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With every new client that is looking at losing weight, one of the biggest areas of confusion is what calories are and how many should I be having each day. Before you start looking at how many you should (2500 men & 2000 ladies per day) and shouldn’t have you need to know what they actually are and learn not to be frightened of them.

Calories are a measure of the amount of energy in food. If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s a good idea to eat less and be more active. The calorie content of many foods is stated on the packaging in the nutrition label, which you will normally find on the back or side of the packet. The calorie content is often given in kcals, which is short for 'kilocalories', and also in kJ, which is short for kilojoules.

A ‘kilocalorie’ is another word for a ‘calorie’, so 1,000 calories will be written as 1,000kcals.

Kilojoules are the metric measurement of calories. To find the energy content in kilojoules, multiply the calorie figure by 4.2.

The label will usually tell you how many calories are contained in 100 grams or 100ml of the food or drink, so you can compare the calorie content of different products.

When we eat and drink, we’re putting calories into our bodies. Our bodies’ then use up those calories, and the more physical activity we do, the more calories we burn. This activity could be running, cycling, circuit training or even weight training.

To maintain a stable weight, the calories we put into our bodies must be the same as the calories we use by normal daily life and physical activity. If there are some days where we put in more calories than we use, then there should also be days where the opposite is true, so that overall the energy in and energy used remain balanced.

Weight gain occurs when we regularly put more calories into our bodies than we use. Over time, those excess calories are stored by the body as fat. To lose weight you have to tip that balance in the other direction. You must start to use more calories than you consume, and do this over a sustained period of time, not in a short term fad diet way!

Research shows that most adults eat and drink more than they need, and think that they are more physically active than they are. Use a food and activity diary to write down how much activity you do each day and exactly what food and drink you have. It’s quite surprising sometimes how different it is to what you actually think you have done or had.

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