other services, which led to some big lifestyle changes. You can hear them talking about their experiences in this audio clip:

Have your say

Whether you’ve used any of the city’s lifestyle services before, or even if you’ve only thought about it, we’d like to encourage you to tell the Council what you think.

And if you feel that Gateway already helps to “simplify the referral pathway”, then do let them know that too!

Visit the Be Heard website to answer the online questionnaire.

*The consultation deadline has been extended. Please check the Be Heard website for the latest details.

Maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy – with Maternal Lighten Up

Maternal Lighten UpOne in five pregnant women in Birmingham is overweight and so run a higher risk of complications during pregnancy. So the Maternal Lighten Up service is here to help women maintain a healthy weight in the months leading up to birth.

Unlike the general Lighten Up service, Maternal Lighten Up isn’t about weight loss – as Liz Barber, the Maternal Lighten Up Administrator, explains: “It’s probably a bit weird to be told ‘you’re overweight, but you can’t lose it’ – but, during your pregnancy, it’s all about helping you limit your weight gain. The services we refer our clients to can help them to do that in a healthy way.”

The city-wide service gets the majority of its referrals – women who are up to 28 weeks pregnant with a BMI of over 30 – from midwives. Clients are given the choice of three services to take up:

  • Maternal Health Trainers give one to one advice and a tailored programme of healthy eating and exercise to help maintain healthy weight gain during pregnancy
  • Birthfit is a programme of gentle exercise tailored to each stage of pregnancy and to individual needs, including specific advice about preparing for the birth
  • Slimming World offers classes for general weight loss, but pregnant women can join the classes to learn general healthy eating and exercise tips

Liz says, “going by the latest figures, nearly half the clients choose to go with the Maternal Health Trainer service. But whichever path they take, we will offer regular calls to see how they’re getting on and to offer extra support should they need it. Sometimes, if there are other issues besides their weight, this can mean putting them in touch with other services, such as our Pregnancy Outreach Workers”.

And after the other services finish, the support from Gateway continues. “Even after the birth, we encourage mums to carry on their healthy regime, and lose weight, by joining our general Lighten Up service”.

Kerry’s story

Kerry started with the Maternal Lighten Up programme in December 2012, at 13 weeks pregnant, after being referred by her Midwife for support with her weight management.  Pregnancy was nothing new, as this was her third baby, but in previous pregnancies she had put on a lot of weight and this time round she wanted to be better prepared.

After a discussion with Liz about the options available, Kerry opted for Birthfit, a weekly antenatal exercise class run by a former midwife, that would help keep her active during her pregnancy.

When Kerry began the course with Birthfit in January she was nearly 17st and, after attending every week, her weight gain remained stable. At 35 weeks she had gained just under a stone.

In April, Kerry said “I wish this service had been around in my previous pregnancies, where I put on two or three stone”. She says that the support from Maternal Lighten Up was “brilliant”, and that the tailored exercises she practiced through Birthfit helped her back problems more than physiotherapy sessions had done.

Kerry, who had her baby in June, also said that, being a third time mum, she really didn’t expect to learn anything new, but “I was amazed to be learning new things every week. I thought the programme was brilliant and would recommend the service to any mums to be”.

Rachel’s story

After Rachel was referred to Maternal Lighten Up, she chose to work with a Maternal Health Trainer, Richard McKenzie, who helped her to come up with her own healthy eating and exercise plan. She saw the benefits straight away, and made this statement just two weeks after her initial appointment: “I’m finding it motivating keeping the behaviour diary and monitoring my food and activity. I feel that my diet and exercise level has been good over the last two weeks and in balance.”

Richard has helped Rachel to stick to her healthy eating plan and regular sessions of yoga, and now she’s on track to give birth without having put on too much extra weight. In this video, taken just last week, she tells us, “I’m feeling really positive!”

“My life is fantastic!” – Bernard’s story

Bernard-thumbs-upBernard was referred into Gateway’s Health Trainer service by his GP at the start of this year, as he had raised cholesterol and was overweight.

Six months later, he recorded a statement on our Impact Assessment App saying, “I’ve lowered my cholesterol from 6.4 – now 4.2 – and lost 2 stone 7 pounds. I feel amazing!” So how did he do it?

