Rosemarie “Bud” Seaman, a former 1980 Olympic swimmer, Ironman triathlete and marathon runner, has owned Ultimate Fitness, in Orlando, Fla., for over 17 years. During her time as the club’s owner, she has had many plus-sized individuals come into her facility exasperated with the industry, and searching for weight-loss solutions.
“Many obese people would come into the club and say that they were uncomfortable working out in a traditional gym setting,” explained Seaman. “They said that they felt they were on display, or were scared they wouldn’t fit on the machines.”
Discouraged by the accounts of obese individuals’ negative gym experiences, Seaman decided to create her own solution. She made her gym a safe haven for the plus-sized and morbidly obese.
Seaman accomplished this by creating a weight-loss program specifically for individuals who needed to lose 50 pounds or more. As part of the program, participants receive meal plans, body fat and metabolism testing and weigh-in weekly. In addition, they have access to Ultimate Fitness’ “Plus Size” group fitness classes, and are encouraged to take two per week.
According to Seaman, the program is successful due to the support it provides. “The support and caring they get is something they wouldn’t necessarily get at other gyms,” said Seaman. “We’re really geared towards their size and physical ability.”
That support stems from therapy sessions. Seaman partnered with Sandy Canfield, a local psychotherapist, 10 years prior. As part of the program, participants are encouraged to take sessions with Canfield — it’s her job to get to the root of why a person chooses to overeat.
“People who are that overweight — obese — are really disconnected with their bodies both physically and emotionally,” explained Canfield. “They don’t know the difference between hunger and cravings. Through our programs they get really connected to their emotions, which is the real key.”
Canfield believes, especially in cases where an individual is obese, both therapy and fitness are the keys to true weight-loss success. “I think therapy is mandatory to success and gets overlooked,” she said. “I help them redirect their emotional distress and get to the real root of why they’re overeating.”
In addition to the program and Seaman’s partnership with Canfield, Seaman has also made the club’s equipment plus-size friendly. “I make sure all of my equipment accommodates plus-sized people,” said Seaman.
When searching for equipment it must accommodate 300 pounds or more, be wide and sturdy. In addition to the equipment, Ultimate Fitness’ massage tables accommodate 700 pounds or more.
“Many obese people’s fear is that the equipment in gyms will break or fall over,” said Seaman. “I always make sure that as I grow as a business I look for things that can accommodate my clients’ size,” said Seaman.
After Seaman’s clients have graduated from the weight-loss program, Seaman said they generally disperse into other areas of the club. “After they’ve lost the weight, then they start taking our group cycling classes or boot camps,” she said.
“There’s a real need for these types of programs and classes in our society,” continued Seaman. “People don’t see obesity as a disease. But just like people are addicted to alcohol or other drugs, obesity itself is a real addiction. It’s one of the hardest addictions to overcome, because you need food to survive. Sandy and I really tackle weight loss from the inside out.”
By Rachel Zabonick
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