W Is for “Woo-Hoo”

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With a name like “Gimme a W!”, you could probably already guess that the presentation from Kathy Stewart of Ellipse Fitness would involve a bit of cheerleading. In this case, the “W” stands for Stewart's why, when, where, who and what of cheering clients on to weight-loss success.

Stewart started her session by describing a Duke University study that compared weight loss amongst three groups of dieters – one had done it on their own, a second had used online tools, such as journaling, and the third had worked with a counselor. The study found that the last group regained the least amount of weight, Stewart said, explaining the first W of weight-loss counseling: why.

“If you think you're there just to weigh people and tell them what to eat, you're missing 99 percent of the job,” said Stewart.

The role of a counselor isn't just to provide information, she stressed, but to motivate clients who want to lose weight and give them some accountability.

But while “face time” with a counselor does make a difference, Stewart pointed out the importance of making sure the client knows that it's not really the counselor to whom they're accountable.

“I make my clients sign a contract with themselves,” Stewart explained. “I tell them: your meeting with me is as important as any other meeting you have today, as getting to work on time, as going to your kid's soccer game. This is your life we're talking about.”

But while she obviously takes her responsibility seriously, Stewart also tries to keep it fun and positive. And she says some cheerleading should definitely be involved.

“Even if the progress is slow, I'll shout out: ‘Woo-hoo! You lost half a pound!' to encourage them,” Stewart said as she demonstrated with a fist pump and a leap in the air. “I'm a freak in our counseling room. That's why they have to shut the door.”

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