How many gym members come in each day talking about the latest diet they're on? They tell their friends and other gym members that they have to try the high-protein diet, or drink this smoothie: it will give you a burst of energy.

This keen interest is often a missed opportunity for health clubs to help educate members, and generate revenue for the club beyond just selling supplements or opening a juice bar. Health clubs that truly want to capitalize on the booming interest in nutrition may consider hiring a nutritionist or working with a local nutritionist in obtaining referrals for their clients to become members of your health club.

There are a number of ways to go about receiving referrals from a nutritionist. Remember that any potential relationship is a two-way street. You need to keep in mind that most nutritionists make their living by consulting clients on a one-on-one situation over a period of time. This is very similar to how personal training is offered in your health club. Approach a nutritionist and ask them if you could offer their clients a free fitness assessment as part of their nutritional program. In return, offer the nutritionist the opportunity to provide a brief consultation with your new gym members for either a small fee or free in exchange for publicity and cross-referrals.

How do you find a nutritionist in your area?

One of the first — and most effective — steps in initiating the process is having your front desk staff ask gym members as they sign in if they are seeing a nutritionist. Not only will this stimulate the idea that your members should be seeing one, but you may find a few good nutritionists this way. It is much easier to make contact with a nutritionist who is working with one of your members now and would like to expand.

Another obvious way is the yellow pages. This might not be the best place to look for referrals though. A better way is to call your local hospital and ask for its staff nutritionist. If they have more than one, that's great; you can make contact with each through an individual letter. Another place to call is the OB/Gyn offices in your area. They may have nutritionists come in part-time to consult their patients. Also, many OB/Gyns are usually open to referring their clients for exercise and will strongly recommend new moms joining your health club — an extra referral with little-to-no extra work. You can also look for nutritionists at area weight-loss clinics such as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig. They have nutritionists on staff and, unlike days gone by, are more open to referring their clients to your club. Offer to lecture at these locations on the benefits of exercise on weight loss and general health, or hand out brochures with free passes to your health club for all of their clients.

When sending your letter to any potential partner, include free passes and a resume of your staff and their achievements. Also include how your professional staff can help the nutritionists' clients with their goals in weight loss and the benefits of the exercises. Follow up with a phone call after your mailing and invite the nutritionist to you club for a tour and free assessment. This will help the nutritionist see your facility as a professional partner first-hand.

Teaming with a local nutritionist isn't the only way to find new members through referrals, but it is one way to supplement your normal membership recruiting sources.

Dr. Weiss is a Board Certified chiropractic physician and has been the director of Weiss Fitness and Pilates Center in Arlington Heights, Ill., for the past 10 years.