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Q&A: How to Help Your Members Avoid Fad Diets


Over the past few months, you may have heard your members name-dropping trending diets such as Keto and Whole30. Every year, it seems like new diets are introduced that claim to help consumers lose weight, and do so quickly. But often, these quick fixes are unhealthy and unsustainable, and sometimes even unsafe.

How can you help your members choose a diet that’s both healthy and sustainable? Carolyn Fetters, the CEO of Balanced Habits, weighs in how clubs can educate their members and the importance of offering a sound nutrition solution.

CS: What nutrition trends should clubs be aware of right now?

CF: The word “trend” regarding nutrition is the most telling of all. There are plenty of customers looking for a quick fix and there are plenty of trending diets ready to address that. Depending on if your club is looking to just make a quick buck or to build something it can be known for, is the question to ask yourself.  

Nutrition challenges were hot back in 2010, but today’s customer is a bit more aware of gimmicks and fads than previously, so while you still should have a short-term offering to build momentum, it has to in some way appear sustainable beyond the short term.  Just because a diet plan is trending, doesn’t mean it’s wise to hop on the bandwagon. As a business, you likely created a mission, vision and core value statement for your business, so be certain you align with the information the trend is dispensing.

CS: How can clubs distinguish between a true nutrition trend and just a fad?

CF: The number one question to ask is, “Does this make sense more than just to lose weight?” Fundamentally, would you use this plan? If the answer isn’t an easy no, this trend is likely not worth pursuing. Again, it comes down to if you’re trying to make a quick buck or build something your club can be known for? There is no wrong or right answer, but two very different paths to take as a business overall.  

Our acronym for D.I.E.T is “Ditch It Every Time,” and today’s consumer of nutrition is more aware of this than ever. What a customer wants and what they need is not always aligned, but if you present a solution to subtly educate them, give them quick wins, they buy in quickly and whole heartedly. A trend has a timestamp, usually a sexy name, and slick images to support it. A solution has longevity, isn’t so sexy sounding and gives you authority.

CS: How can clubs educate their members on how to avoid buying into fad diets?

CF: Belief from the top down is what it takes. Our most successful licensees are the clubs where the owner and staff are fully aligned with the program’s capabilities and due to that belief, the entire club becomes known for this belief system that supports the program. “This is what we do, who we are and how we believe you will be successful.”  Authority wins every time. You will always have fad chasers, much like coupon chasers — it’s unavoidable, but they are not the core of the clientele, they are the minority. Ask your customer if they can see themselves eating this way, or taking this supplement for the rest of their life, and if they struggle with the answer, maybe it’s time to educate them that this isn’t the path to take.

CS: Why is it important for clubs to have a nutrition offering?

CF: Because today, at least eight out of 10 people join a fitness facility to lose weight, not to exercise. They know they have to exercise to lose weight, but not everyone wants to exercise. Everyone has to eat though, so unless you can address that, your customer’s needs are not going to be fully met, which can be a client retention issue. The diet industry is failing big time and the customers of that industry are turning to a new industry for that support: the fitness industry.

Additionally, in America, our healthcare system has finally caught on that they can save money if they can address their customer’s health, so they are formulating alliances with fitness clubs that are in compliance with them — and that most definitely will include an approved nutrition program that can report progress made. The program should be backed by nutritionists and registered dietitians, and not just a trending plan that makes someone lose weight.

Ultimately, the best reason to offer nutrition is to be the 100 percent solution for the customer to address all their wants and needs, while at the same time creating revenue that is just there for the asking.

CS: What should clubs look for in a nutrition partner?

CF: Because their core business is fitness, they cannot be expected to develop, manage, service, train staff, and create a system that can scale to all of their customer’s needs. It takes years to develop a plan that can scale to many people and isn’t reliant on one employee to fulfill. Aligning with a nutrition partner that has those systems in place and a proven track record with many different fitness business models is a winner. Ultimately, as a club, it’s not wise to invest everything in one employee. If they left, then what? “Barb’s Excellent Nutrition Program” goes with Barb.  

CS: Is there anything else you’d like to share about nutrition trends?

CF: Trends will always have their place in every industry. It’s unavoidable. As a fitness club, you’re not a trend, so why promote a trend? If you believe, like your customer, that 70 to 80 percent of reaching their goals is dependent on nutrition (eating real food), than it only makes sense to address this with a company that aligns with that mindset. Your customers don’t have a weight problem, they have an eating problem. Today’s customer is looking for an authority to support them to reach their goals with a plan that is easy to implement, makes sense and is practical in its approach.

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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