The approaching New Year offers fitness facility operators an opportunity to capitalize on one of the most common resolutions members make each year: to lose weight. Whether beginning an exercise regimen to lose that extra holiday weight or to kick off a lifestyle change for 2013, members and potential members need more than a treadmill or personal trainer to achieve their weight-loss goals.
Studies and industry experts say that by offering diet and nutrition programming along with their exercise programming, club operators can make it easier for members to attain those goals.
“An effective and healthy long-term approach will need to address all of the pillars of weight loss,” says Kelli Calabrese, personal trainer and president of Calabrese Consulting, Flower Mound, TX. Beyond exercise, those pillars include stress management, time management, nutrition, sleep, hormone levels, toxin levels and more.
“Some clubs are doing a good job at educating clients about these basic lifestyle habits, but I believe the majority of clubs could use significant improvement in this area,” she says.
Club operators can create, brand, market, test, manage and support a weight-loss program that is unique to their facility, but the effort to do so may outweigh the potential profit, says Calabrese. Instead, some operators may want to partner with one of the plethora of diet and nutrition programs, such as Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig, that already exist in the more than $70 billion diet and weight-loss industry.
The potential for success can be great when partnering with a program that works, is professional and has excellent customer support, research and marketing to back it up, Calabrese says. But deciding which established company to provide the foundation of your weightloss programming requires research and consideration.
“Partnering with a company means you are aligning with their brand, so be sure you have a comfort level with it first and choose one with a long history and an excellent reputation,” she says.
Established programs may lead to higher levels of success and retention, but once any program is in place, the revenue that results from it depends on how well the staff promotes the program. However, no matter the marketing efforts, the number one reason anybody buys into a weight-loss program is because of the results and the credibility of the program, says Christopher Palumbo, brand director of Miami-based elements, a fitness and lifestyle franchise for women.
“Once five or more members have lost weight on the program and you have real testimonials from that club, the program will really start to sell itself,” Palumbo says.
As the separate weight-loss brand of elements, BalanceDiet centers can be a fixture inside a fitness center or a separate entity. At most BalanceDiet locations, a lifestyle consultant conducts 20-minute coaching sessions with clients, and a manager is in charge of growing the business and selling the brand. The BalanceDiet program features custom meal planning, weight-loss products and supplements, nutrition and diet coaching, a customizable online diet program, and a community of expert advice, tips and support. An individualized plan is tailored to clients who use the BalanceDiet genetic test that informs clients how their body metabolizes food, which helps clients determine their personalized road map to weight loss.
“The mistake that I’ve seen made in the industry from many different operators is that they want to force the customer to do diet and exercise together because they know that is the way it should be done,” Palumbo says. “But you can’t force the customer to lose weight the way you think they should. You need to encourage them to lose weight the way they are ready to do it.”
Slim & Fit club founder Jaime Brenkus took this same approach when he shifted the focus at his clubs from getting well defined and fit toward a more general concept of wellness by combining personal training and weight-loss counseling.
Because the diet and nutrition market is so expansive, people are willing to try different solutions to lose weight. And with competitors at every angle, from late night infomercials to pills or books, it is no surprise that some diet and weight-loss offerings have also shifted online.
LA Weight Loss recently closed its 22 centers and transitioned 1,500 clients to its online and telephone support program, LA On-the-Go. With LA On-the- Go, members can still take advantage of coaching and mentoring, menu plans, food diaries and restaurant guides as well as order all LA Weight Loss products.
Because some consumers are opting to engage with companies from their homes rather than visiting brick-and-mortar facilities, club operators who want to offer weight-loss programming may not even have to take up physical space in their facility. An option could be as simple as offering an Internet and telephone support program that clients can access at any time of the day.