During an initial hour-long appointment with Health Trainer Wayne, Bernard discussed his current lifestyle and talked about what he wanted to change. His first statement said, “my weight has been going up and up for four years and I feel now is the time to tackle it.”

First, Wayne asked Bernard to record everything he ate and drank every day for the next four weeks. This would help them to see where things needed to change, so they could set some targets for the next few months.

Then, based on Bernard’s food diary and the end results he wanted to achieve – a lower weight and lower cholesterol levels – Wayne and Bernard set some goals that they thought would be realistic:

  • to reduce his portion sizes
  • to eat two pieces of fruit every day
  • to eat three different vegetables, four days a week
  • to cut out high fat dairy cheese, and
  • to drink more fluids

Bernard said, “I know I don’t drink enough. My intake is low at three drinks each day, so I need to up this to six – and also drink four small glasses of water every day.”

Four months later – in May – Bernard’s recorded statements are a testament to his hard work. “I have lost two stone in weight and my cholesterol, which had been at 6.4, is now 4.2 – the best it has ever been.” (The government recommends that total cholesterol levels for healthy adults should be 5 or less, so this figure is spot on.) He continued, “thanks to the Health Trainer, my life is fantastic.”

But Bernard hadn’t stopped setting goals and working towards new targets. As well as changing his eating and drinking habits to become healthier, Bernard decided to increase the amount of exercise he was doing. He said, “My goal now is to go swimming for an hour three days a week, and to walk for 30 minutes five days a week. I want to lose seven pounds, which will bring me down to a healthy weight.”

Two months on, we met Bernard at the Gateway Fun Run. He’s now an exercise fiend! See what he had to say in this video, taken just after the Fun Run in Cannon Hill Park last month.

Bike hire scheme – Sharon’s story

At the end of last year, you may remember we started a bike hire scheme. We bought two bikes and began hiring them out to Health Trainer clients who wanted to give cycling a go.

Cycling is a great way of getting exercise without costing the earth and it’s a good alternative to jogging or walking. It’s not always easy to get started, but our bike hire scheme is a great introduction.

Now that the weather has picked up, we are starting to see more and more people taking advantage of the scheme. One of those people is Sharon, who borrowed a bike during UK Bike Week at the end of June.

Here is Sharon’s story, in her own words:

I want to ride my bicycle

By Sharon McGarel, Gateway client

Sharon McGarelHave you ever heard of those far-off beauty spots that haven’t been discovered by tourists? Only problem is, everyone’s read the same article, so by the time you phone up, it’s fully booked. Well, I’m glad to say the same wasn’t true of the bike hire scheme offered by Gateway Family Services.

It’s been 17 years since I last rode a bike, but I have been considering buying one for a couple of months now. Each time, I drift away to the classic cycling scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; I feel the sun on my face as I ride along in a summer haze. Quickly I’m brought back with a bump to the last time I rode a bike, when I hit a pot hole and went face first over the handle bars of my bike, on Longbridge traffic island with an articulated lorry behind me. Ouch!

Bike maintenanceThe thing is, I do love a challenge and my health trainer told me that I can hire a bicycle for free – yes, free! So with UK cycling week between 15 and 23 June 2013, what better time to hire one of the two bicycles available (by the way, did I mention it’s free)? And included in the hire is a helmet, puncture repair kit and pump, too – not bad, and a few less barriers to giving it a go.

After a few laps of the car park at Gateway Family Services, a few crash-landings on the cross bar and a close encounter with a bush, I look a little less like bambi and head off intrepidly towards the public roads and pathways of Birmingham. As the scheme is still fairly undiscovered, I was able to keep the bike for a whole week, which meant I could build my confidence and stamina a little each day.
[Editor’s note: most people borrow the bikes for a weekend, but if there isn’t a waiting list when you ask, there’s nothing to stop you borrowing them for a week!]

Practice ride round the gardenTwelve months ago, I was a fully paid up member of the no self-esteem club and even sitting in the garden made me tired and sad, for the want of a better word. No matter how warm it was, I wore a big woolly jumper to keep the fresh air at bay, and the thought of exercise induced sleep.

