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How to increase slimming satisfaction

By Matt O'Neill, MSc(Nut&Diet), APD

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Weight management in the fitness industry is about more than helping customers lose weight. Pills, potions lotions, gadgets and gizmos can all do this, at least in the short term and often with “No exercise required!” But losing weight or shaping up at a fitness centre invariably involves exercise.

You've got two objectives - getting a client to lose weight and like exercising enough to keep doing it with you. Here are five ways to take up this dual challenge and increase your slimming satisfaction rate.

1. Profile your clients

Forensic psychologists or `profilers' build complete physical and psychological profiles of the criminals they hunt. Although your clients shouldn't have one of these files, they do have a thick file of weight-related information you need to get your hands on.

Details about eating habits and any physical activity patterns are just the start of your dossier covering a wide range of weight-related information. Health, dieting history, eating attitudes, exercise beliefs, relationship satisfaction, stress, body image and motivation are all important. Any one or a combination of these elements could be the make or break factor for a client achieving success and you retaining them as a member.

For example, a client under stress or experiencing relationship problems may do well on a structured diet and exercise program for a few weeks, but come unstuck when things get tough at home. Knowing how they rate their stress level and happiness with relationships before they start allows you to use your profiling skills to anticipate personal challenges before they arise and provide solutions that increase slimming satisfaction.

Action questions:

  • Do you comprehensively profile weight loss clients?
  • Do you personalise programs based on physical and emotional needs?
2. Start coaching

Do you sometimes feel a little frustrated that your clients don't follow your weight loss advice? It could be a lack of willpower on their part, but it might also indicate its time to stop instructing and start coaching.

Instructing involves providing clients with information and hoping they are motivated enough to use your advice. This works when demonstrating exercise technique in a personal training session, but not for the complex area of weight management.

When clients appear to lack commitment, give up too quickly, cheat or get distracted by the latest fad diet on the news, they need coaching in these areas. Building motivation, dealing with setbacks, recruiting support and staying focused are all topics commonly covered in life coaching that need to make their way onto the fitness floor.

Being a good weight loss coach requires a high level of communication and negotiation skills. To get into coaching you may need to upgrade you or your staff's skills in the areas of communication, counselling and coaching.

Moving from an instructing to a coaching model of client care allows you to better connect with clients and increase slimming satisfaction.

Action questions:

  • Do you have a strategy to help clients who find it hard to stick to their program?
  • Do you need to upskill yourself to effectively coach clients?
3. Kick more goals

Clients, who only have weight loss goals and don't achieve them, don't remain clients for long. If you only promise a number on the scales and don't deliver it, you won't have much room to move.

From day one, it's important to establish other healthy reasons for eating well and being active. Increased strength, lowered blood pressure and enhanced fitness are clear targets.

Measuring and monitoring how clients feel, in terms of energy level, mood, sleep patterns, stress and other emotional markers are also important to provide back-up evidence that an exercise program has rewards.

When a client says, “I haven't lost weight, but I feel fantastic!” you've boosted your slimming satisfaction rate.

Action questions:

  • Do you have a requirement for clients to choose and build a plan to achieve health goals?
  • Do you monitor and track markers for emotional wellbeing?
4. Make every move count

When a client walks out your door after a sixty-minute class, they've got another twenty-three hours to spend active or inactive, before they should come in to do it again tomorrow. Help them spend this time wisely by making all types of movement count. Everything from fidgeting to household tasks like cleaning keeps your metabolic rate ticking over and burning calories. Making household chores count creates easily achievable behavioural goals. It can also inject some fun into exercise when family members have new-found motivation to take out the garbage, clean the yard and do the dishes.

Discussing work and leisure activity levels with clients are more important now with technology stealing opportunities to move. You won't get any slimming satisfaction out of a ten-stack DVD player?

Action questions:

  • Do you monitor and track twenty-four hour activity levels?
  • Do you reward clients for the activity they do away from your centre?
5. Take it in stages

Clients rarely leap from couch potato to committed exerciser in a few short weeks. Instead, they may continue to dislike physical activity and only see if as a means to a trimmer waistline. The clock is ticking from the first workout. Either they see results or they give up, because for one reason, they feel intimidated by people who love to exercise.

Let clients know its natural to hate exercise at first, they are not alone and they can expect to pass through specific stages in their attitude to exercise.

You may have heard this sort of stuff before or be familiar with Prochaska and DiClemente's stages of change theory, but the most important message here is to let your clients know how this theory works. See the progression in comments below.

  • “I hate to exercise!”
  • “I might consider exercise, but not if it hurts too much.”
  • “I exercise because it burns calories and helps me keep my weight down.”
  • “I love exercise and you'd have to nail my feet down to stop me getting to a class!”
For clients, knowing that the stage they are at is normal, boosts confidence to move to the next stage and increases slimming satisfaction.

Action questions:

  • Do you allow clients to hate physical activity at first?
  • Do you explain the natural stages of exercise attitudes?



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