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Two strong motivations for joining a community rec center are to get in better shape and find a sense of belonging. Nutrition and weight loss challenges are the perfect offering to check both boxes, and are worth considering at your facility.

At the Wallingford Family YMCA in Wallingford, Connecticut, consistently offering a variety of weight loss challenges has produced physical and social benefits for members.

“These programs add value to our members’ lives,” shared Colleen Villano, the Wallingford Y’s health and wellness director. “We are creating excitement for our members and inviting them to be a part of our YMCA family.”

To cater to both members who prefer a solo weight loss journey and members who want a support system around them, the Wallingford Y offers individual and group weight loss challenges.

The individual challenge lasts 30 days and puts an emphasis on eating fruits and vegetables, as well as food with protein and healthy fats. Members are also coached to avoid processed foods, sugar and alcohol during that 30-day period.

“There is no calorie counting and participants are guided to consume wholesome foods while focusing on portion control,” explained Villano. “We have also found that 30 days is a manageable timeframe for any member who finds the thought of a diet daunting.”

The members who prefer a group setting are placed in teams of three to four people, and are given a choice between three meal plans: calorie counting, macronutrient counting or clean eating.

According to Villano, the group weight loss challenges are particularly effective at helping members stay plugged in at the facility. “The team approach really creates competition and camaraderie,” she said.

Whether your facility offers individual or group challenges, communication before, during and after the challenges is critical to success. Every member is different, which means every member’s goals, needs and communication styles are different.

“Create a program that isn’t too rigid for members — if the rules are overwhelming, they will likely feel defeated before they even start,” said Villano. “Program rules should be realistic and modifiable based on a person’s goals and lifestyle. And sit with your participants, either as a group or individually, to explain the program in detail and answer questions.”

Consistent encouragement goes a long way as well. “Stay connected by sending weekly emails with words of encouragement, create mini fitness challenges, and be available for on-going support,” suggested Villano.

A well-executed weight loss and nutrition program can be a massive benefit to a member’s life — physically and socially. And by keeping members engaged through their own success, your facility will see more success of its own.

“Wellness should be viewed as a journey with no finish line,” said Villano. “Our goal is to keep our members happy, healthy and coming back for more.”

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Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the editor of Community Rec Magazine. He can be reached at bobby@peakemedia.com.

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