But this last week I’ve been cycling in parks, going really fast up and down the road as if I were 10 years old and discovering loads of information about group rides, from “easy” to “oh my, that is a challenge”.

I recently saw a bumper sticker on a social network page that read, “I don’t cycle to add years to my life, I cycle to add life to my years”. I couldn’t agree more and can’t wait to buy my own bike, learn how to maintain it, understand gear sets and just get out there and experience some of the life I’ve spent years missing out on.

We spoke with Sharon at the Gateway party and she told us a bit more about her new passion:

And, as if this wasn’t enough of a happy ending, Sharon contacted us again this week to tell us there’s a sequel to her story:

Sharon's new bikeI have a neighbour who I help by mowing his lawn and just keeping an eye on him, dropping things in he needs and bake him the odd cake etc. He texted me yesterday to see if I could help him with something he needed doing. I dropped over today to help him, only to find he had a surprise for me.

Knowing I was interested in getting a bike and having been into building and maintaining bikes as a youngster, he has been looking about for me. He had seen a pre-loved bike yesterday, got it delivered and refused to let me pay him for it. So that’s about five years of lawn mowing I owe him now.

So did the bike hire scheme inspire me to get a bike? Oh yes it did – and what a glorious day for cycling!

We’re so pleased to hear stories like this – it just shows: good things can make other good things happen!

If you feel inspired to get pedalling and you’d like to hire one of our bikes, just ask your Health Trainer. You too could be “adding life to your years”!

Losing weight with help from a Health Trainer

When our Health Trainers help people to lose weight, they don’t recommend dieting. Instead, they help people to make lifestyle changes that will go far beyond the few months they’re with the service.

Derek’s story

Wayne with DerekDerek was referred to a Health Trainer by his GP seven months ago to get some help to lose weight.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” he says, “but Wayne was really good. Within an hour I had found out the best way forward with my eating habits.”

The main change for Derek was to start eating regular meals and getting into a routine that included breakfast, lunch and an evening meal. He cut out snacks and fizzy drinks and started including more fruit and vegetables in his meals.

“I lost 6 stone,” says Derek. “I’m a driving instructor and my seat was that far back, no-one could sit behind me. Now they can. I’m a big man, so this makes a huge difference to me.”

And it’s clear he’s happy with his new lifestyle.

“People stop me and say ‘are you on a diet?’ but I say ‘no, I’m healthy eating’. It’s nice for me – it gives me confidence and I feel really good at losing the weight.”

Gemma’s story

Gemma - beforeFor Gemma, it was a question of motivation. She joined Slimming World at the end of November last year but, thanks to her Health Trainer, she’s kept at it.

In her final statement she said, “I can’t believe it! I joined Slimming World and lost 25 pounds in weight.”

Again, the benefits of the changes she’s made are obvious.

“I feel good – I was a size 20 and now I’m a 16,” she says. “My joints don’t ache half as much, I’ve got more energy and I’ve reduced my risk of long term health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.

“I have to say a big thank you to my health trainer, who has been amazing throughout. When I had a tough time, he was the one motivating me.”

Getting Healthy and Losing Weight for the New Year

In November 2011, Susie* was referred to the Health Trainer Service through her GP surgery.


Like many, Susie was keen to lose weight, but with the festive season looming around the corner, she thought it would be a challenge to commit to any goals. Traditionally Christmas & the New Year would bring more sugary indulgences and larger portion sizes, not to mention the excess of wine.


Susie was allocated Keiran McKenzie as her Health Trainer. During the initial assessment on the 13th December, Susie told Keiran how she had previously struggled to lose weight and how her weight had increased over the last 2 years. She had tried cutting out chocolate, and even tried cutting out snacks after 8pm; all to no avail.


Keiran was able to listen to her problems and offer alternative advice on healthy ways to lose weight and improve her life. Susie embraced the advice given, and after setting herself some realistic goals, she was ready and determined to face Christmas.


Having enjoyed her Christmas season, whilst keeping to her goals, Susie returned in the New Year, unsure of what the outcome would be. To her delight, she had lost 3.2lbs, and is now even more eager to stick to her goals. This goes to show how healthy eating can in fact be just as enjoyable, whilst helping you lose a few pounds if executed correctly.


Well done to Susie and Keiran!!


* name changed to protect identity