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Exploring Successful Weight Loss Programs in Fitness Centres and Clubs
A feature in the latest issue of Australasian Leisure Management explores the sometimes controversial subject of gym-based weight loss programs.
With a desire to lose weight one of the key reasons why people join a fitness club, author Toni Krasicki explores the evolution of weight management and nutrition, explaining how the majority of fitness professionals now agree that the ‘eat less and exercise more’ approach no longer stands.
Dietflex founder Jamie Hayes, says the theory is littered with failure.
Hayes believes that if members do not have an effective dietary intervention, then they will have difficulty reaching weight loss goals.
He explains “I’m all for increasing exercise in our community. If you help somebody lose weight, they are more likely to exercise and thereby become an exerciser for life!”
Hayes believes that the problem lies in the community and its belief that exercise, promoted by the fitness industry, is a road to weight loss, commenting “unfortunately science doesn’t support this and the opposite is true. However, if you help someone lose weight through successful dietary intervention, they’ll be more inclined to exercise.”
Considering such a high proportion of members join to lose weight, it’s a no-brainer that fitness businesses should address weight management solutions that include more than exercise alone.
Measuring Program Success
Whether offered as a stand-alone weight management solution or as the nutrition component of a fitness challenge, how do we determine the effectiveness of a weight loss program? Measuring success is more than counting kilograms lost. So how do we deem a program successful, beyond members reaching weight loss goals?
Long-term success is multifaceted and goes outside the discernible.
Matt O’Neill, Director and Nutritionist at the SmartShape Centre for Weight Management, says “people say the whole weight management area is not rocket science: just calories in and calories out, but when you take into account outside management, cravings, social support, mental health issues and all that sort of thing, it’s far more complex.”
Successful weight loss programs should promote the importance of reaching and maintaining a healthy weight long-term (such as over 12 months), rather than just on the weight lost during the program. Alongside promoting healthy eating habits, O’Neill says to focus on the basics: choosing a simple way of eating rather than the latest diet fad; providing face-to-face coaching sessions to hold clients accountable; and providing 24/7 support via access to an online platform to create a strong support network.
Are Fitness Businesses Delivering?
Fitness professionals without a background in nutrition or who don’t have an affiliation with a dietitian or nutritionist may struggle to get impressive results with their clients. In turn, this could signal the end of the working relationship if they can’t deliver what clients are asking for.
O’Neill fears “there is a trend to over promise and under deliver.”
As the creator of the Metabolic Jumpstart program he says most clients want weight loss, but in reality, fitness businesses are just selling exercise.
“When people start exercising it increases their appetite, so if you are promising weight loss and only providing exercise, then you can’t deliver on that.”
The Australian Fitness Network believes that health clubs and fitness professionals are doing a fantastic job on the ground. Network Learning & Development Manager, Alisha Smith, says that when it comes to levels of, and attitudes towards fitness professional education, the Australian fitness industry is considered to be one of the most forward thinking and switched on.
Smith advises “we have incredibly high standards of entry level qualification and that's absolutely a result of having a regulated system.
“The interesting dichotomy lies in the fact that the very regulations that got us to this standard in the first place, could now be considered to be restrictive when it comes to our ability to service our members and clients in the area of fat loss/weight management and nutrition.
“They're inextricably linked; even the best program in the world can't out-train a poor diet.”
The annual FILEX fitness convention is testament to the standard of education offered to fitness professionals and club owners. Interestingly, the nutrition and fat loss strand covers a range of topics that fitness professionals can apply to client programs without actually prescribing a weight loss dietary plan.
In the past three to five years, coaching and mindset skills have become a ‘must-have’ skill-set for personal trainers (PT) and coaches to help support positive health behaviours. Smith says the industry offers extensive education in this field and should take the same approach with nutrition.
From the perspective of someone who has one foot in both camps, Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) and qualified personal trainer, Ashleigh Feltham is adamant that the only health professional who has the qualifications to create a nutrition program or give sound dietary advice, is an APD. “Each person is different and has different health backgrounds, and a dietitian has the training to provide the support and advice for individuals.”
She says for weight loss, always seek a fitness professional for exercise, and a dietitian for diet and nutrition.
Fitness Australia and nutritional advice
As of September last year, Fitness Australia introduced guidelines for registered xercise professionals (AusREPs) to follow when giving nutrition advice to clients, through the release of a Nutrition Advice within Scope of Practice for AusREPs.
The guidelines are designed to help AusREPs find the balance between providing the appropriate level of nutritional advice to the client, without providing information beyond their professional scope of practice
Fitness Australia sees the introduction of the guidelines as an important step for the fitness industry in providing quality services to clients Australia-wide. As part of the guidelines, AusREPs are encouraged to provide basic healthy eating information and advice through the application of nationally endorsed nutritional standards and guidelines - in particular, the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
The document - developed and endorsed by Fitness Australia, Dietitians Association of Australia and Sports Dietitians Australia - gives AusREPs clear guidelines as to what services they can (and can’t) provide in the nutrition space, and when it’s most appropriate to refer clients on to an Accredited Practicing Dietitian.
The full article 'Getting it Right' can only be read in Australasian Leisure Management issue 126 by subscribing at www.ausleisure.com.au/magazine/
A second article on the topic will be in an upcomging issue of Australasian Leisure Management. Comment and input is invited by emailing email@example.com
Images: Jamie Hayes (middle) and Matt O'Neill (below).
13th April 2018 - LONG-TIME FITNESS EDUCATION PROVIDERS JOIN FORCES
1st March 2018 - NEW REPORT SAYS SUPERMARKETS MUST DO MORE IN FIGHT AGAINST OBESITY
8th September 2017 - FITNESS AUSTRALIA INTRODUCES NUTRITION ADVICE GUIDELINES FOR AUSREPS
12th April 2017 - JUNK FOOD CONSTITUTES MAJORITY OF PURCHASES FROM SWIMMING POOL KIOSKS
31st January 2017 - ONLINE EVENT TO EXPLORE VALUE OF LOW-CARB DIETS
16th January 2017 - WOMEN EXERCISERS FACE HEALTH RISK IF NOT KEEPING UP ENERGY INTAKE
23rd November 2016 - GRATTAN INSTITUTE REPORT SAYS SUGAR TAX COULD HALT GROWING OBESITY RATES
14th April 2016 - YMCA AUSTRALIA BACKS CALLS FOR TAXES ON SUGARY DRINKS
11th November 2015 - DAREBIN CITY COUNCIL HEALTHY FOOD OPTIONS GET YMCA BACKING
11th June 2015 - WORKSHOP TO AID FITNESS CLUBS IN REACHING THE WEIGHT LOSS MARKET
19th February 2015 - 2.3 MILLION AUSTRALIANS ARE ON A DIET, BUT NUTRITION FADS NOT THE ANSWER
25th February 2013 - SPORT AND FITNESS NUTRITION MARKET TO BE WORTH MORE THAN $6 BILLION BY 2018
15th February 2011 - SPORTING STARS ENCOURAGE JUNK FOOD CONSUMPTION
14th January 2010 - VICHEALTH AWARDS HEAD TO ALCOHOL AND OBESITY POLICY COALITIONS
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